Notes from the Field

The Innovative Customer

Having worked in technology for many years, I’ve come across numerous diverse opinions and positions on how best to make roadmap decisions on a software product. Well, in fact, I’ve come across a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Most people, I find, are quite full of opinions.      You might find this odd, but I actually get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to people’s opinions – regardless of the topic: politics, religion, food, music, the latest tablet, parenting, books, movies, sports and whatever else comes to mind. People can be quite interesting if you give them a chance to rant-on about any topic they feel passionate about. I don’t always agree with them, of course, but for the most part, it is interesting to listen.   Being in the business of delivering innovative technology solutions, the prioritization of new software features to build into a product is a very important aspect of our business. So listening to people has become a vital part of making those prioritizing decisions. Many in the technology world will however, strongly advise us to not listen to customers when it comes to setting the urgency of one feature over another. The thinking behind such a stance is that customers who are using the software on a day-to-day basis are only going to make suggestions/demands for features & fixes that will make their own little world a bit better. They’re not too concerned with long-term strategic planning.  So, as the thinking goes, if we expend all our development resources on tiny items that will help a handful of people - but will have negligible effect on the broader customer base (both current and future) -

Productive Laziness

This might sound a tad stupid, but I firmly believe we should all strive to be as Productively Lazy as possible.  In ALL aspects of our lives. If you just put some constructive thinking into your biggest time consumers, you could find ways to dramatically reduce the time you spend on them.  Initially it sounds impossible, but often, by doing less you can achieve more, or at least achieve the same amount much quicker. I swear I have not been smoking my socks, or anyone else’s for that matter. Most of you know what I’m talking about – Work Smarter Not Harder.  But what does that actually MEAN?  In simple terms it means find easier / quicker ways to do what needs to be done.  I don’t know about you, but I would be strongly in favour of finding a way to do a 2 day task in half a day.  Stop slogging harder to achieve more; rather figure a way to streamline your tasks to give you more time to deal with improving your lot in life.  Just think, if you could free up half a day (or 2 whole days) every week what would you do with it? Spend time with the family? Improve your current skills? Learn new skills? Get pampered at a day spa? Catch up with friends? Volunteer at a shelter / hospital / fire department? If you are the owner, you could find ways to improve your business.  If you are an employee, you could improve your position at the company or start your own company.  Don’t limit your options by thinking small. Interruptions are normally the biggest time wasters because, after the interruption is gone, there is generally

Practical Progress Reporting

  Here in the real world of Contract Employees it is very common to arrive on a project when it is part-way through.  For those with experience in Planning and Scheduling, you’ll identify with my statement that getting the best out of your software is part art, part science.  It sucks to pick up on someone else’s planning work and try to figure out their mental processes to fully understand how their schedule operates.  But that’s a blog for another time. For this blog – There I was, new on the project, still feeling my way around the schedules and the people, and one of our main contractors presented me with an MS Project schedule that was worth less than toilet paper.   I’d had no time to familiarise myself with the history of the project, no real chance to understand the personalities I was dealing with, but enough time to know that my predecessor had left a mess and it was now MY job to clean it up and make it work. There was just not enough time available for me to ease into the system, and the shutdown was fast approaching, so I had to wade into the team members with my steel-toe boots and hope for the best.  I called a meeting to lay out my expectations, needs and boundaries regarding the planning and scheduling for the rest of the project.  The people I brought into this meeting were: Our construction manager Our 2 lead superintendants The construction managers of our main contractors The planners of our main contractors Our Client’s construction manager Our Client’s project manager Our Client’s planner Before calling the meeting, I briefly discussed my intention with my construction manager