Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez
Good feedback is essential for any software development team as it allows them to recognize what areas need improvement and make necessary changes. Whether it’s a group of full-time developers working for a company or a group of volunteers attempting to build a version of software open to the public, having diverse opinions is paramount. And, in addition to providing reassurance that the development process is going well, feedback also gives everyone involved a clearer idea of how they can work together more efficiently going forward, even allowing other stakeholders outside of the software development team to get their input heard without slowing down progress or interfering with the process.
In that sense, good feedback should focus on the positive accomplishments of developers while also offering helpful suggestions for improvement, helping to keep morale high and enabling team members to grow professionally. Strong feedback also sets appropriate expectations, which further encourages developers to reach their goals while maintaining high standards of quality in their work. For these reasons, there’s no doubt that feedback is an invaluable tool that software development teams must embrace if they want to stay up-to-date on industry trends and maintain success in their projects. However, in modern software development, it may not be enough to guarantee that a team remains top-notch, and relying on hindsight is not the best course of action to ensure success in every project, so here is where the concept of “feedforward” comes in.
In software development, feedforward is a technique for improving the efficiency and performance of systems by making proactive adjustments before things go wrong. It is focused more on prevention than resolution, which means developers can be confident that issues will either be avoided or easily managed, keeping them focused on the tasks at hand. By creating feedback loops that measure performance and identify problems quickly, the feedforward approach tries to keep the entire development process running smoothly, offering real-time risk management so teams can respond quickly to any issues that arise during testing and deployment.
It’s no surprise that the term “feedforward” comes from control theory, which includes strategies like health checks to fix problems before they occur and track metrics to identify potential issues in advance. This proactive approach allows software teams to remain ahead of their targets without getting overwhelmed by unexpected problems, which is particularly useful when developing complex products with lots of moving parts since it creates a built-in safeguard against downtime. Effective use of this approach is crucial for the positive outcomes of any development environment.
Two sides of the same feed
Feedback and feedforward are two similar concepts in the sense that both are methods to provide guidance, but they serve very different functions. Feedback is offered after an activity has taken place, typically giving a reflection on performance that can be educational if corrective measures are shared. Feedforward, on the other hand, is offered before or during an activity, like giving counsel or advice on how best to complete a task. Both can be helpful when used correctly, but they should be employed strategically to ensure their intended outcomes are achieved.
The main difference between feedback and feedforward, to be exact, lies in the complexity of their content. Feedback is all about evaluating what has already happened, reflecting on mistakes that have taken place, and suggestions for improvement. It centers around what was or wasn’t done correctly, usually coming from a superior. Feedforward, on the other hand, is more focused on the future — it offers insights and guidance for a specific situation or task; it’s all about taking action before something happens, as well as understanding the process more deeply before diving in.
In consequence, the goal of feedforward is to transform employees into better problem-solvers by providing them with helpful advice and direction rather than simply identifying failure after the fact. After all, anticipating potential issues in software development is paramount for any project’s success; from scanning networks and individual hardware to predicting how users may take advantage of coding, foreseeing problems is the cornerstone of a successful launch. In other words, a software developer must understand their audience’s needs, identify critical points of failure, and be able to quickly craft solutions to prevent a delay or system meltdown at launch.
“Software development projects require lots of planning and organization and both feedback and feedforward should be balanced to ensure success”, says Adolfo Cruz, Partner and Project Management Officer at Scio. “Feedback helps the team keep track of their progress and identify any patterns, while feedforward provides context to better guide the team in their endeavors. It’s not just about finding faults or discovering areas in need of improvement; having a good grasp of what lies ahead empowers developers with clarity so they can define objectives and direct their focus appropriately. So, by thoroughly planning out their product’s performance before it goes live and having a balance between feedback and feedforward, development teams give themselves an edge against potential hiccups that could come up post-launch.”
Good feedforward is a cultural success
As many software developers have experienced, anticipating problems ahead of time can make for smoother sailing once the product goes out into the world, even when challenges arise throughout the development process. And rather than waiting for trouble to strike, adopting a feedforward approach can be a great way to anticipate these issues and be proactive about dealing with them, but this doesn’t happen by itself. A good organization takes the steps to let this kind of environment where both feedback and feedforward can thrive.
Implementing a successful feedforward approach is essential to ensure progress and continued success, and not only involves the team taking proactive steps such as proactively anticipating and mitigating any potential risks, developing detailed plans ahead of time, and making continual review & improvement cycles, but also requires a culture of communication, collaboration, and open-mindedness than can only come from a company culture that values these skills. So, to ensure this approach succeeds within a team, clear leadership is key.
Whoever heads up the development project should be knowledgeable in setting up project timelines, have an in-depth understanding of their team’s skills and capabilities, and be experienced at leading reviews and providing valuable feedback. Additionally, fostering an environment of openness and collaboration will help everyone feel comfortable contributing feedback, suggestions, and ideas on projects. With these elements addressed and supported, teams can look forward to successful software development through a well-run feedforward process.
“By establishing a good feedforward approach for the software development team, you can ensure quality product delivery”, concludes Adolfo Cruz. “Before any work starts, a detailed game plan should be thought of and communicated to all members of the team. Encouraging open communication through frequent check-ins and status updates also help teams identify bottlenecks, set more realistic deadlines, and catch issues before they become bigger problems later down the line. Memorializing lessons learned from previous projects can help improve operations in future development cycles as well.”
The Key Takeaways
- Feedback is an important tool for any software development team but is by no means the only approach a good organization should employ.
- Feedforward, an approach where a team tries to anticipate any issue and correct it before any damage can happen, is as important as feedback.
- However, effective feedforward cannot happen by itself, and an appropriate corporate culture that encourages communication and collaboration to let any team member offer input can ensure its success.
Scio is a Nearshore software development company based in Mexico where we believe that everyone deserves everyone should have the opportunity to work in an environment where they feel like a part of something. A place to excel and unlock their full potential which is the best approach to create a better world. We have been collaborating with US-based clients since 2003, solving challenging programming puzzles, and in the process showcasing the skills of Latin American Engineers. Want to be part of Scio? Get in contact today!. Get in contact today!