Bloggin the personal stuff.

2 12 2007

Well! I don’t normally post about my personal things, but this is a little something close to my heart.

A few weeks ago I was visiting some friends and next door to them, was this little brumby pony, at best 12 hands high (or about shoulder height to the average human).

Where she used to liveSadly, she had been torn away from her environment and mum, with two other brumby ponies a few months ago. As I understand, this was because “she would make a great birthday present!”. So a present she became, to someone who knew nothing about horses, and really didn’t want or have the means to have her. Needless to say, and the photo says it all, she wasn’t cared for at all, and left in a “paddock” filled with building materials, trailers, boats, pattersons curse, and a filthy sink to drink from, with an occasional loaf of bread when the owner remembered to eat.

The other two ponies, because they were all so young, died because they were pulled away from their mothers far too early.

Run free and safe young ones.

So after some quite ridiculous posturing from the ‘owner’ I handed over $100 (well my wife did and I got her as a birthday present.) and I’m now the owner of this lovely little pony.

She’s a beautiful little pony, who is strong in her mind and heart. And in time, the body too. She’ll enjoy running with our other four horses in a large 20 acre paddock with only a border fence in it.

my new pony My parting comment here is something I hope people remember and influence others with.

Animals, dogs, cats, mice, rabbits, fish, horses and any other, are not to fall subject to our predatorial catch and keep behaviours. They are pets, but as pets become part of the family, and deserve to hold their dignity and be respected. They were on this planet long before us, and have the right like us all to enjoy their turn in the sun. Don’t illegally take brumbies out of their environment, they can’t go back once you take them out, and once they are out, they need to be cared for properly. If you are not prepared to take on everything that comes with an animal, buy a playstation.

Please remember this over the coming christmas period, and choose your presents carefully. They deserve good choices too.

Have a safe, happy and joyful Christmas period, whatever your beliefs.

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Design Authority – Part two

21 11 2007

Using the Design Authority concept in a large multi team agile environment.

Your Design is AUTHORISED!!!I was speaking with a colleague not long ago. He was asking me about using agile in a large team (50 plus developers, testers and designers), and the kinds of

The challenges as we saw them were;

  • That the software that the floor produced all serviced an internal client (i.e. the organisation).
  • That development efficiency was anecdotally noted as being not where it was desired.
  • That development consistency was also anecdotally not where it was desired.
  • That because of the changing priorities, consistency was a real issue, both in the visual, experience and technical areas, affecting the perceptions of quality, reliability and repeatability.

So I spoke with him about how he could firstly consider using agile methods to enable flexibility in his teams, so they could be configured against the outcomes required of them by the clients. We discussed the use of a configuration manager role, which would effectively marshal those team configurations so that the teams were created and disbanded in an efficient manner. We also discussed how he could still use a predominantly linear management technique to run the floor from an administrative perspective, thus supporting regimented accounting and reporting responsibilities.

Lastly we discussed how he could use a ‘Design Authority Cluster’ to cover off the following key areas:

  • Visual and interaction design
  • Business modeling design
  • Technical or architectural design

The versatility of the Design Authority role is such that the key concepts of having a dedicated role to maintain authority and provide that ‘single point of truth’, can easily be carried over consistently to pretty much any discipline. The only example where I can’t see it being applied, is in Project Management where a Centre of Excellence or PMO model is probably more appropriate.

Obviously the key points in actually considering these roles are:

  • Actual benefits of consistency of approach
  • Holistically as a whole does the development floor required to produce visually and technically consistent products?
  • How many people will be needed to fulfil the role of the Design Authority, and will they be full time or part time or just plain over-time!?
  • What is the cost of change to the behaviours and activities for development, planning, testing, release management and so forth to instill this new set of roles?
  • Is it a single point of truth that’s needed or an expertise Centre of Excellence. (hint; one is about guidance and accountability, the other is about capability development and provision, and you may indeed need both.)

In large organsiations, predictability is a big thing. This is because it serves the accountability requirements which is a big deal, particularly in organiations that have public obligations or responsibility to shareholders.

The Design Authority role, engineered and embedded well into an environment can go a long way to supporting those needs.





Enterprise Human Factors…001

13 11 2007

There’s a lot of talk I come across from some very very clever people in the UX, UCD, BA, WebTech spaces that revolves around doing user centred work.

Including user centred work and themes during the software delivery lifecycle (SDLC) is a great thing. I’ve been involved in many key works doing exactly that, right from being the designer, to being the antagonist pushing to get the concepts in place. It’s all good stuff really, getting user research down as being a standard part of the process for developing software, getting rapid prototyping in all its forms in to the way of life, was and still is a great way to spend the day.

But am I really fixing anything? is the source of the problem resolved?

In some ways, while designing the software to help the users is fixing one problem, being that the solution provided at the end of the day is usable, easy to work with, likable even…. is the task that it has to perform sharing those traits?

Lets look at the eTax system from the ATO. The software itself is designed relatively well, not how I would do it, but well enough. Admittedly they have a hard ask posed to them, no one likes doing their tax, they just want to get the cheque at the end of the day. Well I do anyway.

The ATO software is designed relatively well, it’s easy to use (ish) and relatively well positioned in terms of providing good support to novices. Plus I know from personal experience, the ATO invests heavily into it’s user centred design concepts and work, and they have truely top class people on board doing the work.

But, are they addressing this one:

“Are human factors considerations implicated across all facets of our business?”

When policy is created, is the real world impact of the decisions being made at that crucial point in time being considered? What will happen to the Australian public if we generate just one more form for them to fill in? Are we generating a cost for the public through the generation of that form? What is the cost to the public of filling in that form, and is that something that the ATO needs to consider?

Small companies / organisations have less of this issue, but let’s look at this one.

Say there is a reporting requirement for all Australian Residents to fill in a simple 20 data element form, which confirms their postal address. This form conceivably could take no more than 3 minutes to fill in, lick the envelope and put in in your bag to go to the post office tomorrow.

Now for the unseen overhead:

– two minutes to read the envelope, swear about having to fill in another form, find pen and load the requirements of the form into the brain.

– three minutes to fill it in, pack it for posting and whack it in your bag.

– 10 minutes to locate a post office box, post it, and recover from your detour on your way to work or way home.

So the total spend is 15 minutes to do all of that.

Spread that across all mature adults in Australia (i.e. over 18) 15,917,876 X 15 minutes = 3,979,519 Hours spent across Australia.

Now imagine if that were to be paid back at the minimum average hourly rate of Australia, being $12.42/hour.

$49,425,626.

OK, so that little calculation is rough as guts, but the point being that with large organisations / enterprises, small changes can have large ripples across their user groups. In the ATO’s case, all of Australia.

I’ll say at this point, ATO are keenly aware of this fact, and go to great lengths to limit this kind of effect occurring.

Large enterprises can take that concept of careful consideration of the user base to form not only support or rationale for doing or not doing something, but even for discovering what activities they should be undertaking to meet the needs of the communities they serve (or wish to serve).

The concepts behind benefits profiling being the keystone for delivering an organisations plan can and perhaps even should be created in part through considerations of the humans who will be affected by the desired benefits.

In software development, humans are intertwined into the design and indeed the final output. These concepts can be applied to an entire organisation, how it operates, what benefit it delivers, how it measures success, and how it supports itself into the future.

Perhaps if organisations adopted some of the human centric concepts that occur at the implementation layer of an enterprise, they may be able to significantly improve their success and ease of operation.

Remember consideration is not about constraining change, it’s about optimising and embracing that change.

Thanks to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the numbers.





Design Authority – Part one

21 10 2007

At my presentation this year at Web Directions South I spoke briefly about the role of the Design Authority.

I’ll start this off by saying that there is in my mind, not one role that is defined by Design Authority.

There are in fact three.

The differentiating factor being the context and therefore your viewpoint.

Programme Design Authority:

This Design Authority is single point of truth for the design of a Programmes outcome configuration. Programmes deliver benefits to an organisation or entity. The projects that are children to the Programme, are responsible for delivering the capability that will deliver the benefits that are sought after by the Programme.

In the program me context, the Design Authority marshals what capabilities are required to deliver the benefits, and subsequently the outcomes from the sub-projects.

Over time, through feedback from the sub projects the Design Authority will monitor the development and the alignment of those projects with the parent capability requirements (or Capability Profile)

Enterprise Design Authority:

Similar to a Programme Design Authority, however the Enterprise Design Authority, holds a persistent or lasting role. Programmes have endings, much like projects (duh because of their implicit relationship). The Enterprise Design Authority preserves the Enterprise business intent, and provides design assurance for the programmes of work within the enterprise.

Visual Design Authority:

This is the role that is more common around the traps and would be familiar to anyone working in a development house.

The Visual Design Authority is the role that is responsible for the design strategy, as it relates to all things visual or interactive. This includes aspects like how the visual appearance evolves of a website, or what methodologies are in place for the design of interactivity or business processes, whether or not information architecture principles are applied and how and when and by whom.

Everyone needs to set up their Design Authority in the way that best suits the purpose. The term design means different things to different people, hence since I come from more than one place (being both the interface design, enterprise design space) I can see both points of view.

Why I like the concepts around the Design Authority is that it disambiguates where the assurance responsibility lies. In many contexts this role can be very useful, especially in terms of assuring alignment of effort outputs with the original vision, and in terms of providing consistency and stability in terms of visual design output and approach.

Even for small business this can be useful, because where resources are limited and time is short, wasted effort that isn’t true to the original goal can be expensive and sometimes crippling.

Within the private web development field I would even actually say that the concepts behind a Design Authority, could hold a lot of value (from a visual design authority view) in terms of a Quality Assurance Regime. Where the outputs of a development team can be independantly reviewed against the original or captured client intent, which ALWAYS looks good.

I’ll endeavor to post again about the role of the configuration manager, who enables the requirements of the Design Authority through managing the configuration of the programmes efforts.

This Design Authority role is ever expanding particularly as there is more and more rapid work or agile work being done in the software / web development space. In light of that, if you would like to pitch a question about what a Design Authority role could do for you, or if you want to comment on how you use a Design Authority already, I’d love to hear from you.





Capability profiling – quickly – cheaply – for small sites.

3 10 2007

Good evening everyone!

Diving straight in, Capability profiles.

These are a fantastic little doodad which are very very useful for figuring out what a project has to deliver.

Often I’ve found myself starting off a project, and jumping straight into outcomes as derived from a vision statement.Something like this:

Vision: “We want a better online presence to improve the front end of our business.”

Outcomes: “well, lets build you information pages, and build in a blog, with an events calendar….” and so on.

But there is a critical step in there that often gets missed.

And it’s fiendishly easy to do, and very very valuable.

A capability profile is a set of statements, which can describe in plain English, almost conversational terms, what capability is needed once the project is done.

Eh?

Well, my learned friends a capability profile would look something like this for a fictitious company.

Capability profile

For: That Company over yonder.com.

1. Ability to be able to offer time limited sale opportunities to our clients.

2. Ability to be able to offer special online services to a member group.

3. Ability to manage that membership group, and send out email offers and other sales or marketing materials.

4. Ability to maintain the content and page structure ourselves.

5. Ability to have a photo gallery of our products.

6. to have purchase oriented transactions be performed through the site.

And so on….What this gives you as the developer / designer / whatever, is a really useful communications tool to use with your client to help them define exactly what the site is going to do.

worksheet-demo001.png

But absolves both / all parties of needing to look carefully into what is going to be built exactly.

In Agile managed projects (and waterfall ones for that matter), the capability profile can be used as a single point of truth, owned by the Design Authority role (see my slide share on Natural Project Management With Notes or Without Notes)

Now, clarity around what the end state capability should be is really useful in a financial sense as well, becuase particularly with Agile developments, having clarity of vision can really save the development team a lot of money and time.

I should note as an ending statement, the capability profile is NOT a static document, and should be reviewed by both the project team and the owners at every iteration.

Particularly in an agile development, because as we all know, because agile is so powerful new desires for more capability come up ALL the time.

To support anyone who is interested, I have a neat little set of .PPT / .KEY worksheets and a workshop agenda process which are great to use to help work through the development of your capability and outcomes profile.

If you’d like to get your hands on it, drop me a line!





Web Directions South 2007

29 09 2007

Waterfall and macbook pro 

Well what a show!

Big show everyone, I had a fantastic time socialising and learning and getting all inspired by the amazing array of quality presentations.

I’ve taken the opportunity to post to flickr update profiles, get a twitter account and post up a slideshare of the slide pack WITH NOTES for anyone interested in what I was discussing.

For those of you who either didn’t get the chance to attend, or had questions or comments, please feel free to contact me via my facebook or twitter or even the old fashion way if you have my other details.

I’d be more than happy to discuss the issue of agile and waterfall integration or lack there of, or anything really if it will open up the gates for getting more success to those who need it.

Thank you once again for everyone for your comments (plus’ and negatives) they all go to a good cause…. not making the next presentation painful. 





Ping pong and fond meme’s

29 08 2007

Good golly goshkins!I’ve been pinged, ponged, tagged, memmed to within an inch of my life!!!Serves me right I guess, for not blogging as much as I used to. Side effect of getting caught up in the work. I suppose.Well, as many of my good friends mention including but not limited to:

have reminded / hacked on me, I’ve been abscent from the blogsphere for a little while. So as penance, I’m writing something in the vain hope that I’m going to redeem myself.Anyway, Regarding Web Directions 2007, there’s now a top little side activity running! The great Web Directions 07 photo meme!So if you were there as many top end web techs were, dig up a photo of yourself and get tagging!And to make me not completely hipocritical… here’s mine Thanks Ruthy.And who can forget this old chessnut?Lastly there’s this one, it’s a golden one for me. God bless my missus for taking the photo. She loves me.pre-Web Directions Port80 meet upCourtesy Miles Burke’s Blog, I’m now aware of this little gathering, and I’d like to officially say there WILL be at least one speaker turning up.Details are available from Miles’ blogHope you’re all happy now.P.S. Thanks very much for the comments so far, keep them coming I promise I won’t put you on the spot…. too much.