Do You Know It All?

Last week’s Technology That Fits newsletter (sign up here) stimulated some interesting discussions. I showed the following graphic:

Doomed Projects

Everybody agreed that projects that choose good tools for good reasons are good, and projects that choose bad tools for bad reasons are bad. But some disagreed on Learning and Lucky categories above.

I call projects that choose good tools for bad reasons “lucky”. They are CMMI level 1 – sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail, and they never get any wiser. I’m not recommending you accept that as a satisfactory state of affairs, but for an individual project, being lucky is enough to pull off a success.

Projects that seem to have good process but make tool choices you disagree on are “Learning” projects. Some people will walk out or loudly complain if their favorite tool is not used. I find that to be a narrow-minded approach. If clever people have chosen a different approach from you, it means you have an opportunity to learn. Don’t think only you have all the answers.

Put Your Parents in the Cloud

If you’re going home for Christmas, you will probably be asked to have a look at your parents’ computer. If they are not already set up for cloud services, make sure you spend a few hours getting all their stuff into the cloud.

For organizations, there are many interesting and relevant discussions to have before deciding whether a cloud-based solution is right for you. But for private consumers, it is a no-brainer that all their data should reside safely in the cloud.

Several people I know in my parents’ generation have had their laptops stolen or lost them due to fire, flood or other calamities. Most of these were not set up for cloud services, which meant that irreplaceable vacation photos as well as important documents and emails were lost.

I’ve set up my parents with

  • IMAP mail with their ISP (they used to run POP3 which placed all mail locally on the machine)
  • Microsoft OneDrive for documents and photos (they run Windows and the generous 15GB limit means that a free account is enough)
  • Google Play (for their music, which did not fit under the 15GB but easily comes under the 20,000 song limit for free Google Play account)
  • Norton 360 for antivirus etc

Make sure you give the gift of Cloud safety this year :-)

You’re Not Here to Write Code

Too many programmers think that their job is to write code. It isn’t.

The job of the programmer is to help the business solve a problem using appropriate technology for the task at hand. The programmer knows (or should know) the available tools and will hopefully select the right one for the task.

Unfortunately, too many programmers suffer from framework-phobia and don’t trust any code they have not written themselves. That takes more time, causes more bugs and will be harder to maintain down the line. Use good frameworks and solve problems!

use_the_framework

Useful vs Useless Meetings

As I wrote about in my last post, some meetings are incredibly useful and productive. But, as the Wall Street Journal just pointed out, many meetings are a complete waste of time.

Meeting Contribution

The difference lies in whether the meeting has a clear purpose that is articulated in advance. By making the purpose clear up front, you can also make an informed decision about which people are likely to be able to contribute meaningfully, and which people will just be eating donuts and checking Facebook. Don’t invite the latter group.

The above graph is from this week’s issue of the Technology That Fits newsletter, where I discuss the issue further. Sign up here.

Don’t Try to Solve it Alone

One of the members of the Danish Oracle User Group was facing a difficult technical challenge. They wanted to tap into the collective wisdom of the user group, so we set up what we call a mastermind meeting. Lured by an interesting challenge (and the offer of beer and food afterwards), a number of experienced developers showed up. The problem was presented, and the group suggested and discussed solutions. It was magical to watch how each idea triggered the next, until we had come up with an excellent solution we were confident would work, as well as a workable fallback solution.

If you are faced with an important decision in your IT architecture, do not try to find the solution on your own. Even the best and most experienced IT architects do not posses a magical quality that allows them to always deduce the ideal answer. The quality of your decision grows exponentially with the number of knowledgeable people you involve. Gather a small group and discuss your challenge – you will find that the group together will come up with a much better solution than any one member could.

My Business User Doesn’t Understand Me

As an IT developer, you know that the business doesn’t understand IT. You’ve probably tried to explain IT problems many times just to see their eyes glaze over. On the other hand, you don’t really understand what the business does – all you care about is to have a clear spec to code from.

That’s why projects fail. The specification contains very little information and is completely inadequate as a means of knowledge transfer. Since we can’t teach the business IT, we need to learn business.

The Programmer's ResponsibilityThis illustration is from today’s Technology That Fits newsletter. Sign up at www.techthatfits.com.

Don’t Make it Easiest for Your Users to Leave

My bank just sent me a whole stack of papers to fill in, supposedly necessary to fight money laundering. The funny thing is, the bank already has all of this information from when I opened my account. But won’t just ask me to confirm my info – they insist on sending me blank forms so I have to dig up various legal documents to find registration numbers etc. The result is that I’ve decided to switch banks – since I have to do the paperwork, I might as well do it at another bank in the hope that they are more customer-minded.

In enterprise IT, you are facing the same situation today. Your users can defect to a cloud service any day if you insist on making life difficult for them. My bank is stuck in the mindset that the customers have to put up with whatever the bank asks. Too many IT organizations still have a similar mindset. But times have changed, and IT departments that don’t listen to their customers will become extinct. Don’t be a dinosaur.

The Future of Oracle ADF

At Oracle OpenWorld, there was a lot of Oracle ADF material. I presented on Oracle ADF Bindings as part of the well-attended ADF track on User Group Sunday, and Oracle also gave some very interesting presentations on new and coming features in ADF. For example there is now an ADF component that you can use to visualize any network of nodes and edges.

But what struck me more was the fact that when Oracle buys a cloud-based offering, they tell them to re-develop the stuff in Oracle ADF. Yes, that’s right – you will be seeing Taleo, RightNow, CPQ and other recent acquisitions move to ADF.

The reason is of course that all of Oracle’s cloud offerings must run on the Oracle cloud in a unified infrastructure, and ADF is part of that. The future of ADF is bright.

Getting Angry Doesn’t Help

I was in an advanced training class recently where several participants had problems completing the fairly complex hands-on exercises. Most examined the error messages carefully, re-read the instructions and solved the problem. But a few became irritated, read the instruction poorly, skipped parts, made unconsidered changes to their environment, and soon became helplessly stuck.

Getting angry at the computer, the software, the course material and the instructor does not help. Instead, it degrades your reasoning skills, which lead to you making more errors, which makes you more angry.

You need to be aware of how you feel. If you feel irritated at the computer,  stand up and take a break. Once you have calmed down, your tunnel vision dissipates and you can find the solution.

Counting Down Your Life

When technological innovations like flexible manufacturing come together with business innovations like crowdfunding, interesting things can happen. A guy had an idea for a watch that counts backwards, submitted it to Kickstarter and the Tikker watch was born.

The idea is that by becoming more aware of time passing, you will work on the important things in life. I’m wearing one and talking about it here:

People who have almost died invariably say it makes them re-focus their lives. Would you spend you life differently if you had a watch reminding you that we all have limited time?