Author: Yogi Schulz
Has the Web imposed changes on the successful techniques for managing and developing software? Yes, the architecture and technical standards of the Web have imposed changes. No, the Web has not imposed changes to the good management practices that we’ve accumulated through painful years of experience.
Development tools are caught between the opposing forces of feature explosion and the need for robustness. Vendors of development tools like IBM, Microsoft and Sun are working over-time and making massive investments to improve Web development tools. Many start-up tool vendors are delivering intriguing products.
Nonetheless, Web projects routinely fight against annoying bugs and version incompatibilities. The increasing number of components that must interact consistently for a Web application to function reliably accentuates the problem.
Successful Web projects try to minimize the number of tools used to develop the product. With the large number of alternatives and developers itching to try them all, the project manager must exercise dictatorial control to avoid being over-run with development tools.
Customers are caught between the opposing forces of discipline and speed. Some have come to believe that the increased complexity of the multi-tier Web architecture calls for experimentation with novel, untried and downright irresponsible methods of software delivery. Dysfunctional examples included deployable prototypes, deployment without testing and chaos labeled as fast track development.
Don’t get sucked in by those who claim that, in the Web environment, the learnings of the past somehow don’t apply. The age-old issues of scope, schedule and cost have not evaporated because we’re now deploying systems to the Web. Tried and true development techniques that deliver solid designs and thoroughly tested software still apply.
Achieving ease-of-use on Web projects is hard to do. Accommodating the opposing forces of attractive visual appearance, high performance and clear navigation requires skill and experience.
It’s easy to produce overly busy screens, too little content on a page, monotonous text, slow pages and circular references.
Simplicity, elegance, clarity are truly difficult to achieve and difficult to show value for when management sees the demo of the new Web application. Hire a graphics designer who, unlike your developers, knows the difference between plaid and striped, but keep him on a leash.
Development teams are caught between the opposing forces that everything on the Web should somehow be free and the reality of costs associated with quality software development. Just because some software now has a “Save as HTML . . .” feature or because the boss’ son now has completed one night school course in HTML doesn’t make Web development cheaper.
Because the product of the development process is now highly visible on the Web, it becomes necessary to spend more time and effort of configuration management and testing. This higher level of quality comes at a cost. Project managers must continually remind management how hazardous schlocky web sites are to the company’s carefully crafted image. To reinforce the point, send your management to visit www.webpagesthatsuck.com where you never want to be the daily feature.
The opposing forces aren’t immediately visible to management. Project managers will succeed if they help management appreciate the associated risks. Development team will succeed if they deftly negotiate the path between the opposing forces.