When startup entrepreneurs connect with developers, they often don’t speak the same language. That’s why Andy Rahn, Principle Engineer at Modern Logic, presented a crash course on developer jargon at Twin Cities Startup Week. Read on, and you’ll be conversational in Developer-Speak in no time!

Why Is a Common Vocabulary Important?

Establishing a common understanding of the process of developing new technology empowers your team to do the best possible work, so your developers are free to discover the best solutions that fit your problems.

It’s also important that you meet your developers halfway to be understood. Just as the technical side has jargon, so does your business. Be patient and explain what your business does. Communicate your needs, keep the focus on your customer, and understand the scope of the project. But remember the most important part- the developers are also part of your team!

How to Understand Developer-Speak

Developers speak in jargon because software development processes have specific terminology. Having some familiarity with this vocabulary can help your development team find technical solutions that meet your end goals.

It’s really important that you’re both on the same page about the definitions of these terms!

  • Lean/Agile: This approach to software development aims to minimise waste while maximising value. Agile is driven by three primary concepts: an iterative approach to development, short feedback loops, and a disciplined project management. You can learn more about the concepts in the Agile Manifesto, and learn more about the connections between Lean, Agile, and Scrum here.
  • Backlog / Icebox: You might have good ideas that you cannot use right now, but also don’t want to throw out yet. Put them in the “Icebox” to save them for later.
  • Beta: In the Beta stage, software is complete but may still contain some bugs. This is the second phase of software testing (after Alpha), in which customers are testing the product.
  • Bug: An problem in a computer program/system that produces an incorrect or unexpected result. This is a term borrowed from the early days of hardware engineering.
  • Customer Journey: Developers map out the customer’s path from the beginning of their interaction with an app/site up to the desired goal. Their process is depicted visually.
  • Epic: An Agile-related term. An epic is a body of work that can be broken down into specific tasks, also called “user stories” (get it?) Epics help break work down while also unifying it towards a larger goal.
  • MVP: Not Most Valuable Player! A Minimum Viable Product is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future product development.
  • Proof of Concept: Proof of concept (PoC) is creating evidence and documentation about the feasibility of an idea. In software development, that shows whether an idea is feasible from a technology standpoint.
  • Sprint: A sprint is a set period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. Sprints are core to Agile development.
  • QA: Quality Assurance (QA) is paramount. This process focuses on ensuring reliable and consistent products.
  • Wireframe: A wireframe is like a sketch or blueprint of the structure of your app or website, showing both function and content layout.

Go Beyond Vocabulary

Understanding their process will help you better understand where your development team is coming from. Here’s your crash course on how an app is built with Agile/Lean Methodology.

Agile/Lean Methodology focuses on getting you the smallest, most critical aspects of your app quickly, allowing you to test it with users right away and continuously refine the app based on feedback. You won’t receive an app with your end-vision right away. Instead, the process will probably look something like this:

  • You’ll work with your team to build a prioritized list of features.
  • Developers will break down the most important features into tasks, which are blocks of work that can be estimated in hours.
  • A sprint is assembled from enough tasks to fill X amount of weeks.
  • Your app is built from a series of sprints. Sprints can include design, development, testing, bug fixing.
  • You might do a beta test followed by more sprints.

As soon as you have something that addresses your core business goal, you have your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). After that, you’ll transition from pure development to a customer centered phase: marketing, analytics, user research and feature refinement. With Agile/Lean development, you’re never done. As your business grows, your technology needs will change.

Check out part 2 in this series to learn more about what developers want you to know!

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