Technology

Jakob Nielsen on Agile/Lean

Today’s Alertbox on useit.com discusses how Agile software development is improving the focus on user experiences, and provides summary data showing the internal organizational satisfaction with the methodology.

Here’s the data:

Project Methodology Integration of
User Experience
Satisfaction
with the Method
Waterfall 2.5 2.9
Agile 3.1 3.7
Iterative 3.2 3.8

What is this saying?  Responses are on a scale of 1-5, with 5 “indicating the highest level of integration or satisfaction”.  It is comparing the different methodologies a development team can use, and how satisfied the teams were with the methodologies.

It shows that teams were much more satisfied with how much the customer was considered through the “Integration of User Experience” metric.  It also shows the team satisfaction is much higher using Agile.  I’m not really sure the distinction between Agile and Iterative in their research, as their methodologies are largely similar, but it’s clear which principles “win out”.  Both internal and external customers benefit from the approach.

More about Agile

Agile software development has many similarities to lean, and is one of the primary elements of the Lean-Agile method that NetObjectives uses.  You can see the similarities to lean in the principles of Agile development:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
By |2009-11-04T14:00:00+00:00November 4th, 2009|Technology|0 Comments

Alright, enough with the jargon already, just tell me where it hurts!

About to go on a rant…a rant about marketing speak.  I guess this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.  I guess what is probably frustrating for me is that seemingly a lot of people swoon and end up in a trance at the horse and pony show a lot of companies produce.  "Yes, oh great company [read, marketing organization], I do need a real-time collaborative knowledge management portal…I’ve never used those phrase in my life until now, but I’m sure I need that."  You know what?  What people really need are easy-to-use tools that provide information that people can take action on and make improvements to their organizations.  Maybe I’m just too pragmatic in my approach.

Unfortunately, I think too many people pour money into things that don’t actually solve the problems that they have in the first place, or that will really deliver the business results that they need.  [Side bar: I guess I’m guilty sometimes, too…I almost made the plunge into a time-share that we could not realistically taken advantage of…but they key is: almost.]  Scott Whitlock has an example (if his blog hasn’t moved yet) about pouring good money after bad.

The VP at one of my clients tells a great story every time I bring other potential clients in to see there company.  "Give me the $2 million you were to spend on the ERP package you were going to buy, I’ll kick you in the shins because that’s how implementation would have felt, and then go buy Thrive instead."   (for obvious reasons I’m a little biased in why I like this quote).  While blunt, his point is of course that unfortunately many organizations do fall for the lure the dressed-up sales speak thrown around big systems.  Of course, we all know how Kevin Meyer feels about this as well.

I have a lot of feelings about ERPs, but here’s my current favorite visual about enterprise applications (from Go Big Always):

ideabankruptcy1

So what do people need?  Well let’s start with why in the world would you collect data to begin with?  People want to know where the problems are.  We need to know that something went wrong (or that things are going well).  We need feedback.  We need to know where the opportunities lie.  And then people want to be able to manage the process of improvement and see results later that they did indeed reach the desired target.

I guess if you do this through integrated and browser-based portal rationalization systems that non-intrusively collect data from disparate sources and provide real-time, resource multiplying, supply chain enhancing solutions, then more power to you.

By |2009-02-06T12:21:50+00:00February 6th, 2009|Business, Information Management, People, Technology|0 Comments

Lean people on Twitter, anyone up for FriendFeed?

Hopefully making for some more useful conversation, I’m starting to find some more lean people on Twitter.  I’m starting to connect with people around the world that I otherwise would never meet.  Here they are in no particular order:

Are there more?  I’m sure they’re out there.  We could get some groups going…would really like to do this on FriendFeed though (see below).

I can be found here: http://twitter.com/scottsorheim.  I try to stay on the manufacturing side of things, but am generally interested in all things lean.  I, of course, develop software (primarily for manufacturing, but even that scope has crept a bit) and am interested in what’s happening in that arena as well.

What I’d really like to get going, though, is some more active participation on http://friendfeed.com.  I think it’s a much better place to share information and have conversations.  Maybe there’s already some lean stuff happening there, and I’m just not aware of it?  Please let me know if that’s the case.  I’m here: http://friendfeed.com/scottsorheim.

By |2009-01-02T12:50:20+00:00January 2nd, 2009|Healthcare, Manufacturing, People, Technology|2 Comments

Tools for your lean belt and your tech belt

Rob Tracy at Intek Plastics (one of my customers) has written this excellent synopsis on Driving Lean through Your Supply Chain.  Aside from discussing how the breakdown of your supply chain can negatively impact you and your customers and including a supplier checklist for your use, he also talks about the incorrect assumption that going overseas for suppliers is the best way to improve your supply chain.

In the global economy, you often get a better deal by choosing suppliers in low-cost countries — assuming that upfront cost is your only consideration. Forward-thinking domestic suppliers combat this threat by using lean methodologies to define and maximize value from their customers’ point of view. This could include services such as part design, ready-to-use components, shorter lead times, zero defect products and stockless production.

This kind of thought (that cheaper overseas suppliers is the way to go) and the thought that US manufacturing is on the decline are myths that Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence has been working to dispel quite often lately.

Now, my tech tool for the day.  How did I come across the aforementioned Intek Plastics white paper?  I recently started using Google Alerts.  They are a great way to get current information about new stuff popping up around the net about your favorite topics.  I’ve been using it to get news and info about lean, technology, and even my customers.  Great stuff!

By |2008-07-28T14:56:34+00:00July 28th, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People, Technology|0 Comments

Software doesn’t innovate, software doesn’t make decisions

…and software can’t manage people.  This is the tag-line for our Thrive product.  Why?  Because this is true.  Software by itself typically adds no value to the process it is analyzing (this is a very scary thing for a software vendor to say!).  It is the interaction with software…the entering of data, the analysis of data, the interaction with the data, the interaction of people together in response to the data.  That is where the value comes into play.  Software enables people to be more productive..it streamlines operations in collecting, analyzing, and managing information that surely could be accomplished manually, but when was the last time you used an abacus?  It enables them to see data in an aggregated visual manner that otherwise couldn’t be accomplished with a cursory glance at a set of data.

Robert X Cringely discusses SAP implementations on his blog (link courtesy of Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence from his blog entry).

Putting in an ERP system isn’t going to improve the business by itself: you still have to figure out what the data means and make decisions.

Of course, this is often the case: that people expect that just by putting the system in place they will see impact to the bottom line.  He goes on to say:

The problem is there is not enough return on investment from the ERP system itself to justify the cost. You need more. The real savings must come from improving your firm’s business processes. So a huge business redesign project is often coupled with many ERP projects.

And this is where I would argue you generally don’t get the information you need to improve your business processes.  The ERP is so financially focused (and the information is always end-of-the-month reactionary data), it does not effectively expose where the true operational waste is coming from.  A department that appears to be over budget could be that way because of waste caused by upstream or downstream operations.

Cringely’s article is interesting, because he argues that ERP’s are difficult to use by design, so that the ERP companies can pull in more revenue through consulting.

What do I need shoes for?

A couple weeks ago I posted about the relevance of a football coach knowing how to tie his shoes.  I argued he doesn’t need to know how to do this as long as he has a great strategy and someone else to oversee the proper selection and use of said shoes.  Well, today I read this about McCain, and it does indeed sound like not only does this potential coach sound like he doesn’t know how to tie his shoes (can’t use a computer), and he has no strategy for technology either.

By |2008-07-08T12:47:11+00:00July 8th, 2008|People, Politics, Technology|0 Comments

Does the coach need to know how to tie his shoes?

Let’s imagine that Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts didn’t know how to tie his shoes.  We actually don’t know if he knows how to tie his shoes.  We assume he does.  But let’s say he didn’t.  Let’s say he has Mr. Equipment Manager on his staff ensure that he always goes onto the field with shoes on.  Let’s also assume that Mr. Equipment Manager, recognizing that equipment selection is an important part of making their football team successful, is also responsible for outfitting the team with shoes.  Now the players may understand how to tie their own shoes and put on their own gear, but it’s Mr. Equipment Manager who invests the time to determine what is the best set of tools for the team to ensure victory every Sunday.

Tony Dungy, who led his team to a Super Bowl victory, quite possibly did it without knowing how to tie his shoes.  Does this bother anybody?  Not me.  But I think the tech community might be concerned.

I don’t get worked up by a lot of things, but the tech community (of which I consider at least peripherally involved, considering I make software for the manufacturing industry) has certainly gotten me frustrated as of late.

The most recent involves the discussion I’ve been watching that is taking place at the Personal Democracy Forum 2008, more specifically comments regarding McCain and the fact (?) that he does not know how to use a computer.  And now there is some “giggling” among some regarding this video.  Regardless if I am a McCain supporter (I am not…my candidate’s gone), do I expect “Can use a computer” to necessarily be on the president’s resume?  And what are they expecting out of the president when he/she is on the computer?  Should they be using email?  Word?  Twitter?  Programming in VB.NET?

It seems like there could be countless equivalencies in other areas:

  • I would expect the president to understand the value of healthcare, but should I expect him/her to know how to operate a blood pressure monitor?
  • I would expect the president to understand the value of national security, but do I expect him/her to know how to actually gather intelligence?
  • I would expect the president to understand the value of education, but do I think he/she needs to be able to write a lesson plan?
  • I would expect the president to understand the importance of infrastructure, but do I think he/she should be able to operate road paving equipment?
  • And the reason for the post: I would expect the president to understand the value of technology, but do I think he/she needs to be able to operate a computer?

It just seems weird to me.  I hope the president is a great leader.  A great leader would understand the value of these things.  A great leader would be able to lead great people in moving the country forward.  So I would expect the president to hold other people accountable for ensuring success in the respective areas I mentioned above.

I sure hope the president’s typical day isn’t filled with activities like this:

  • Spent time examining the manual for new medical imaging device
  • Wrote curricula for fourth grade science and seventh grade literature classes
  • Searched for and found 15 new friends on Facebook

Of course this is a generalization, but the tech community seems to me to be a gigantic high school clique that is sitting around snickering about the “kick me” sign they stuck on someone’s back today.  And they’re passing notes back and forth on Twitter and laughing because the teacher doesn’t know it’s happening.

By |2008-06-24T16:43:33+00:00June 24th, 2008|Culture, People, Politics, Technology|3 Comments

Alltop: do you really like staring at a magazine rack?

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t.  Guy Kawasaki (author of one of my favorite books, The Art of the Start) recently launched Alltop.com, which he has branded as "the online magazine rack" for information from the "top publications and blogs".  I’m sure in a lot of circles (okay, maybe most circles), there has been zero buzz about Alltop (I guarantee my wife, my friends, my dad, my in-laws, general public have never heard of it…I would venture that no one I have been in contact within the last week has heard of it).  In the world of bloggers and technologists, there has been much discussion, and of course if you subscribe to Guy’s twitter-feed (what in the world is twitter?) you would know that just about every other tweet has something to do with Alltop.

Magazines

Does this picture look interesting to you?  This is "push" not "pull"

…then you might like Alltop.  If being inundated with information and you like "browsing" then Alltop will provide a great place to browse and start getting information.  Alltop gives ("pushes" from a consumer standpoint) all of the latest headlines from around the Internet.  The "magazines" are arranged into categories and sub-categories (like work, living, people and within those maybe career, food, and egos).  If you don’t really know what you’re looking for, this might be helpful.  However, the "magazine" most useful to you may not be available on this "magazine stand" because the information for "sale" is being determined by the magazine-rack owner.

The people that probably most need Alltop don’t know about Alltop

Referring back to the people I mentioned that don’t know about it–my wife, dad, general public, etc.–these are the people that are less inclined to use some kind of RSS aggregator to subscribe to blogs.  Understanding blogs and the technology and usefulness behind them is not easy for this group of people.  They could benefit from finding this magazine rack of headlines from different blogs to start finding useful information.  However, since all of the buzz (as far as I can tell) about Alltop mostly exists within the community of bloggers and people that are already living in "this world", then the people that need it the most are still missing out.

The people who know about Alltop probably don’t need it

Guess who’s talking about Alltop the most?  The people that have been featured on Alltop!  Wouldn’t you?  I suppose I might have a completely different opinion about Alltop if I was featured on it.  However, I would surmise that generally these people do not need Alltop because they are probably already to subscribing to the information most relevant to them.  I can’t imagine any of them would actually spend much time "browsing" the "magazine-rack" at Alltop.

I want the stuff delivered to my front door: "pull"

I contend that people who still want the information delivered to their "front door" will still use RSS aggregators.  I want to subscribe to the information I want ("pull") and not have to fish through everything else to get what’s most relevant to me.  I don’t want 200 magazines dropped on my doorstep everyday that I have to waste time fishing through to find the things I’m interested in.

When would I use it

Okay, having said all that, there are instances I would use it.  Old-school instances would be like the old days of going to the public library or accessing some other reference material.  For example, if I suddenly took an interest in cooking, I would probably start at food.alltop.com to find some useful information.  However, I would never make food.alltop.com my browser homepage.  I would find the sites most relevant to my needs and then subscribe to things I would want updates on.

Summary

If you normally spend a lot of time at the airport or on a street corner staring at the endless choices of publications available, then Alltop is your online substitution.  If you are busy and want to use your limited time to get information most relevant to you, then stick to your preferred method of subscribing to online resources.

By |2008-03-17T11:19:56+00:00March 17th, 2008|Culture, Innovation, Life, People, Technology|4 Comments

Ain’t technology sumthin’

Yesterday, did all of the following to work and stay connected with the world:

  • Remotely administered three computers in three different cities (and printed documents on a printer during one of those interactions)
  • Talked on my cell phone
  • Used Skype to call people (when my cell phone battery was dying and had no outlet nearby)
  • Used instant messenger to communicate with customers, friends, and family
  • Sent and received emails
  • Sent and received text messages on my phone

And all of this was done at a small table underneath the stairs by the coffee bar at my church.

And yesterday I realized that cell phone text messaging capabilities have probably made a "technology" of days past obsolete: passing notes in class at school.

By |2008-03-14T11:47:33+00:00March 14th, 2008|Life, Technology|0 Comments

Another resource and some blogger accountability

Had a great conversation with Scott Whitlock of Flexware Innovation last Friday. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a little island working on technology solutions for manufacturing companies (and I guess a tech company in rural Iowa kind of is a little island), but it was good to talk with Scott because we could share in the experiences we’ve had in setting out to solve problems and build the better mousetrap for manufacturers.  Scott and his team are developing MES solutions, so if you have a need, check it out!

And, even if nothing else came out of our conversation, at least Scott provided me with some much-needed blogger accountability.  During our conversation he noticed my conspicuous absence in making postings (dating back to November 13, 2007–Yikes!), and then even referred to me in his blog.  Hence, the abundance of my posts over the last couple days!

By |2008-03-06T23:38:58+00:00March 6th, 2008|Manufacturing, People, Technology|0 Comments