Getting Real and paying development debt

We've recently stumbled onto a book by 37signals (the people behind Ruby on Rails) that has gotten us fired up all over again about the advantages of being a small web-based software company. Sure, we've been using many of the concepts they talked about over the past several years, but we were surprised to find several ways of thinking about things that were different than the ways we had approached them in the past.

One concept in particular that I loved was the idea of development debt. They stress that it's ok to not get everything perfect the first time, and if you try to wait until everything is, you'll never release a product. It's important, however, to consider this imperfect software as a debt that you have to repay. On a regular basis you need to go back in and repay your loans. For us, this includes reducing clutter and eliminating areas in the app that aren't intuitive.

We'll continue adding new functionality like reporting and meetings over the next few months, but a major push for us will be identifying the areas of the app that aren't quite working and clean them up. We want someone who has never used the app before to be able to sit down and start using it without a manual.

The book is called Getting Real and has an online version that's free. If you're at all interested in software development, I highly recommend taking a look. It's a very quick read and is packed with all kinds of good stuff.