Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tough Problem? Step Away To Find A Solution

I have been recently trying a new tactic to address the challenge I face while trying to solve tough problems.  For far too long, I have adopted to the philosophy that the solution is right around the corner if I just continue to search, debug, trial-error, rinse, and repeat.

Problem:  This approach wears on you like chronic back pain.  Believe me, I know the feeling.

However, there is a potential solution.  Get a new perspective.  In reality and in my line of work, getting a new perspective typically involves stepping away from the current task.  Or, it will often involve actually switching tasks or priorities.  The challenge that I face every time is actually using this tactic.

Solution:  It actually works for me.  Inherently, when I context switch on a list of tasks I tend to be more focused and less frustrated.

A reader might argue or contest this is the nature of multitasking of which my opinion is that no human is good at multitasking.  This tactic differs from the multitasking myth because it is difficult for me to context switch on a problem that has yet to be resolved.

Try this tactic.  It is hard for me and I have to remind myself constantly that it will lead to a quicker and more satisfying outcome.  Satisfying in the sense that I will be less frustrated while traveling the resolution path.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Team: Senior Design and Trello

With my current employer, I have been given the direction and opportunity to work side-by-side with the professors of the Computer Science department at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to help support and assist in teaching and curriculum development.  This has been a positive experience thus far since the faculty have been more than willing to take advantage of my offer to support their efforts.

Currently, I am assisting in delivering the content for this year's senior design course.  This effort has involved lecturing as well as offering direction on how the senior design projects should be managed.  The overall approach is to teach and use an Agile-based development model, in particular, Scrum.  For almost every student in the course, this is and will be the first exposure to the Agile methodology.  I brought Trello to the table as a means for the students to build their project management framework and manage their development efforts.  Since my last post, my use of Trello has proven to be necessary for managing a fast-paced and dynamic software development environment.  I have received significant positive feedback from my software development team.  This is the reason that I introduced the tool in the senior design course. 

Trello smells just enough of Agile that is can give the students a good introduction to simply put Agile management principles into practice without requiring ScrumMaster certificates and overly complicated Agile software.  As stated above, most of the students have not been exposed to an Agile environment and for the Computer Science curriculum, Agile teaching is just starting to spread.  Waterfall was the standard approach.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Trello | the Project Management Tool

Recently, I have been trying to find the right tool for my current software development environment.  It took a few iterations of concept proofs, but I have found it.  Trello has become the tool of choice and works well in my dynamic, constant priority shifting environment.  The tool supports a core concept of any given Agile software development methodology.  

I have been able to drive, track, and manage the development efforts of multiple teams.  I can envision Trello working fabulously in a remote team environment.  Although, I have a completely localized team, it still provides the necessary features for logging activity and collaboration.  I like the simplicity of Trello and yet the cloud-based software allows you to customize the structure to your process.  

There is a healthy API that allows me to build simple applications to extract the data in a form worthy for reporting status to non-Trello participants..  I also enjoy the ecosystem that is beginning to surround the software service which makes for continued software improvements.  For example, just today the Trello team released and announced drag-n-drop attachments.

Finding the right tool for the job can be an arduous task at times.  However, when you do find the tool and it accomplishes 95% of the needs, it makes life just a little easier.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Partnership Rapid City

Tomorrow, I will be presenting on the topic of software development at the Partnership Rapid City 8th grade career fair.  In addition to discussing the topics of software and software development, I will demonstrate various software applications on various platforms including mobile applications.

To this end, I wanted to make sure all of the students got a list of sites that they could reference if they were interested in researching the field further.  

I was familiar with several fun labs and tools used to introduce young people to the field.  However, thanks to a recent blog post by Brad Osterloo, I was able to quickly consolidate a list which is shown below.

I hope all of you enjoyed the career fair and please do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Leadership and Transition

I am in the process of transitioning careers.  This has really got me reflecting on the success that has been achieved throughout my tenure.  The success comes in the form of transforming the entire approach to team productivity and willingness of a team to accept change.  Let me elaborate.

I have been managing an ITS team consisting of IT administrators, billing administrators, and software engineers for a telecommunications service provider.  Besides the momentous task of converting billing and financial systems, there were numerous major projects accomplished in the IT and software development teams.  These projects were successfully planned and executed mainly because the team was talented and driven.  However, in my reflection, there were two main elements that led to the team's success.  First, I provided the necessary structure which came in the form of project management, general direction, and support.  Next, I afforded the team the necessary freedom to do the job and make decisions.

The approach to leadership I have followed has always been based on these elements, but it takes another transition to bring them to the forefront.  Most team members want and welcome direction.  Most team members will not admit it openly, but they also appreciate structure in the sense that it gives that team a framework for decision-making. 

I have been involved in several success stories throughout my career based on this working leadership style.  The greatest success story might be in progress if my now former team continues with the success they have achieved after my departure.

Friday, January 27, 2012

SharePoint as a Project Management Tool

To start, I will not get into any significant detail on this topic.  However, I wanted to share the basic experience I have gained by implementing a complete SharePoint Corporate Intranet site.  It is a Corporate Intranet, but it plays a role so much more than just a medium to distribute corporate information.  The implementation that I have led involves implementing defined business processes, cross-department communication, and most importantly acts as the hub for all Project Management activities. 

The project management methodology is extremely simple because it is a fairly new concept for several parts of the organization.  The SharePoint framework and ecosystem of value-added products allows for an IT organization to get up and running quickly.  The simple concept of maintaining a basic project list with dates, priorities, and supporting project documents gets most departments orientated to the importance of project management.  SharePoint allows for simple as well as complex implementations of features from simple list management to complex work flows with embedded process approvals and email notifications. 

Finally, the ability to support and engage people in processes that span departments and divisions has proved invaluable, even through an implementation really in it's infancy.

I just wanted to briefly share and highlight some success accomplished with SharePoint.  It is one of many tools in the arsenal of project management, software development, and IT teams.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just not enough speed and reliability?

So when did the rate at which we can access the Internet impact our daily lives?  I cannot really pinpoint the exact moment in time.  However, recently it appears to be negatively impacting my personal life.  For example, when was the last time anybody has experienced streaming a movie via Netflix in order to have it buffer every few minutes?  It is a common occurrence for me and my family.  Up until recently, we never really felt the impact of a slow Internet connection.  I should clarify that I am subscribed to the fastest speed available from my service provider -- an advertised 1.5 Mbps DSL.  There was a time when this was enough for the activities performed by my family.  General surfing and the occasional iTunes album download was the extent of our need.

Enter the last half of 2011.  Add Netflix streaming, iTunes movie, music, app downloads, app and other software upgrades, windows updates, iOS upgrades, etc. and you have significant limitations to the timely execution of these tasks.  Now take these functions and multiple them by the number of devices.  Consider a Windows desktop, AppleTV, iPod Touch (2), iPad, iPod Nano, and Blackberry phone all requiring some amount of data from the Internet at some point during the day or week.

For example, when I recently purchased (2) iPod Touch devices and an iPad, it took several hours (6+) updating to iOS 5 on devices that were just unwrapped and prior to the need for downloading apps to run on the cool new toys.  I have to give proper recognition to Apple for their simplistic design and use of their devices, so the frustration still centers on the speed and reliability of my Internet connection.  I must state, my Internet connection is not reliable at all.  It frequently drops forcing a hard reset of the DSL modem every time.

To be fair, my service provider (to be remain anonymous) does not have the right equipment or line conditions in place to provide a higher speed to my location which is 5-6 miles from what is considered the edge of a city with a population of 65,000+.  However, this does not lend itself to reducing the impact on time and general customer experience.

I work in the Telecommunications industry and have for several years so I understand the requirements for providing faster and more reliable Internet to a subscriber base.  The Feds want to see any and all households be delivered 100 Mbps connections in the future.  I can only wait for the 98.5% increase in my advertised speed to be delivered to a non-rural, outside limits of a large city location by a large carrier.  Point, my time and satisfaction will continue to be impacted by a slow and unreliable Internet connection.  It will only get worse as a smart device is not so smart when you don't have a fast and reliable connection.  Should Apple or Netflix start subsidising the service providers networks to increase my level of customer satisfaction with their products?  Too bad the rumored Verizon purchase of Netflix still won't help me out.

When did you feel the need to increase your Internet connection speed?  I hope you were actually able to meet that need.