The two kinds of work in Software Products

I’ve been working on software products for several years now. And while a lot of my work has been greenfield, I’ve struggled to articulate the different kinds of work that happens in product development.

Des Traynor one of the founders of Intercom had a great talk about this.

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(Source: Video)

Often people don’t understand the two sides. Data Scientists working on only MVPs don’t understand that if you have an existing product or platform you can’t fail as much. The mission critical infrastructure of say Stripe or Monzo can’t collapse. Failure is rarely acceptable. 

So here’s the question – what kind of work are you doing? And are you taking the right approach. And you should also appreciate neither is better or worse, as you get users to your product sometimes you just need to fire fight for a sufficient period of time until you get to stability. It might not be as sexy as going to a whiteboard and dreaming up new features. However your job is to serve your customers!

Also it’s important for your team to get used to doing both kinds of work, I’m not a big believer in some members of the team doing only the cool new greenfield work and others doing the BAU maintenance work.

It’s important to instil in your engineers the importance of product quality, and they should suffer through that too. This might mean taking a pager etc.

Stay humble and remember your job is to serve your customers, so sometimes that means you have to do the non-glamorous work.

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