The Choluteca Bridge, in Honduras, was built in an area known for hurricanes and other strong weather. It was designed to withstand the destructive force of a hurricane so when hurricane Mitch came through later that same year, it was no surprise that the bridge sustained only minor damage. Clearly, it had been designed and implemented well.

What hadn’t been anticipated though, is that the hurricane was so strong that it moved the river. Even though there was nothing wrong with the bridge itself, it no longer served the purpose that it had been built for.

Choluteca Bridge

I bring this up as an example of how we can do everything right and still not solve the right problem, because of things that are completely out of our control.

While this is an extreme example, the longer we take to get an idea into actual use, the greater the chance that something will change, making the value delivered less than we had hoped. For this reason, we want to shorten the time from idea creation to having it completed.

If it takes multiple years for our cycletime from idea to in-use (often called “concept to cash”), there’s a very good chance that the environment will have changed before we got there. On the other hand, if we can turn the idea around in a days or possibly weeks then it’s less likely that the environment has changed very much.

Even in the case where there is value when we first ship, it’s possible for the environment to change after that and have the value go away. This is exactly what happened with the Choluteca Bridge. It was working for a while and then it wasn’t anymore. Being able to deliver quickly helps in this case as well, as we’re generating a ROI for a longer period.

What can we do to shorten the time for an IT project?

  • We can adopt sound technical practices and a focus on quality so that the code is always easy to extend and change.
  • We can slice the work smaller.
  • We can have fewer things in progress at any time so that the things that are being done, get done faster.
  • We can actively collaborate on the work. Real collaboration gets the work done faster and with higher quality.
  • We can break dependencies wherever possible.

See also, the things to improve predictability as there is real overlap between the two lists.