Startup Life

Getting my affairs in order – If this were Twitter, I’d just say “Thanks”

My First Profile Image - The Happy IBMer
My First Profile Image - The Happy IBMer

Social Values 2.0
Its more about the folks in your social network than the technology that enables your social network. Its the value they can spontaneously and casually generate with a simple click of a button.

The rumors were true. There are layoffs & I’m among them. I have until 6 Feb 2009 to find a new job within IBM, or, yada yada yada. This is the first of two posts I’d like to share with you about my experience inside Big Blue. It’s all good. Here is a cleansed version of my 19 Sep 2008 internal blog. (All internal links have been removed.)

I hear the train a comin’
About mid-September 2008, I was informed my current role as Lead Business Analyst (aka Product Manager) in Rational Portfolio Manager (RPM) has been discontinued. I have until the end of October 2008 to find a new job inside Big Blue, or else, yada, yada, yada. Now the truth is, this wasn’t a big surprise to me. RPM sales to new customers was halted back in Q1 2008 and for now, there will be no further releases – just iFixes. So managing requirements & providing demos is just not something the business needs.

Gotta get out of this place
So back in Q1 2008, I started improving my skill-sets and finding news ones. There’s loads of stuff out there & I chose to invest my time in learning about Agile software development. Almost immediately, I got into Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-Based Products by John Sweitzer and Carl Kessler of IBM SWG. It’s a great read & if you’ve been in software development long enough, can easily relate to the experiences they write about. I was so inspired by the book, that I decided I needed to put my Agile education and outside-in software development knowledge to practice. Unfortunately, this was not going to happen back in RPM-land.

So on the advice of my manager Robert St-Laurent, I looked into “Blue Opportunities” (a way to temporarily join another team to gain new experiences) to see if there was anyone out there looking for this kind of help. I couldn’t find what I was looking for so, I simply created my own custom made opportunity. All I had to do was shop it around and see if I could get any takers. But where? These development practices seemed so foreign from where I was coming from. So I took a shot and sent an email to Carl Kessler, John Sweitzer & Scott Ambler asking if they knew of any teams already well experienced in outside-in agile software development & if they would be OK with me shadowing the process and more specifically the product manager/owner.

Now this was a sort of Hail Mary for me but, you never know if you don’t ask. Less than two hours later, Carl Kessler answers me & within days I’m hooked up with the Search and Discovery, ECM team from Information Management shadowing Jake Levirne & Rishi Patel. In the end, I had a better understanding of their environment and provided them with a proof-of-concept where I mapped their current tools & process into that of the Rational Team Concert (beta 3 at the time).

Funny, eh?
Trying to leverage my experience, I used my new found connections to go after a few new product manager/owner opportunities with the IM group. I thought it went well but nothing materialized & heard recently that they were not able to hire outside of IM. Get it? The group practising outside-in development couldn’t hire from outside. 🙂 Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal experience & to this day I get great mileage out of the whole story.

If you’re interested, I blogged (internally) the entire Blue Opportunity, presented a Lunch & Learn back in the RPM lab and just a few days ago, was given the opportunity to repeat (no pun intended) the Lunch & Learn at the Disciplined Agile Development Work

Social Software

The Role of Social Software and Outside-in Agile Development

Reposted from my Lotus Greenhouse 26 Sep 2008 Blog (create a free account)

So if you’ve been following some of the folks mentioned in my post About Me – Not, perhaps read Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-Based Products by John Sweitzer and Carl Kessler
of IBM’s Software Group, or are simply into social software and finding its business value in the enterprise, then you’ve probably already thought of this post. But in case you haven’t here’s the main point:

Executive summary

The further software development moves away from the waterfall process, the more we need to embrace customer/stakeholder interactions. Not only on a more frequent basis, but also on a more informal basis. (Think of Twitter’s 140 character limit.)

Like an onion

Armed with Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, I’ve been playing around with this image in my mind’s eye and in the event my artistic skills are somewhat lacking, I’ll explain everything layer-by-layer.

This is my social software compass. To the north, I have customers and the marketplace outside the firewall. To the south, there’s folks like me in the software development labs. On the west side, I have the traditional Waterfall development approach. And on the east side, the Agile process.

Waterfall layer

Now let’s map a simplistic view of Waterfall tools used.
In the In-Waterfall quadrant, I have huge documents and testing procedures. In the Outside-Waterfall quadrant, I have a few phone conversations and face-to-face meetings.

Agile layer

I may have have gotten out of hand on the Agile side of the map so things got a bit messy.

All I’m trying to illustrate here is how all the social software tools have a role to play in our quest for outside-in Agile software development. We could be tapping into Facebook, Twitter, wikis, blogs, news feeds, instant messaging like Sametime and e-meetings like Sametime Unyte. We should be leveraging the social networks for helping us write smaller, more practical User Stories and getting more frequent feedback by getting betas outside earlier & more often.

Mapping the tools and the process

So here’s the suggestion.

Let’s use Rational Team Concert, the Agile/Scrum Process and Lotus Connections for outside-in software development.

Do you have any thoughts, or, experiences you’d like to share? Is this doable,or, suicidal? Can you understand my drawings?