Are you running your IT project without a visible scoreboard? Can you afford not to?

The Shot

The “Shot” is a game-winning basket made by Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls in the fifth game of the first round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Cleveland’s home floor in Richfield, Ohio.

The buzzer-beater gave Chicago the best-of-five series, 3-2. It was both a game and series winner.

Make no mistake. None of the 20,273 ticket holders in the Coliseum or CBS, the television broadcaster, would have paid a single penny to purchase the rights to watch the game, unless there was a scoreboard to show the time ticking away and how many points are needed to win the game.

Do you need a Clock…or a Timer?

A real time scoreboard that shows up-to-date information enables the players and coaches to take actions during the game in order to bridge the gaps in time and in score.

The scoreboard shows you at any given time, as a manager, and as a team member, where you are and what is needed in order to reach your goal.

These two paramount elements, goal statistics and time tracking are the keys.

The time tracking part is easier to grasp, and must show time counting backwards. In this way, everyone on your team has a clear and common mindset for when the project ends.

If you are currently developing the next generation of Wii enabled pogo sticks, this doesn’t mean that the time left on your scoreboard shows “2 years, 1 months, 7 days, 2 hours, 27 minutes, 32 seconds”. Your project, just like a basketball game, can be further defined in iterations (quarters). You count down to the end of the current iteration. Unlike a soccer game, you do not want to count the elapsed time for the iteration on your scoreboard – that creates ambiguity, requiring everyone to remember at which point in time the iteration actually ends, and just like in soccer, invites additional ‘injury time’ to be added at the referee’s discretion.

Do you know the rules of the game?

Can we calculate backwards the performance required to build software?

In sports, the game rules encapsulate the goals and the statistics. It is clear to all participants and viewers what is more important.

These specifications of the game are so clear that even an exceptional display of talent by the side who lost doesn’t change the fact that he/she are still on the losing end. There is always a winner.

In our world of software development things aren’t looking so decisive. There are so many variants and parameters that achieving consensus for generic project goals, and evenly important, the statistics, is almost impossible. But there are still things to do, ahead of time, to avoid that dead end street.

Get Specialized

Specialization is the key. Take runners for example. They use specific measurements in time to calculate where they want to be at each step of the race, based on their past performance and the specific goal at hand.

But they can only do this within the context of their own sport, their own sport specialization. The best can prepare themselves for one or two more events.

And then there is the software industry…

How can you, as a software development manager define specific goals, measured in time, based on past performance, for something that was never built before?

What we do know is that specialization is the correct access point.

Only software shops that specializes in a vertical line of business or repeatedly execute projects based on past artifacts created or acquired, can successfully become measurable and better at what they do, because they know what they are doing.

If you don’t have a scoreboard yet, you are already behind

A scoreboard does not ensure that you will reach your goal in the desired timeframe, but at least you will know at any given time where you are and how far behind you are. Yes, if you are involved in software development it is most likely that you are behind.

I could go on with the importance of visibility within your project, and how to turn a scoreboard into a storyboard, but mine already shows zeros so it’s time to conclude this article.