Death By Customer
October 13, 2018
On paper, at least, the world of software development has come a long way in the last 15 years. It’s gotten so that I can’t actually remember the sleepless nights worrying about quality of output, release deadlines or scope creep. Now that everything is a series of continuously flowing tiny adjustments, the only issues big enough to fret about are the commute to the office, where to go for lunch, and wave after wave of half-baked delivery concepts that misappropriate a good idea and turn it into ...
December 03, 2013
Software projects cost a lot of money. Some of them stretch to sums that would have made Howard Hughes cry like a two-year-old being babysat by Marilyn Manson. It’s lucky that so many are funded by big companies and government institutions with deep, continuously-filled, pockets because otherwise nothing would ever get finished. Yet a lot of very good software is also cheap, even free. Part of the reason projects are expensive is because businesses view software in all the wrong ways and part of ...
The Grand High Order of the Easter Bunny
September 01, 2012
I ‘ve talked, rather a lot, about my views on the use of open source software in the big fat corporate enterprise. Because these rambles have been at conferences or in occasional blog posts, the pitch has been aimed at enterprise developers: Use open-source where you can, but do not think of it simply as a “free” resource; give something back to community through promoting it, patching it, extending it and paying for support. Everyone wins. The argument is partly idealistic (make softwar ...
The Secret Sauce
May 29, 2011
Last time, I was talking about what I consider to be the general lack of a crisis in software development. And it got me thinking - if there is no crisis in software development, no inherent flaws in our tools or our methods, then there must somehow be a way to convey the appropriate use of these tools and methods in order that everybody could get it right every time. If the Enterprise Architectcriticised the sauce this time,it was going over his head Ah ha, I thought. A book. A book entitled “ ...
January 30, 2011
So I have a question, or at least I think I do, because maybe the answer is obvious and any sense of there being a question is redundant. Why do so many articles on software development these days (and for some time) start with outlining how truly awful, and late, and expensive it always is? I’ve said it too, often. But it’s getting boring. Statistically, if you were to parachute into a randomly selected IT development project today, the odds that it’s building the wrong thing, or the right t ...
Ungoverning the Business
November 13, 2010
If there’s one aspect of enterprise IT guaranteed to get the dander up it’s Standards and Governance. Some time ago I wrote a short piece on governance called The Governance Apparition making the point that governance should never really be seen as separate and distinct from ‘doing things’. If a company has a process for ‘doing things’ and an internal body (usually architecture) tries to ‘govern’ the outputs of that process the governance will fail. It will fail because it’s almost impossible ...
May 17, 2010
Whenever anyone gets caught up with, or overly excited about, a software product, design pattern, or piece of technology, the phrase most often used to warn us over-using it is: To a man1 with a hammer, everything looks like a nail It’s a tired and worn out phrase but, on the surface at least, it seems like good advice. One tool cannot do all jobs, there are no silver bullets. It’s not wise to artificially constrain your effort by starting out with an inappropriate implement. But how can ...
Walking the Walk
May 05, 2009
This short series started with Planning the Plan, an article that tried to put into context some of the roadmap and planning activities that take place before projects get approved and started. I suggested using the McFarlan Matrix as a way of categorising potential projects so that they might be more likely to deliver benefits in line with whatever the business strategy is for that year. There are plenty of good ways of doing this, but the McFarlan Matrix is simple and quick, and forces conve ...
The Estimation Game
April 05, 2009
In trying to put down some words on project estimation I’ve had to come to terms with an internal contradiction which I guess goes all the way back to the origins of software engineering. Logic tells me that because the ultimate goal of a software project is a series of machine instructions that perform some useful task, and because at the lowest level these are almost wholly predictable in their nature (strange microcode bugs notwithstanding, although these are far more rare than they used to be ...
Was that Tactegic or Stractical?
March 08, 2009
You’ve been assigned to a project. The requirements are well understood and they make sense. The team is capable and the project manager reasonable. The one thing you don’t have, because we never do, is time. This is a project with a David Beckham date. The David Beckham date is a term I use for an immoveable launch target. I once worked on a project where David Beckham had been booked to do the release publicity. That pretty much fixes when you need to be done. Firstly, he isn’t going to be abl ...
Planning the Plan
January 25, 2009
Wherever you are in the world and whatever business you are in, 2009 is going to be a tougher year than usual. If you aren’t at the pointy end of the economic downturn then your customers will be. For a lot of IT departments that’s going to mean less to spend. For the lucky ones without budget cuts there’s going to be a higher expectation of return on that spend. As it’s January, and the start of a new year, I thought an article on planning what to do with those budgets might be both useful and ...
Wife Swapping and the Art of Conflict
November 22, 2008
The problem with books on management is they rarely address what actually makes teams successful. One of the best books I’ve come across is The First Ninety Days by Michael Watkins, which explores how to guard against common mistakes leaders make when they start new roles. A big theme with Watkins is how not to bring your last job with you, however successful you may have been in it. He points put that many managers, even good ones, will often rush to make decisions too soon because they believe ...
Magnificence in the Mundane
June 14, 2008
It’s a complex old business maintaining relationships these days. Like many people I end up managing friends like some perverse to-do list. If I haven’t seen someone for a while I might remember to send them an email, they might reply, more time passes and we might repeat the process before saying “Crikey - it’s been ages since we had a beer.. let’s go out”. So we do. A good time is had by all and we swear we won’t leave it so long next time. And yet life dictates that we do. But one of the hallm ...
May 16, 2008
There are many things to love the Discovery Channel for: a sense of having expanded your knowledge with a broad but shallow series of details about Sharks, Egyptian Mummies, the Nazis and the bewildering array of household items you can make with injection moulded plastic for one. But I think most of all I love those shows where some would-be professor type, who more often than not is bearded and English, goes in search of one of the great quested-for items of deepest history - the Ark of the Cov ...
The Fallacies of Agile
April 26, 2008
Update of original essay from April 15, 2007 A Project Management Office I used to work with recently put out some statistics on the current portfolio of active business change initiatives. Eighty-one percent of them are being delivered using an “agile” methodology. If you’re an agile proponent this could be taken as a measure of some success - clearly this is a culture that embraces a responsive and intimate relationship with its business. And yet, on closer inspection, not one of these project ...
The Trouble with Transformations
December 11, 2007
Transformation time. “Dr Chilton does enjoy his petty torments” “What did you mean by ‘transformation’, Doctor?” “I’ve been in this room for eight years now, Clarice. I know they will never ever let me out while I’m alive. What I want is a view. I want a window where I can see a tree, or even water. I want to be in a federal institution far away from Dr Chilton” I can’t hear the word “transformation” without thinking about that scene from Silence of the Lambs. Buffalo Bill, the psycho ...
The Governance Apparition
November 26, 2007
I first noticed the word governance being sprinkled liberally into IT conversations sometime in the late nineties. It was (and still is) used as foundational prop to suggest that, if you have it, all will be well. The word appeared first, as far as I can remember, in Finance and Investment Banking IT - not surprising as financial governance is all about the appropriate exercise of authority and control. The word itself means a method or system of management and so I guess it’s no surprise that yo ...
Enterprise Design Debt
October 08, 2007
I think the question I get asked most often is how to manage the constant struggle between IT trying to deliver something to quality and budget, and the business wanting everything yesterday. When a project is late, I have yet to see a business representative say that they want the good version next week, over the not-so-good version today. In fact the conversation tends to go along the lines of we’ll take the tactical version and launch that today, and install the strategic version later. Except ...
Build or Buy. Or Customise and Confuse
October 03, 2007
If an organisation developed all the software it needed from scratch, it would, in theory, never have a business need go unfulfilled. With full and free access to its own source code, changes would only ever be a matter of further development and enhancement. I say in theory because the reality is that some needs would require skills so specialised, investment so large, or numbers of people so great, that the business would find themselves wanting despite the tantalising promise of their hard ear ...
No C in Teamwork
August 15, 2007
The best you should realistically expect from any career was put beautifully in Jerry Maguire by his mentor, Dickie Fox: I don’t have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. I wish you my kind of success. To fail as much as you succeed. Quite stark when you put it like that. I think when I got into IT I’d really been expecting to succeed most of the time, and I don’t think that was unrealistic - I mean, I knew I’d h ...
Kill Your Children
August 14, 2007
A classic sign of inexperience in creative endeavour (or perhaps any undertaking) is the inability to ‘let go’ of your best ideas. Rookies, will come up with a concept, lovingly craft their baby, and refuse to be budged even as the world around them changes. Despite market forces, advice from experts, they continue to add ever more baroque extensions to their now irrelevant core, never questioning whether their foundations are still appropriate. What often results is largely unintelligible and di ...
July 04, 2007
One of the unique benefits of having been a journeyman for so many years early in my career is that you get to see how many different companies run their IT shops. By and large, these were pretty awful, but from such experiences comes a wisdom of how to do things better. And if there’s one tummy-tightening warning sign that a project is not going to work, it’s when people get excited at the sheer size of it. The birth of a megaproject. I find myself between ‘proper jobs’ at the moment, so regul ...
June 25, 2007
A related post on space-based architecture was published a couple of weeks ago. It was going to be a one-off but I was at the inaugural Gigaspaces User Group in London recently, and a couple of things occurred to me between presentations that I thought worth mentioning. So there are two extra articles to come (this is the first). Perhaps it’s not a conventional place to start, but the idea for linking spaces and agility occurred to me because I am having a bathroom remodelled at the moment (bear ...
Outsourcing we will go
April 14, 2007
Here’s how the story goes. There’s a meeting of all the big cheeses at our favourite company, Gristle and Flint. It’s quite usual for the other directors to vent their frustrations at the CIO - the desktop hardware refresh is running late, IT personnel costs are on the rise, the web site was down all weekend, new budget requests are coming in to support stuff with weird names like ‘middleware’, you know the kind of thing. But today the CEO is incandescent. The competition is having a field day. ...
April 12, 2007
Creating software in the corporate environment is a complex business and complexity is a wonderful breeding ground for risk. There are two types of risk that need to be dealt with: acquired risk and inherent risk. Acquired risk will be the subject of a later post. It’s the quid pro quo of software development - choose the bleeding edge, expand your scope, try something experimental, and you’ll increase your risk. It’s the risk you choose or have foisted on you. Inherent risk is the risk that yo ...
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
April 05, 2007
How is it that you can sit through a film, even a fairly tedious one, that last ninety minutes to two hours, and yet frequently become arse-numbingly twitchy less than ten minutes into a PowerPoint presentation? I grant you, even fairly dull movies are vastly more interesting than most presentations on SOA governance, but should they be? You get paid to do something during the day that for much of the time you (hopefully) care passionately about, and yet when someone else wants to get a message ...
Seeing the Spoon
April 01, 2007
This article is something of a preface for the whole site and, as with other posts, will be updated from time to time. The intention for the site is to create a kind of holistic view of what can be done about the current malaise in software development in medium to large companies. That there is a problem is in no doubt. If you work somewhere that experiences a multitude of difficulties in making your business happy by giving them what they want within reasonable parameters, then I hope it’s not ...