Agile + Scrum = More Effective Iteration Meetings

Do your iteration meetings drag on forever, include thrashing and tangential conversations, or seem generally unproductive? Being structured about agile iteration meetings allows the Development Team to stay on track and get the most value from stakeholders’ time. Read more on Agile + Scrum = More Effective Iteration Meetings…

Project Leads vs. Project Managers

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…

When Not to Build Custom Software

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…

The Regional Economic Impact of Technology Jobs

This year, Atomic is proud join the group of investors that help fuel The Right Place, a regional non-profit economic development organization that has been serving West Michigan since 1985.

I’m very excited that The Right Place has recognized the technology sector an important part of West Michigan’s economic future by including Technology and Communications in their 2014-2016 strategic plan.

This morning (Jun 12, 2014) I’m talking about the importance of technology jobs at The Right Place Investors Breakfast. I’ve always had opinions and anecdotes to share, but the information I found in preparation for my talk really drove home the regional importance of attracting and retaining the best technology talent. Read more on The Regional Economic Impact of Technology Jobs…

Facilitating Visual Design Direction with Style Tiles

Driving decisions about aesthetics and visual design direction with project stakeholders is a delicate process that can be fraught with frustration on all sides. You can increase the likelihood of success and happiness by using targeted artifacts in your decision-making process, but the real secret for success lies in good communication and guidance.

Style Tiles – Between a Mood Board & a Wireframe

Atomic Object has been using style tiles to help guide the visual design direction of software products. If you’re not familiar with style tiles and how they work, here’s a brief overview.

Early, high-fidelity visual design direction has historically been critiqued by reviewing two types of artifacts:

  1. Mood Boards – A mood board is collage that generally consists of images, text, and objects that reflect an aesthetic direction.
  2. Wireframes – A wireframe shows a fully-defined user interface.

However, both mood boards and wireframes can be dangerous to use when critiquing visual design. Read more on Facilitating Visual Design Direction with Style Tiles…

Long-Term Planning and Productivity with the Compact Calendar

In 2010, my good friend Jason Mettler introduced to me to my favorite high-level planning and productivity tool — the Compact Calendar from David Seah.

The Compact Calendar is a great tool for planning activities across a year. It’s laid out as a vertical bar of days and months on the left and open space on the right for notes.

Benefits of Long-term Planning

I’ve found that zooming out to a year’s worth of time is very helpful for long-term planning efforts where identifying intermediate milestones is valuable. I’ve used the Compact Calendar for the following planning activities. Read more on Long-Term Planning and Productivity with the Compact Calendar…

A Human-Centered Design Approach to Involving IT in Product Development

Human-Centered Design (HCD) practices help companies develop innovative product concepts. From my experience, extending HCD practices inward to include a company’s information technology team increases the chances for success.

What is Human-Centered Design?

IDEO (a leading global design consultancy) recognizes that HCD involves viewing solutions through the lenses of Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability and building products that live at the intersection of all three lenses.

Read more on A Human-Centered Design Approach to Involving IT in Product Development…

Pitfalls of Integrated Design and Development Burn Charts

When managing a software project that has both design and development scope, I have come to prefer using an integrated backlog of tasks and separate burn charts to track design and development efforts.

Atomic continuously experiments with project management practices that help our poly-skilled teams manage their efforts and predictably deliver custom software products.

I’ve previously written about using integrated backlogs and burn charts and noted in my post that an integrated burn chart can be a bad solution if your team will have people inconsistently allocated throughout the course of the project. Inconsistent allocation can be problematic for burn charts regardless if the team member is a designer or a developer, but I’ve found through experience that it’s almost always true that the design effort on a project will have inconsistent allocation. The potential burn chart distortions resulting from inconsistent designer allocation are also likely increased due to a hours per point skew between design and development tasks. Read more on Pitfalls of Integrated Design and Development Burn Charts…