On paper, home construction and technology are complete opposites. Both centre around different environments, industries and skills. But what about the values between the two? When you break down the principles behind construction and building business software, the two share more similarities than many realise.
Building things which mean something to people is what home construction is all about. Working closely with customers, making sure what is being built is the right thing, for the right reasons, the right way and not skimping on detail. It is all about building something customers want, and building it well. This concept is exactly the same with software.
With software now becoming integrated to businesses, schools, hospitals, research facilities and more, it is crucial for developers to take pride in the workmanship behind the software, just as the same with housing construction. From construction sites to cutting edge technology, quality craftsmanship is crucial for overall success in both fields.
The above point is the key link between construction and software development. Even though the product is different, the philosophy is the same. Both are building something important which will be used by people every day - and that’s what drives both fields to strive for excellence.
There are five key reasons why building construction and building software are similar in planning, execution and delivery.
1. Both need a solid foundation
No matter how large or extravagant the house, if it isn’t built on a solid foundation, it isn’t going to stand. The same holds true for software. Both construction and software need a lot of time spent on research, learning what the customer’s requirements are and working with engineers to make sure the solid foundation is created successfully.
2. Building the customer’s vision—not yours
Customers interact with software all the time at FileMaker, and there are always pain points which need to be fixed and altered, especially in the development stages. This is the same with construction. What’s really important is not to get too attached to an idea. Providing consultancy is important, and it must be centred on what will make the product better, not on personal opinion and preferences.
3. Listen and communicate
When building a house you can’t work in a vacuum. Managing products which work for a lot of people in different ways can’t happen in isolation either. Collaborating with every stakeholder - including future customers - is the only way to be successful. As with software, being in constant communication with customers and engineers to find out what’s needed and what’s best, ensures the best decisions are made.
4. Don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions
In construction it’s better to fix something while it’s easy to fix rather than after everything has been completed and is inaccessible. There isn’t a better metaphor for software product management. Users don’t have time to deal with technical glitches and bugs - they just want the app to help jobs get done. For software, if someone working in frontline support questions what looks like an error in a new product, the company will potentially end up stopping production to fix it. It will be a difficult decision to make, but it will inevitably prevent company and customer headaches in the future.
5. Making quality the centre of all decisions
If businesses are creating something which is going to affect someone’s life, it has to be perfect; making sure attention is paid to the little things - even if nobody else sees them. It is crucial to take pride in knowing the product which has been created is going to positively benefit the target audience.
Ultimately, it is the skill and pride in workmanship which are the traits which cross over between construction and business software product management. When building houses, you imagine what memories the families who moved in would create. With building software, it’s important to think about the development process being just the beginning - what companies do with the software and how they utilise its benefits in every day practises, is only limited by their imaginations.