Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sticky Metaphors for Software Projects: Bankable Builds, Surgical Mode

In this post I share an experience from a recent project where I influenced the senior management team to change strategy & tactics, by moving away from the standard Development->Integration->QA Team 1->QA Team n (which lasted anywhere between 2-4 weeks) approach to a more controlled Agile, Iterative/Lean approach of weekly Build & Test cycles, to a build-every-three-days, in order to make the deadline (that was fixed). We did this entirely manually, where our Agile processes were still coming of age, and had little in terms of real-world continuous integration. What I wanted to share really, is the way in which I influenced and got people to change their mindset, by using simple metaphors that were actually quite powerful, and can be used to sell similar stories:
  • Bankable Builds - Reusing concepts from The Weakest Link
  • Surgical Mode - Taking a page from medicine - Surgery is about precision, don't do more than what's required
It is interesting that these concepts really stuck with the entire department, so much so that it's become part of the common vocabulary - almost every project now talks about Bankable Builds & Surgical mode!

The post is presented as follows:
Note: Like any high-profile project with intense management focus, the decision to make these changes came from senior management, which put a spanner in the works with respect to granting our "Agile" team autonomy & empowerment. Although a little resistance was felt at the lower levels, the teams nevertheless remained committed to do-what-it-takes to ship the product. The teams and vendors did share their concerns in the retrospective feedback that the one-week release cycle was quite problematic to the point of chaotic with large overheads.

The facts can't be disputed though, that our agility was indeed flawed from the get-go by not having a solid continuous build, integration & regression test environment (lacking automation) in place. It was a struggle, with a lot of manual overhead, but it was a necessary intervention, that got us to launch on time. Not having done so, would have meant us missing the target deadline, the project was too high-stakes to ignore this intervention.

Going forward however, the principles of bankable builds is still a solid one, one that is well known to teams with mature software processes, I can't emphasise the value of investing in up-front automation with continuous build, daily regression testing & automated component / system tests will help make life so much easier for software development teams.

Invest time and effort getting the foundations set up at the expense of churning out code, continuing to do so will build a huge backlog for QA down the line, teams ending up spinning-their-wheels in putting out fires that would've been avoided, had the right discipline been set in place.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Custom Voice Recoder App: Instant Recorda

OK, before I get labelled for being lazy and not searching enough on the iOS Appstore or Google Play store, I have searched but couldn't find the specific features I need from the various Voice Recorders out there. Perhaps you might have come across a suitable app, so please get in touch with me!

Basic Idea / Elevator Pitch
The idea was borne from the many commutes to work and back, listening to the car radio, or reading some big billboards that caught my attention. For me, when listening to adverts on the radio, or some plugs during an radio interview, I would try to make a mental note (especially some new websites to check out), or when checking out some billboard, try to remember the site or key terms to follow-up for later in the day or whenever I have some free time.

What happens often though, by the time my journey is over, I've forgotten most of the stuff I wanted to follow-up on! What was that URL again??

So I thought wouldn't it be nice that whenever I came across something interesting to follow-up, there would be something that I just trigger, or tag for follow-up, it will record the last audio stream of whatever it heard: If the radio was playing and I gave the signal like "Tag", then the last ten seconds would be recorded. If I saw a billboard whilst driving, then I speak it out, and say "Tag" and presto, it gets recorded. At the end of the day, I go back an review all the things I tagged (no need for me to forget anymore). You could also have some way of triggering the device to record, hit the screen or button, or something - the trigger will just instruct the device to save the audio buffer into this playlist.

Then I thought about it a bit more, realised this could even be useful in the work-place as well, during meetings or keynotes, just take stuff for following up (audio stream).So I thought there should be an app for this: Call it instant Recorda :-)

Basically the app listens in the background, constantly recording the audio stream, waits for the trigger, and saves the last ten seconds. The file is tagged by date & time, and could be stored in playlist of some sort. And the opportunities grow from there… I have discussed this idea with colleagues and friends, they seemed quite positive about it, so hopefully there is some merit in pursuing this further.

Idea is shared Public on Trello
I've started a draft backlog of the work to do, sharing in public with the rest of the world. If any app developer comes across this, please get in touch!Check it out here: