Kerry Buckley

What’s the simplest thing that could possibly go wrong?

Archive for October, 2006

Process as a Substitute for Competence

one comment

An excellent post on Kill the Meeting, pointing out the insane amount of bureaucracy you end up with when writing code is treated as an unskilled production line activity.

On one recent project, the software development managers insisted on a 5-page requirements definition document, two management reviews of that document, a functional specification with four contributors, a peer review and a management review of that document, a detailed design document, a management review and sign-off of that document, and a test plan before development could begin on the code.

The code in question? Five lines of SQL.

Yes, a 2-hour project took over a month.

Some of that sounds horribly familiar from past projects. What’s the betting that the people writing and reviewing the documents could have written the code themselves in a fraction of the time they spend ‘saving money’ by contracting the work out, if only writing code wasn’t treated as a menial task to be discarded on promotion?

One issue with the conclusion though:

Unfortunately for me, I don’t think this is a process I can change here. It turns out that outsourcing development to India is so much cheaper that even if it takes four times as long, it’s still a net savings.

Even pretending that the offshore developers were free, that only holds true if the time spent in-house doing all the design, documentation and reviews was no more than eight hours, which sounds unlikely. To my mind, outsourcing software development to release your own people for ‘higher value’ work only costs in if you outsource the lot, from requirements to delivery. Otherwise you end up employing the same number of people just to keep the cheap developers on the right track.

Written by Kerry

October 31st, 2006 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Agile

BT agile awards (2)

leave a comment

Hot on the heels of the presentation for ‘best overall application of the agile manifesto’, we’ve just heard that we won ‘best overall application of the agile values’ for quarter two. BT’s agile values, incidentally, are the same as the values of of XP, ie communication, simplicity, feedback, courage and respect.

Written by Kerry

October 9th, 2006 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Agile,BT

BT agile awards

leave a comment

We had a team trip down to London yesterday to pick up our BT agile award for ‘best overall application of the agile manifesto’. We got a certificate each, a trophy for the team and a card signed by the top bods in BT’s IT division.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kerry

October 6th, 2006 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Agile,BT

The Blue Peter problem

one comment

A colleague recently posted (on an internal wiki, so unfortunately I can’t link to it) about the problem of people thinking that common agile “tools” such as whiteboards, index cards, freehand burndown graphs etc are a bit “Blue Peter,” and therefore not professional. He made a good suggestion, which was that you provide teams that are new to agile with official branded materials (story cards, pre-printed blank burndown charts and so on). They will accept these more readily, and will then embrace the underlying ideas and start using any old flipchart or whiteboard.

Here’s another argument for simplicity – admittedly from the world of TV fiction – which I’d put to people who think low-tech solutions are somehow not fit for purpose.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kerry

October 3rd, 2006 at 11:52 am

Posted in Agile

A wonderfully useless piece of software

leave a comment

The Dharma Initiative hatch clock reproduces the countdown clock from the second season of Lost, complete with sound effects and a terminal to type the numbers into to reset it. For the full experience, you can even set it to disable system sleep, so you really do have to “press the button” every 108 minutes (although as far as I can tell it doesn’t actually do anything dreadful if you let it run down!)

Utterly pointless, but nicely implemented and strangely compelling.

[Update] It does become slightly less compelling when you accidentally shut a cat in the room, it walks over the keyboard waking the machine from sleep, and you get woken at 4.30 AM by the “one minute to go” klaxon.

Written by Kerry

October 1st, 2006 at 6:47 pm

Posted in General nonsense