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The Hunt for Value

August 30, 2010

What is ‘value’ in software development? It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot. Value this. Value that. Tests add value except when they don’t. Design patterns are valuable but not as valuable as good old simple code. The myriad tradeoffs are always presented in terms of value or rather values — speed vs simplicity, reliability vs speed, and so on. In the end we apply the term to ourselves; are we really adding value to the business?

It seems value is a very overloaded term that can mean most anything. Any defnition would be reductive. Fortunately, we don’t need to know what value is so much as how to find it. Value is like Bigfoot: it’s existence is uncertain, it’s never been conclusively seen but we’ll know it when we see it, and in our quest for it all we have to guide us are some tracks, some traces, maybe a blurry video or three.

A more interesting question might be where is the value in software development? Of course this suggests a further, even more interesting question: value — for who?

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