Software Teams Have to Manage Scarcity to Be Successful

Scarcity is fact of life. There’s never enough time or money to complete a software project — and that’s only the beginning. Every project runs out of something it critically needs. Here are a few things you might not have enough of:

  • Time
  • Money
  • People
  • Computers
  • Storage Space
  • Network Bandwidth
  • Software Licenses
  • Office Space
  • Chairs
  • Patience
  • White Board Space (write smaller!)
  • Sticky Notes (well, only if you run out of money)

You get the idea. Every project invariably runs out of something during its existence. How the team reacts to the situation may well determine the outcome of the project. If the team manages scarcity well, its chances of success improve. If the team whines and complains, failure becomes more likely.

This is another reason why software development teams need to adopt an agile approach like Scrum, Kanban, Lean or XP. Agile teams can rapidly adjust to scarcity and move on. Teams using more prescriptive approaches like waterfall, are forced to re-plan and re-group. Valuable time is lost. Money is wasted. The situation usually gets worse.

Don’t let scarcity derail your project. Good planning should help you anticipate areas where scarcity may become a problem. Address the scarcity if you can. If there’s nothing you can do to increase the supply, find a way to compensate. Do the best you can with what you have.

Many great companies run lean. They’ve learned to live on the edge of scarcity. You can too.

Updated: July 1, 2012 — 9:48 pm