At AgileConf 2014, John Krewson presented “The Show Must Go On: Leadership Lessons Learned from a Life in Theater” in which he outlined parallels between the stage acting and software development. Among his points on how project management is like directing and hiring is like casting, John remarked that when a director is preparing a performance, they don’t assemble the actors, distribute scripts, and say, “We’re all professionals. See you on opening night.” Even when everyone on the team is an A-lister, they still need to rehearse.
The same goes for software development.
Read more on Technical Spikes – Rehearsing Your Software…
You are planning a software project, or working with Atomic to Research, Design, and Plan one. You’ve thought about your users, created context scenarios, and drawn up a huge list of features you’d love to have. But how do you prioritize that list? Read more on Charting our Features & Priorities with a Story Map…
When you work with Atomic Object, you’ll hear a lot about Agile software development. Agile takes many different forms, but all of them are, at heart, about writing better software faster. Agile is part philosophy, part methodology, and part discipline. The Agile Manifesto emphasizes people instead of mechanical processes.
But before diving into the specifics of how Agile works, let’s back up and look at the problem Agile is trying to solve. Why come up with a new system in the first place?
Read more on Agility is about Accuracy…
This post is revised and republished from Carl’s blog at Crain’s Detroit Business.
Innovation is not exclusively about revolutionary new products or services. Extending an existing offering or improving an internal business process can be an important form of innovation, too.
When I talk with business owners about using software to automate an existing business process, the request usually goes something like this: “We have this clunky process to do X which uses an old buggy application (or spreadsheets or email). It drives the people who do the work crazy. We’re growing and really need to automate the whole thing. Can you help?”
Of course, custom software and even automation is not always the answer. Given the cost of software development, jumping into a project too quickly can doom the hoped-for return. I always start with a few crucial questions: Read more on 8 Questions to Ask before You Automate…
Atomic Object has no dedicated, specialized project managers.
Instead, we have project leads who play multiple roles of implementor, team lead, and project manager.
Benefits of the Project Lead Model
As a designer or developer, the project lead is intimately familiar with the product’s user needs and related features. They know the team’s implementation plan and can creatively consider alternatives if constraints challenge the original plan. By also playing the project manager role, the project lead will be able to anticipate constraints early on and manage the team and scope appropriately.
For instance, let’s pretend you are the project lead, and your team is working on an administrative reporting interface that shows eight key reports related to user conversions and activity. The reports are going to be run monthly by one person. As the reporting interface is being designed, the client identifies other ways their users want to manipulate reports and select data. Read more on Project Leads vs. Project Managers…
Pre-project consulting. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it. Well… it is. But your project is worth the time investment, and Atomic is willing to pick up the consulting tab.
Getting to Know You & Your Project
When discussing your project with Atomic, you’ll meet with members of our Upfront Team — technical professionals with years of real project experience.
We’ll kick off pre-project consulting with a conversation that’s geared towards getting to know each other. We want to understand what your company does, your role in the organization, and the challenges you are facing. We also want you to be comfortable with Atomic and the our way of doing things. Read more on Better Ideas & Better Team Fit with Pre-Project Consulting…
Nondisclosure agreements are legal contracts that limit one or both parties from disclosing information covered by the NDA. They can be used to protect trade secrets, business plans, customer lists, sources — in short, pretty much any aspect of business. They tend to be short and are readily understandable by non-lawyers.
You may be surprised to find that Atomic Object usually doesn’t sign NDAs at the first stage of a potential relationship. We don’t do this entirely from our self-interest, we just think that you don’t really need one, and you’re better off without one. Read more on 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ask Us to Sign your NDA…
Are preschoolers smarter than college students? When it comes to figuring out gadgets and iPhone apps, it certainly does seem that way sometimes.
I heard an interesting piece on NPR several weeks back about this very issue. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that 3- and 4-year-olds use a different process than older children and adults to figure out how things work. In experiments conducted by the researchers, children had to figure out how to operate a specially designed music box. According to the NPR story, “Children try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies to get the gadget to go.” For that reason they are often quicker to figure out how novel technologies work.
As we age, we start to expect things to work a certain way. And when new gadgets don’t meet our expectations, we struggle with them. Read more on Why Software Design Matters…
Atomic Object builds custom software for our customers. Because of the complexity involved in building a great software product, software development projects are always more difficult to price than a product.
As a result two different strategies for pricing services, such as building software, have traditionally been used by most companies. These are called “Fixed Price” and “Time And Materials”.
A Fixed Price strategy locks in the total price of the project upfront.
- Static Variables: Scope, Cost
- Flexible Variable: Quality
- Assumption: The estimate and plan are correct and will not need to be changed.
- Risk: On Consultant (Responds by inflating cost; may compromise quality if estimates are inaccurate.)
- Effect of New Information: Causes conflict about what’s covered by the scope vs. what requires a change order. New ideas are rarely incorporated.
In this strategy, the vendor is taking on all the financial risk of a project. They have committed to completing the project for a specific price. If they complete the job early, it’s a bonus for the vendor (and you the client has overpaid), if they don’t then the vendor loses. In order to mitigate this risk, they will want to know all that can be known about this project and the risks before it will commit to a fixed price. Read more on Fixed Price vs. Time & Materials vs. FBSC (Fixed-Budget, Scope-Controlled)…
Sometimes you shouldn’t spend resources on a custom software application. And sometimes, you should realize that you aren’t ready to create a software product.
Atomic Object gets hundreds of inquiries every year from people interested in engaging us to build a custom software application or product. Our ultimate goal is help our clients succeed in their business. That means we occasionally recommend deferring custom software, reducing the scope of custom software, or not building custom software at all. Read more on When Not to Build Custom Software…