Optimize for Maintenance


When you are building software, you can optimize for one of two things. You can reduce the time it takes to create or you can reduce the amount of effort you will put into maintenance. Old school RAD tools (and much of Microsoft’s demo-ware) optimize for quick construction. Tools like ORMs (especially Entity Framework) and Rails also make this choice. They all allow you to build solutions quick, and there is nothing wrong with that, if that is what you need.

Most software will live for many years, so you will spend much more time fixing it and adding features. This is where the whole RAD strategy falls apart. Most of the tooling that allows you to build fast (look Ma – no code!) does not hold up well to attempts to maintain it. It allows hidden complexity to creep in while you work around the tooling to fix a bug or add a feature. Before you know it the whole stack of software is hard to debug or add to so nobody wants to do it.

This is why developers fight against having to do maintenance – because they have made it hard on themselves. Developers would like their jobs better if they built for maintenance instead of trying to meet aggressive deadlines.