Evaluate and Improve Your Development Processes

09-15-21 Katie Jennings

We’ve created a Development Capabilities Assessment that will help you perform your own evaluation of your organization's development practices.

Tolstoy famously wrote that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” As we think about writing great software, the same concept applies. When all the wheels are turning in concert, the experience and results are outstanding. But when your road is a little bumpier, there are many, many ways for things to go wrong. Perhaps your architecture is an impediment to progress. Maybe your team can’t ship as often as you need to. Maybe new releases are rocky. Maybe you ship features that are buggy or aren’t warmly received by your customers. (Maybe you have a list of your own…)

Technical leaders have a responsibility not just to the quality of the code, but to the quality of the product and the time and resources invested. Experience tells us that achieving the highest levels of success is more complicated than just checking one box—such as “I have the right number of people on my team,” or “My architecture is sound.” Instead, an effective team is constantly assessing and adjusting progress and practices in a number of different areas. We’ve found that the best teams are characterized not just by their technical skills, but by their drive to seek opportunities to fine-tune their approach.

Members of our dev team have read and connected with a book called Accelerate. The authors, Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim, have done an incredible amount of research to provide insights on DevOps practices with a focus on working effectively together to provide business value. Many of their findings align with our own experience. Strong development processes are not an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather, they exist across a spectrum or even multiple spectrums. Some organizations may have masterful development practices, but have room for improvement in InfoSec. Others may have locked down InfoSec into their development lifecycle, but feel stuck in the early stages of measurement. Managing the health of your team in areas like this can be (and often is!) a full-time job.

Building a better web, which has long been a focus at Sparkbox, means that we all benefit from stronger teams and higher standards. Whether we’ve worked with you in the past, are working with you currently, or may never have an opportunity to connect with you, we recognize the value in a rising tide of web standards. If we can contribute to that rising tide, we will. To that end, we’ve created a Development Capabilities Assessment that will help you perform your own assessment of your team’s strengths and… let’s just call them opportunities for improvement.

The Development Capabilities Assessment

Here’s how it works.

We’ve identified four elements that we believe to be significant in the development of your DevOps practices:

  • Measurement
  • Technical Practices
  • Software Architecture
  • Security

You’ll answer a series of simple questions that zero in on your work in each of these areas. If you have oversight into team activities, operations, and practices (i.e. if you’re a technical director, team lead, VP of engineering, CTO, etc.), you’ll have no problem answering these questions. In fact, they probably touch upon topics that you’ve already been thinking about. This exercise is applicable to development teams in agencies, to studios or small businesses, and to discrete internal project or product teams in more complex organizations.

Based on your answers, our tool will place you in one of four areas for each of those four initial categories:

  • Nascent
  • Tactical
  • Strategic
  • High-functioning

Using this information, our tool will generate feedback, ideas, and practical tactics to help you move your team forward. Sound complicated? It’s not. It’s a very straightforward way to generate a report that gives you advice and guidance. We’re providing you with all this information packaged in a Google Sheet so you can complete it, adjust it, and explore how your results may vary as you progress. (Ever taken a BuzzFeed quiz and then taken it again, just to see what will happen? You can try that here, too.) We also like this format because it lets us put the tool entirely in your hands, without the feeling that we’re looking over your shoulder. We won’t see or have access to anything about your organization. Try it and then talk about results with your team. Talk about places you see the greatest potential and ask them to do the same. Or grab the results and share them with your boss, whose support you may need to implement some of these ideas.

Experience with dozens of clients over the years tells us that the process of implementing practices like these is never fully complete. As teams grow and technology changes, new opportunities become available. After you mark and celebrate progress in one area, you may find that it’s time to circle back to another. What we hope to do with this tool is give you a vision for what’s possible, as well as some clear tactics about how to get started. We’d love to hear back from you about what you learned, what worked well, and what you might add to this body of knowledge. Good luck!

Sparkbox’s Development Capabilities Assessment

Struggle to deliver quality software sustainably for the business? Give your development organization research-backed direction on improving practices. Simply answer a few questions to generate a customized, confidential report addressing your challenges.