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Complexity Problem. How To Find Your Balance image

Complexity Problem. How To Find Your Balance

When it comes to building a software product, we rarely consider the product complexity - the project transparency from the developer perspective - as a crucial metric for business growth. The complexity problem is usually an underestimated issue that can slow down the business development and drain the budget, whether you are a small startup business or a mature enterprise.

With that said, let's find out which business decisions may arise the complexity problem and how to keep the balance between feature deployment and maintaining your product complexity at the optimal level.

Why Complexity Problem Is Vital To Consider

Keeping the complexity problem in mind is integral to successful software development. This issue becomes more and more relevant, as the project grows bigger and older.

Here are the business aspects complexity problem affects the most:


But how would you end up with an imbalanced project? Well, the primary reason for that is unfitting development speed for your project. You see, when you focus on the rapid delivery and want to issue a couple of features a day, you don't really pay attention to the code quality. On the opposite, spending too much time working on project maintainability may cause you the competition. This is when it gets dangerous.

Common Complexity Problem Cases

Here's the kicker: there is no ultimately correct approach to balancing your project complexity. It is rather a matter of finding the best blend of development speed and code quality. With that said, let's consider 3 common solutions in terms of the complexity problem to see how they affect the development progress over time.

The light blue line indicates the project complexity, while the darker one demonstrates the feature amount, the number of functional modules. There are also critical complexity levels on charts. The goal is to keep the complexity within the optimal range.

There are two horizontal lines for you to see the project stages: Market-Ready Threshold and Vendor Lock-in Threshold. The first one indicates the release time, while the second shows the time when your customers are too dependent on you, they cannot really switch to competitor services anymore.


Case 1: Balanced Product Development Speed

Chart 1 is a perfect showcase of the balanced approach, where the company doesn't rush to introduce new features blindly but doesn't spend too much time working on the code quality.

Development Performance

The overall development performance is stable and shows positive figures:

Approach Edges

This way, the product is ready for the launch in 1 year of development and reaches the Vendor Lock-in point in 6 - 6.5 years. This strategy doesn't slow down the process and doesn't bring extreme complexity to a project.

Approach Shortcomings

It seems like a perfect strategy and an absolute leader, doesn't it? Well, just like every other option, balanced development has its drawbacks. This approach requires a considerable effort to put together a team of true experts in software development and project management. And finding those can be the real issue.

Therefore, there will be considerable time and resource expenses associated with finding and supporting such a team.

Suitable Projects

The balanced approach is optimal for any kind of project and is highly recommended to execute since the only problem with it lies in finding the proper team for such a challenge.


Case 2: Rapid Software Development

Chart 2 shows the rapid approach to developing a product. The development team releases the product early (less than a year of development) and keeps the complexity level extremely high to achieve this.

Development Performance

This strategy focuses on delivering the product quickly, and here are the results of this approach on different timeline intervals:

Approach Edges

Rapid development is the easiest way to market a product in tight deadlines. As long as you don't invest much in the product structure and scalability, the product will reach the first customers within several months.

Approach Shortcomings

The positive side of such a strategy ends as soon as you start selling. You see, the product needs constant improvements to keep the head above the water on the nowadays competition-driven market. And this approach doesn't allow that.

This development rush backfires badly and may be fatal when you have an insufficient budget and simply are not ready for it.

Such a problem might level all your achievements and profits made in the first year.

Here's the mean idea: if you commit to the super-fast functionality delivery, the optimization phase will come soon, and this won't be cheap. The more carelessly and faster you develop, the greater the complexity issue arises.

As you can see from this chart, the company almost reached the vendor Lock-in threshold in just 2 years, but then spent more than 3 years putting everything in order without any significant improvements.

The high complexity doesn’t allow companies to introduce new features and fix the critical issues timely. This leads to losing customers, sales, and reputation. This damage is hardly reversible since the price of your mistake in this stage is too high.

Suitable Projects

The rapid development approach is suitable for agile startups striving to launch as soon as possible at all costs. For those companies, the key factor is whether you are first on the market or not. The entertainment industry and MVP projects are the ones benefiting the most from this strategy.


Case 3: Conservative Software Development

Chart 3 indicates quite the opposite decision to the second case: the company goes slow intentionally, trying to keep everything in order.

Development Performance

The strategy implies heavy time and resource investments, and this is what it leads to:

Approach Edges

The software development process is super predictable. Customer support is outstanding, as you can adjust and fix your product in a matter of hours. What is more crucial, the product is so stable, there is little need to fix anything.

Approach Shortcomings

While it may sound like a safe bet, pay attention to a release date. The company spent almost 3 years releasing the product. This is super expensive, even with quality code. In such a volatile nowadays market, the world can change in months, which creates a danger of the product becoming irrelevant even before its initial release.

Yes, the Vendor Lock-in time isn't far longer in this scenario, but such a long initial development stage may be devastating. This means the project may not survive the pre-market stage.

Suitable Projects

The conservative development model suits large enterprises with the mission-critical - and even life-critical - software products. These may be the financial service products, documentation exchange solutions, or the products for processing sensitive data, where there is no room for error.


Other Development Aspects Affecting The Project Complexity

The Complexity problem is not constant, and there is a range of business factors determining its level and the impact on the development process as a result. These include but are not limited to the following:

As you can see, there is much more to the complexity problem than just a development speed. Keeping processes organized in your company is key to controlling the project complexity.

The Bottom Line

Staying cost and time-effective is a matter of maintaining balanced project complexity. There is no universal value for an optimal complexity, as it's unique to every industry and business case.

find your balance based on the project budget, time to market, and competition to stay ahead of the competition. Develop and maintain a holistic approach to your software development process, and success will be a matter of time.

Chief Executive Officer
18 May 2020
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