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Why Software Development is like Professional Bike Racing

After watching several stages of this summer’s “Le Tour”, I found some striking similarities between technology development and professional cycling.

Without a team, you’re effed

This year’s yellow jersey (at the time of this writing), Bradley Wiggins, depends entirely on his team. They are coordinated, respond quickly to threats, and lean to the strengths of each rider.

Software development is no different. A product won’t become a market leader with only a rock-star developer. Essential jobs like quality assurance and project management need to be filled by the right people.

Don’t blindly follow

Particularly while descending through the alps, riders who assume that the person they’re following knows the correct course, may end up hammering a guardrail or receiving a serious dose of road rash.

Should your sole focus be on matching your incumbent’s feature set? Look at the mobile market, there are plenty of examples of companies chasing Apple’s dominance and in the process are ruining themselves (i.e. RIM, Nokia…). Would they be better served finding a blue ocean?

The peloton will catch you

Breakaways rarely succeed. The peloton is more efficient and given enough time, will always pull the leaders back into the pack.

If you do find yourself market leader, can you sustain the incredible daily effort it requires remain there? Your competitors will only drive harder as they track your success.

Get up and do it again tomorrow

And finally, if you crash, bonk, or boot, there’s no better remedy than getting up and hammering on it. Stage 10’s winner, Thomas Voeckler, was on the verge of quitting earlier in the tour, but persisted and won in spectacular fashion.

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