Benefits of Riding the Bleeding Edge of Software
When you work in technology, it can be tempting to reach for the latest, greatest piece of software well before it’s been properly vetted. If there’s a new methodology, operating system, or open source tool that promises the biggest and best benefits out there, why not take a chance on it as early as possible?
Acting as an early adopter isn’t inherently bad—if you look at this from a business context, it’d be like investing in a promising startup and hoping to double or even triple your money over time. But what’s critical here is avoiding pushing all your chips into the middle of the table before something has been fully proven.
There’s a big difference between what a piece of software can do in theory and what it actually accomplishes when it’s been instituted within a real-life team with different personalities tasked with hitting deadlines.
Ellen Shapiro, the director of iOS engineering at Chicago-based agency Vokal, recently spoke to StickyMinds about how to assess risk in new software and technology. Instead of getting enamored with the promise of riding the bleeding edge, she promotes a more measured approach that avoids the “whoa, shiny!” mentality that can be hard to resist.
“It’s always a real battle when you're trying to figure out, OK, where do we decide that enough people are using this that we can take a risk on it?” Shaprio explains. “I think there are certain things where the difference that you see, in terms of how much easier this thing could potentially make your life versus the risk of continuing to use the same thing that you're doing that's making you tear your hair out, is so big that it's like, well, we might as well take a shot at this.”
And if you are going to take a shot at something new, make sure the documentation supports your decision. Research the community that’s forming around the new product to guarantee that the support is there and will continue to be there. If, for example, you’re deciding on a new open source tool, the population surrounding it can be just as important as its base feature set.
If you invest in a new tool and it’s just not ready to perform at the speed of your business, you’re going to anger clients and cripple your operations. But if you take a step back and assess the value and viability of something that’s riding the bleeding edge, you might bring a new level of efficiency to your team that you never thought was possible.