4 software development lessons from the World Cup

With apologies to the Olympic Games, the World Cup is probably the foremost sporting event on the globe, at least as a fan. Watching the best players in the world gather in Brazil to square off and establish a champion is the zenith of the sport and a point of national pride for whichever nation is fortunate enough to see its team take home the tournament victory. One of the things that makes the World Cup so fun to watch is seeing how the game is only won because the whole team is able to work together, completely compatible and totally in sync. If the team isn't unified, it likely won't win.

It's a good metaphor for software development in the enterprise, another place where teamwork is key and practice makes perfect. Here are four tips that software development strategies can take from the World Cup.

1. Get the whole team involved: Good applications aren't born in a vacuum, especially if they're intended to be self-service reporting tools. Everyone who will eventually use the app or rely on the data insights it produces should be involved in its development in some way. This includes members of the C-suite, who like a soccer coach may not actually be part of the game but need to provide guidance to those who are. It also means that technicians, administrators and end users should be involved with the developer in merging programming with business logic, so that when the app finally takes the field it is deployed by a unified team.

2. Don't rest on your laurels: Every year, there are upsets in the first round, with teams that were expected to dominate sent home early. This year's first fallen titan was Spain, which was bounced from the first round after consecutive losses to the Netherlands and Chile. Spain was the reigning World Cup champion, winning in 2010, and was expected to compete deep into the tournament this year. Both commentators and the team itself have suggested that Spain's starting 11 just wasn't mentally and physically ready for the games. It's a reminder that past success isn't an indicator of future triumph, and a company that relied on a piece of innovative software and performed sterling analysis for a time may find itself falling behind the competition. It's important for software developers to continue innovating, incorporating new elements in the languages and frameworks they use and seek to push the performance levels of their apps to new heights.

3. Adapt to the changing environment: Along with not relying on past success is developing the ability to adapt. Although the size of the field and basic strategy remain constant, there are always new nuances developing and changing the way that the best teams approach the game. The strengths and weaknesses of the players involved, as well as the characteristics of the competition, should guide how developers establish and alter their approach. The biggest example in programming right now is the growth of mobile, which adds new wrinkles to software development and deployment strategies. Businesses must find ways to transform in the effort to align with emerging approaches in order to avoid being negatively disrupted.

4. Fix flaws beforehand, not after deployment: Teams play three games in the first round, and in all of the following rounds they play single-elimination games. With most games decided by a goal or two, there is very little margin for error. This means that teams need to show up ready to play, with as many potential flaws as possible accounted for and addressed. While soccer teams and developers can't account for every potential vulnerability or predict the future, identifying every variable that could affect performance is vital to doing well when the game is on the line.


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