The True Cost of a Feature-Kill your darlings

Lucas Jellema
3 min readJul 11, 2021

TL;DR: the true cost of a software feature includes a long tail of operational and maintenance cost that should be taken into consideration when first implementing the feature. The continuance or deprecation of features should be evaluated periodically, based on the actual usage and true value of the feature — compared to the cost of continuing it or killing it off.

What is the cost of having a child? This is a weird, perhaps impertinent of even unethical question. The comparison I want to make is that the cost of the initial conception or even the medical costs surrounding the birth of a baby and the first decoration of the baby room is but a fraction of the aggregated cost over the entire youth of any child (over $250K in the US). This includes schooling, food, clothes, housing and much more. By only looking at the initial costs, one would get a very wrong impression. Not having children is sometimes somewhat cynically but not altogether incorrectly referred to as “the Porsche option”.

When discussing new features in software, we too should be aware of the fact that the cost over the lifetime of a feature is much higher than we may believe at first.

Ask a software developer for the cost of new feature and she is likely to only consider the initial programming effort to just make the functionality work.

Consult a Scrum Master and she will probably include the effort to bring that working code to a professional level that adheres to software engineering…

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Lucas Jellema

Lucas Jellema is CTO and IT architect at Conclusion, The Netherlands. He is Oracle ACE Director, one time JavaOne Rockstar and programmer