2021 Agenda

Steve Thomas
Steve Thomas · 31st Dec 2020

2021 Agenda


#1. Values

I've often thought of "values" in a business context as some wanky, self-aggrandising, in your face type nonsense that emanate from HR departments as a means of making employees feel like they are on the A Team, whilst simultaneously scorned by those in the trenches.

Over the course of 2020, I did a number of sessions with a Performance Psychologist with the aim of:

  • Understanding more about human nature
  • Identifying and rectifying situations where I become the bottleneck in business progression
  • Understanding what I need to do to build a business that is not overly reliant on me

I learned a heap of insightful stuff, and one thing that captured my attention in particular was how values are supposed to be used - to inform the direction we should take during crossroad moments.

When implemented correctly, values can also form the foundation for the development of processes and culture over the long term, which doesn't sound too wanky at all.

With this in mind, the whole team will be undertaking a workshop sometime in early 2021 to decide the foundational values that underpin our culture and decision-making in the years ahead.

#2. Games

In 2020 we had the opportunity to kickstart development of a browser-based game which was completely unlike anything we'd ever tackled before.

The development process resembled what a bona-fide game or movie studio would be doing; including concept art, storyboarding, design, character rigging, audio engineering etc.

Everyone loved the change-up from traditional web app development, and we were all surprised how capable (and perhaps under-appreciated) a modern browser-delivered game can be.

2021 will see ongoing development of our game project (which is classified for now), and we'd love to start on a second hybrid web app / game project in the new year.

#3. A whole-of-project tool

In 2020 we did a whole lot of work all the way through our pipeline, from initial enquiry to requirement-gathering to cycle management and reporting.

We identified the need for a Client Dashboard 12 months ago, and built capability in our Coding Labs HQ app to integrate some of the data we'll need in our eventual Client Dashboard.

The Client Dashboard is certainly going to form an important part of how we collaborate with stakeholders going forward, but it does very little to inform direction for the road ahead.

The missing piece is the roadmap; the 10,000 foot-view; the visualisation of a project vision and strategy that we can refer back to it when we are unsure where to go next (or overwhelmed with options).

Whilst we have tried capturing something like a "roadmap" in various formats over the years (like this post that you are reading right now *cough*), none of the strategies have really stuck.

What we know from experience is that long-term planning for app development is unreliable even for well-established businesses.

When it comes to new projects, most are based on such greenfield ideas that fundamental aspects of the new business need some serious time and attention - because invariably those aspects have big ramifications for the app direction.

This (poorly paraphrased) Basecamp-inspired logic is timeless:

  • All complex projects can inherit only 2 of these 3 attributes: fixed scope, fixed timeline, fixed budget. We advocate for fixed timeline, fixed budget, flexible scope.
  • Don't bother with long backlogs and long term planning. Long backlogs never get completed and constrain our vision looking ahead. Long term plans are guesses because we can never fully predict a project direction at the onset (nor should we try).
  • Importance bubbles, so keep an eye out for things that come up again and again to inform where future effort should be spent. In other words: don't be a perfectionist and don't pretend like there is a pot of gold waiting when every conceivable task is ticked off (because you'll find or create 100 others in the meantime).

Our task is to pinpoint the happy place where we can consistently hit the golden trifecta: on-time, on-budget and on-vision.

As I was playing the excellent Ghost of Tsushima on PS4 last night, it struck me that the challenge is building something like the in-game map. A broad stroke outline, containing a series of objectives that are initially shrouded in a fog-of-war and are revealed as progress is made. You can zoom in or out, but are always working towards a deliberate, tightly scoped objective.