Uncharted Waters


December 19, 2016  12:51 PM

How to Estimate Anything

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
IT, PM, PMP, Project management, Projects, quality

How to EstimateSeveral years ago, (so many I can’t find the original blog post, even here), I claimed that because of the amount of unknowns, creating a real estimate was impossible. My friend Ben Simo left a comment, saying “Two Weeks.”

I guess I didn’t say it had to be accurate.

Tom Demarco once claimed the way most estimation is done is to guess a number just hard enough that the technical team is scared, but not aggressive enough that they laugh at you. If they breathe a sigh of relief, DeMarco suggested that [bad] management can find some emergency reason to make the dates more aggressive.

Here’s the kicker: Most organizations can see a massive increase in prediction accuracy using a technique I call the Heusser Estimation method – a method I’m willing to give away, on my blog, for free, right now. Continued »

December 12, 2016  5:53 PM

Nest Protect Product Review

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
home automation, Product Reviews

Having a newborn makes you (or rather, me) re-prioritize things. My house has the original smoke detectors from when it was built in 2009. There is nothing wrong with them if you ignore the fact that they go off if you over cook dinner. Or the occasional 3 am chirps to let you know that one of the 4 smoke detectors in the house needs a new battery. This seemed like an ideal time to upgrade the smoke detector near the nursery to something that has a carbon monoxide detector built in. And also something a little more modern that I could monitor from my phone.

A couple of years ago I bought and installed a Nest Thermostat. I have been very happy with that and decided to go with a Nest Protect based on reviews and my personal experience with the brand.

Here is what I think about the Nest Protect so far.

Continued »


December 12, 2016  2:15 PM

Gift Ideas for tech friends

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
Books, Christmas, comedy, gifts

This blog, Unchartered Waters, is designed to help people. Sometimes, the help is advice on how to estimate projects. Other times, it’s how to negotiate. Today, I’d like to write about what to gift ideas for your tech friends. Specifically, little stocking stuffers – small gifts, between $5 and $25. I tend to like toys, games and books that lead to a conversation. People can react poorly to a book, because it implies an investment of time, while a game says “I want to spend time with you on something fun…”

Here are a few ideas.

Continued »


December 7, 2016  8:04 PM

Motivating Tech Workers

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
incentives, IT compensation, motivation

I did something stupid a couple of days ago, I got into an argument on twitter. Someone made a post claiming monetary incentives always harm performance. The word always being used there made my head spin, and I just couldn’t resist.

I have been reading a book called Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci over the past couple of days. Deci is a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and has spent a significant amount of time researching different types of motivation and how they affect performance. Like with any psychological study, the results are varied and difficult to understand. But, there are a few common themes, and I think they apply to how technical people are compensated.

Here is my take on motivation and incentive plans crossed with a little academia.

Continued »


November 28, 2016  10:21 AM

Now here: Visual Studio for Mac

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
Apple, C, Macintosh, OSX, Programming, Visual Basic, Visual Studio

Visual Studio for MacFor twenty years, Microsoft has been a Windows company. The original phones were supposed to run a true version of Windows; Bill Gates wanted Windows to run on the original Xbox. Windows 8 was a ground-up reboot of the operating system, designed to have tablets, phones, and laptops all run the same core code. Microsoft’s programming tools, called Visual Studio, ran on Windows, which is also where Microsoft Office ran. When it came out, Windows cloud, Azure, allowed you to run windows on the internet.

All that is changing. All of it.

Xbox never did run windows. It turned out that a single operating system for all form factors is not a great idea. Windows 8’s touch screen assumptions didn’t really work well with laptops, and Microsoft backed off in Windows 10.

Azure allows user to run Linux now. The big news, however, is bigger news.

No, it’s not that Visual studio is coming to the Mac. The big news is why, and what that means.

Continued »


November 28, 2016  8:56 AM

Being a Tech Change Agent

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Change agent, Leadership, Thought leadership

A few years ago I was working on a first generation iPad app designed to help medical professionals document surgical cases in real time. A patient would come into the operating room, and a nurse or doctor would take notes using this iPad app on the patients vitals, and what drugs were being administered. The app was data intensive, had a lot of custom controls, and was maybe more complicated than it needed to be. The initial releases were plagued by problems — crashes, data loss, and some generalized slowness.

Customers were getting angry and threatening to not renew their contracts. We had to change something in our development process. I had a few ideas on what could be done — a few layers of code quality practices and test automation. Our manager at the time had his own ideas — metrics program to try to measure how many problems were introduced and caught each release, and also a consultant. We ended up using some of his ideas and none of mine.

I spent my last few months there being grumpy about a dismissive manager that wouldn’t assimilate an idea that was clearly good into what we were already doing.

Why did my attempt at being a tech change agent fail?

Continued »


November 18, 2016  11:48 AM

Careerist Guide: The Firing Gambit

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
career, Office Politics

The Screwtape Letters are written to a firing gambit-like audience.The Screwtape letters by C.S. Lewis are told from the perspective of a demon writing to his nephew about how to corrupt man. Of course, the real intended audience was good people trying to avoid life mistakes and pursue virtue. In the spirit, I’ve decided to write a careerists guide, telling you the things a careerist might do. Our first careerist example is the firing gambit.

Before I get to that, a bit more about the guide.

Most of our readers have a sense of justice. They want the world to be right, for the right behaviors to be rewarded. Careerists recognize that is not so, and exploit the system, making the right friends, damaging the reputation of rivals, and using whatever tricks are necessary to advance.

Sadly, the world is not just. That does not mean you have to become a careerist, but you might want to understand what the tricks are, so you can notice and counter when they are used on you. As a bonus, you might also want to know when your own activities that “should” be neutral as shooting you in the foot.

Let’s get started.

Continued »


November 16, 2016  6:11 PM

Lean Healthcare Management

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Efficiency, hospital information systems, Lean management, Lean principles

My wife and I had our first son born this past Monday. People have been giving us advice for months — make sure you enjoy your last few sleeps, this and that are difficult, your life will be completely different. But of course, it takes experience for any of that to register. It’s been an interesting few days.

We went on a short walk this afternoon to enjoy our first sunshine since Saturday morning while Grandma watched baby boy. We were talking about some of the testing doctors do for newborns, normally just a few hours after birth. This talk was a good reminder of one of the downsides of lean principles and expediency.

Continued »


November 15, 2016  9:35 AM

Hidden Agendas in the Office

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
agenda, Office Politics, politics

A worker has a hidden agenda for her coworkerThis new job is amazing! Shouts your old friend into your ear. I’ve gotten more done in three months than I did at three years at LastJob! Best of all, there are no hidden agendas. Everything is out in the open.

Until, over time, he slowly realizes it isn’t.

The thing about hidden agendas is that they are, well … hidden.

Today I’d like to write about how to discover those agendas as early as possible, ideally before starting on the job. Continued »


November 7, 2016  11:39 AM

Agile Retrospective Ideas

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Agile, Retro, Scrum

A few things happen at the end of every agile release cycle if you’re dong agile ‘by the book’– a demo to show off what will be delivered to the customer, a meeting to start talking about what to develop for the next sprint, and a retrospective.

The retrospective is an airing of grievances with teeth. People talk about what went well over the past two weeks. But more importantly, they talk about what didn’t go well and what they what they might do about. In my experience, the retrospective is a sign of dysfunction.  Not the retrospective itself, driving toward improvement is good, but the fact that there is a dedicated meeting.

Let me tell a couple of stories.

Continued »


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