Sometimes development is just work

No matter how cool your job is, no matter how many people are looking at you or your company for best practises, sometimes developing software is just work ;-) On this blog I’ve shared examples of companies that people nowadays see as successful, like Netflix, Twitter, Spotify, or the online retailer bol.com.

To prove my point I’ve checked the release notes of Netflix and Spotify apps. Here is what they show for recent updates:

Software development at Spotify is just work

You can find recent release notes for Spotify. For future reference here is a screenshot of how these looked today:
Software development at spotify is just work

As you can see it is mainly fixes and a new translation… Where did all the fun stuff go. Think the cat took it? So crafting software could be “just” improving and step by step creating a great product!?

Software development at Netflix is just work

Now lets look at Netflix. Just looked up the release notes of Netflix in the iTunes store. Here is how they looked today:
Software development at Netflix is just work

Wow! Updates and bug fixes. That sounds really cool. That must be loads of fun. So could it be that even working on awesome apps for great companies is (at least for a part) just work?

Success needs work

So sometimes software development is just work. Just don’t forget:
The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Could have said it better Harvey: The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Fun and play are a part of you as a person. Work is just a way to make it flow…

Book – The Phoenix Project

Book The Phoenix ProjectThe Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win is written the by Gene Kim in the tradition of The Goal (1984, by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt). The Goal is a management novel explaining the Theory of Constraints. This book, The Phoenix Project shows how the theory in The Goal works in an IT environment.

The Goal – Theory of Constraints

In simple terms the Theory of Constraints is about:

A chain is as strong as its weakest link.

In this theory the first step is to identify the constraint. Step 2 is to exploit the constraint. In other words, make sure that the constraint is not allowed to waste any time. Only by increasing flow through the constraint can overall throughput be increased. This to the extend that improving something anywhere not at the constraint is an illusion.

Because of the need for flow, work in process (WIP) is the silent killer. Therefore, one of the most critical mechanisms in the management of any plant is job and materials release. Without it, you can’t control WIP.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

The Phoenix Project describes the problems that almost every IT organization faces, and then shows the practices (based on the Theory of Constraint, Lean and more) of how to solve the problems. The main character Bill, is thought how to deal with these problems using the Socratic Method. Each dialogue a question is posed to which in turn causes Bill to think and to talk to his colleagues to come up with a solution to their problem.

Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. Leading to the application of the Theory of Constraints in terms like:

The First Way helps us understand how to create fast flow of work as it moves from Development into IT Operations, because that’s what’s between the business and the customer. The Second Way shows us how to shorten and amplify feedback loops, so we can fix quality at the source and avoid rework. And the Third Way shows us how to create a culture that simultaneously fosters experimentation, learning from failure, and understanding that repetition and practice are the prerequisites to mastery.

Work in process in IT perspective

Until code is in production, no value is actually being generated. It’s merely WIP stuck in the system. By reducing the batch size, you enable a faster feature flow. In part this is done by ensuring the proper environments are always available when they are needed. Another part is automating the build and deployment process. Here we recognize that infrastructure can be treated as code, just like the application that Development ships. This can enabled to create a one-step deploy procedure.

Besides the parts mentioned before this requires removing a unneeded (since no value is created) hand off between Development and Operations. For this to work the two have to be integrated, not separated.

Like in a manufacturing plant, in IT, it is crucial to manage the release of work to the shop floor / development and to track the work in process. There are a lot of visual aids available to support this, like Kanban or scrum boards. All have their origin in lean or agile ways of working.

No need to say that in the novel this all works out pretty well ;-) In real life we see that these principles work, however more iterations are needed to really improve things. These iterations at first look like failures because of the acceleration of entropy. They are needed in the learning process of people and organization. Reduce the feedback cycle and learn fast!

On the relation between business and IT

There are some interesting statements in the book, that are heard more often in the industry.

IT is not just a department. IT is a competency that we need to gain as an entire company.

We expect everyone we hire to have some mastery of IT. Understanding what technology can and can’t do has become a core competency that every part of this business must have. If any of my business managers are leading a team or a project without that skill, they will fail.

And:

In ten years, I’m certain every COO worth their salt will have come from IT. Any COO who doesn’t intimately understand the IT systems that actually run the business is just an empty suit, relying on someone else to do their job.

Personally i think they hold at least some value. Please share your ideas in the comments.

OTech Magazine – Winter 2014

OTech Magazine winter 2014The winter edition of OTech Magazine, the independent magazine for Oracle professionals, is available. In OTech Magazine – Winter 2014 subjects include:

  • Time Series Forecasting in SQL
  • Flashback – Empowering Power Users
  • Starting WebLogic
  • DevOps and Continuous Delivery for Oracle
  • The Rapid Reaction Force – real time business monitoring

Download OTech Magazine Winter 2014 here.

Presentatie op LAC congres – Architectuur in actie

verleiding - architectuur in actieWoensdag 26 november en donderdag 27 november is het jaarlijkse LAC congres. Dit congres voor architecten in de wereld van organisatie en IT heeft dit jaar als thema: “Architectuur in Actie“.

Presentatie Afweging waarde van architectuur en time-to-market

Op donderdag zal ik een presentatie geven in de track architecuur in actie: “Afweging waarde van architectuur en time-to-market

Zo’n beetje iedere architect of ontwikkelaar komt op het minst in de verleiding: een snellere time to market realiseren ten koste van de architectuur of de kwaliteit van de implementatie. Het komt voor in software-aanpassingen, maar ook meteen bij de introductie van nieuwe technologie. Aan de hand van voorbeelden uit de afgelopen twee jaar, laten we zien hoe we hier bij Bol.com mee omgaan. Bij een bewuste keuze kan architectuur of de architect wel eens de factor zijn die de versnelling kan realiseren.


Het complete programma van het LAC congres.

Lessons of product development at Netflix

Just a month after sharing my post on Spotify engineering culture, I found a post on Startup lessons from Netflix. That was written inspired by a talk on fast delivery devops by Adrian Cockcroft. Who spent a long time building up Netflix’s cloud infrastructure and spearheaded the development of many new cloud-related technologies and techniques at the company.

Adrian Cockcroft’s lessons of product development at Netflix

Adrian’s lessons of product development at Netflix are summarised in this sheet:
Lessons product development Netflix
Besides from the different angle and focus on cloud, I think that there is quite some overlap with the Spotify presentations. If you have a different take at this, please leave a comment or meet me at the LAC congres where I will be presenting on time-to-market vs architecture…

Spotify engineering culture part I & II

I’ve been reading quite some article on engineering culture and ways of working. The videos on Spotify Labs are among the best sources I’ve watched or read in the last year on the subjects of agile and culture. Recently the second part of their series on Spotify’s engineering culture was released.

Spotify engineering culture part I

Important take aways for me were:

  • Agile over scrum
  • Principles over practices
  • Servant over master

Spotify engineering culture part II

Very cool that one of my favorite quotes by Mario Andretti was used in the video:

If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.

To cope with this aspect you need a fail friendly environment and a limited blast radius. For the first focus on fail recovery instead of an fail avoidance. For the latter focus on a decoupled architecture.

A healthy culture heals broken processes! Growing organizations have growing pains. Culture can either magnify or heal them.

Update: Henrik Kniberg on Scaling agile at Sporify

The hour talk that Henrik Kniberg gave on Scaling agile @ Spotify is also available on vimeo:

.

Book – Hatching Twitter: A True Story of

Book - Hatching Twitter: A true story of...Just finished reading Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal and I must say that I wasn’t as impressed as when reading for example The Everything Store. The book is more about politics and opportunities than about creating opportunities and value or generating great ideas that others can build on. Of course this can still offer a great story and be a good read, however it isn’t the thing I was looking for when picking up the book.

The two business lessons in Hatching Twitter: A true story of …

OK, I took two lessons from the book: The anecdote on the first starts when Evan Williams has the first appointment with his business coach. Evan asked his first question: “What’s the worst thing I can do as CEO to fuck the company up?

Without skipping a beat, Campbell responded: “Hire your fucking friends!” He went into a ten-minute tirade about friends and business and how they don’t mix.

Which was actually what Evan was doing at the time and kept doing.

Fake it until you make it

The second lessons boils down to “fake it until you make it”. To book quite extensively elaborates on how Jack Dorsey wasn’t just looking at Steve Jobs with admiration; he was emulating him. In public talks and news interviews Jack continued to channel Steve Jobs, using terms like “magical” and “delightful” and “surprising” and “best” to describe products, along with almost exact vernacular used by Steve Jobs at conferences and on television, including “we’re just humans running this company” and hawking the concept that Jobs shared, when he told people he was “most proud” of the things the company hadn’t done. That is how the world got to see Jack Dorsey as the new Steve Jobs. Which helped Jack advance in his plans to get back to Twitter and on with his career.

…and some parenting advice…

In one of the latest chapters when looking into the life of Evan Williams and his wife Sara there somehow pops up some parenting advice. It kind of surprised me from a founder of twitter:

…like Evan, Miles (his son) is shy and sometimes socially awkward. As much as they want to change that in him, they know they can’t. But they also know that technology won’t change that either, so the kids are strictly forbidden to use iPads, iPhones, or televisions. Human interactions are encouraged. So are physical, paper books.

OTech Magazine – Summer 2014

OTech magazineThe fourth issue of OTech Magazine, the independent magazine for Oracle professionals, is available. For the summer 2014 issue there are some more personal articles included. Titles vary from The Spiritual Programmer to The Next Generation: Oracle SOA Suite 12c and back via How to protect your sensitive data using Oracle Data Vault.

Download OTech Magazine – Summer 2014 here.

Book – The everything store

The everything store

The everything storeThe idea of the everything store was simple: an Internet company that served as the intermediary between customers and manufacturers and sold nearly every type of product, all over the world. It is the story of Amazon.com, one of the most successful companies in the world. And the story of its driven founder Jeff Bezos.

Reading the book I think that there are a few defining moments and lessons. Frugality is an important factor in retailing and especially for amazon:

Frugality We try not to spend money on things that don’t matter to customers. Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for headcount, budget size or fixed expense. All of this comes from Bezos himself. Amazon’s values are his business principles, molded through two decades of surviving in the thin atmosphere of low profit margins and fierce skepticism from the outside world. In a way, the entire company is scaffolding built around his brain—an amplification machine meant to disseminate his ingenuity and drive across the greatest possible radius.

Ever since the late 1990s, Bezos had been claiming that Amazon was a technology company pioneering e-commerce, not a retailer. But that sounded like wishful thinking. Amazon still collected a vast majority of its revenues by selling stuff to customers. Despite Bezos’s protestations, Amazon looked, smelled, walked, and quacked like a retailer—and not a very profitable one at that… However

It was the combination of EC2 and S3—storage and compute, two primitives linked together—that transformed both AWS and the technology world. Startups no longer needed to spend their venture capital on buying servers and hiring specialized engineers to run them. Infrastructure costs were variable instead of fixed, and they could grow in direct proportion to revenues. It freed companies to experiment, to change their business models with a minimum of pain, and to keep up with the rapidly growing audiences of erupting social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Today in 2014 Amazon’s cloud keeps growing fast. It has invented a market in the computer industry with a great future.

Reading list of 2014 so far

In this blog post I’ll share a list of books I read during the first months of 2014. There is more business focus compared to previous years…

The everything store

The everything storeThe everything store is one of the books I liked reading most of my reading list this year. It tells the story of amazon.com so far; The vision and ways of working of the company and it’s founder Jeff Bezos.

The book gives a good insight into the ways amazon.com operates. There is a interesting review on that on The New York Review of Books. You should also read the reviews on amazon.com in which some of the staff reacts on the book. Find my separate post on the book – the everything store.

Mobile first

Mobile FirstMobile First is written by the former Yahoo! design architect, Luke Wroblewski. It is a to the point guide, with good examples. Though examples in this field quickly seem outdated they show the point very well.

The book offers both insightful design patterns and common-sense principles. In the end it all boils down to the adagium: keep it simple.

Automate this, How algorithms came to rule our world

Automate ThisMore and more parts of our lives are ruled by algorithms. There application isn’t only in the financial world or in automated systems inside companies, they are also in medical applications ranging from wait list prioritisation to assisting in diagnoses. The book is full of anecdotes, especially on high frequency trading. It also shows side affects liken how the war for talent has affected development and innovation of other innovations.
There is little room for the downside of algorithms creeping into our daily lives.

Hidden Persuation

Hidden PersuationGreat introduction into the ways in which we are influenced and how we can influence others. It details the psychology behind the techniques of influence described. The book offers very illustrative visual references. It is well created with a fine look-and-feel and an eye for detail.

Hidden persuasion is interesting for professionals in marketing, advertising and communications, but also if you’re just slightly interested in these fields. You will look in another way at (visual) communication in everyday life.