Uncharted Waters

September 25, 2018  9:28 PM

The Product Management Unicorn

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

How many good product managers have you worked with? Like, actually worked with, not just a friend of a friend. I’d guess not very many. I know 2 product managers that I would consider legitimately good. After a few years working in software, and meeting a few product managers, it’s strange how few are standouts.

I was talking with friend about this the other day and some of the reasons started to become clear. Some organizations treat product managers as a soft skills group, people that have “people skills” (a la Office Space) but didn’t get an undergrad in computer science. I think product managers should one of the most skilled roles in a development organization

Continued »

September 20, 2018  11:49 AM

Surprising Secrets of Social Media

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
social media

Social Media 01About ten years ago, a new job category emerged: The Social Media Manager. This is a person that “does” social media for a brand, such as Ivory Soap, HBO, or Old Spice. Twitter, for example, was one of the first Social Media platforms used to “Social Media Marketing.” I have a few thousand followers there and run a technology consulting company. As such, I am arguably well-poised to know what a Social Media Manager does and how they benefit companies.

I have no idea.

The simple approach is to use Social Media too deploy coupons, which will drive customers. Pay the Social Media Manager to pay for advertisement in order to offer a deep discount.Once the discount is deep enough to create action, the profit is usually gone. That is, after all, the Groupon offering, which turns out to be a bad deal for most businesses.

It’s probably safer to say that I know what Social Media Marketing is not — or what does not work.

Here’s some thoughts on what it could be. Continued »

September 13, 2018  12:55 PM

Modern Test Fundamentals – The Work

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
test, Testing

The Waterfall paper impacts testIn an interview on 7/24/2018 I mentioned the work of DeMarco, Lister and Weinberg. Those books may seem dated. Then again, the choice is read them or re-discover the learning yourself, one mistake at a time. For the most part I was talking about software delivery, but those lessons occur in test as well.

Let’s talk about them.

It’s been nearly fifty years since Winston Royce published “Managing The Development of Large Software Systems.” The ripples from the the impact of that paper continue to resound. Today we’ll cover the implications of that paper, particularly on test, how that played out in how the work is done — and a few of the more modern ways of thinking about test.

Continued »

September 6, 2018  8:29 PM

Negotiation Worst Practices

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

NegotiationI’m not a fan of best practices, but from time to time I do like to think about worst practices. These are ideas that sound tempting, are done commonly, and yet never seem to work.

After seven years of running Excelon, I’ve made a whole pile of mistakes. Here are a few of them.

Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid them. Continued »

August 30, 2018  10:56 PM

The Agile Industrial Complex

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

I wish that literary was mine, but this one belongs to Martin Fowler. He used this phrase in his keynote at the Agile 2018 conference to describe the large monetary system that has been built around agile since 2001. You can read the full transcript here.

Most software practitioners experience the agile industrial complex in the form of Less, DaD, SAFe, and certifying bodies. The complex takes waterfall process and organizational structure and renames everything. There is no real change in process or teams.

I don’t have a lot of experience working in that type of environment, but I know it exists. I do have experience working in the exact opposite though. So, what does it look when I work outside of the complex? Continued »

August 28, 2018  9:34 PM

Managing Empowered Teams

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

I keep thinking about the Rambo movie, the first one, First Blood I think it was called. The movie wasn’t great, but the monolog at the end is legitimately good. Rambo was discharged from the military, was trying to reincorporate into society and was severely neglected. Despite being in the military, he was independent and made choices for himself.

Self empowered teams are like this. They don’t sit, they don’t wait, they see a problem and approach it. Managing them is hard, or rather, finding a manager is a fit for managing them is hard.

Continued »

August 28, 2018  12:57 PM

Need Community? Start your own BarCamp

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
Functional programming

Barcamp SignLast weekend I went to BarCamp Grand Rapids, a two-day conference with no pre-set agenda. Attendees show up, have a meal covered by sponsors, propose their own sessions, and talk about … whatever they want to talk about. The conference follows the general principles of open space:

  • Whoever comes are the right people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could’ve
  • When it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over

The ideals of creation and collaboration are built into Barcamp. With 25-minute sessions in Grand Rapids, the conference is basically built out of what might otherwise be hallway conversations. It’s no surprise that Socialtext, the same company that made the first commercial wiki product, which turned the web into a read/write collaboration, also hosted the first Barcamp.

Here’s what happened at Barcamp Gr. Continued »

August 21, 2018  7:08 PM

Information Hiding

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
culture, hiding, information, Management

Reward Poster Information HidingEmployee engagement, customer service, and evaluation programs are all designed to align the success of the company and the person.

Except when they don’t.

Under stack ranking, one more five means someone else needs to get a one. Another co-workers success means your failure. As a result, every employee has an incentive to hide information.

Let’s say you are hired into such an organization, or perhaps wake up one morning with a slow, dawning awareness that you already work in such a culture.

Now what? Continued »

August 16, 2018  11:37 PM

The Work Interrupt

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

stop interruptionsTwo of my heroes of software development are Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister, the authors of PeopleWare. Thirty-one years ago, they pointed out that humans working together are the important part of delivery — more than the code or the hardware. In addition to designing respectful office spaces and getting teams to gel, the authors talked about the damage done by the work interrupt.

At the time, the worst interrupt they could think of was the ringing phone. Programmers, after all, needed to focus without an interrupt for hours at a time. After all, a single interrupt of five minutes can drop a programmer out of the ‘zone’, and require half an hour to come back. Add enough interrupts to the day, and our hapless programmers can get nothing done.

DeMarco and Listers solution in 1987 was to disconnect the ringing phone and make sure the rowdy sales department stayed in the other room.

Let’s talk about today.

Continued »

August 9, 2018  9:52 AM

Name It Claim It

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

High Powered Executives Name it, Claim ItI’m sitting in the office of a high-powered executive, and they tell me how the entire technical staff is “bought in to Agile” and uses BDD to enable continuous delivery.

Then I go talk to the people.

It turns out that builds are performed by the “build master” checks the code out of version control, going into Visual Studio, loading the project, pressing Ctrl+Shift+B, getting an executable, and copying it over to production. There are several different projects and some teams can deploy a few times a week.

As for BDD, some of the lead testers create “given when then” acceptance criteria that are sent to a developing nation for testing. There is no evidence of collaboration, no shared understanding. When the “specs” fail, we still have a silly argument about what the software should do, what the “given when then” means and if it is correct.

When I ask to see the tests running, I am told that the technical staff cannot show me a test run. The offshore testers run them overnight. No one at the corporate headquarters knows how to run them.

This is an example of “Name it, Claim it”, which is far too popular in Software Delivery Today.

Continued »

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