Category Archives: software development

Scope Management is the new Green...

Recycling, planning for the future, saving the environment for future generations is all part of the new “green” movement – and it is common sense for our planet and the future.  In a similar manner, scope management is common sense for software development in that it saves time, puts planning and solid communication up front in the lifecycle, and saves time on costly rework down the road.  By following solid scope management principles, both the customer side and the development side agree at the beginning of the software and systems requirements phase exactly what is the unit pricing for each part of the program/project they work on.  As the project progresses, baseline sizing, progress reporting, change management (using documented and agreed upon procedures), and good communication are part of the approach, and once the project is complete, the award fee (in $$$) is paid to the contracted developers based on functionality and quality delivered.  Lessons learned are captured and quantified according to solid project management principles so that future projects can be run even better. 

None of this is rocket science, however, unit pricing, subdivision of programs into projects and subprojects,  unit pricing by type of work, baselining size, tracking and control based on functionality delivered, and change management based on unit pricing,and final delivery payment based on agreed upon requirements are seldom all brought together in a single project – unless scope management has been applied.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Florida, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright. View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/ The Dekkers Report
=======Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

ISO/IEC JTC1 SC7 = ISO Software Engineering Standards

Hello from Hyderabad, India, where I’ve attended the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC7 meetings this week – sponsored by NASSCOM of India.

It is refreshing in this year of global economic downturn to see that countries are continuing to think long-term with regard to ISO standards and their evolution.  Here in Hyderabad, NASSCOM officials and TATA consulting executives ensured that our stay was incredibly safe, comfortable, and highly supportive of the intensive work done by SC7 working groups writing the world’s emerging software engineering standards.

In addition to the professional support offered by the attending 60+ Indian professionals attending the meetings on behalf of the Indian national standards organization, the arrangements provided for luxury western-style accommodations and meals, and lavish outpouring of India hospitality. Despite this being my third trip to India (the first two featured Delhi and Bangalore locales), it has definitely been my best and most memorable.

On the standards topic, there are many emerging new work items concerning pressing concerns in the global software and systems industry including IT service management (ITIL), corporate governance, documentation standards (worldwide), benchmarking, software and systems processes, etc.  If you’d like to know more about the standards that may affect YOUR company, contact me at the email address below and I’d be happy to answer them.

Sometimes ISO standards (and ISO/IEC standards) get a bad rap in the industry press as being out-of-date, clumsy, difficult to implement, and theoretical in nature.  As a 15 year representative on behalf of the USA to ISO, I can only say that things are on the mend.  More and more liaisons, fast tracks, and adherence to timelines are imposed – making our writing job a bit more rigorous and fixed, but at the same time, delivering standards to the market in a more streamlined manner.

For further information on the ISO/IEC standards processes or standards themselves, please send me an email.

Have a great week!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright. View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/ The Dekkers Report
=======Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Last Minute Seat Sale on Certified Scope Manager (CSM) workshops: Tampa, FL Apr 27-May 1, 2009

Dear colleague,

A few months ago I conducted a series of webinars on Scope Management and the Certified Scope Manager (CSM). Now our scheduled training is fast approaching, and because you’re a blog reader we’re having a seat sale for our loyal fans!

In just over 2 weeks, (April 27-May 1, 2009!) we are conducting Certified Scope Manager workshops in Tampa, FL. As a blog reader, you are entitled to a 20% discount for any single or multiple workshop – so register today! (Simply indicate “BLOG” beside your name on the registration form and we’ll adjust the total for you.)

Please visit http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/CSM_training.html to register. Purchase orders and payment arrangements can be made for this seat sale. Register today and make a difference in your organization and your career!

We hope to see you in Tampa April 27- May 1, 2009.

Have a nice week!

Regards,
Carol Dekkers
Carol Dekkers email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com/

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright.
View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/
============Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ======================

Managing program scope - an evolutionary approach

One of the most daunting challenges with software intensive systems development centers around ensuring that customers and suppliers speak the same language about the amorphous technology solution needed by the customer.  When the product is a tangible product such as a building or a road, there is far less ambiguity in the requirements and the number of projects that need to be worked.

Most customers can envision what a road looks like and what its construction will entail.  However, when software intensive systems are involved in the solution – this is hardly the case!  While the customers knows that their business problem needs a solution that will involve technology and hardware/software, most often the exact business problem is not yet articulated.  That’s the role of the first phase of the project – figuring out what the project(s) will be and what the floorplan(s) are that will be involved —- but in a systems way of thinking.

Customers know that the cost of such technology intensive solutions generally exceeds the initial budget (without knowing exactly why) and thus want to corral such costs with a “not-to-exceed” fixed price budget.  This is similar to wanting to develop a piece of land to satisfy a particular need, but asking for a fixed price before such buildings and/or projects are defined. Ludicrous you might say!  Premature at least!

What normally happens at this point for software intensive systems projects is that a contrived fixed prices guesstimate is drawn up by various suppliers (software developers) based on customer insistence.  It will always be wrong because no one can predict the cost of something that has not yet been seriously discussed.  The cost to build a house before a floor plan is developed will obviously be wrong – because the cost depends on what the house will include and how big it will be.  As such – a unit price per square foot could be used (based on history).

This is exactly what Scope Management is all about – figuring out and subdividing the business solution into a number of pieces (a new system, data migration, etc), and the getting unit prices for their development (cost per FP or other metric).  The customer wins because they only pay for the work that they direct, and the supplier wins because they get paid for the work they are directed to do.

Certified scope managers (CSM) are professional practitioners trained in the northernSCOPE(TM) approach to concrete scope management.

Workshops to become a certified scope manager (CSM) to aid customer groups are now scheduled for April 27- May 1, 2009 in Tampa FL.  See www.qualityplustech.com for further details and to register.

Let’s work together to make software intensive systems development successful – through scope management. It’s the right thing to do and takes advantage of the best-practices we already know and use!

Have a nice week!

Regards,
Carol Dekkers
Carol Dekkers email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com/

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright.

View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/ ============Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ============= Posted by Carol Dekkers Labels: ,

Industry Journal Invitation to "Premiere 100 IT Leaders Conference" - Caution!

Have you ever been invited to a party and then later un-invited? Well, something like this happened to me earlier in the week.

I received a personalized email from an IT industry journal telling me that because of my stature as an industry leader, I was being invited to attend their upcoming Premiere 100 IT Leaders Conference next month in Orlando, FL as their guest (and receive a complimentary $1795 valued pass to the conference) . I thought that their attendance was likely down this year due to financial times, and would want to boost their attendance by having industry leaders in their audience to further promote spinoff attendance.

I clicked on the registration link in the email, where they asked for further information so that they could process my invitation. THEN — when I had filled out and submitted the registration form, — the response screen said that my attendance would need to be APPROVED and that I would receive a confirmation email within hours. Excuse me? The journal management had invited me as their guest – why would someone need to approve me?

The promised email arrived only after I had sent a follow-up query – and, to my amazement – they denied my “Invitation”. It seems that, despite my email address clearly indicating showing my company name, they had overlooked that I am an independent consultant who advises CIO’s and other “C” level executives in large corporations about how to maximize their returns on their IT investments. I was now un-invited as their guest because I was not a senior IT executive employed by a big customer corporation (in other words an employee of a company who could be sold to by conference sponsors/vendors) – but, if I still wanted to attend, I could do so at a hefty new pricetag!

Maybe I am out of touch with the recessionary tactics that the industry journals such as this one use today, but it reeks of the tactics that banks use to lure people to their credit card programs — you receive a “pre-approved” credit card application in the mail, only to be “rejected” due to the fact that they sent out a mass mailing of applications to everyone with an address. (Perhaps you remember when dogs , whose owners had opened a bank account in their name, received personalized pre-approved credit cards in the 1980’s?) While this new mode of operation is a twist on the banking scheme, it is really the same tactic, and deserves the same the “bad taste in your mouth” response. The simple fact is that this industry journal didn’t do their own homework – and prefers to invite “industry leaders” upfront, then un-invite them if they don’t meet the demographic they had in mind on their guest list. This journal drops down several notches on my list for their haphazard way of treating IT leaders and subscribers. Their tactics of un-inviting in a bait and switch style of marketing is telling – this journal is interested purely in how much money they can wrestle from the hands of the IT world – not to impart knowledge or advance the industry as they purport.

Comments? Has anyone experienced a similar situation? It’s really quite comedic in these recessionary times, and somehow I am reminded of the old Groucho Marx line: I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.

Wishing you continued optimism – even on the most depressing of newsdays!

Regards,
Carol Dekkers
Carol Dekkers email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com/

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright.

View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/
============Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =============
Posted by Carol Dekkers Labels: ,

Ringling School of Design Summit 2008 - Observations from a non-designer

It was a refreshing change of pace to attend an evening session and reception at the Ringling College of Art and Design’s Sarasota International Design Summit, Oct. 27-29, 2008 just a short drive south in Sarasota, Florida (http://www.sarasotadesignsummit.com/). The evening session consisted of four presenters spread over two sessions and provided insights into the world of Google, Microsoft, Adobe and Roundarch. Being more of a design focused than an engineering focused summit, I was open to receive new ideas about topics related to user “experience” that tied in with some of my thoughts about culture and globalization. It was a rarity to be at a conference where I didn’t know anyone and where I was not presenting, and I was able to simply listen, observe, and digest the presentations. I’d like to share with you my highlights of the evening:

1. There is a distinct difference between web designers, students, and software engineers, and even in subdued lighting of the ballroom I sensed it. On average with the designers and students, the dress was more casual (more untucked shirts paired with jeans) than I’ve seen at most software engineering conferences. The gender split was also noticeable – with the designers and students, there was a 50/50 split, while most software engineering conferences are male dominated (at least 70/30 or more). Not surprisingly, the sessions at this conference were targeted on software development with a focus on enhancing the user “experience”. I’ve never been to a traditional SD conference where I’ve ever heard that emulating “second life” features on a website was seen as anything but gold-plating in software development, yet at the Design Summit, it was touted as a great way of enhancing the user experience.

2. There was no difference between the Design Summit ppt files and those in traditional software engineering or academic presentations I’ve seen. I was surprised that the colors and asthetics of slides were of similar quality to those I’ve become accustomed to seeing at any technology conference – I’m not sure why I expected the layout or color schemes to be superior here, but I did. In other words, the word density per slide, the propensity of too-small-fonts, and lack of color contrast was no different that at university and highly technical presentations the world over. It was as Edward Tufte purports, powerpoint has become a crutch in too many of our presentations, and we simply fail to realize the distraction caused by busy and unreadable slides.

3. All four speakers in the evening program were male (and under 40). While it may have been pure coincidence and timing that all presenters were male, unfortunately in the software industry as a whole, there is commonly a gender imbalance with the speaker lineup. I am often surprised to see the speaker lineup mismatched to the audience breakdown. Maybe I am cynical, but I just don’t buy the response given by conference organizers that “there are just so few female presenters in the field”. This should be unacceptable to attendees, especially if the overall quality of the “scheduled” presenters leaves something to be desired. Let me be honest here, the Design Summit presenters WERE very good, and there were female speakers on the overall conference agenda. In terms of age, as I grow older, I realize that this is the first time in history that we have four generations in our workforce we have today (Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z). I just noticed how much younger the featured evening presenters were at the Design Summit than at many other venues where keynoting experts typically are over 50.

I have more observations about the content of the presentations and particularly about how Google tackles design and how global the www world has become. I’ll post these in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, in summary, what did I learn from attending this special evening event at the Design Summit? It reinforced my belief that software developers need to spend more time reading and learning from outside the their field. In other words, read the industry journals that our customers read, and explore new fields instead of simply reading Information Week or Computer World. I know for me, when I venture outside the traditional world of software development and project management, I always discover new things that propel my ideas forward and beyond into new directions than what I first thought.

Have a good week!
Carol

The Future of Technology Conferences...

Depending on your age, you may or may not remember when… technology-centric conferences were in their infancy in the late 1970’s. It was a time of abundance and technology was new and exciting – and colleagues would sometimes select the conference for the half-year (two to four conferences a year was the norm) – based on the exotic locale?
Without reference to age, some of us even may remember when… conferences grew larger by the hundreds every year based on positive word of mouth and the location?
Remember when… budget and training dollars were granted when you applied to go to a particular conference, and then additional dollars were authorized when you found another equally “not to be missed” conference after you got back from the first?

Those were the boomtown eighties all right! Ok, I’m old enough to recall attending international specialty workshops, training seminars, and software development conferences with hardly more justification than the conference brochure – and we certainly didn’t need to submit triplicate copies for every lunch and coffee receipts for every day of every trip. Today, things are vastly different and the whole traditional, in-person conference is a big make it or break it expenditure for the corporations and not-for-profit groups alike. And, with the downward trend in attendance, it can take a single poorly attended conference to wipe-out an organization’s assets. What are the challenges that technical conferences are up against these days? Here’s a few of the emerging trends:

1. Increased competition for conference dollars

It is virtually impossible to keep up with the explosion of specialty “international” conferences that pop up almost weekly. It appears that anyone who sees that a buck can be made if you can just “tap the right market at the right time” seems to have gone into the conference business. ABCD (or some other clever 4 letter acronym) springs up and touts itself as “the provider of the premiere conference experience”. Or it is common to read “Ixxxx Institute presents the first ever blahblahblah conference” as a conference headline. Be careful how you allocate your conference dollars before you trust the printed brochure to make sure that value will be delivered. It is good practice (but not a common practice) to call the organizers ahead of time and ask for the names of five of last year’s attendees, then follow-up with them by phone or email to ask what they thought of their conference experience. Be wary if all of the attendees are board members or a member of the conference planning team. Otherwise, if the advice is “skip this one” – you know that you’ve probably saved your company travel money, conference fees, and workshop fees – and have crossed one tenuous conference off the list.

2. Conferences that sound too good to be true probably are.

Watch for fly-by-nights in today’s money hungry economy, there are those who think that any popular topic will pack a conference – and that is partially true. Agile, SOA, Open source and Web2.0 conferences are popular and currently still amassing good turnouts. When we’re talking about the amount of money generated at a well-attended conference (1000 attendees at $1000 per attendee is big bucks!), there are those who may get greedy and put customer satisfaction and value and speaker treatment on the bottom of their list of priorities. Make sure that all of the speakers listed for the conference will be appearing live and in person if you want to meet the speaker as there are conferences today that “beam in” a satellite feed of the speaker at another venue (like on the academy awards with entertainers who couldn’t make the live show!) or sometimes even run a pre-recording of the speaker delivering his/her presentation. Especially watch this at conferences where the speaker lineup appears just too plentiful and illustrious to be true – because it probably is!

3. Webinars and podcasts are the rage today

Remote, small bite sized presentations on a particular (usually highly focused) topic packaged as a low-cost or free webinar seem to increase weekly. While webinars were once limited to high-technology companies seeking to demonstrate their software remotely, the webinar and podcast (usually audio only as opposed to video for webinars) frequency have taken over the mainstream of technology offering topics ranging from coding tips to software development methodology. Why go to a conference if a webinar will deliver the information directly to your desktop?

4. Open universities

Did you know that anyone with an internet connection worldwide can attend classes remotely at MIT and other major universities throughout the world? While a degree is granted only to those paying students, others can watch and learn for no cost by simply accessing the university site and selecting the topic and date for the class and “tuning in” (double clicking on the selected video link). For example, Thomas Friedman’s lecture on his book The World is Flat from May 2005 at MIT can be readily viewed at anytime day or night. Visit MIT open university at http://mitworld.mit.edu/.

What’s the future for technology conferences? If there’s the right combination of location, people, topics, and proven good speakers delivering content rich presentations, then there will always be a market for well attended in-person conferences. However, miss one of the ingredients or have a stale or old school style conference where the same old presenters present the same old stuff at a conference run by the same old not-for-profit board members, and you’re going to see a decline in attendance no matter where you locate the conference.

It’s going to be interesting to see which conferences survive and thrive in 2009, and what conferences simply disappear from the landscape… any guesses from your vantage point?

Have a nice week!

Carol Dekkers
http://www.caroldekkers.com/
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————

What we have is a Failure to Communicate

I don’t know if you ‘ve been following the technology trends of the past year or so, but a few disparate headlines keep surfacing and are not easily dismissed:

  • The Percentage of Females entering Computer Science and Engineering Falls to an All Time Low (mainstream newspapers)
  • Is there a link between Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Skills in IT (SEPG conference presentation)
  • Communication is the Bigger Part of Project Management (frequent presentations on soft skills at PM conferences)
  • Innovation and Communication are two of the Areas not easily Outsourced (citing Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat”)
  • Barely 1/3 of IT Projects are Successful (Annual CHAOS reports by the Standish group)

Taken individually these topics seem harmless enough, but as I speak internationally on the topics of IT measurement, global software development (and the accompanying cultural issues), and the future of project management and quality in IT, I am struck by the common chord that permeates all of these headlines: we in computer science and engineering are stereotypically lacking in social and communication skills.

I can hear it now, anyone who’s been in software and systems development for more than six months is saying, “No ****! Say something we don’t already know!” I know from personal experience that few students enter engineering or computer science to gain people skills!

Recent research illuminates that computer science related professions – and in particular IT development – are so devoid of gratitude and basic human appreciation that women in particular find the environment uninhabitable over the long term. Gosh, it sounds like Mars – and in many ways, in many organizations, an IT career in software development is often like life on Mars may turn out to be. I do realize that there ARE places that are on the top 100 list of companies to work for in IT – and I applaud those companies who nurture their employees, take a solid interest in making sure that their technical experts don’t burn out, have ample opportunities, and a lifelong career. But, this is not the norm – at least not amongst the worldwide cadre of corporations represented at software and systems engineering conferences at which I speak. When I routinely ask “How quickly do you find out when you’ve done something wrong at work?” the answer is solidly quantified by minutes. However, when I ask the same question about doing the right things or going the extra mile – the answer is met with puzzled reactions that range from “NEVER!” to “if we’re lucky, maybe after a few months”.

What’s wrong with this picture???? We’re the same human beings that interface with parents and kids at soccer games, go out socially with friends, run governments, manage companies, you name it – the professionals involved in IT have the same lives as non-IT’ers – the need for friends, socialization, families, contact, movies, money, you name it – yet when we cross the threshold of our offices, it all goes out the window. (Yes, there ARE other professions that do this as well, but I’m talking about IT right now…)

One presentation of note at an SEPG (software engineering process group) conference of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in the US a few years back, conjectured that perhaps the dysfunctional communication and appreciation in the IT field could be attributed to “Asperger’s Syndrome” a form of early onset autism (for which the syndrome and accompanying diagnosis was not identified until 1972) – in which its sufferers lack the emotional empathy for others. In the presentation, the speakers were careful to caution audience members from labeling their co-workers who lack social skills as being autistic. But, it raised an interesting point – the room was filled to capacity and everyone seemed to be taking notes that they mentally could attribute co-workers to. I’ve never attended any other conference where professionals were eager to pin a lack of social skills of co-workers so readily on a medical condition. (A sidenote of interest was the research that showed a marked increase in the occurrence of early onset autism in Silicon Valley families where both parents worked in IT ).

Putting the SEPG presentation aside, still leaves the fact that soft skills are typically learned by osmosis or treated as “fluff” in IT (and engineering) despite the huge cost to our industry. During my engineering education, it was commonplace for colleagues to question why anyone would befriend non-engineers or attend non-engineering functions (which I did as a matter of course) – thinking that everyone else was either inferior (as if everyone in the world aspired to be an engineer!) or boring. Computer science wasn’t much better and the cirriculums were often devoid of communication courses. Yet, in IT those very skills are the most needed and missing. Software development is a human endeavor for the most part.

What can we do about changing our world? Say a kind word, thank someone who goes the extra mile – and make it a conscious effort until it becomes a habit. As Clint Eastwood said “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

I am of the firm belief that if we put people first and technology second in our IT initiatives, and we concentrate on truly listening and learning about each other from a human perspective, our IT programs will succeed more often. And isn’t process improvement and success what we need more of today – AND appreciation of the same?

Happy weekend!

Carol

http://www.caroldekkers.com/

http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————