One of the big challenges facing any organization is the balancing act between long-term and short-term goals. This isn’t even a QA specific problem either, as it happens in every facet of business, and even your personal life. As humans, we all want the right-now, and seem to be unable to consistently look ahead at our long-term goals and objectives…unfortunately, since these two are usually at odds, we end up choosing one over the other. Fortunately there are a few things you can keep in mind that should help keep the balance in check.
1. Does it holds its value?
The very first question that you should ask yourself about either type of goal, is whether it will hold its value over its lifespan. If you are trying to implement a long-term goal or plan, you should absolutely make sure that by the time you get to full implementation it will still be worth the cost of getting there. If it is not, you might be better off looking at something that can be implemented quicker, while you work out a better long term strategy. Conversely, if you go the short-term route, will you be able to continue using the short-term deliverable until the next piece comes into play?
2. What is its lifespan?
This is very similar to #1, but focused more on the length of time that you reasonably expect to be able to make use to the deliverable. If you implement a short-term plan, will that plan be viable for a long enough period of time so as to justify implementing it? If you go the long-term way, are you going to end up with something that will not need to be changed anytime soon?
3. How complex will it be to implement?
So you have an idea of what makes the most sense, so you should probably figure out how to implement it. This part can drastically alter the plan you have come up with if you don’t do your due diligence first. Just because something can be put into place “right now” doesn’t mean it will be easy to implement. If you settle on a plan that will be very difficult to implement and maintain, you might have been better off going with a much more simplistic approach, even if it means a short-term solution, and then taking the remainder of the time and revisiting your plan for a longer-term solution.
4. What is the ROI?
This is an easy one to figure out, but very few people look at things in terms of ROI. Just because your short-term solution got you going right now, it doesn’t mean that it was worth it. What if you have to change it in a few weeks, or a few months. Was it worth even that small amount of effort? The same goes for long-term goals as well. At the end of the day, how long will it take you to get your investment out of it? If it took you a full year to implement, but it will take two years to see any benefit from it, was it worth it? Depending on the timelines you are dealing with, it very well might be. You just need to be prepared if that is not the case.
5. Can you pivot if necessary?
So you decided to go the long-term route, and it is taking way too long to implement due to [insert reason here]. Can you easily pivot in another direction? Are you too locked into a particular focus or direction to change at this point? You should always have a backup plan, and know when that backup plan is no longer viable (at which case you make a new fallback option). You should also be fully prepared to walk away from a plan if it isn’t working out like you had planned. This may be hard to do, especially if you have invested a lot of time up to that point in getting it going, but you have to be realistic about it, and do what is best going forward.
Following these basic ideas have worked out well for me to this point, and have helped me make decisions between building something grand, or going smaller, and piecing it together. What you will often find is that you should look at your short-term goals as stepping points to a much larger plan. That way you can always start small, and then build up to the grand crescendo. The important part is making sure that big crescendo is actually going to make sense at the end, and is not just a bunch of noise.