Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Your Optimistic Bias won't Allow Your Estimate to Improve

When asked, many people wish to get better at estimation by tracking actuals and then assuming that some form of reflection upon those actuals will lead to better estimation.  I've long held a belief that it doesn't happen quite so simply in reality.  There are many assumptions in that proposal that are just glossed over.   Let's list a few (just for fun):  Actuals are accurate and precise representations, time will be allotted to reflections and learning,  people (teams of people) will all arrive at similar conclusions and learn from the reflection of estimate not equal to actual, future behavior will change significantly and quickly, among other assumptions.



Well finally science has something to say about this.  A study: "How unrealistic optimism is maintained in the face of reality" by Tali Sharot, Christoph W Korn & Raymond J Dolan published in Nature Neuroscience (2011) has some fMRI proof that these behaviors are hard to change.

In the study the authors find:
"Unrealistic optimism is a pervasive human trait that influences domains ranging from personal relationships to politics and finance. How people maintain unrealistic optimism, despite frequently encountering information that challenges those biased beliefs, is unknown. We examined this question and found a marked asymmetry in belief updating. Participants updated their beliefs more in response to information that was better than expected than to information that was worse. This selectivity was mediated by a relative failure to code for errors that should reduce optimism. Distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex tracked estimation errors when those called for positive update, both in individuals who scored high and low on trait optimism. However, highly optimistic individuals exhibited reduced tracking of estimation errors that called for negative update in right inferior prefrontal gyrus. These findings indicate that optimism is tied to a selective update failure and diminished neural coding of undesirable information regarding the future."
So, is this scientific challenge to your ability to get better at estimation enough for you to quit tracking actual time spent on stories/tasks?  The evidence is that your bias will keep you from learning except in the cases that prove you are faster/better/more awesome than you estimated you were.  Which leads many managers to decide that there teams are sand-bagging and just not as good as "we were in the older days," a different human behavior to study.

See Also:
Estimates? We Don’t Need No Stinking Estimates!
"How a hashtag (#NoEstimates) lit the nerdy world of project management aflame — or at least got it mildly worked up." A nice summary of the dust-up.  Imagine if the tag would have been #LeanEstimates?

The #NoEstimates blog by Woody Zuill

Your Brain won't allow you to Believe the Apocalypse could actually happen

The planning fallacy, first proposed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979, is a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias (underestimate the time needed).





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The ROI of Multiple Small Releases

In a few minutes how do you explain the benefits of multiple incremental releases to someone new to this agile mindset?  I'm convinced that if I try to use words (which is typically the case when caught in a hallway conversation) or even words and a few quick sketches - I will not do justice to the complex concept.  Why?  Because this concept deals with multiple what if scenarios that play out in long timeframes with little feedback.

So needing to have this conversation today, I had the time to do a search for some help.  And I found this wonderful article and video with a voice over explanation.

Business Benefits of Software Release in Multiple Increments

And there is an interactive Wolfram graphic you can play with yourself.


Now with this link and the video explanation (done with a german accent I think, gives it real authority) - I can solve the problem of coming to that shared understanding.

Understanding the Iterative Incremental approach

I've also found it very difficult to express the true depth of the meaning of the phrase Iterative and Incremental.  Many people confuse these terms for each other - yet they have very distinct meaning in software development.  When combined into an synchronistic term the mean compounds exponentially.  I've yet to be able to explain this phenomenon to my audiences satisfaction, so let me point you to others that will do much better.

The first is Jeff Patton's article Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know How to Get It - Why knowing what you want in agile development may be an impediment to getting it.  The next is Steven Thomas' iteration upon Jeff's attempt, titled Revisiting the Iterative Incremental Mona Lisa.  And he illustrated this article with a riff upon Jeff's Mona Lisa images which I believe were derived from some famous artist, Banksy I think.
Drawing Mona Lisa Iteratively and Incrementally

Now add to that the enlightenment that Joanna Rothman describes in her article Iterations and Increments:
"Iterative approaches do refine the feature as you proceed. Incremental approaches allow you to release something (which you may have refined or not). I like both." 
"Iterative approaches manage technical risk. Incremental approaches manage schedule risk. Agile, which uses both iterative and incremental approaches manage both technical and schedule risk."
Now, I've watched as an artist creates a fine art portrait such as the Mona Lisa.... and all three of these Agile experts are just wrong.  Neither the iterative nor the incremental nor the iterative and incremental process is how Mark Stevenson paints.  It is better described as magic.  I suggest you go watch a master at any creative endeavor work... it cannot be easily explained by a methodologist.  Perhaps that's were we are going wrong...

See Also:

Feedback Loops and "Done" by John Cutler



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Puzzle Game:: The Impossible Room

My progress in The Impossible Room - iOS app puzzle game by Maruf Nebil.

“Only one room
 Only one way
 Key is alive
 Leave or stay"


Spoiler Alert --- some puzzles are solved below.


Day 1.

Collected Items 
————
paper scrap
lamp shade
screwdriver
tesla book
USB cord


Book Shelf  - opens Screwdriver
-------------------------------------
Aristotle  384 BCE
Roger Bacon  1214 - 1292
Leonardo Da Vinci  1452 - 1519
Copernicus  1473 - 1543
Galileo  1564 - 1642
Newton  1642 - 1727
Faraday  1791 - 1867
Tesla  1856- 1943
Alan Turing  1912 - 1954
Stephen Hawking  1942





 3 Stars - 5 points; ball on one point - 1 missing star;  color of stars & books may signify the overlap of authors lives
shark - pinguen - robot   - got a  USB cord in drawer
(^^^)   <(“)   :|]


Bird - Dog - Elephant - Dolphin   (brown yellow gray blue)
A-Z  4-char
blue red green  3 colors
0-9   7 numbers
4 greek letters -  Theta, Sigma, Psi, Omega
Th, S, Ps, O
9, 200, 700, 800




Picture of sheep man dog house trees clouds
by Egidio Graziani
6 places  (sheep, man, dog, house, tree, cloud)
alphabetical order  (cloud, dog, house, man, sheep, tree)
order in picture  left to right, eye flowing, front to back

buttons rotate in this order:
   cloud, sheep, dog, tree, man, house....










Table with Globe - gave a board with numbers (1-6)
golf ball  micro phone  oscar statue  W
7 letters A-Z
phonic alphabet   Golf, Mic, Oscar  GMOW    GMO  over Whiskey

Globe - six symbols


mirror over 4 drawer chest
drawer 1 top  8 point double ring w 4 push buttons
drawer 2  3 blocks, 7 bundle, CBA, dart board   4 digits
drawer 3  4 x 4 buttons
drawer 4 4 x 4 buttons labeled ABCD  1,2,3,4  (Nice Room)


left side of bed 
clock with one hand
000  000  00
dial lock

above bed - picture of man and sheep  (moves left right up down)  center above bed

right of bed
box 
9 box form letters  two buttons


5 x 7  white gray black buttons on box
empty shelf
box with  cyan red yellow  triangle


dart board  score = 172
triple 18 
double 15
triple 16
double 14
twelve


8 segment clock with 3 hands   3:5:7  =  3/8 : 5/8 : 7/8
big hand on 3
med hand on 5
small hand on 7

Day 2.

Largely learned nothing... except there is a really good cheat site:  AppUnwrapper

Yeah, OK, I used a few of the cheats - but that's not a lot of fun...

Oh - and many of the puzzles have additional clues or items to pick up once opened.  These items/clues are not visible until the lock is opened.  For example a clue written on the back of the door.

Day 3.

I have two games running.  So I took the opportunity to run a few experiments.

I had the Globe open in game A.  In the second game, B, I keyed in the sequence of buttons for the Globe but it didn't open. Then I went over to the picture on the sheep, man and dog and applied the number overlay - POP! the Globe opened.  What does this tell us?  That locks are turned off by default and actions must turn the locks on.  Such as the Globe, which was turned on by the number overlay being applied to the painting.

So... off to solve a 4 equation; 4 variable problem.

The bottom drawer (right of bed):

1) 48 x + 88 y + 2 z + 7 a = 86
2) 55 x + 4 y + 71 z + 86 a = 23
3) 6 x + 87 y + 28 z + 88 a = 4
4) 3 x + 26 y + 81 z + 74 a = ?

OPPS that didn't work out


CBA code is solved by hint
2a + c = 113
a + 2b = 93
b + 2c = 61

a = 47; b = 23; c = 19  -->  192347 = CBA




Monday, December 8, 2014

Agile outside of Software


Ricardo Semler discusses the broken education system and his re-imaged school and how the children are making the same old rules - but now also enforcing them. He founded The Ralston-Semler Foundation and the Lumiar School, a democratic school where children engage in projects of their own interest. There are three such schools; one in São Paulo and two in Campos do Jordão.

Ricardo Semler: How to run a company with (almost) no rules



TED Talk Bruce Feiler - Agile programming for your Family

Agile in Education

It appears that our education system is ripe for disruption and many people are using the software techniques to inject a bit of self-organization into the education system.


Together, we are discoverers of the world and ourselves.
The world is no longer predictable and learning needs to be more adaptive, connected, and interdependent.
Education can respond to this constantly changing landscape with agility.
Through our journey, new paths unfold to reveal learning authentic to us.

Scrum in School
If you are passionate about learning how to bring Scrum — and other Agile techniques — into schools anywhere around the world… I’d like to share my story with you for a few moments and invite you to join me on this journey.


Agile in your schools, an announcement from Agile Learning Centers.




Our Agile Learning Centers are growing and we're preparing to support the launch of several more ALCs this summer! Rumor has it that we may be going international.

Read on to find enrollment information for our two full-time schools in NYC and Charlotte, film screenings, and some really juicy featured blog posts from our growing community of Agile Learning Facilitators.


ALC NYC

Learn about our enrollment process here

Attend a Parent Interest Night to begin exploring enrollment options for the current year and/or the 2015-16 school year.
January, 15th 2015
March, 5th 2015

RSVP to a Parent Interest Night here!


ALC Mosaic

Learn about our enrollment process here

Attend a Parent Interest Night to begin exploring enrollment options for the current year and/or the 2015-16 school year.
February, 18th 2015
March 24th, 2015

RSVP to a Parent Interest Night here!


Film Screenings

The Agile Learning Center in NYC will be hosting a screening of Race to Nowhere on February 12th at 7pm!

Tickets are quite limited and only $10 -- reserve yours here now before we start advertising on our website and social media.

A bunch of the Agile Learning Facilitators were able to catch screenings of Class Dismissed in NYC and Charlotte this past week and loved it! Highly recommended!



Check out some featured blog posts from facilitators across the ALC Network!




The Weekly Sprint (in review):

Ryan highlights some of the popular learning activities at the ALC - WikiTrails, GeoGuessr, Philosophy, Chronology, #NoCheats, and more.





Daily Rituals: The Heartbeat of Intentional Culture Creation: Tomis talks about the afternoon candle ritual at the ALC in NYC and importance of intentional culture creation.




The Opportunity in Conflict: Nancy shares examples of how our tool, the Community Master Board, is used for community-wide problem solving.




GeoCaching Treasure Hunt: Dan shares a summary of the GeoCaching adventure he set up and facilitated at ALC Mosaic.





Catch Me In Transition: How to Lorax so Kids will Listen: Bear reflects on the importance of tuning in and right-timing for effective ALFing.





Week in Review: Drew shares a detailed writeup of a recent week at ALC Everett, including the beginnings of the ALC egg drop challenge.




Why I'm Cool With Day-Long Dr Who Marathons: Abby shares her reflections on the value of storytelling and intentional engagement with "screens".





Painting, Pasta, Parent Interest Night, and Past=Present: Nina shares some amazing ALC offerings and thoughtful reflections on her journey to open ALC Oahu.




Mosaic Monday: Charlotte gives an update on some happenings at ALC Mosaic, as well as a beautiful write up of her ongoing offering, Ecology Club.




Clinkity, Clink, Clink: Extended Inquiry into Marble Mazes: Lacy dives deep into the marble maze projects from the kids at Roots of Mosaic.





Answers Are Truly No Better Than Questions: Art talks about the importance of asking valuable questions.





ALC Everett - Last Day: Abe shares the highlights of his month-long stay at ALC Everett.

We hope you enjoyed this update from Agile land!

With love and agility,

Agile Learning Centers

Copyright © 2014 Agile Learning Center, All rights reserved. You expressed an interest in the Agile Learning Center.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Finally - Disruptive Innovation in Construction

Otis did a wonderful thing back in the 1850s and sparked the verticalization of cities.  Ever wonder why Paris is such a wonderful feeling city?  It's because most of it was built before there were elevators.  So the practical building was limited to about 5 floors.  And the top floors were the cheeper rent, because you had to huff your groceries up all those stairs.

So here's what lack of true innovation does to an industry... it sets it's sights on just the one single solutions.  That is to make vertical buildings with duplicate floor plans, story after story for 100 or so floors.  And that results in the architectural wonder known as the sky scraper.  Good for little else but setting height records (and then fighting over what to measure at said height - a living floor or a radio antenna).

Wait a few decades (or 8 score in this case) and someone comes up with a disruptive innovation.

Is this it?  The disruptive innovation in buildings that allows architects to think in other dimensions?



MULTI - an elevator that has no rope, and moves horizontal also.

ThyssenKrupp hails its technology called MULTI "as the greatest innovation in the field since Elisha Otis and his demonstration of emergency breaks in 1854."

By-the-way, we do this type of disruptive innovation in the software fields every few years - yet people still compare developing software projects to constructing a sky-scraper.  A joke to prove the point:

For Christmas, the JavaScript community will be bringing out a new framework that you should re-write all your projects in.
Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays


Monday, November 24, 2014

Coal in your bug tracking stocking this Christmas?

What is your plan for being a better developer next year?  What's the technique that will repay your efforts many fold?  Testing - automated test to be specific.  There are all types of automated testing.  The agile mind set thinks of testing first, not in a reactive manner, but as a preventative and design effort.

For three years, The Container Store has been using application performance management (APM) technology from AppDynamics to locate bugs in the website, target them immediately and fix them.

Sometimes there's a slowdown in a particular region. Other times it's from a certain database and often from a single line of code. Just this year, the Container Store upped its contract with AppDynamics, buying more software so the company can test new features before deploying them and minimize the number of live fixes necessary.

"We said we want to be more proactive instead of reactive," said A.J. Azzarello, a quality assurance engineer at The Container Store in Dallas. "We can catch errors and slow response times in test prior to production so they never impact our customers."
From CNBC's article: Don't let software bugs ruin Christmas by Ari Levy


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When Women Stopped Coding : Planet Money : NPR


What happened in the mid 1980s?  Previously women were in the hi-tech industries at the same rates as any other industry - but then it all changed.  Women fled the compute sciences field.  Is this the rise of the computer geek era?

Was it the geeks that ran the women away?  Or was it the lack of women that attracted the geeks?  Was there cause and effect or just an interesting correlation?




Planet Money has an interesting investigation and some answers - give it a listen.

When Women Stopped Coding :: Planet Money - NPR

Look at the red line in 1984.  What happened in 1984?


See Also:

Why women in tech came to a 'Halt' (CNN) by Henry Hanks

The World's Top Cities for Female Entrepreneurs - Forbes


Margaret Hamilton (wiki)- NASA programmer.  Her Code Got Humans on the Moon—And Invented Software Itself  (WIRED)



Friday, August 8, 2014

A Review of Leadership Models


Leadership is well defined - that's not the problem - the problem is it has many, many various definitions. Leadership definitions change throughout time. Your grandfather's definition of leadership may vary quite drastically from your's - ask him if you have the opportunity.

A modern classic definition:
Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. -- Peter Northouse

Series Outline:

A brief history of Leadership
   A working definition of leadership
   Is leadership a process
   May leadership emerge from a group
   Is leadership more than a form of coercion and power
Various Leadership Approaches
   Situational, Skills, Style, Trait
Leadership Theories
   Contingency Theory
   Path-Goal Theory
   Leader-Member Exchange Theory
   Transformational Leadership Model
   Servant Leadership Model
   Authentic Leadership Model
   Team Leadership Model


Disclaimer:  as this blog is a from of note keeping for me - an extension of my cognitive model of the universe of knowledge - this article and the series of article may be in great flux until complete (or good enough to quit editing).


References:

1) Leadership Theory and Practice - 6th Ed. by Peter Northouse.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Servant Leadership Model


Do a Google search on "servant leadership" and you will get plenty of hits (2.5 million for me just then). So if you don't know what it is cruise on over to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership and check out the 21st century "Cliff's Notes" on the topic.

Disclaimer:  as this blog is a from of note keeping for me - an extension of my cognitive model of the universe of knowledge - this article and the series of article may be in great flux until complete (or good enough to quit editing).

Greenleaf's enlightenment of Servant Leadership stems from his reading of  Hermann Hesse's short novel, Journey to the East. "Hesse's story is an account of a mythical journey by a group of people on a spiritual quest where the recognition of the true leader of the group takes place as a result of his acts of service and self-sacrifice for the benefit of the whole group. As Spears tells it, upon reading this story, it seemed suddenly clear to Greenleaf that a 'great leader is first experienced as a servant to others, and this simple fact is central to his or her greatness ... true leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others' " (3).

I find it troubling that in Hesse's story the servant leader, Leo, abandons the group and it disbands, failing in it's quest to find the ultimate truth.  Our hero of the story later searches and finds Leo, and it turns out that Leo is the leader of the "League" which sat about to test the group's faith with the journey.  So is this parable to be emulated, do we wish our servant leader's to test and abandon us when we fail?



I do however like the concept of a leader as servant to the followship and the purpose.  I think we should make our diagrams and models reflect this by placing the leaders at the bottom of the diagrams (org charts) with their actions and behaviors supporting the team (followship) within the context of their shared purpose.

This orientation was done on some of the first Org Charts by the Erie railroad.

Here we see one of the first organizational charts.  Notice the CEO and Board of Directors is at the bottom of the page.  Why did later organization invert this orientation?  Well, in the English speaking/reading world we read right to left and top to bottom.  Where is the executive summary on a report?  Is it where summations are typically found - at the bottom of a body?  No.  The executive summary is at the top of the body.  Presumable because we wish to reduce the work load on the executive that doesn't have enough energy to read the complete report and can just intuitively understand the reports purpose from a summary.  Well my guess is the CEO doesn't like having to read about all these other people to find their name on the org chart - solution?  Invert the chart.  Problem - now the body of the org is seen to be in service to the leader.

Show me a leader that creates an org chart, and I can quickly see if the leader is a servant leader. While Greenleaf's Best Test is difficult - mine is simple.
"The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“
Lao Tzu says of the leader, "A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you": But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say, "We did this ourselves." (4: Spears, p. 242)

Have you been looking for how to turn the platitude of "Servant Leader" into action?  My recommendation is to buy Management 3.0 Workout book.

 #Workout is built on a foundation of actionable advice


Management 3.0 


What is the definition of leadership? 
Can anyone be a leader? Can anyone manage a team? We believe management is not only the manager’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s job! Leadership pursues the goal of growing and transforming organizations that are great places to work for, where people are engaged, the work is improved and clients are simply delighted.

You might want to start your change toward servant leadership by changing yourself.  A thought leader in this area is Christopher Avery.  Try his workshops or read his book, The Responsibility Process - Unlocking your natural ability to live and lead with power.


See Also:

A Review of Leadership Models

What is Servant Leadership - at Greenleaf's Org - he who coins the term, defines the term.
Journey to the East - Wikipedia - Greenleaf's inspiration for the concept


References:

1) Leadership Theory and Practice - 6th Ed. by Peter Northouse.

2) Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness - 25th Ann. Ed. by Robert Greenleaf

3) The Myth of Servant-Leadership: A Feminist Perspective by Deborah Eicher-Catt

4) Reflections of Leadership. by Larry Spears(1995).

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Considering Outsourcing Software Development - a model

What are the considerations when the business wants to reduce the cost of the IT department and they want to outsource some or all of the costly software development group?  Here is a model to help you think through this decision and some additional resources.



Introduction

What decisions must be made to implement an IT Outsourcing program?  Are these decisions similar to the decisions that leaders must make for an Agile program?  How do they differ, how are they similar?  What are the expected outcomes, and the possible outcomes?  Which decisions have high stakes with no-return points along the transition map?  Which decisions are safe-to-fail and possible to repeat and iterate toward success?

Comparing and contrasting basic road maps for the implementation of major process change is fraught with generalizations that may easily be questioned.  The intent of this paper is to objectively represent the set of high level decisions and expected outcomes that lead to a success regardless of which path is chosen.  Choosing the path is your decision.

A general model

If we model the decision path as a journey with an expected destination, but unknown terrain this metaphor may serve us well.  Journeys are made of many decision, some made before the terrain is known, some made with little information, many decision must be adjusted as the journey progresses.

…. to do…

Decisions to be made along the path:

Can innovation be separated from execution without extreme risk?
Does outsourcing add value -or- just decrease cost?
How does the outsourcing approach transition to a value-add mind-set?
What need are we addressing with an outsource model:  from innovation <-> maintenance?
What does an optimized cost reduction model look like?  
a headless remote team; recruiting agency; software R&D provider; other?
What is the right service model for our organization?
outstaffing; <-> custom app dev
How does one mitigate the risk of vendor lock-in to the outsourcing provider?
What does the *right time* to outsource look like?
Where is the point of no-return in the decision path?
What does outsourcing require that IT is already great at delivering?
What does outsourcing require that IT is poor at delivering?  Can this capability be outsourced?

Along the journey - where is the point of no-return?

Investigation of Options

“Intelligence should be viewed as a physical process that tries to maximize future freedom of action and avoid constraints in its own future.”  — Alex Wissner

A model of intelligence at an abstract level is an organism that preserves options until a specific time horizon at which point it decides while seeking a goal (TED Talk: Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence). 


What is the goal of the Information Technology organization?

Is it to reduce the cost of IT to the organizations - or - might it be a more aspirational goal? More in alignment with the corporate mission.

Why do organization outsource?

Software development is not a simple endeavor.  Standish Group has studied the problem space for years and release yearly reports that in general show an marginal improvement in recent years from a low point of roughly 80% failure rates a decade ago.  However; “[o]utsourcing has not proven to be a magic wand; it has failed to deliver the expected results over fifty percent of the time.” (1, 3)  Gartner predicts that spending on outsourcing will increase from $268 billion in 2009 to $325 billion in 2013.  Research suggests the reason for this increase is the perception of economic, technological and strategic benefits.  These benefits come with additional challenges, and externalities.

Organization outsource to:
  • Focus on core activities
  • Reduce cost of development executation
  • Add staffing flexibility for special projects
  • Augment skills not presently available
  • Reduce development time associated with project ramp up
  • Improve quality (by working with more experienced developers)
  • Improve management (by levering vendor’s experience/knowledge)

Define our reason to outsource - be absolutely clear about why.  A clear purpose will enable decisions with reasonable chance of success.

What challenges does outsourcing resolve?

The cost model is typically the first response to the reasoning behind the decision to outsource.  Engineers in offshore locations are on relatively low compensation plans compared to the US, this relative cost advantage is apt to shrink fast however (5).
The scheduling of project manpower and resources is another key reason to outsource.  When project ramp up and termination are time sensitive offshoring may have tactical advantages to staffing internal projects with varying resourcing needs.

Specialized skill sets are another key reason to outsource.  Assuming that the skill set is not a core capability to the problem domain.

Mid-term budgeting and cost accounting become easier.  Small projects cost accounting becomes cost prohibitive so effort must be done to aggregate small project, or define a class of service that allows for ad-hoc scope management.

What challenges does outsourcing compound?

While software product development is a known challenge, outsourcing is a known challenge compounded by more players on the field.  The software development process will be distributed across multiple organizations with multiple cultures and value systems.

Outsourcing firms must effectively manage:
  • the scope of projects
  • the process that implements the deliverables, and
  • the people involved (customers, their clients, their staff, as well as vendors).
The pitfalls of an outsourcing model:
  • Requires constant highly skilled management and logistics
  • Increases departmental frustration
    • timezone differences lessen communication windows
    • need for higher quality architecture
    • lower quality of solution (not what we wanted syndrome)
    • need for better testing
    • scapegoating the vendor
  • testing is more difficult & results in longer test/fix cycles
  • company morale may suffer


There is no one right model to handle all of these management tasks.  In the grand scheme of things, success in outsourcing depends on how well you plan, organize, execute and control these very areas that are required for in-house development also.  Failing to understand these factors and relationships puts the outsourcing program in high risk of failure.

Successful Project Scoping for Outsourcing

Projects that are well defined in terms of scope/features (well known technology and well know requirements) are simple and prime candidates for outsourcing [the simple domain of the Stacey Diagram]. 

Project types require various amounts of effort in scoping - not all projects are the same - don’t treat them similar.  The most difficult is the innovative new application platform with a high degree of market risk.  These are typically high and to the right on the Stacey diagram.  Requirements are not well known, and the technology used is far from certain.

Scope management is the ultimate driver of value delivery.  In the traditional PMI Iron triangle managing budget is a well known problem domain, managing schedule is difficult but practical when using a Project Process Management model, however scope management is the most difficult.  It is also the leg of the iron triangle that is most often ignored as a lever to be used by the customer to make scope decisions with economic trade-off in mind.  Having a value-based model of project success has proven more satisfying to customers than a cost model (implied all scope & implied on schedule) model.

When project scoping is easy and well done the project is ripe for outsourcing.

If scope change management is a likely difficult internal process - then adding a few more contractually obligated layers (vendors) is exasperating the issue.  Scope changes must be controlled, they increase workload, and management overhead, they raise costs and lengthen schedules, as well as hamper quality and integration capabilities.

When outsourcing software development perhaps the worst situation is scope creep caused by ineffective change control.  This will cause:  cost escalation, quality shirking, schedule delays, unused/unnecessary features, reworkitis, staff demotivation.  The motivation issue creates a viscous feedback loop enhancing the negative aspects of the other effects.

A latent problem with outsourcing is the division of total project delivery scope.  Few new application development project scope out the actual delivery of the product and all it’s ancillary systems and work streams.  Scope division is the process of understanding the responsibility and ownership of work to be done in-house and by vendors.  Not all of the work may be outsourced.  Retaining the knowledge of systems and integrations is key to continuity of the business. Counter these risk via well designed architecture components that are independent of each other.  Foster accountability and ownership of components by a single entity.  Deploy frequently and test all interfaces.

Outsourcing may provide many economic benefits, yet it still follows basic economic rules.  It saves on wages and real estate costs, but cannot always significantly reduce the amount of time that a project takes.

Successful Project Process Management for Outsourcing

The business process of outsourcing is very important and must complement the software development methodology.  This management process includes: defining the vendor team structure and interfaces, the development methodology to be executed across the client/vendor system for the project, software development management tools (source control, build systems, test systems, project progress reporting, collaboration & communication tools), proper quality assurance expectations both at the vendor and the client, as well as customer QA.

Team Structure - beyond the typical player on a software development team, outsourcing project typical require the overhead of two key roles.  An in-house product manager responsible for daily interactions with the development team insuring timely resolution of problems that arise in the development requirements.  A vendor-located technical leader, responsible for the vendor team and highly collaborative with the product manager.

Tools and metrics for monitoring the project should be selected to match the type of project (new development or maintenance), the development methodology (waterfall / agile / lean), and the companies cultures.   When selecting a vendor a fluent demonstration of their management tools is a great indicator.

Vendors with a mature outsourcing program will have a well known and easily demonstrated quality assurance process.  If the QA work is to be done in-house rather than by the vendor this scope division should be well understood and the cost/benefits weight and measured throughout the life of the project.  Establish typical engineering standards such as: coding style guides, documentation standards, controlling procedures, bug tracking and reporting, defect prioritization and triage responsibilities, testing phases in the release plan as durations, release criteria with regard to defect count, severity, types of testing to be performed (usability, regression, performance, load, etc.).  One perspective of outsourcing vendors is to gauge their maturity in QA; vendors with a long history and successful future will have developed mature QA capabilities.

A core capability of outsourcing vendors is their communication techniques.  When the team is physically separated (as in most outsourcing situations) communication becomes a multifaceted issue with compounding issues such as:  language and culture, approval chain of command, time zone, domain knowledge, travel, and industry experience.


Successful Project Stakeholder Collaboration for Outsourcing

Make specific plans to involve the customer, end users, and key stakeholders in the development project.  Active participation in the process leads to greater product satisfaction.  Clearly define their role and responsibility, setting expectation and constraints on their involvement.  The proper balance will change with project type and methodology. 

Prior to outsourcing software development the organization must be prepared.  This decision has long term effects and will effect the attitudes and motivation of many existing employees.  While pursing an in-house development organization hiring decision are biased toward development skills; in an outsourcing organization the managerial skills will ultimately lead to success.

Hiring Mean Development Skills  - - >  Hiring Organizational Superpowers
Subject Matter Experts - - > Communicators
Domain Knowledge - - > Integration / Operations
Implementors - - > Planners




Successful Program Management for Outsourcing

Beyond the typical software development project related management issues, the outsourcing program has higher level concerns to deal with.  These are typically handled via contracting and source selection processes, and then via executive level negotiation of problems and breeches.

Typical Outsourcing Issues (non-software development related): (6)
  • Liability Insurance 
  • Software Licenses for third party access to systems
  • Ownership of information (sample data and testing data)
  • Inter-organizatioal system performance and access requirements
  • Service Level Agreements
  • Reporting and review of SLA
  • System access and security
  • Intellectual property indemnity
  • Distaster recovery


Many organizations spend countless time and energy selecting and reselecting an outsourcing vendor.  This trial and error process may result in a well integrated vendor that is an indispensable partner.



References:

1) A Practical Guide to Outsourcing Your Software Development PDF by Selleo (a Poland based outsourcing firm)

2) Tips for Outsourcing Software Development: Ensure Outsourcing Success HTML by Auriga (a Russian outsourcing firm)

3) Fabriek M, et al; “Reasons for Success and Failure in Offshore Software Development Projects.” [in] The 16th European Conference on Information Systems; Galway; Ireland; 2008


5) The End of Indias Offshore Dominance by Mark Hebert
http://news.cnet.com/The-end-of-Indias-offshore-dominance/2010-1022_3-5668292.html


7) Outsourcing decision support: a survey of benefits, risks, and decision factors, by Tibor Kremic; Supply Chain Management: An International Journal

8) The Evaluation of the Outsourcing of Information Systems:  A Survey of Large Enterprises by Chin-Chia Hsu, International Journal of Management Vol 23, No. 4 Dec 2006


See Also:


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Partnership for Innovation in the Enterprise

Apple and IBM joining forces - oh really?  Will George Orwell be rolling over in his grave - will his 1984 become truth in 2014?

Well, one must follow the news to make sense of that gibberish... and the 1984 reference.... it goes back to the famous Superbowl Apple commercial introducing the Mac.

An IBM/Apple partnership to tunnel into the enterprise walled garden for devices is a great idea.  As a consumer it works for me.  I don't know of any enterprises that can pass the Starbucks Test (test for the ubiquity of access for the digital native).

In 2005 (years before the iPhone) Apple joined forces with Motorola to launch the ROKR, a cell phone and iTunes connected music player.

It took the world a few years to recognize that the Wright brothers had flown the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, NC (first flight in Dec. 1903 to 1908 public demonstrations). -- The Wright Brothers by David McCullough 

"Jointly developed with Motorola and made available on what was then the Cingular Wireless network, the iTunes-savvy Motorola ROKR may have been fugly, but Apple engineers learned as much as they could while developing it: lessons which helped them avoid the same mistakes in the iPhone..." -- Jonny Evans

The ROKR was a great "beta" success for one of the partners (Apple) and a market failure for the other.  The device was both a phone and a 100-song music player with iTunes integration.  I bought one for my wife and she didn't love it.  I (the geek in the family) found it intriguingly interesting but frustratingly difficult to manage the songs and syncing.

It was not the disruptive innovation that would come two years later.  For $250 and a two-year contract you got a 1.7 inch color display, stereo speakers, camera/video recorder and a phone with a few built in "apps".  What did Apple learn from the introduction of this device and the partnership with the leading mobile device maker?  One thing they learned was that without full control over the product it would be ugly!  It was not innovative - just an incremental mashup of the walkman with the cell-phone.  Jobs was after revolution.  Hence the 100-song limit on the ROKR.  The iPhone launch was only 17 months away in January 2007.  Of course Apple would want to cripple the device, yet slip their toes into the waters.  What a great beta test with real users and all-out marketing to see how the US would react.  The product launch and validated learning was quite beneficial to Apple, not so much for Motorola.

Will the IBM-Apple partnership prove beneficial to both?  Some pundits feel it is an indication of weakness in Tim Cook's leadership and that it is signaling a lack of innovation at Apple.

The deal according to the Wall Street Journal has IBM developing 100 iOS apps and supporting the business customers using those apps and products.

IBM will sell iPhones and iPads to its enterprises clients.  Putting thousands of IBM consultants peddling the new Apple mobile app development language Swift.  Along with apps that manage your enterprise.  The answer to everyones Jeopardy question... will Siri go out with Watson?

So what will be the outcome of this partnership - will it benefit both companies - will it crack open then enterprise to mobile devices?  All very good questions that we should be able to answer in two years or so.

Date Line:  October 2016      Well it's been a few years - how has this partnership worked out?  I've not seen any babies from the hook-up of Siri and Watson.  Can't see that this partnership actually exist.  So perhaps it will take a few years more - or it could be that no one at either company really wanted to work with the others.  So far I'd say the relationship was not fruitful.

Perhaps we need to look at this reason:

Why Tim Cook is Steve Ballmer and Why He Still Has His Job at Apple


See Also:

Apples first ever iTunes phone
Apple Motorola Cingular Launch Worlds First Mobile Phone with iTunes
IBM partnership with Apple proves its innovation mojo
Apple IBM in deal to create apps


Monday, July 21, 2014

What's holding down your team's Velocity?

Is your "Agile Project Manager" driving the team to increase their velocity?  Has the Agile Death March begun?

Fred Brooks warned us of these dangers nearly 25 years ago in The Mythical Man-Month.

One antidote to the PM schedule crunching technique of throwing warm bodies at the problem is to remove the impediments that are known (or just under the surface) within the structure and environment that holds the team back from performing at more efficient delivery rates.  So many times the line workers (developers and testers) are well aware of these issues, and feel as if they have raised them many times and gotten little attention (mostly negative attention) from managers.  A classic game (Innovation Game) to expose these impediments is Speed Boat.

I just saw this image of the anvil holding the balloon down and thought it would make a great visual metaphor for the Speed Boat game.  See the article by Alan Dayley Velocity is Like a Helium Balloon to get a hi-res poster.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Factors that support Creativity

Many companies have initiatives to become innovative.  There are some companies that don't appear to need a leadership sponsor to get competitive innovation - wonder why.  Perhaps they have some fundamental aspect to their organization that allows them to be creative.  What would be those aspects?

Why It Feels Like We're Falling Behind It can take years to notice a life-changing invention. - Motley Fool
It took the world a few years to recognize that the Wright brothers had flown the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, NC (first flight in Dec. 1903 to 1908 public demonstrations).

Here's my research on the topic of creativity.

Predicting Creativity in the Wild-- a research paper on the use of sociometric monitoring of teams by Sociometric Solutions.

Actor John Cleese talks about creativity.  It's about the open mindset of play.





Play is More than Just Fun - Stuart Brown; TED Talk


Stuart Brown has studied play in animals and humans and argues that it is a natural tool used for creative problem solving.

Play by Stuart Brown
"We've all seen the happiness on the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing across a lawn. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless, all-consuming, and fun. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. We are designed by nature to flourish through play."

"Dr. Brown has spent his career studying animal behavior and conducting more than six- thousand "play histories" of humans from all walks of life-from serial murderers to Nobel Prize winners. Backed by the latest research, Play (20,000 copies in print) explains why play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve and more. Particularly in tough times, we need to play more than ever, as it's the very means by which we prepare for the unexpected, search out new solutions, and remain optimistic. A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do."


Dr. Brown's 2008 three part PBS series on Play:
     PROMISE OF PLAY, Part 1: The Mother of Invention
     PROMISE OF PLAY, Part 3: The Heart of the Matter



"We're all embedded in vast social networks of friends, family, co-workers and more. Nicholas Christakis tracks how a wide variety of traits — from happiness to obesity — can spread from person to person, showing how your location in the network might impact your life in ways you don't even know."  Nicholas Christakis - The Hidden Influence of Social Networks







Apple has been one of the most creative organizations of the last several decades.  Some would argue they are inflicting their design ethos and paradigm of a closed ecosystem upon the freedoms of the tech revolution.  What does the new Apple Park (HQ campus) say about Steve Jobs last creative act?

Why Apple’s New HQ Is Nothing Like the Rest of Silicon Valley
Enduring Value Beyond Efficiency
This brings us back to Steve Jobs, who didn’t think about corporate real estate only in terms of efficiency, amortization, and physical adaptability. His final interviews leave us with a clear sense that this project was intended to carry great symbolic value: “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary.” And, “I want to leave a signature campus that expresses the values of the company for generations.”
Apple Park may actually have more in common with that category of architectural project than with other corporate workspace ventures. Cathedrals carry symbolic value, aspirational visions that go far beyond their function. In fact, the very great ones in Europe required significant innovations in the architectural technology of their time in order to achieve their vision — think Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence, the flying buttresses in Chartres, the vaulted roof in the Duomo of Milan. As with those types of buildings, technology breakthroughs were necessary for Apple Park’s vision to exist; extraordinary details and craftsmanship were necessary for it to inspire.