Lean ITLean Project Management

Why is the learning curve such a major factor in software development?

Managing the learning curve is a challenge for all major projects.  As technology changes, learning curve has a bigger impact.  This post describes the major issues and suggests a solution.  The following issues have a significant impact on learning curve:

1. Senior professionals are commonly assigned to support production applications and junior developers are assigned to create new applications. Lacking formal standards, they refine their theoretical knowledge using a learning curve (experience).

2. Development software keeps changing and we keep mixing technologies. Every new combination of technologies creates a new learning curve.

3. Every software development technology has strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, standards should be created to provide rules that take advantage of the benefits and avoid the weaknesses. Standards allow Junior developers to benefit from the experience of others. Unlike other industries that recognize the benefits of experience, the IT industry treats experience as a liability. They seek out younger professionals for their knowledge of newer technologies and dismiss industry experience. As a result, the learning curve of the younger professionals causes them to repeat the mistakes of the past.

What is the solution? A learning curve is unavoidable with new technologies. The “learning curve” should be addressed in a controlled environment with prototypes. Findings should then be used to develop standards so that people are benefiting from the initial learning curve. Additionally, there should be a mechanism for people to log the results of their experience (both positive and negative) so that others may benefit.

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