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You ain’t gonna need it

I am a big fan of agile software development methods, because they provide much more control for marketers and other business types over technology teams—and they make technology projects more successful. But I came across a new term for something I have found to be true. Alan-Rimm Kaufman talks about YAGNI, which means “You Ain’t Gonna Need It.”


I am a big believer that concepts need names. Human beings are language-oriented, so when we can plaster a name on an idea, it helps us internalize it.
And YAGNI is a big idea. I’ve seen it over and over in projects that I have worked on, which is one of the most important reasons that agile development works. The basis of YAGNI is the illusion we all have that we “know” what will be needed in the future. We are all planners, so we plan a new Web site, or another new piece of software, we always know what we want first, but we think we know what we want second, third, and fourth.
And sometimes we do.
But often, by the time those priorities can pop to the top of the list, we’ve changed our minds. Not because we’re fickle (although there’s some of that, too), but because we’ve learned more and what we thought we wanted might not be a good idea. Or because we discovered something else more important. Or because we realize that we should solve that problem, but in a different way.
So, when you develop in agile fashion, you develop the very next most important thing, get that working, and update your Web site with it. Then you can see how that works while you are developing the next thing. By doing that, instead of doing a six-month “site redesign,” you develop fewer features that you don’t need and you update the right features based on how well they work.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about the whole idea of development processes, you might benefit from a new book I am reading, Outside-in Software Development, which talks about how to focus technologists on the things that mean the most for your business. Carl Kessler and John Sweitzer are onto a big idea, that every part of your software development process must consider business value—no specialists can just exist to make things work technically. I guess I knew that, but I wouldn’t have been able to put it into words the way they have, with the examples they’ve provided to bring it to life. There are a lot of books written that you ain’t gonna need, but you might need this one.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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