Software design decisions should be time-aware.

A common criticism of modern capitalism is that maximising shareholder value leads to various detrimental outcomes, both societal, but possibly also for the maximising organisation itself. One major problem is when company leadership is incentivised to optimise stock market price for the next quarter, or other short terms. When considering only the short term, decision makers may (rationally) decide to sacrifice long-term benefits for short-term gains.

We often see similar behaviour in democracies. Politicians tend to optimise within a time frame that coincides with the election period. Getting re-elected is more important than good policy in the next period.

These observations are crude generalisations. Some democratic politicians and CEOs take longer views. Inherent in the context, however, is an incentive to short-term thinking.

This, it strikes me, is frequently the case in software development.

Particularly in the context of scrum there's a focus on delivering at the end of every sprint. I've observed developers and other stakeholders together engage in short-term thinking in order to meet those arbitrary and fictitious deadlines.

Even when deadlines are more remote than two weeks, project members rarely think beyond some perceived end date. As I describe in Code That Fits in Your Head, a project is rarely is good way to organise software development work. Projects end. Successful software doesn't.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, a too myopic focus on near-term goals gives you an incentive to cut corners. To not care about code quality.

...we're all dead #

As Keynes once quipped:

"In the long run we are all dead."

John Maynard Keynes

Clearly, while you can be too short-sighted, you can also take too long a view. Sometimes deadlines matter, and software not used makes no-one happy.

Working software remains the ultimate test of value, but as I've tried to express many times before, this does not imply that anything else is worthless.

You can't measure code quality. Code quality isn't software quality. Low code quality slows you down, and that, eventually, costs you money, blood, sweat, and tears.

This is, however, not difficult to predict. All it takes is a slightly wider time horizon. Consider the impact of your decisions past the next deadline.

Conclusion #

Don't be too short-sighted, but don't forget the immediate value of what you do. Your decisions matter. The impact is not always immediate. Consider what consequences short-term optimisations may have in a longer perspective.

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Monday, 16 January 2023 08:28:00 UTC


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Published: Monday, 16 January 2023 08:28:00 UTC