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5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 8/12/11

5 London ShopIt'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 post, Engineering Effectiveness: Analyzing Your Content, please have a look now. It's full of good information for developers on how to improve your code base.

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

And here we go with this week's links:

3 Things Software Developers Can Learn From Prince Fielder and the Home Run Derby - Software Quality Connection

You might not think that baseball and programming have much in common, but this entertaining post makes the connection -- including the dangers of hiring your friends and more.

Can Cloud Really Replace Offshore Outsourcing? - CIO Update

Could the cloud replace off-shoring as we've come to know it? Probably not in the short-term, but over time it's entirely possible.

Help for the Help Desk - Input Output

Is your help desk in need of some, well, help? If so, try reading this article which is chock full of advice on how to get your dysfunctional help desk back on track.

Developing Android apps: it's really not so bad! - Ben's Macroblog

If you've been thinking about taking the plunge into developing Android apps, but you've been turned off by the bad press, this writer is here to let you know he tried it, and you know what -- it's not that bad at all.

The War Between Developers, Designers and Project Managers — Global Nerdy

This fun picture graph takes you through the various world viewers of these three parties. I think you might find some of them uncomfortably familar.

Photo by Ron Miller Used under Creative Commons License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 5/20/11

Friday Five on Ness SPL BlogIt's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we scour the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our other post this week, New Project Extends Cloud Foundry to Python/Perl, please check it out, and if you like what you see here, please subscribe. As always, feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And now this week's links:

Disaster Recovery in the Cloud - Microsoft - Cloud Power - Forbes

One thing the recent storms in the southern US, not to mention the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand have taught us is that data can disappear in a heartbeat. That's one of the advantages of backing up to the cloud and it could get you back in business quickly should a disaster strike your company.

Flash is Still a Useful Development Tool, Says Software Training Expert - Climbing the IT Ladder

Sure, Flash is Steve Jobs favorite whipping boy (and with good reason), but it still has places where it plays well, and one of those is in training where Flash-based training tools like Adobe Captivate can make a training developers life a heck of a lot easier.

Top 5 Developer Skills That Will Get You Hired or Promoted - Software Quality Connection

We all want to make more money and this article looks at key skills you need to adopt to get the highest paying programming jobs. You know you want to click through.

Keeping Up with the IT Exec Career Curve —

As with the previous story, IT managers and C-level executives need to keep up with an ever-changing technology landscape to keep moving up the ladder. This article looks at some ways you can follow trends and keep up with the latest innovations

New Privacy Laws in India and China Could Make IT Outsourcing Ugly - BNET

It's never easy dealing with outsourcing in Asia, but it could be about to get even more difficult due to new privacy laws in India and China. If you didn't think you needed help navigating in these countries before, this will probably convince you.

Photo by chego101 on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Five for Friday 2/18/11


4238506332 7b658a3488 mWelcome back to our weekly feature, looking at five links from around the web. If you didn't see our post earlier this week from Neil Fox on How Effective is Your Software Development?, check it out. It's been extremely popular.

Let's get to our five links:

Productivity: iPads switch on wider interest in mobile strategy - (requires registration)

As enterprises have quickly adpoted the iPad as a business device, it has highlighted the need for a concrete mobile strategy.

Kundra releases federal cloud computing strategy - FierceGovernmentIT

Last week, US government CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled his cloud computing strategy. It's worth a look to see how the US government IT department is embracing the Cloud.

Teamwork in Agile - Scrum Alliance

When you're working in the Agile model, team work is paramount. This article explores some of challenges involved in working as a team.

Egypt, Offshoring and the Cloud - CIO Update

The situation in Egypt, especially shutting of the Internet, had to make companies that offshore stand up and take notice, but it also brought out the need to find a partner to help you as you transition offshore.

Best practices for developing an enterprise mobile strategy - FierceContentManagement

This article presents some concrete advice on ways to develop a mobile strategy including a helpful chart on the pros and cons of going with certain approaches.

Photo by Ollie Crafoord on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License. 

Five Chief Technology Officer Blogs (for Friday)


As a follow-on to my post about CTOs on Twitter, I thought I'd compile a list of CTO blogs. My primary bias was that the blogs had to be regularly maintained and written by actual CTOs. I looked at blogs by large companies and blogs by start-ups and settled on these five.

  1. Steve Herrod, CTO, VMware - Steve's posts are periodic—once a month or so—but in-depth and provide clear insight into VMware's technology strategy. The most recent post, which goes into great detail on VMWare's vision for technology partnerships, is a good example of Steve's overall approach. Plus, I like that his blog is just one of VMware's many community blogs.
  2. Ron Tolido, VP and CTO Global Application Lifecycle Services, Capgemini - I wasn't sure whether to link to Mr. Tolido's personal blog, which is mainly a compendium of articles he's written (sometimes in Dutch) for various publications, or to Capgemini's CTO Blog, which is co-authored by Capgemini's Global CTO Andy Mulholland, so I decided to do both! If nothing else, you should check out Mr. Tolido's post on application retirement, especially if you are thinking of adding any new applications to your IT portfolio.
  3. Bill Annibell, Director of Technology and CTO of Sapient Government Services - What I like most about this blog is its "bloginess." First of all, it's on Tumblr. Second of all, it reads like a collection of personal thoughts, experiences, and things Bill's found on the web, which is what it is. Also, while he does write about technology, his focus is just as often on nuts and bolts issues (uninstalling the Internet Explorer 9 Beta, for example) as it is on "big" issues like innovation or the evolution of technology consumption.
  4. McAfee's CTO Blog - I have a soft spot for security issues which is one reason I included this blog in here. Also, McAfee has at least three CTOs from various divisions and they all contribute to the blog. If you are interested in short link spam sites, advanced persistent threats, or Operation Aurora, this the CTO blog for you.
  5. K. Scott Morrison, CTO (and Chief Architect) at Layer 7 Technologies - Mr. Morrison and his co-authors (Adam Vincent, CTO—Public Sector, and Francois Lascelle, Technical Director, Europe) write pragmatic posts on things like SOA, the open data protocol, information security and the cloud, among other things. Of the five blogs listed here, this is probably the most intensely technical.

So, what CTO blogs do you read? Which would you recommend?

Moving Beyond Outsourcing: The Key to Success in Global Partnerships


Ninety percent of CIO's will be "maintaining or increasing offshore outsourcing projects in 2010 and 2011," according to the 2010 Global CIO Survey, recently published by the UK-based firm, Harvey Nash. Interestingly, the majority of the projects (62%) outsourced by the surveyed executives fell into the category of "software development," demonstrating just how common the distributed development model has become.

When eWeek reported on this survey, their article ended with the following:

Despite the cost savings, offshore outsourcing and hybrid models that mix onshore and offshore services come with their own set of issues. As the study points out, business culture and project expectations are not always on the same page. From the Harvey Nash report:

"For both CIOs and their outsourcing providers, the key statistic that continues to cause concern is a growing level of dissatisfaction with project management standards, despite the overall popularity of the offshore outsourcing model."

Problems involving "project management standards" or "business culture and project expectations" inevitably stem from problems inherent in the relationship between a client and an outsourcing partner. Which means that the solution to these problems requires more than simply implementing a more well-defined project management process.

Instead, you have to move beyond the concept of outsourcing altogether and focus on building relationships with your partners (onshore, offshore, or even in-house) that will determine the success or failure of any particular process, project management or otherwise, you hope to implement.

So what goes into building relationships that will allow you to establish and maintain properly aligned expectations? Consider these three:

1) Communication

You can't set realistic expectations for a project's outcome, let alone assess a project's current status, without openly discussing these expectations up-front and planning for regular formal check-ups along the way. However, even more important than kick-off meetings and scheduled reviews are ongoing, as-needed, just-in-time communications between the teams themselves (both in-house and off-shore) and between the teams and the business owners of the project.

Facilitating this kind of communication requires picking the right tools, establishing a work culture that encourages ongoing conversations throughout the process, and staffing teams with people who are comfortable working in highly communicative environments.

2) Collaboration

In addition to a proper level of consistent, open communication between partners and teams, you also need to maintain fairly advanced level of collaboration (which communication certainly facilitates). To ensure that expectations are being met on both sides, it's critical that people not only work together to accomplish goals, but that these goals themselves are mutually determined and defined.

To foster such collaboration, its critical that you choose a partner that you can work with from a project's very inception. Inviting this partner's input on project definition and strategy is very different, and will have different results, than simply selecting a partner who you believe can execute on your vision.

3) Commitment

Collaborative goal-setting not only promotes clarity, it also fosters commitment. If you want to see expectations met, then build a partnership in which the goals (even risks and rewards?) are shared by all the constituents. People will work hard to meet and exceed expectations not only when it is in their interest to do so but also, and more fervently, when they are invested in doing so.

Sometimes, the easiest way to reinforce this requisite commitment is to create a more unified sense that "we're all on the same team." Open communication and end-to-end collaboration go a long way towards erasing strict lines between client and vendor (or "partner and partner," if you like), but they too can be supplemented with "cultural" elements, such as badging and signage, to provide a lived sense of esprit de corps, especially on the off-premise side of the partnership.

Of course, on this last point the key is leaving "outsourcing," and it's implication of "just throwing stuff over the wall," behind. The question is, are many CIOs ready to do that?

5 for Friday: Intriguing Links from the Week of August 30, 2010


Here's some intriguing stuff we uncovered this week:

  1. 8 Tips for Digital Marketers in China - SapientNitro's Freddie Laker shares what he's learned after his first three months in China. Tip of note: "Think mobile first for many digital users in China."
  2. Beyond Agile: New principles? - Ron Jeffries, one of the original signatories of the Agile Manifesto wrote this provocative piece on why the manifesto shouldn't be rewritten to reflect Agile in the "real world." It (inadvertantly) raises the question: Is the point to do Agile "really well" or to deliver well-made software products? The former may lead to the latter, but the latter is the ultimate goal, right? (For a related laugh, you might want to check out this tongue-in-cheek Manifesto for Half-Arsed Agile Development.)
  3. Re-estimate Completed User Stories for a More Accurate Velocity? - Recap of a discussion thread on Scrum development. The general feeling is: Don't re-estimate because it throws the overall validity of your velocity into question. Similar to the previous item, the point here seems to be that there is little to gain, an much to lose, by re-writing history.
  4. Why Cloud Equals Better Outsourcing - Author Ken Fromm details why cloud computing enables more efficient outsourced software development. He gives three reasons: agility in the form of faster build-test-deploy cycles; standard architectures allowing for asynchronous building/testing while forcing developers to think in distributed terms; and greater transparency into the development process itself making it "...easier to know where things are, localize and identify problem areas, and take over ownership."
  5. Clear Vision and Steady Footing in the Age of Cloud from VMWorld 2010 - If you weren't one of the 17,000+ attending VMWorld 2010 in San Francisco this week, Stu Miniman provides a detailed recap of the major themes trotted out by VMWare. One thing he was thankful for? Not too much cloud-washing.

So what did you come across this week?

R&D in the Software Industry: What Has to Be Done "In-house"?


149332018 6a599b8b2a mFive long years ago, Businessweek published an article entitled, "Outsourcing Innovation," which detailed the way that companies like Dell, Motorola, and Philips were turning to partners in Taiwan, China, and India for product design. (Interestingly, the article cites one "no name" company, HTC, as a significant up-and-coming player in this market. Today, of course, HTC is on the verge of "household name" status thanks to it's Android-based Incredible phone.)

While pointing out that many companies attempt to draw a line between functions they choose to outsource due to economic necessity and those they want to hang onto in order to allay investor fears or to maintain a brand image, the article also emphasizes, "...there's no question that the demarcation between mission-critical R&D and commodity work is sliding year by year."

The article concluded:

What is clear is that an army of in-house engineers no longer means a company can control its fate. Instead, the winners will be those most adept at marshaling the creativity and skills of workers around the world.

Flashforward to the present and we find organizations still wrestling with the issue of maintaining a competitive edge while simultaneously controlling costs via outsourcing of research, development, and design. Interestingly, they do not seem to be choosing to forego this kind of outsourcing altogether. Indeed, as results released by the NSF in May demonstrate some industries (the automative industry, specifically) actually spend 39% of their R&D dollars elsewhere.

As the Businessweek article suggested, firms in countries like China and India became more attractive as R&D partners not simply as a result of lower labor costs but also because these countries actually boast huge numbers of trained and experienced engineers. As time goes by, however, there is another reason that these geographies will play a greater and greater role in global innovation: "Innovation must be located near manufacturing because so much of innovation is learning from and improving manufacturing" (to use the paraphrased words of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt).

As manufacturing has moved overseas, it has effectively drawn innovation with it. Similarly, as customer service migrates abroad, innovation which depends on ongoing customer insight follows suit. Finally, we see this dynamic at work in the software industry as the maintainance and sustenance of legacy software products, among other things, are handed over to offshore partners.

That is, those who are in the best position to innovate and develop new products (or newer, better versions of existing products) are those who are working with these products and their users on a daily basis. 

Thus, if products (software or otherwise) are being made and supported "out there," shouldn't R&D be happening "out there" as well? Will it really get done better in-house?


Image Source: jurvetson.

5 for Friday: Intriguing Links from the Week of August 16, 2010


Here's some intriguing stuff we came across this week. What do you think?

  1. "The End of IT Outsourcing as We Know It" -'s Stephanie Overby interviewed A.T. Kearney's Arjun Sethi on the future of IT outsourcing and he stated, rather provocatively, "In the next five years, outsourcing as we know it will have disappeared." Fast Company's Rob Salkowitz is semi-skeptical (he thinks five years is too soon), are you?
  2. Agile 2010 - A number of attendees posted wrap-ups of the conference including: Matt Reed, who concluded, "Lean software development is where the focus of the agile is going and the number of sessions on this topic proves it;" mdchris, who really liked the session on "“Scrum Metrics for Hyperproductive Teams;" Jeff Gothelf, who went to the conference with a lot of questions about Agile and design/user experience and didn't get many answers; and Dan Stoner who provides a great list of takeaways among which we find, "Real Australians do NOT drink Fosters." (Dan's list really is great, that was a joke.)
  3. "Business Software is in need of some leaps and bounds" - A brief post on the state of ERP that contains the intriguing insight regarding the rise of SaaS in the business software space: "... so many SaaS solutions only do one thing – but that is often exactly what the customer wants."
  4. Is Facebook Stifling Innovation? - In response to the announcement of "Places," Joe Wilcox compares Facebook to Microsoft in its hey-day but notes, "Microsoft vanquished products that consumers or businesses paid for. Facebook is potentially killing competitors even before they have clear revenue streams in place."
  5. Can the Real Cloud Market Size Please Stand Up? - Gregor Petri ponders discrepancies in estimates of the cloud market (within a day of each other Gartner and IDC predicted that the market would grow to $148 billion and $55 billion respectively by 2014) and suggests that the numbers don't actually matter.

What did you come across this week?

Outsourcing Innovation and the Engineer-less Software Company


software companies without software engineersDoes the fact that organizations outsource product development and R&D presage an era of software companies without engineers?

That question may sound crazy but it is the clear implication of an article from Asia Times Online entitled, "China's Software Skills Out Front." The main thrust of said article is that China's software outsourcing industry, though considerably smaller than India's, is growing rapidly in part by going after product development engagements rather than the back office/IT services business where Indian firms dominate.

In addition, Chinese firms have chosen not to compete on price - they are in no wise less expensive than their Indian counterparts - but instead are competing on engineering expertise and the ability to "develop products with better quality faster and with more innovations."

Leaving aside the question of whether or not firms based in other countries possess similar capabilities (which they undeniably do), or whether it even makes sense to speak of "Indian" or "Chinese" firms when they maintain development centers all over the world (the Chinese firm featured in the article, Symbio, has a "400 person staff in Finland and Sweden" alone), I was most intrigued by this comment attributed to Symbio's CEO, Jacob Hsu:

"We want to be the TSMC for software development and allow technology companies to have no need to hire engineers."

In other words just as TSMC produces chips for "fabless" companies like Qualcomm, Hsu envisions an outsourcing firm that serves as a "foundry" for engineer-less software businesses.

This is far from an outlandish vision. Communities of experienced developers continue to blossom and mature around the globe, so there is no practical reason that either established software vendors or entrepreneurs with funding and an idea couldn't take advantage of this "we brand/they build" model. In fact, this would be no different from many consumer-oriented companies that basically outsources everything (from product development to manufacturing and distribution) except the marketing.

So, do you see the "engineerless software company" as a contradiction in terms or simply, "the future"?


Image Source: minkeymonkeymoo.

Offshore Product Development: Do Vendors Make Better Partners?


"Third-Party Partnerships Hold the Future in Software R&D," according to a recent Global Services post. They came to this conclusion in light of a Zinnov report on R&D globalization which found that while ISVs and others are spending 15% of their budgets on R&D, only 5% of that amount is being spent on outsourced partnerships. With 95% of the total R&D spend left on the table, so the thinking goes, OPD companies are looking at a huge potential for future growth. 

This growth potential is limited, in the view of Zinnov's Vamsee Tirukkala, by the fact that ISVs are looking for more than just a development partner. As Tirukkala sees it, the trend is for ISVs to seek out vendor partners who cannot only assist with product development but can also play a role in taking the product to market. 

Oddly enough, one challenge driving ISVs to favor such vendor partnerships has to do with the failing ability of captive centers to attract and retain talent, says Tirukkala. "As a thumb rule, especially in emerging economies like India and China where career paths are more important than the prospect of just working for an MNC company, it is a significant phenomenon of captive centers not being able to contain attrition and attract the right talent."

I think what he's saying is that companies that need developers but are vendors in their own right offer a more solid career path than pure-play IT service providers. Is this really true? I can see how it might be the case for providers who are functioning at a commoditized level and basically going after low-hanging (and priced accordingly) outsourcing fruit. Due to churn among the clients of such providers career paths will be relatively short, effectively evaporating for entire teams as client engagements end.

But if you are looking for a research & development partner who is thereby going to play a significant role in the future of your company, are you really going to go with an organization like that? I think it's more likely that you would be looking for an organization which first of all has the requisite talent and second of all is determined to and capable of maintaining a multi-year relationship with your company. 

Of course, an organization like that would by definition attract great talent (it couldn't be in business without them) and be able to offer these people enough continuity to satisfy their desire for a career (and not just a brief stint at an MNC). In fact, it seems to me that an organization built around delivering that level of service to its partners might even be distracted by the need to sell its own products, which rather argues against the "vendor partner" model.

So, do third party vendors make better offshore product development partners? Putting it another way, do these vendors actually have a better chance of attracting and retaining talent than OPD service providers across the board?

Image Source: Margonaut  Creative Commons License

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