3 benefits of timeboxing in software development

08/06/2018 - Joan Gaastra

Traditional software development focuses on accurately mapping the required functionalities beforehand and subsequently start developing it. What you are going to develop (the end result) is fixed, who will work on this and for how long is flexible. With timeboxing this is exactly the opposite. You determine in advance who will work on a specific task and for how long. Within that timeframe, the best possible result is produced. A completely different way of working, but with a few important benefits.

1. You focus on what is important

In software development it can be very difficult to map all requirements and specifications beforehand. Before you start, the desired end result or required functionalities are not always clear. This brings the risks of spending too much time on problem analysis, formulating a solution path that gradually turns out to be very different and paying attention to details that are completely unnecessary. Many projects run out of schedule and exceed budget, because the predetermined scope needs to be achieved at all costs. Timeboxing creates time pressure and forces you to focus. There is no time for fringe issues or procrastination and no room for distractions. You need to deliver and that forces you to focus on what is important.

2. You become more productive

Timeboxing makes you more productive. You work more effectively, you ignore distractions and you do not work on unnecessary bells and whistles. By reserving a timeframe completely for one task you will be able to concentrate better. You ignore phone calls, e-mails and questions and solely focus on that single activity, allowing you to quickly make progress. You also pick a time that suits you best for a specific activity. You might prefer to do the complicated stuff in the morning, answer simple questions in the afternoon or get creative in the evening.

3. You achieve Return On Investment faster

Ultimately, it is about Return On Investment. Software development costs money and must yield profit for the customer(s) who will get to use it. We all know the stories of endless projects and activities that ultimately result in products that do not meet expectations, are 'over-engineered' and too expensive. Timeboxing forces you to work directly on what brings Return On Investment to the customer. By regularly communicating with the customer, you continue to work on what provides true value to the customer and do not spend time on wrong, unnecessary or unimportant tasks.

But…mind the quality!

Timeboxing only works if you apply it properly and do this together with the customer. With this software development approach, you no longer need to worry about time and budget. And by communicating well with the customer, you will also be fine on developing the right functionalities. But what about that fourth component of the devil's square, quality? Time pressure potentially undermines quality. What should not happen of course is that work is done in a rush or that an unfinished product is delivered. Then it is better to jointly pick a new timebox to complete the product.

As a Product Owner, Joan Gaastra is in the driver's seat at Dysel. He decides which functionalities are developed and how they are prioritized.

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