Releasing Software Developer Superpowers

Article is aimed at anyone looking to gain the edge in their software development team creation or advancement in the digital age. Concepts can be applied outside of sw dev at some level. Open to discussion – views are my own.

UX is not just for Customers

User Experience is an ever growing component of product development, with creating user centric design paradigms to ensure that personalisation and consumer/market fit is achieved. From a development team view, leveraging some of the user experience concepts in how they work can achieve operational efficiency, to accelerate product development. For example, how is the experience for each of the developer personnas in your team? How do their days translate to user stories? Can interviewing the development community lead to creating better features for your development culture?

Build Products not Technology

Super important. Sometimes with developers, there is an over emphasis on the importance of building features, a lot of the time for features sake. By keeping the lens on the value or “job to be done” for the customer in the delivery of a product at all times can ensure you are building what is truly needed by your customer. To do this, select and leverage a series of metrics to measure value for that product, along with keeping your product developent in series, and tightly coupled to your customer experience development.

Leverage PaaS to deliver SaaS

This sounds catching but its becoming the norm. 5 years ago, it took a developer a week of development time to do what you can do in Amazon Web Services or Azure now in minutes. This has led to a paradigm shift, where you being to look at the various platforms and tools that are available to enable the developers to deliver great products to customers. Of course, there will always be custom development apps, but you can help your developers by getting them the right toolkit. There is no point reinventing the wheel when OTS open source components are sitting there, right? Products like Docker and Spring and concepts like DevOps are bringing huge value to organisations, enabling the delivery of software or microservices at enhanced speed. Also, the balance between buying OTS and building custom is a careful decision at product and strategic levels.

“The role of a developer is evolving to one like a top chef, where all the ingredients and tools are available, its just getting the recipe right to deliver beautiful products to your customer.”

Create Lean Ninjas!

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Evolving the cultural mindset of developers and the organisation toward agile development is super important. Having critical mass of development resources, plus defined agile processes to deliver business success  can really reshape how your organisation into one where value creation in a rapid manner can take place. However, its important to perform ethnographical studies on the organisation to assess the culture. This can help decide on which agile frameworks and practices (kanban, scrum, xp etc) can work best to evolve the development life cycle.

Implement the 10% rule

Could be slightly controversial, and can be hard to do. Developers should aim to spend 10% of their time looking at the new. The new technologies, development practices, company direction, conferences, training. Otherwise you will have a siloed mis-skilled pool of superheros with their powers bottled.

However, with lean ninjas and effective agile company wide processes, resources and time can be closely aligned to exact projects and avoid injecting randomness into the development lifecycle. Developers need time to immerse and focus. If you cant do that for them, or continously distract them with mistimed requests – they will leave. If you can enable them 10% is achievable.

Risk Awareness

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We are seeing an evolution in threats to enterprise all over the world, and in a software driven and defined world, getting developers to have security inherent design practices prior to products hitting the market can help protect companies. Moons ago, everything sat on prem. The demands of consumers mean a myriad of cloud deployed services are adding to a complex technology footprint globally. If they know the risk landscape metrics from where they deploy, they can act accordingly. Naturally, lining them up with business leaders on compliance and security can also help on the educational pathway.

Business and Technology Convergence

We are beginning to see not only evolution in development practices –  we are also seeing a new type of convergance (brought about by lean agile and other methods) where business roles and technology roles are converging. We are beginning to see business analysts and UX people directly positioned into development teams to represent the customer and change the mindset. We are seeing technology roles being positioned directly into business services teams like HR and finance. This is impacting culture, wherby the saviness in both directions needs to be embraced and developed.

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Growth Mindset

We mentioned mindset a lot in the article. That because its hugely important. Having the right culture and mindset can make all the difference in team success. As Carol Dweck talks about in her book “Mindset”, you can broadly categorise them into two – growth and fixed. This can be applied in all walks of life, but for team building it can be critical.

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

Creating a team where being on a growth curve and failures are seen as learning can really enable a brilliant culture. As Michaelangelo said “I am still learning”. Especially as we evolve to six generations of developers. How do we ensure we are creating and mentoring the next set of leaders from interns through to experienced people?

Check a Ted talk from Carol here – link.

And most importantly … HAVE FUN!

Closing off Web Summit 2015 – Day 2/3

And so it ends. The Web Summit on Irish shores finished on Thursday (for now), and I must admit there was an athmosphere of “what if” and that of sombreness. But we cannot allow this to affect our perspective and thinking of the impact this conference has had on Ireland tech landscape.. Paddy Cosgrave has built a conference which he began with 400 attendees to now 35,000. Let’s put that into context in regards to people’s perspective of Ireland as a Tech Hub. With over 100 countries represented, and technology itself ensuring their own tech landscape is quite small, the voices of the 35,000 will translate into millions. And I am certain the conversation will be about Web Summit, the friendliness of the services and the vibrant Night Summit, and not the number/cost of hotels, government and traffic.

Wednesday was a great day and one of the best I have had at a web summit event. It’s started on the Machine Stage, where a panel including Nell Watson from Singularity spoke on how machines and humans will coexist and complement each other in our smart future. I liked how Nell spoke about how the seamless integration of machines, and the governance of same will be a key piece of the puzzle.

Nell Watson from Singularity speaks on Machine Stage
Next up on Machine was another panel, which included Dr. Joe Salvo from GE and Dr. Said Tabet from EMC. The panel was expertly hosted by Ed Walsh who is the director of technology vision for EMC. Whilst interviewing the guys, Ed brought out not only the technology vision required for IoT, but also the collaboration that can be enabled by consortiums like the IIC, of which Dr Salvo and Dr Tabet have been so instrumental in building.

Ed Walsh hosting a panel session on the industrial internet
As already mentioned, the proliferation of Virtual reality was evident, and I got a demo of Amazons audible technology! It was quite neat!

Friday was a more relaxed day, with numbers down a little but this allowed for a different kind of networking experience. It was a day to chat with as many startups as possible, and to catch some great talks. One that stood out was on centre stage, where a panel (including Christine Herron from Intel Capital, Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures, Mood Rowghani from KPCB ) was hosted by Charlie Wells of the Wall Street Journal. Topic discussed – tomorrow’s tech landscape. A growth or just a bubble?


Panel Discussion on Future of Tech
Well it looks like what Nell mentioned above is already happening from who I bumped into!

And so, we are off to Lisbon. Whilst I believe that there will be challenges there also, it is Cosgraves personality that will shine through. An excellent CI labs data science company spawned out of the web summit, and whist there is that data science feel to a lot of the web summit, it’s this personality of Cosgrave and his team that still makes this event stand above many.

Why Ireland needs to use Technology and IoT more to help their Homeless

21% rise in homeless sleeping rough in Dublin

15% rise in homeless in Cork

Rise also in Limerick, Galway and Waterford

Over 1,000 children are now homeless in Ireland.

Startling figures. Especially the last one. I cannot try to comprehend what it is like to be a parent, who must tell their children that they don’t have a place to go at night.

I, like many others have been in other countries cities to see that this is not simply an Irish challenge. So I will start by giving those examples, to address the global scenarios, and how our physiology must change locally. I remember vividly two occasions whilst abroad that a homeless person made a big impact on my life.

The first time was in 2005, I was in Auckland, New Zealand. We were staying in a hostel whilst backpacking. We weren’t having a particularly good day. The weather wasn’t great, and one or two things went badly. But as we strolled back to the hostel, we noticed a homeless elderly guy in a doorway right beside us. The “bad” weather had turned into a storm, with an incredible amount of flash flooding. I felt awful. And everyone has been there, where a reality check ensures that we come back to earth. I asked the hostel could the guy get a room. They said no, as he must have an address. I offered to pay for his room, still no. Yikes. So I decided all I could do was give him some money. But then I thought, why not do that, and have a conversation. I think we automatically think only money is what they need. I went out, and sat close to him. Whilst chatting, I learned part of his story, and one of the first things he said was that there were worse off people than him, and he didn’t drink, or smoke. And that he hated the rain! He thanked me for the $20, and also the conversation. We helped each other.

The next story is when I received incredible kindness from a homeless guy on my very first night in New York. Woohoo im in America, let go for beers! Oooops. Ended up feeling a little worse for wear outside a club. On my own. Minus my phone. In a lane way in a bad part of town. A big guy stopped. Uh-oh. But this guy asked me was I ok. I told him I was from Ireland, and that I lost my phone. He told me “man I don’t even have a phone”. He then walked me out of the lane way, and hailed me a cab. I gave him a nice tip, and the cynic out there will say he was looking for that. But he didn’t know me. Humanity exists.

And now to Ireland. I really want to stress that I am not some Saint. This is more to raise awareness and how potentially technology can help. I have contributed to Cork Simon Community at length at various points in my life, and if I have some change, I do give it to the needy. But herein lies the first challenge. A lot of people has less and less cash on them. And even if we do, people wonder, if I give this person money, what will they spend it on? Money doesn’t always help, as the upper class society of Ireland have also seen.

From a technology perspective, I want to talk about some potential ways for technology to help on this challenge.

The term Smart Cities has been branded about in relation to the Internet of Everything. Where we will use technology to improve people’s lives. Yet I have not seen much presented that will help the homeless. Imagine if we could use cost effective smart devices that would be worn by homeless volunteers to identify the paths they take, and where they sleep? So that soup runs can be more efficient, and beds can be found? I think it is one area that must at least be explored. There are doing this in Odense, Denmark. Check it out here.

I also believe that doorways could be fitted with load sensors to gauge how many are occupied in our cities. This data could be used to predict common places used, and even predict on particular nights where homeless people are. That coupled with temperature sensors could have saved Jonathan Corrie’s life last December.

The last idea I’ll propose here is to modify the many parking meters in our cities to allow them produce vouchers based on use in a particular day. The more the meters are used in the day session (which should correlate busier cities to more needy people), the meters in the evening print out food/supply vouchers when homeless people enter a code that is text to them. If they don’t have a phone, then their date of birth would be previously registered and entered.

I came across a startup on a recent trip to the United States. I was incredibly impressed. It is called HandUp. The whole premise is that homeless people can setup a online profile through the organisation, and can crowd fund to reach their goals. They never receive direct cash. Instead it is used to buy supplies, food, and sometimes tools to go back to work. So instead of writing their story on cardboard, they get help to set up a profile, and then hand out business cards to their site, so that people can logon and donate. It only based in San Francisco for now, but I have contacted the, to hear plans for global roll out. (And how)

Technology multinationals benefit greatly though our tax system, by positioning themselves in Ireland. And it’s great for our economy, through jobs. I have seen the kindness first hand by working in these companies. They create lots of great lives for people. I wonder if a 1% challenge in the tech sector, where people can volunteer (before tax) donate 1% of their annual wage (hence its 0.05% from us and 0.05% from government) to a particular social challenge. This could change annually. The homeless, the elderly. I think this sort of crowd funding which is spread thin could make a huge impact. I won’t do the exact maths, but 100,000 employees at average salary of €40,000 equates to €40,000,000.!!

A story of caution on the wrong ways to use technology. BBH labs tried a social experiment to use homeless people as wifi hotspots.!! You can read more here. Brain fry springs to mind.

The work done by organisations like Simon and Focus Ireland (and others) is incredible. I sometimes try to think if they weren’t so active, where would we be. I personally believe that the technology community can play a role in assisting and helping the fight. I also think the government gets bad press, and whilst not completely innocent, neither are we. Dublin Simon Community submitted an application for new accommodation last year. The result? 33 objections from the public. Not the government, but us.

“Part of the problem is we have a lack of activism.. We have a lack of people who are willing to step forward and be part of the solution” – Michael Esswein