When the Wright brothers flew their first plane, one of their key inventions was the ability to change the shape of the wings in flight, so as to steer the plane and keep it aloft. At first all of the control was done by the pilot, but feedback control systems were soon developed to automatically simulate a good pilot’s actions. When the first cars rolled off of Henry Ford’s automotive assembly line, they were made with thick, uneven sheet metal made with manually controlled processes. But feedback control systems were rapidly developed that allowed the manufacture of much thinner and more precise sheet metal, leading to lighter, sleeker cars.

As systems increase in complexity, feedback control systems have always been developed to manage that complexity. In our world of developing complex software-intensive systems, we have recently arrived at the stage of Wright brothers were during their early flights – we can now design our systems so that we can modify them in flight, observe the results, then manually make corrections.

This talk is about using feedback control to radically improve the process of developing of software-intensive systems. It covers:

Continuous Delivery: A surge in organizations engaged in continuous delivery (weekly, daily, or more frequently) has changed the development game from iterations to flow, and from intermediary product “owners” to sending system-level feedback directly to the technical team.
Continuous Design: Continuous delivery requires the ability to continuously take the feedback into account and adjust the software content accordingly. Instead of designing features based on speculation, system development decisions are based on real data – for example, A/B testing, Cohort analysis, etc.
Continuous Demand Management: One of the biggest problems development managers face is demand management – and resolving this problem is fundamentally about the ability to match demand to capability. A rapid full-system feedback control loop is increasingly practical, and is a very effective way to manage demand.
Continuous Progress: Recent research has shown that the most potent motivator, the one that gets people deeply engaged in their work is not incentives, not goals, not even teams. The most effective motivator of knowledge workers is: making progress in meaningful work. Continuous delivery and design put members of the technical team in direct contact with the end result of their work – making the work more meaningful and progress highly visible.
Continuous Experimentation: Research also shows that the most successful organizations are those that take a disciplined, empirical approach to improving business processes – questioning conventional wisdom and experimenting to find out what works. This includes questioning the conventional wisdom behind approaches to developing software-intensive systems – including agile and lean approaches.

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