Lessons Learned in 40 Years of Software Development

David Lareau is CEO of Medicomp Systems.

In March, Medicomp celebrated its 40th anniversary – which is a pretty ripe old age in an industry that sees the acquisition, failure or general disappearance of companies on a near-daily basis. Medicomp has survived – and thrived – for four decades, in a large part because of the vision and leadership of founder Peter Goltra, who from the start was dedicated to creating solutions to drive better patient care.

As I reflect on Medicomp’s successful history, I realize we’ve had a few key philosophical drivers that contributed to our longevity. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from 40 years in the world of software development.

Hire the best people and keep them

People are a company’s most valuable resource. People produce the intellectual property that creates value. Employee turnover is the enemy as it disrupts development by creating a loss of continuity and institutional knowledge. An investment in employee compensation should not be viewed as a cost but as a precious, renewable resource that grows in value over time. By keeping your teams together, you create a force-multiplier in software development.

Listen and keep listening

Build a culture where people listen to, and learn from, each other. This applies to internal operations, as well as to customers, the industry, and your business and technical environments. It’s critical to seek opportunities to foster an environment where people keep their doors and minds open to each other and are constantly asking, “what do you think of (x)?”

Focus and stay focused

Decide what you are building and stick to it. Clearly communicate your focus to everyone and don’t be distracted by every new hyped-up thing that comes along. This is perhaps easier said than done, but, you must maintain your focus, even as the marketplace shouts about every “new, new thing.” When an innovation does come along that forces a response – such as a major change in technology – respond quickly, but not necessarily often. See “early adaption” below.

Adapt early

Once you are convinced that you must respond to a “new, new thing,” get out in front of it and adapt early. Making the wrong call on something as fundamental as a shift in technical platforms can be a company-risking event. However, if you are going to listen to the market, then make a deliberate shift in focus. Don’t gut your existing teams but build a new team that is committed to investing the necessary research, time and energy required to successfully transition to that new “thing”.

Small teams, big results

Keep your teams small. The more people you have on a team, the more time you spend coordinating efforts rather than building software. This wastes time, leads to “product bloat” and frustrates everyone – and leads to employee dissatisfaction and (the dreaded) turnover. When people are part of a small, focused team, everyone stays connected and feels as if they are a part of something meaningful.

Here’s to another 40 years of Medicomp success!