Mission Driven Software

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facilitated by Kellie Brownell from Giant Rabbit


Kellie asked us all why we came

  • Margot says because of being a project manager
  • William says because he runs a technology r & d company that wants to code for change, but they don't think to clearly about the mission in advance
  • Kellie works in a web development company but wants to know more about how nonprofits think

Values of nonprofits

Kellie asks us to list values that we think represent nonprofits

  • ROI - based on limited resources
  • Collaboration
  • Sustainability
  • Stable
  • Communication focused
  • Accessibility

Values of Business

  • Cutting edge
  • Innovation
  • On top of change
  • ROI

Behavior of nonprofits

  • Not enough diversity of voices
  • Communications or campaigners are the equivalent of marketing department

Behavior of Business

  • Research tech news and academic publications
  • Marketing
  • Launch plan
  • User testing
  • Document
  • Stake Holders - CTO, VP Marketing, CEO

Agile - User stories

  • Meetings, iterative checkin's and pivoting around decisions


  • More upfront spec and designs, followed by longer, non-iterative process.

Setting Expectations for Budget & Timeline

Margot reads something she wrote about estimates:

"Estimates are guesses. The accuracy of a guess is based on how much you know about the possible outcomes. The reason we express most estimate line items in ranges is because there may be factors, known and unknown, that effect how long a particular item takes. Some features and line items are things we've done many times and the tools and variables are limited. Some require us to use tools we may not have implemented before or to implement them in ways that are new or custom. Some projects or features are completely custom, and require us to start from scratch, building exactly what you need.
"We all wish we had a limitless budget for your project but almost no one does. Keeping to your budget is about prioritizing what you want, focusing on what you really need and being able to hear 'no.' We'll strive to keep you on budget but the only tool we have to do that is to let you know when a request might come with unknowns that could push you over budget."

Kellie says she thinks this is the right sentiment but that she wishes she could talk about these things terms of the mission and values we listed.

We talked about how we can use the agile planning process to help people identify their goals. We talked about the good-cheap-fast triangle, where what nonprofits often want is cheap and they have to balance the other two.

We asked how can we get from a situation of uncertainty, disappointment, to one that incorporates the values of nonprofits, collaborations, capacity, stability, communication, capacity, and communications.

Priming, and small talk can help establish trust and relationships. Discovery can help us better understand the mission and values of a client and thus help us better explain how these decisions.

An important question is how to avoid disappointment by proving that the decisions are for the best of their mission. Perhaps the goal or wish is that the budget was allocated based on the mission.

Prioritization of the budget based on mission goals

It seemed to many people that even though nonprofits say these are their values, their real values and decision making processes are not so ideal, that really they need to please stakeholders not in the room and meet budgets rather than...

Can their behaviors speak to their values? Reality vs values.