Here’s Some Feedback: The Feedback Loop Matters in Software Development!

To put it bluntly, the shorter the feedback loop, the better. No ifs, ands or buts about it. And yet, for some reason, long feedback loops continue to exist. Why we do this to ourselves is still hard to fathom, but here we are. Let’s take a look at a snapshot of what you can expect with long feedback loops.

You spend X amount of time building the site (for some, this could be a year – yikes!). The entire time spent creating and developing you think to yourself, “This is perfect! The company will appreciate it and our customers will love it.” Or at least you have some variation of those emotions.

This, unfortunately, is where problems begin. Here, you spent all your energy and time on this build and then at the very end you discover that it’s actually flawed or littered with bugs. It’s a sucker punch to the gut like none other.

On top of it all, imagine having to go back to re-evaluate the feature(s) at hand. If so much time has passed since you last developed it, do you trust that you’ll remember the entire codebase again?

To reduce risk, improve quality and ensure a better response to change(s), a shortened feedback loop is required.

Traditionally, with phased software development projects, communication and involvement with customers and stakeholders take place at the beginning of the project. Whereas, by implementing agile and lean software development approaches, you can reduce cycle times and deliver incremental releases. This provides the opportunity for short feedback loops with customers and stakeholders.

The intent behind shortened feedback loops, whether it’s through demos, code change, pair programming, continuous delivery, build and validation cycles, is to save time on wasted things. For instance, whereas before you didn’t understand the connection between a change and the result of that change, now you do. And when we refer to “change” we mean a change in requirements, development practices, development processes, business plan, code or design.

In other words, a shortened feedback loop makes it so that you know what works and why it’s working (and, conversely, what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work) earlier in development rather than when it’s too late. In fact, it is one of the key contributing factors to success in agile because it enables teams to learn quickly and adapt/adjust where needed. Additionally, it is through this enablement of experimentation that allows organizations to create great products and services.

When implementing shortened feedback loops, however, be sure to that you actually know how to leverage the feedback. Empower the individuals on your team to take decisive action based on the feedback given. Also, make it so that there are direct lines of communication between certain team members, so as not to overwhelm individuals.

As organizations continue their descent into agile software development, keep in mind why it is that these techniques are adopted. The potential cost savings are large when you use short feedback loops, and, more importantly, the quality of products you deliver to your customers is improved, helping set you apart from the rest of the pack.