Thursday, April 30, 2009

Location in Blogger

This is my first post with the location feature enabled. Wonder what that is going to look. Did not make my blog look any different. Got to research more.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Duchess wants a Kindle.

This has nothing to do with distributed development. But my cartoons featuring my favorite dogs; Duchess and Ditto. Given a chance I would create all my documents as drawings accompanied by voice. Makes it easy for my colleagues and the executives to understand my point. Note: Not all my colleagues speak English as their native tongue. It all boils down to telling a story really. For heaven's sake, when will we break away from the PowerPoint people.

Value of Collaboration by the dean of Pixar

This speech by Pixar University's Dean has interesting points on the value of collaboration. He talks about how people in Pixar build on what others do rather than question what others do. This is important in the web 2.0 world.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Try Using Twitter to connect your teams

Marcia Conner talks about how twitter helps her bring a multidimentional perspective to work.

I have similar experiences. My colleagues who work out of distributed offices follow me on twitter and I follow them. We learnt much more about each other then we otherwise would have. It is breaking down barriers and encouraging my colleagues to understand each others personality a bit more than we otherwise would have. Try it out.

You can read about the benefits at Marcia's post in her Fast Company Blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bringing customers on the same page

Bringing a common understanding among customers who will be distributed around the country or the world is as valuable as bringing a common understading among your team members.

I assume you know the value of bringing customers together to talk to each other and share ideas. I am not going to go into the benefits of that. I am going to talk about how to make it happen more often, effectively with less money.

Bringing customers together is normally done via conferences, which are expensive and time consuming affairs. Web 2.0 technology based Collaboration and community tools have addressed the problem effectively.

Last week I started a community site for a select group of customers and posted product requirements in the site. In today's web conference I encouraged all customers to go there edit the requirements document (not just comment on the document). I am not sure how the group is going to respond. But I am going to try until they start to collaborate.

I had success with internal team members and I am confident of succees with customer collaboration as well.

This is the real test.

Tools used: We use Jive Clearspace for cusotomer communities.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Microblogging for project status updates

I read about Martin Böhringer using micro blogging for supervising his research students. I believe this approach may work well for project managers of distributed teams.

I have asked my team members to blog about their projects before. That was useful. But not everyone did it. Microblogging might work if it replaces status meetings. I believe it will depend a lot in nature of the individial and the culture of the team.

Instead of a separate microblogging tool, if microblogging is integrated with the collaboration software such as Jive Clearspace or SocialText it will be very useful. Ability to send an update from a mobile device might be important. However based on twitter's statistics majority of tweets come from the desktop. Not from mobile devices. So people do like to microblog from their desktops and there may be value in it.

E-Readers. Are they for distributed workers?

I read the article on the E-Readers in the Wall Street Journal today. A colleague of mine has the Kindle and is gaga over it. He said "Imagine. I can carry all my books around, search any book I ready and wirelessly buy books online". Sounds great. What is even better is the fact that the Kindle can display WORD documents and PDFs. Smart. Wonder when this will be a must have for all. I plan to explore this more.

Detailed Specification Docs, Where good use cases go to die

I have seen that the longer and more detailed a software specification document, the bitter and contentious the discussions are. This is particularly so with teams that do not work in the same location.

So we decided to take a different approach. Instead of defining the 'spec' as a document we defined it as 'A common understanding among product managers, architects and user experience designers'. So instead of striving to write the spec, we strived to arrive at that common understanding.

This is where techniques such as use case creation as a team, trips to customers sites as a team and user interface creation as a team came handy.

When development team members had questions about the use cases and the spec document we posted on a wiki, they posted the questions as comments and product managers answered the questions as replies to comments. This process was followed slowly and steadily until the entire team arrived at a common understanding of the solution.

The final spec? Oh! That was written in a day and posted in the internal spec tool we had. No one bothered to discuss the 'spec' because everyone knew what was in the spec and everyone had a common understanding of what the spec meant.

Look for my earlier posts to read about the use case creation process.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Geography is more powerful than technology

A couple of years back I said that Geography is more powerful that history. I also realize that Geography is more powerful that technology. You can overcome distances with online meeting software such as Adobe Connect , Cisco WebEx or video conferencing software. But you people in different parts of the world are going to be in different time zones. You can't change that. You need to be humble enough to understand that and plan around it. Technology is not an answer to all problems faced by distributed teams.

Writing a book using a wiki

We are almost done writing our book using PB Wiki. The writing part went very smooth. Then the publisher gave us a MS WORD template. So we decided to format the content offline in WORD. This process was not as efficent as the initial writing part. We had to email each other to keep each other posted. Our publisher has already announced the book. You can the details of the book at the SAP Press web site

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Personal Capability Index

Personal Capability index is a measure of an individual's capabilities developed through five levels of 'deliberate practise'. The levels and the activities associated with each level are described below.

I developed this methodology to track the capabilites of my team and develop their skills. I recently used it to demonstrate to a class of workshop participants, how their capability improved with every session of the workshop. Dharini Ramakrishnan helped define some of the levels.

The methodology defines 5 stages of self-development.

Level 1: Develop an understanding of the concepts behind the capability by reading a book, attending presentations or attending a training course.
Level 2: Apply your learning in a controlled setting with a mentor watching you and providing you feedback.
Level 3: Apply the lessons learned from your successes in Level 2 in a real-world setting.
Level 4: Apply the concepts in real-world scenarios a minimum of 3 times, enhance it and teach the concepts to others.
Level 5: Perfect the capability, address gaps and mentor others in developing the capability.

When you conduct a training workshop, you can track the over all improvement in the personal capability index of individuals and quantify the development for the participants. More about that later.

Friday, April 03, 2009

John Seely Brown on Informal Learning

John says that corporations needs to be a making environment and a learning environment. He argues that the concept of sending an employee away for retraining is archaic.

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