Process Versus Product

I am a very enthusiastic champion of life-cycle processes and development techniques that can produce better software products. My view is that improving process methodology in key process areas can give enormous benefits in terms of quality and time to market for software development. However, too much process change in the short term can have detrimental effects; pragmatism must always be applied, especially when commercial realities mean that corners must be cut sometimes in order to meet deadlines.

As can possibly be surmised from my last post, I have recently been involved in a job interview. I found it to be a very interesting and educational exercise in the relative importance of process versus product. You’ll have to read on to determine the winner in this case.

I was called up out of the blue by an agent with a fantastic job description that sounded like it had been written using my career goals as a template, located two miles down the road from home, and a much better pay to boot. Of course I took an interest, and sent in my CV. What followed was one of the most thorough and challenging interview processes that I have ever been through. There were three contact points with the company:

  1. A seventy minute telephone interview. This went very well, as I thought that there was a fair amount of mutual agreement on development methodologies and technologies. I though I had a good rapport with the interviewer.
  2. I spent about three hours working on a program to solve a coding problem set by the company (obviously, my code was excellent!).
  3. I was called into an interview on site that lasted over three hours, as my work history was queried in excruciating detail, along with my opinions on development strategies and methodologies.

The end result? Although I had an excellent background, there was concern with my emphasis on process rather than the end product, and hence they did not want to progress things. Although I feel the slight sting of rejection in this decision, I can’t really take this as a setback, as I was not even looking to change jobs anyway.

I think the lesson to learn from the experience is that you need to choose your moments carefully when advocating process improvement. In the end, the people with the money what to know that you can deliver saleable product within budget and before the competition does. Although I firmly believe that attention to development process will actually help the business goals, the correlation is not always obvious.