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Program delivery day isn't the end, it's just the beginning

  
  
  

race showing start and finish lines side by side

by Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

You and your development team have been working hard. Delivery day is around the corner. You've probably had more than your share of all-nighters making that final push to get the project done. And when it's finally out the door, your team sits back with a sigh of relief and a bit of justified pride that it's over. Or is it?

Ray Velez, chief technology officer at Razorfish who was speaking at the Digital Pulse Summit in Boston this week said you need to rethink how you look at the delivery, not as the end of the process, but as just the start.

Velez said this is easier for shops that already practicing agile programming because you're stopping every couple of weeks and reviewing where you are. You tend to iterate, rather than build all at once, but if you're not doing that, it's going to take a change in mindset.

You need to learn what people like. People tend to build way more functionality than they need into applications (and products in general) because they think about everything people might use, but in many cases people aren't using whole swaths of functionality and that's a waste of your resources and your customer's time.

Velez says companies need to move to a customer-centric approach to development. Don't think because you put your heart and soul into the product idea and worked countless hours helping to build it that you understand the needs of your customer.He encourages the use of product managers, whose job is to balance the sometimes conflicting  requirements of the business and the customer.

And he says to let data drive your decisions. You can think you know what the customer wants, but if you check the data and see which pages they visited or which functions they used most, you may find your gut was wrong and you just have to accept that.

He believes by building your projects iteratively over time, you can reduce building products you think people want and you can begining build ones that people actually use because it has the features that they need the most to do a particular job.

This is in fact, the way Yammer works. They are constantly building new iterations and use data to analyze if people are using the new features. As Yammer puts it, "When we build Yammer, each feature is broken down into a set of hypotheses, and each of those hypotheses is tested individually. By incrementally developing features and using data to validate each hypothesis before making further assumptions."

They have a clear data-driven incremental development methodology that strives to take the needs of their user customers into account, even if those needs change over time. They are never left flat-footed by changes to the market because they are always in a position to shift and change if their customer needs require it.

You can't possibly meet the needs of your customers if you are trying to develop a product roadmap and then sticking rigidly to it because by the time you finish the product, you're probably already delivering something that your customers might not need.

That's why you need to step back and rethink your approach to development, if you haven't done that already and work from the customer back, not from the product back. And if you think delivery is the end of the job, you're dead wrong. It's just the start.

Photo Credit:  Dru Bloomfield - At Home in Scottsdale on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 7-12-13

  
  
  

By Ron Miller
Ness Blogger
 

5 7 12 13It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, The enterprise needs to embrace the App Store, please check it out. The enterprise app store concept makes so much sense for organizations. That's why it's so surprising that according to Gartner only 25 percent are expected to build one by 2017.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

The cloud privacy wars are coming | InfoWorld

Recent revelations about government snooping have been troubling to business and individuals alike, but in Europe where they take privacy much more seriously, it could lead to litigation and wars over privacy issues.  

The “Little Things” That Hold Back Agile Teams | Mendix Blog

Any company along the Agile adaptation spectrum knows that it's not easy, even though when done right the benefits are many. Realize there are going to be glitches along the way and check out this article for some minor things that could hold you back you might not have considered.

Get ready for a Genius Bar at work | CITEworld

First the App Store idea comes to the enterprise and now the Genius Bar concept. CIOs are taking another page from the Apple playbook and installing genius bars to replace the old Help Desk, turning IT helpers into real customer-oriented service  pros.

Open-Source Is Poised to Shake Up Networking | Enterprise Efficiency

Open source could be coming to a data center near you as we begin to see the notion of software-defined networking take shape. This author says the implications are huge because it could dramatically lower costs and commoditize an expensive piece of the networking puzzle.

Security Dangers in Big Data | FierceBigData 

Turns out Big Data could be a double-edge sword. Sure, it gives you access to mountains of information and speedy ways of processing it, but that speed could come at cost: Making it more difficult to govern and secure large data stores. It's an issue companies need to be considering as they join the Big Data revolution.

Photo by Ron Miller Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 5-17-13

  
  
  

By Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

5 5 17 13It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros. 

If you missed our most recent post, Reducing Complexity: The Next Software Development Imperative, please check it out. As we move from monolithic enterprise software packages to smaller more discrete apps, your job as a software developer is shifting and reducing complexity has suddenly become Job One.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Simply renaming "IT" won't fix the core problem | Waxing Laconic

Netflix CIO Mike Kail has some ideas on how to transform IT and he describes how he does it at his company. Walking the walk, folks. Walking the walk.

Maybe it's time to get rid of your IT department | CITEworld

Provocative title for sure, but it's really not about scrapping IT. It's about getting rid of the old IT command and control mindset, or perhaps even a centralized, entrenched IT. Intriguing read.

Promoting Agile in a Waterfall Culture | Mendix Blog

It's all well and good to say you need to move to Agile, but when Waterfall is baked into your development methodology, it poses a unique challenge. This article explains how to get the ship moving in a new direction. 

The Twisted Personality of the Software Tester | Smartbear 

Even though software testing and QA is clearly a key part of the software development process, people probably don't aspire to be software testers when they're kids. The question is how do you get there and what makes a good one? This article answers some of those questions.

The Top Five SaaS Risks and How to Mitigate Them | Cloud Computing Journal

Sure, the cloud offers you utility style computing, but this writer argues there's a dark side to it, and you need to know what you're up against. He offers a listing of some these risks.

Photo by Ron Miller Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 3-1-13

  
  
  

by Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

5 3 1 13It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Suddenly Everbody Wants to Follow Apple's Integrated Hardware-Software Model, please check it out. What do Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon all have in common? They are trying to emulate Apple's successful software-hardware integration strategy -- but do these competitors have the chops to pull it off?

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Mentoring Developers | Software Development Video and Tutorials

Mentoring younger developers helps them increase their skill levels and can make the whole company better as a result. This video provides some insight on how to be a good mentor.

Data Snapshot: Mobile World Congress | Mixpanel 

While it's not surprising that data usage increased dramatically in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress, it is interesting that MWC transformed Barcelona for several days from an Android stronghold to an iOS one.

How to Interview Users to Find Out What They Really Want | Smartbear 

How do you know what your users want? Ask them, but make sure you probe like an investigative journalist to be certain you're really getting the information you need to build applications with the features that users really need because for whatever reason, they are not always forthcoming.

The Android enterprise dilemma: why isn't it more popular? | CITEworld

While Android is extremely popular elsewhere, it still faces some obstacles in the enterprise, even in companies that encourage Bring Your Own Devices. That's because IT, rightly or wrongly, believes that Android fragmentation makes it difficult to manage and Google's hands-off approach to Google Play means unsafe apps can sometimes get on a device.

White House debating actions to retaliate against foreign cyberattacks | The Hill's Hillicon Valley

There have been a slew of high profile attacks on US-based companies over the last several months with many believing that these are based in China. The government is weighing what actions it will take against cyber-attackers to discourage them from doing it again.

Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 2-22-13

  
  
  

5 2 22 13

by Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, A mobile platform is only as successful as its app store, check it out now. Apple and Google have the most robust app stores, and consumers and developers alike pay attention. It will be hard for competitors to break that success cycle.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Why You Need to Hack Yourself | Mendix Blog

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you should be trying to find your system's weaknesses before real hackers find them. That's why self-hacking should be part of every company's security auditing process.

Why developers should start choosing conscience over profit | VentureBeat

In a world where engineers and software developers are in such great demand, they can sell their skills to the highest bidders, this writer thinks it might be time to analyze your priorities and make your craft a priority over profit.

Linux, Windows, and security FUD | ZDNet

You would think at this point in the history of open source when it is used widely across different sectors that would be well past the FUD stage, but apparently not. At least one company is dragging out the old and tired security arguments in an effort to frighten the market.

The computer that never crashes - | New Scientist

Imagine a computer that never crashes -- ever. That's because it has the ability to diagnose any problem as it happens and reprogram itself to fix the problem on the fly before crashing. Scientists are working on prototypes of just such a machine. 

Future Proofing: Ten Ways Big Companies are Staying Agile | Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

As companies grow, it becomes much more difficult for them to react to changes in the market than smaller, more agile companies. Jeremiah Owyang looks at some ways big companies can maintain that small company agility and stay vital as the market changes around them.

Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

Your IT Department Can't Ignore Disruption

  
  
  

by Glenn Gruber
Ness AVP Travel Technologies and Mobile Solutions

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less”.  
General Eric Shinseki,  Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, now Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Managing change is hard. Many companies and even whole industries have been blindsided by new entrants who are empowered by technology and changing consumer behavior, and not bound by old business models and processes. What’s more troubling is that these incumbents don’t fully comprehend the extent they need to transform their technology operations to compete in the future. It is a transformation from an IT organization to a software engineering team and from business as usual to an organization that is agile and aligned with the business.

Many companies are making the shift from developing software in-house to ones that create customer facing software in the cloud and on mobile devices. It's not always an easy transition to make, but those who fail to do it, could be doomed to irrelevance because the market is changing and you have to make that adjustment before it's too late and you end up like General Shinseki's quote.

Most conversations around innovation and disruption tend to be focused on technology companies. But digital is driving disruption in our most traditional industries:

disurption

This disruptions aren’t simply in the conversion from analog to digital, but in the changes in business models and business process that the digital transformation enables. Cloud and mobile are fundamentally changing the way that consumers are accessing the products and services they purchase. As a result, increasingly, software will be at the center of how you differentiate your company from competition and engage with your customers.

Worse yet, cloud and mobile have also conspired to make it faster, easier and cheaper for new entrants to come on the scene. A decade ago, a company had to raise at least $10M to bring a concept to market. Today, modest Angel funding and a credit card can allow companies to build better, more scalable products for at least an order of magnitude less in terms of cost and time to market.

Perhaps Marc Andreesen said it most succinctly: “Software is Eating the World”.

The problem is that too many companies are set up to be feasted upon.

The Stakes are Raised

When you’re competing with companies who are nimble and starting from a clean slate, being bound by the past is crippling. 

So if software is the key to tomorrow, the simple answer is to invest in technology. But unfortunately that transformation isn’t quite so simple. 

Building customer-facing (e.g. revenue generating) systems is a very different activity than building internal IT applications. The stakes are far higher with the cost of failure measured in customer attrition, lost revenue, falling profits and damaged reputation. Application resiliency is paramount. 

The skills required to build ‘commercial-grade’ software are different than those that reside in many IT organizations. That’s because software products are NOT simply a different type of IT project.

In an article about the Informationweek 500 rankings, Vail Resorts CIO Robert Urwiler summed it up well: “It's incredibly rewarding to work on customer apps, but IT can't pretend that it's the same as building internal IT systems. I don't know that every CIO will be able to make the transition, and it frankly creates a different kind of IT organization.”

So there are significant implications both in terms of the type of transformation that’s required in your team and on the software development partners that you engage. How you manage that transformation and selection of partners is critical to success. 

How Do I Know If I'm Ready?

So if you want to compete in the future, you have to do an honest assessment of your organization and ecosystem:

  1. How tight is your software engineering process? This is a multi-faceted question and speaks of perspective. Does your process match the business anymore? Historically Waterfall processes, requirements gathering and 2-3 year project plans were de jure. But today’s business moves much faster than Waterfall can react to. Agile processes are much better suited to adapting to changing requirements and has the added benefit of providing much more transparency over progress, as well as better alignment and collaboration with the business.

    Some may feel that they may follow best practices. But that’s because best practices to them means best practices they’ve seen in their own experiences, not necessarily best in class. Also some may look at how they compare versus competitors in their own industry. But even if you do well in that comparison, you might not do well against a software company, which could very well be your new competition. Start by looking at key productivity metrics like velocity (e.g., Story points delivered, not LOC), defects, rework and schedule variance. Only by looking at hard metrics, can you assess how well you're (or how poorly) you're doing. If you don’t have metrics, it likely means your engineering process hasn’t been optimized.
     
  2. Assess your team. Forrester Research has done some great work on building high-performance teams (subscription required). In software development, the biggest pejorative is calling someone a "code monkey." It’s the moral equivalent of the interchangeable factory worker – you can write code, but there is no implication of expertise or artistry. The premise behind Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond report is that software, often looked at as a algorithmic process (i.e., paint by numbers) is actually a heuristic process and requires creativity to truly excel. So do you have the people with the right characteristics who can propel you to excellence in the future or do you need to change the team up to get you where you need to be? It's a crucial question.
     
  3. Evaluate your partners. Just as you look inward, you also have to look at the external partners who contribute to the software development activities. Many companies have used the traditional ITO mega-firms to build software, as they just expanded from other services they may have started with such as infrastructure management. But software engineering for external customers and internal IT are different animals. And the resources they have and the models they use aren’t necessarily well aligned to commercial grade software engineering. They may be able to provide armies of people, but they aren’t the elite special forces types. You may want to consider engaging boutique firms that focus on software engineering for these kinds of activities. Remember to focus on the right tool for the right job.

Former NFL General Manager Michael Lombardi, who is currently an analyst for the NFL Network, once said “Don’t confuse hope for a plan”. Conflating these terms is what causes many franchises and companies to fail. Football teams may hope that rookies improve or that there will be fewer  injuries, but things rarely work out the way you hope because everyone tends to overrate the talent they have or fails to factor in outside events

That's why assuming that things will change radically without radical change is more often than not delusional. You need a plan. And it starts with an honest assessment of your talent and devising a concrete plan on what changes you will make that will lead you to success.

If you can put a plan in place to change the way you do business, you will be in a better position to manage the change and deal with whatever unknowns come your way. But doing nothing simply dooms you to irrelevance. The world is changing whether you acknowledge it or not. You might as well try and control it as best you can.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 12-7-12

  
  
  

5 12 7 12It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, As Mobile Grows So Does Revenue, please check it out now. Mary Meeker's presentation on the state of the Internet laid out a clear case that the Post PC era is upon us and mobile is where the money is.

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

What a Big-Data Business Model Looks Like | Harvard Business Review

There is little doubt that the growng sources of internal and external data are going to have a profound impact on business moving forward, but this article digs a little deeper to look at what a Big Data business model could look like.

Top 10 reasons why Darth Vader was an amazing project manager | GeekWire

What geek can resist a good Star Wars metaphor? This one explores the reasons why Darth Vader, for all his ruthlessness might have made a darn good IT project manager -- putting aside the murder, mayhem and brutality of course for the sake of argument. 

Slideshow: Top Paying Technology Jobs by Position - 2012 | Tom's IT Pro

What were the top IT jobs this year? Inquiring minds want to know. You can be sure that data scientists was probably one of them, but it wasn't just data geeks. There was a surprisingly diverse group.

Agile is Not for Everyone | Managing Product Development

Agility is becoming essential for all business, and ability to react and change to whatever happens in the market and programming is no different. That's probably why the Agile programming methodology developed, but this writer suggests there may be organizations where it doesn't work and it takes an honest assessment of your culture to figure it out.

Don't Cut Yourself: Code Optimization as a Double-Edged Sword | Smarbear

Like agility, code optimization sounds great in theory, but it's much harder in practice. This post looks at the optimization process and gives you advice on what to consider before you decide to optimize your project. You might be wise to read this before you jump in.

Photo by Tomma Henckel. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

Agile programming is a process, not a panacea

  
  
  

247059136 e0e4853528by Ernie Varitmos
Strategic Consultant, Ness 

I recently came across the post "I Don't Care About Agile" while reading 5 Links for Developers and IT Pros right here on the Ness blog. While the provocative title caught my eye, when I clicked through I realized the author while not completely serious, didn't really make a great argument either.

The author's main point was that there are so many great organizational ideas out there that managers are attracted to, and profess to embrace, but they do so in words only. In other words, the benefits these ideas are supposed to create are hardly ever realized because managers are unwilling to push through the challenges necessary to implement the change. To affect such change, you must often change the culture, and that means there will be pain…Let's call it "growing pains."

But I would go further and say that while organizational technologies can certainly help a company, and it does take a concerted effort to institute change, it is rarely the technology or the effort required that is the impediment. The fact is, if the organization were truly healthy from the start, then adopting a new delivery method, or software development methodology, would be a relatively simple thing. 

The problem is more likely related to being a dysfunctional organization from the get-go, and that means it's harder to find systems that can solve your core problems. Many companies in this situation hire an external consulting organization to help out, but that's only a starting point. You have to be willing to accept the advice and find ways to change for the better, and that message has to come from the top down across the organization.

So that when your employees are presented with an opportunity to engage and share tools and technology that encourage better behaviors, you are on the way to real change -- not just talking about it. Practicing Agile, particularly Scrum, is a team building exercise, and if done right, over time will develop cohesive teams. And those cooperative behaviors are the building blocks of a healthy organization.

So does that mean your consultants will act as your organizational psychiatrists? No, but they may have to occasionally put on their psychologist hats and be sensitive to client's organizational health, reporting their observation to a leader, who can take the information and communicate requirements across the team, department or organization. Sometimes when you introduce something into an unhealthy organization, no matter how good the thing is, it will be rejected. Good consultants who are truly interested in their clients well being see these obstacles as an opportunity to help the client -- and in the process learn more to take the next one.

The bottom line is that your consultants should be in the business of making your company function in a more healthy and cooperative way. And good ones work hard to make sure they are making the customer better and improving both parties in the process.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester} on Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 11-2-12

  
  
  

5 11 2 12It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Users Give Poorly Performing Mobile Apps Short Shrift (infographic), please check it out now. A recent survey of US mobile devices users found that they have little patience for underperforming apps. In the best case, they will blab about bad experiences online and in the worst case, they just delete them. 

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Sandy Tests Data Centers’ Disaster Recovery Skills | TechTarget

When Sandy hit last week, it had an impact on the entire infrastructure of the affected areas and data centers weren't spared, of course, but while some went down and took out major sites with them, others were able to running using generators. 

Securing Platform-as-a-Service | 21st Century IT

This post looks at how to secure PaaS installations, from the perspective of security professionals who don't necessarily trust cloud strategies. It's chock full of advice about what questions to ask your Paas provider.

I Don't Care About "Agile" | Agile Zone

What? Excuse me? Did I read that headline right? Yup, and for this writer, you can keep your trendy buzzwords. For him it's all about learning regardless of what you call it. Fair enough.

Microsoft’s mid-life crisis | TNL.net

Microsoft had a big week, but as this writer pointed out, he was surprised by the messaging. He wonders why Microsoft offered such a quiet announcement for Windows 8, while putting on a such a big show with Surface, which is after all only part of its overall Windows 8 strategy.

The All-new Apple: The Head, the Heart, and the Voice  | More Real

Meanwhile Apple had an announcement of its own, but it was about major personnel changes at the top of the Apple executive hierarchy instead of new products. This writer thinks Tim Cook's moves make much more sense for his leadership style and where he wants to take the company. Great analysis from a technology executive leadership perspective.

Photo by Tomma Henckel. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 9-28-12

  
  
  
5 9 28 12It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our other post this week, Survey Suggests Facebook Could be Right About HTML5, please check it out now. The press is teeming with indignation over the state of the iPhone 5, but while the press might be hopping mad, it doesn't seem to have had any impact on iPhone 5 sales.

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Ten Strategic CIO priorities for 2013 | ZDNet

It's only September, but that doesn't mean it's too soon to start looking ahead to next year's IT priorities. Seems to me many of these are probably the same ones you should have been thinking about last year and this year including simplifying IT and getting more social. I'm wondering where the mobile component is. What do you think should be on this list?

“Agile” Often Isn’t | Input Output

It's one thing to get behind agile programming, and it makes a lot of sense too, but just because you think your company has gone Agile doesn't mean it has. When researchers studied shops that considered themselves agile they found a lot of gaps. Where is the perception/reality gap in your company?

What Developers Want | Anil Dash

It's hard to know what developers want when a lot of people react emotionally to changes in the environment, whether it's Twitter's change of service or the iPhone screen size change. This writer suggests that it is difficult to navigate, and of course the process isn't fair, but developers have to learn to adjust. Do you agree with him?

BlueStacks and AMD bring Android apps to Windows | ZDNet

Now this is a cool idea. Take mobile Android apps and make them work under Windows. It may be brilliant or a complete mismatch, but it should be fun to at least watch and see how well it works. 

IBM Targets Amazon in the Cloud - WSJ.com

It's clear that public cloud platforms are the wave of the future. Amazon recognigzed this very early on and has done quite well with it. Now, IBM seeing that success wants a piece of the action and is launching its very own Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. IBM isn't the first major player to take this step of course, but it sees a a market and it's going to give it a shot. The question is will people take IBM seriously as a vendor in this space?

Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.
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