Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review - The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

I just completed The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The book is a nice, easy read with plenty of insight into the Steve Jobs approach to innovation.

Here are some key takeaways from the book that I have:
  • Apple did not create any truly 'new' inventions. They took existing concepts to the limits. 1000 songs in your pocket. The thinnest laptop.
  • One key principle is 'Simplicity'. Do only the minimal amount of features required to make the product useful.
  • Have deep passion about what you do and why you do it. Make products you want to use.
  • Learn outside your field. Apple learned design from many non-computer places. They hired designers and artists from different fields to be a part of it.
  • Change the world.
There is a lot we can learn from Steve and Apple.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's wrong with offshoring for software jobs

In my job I spend a lot of time talking with various offshoring companies. I feel that offshoring is an important tool to consider when growing a company. I can talk more along these lines ('necessity') if there is interest, but that is not the focus of this post.

I keep running into the same problem and I think this presents an opportunity and a challenge to these companies. The problem can be summarized in the following question:
Who is responsible for the team and the team's productivity?
From what I can tell, the most comment offshoring company thought process is as follows:
I (the offshore company) can provide to you plenty of resources with foo skill set. 'foo' could be Java programming, cloud development, testing services, cloud management services or any other skill set.
While skill/knowledge is critical to the job, there are other critical elements that can get in the way. I will refer to Joel Spolsky's model, of 'smart and gets things done'.

First, let me say that in my experience, I believe these companies have smart people. I am very impressed with the education systems in the various countries and their ability to get people ready. I have no issues here.

What's really missing is what happens after someone begins a job (the 'gets things done' part). In solid software companies, starting a job is only the beginning. People begin a career, learning how the company works, working with other smart people, and producing useful and high quality software in the context of how the company works.

Unless you are a company producing lots of small, independent apps, your code will be interrelated. No programmer is on an island.

We have seen that this process requires a high dose of collaboration, and in that process knowledge transfer, learning and debate. This is not something that can happen effectively over the phone or using some other remote communication model. At least not as the only communication model. The team building aspect takes a lot of time. The term 'jelling of a team' has been used to describe this process.

If it goes well, this process leads to highly productive teams. Let me be clear, I used the word 'team' instead of ' individuals'.

From the experience I have so far - I have not seen an offshore company that deals directly with this aspect. I have many theories about why this is the case.

What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It Doesn’t Exist If It Isn’t Written Down

This is related to the previous article about integrity. I find that writing things down is critical to my personal productivity. Once written down, I free my mind up to focus on higher value activities rather than trying to remember things.

Where do you keep your word after you give it?

Integrity: Without It Nothing Works

This is good reading and I agree with it 100%.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Verizon iPhone

I recently posted about a Windows Phone 7 device that I have had the joy of carrying around. It's a demo unit, but it has been loads of fun. There was one major drawback, though, and that was lack of CDMA network support... which means "No Verizon". As I understand it, there are plans for that... however, my network is Verizon.

The Windows Phone 7 is on T-Mobile. I have been carrying around both phones. In my experience, Verizon has been far superior in getting the phone to work.

However, this was not meant to be a post about that. I want to just focus on my new Verizon phone... the iPhone 4.

In short, the phone is excellent. Having worked with previous iPhones, everything is as it should be... except, I can make calls on it consistently. When I carried around an AT&T iPhone as a demo, it was great and fun to play with, except that I couldn't count on it when I really needed to, to be a phone.

I also pay for the tethering package from Verizon. This allows me to use the phone as a 3G modem if I am in a hotel and they want me to pay $15 for internet access per day. Tethering is integrated nicely into the iPhone.

In short... the Verizon iPhone is an iPhone that also works as a phone consistently.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Windows Phone 7 ... worth a shot...

I recently was given the opportunity to spend serious time with a new Windows Phone 7. The specific model is an HTC HD7 running on T-Mobile. I m going to spend time talking about the phone and not T-Mobile.

My first impressions were very positive. The first thing I was looking for was how responsive the user interface was. I had previously has a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (HTC Imagio ... don't buy one!). The user interface was very slow and the phone, at time, was unusable. The HD7 is quite the opposite. I have found it as responsive as the iPhone 4 (more on my new iPhone 4 in a later post).

The phone, in general, is very enjoyable to work with. It comes with excellent email integration. Integration to Exchange was flawless. It took only a few minutes to set up. Integration to Gmail was simple as well. Web browsing is excellent, as well. The built-in Internet Explorer performs admirably.

The 'killer app' part of the phone is the integrated contacts list. You can enter your various contact list logins, such as Facebook, Windows Live, Exchange, etc... When you pull up a contact, the phone has already combined the contact information into a single contact. Also, you can get the contact's picture and status updates. The clearly differentiates the device from the iPhone. It's an excellent experience. Your user profile is easy to update as well, and updates across your various services.

If you are about to get a new phone and one of these is available, you might want to give it a shot. The phone has great potential. The apps are not there, yet, but that is only a matter of time, especially given the Nokia announcement.