How not to fall into the ticket development trap?

Krzysztof Całus
Krzysztof Całus
Aug 29, 2023
Man in front of a computer
In the fast-paced world of software development, getting caught up in the rush to deliver ticket after ticket is easy. However, what if I told you that this approach might be leading you astray?
Whether you're a startup, scaleup, or enterprise, the true essence of success lies not in churning out code but in what delivers value. By balancing your business goals and user needs, you can maximize the impact of your project without sacrificing time and resources.
Let's delve into the pitfalls of ticket-driven development and explore how shifting your focus can lead to real value and meaningful outcomes.

What is ticket development?

In case you've never heard about ticket development, allow me to explain it briefly and make sure we're on the same page.
Ticket development is a common practice in software development where tasks, issues, or features are organized and tracked using a ticketing system. These tickets represent units of work that need to be completed within a project. The ticket description may include the task's priority, status, and associated details. They are typically organized in a project management tool like JIRA, Trello, or GitHub Issues. However, even a good ticket management process may not support the overarching business goals.

Steering in a better direction

In my view, the aforementioned approach overly emphasizes the completion of these tickets without considering the broader business goals, user needs, or strategic direction of the software. This can lead to developers focusing solely on completing tasks without necessarily delivering meaningful value to users or the business. How about we shift our focus towards aligning development teams with business objectives and user needs?
I often wonder why we rarely look at and evaluate tickets through the lens of the business benefits they are supposed to bring us. Why do we focus so much on other aspects, the technical intricacies, task completion speed, and adherence to coding standards, while sometimes neglecting the fundamental question of whether the tickets even align with and contribute to the broader strategy?
Why don't we consider a ticket as done only when it has achieved the desired business goal?
There is no specific "right way" that will lead us to a ticket implementation; however, the compass guiding our endeavors must always be directed toward a clear destination. It's a simple truth — if we're uncertain about where we're going, our chances of getting there dwindle.
After all, what value do we bring to our end users if we deliver quickly but not what they expect and what addresses their needs?

Shifting your focus to business

Okay, but what can we do? How can you shift your mindset?
We have multiple options (don't just limit yourself to those described below), but what is more important is to test and improve them over time according to your individual needs.

Unveiling True Needs

At the inception of any project, embarking on a Product Discovery stage or a Discovery Session is paramount. This is the phase where you peel back the layers and uncover the genuine needs of your end users. You'll discover functionalities that directly contribute to your revenue by doing so. Prioritize these features and functionalities, as they are the heart of your success.
It's important to keep in mind that even an experienced client from a corporate organization may overlook the Discovery process. Therefore, it's always worth reminding people of it’s value, regardless of their level of expertise.

Aligning with Business Goals

Unlike the "take orders and build" approach, maintain a steady dialogue with your clients about their business goals. Most clients are well aware of what they need; however, it’s up to you to propose the solution on how to achieve it and actively seek feedback. Don't merely execute the customer requests; dive deeper into what they aspire to achieve in the short and long term. This engagement not only ensures your efforts are aligned with business objectives but also fosters a sense of partnership between you and your clients.

Quarter, Year, Beyond

Don't limit your vision to the present. Regularly ask your clients about their quarterly, yearly, and multi-year goals. You can tailor your development efforts to provide lasting value by grasping their aspirations.

Bridging Business and Development

Another good practice is introducing a Customer Success Manager role to bridge the gap between business objectives and product development. This role ensures that customer goals remain at the forefront and that your development efforts are on the right track. All that happens thanks to continuous goals monitoring, regular verification of value the team delivers, and change management applied as needed.

Cultivating a Purpose-Driven Culture

Embed a purpose-driven culture within your team. Foster direct developer-client interaction, facilitating better understanding and collaboration. Focus on measures of success that matter, such as increasing conversions and delivering tangible value. This approach also encourages the entire team, especially Tech Leads, to grasp the context and purpose behind their work. We all want to know why we are doing something and in which direction we are going.

Prioritizing KPIs

Maintain continuous conversations with clients to identify and prioritize the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most. This ensures that your efforts are focused on delivering outcomes that resonate with your client's strategic objectives.
In my opinion, this is the best way to track the impact of product changes and get confirmation of assumptions in the data. Stop for a moment and consider which indicators best reflect what you want to achieve.

Closing thoughts

Now, it's time to decide which path you want to take. I believe ticket-centric development leads to a disconnect between code creation and real business goals. Once intended to be an asset, the code becomes a burden — wasting resources, time, and effort. Ultimately, this approach may result in an inability to solve genuine user problems and generate revenue.
On the contrary, success beckons when you align your efforts with a purpose. Your team becomes a unified force driven by a shared mission. This alignment not only boosts productivity but also empowers you to anticipate and address user needs proactively. The ultimate triumph lies in responding to those needs, crafting a product that resonates, and thriving because you've provided real solutions to real challenges.
In conclusion, software development is not a mere checklist of tasks. It's a journey toward meaningful impact. By shifting your focus from delivering tickets to realizing data-driven business goals, you'll embark on a path that leads to sustainable success. So, when faced with the choice, remember: it's not about the code; it's about the purpose behind it.
Krzysztof Całus

Krzysztof Całus

Product Owner
Enthusiast of the Lean approach in software development. Above all, his compass in all endeavors is unwavering client satisfaction. Off the tech track, motorcycle aficionado, finding solace and adventure on two wheels. 🏍️

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