What the Business Wants: FEATURES (TSQL Tuesday #13)

It’s TSQL Tuesday Again…

This month’s #tsql2sDay is hosted by Steve Jones (blog | twitter), and the topic is “What the Business Says is Not What the Business Wants.” Steve asks the question:

What issues have you had in interacting with the business to get your job done?

I thought about this for a long time. Eventually I realized that I wanted to see the pattern in the trees from the last ten years.

What the Business Says: “We Want Features!”

As a DBA working with software developers, I’ve heard many times from the business that they want new features.

They need a new feature to land a big client, to be the first to market with something, to retain a client, to compete with x.

They need a feature to land on Mars, and if we can’t do that reliably, well, we should just do that once. They don’t care what it takes to get to that feature, we needed to get it last week.

And so the wheels squeak, and the features are prioritized with a mysterious calculus involving the business which is never fully revealed.

But although I have seen that the business does not always dictate the priorities directly and fully, I have  often seen that the business dictates the timeline for what is prioritized. And that timeline is usually pretty quick.

What the Business Wants: They Actually Do Want Features. They Just Don’t Want to Talk about Sacrificing Scalability/Availability/Recoverability for Speed of Delivery.

The thing is, the business is telling the truth. They do need features to make money– at least in the competitive markets I’ve worked in.

The Scalability Fairy sadly doesn't show up nightly when your application loses a tooth. Or a customer.

However, typically people are so busy stressing when they need the new features that no honest assessment and agreement on quality is reached.

Maybe people think it’s embarrassing to have a frank discussion about what type of SLA and reliability will come with a new feature. Possibly that opens a company to some legal challenges if a different level of service has been provided to the customer. However, this is exactly what the business should truly want: to promise the correct level of reliability to the customer.

Now, not all new features need to be high quality work. Sometimes you’re delivering a shiny toy, and nobody’s going to use it to shave, wear it as a diaper, or drive it to work. But a feature needs to have a clearly defined level of scalability and it needs to be safety-proofed to the appropriate level for that product. It shouldn’t enrage your large customers on a regular basis.

Commonly, this part of the process is overlooked. People don’t want to talk about it. Unfortunately, it leads to delivering a product that  may look good at first on the outside, but may not really please the customer until it’s been patched up in the middle of the night a few times, retrofitted on a weekend, and ultimately largely re-written and re-released.

So, What Do you Do?

As an operations person, you bring up the conversation about SLAs repeatedly and make sure all parties come to an agreement. You ask questions about disaster recovery and availability and make sure you have the time and resources to meet those needs.

You make sure there’s time in the release schedule for performance and load testing, and  you set your expectations to medium-low until you have strong data that shows how something will perform. Trickiest of all: you somehow get that data prior to release.

You document everything, because people won’t remember later.

But most of all, you establish a good relationship with people in the business by being genuine, open, and honest with them, and not pre-judging them. If your business people trust you, they are likely to ask you a few questions before making many promises.

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About Kendra Little

Kendra specializes in high availability and performance tuning. She is a Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server-- the highest technical SQL Server Certification available. Kendra loves databases and software development more than long walks on the beach. Those cartoons in her blog posts? She draws 'em all. You should follow Kendra on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kendra_little

5 Responses to “What the Business Wants: FEATURES (TSQL Tuesday #13)”

  1. Crys December 14, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    I wish more people would remember this:

    “It shouldn’t enrage your large customers on a regular basis.”

    Great point about “establishing a good relationship with people in the business”. That goes a long long way.

  2. Erin Stellato December 14, 2010 at 6:55 am #

    You make many excellent points here…my favorite being that people are willing to sacrifice scalability (and also getting it right the first time) to get the feature out the door quickly. That one wreaks havoc down the road every single time. Great post!

    E

  3. Julie Smith December 15, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Very insightful. Great post!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention What the Business Wants: FEATURES (TSQL Tuesday #13) « LittleKendra.com -- Topsy.com - December 14, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erin Stellato, Kendra Little. Kendra Little said: [blogged] #tsql2sday – What the Business Wants: FEATURES http://tinyurl.com/2dujpr7 [...]

  2. T-SQL Tuesday #13 Roundup « Voice of the DBA - January 10, 2011

    [...] Kendra Little talks features. What people want, but what they then forget or don’t consider. This is a nice post to send to your business people, or perhaps paraphrase to try and help them understand your point of view. [...]

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