Have you ever seen an animal – in real life or a documentary – that seemed almost too perfect a fit for its environment? Something that looked almost specifically manufactured to fit its niche?
The anglerfish has its own built-in “fishing line” – complete with a luminous lure that draws prey close enough to be snapped up. Perfect for the lightless ocean bottom where it lives.
European cuckoos will lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Some females have evolved a variety of egg colours to trick the nesting bird to do all the work of caring for the egg – and the cuckoo chick it hatches.
Examples like these appear almost too well-engineered to human eyes. They feel as if they must have sprung into being designed to make the best use of their environment.
But they didn’t. The process of evolution that eventually resulted in animals “perfect” for their niche didn’t occur overnight.
There’s a lesson to be learned here when it comes to the software development process:
It’s tempting to think the same when you see another company – a competitor, let’s say – with software or an app that seems to fit its niche perfectly.
The job of the app might be to onboard clients. It might be to make remote maintenance easy. Or to measure and support employee well-being.
Like the cuckoo or the angler fish, it might look as if the software magically came into being as a perfect fit.
But the angler fish didn’t start out so well adapted for its environment. The cuckoo didn’t take one look at a potential host nest and sprout the ability to create eggs of the matching colour.
In all cases, that perfect fit is the result of a long process of evolution and adaptation.
Like evolution in nature, the process of adaption in the world of software and app development is something you can’t rush.
Achieving that perfect fit can require a long process. You can’t build in three months, launch, and expect your new animal to be fully adapted to its environment.
The process of evolution in software development requires time for reflection and adaptation. An iterative approach is the only approach that’s capable of achieving that perfect fit.
MyOxygen, for example, is much more likely to discuss the development process with a client with a view to a five-year plan or similar timeframe. This is at least partly to manage expectations of the speed of a development process done right – development as evolution.
But it’s also because, if you want your animal to actually make the best of its environment, that’s how long the process can take.
Of course, there can be a demand for software to be launched quickly.
But aiming to launch with all of your app’s functionality delivering the best service for all your users after a foreshortened development cycle is asking for trouble.
You’re not giving your animal time to adapt and evolve – which in the software development space means you’re not iterating based on user research and data.
If you need to launch quickly, the best strategy is usually to focus on a more limited set of your desired software functionality and ensure it works very well for a particular section of your intended audience.
From there, you can continue to roll out more functionality to an increasing segment of your audience without sacrificing quality of user experience.
It’s nice to sit back and marvel at how amazing nature is at building things that are fit for purpose. Sometimes breathtakingly so.
Remember this the next time you hear someone talk about software development as a sprint towards a finish line. Remind them that something perfectly fit for task doesn’t appear overnight.
It’s a process of evolution.
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