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Develop features users really want

Written on: March 2, 2015

For a software development company there is little more demoralising than working hard for days or even weeks on a complicated feature only to find out later, once it has been rolled out, that no one even uses it.

I experienced this myself when I was a developer, and I've witnessed it countless times on Waterfall projects over the years. Sapping developers' morale is bad enough, but what cost does this have for the business funding the project?

In its CHAOS Manifesto 2013, The Standish Group reports that its analysis of software projects delivered in 2012 suggests that only 20% of features of the software are used often and 50% of features are hardly ever or never used. 

Pie chart showing feature usage

So that's half a software project's budget spent developing, testing, rolling out and documenting features that probably won't ever be used. What an incredible waste of money! It also contributes to 'feature bloat' - the noise extra features add to an application's user interface, which makes it harder for users to find and use the functionality they really want.

Avoiding this waste is one important reason why, after years of using a traditional Waterfall approach, we now only run Agile projects. Through Agile software development we can build websites and applications that users really want and that maximises the value of the project for the business. How does Agile help with this?

  • Working with our clients as a team we can prioritise together, enabling us to concentrate on understanding, developing and delivering the most important items first.
  • Our developers talk directly to the stakeholders, so they fully understand the requirements and obtain feedback as soon as features have been developed.
  • We put working software in front of users and stakeholders as soon as possible, so we can learn how they use it and make evidence-based decisions on what should be developed next.

5 years after we switched our web and application development projects to Agile everyone is happy - we have happy clients, happy profitability - and happy developers. So much so that I'm amazed so many software development companies still use a Waterfall approach. I expect many will switch to Agile as time goes on- especially when the people footing the bills look at the numbers.

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