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Inspired by LEGO: Building Software Better

As the Director of Software Engineering for InterAction®, I know it’s not enough to produce the best software—you need to know it’s the best, and that you’re continually striving to develop a team that can create that software in the best way possible.

Full On Shot

If you work to build a better team and provide them with clear customer feedback, they’ll be equipped to build a better product. But where do you get the inspiration for continual improvement, both in the product and development process?

Simple: LEGO® sets!

Like many kids, LEGO bricks were my toy of choice. Yes, the range of bricks back in the 1960s was much simpler than today, and while making what was on the box lid was always fun, the real satisfaction was running with my imagination and innovating that design. Adapting and evolving.

As time went by, college and a career in software came along. The LEGO bricks went into storage and was forgotten. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that they came back out of the box again.

One Christmas, my kids actually bought me a LEGO set: the LEGO Technic 8880 Super Car. (Seriously—it was a game changer.) Of course they wanted to help me build it. Even more than just the joy of us all putting a great model together, what struck me was how much these iconic “building blocks” had evolved over the previous decades.

Looking at LEGO with a software engineer’s eyes, I could see how, while adhering to strict standards and rules on backwards compatibility, they had still managed to create new and better solutions to ever more challenging problems.

Spaceship

Over time, I’ve followed how LEGO has evolved and improved the design of their large car sets, through almost 20 models spanning 40 years. They’ve never complacently accepted the status quo. They’re still pushing forward to the next level.

With the advent of Lean and Agile software practices, LEGO found its way (officially) into the workplace too, used in training to help illustrate the advantages of small-batch working, rapid delivery, and incorporating feedback, as well as other techniques critical in modern software development.

(Not too surprisingly, LEGO sets regularly make it into the office just for the sheer fun of it; a fair few of the team have their own collections.)

If you look at how LEGO evolved over the years, you’ll see occasional leaps—step changes in parts or techniques—but more often than not, it’s about steady refinement of components and products. And that’s often the same with software products like InterAction: big “ta-da” moments punctuating a stream of continual improvement.

And being attentive to our users helps us to refine our technical strategy, ensuring we align with (and are ready to meet) their future needs.

The InterAction team has been regularly releasing new, innovative capabilities three or four times a year for a while. This cadence offered consistency but hampered our ability to release fixes and patches quickly.

Starting January 17 — and continuing on the third Thursday of each month — we will make an update pack available to deliver important updates to you. This new release train will run alongside of the more familiar major releases, allowing us to effectively manage timely updates and the delivery of new functionality.

Side Shot

We’re acutely aware that it’s not just about functional improvement; there’s also effort involved in any new software installation or upgrade. This is why we’re always working to reduce the total cost of ownership of InterAction, smoothing and simplifying the upgrade process, reducing obstacles to the early adoption of critical changes.

It’s not just the attorneys, marketers and business development teams that are users of InterAction, it’s the IT teams too, always ensuring their estate is always up-to-date, robust, and secure.

So, big boxes to inspire, small packs to strengthen—both complementing one another, both with the clear and simple instructions you need to help you maintain and extend your InterAction ecosystem.

Now, what does that remind me of? 🙂

Lego Person

LEGO, SERIOUS PLAY, IMAGINOPEDIA, the Minifigure and the Brick and Knob configurations are trademarks of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this website. © 2019 The LEGO Group

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About Stephen Collier

Stephen Collier
Stephen Collier has spent over 25 years helping software development teams, in Europe and the US, evolve and grow through Agile and Lean thinking, equipping them to create great software. Over half of that time has been with LexisNexis, where he established the first Scrum teams and drove the early adoption of Scaled Agile at LexisNexis in the UK. He moved to Raleigh NC in early 2016, together with his family and an embarrassingly large collection of LEGO.
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