Things to watch in 2008

What would you think is in the list of 80 things to watch in 2008 published by JWT (the United States largest and world's fourth largest advertising agency)? Yes, it is "Outsourcing to Ukraine (and other Eastern European countries)" (look for item 50 in the list)! Working in Ukraine's IT industry I'm just in position to watch that.

The list in general is quite interesting. Be sure to read it all.

Trying to manage my mind

  Recently one of those inexplicable coincidences happened to me again.

Being extremely busy last month I thought that some ToDo list-like software can help me to keep track of all the things I need to do. I did some search over the Internet and came across MindJet MindManager and decided to give it a try.

The very same day I finally decided that I need to subscribe to Controlling Chaos podcast. And one of the two latest episodes was devoted to ... MindManager! I'm still evaluating the product and so far I like what I see.

This is not the first time when I look at one new thing and magically come across information about it the same or the next day. I wonder what will be the next such coincidental sign of stars.

To speak or not to speak

Somehow (and I would even say magically) when I open Seth's Godin blog the very first post appears to be very relevant what I'm thinking about at the moment. That day it was When you are ready to stand up to speak. And I was thinking about people who have active position and what it means to have an active position.

I came to conclusion that active position is about commitment to your goal and manifests itself by behavior biased towards the goal. This means that you do not wait for John or Peter to come and give you what you want instead you go and take it. And when you stand up to speak you do that because this will get you close to the goal and not because you just need to fill your time with something (or waste your time to be precise).

This really has much in common with the 4th Core Commitment:

Speak always and only when I believe it will improve the general results/effort ratio.

Speaking is not only about the speaker but also about the listeners. When you will be about to stand up and speak next time think if there is at least someone who is about to sit down and listen to you and how your speech will benefit them.

What UI is really about?

TomographNowadays (and even many years before) we often hear that this or that technology which promises to allow building fantastic user experiences came out, that new version of this or that application with dramatically improved UI came out and nearly everybody promises more features under "intuitive" user interface.

Recently I happened to witness how users interact with two uncommon types of systems: medical device to test and measure how electric impulses go through tissues and air tickets selling terminal in local tourism agency. I was literally amazed how similar these two systems were from UI standpoint.

Was their interface intuitive? No, not nearly! Medical system had so many different items on the screen with labels I could not even parse let alone understand what they mean. It even did not have a keyboard in usual sense - only about 20 or so buttons. Air tickets terminal stared at the clerk with black screen waiting for him to type in some commands. Definitely not the kind of intuitiveness you would expect from XXI century software, more smells like 1980s. But we've got much beyond that with toolbars, tooltips and context help, aren't we?

AirportWas their interface fancy? No, not really! 80x25 text screen of tickets system and mostly B&W interface of medical system are far from modern standards for UIs with bells and whistles. I guess, younger generation of computer geeks would not even say that tickets terminal has UI - user has to type in mysterious sequences of symbols to make something happen.

Was their interface effective? Oh, yes! With both of the systems users were able to complete required operations with just a few key strokes not wasting the time on moving a mouse, going through menus and so on. If you are able to serve 20 people who want to buy tickets per hour instead of 18 that makes difference. If you are able to diagnose 7 patients per hour instead of 6 it is even more important.

Do you know what I want to say here? Think of how many minutes your software will save for its users multiply that by frequency of use and feel satisfied only when you save your users 3-digit number of minutes per month.

Outsourcing: costs vs. value

Alex Polonski in Outsourcing Quiz: Cheap Vs. Good considers the "cost" aspect of outsourcing. He asks:

Why should I pay $1000 for this bit of software if I can find somebody that will develop the same for as much as $200?

While the logic of this questions is pretty legitimate, there is another side. Each product (or service) costs as much as customer is willing to pay. And that price of selling is not necessarily connected to cost of production. Price at which you can sell your product is determined by value it gives to customer. Water in a desert is worth much more than the same water near mountain spring.

If for your product it is not that important how much you pay for engineering, then probably you should not be doing that product as it fails to deliver value to its users. Isn't it?

Outsourcing to Ukraine: report from within

Niklas from Stockholm shares his experience with outsourcing to Ukraine. Everything he says is correct except for there are software companies in Ukraine whose developers are not all students. He goes

The entire company sat in two small rooms with computers everywhere, and the programmers was all young men from the Kiev university. But they where all very enthusiastic and with a lot of energy for the new tasks.

While energy and enthusiasm are important even more important for outsourcing kind of work are engineering experience and robust management approaches.

For this case I suggest a simple test. Ask yourself if you would hire students in your country if you could. If the answer is No, then why would you hire them in another country? For most cases you will want your outsourcing partner to have mature processes and management discipline that will save your time in coordinating with the remote team.

How are you getting on?

Karate beltsRecently I found myself greeting my colleagues with "How are you getting on?". In fact, in Russian it reads somewhat different. Literally "How is your progress?". And you know what? The most important thing about progress is the mere fact that there is progress!

I started asking this unconsciously, but now I do this intentionally. This way I show people that I do not question their success and only want to share it with me. This is just a quick status meeting with positive coloration.

Hypertext Agile journey

WebOne day I started reading "Are you part of the Post-Agile Movement?" post by David Anderson. Which lead me to "Agility is not the point". And then to "Agile Software Development vs. Agile Project Management". Which in turn offers a whole bunch of other quite interesting links. You see, with blogs hypertext works just great. Once started you are almost certain to enjoy a never ending journey through the Web.

Speaking of Agile, have you seen this interview with David Anderson? Must see!

Quality in your mind

All my past experience shows that quality is not about rigorous procedures, extensive trainings or punishments for poor results. Quality is a mindset. Quality is orientation of mental energy.

You can not simply declare quality like "From now on we will built only high-quality products". Quality needs to be cultivated. Day in and day out. Quality should be your way of living. In everything you do set high quality bar and reach it. If even if nobody will see and appreciate it. You will appreciate your well done job.

Paul Stovell puts it just right about writing program code. But generally it is true for everything we do.