New Post at AITS: Make or Buy

My latest article for AITS was published yesterday, Make or Buy: The Blacksmith and the Toothpick.

The BlacksmithThis little parable illustrates the internal conflict that can arise when considering alternatives to internally developed solutions. Over the last few years, the decision alternatives have only gotten more complex—Software as a Service (SaaS) has added a third option for many business needs. But in the end, the choice should be driven by life-cycle cost and time to value rather than internal politics.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my stuff.

New PM Articles for the Week of February 26 – March 4

New project management articles published on the web during the week of February 26 – March 4. And this week’s video: And this week’s video: The Band of Heathens perform “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” on Austin City Limits, from 2011. Six minutes to watch; turn it up!

Must read!

  • Tim Fernholz reports that a start-up is designing a satellite to deliver internet access from geosynchronous orbit. The technology tradeoffs and decisions here are fascinating. 5 minutes to read.
  • Mike Wehner briefs us on a new AI-powered assistant for the astronauts on the International Space Station, in the form of a floating, basketball-sized device with an animated face. 2 minutes to read.
  • Bruce Benson uses the occasion of a failed Russian satellite launch to remind us that managers who make technical decisions without input from the technical experts own the results. Just a minute to read.

Established Methods

  • Donna Fitzgerald previews the role of the project manager in the corporate Strategy Realization Office. You’ll need business acumen and you’ll need to be the right kind of agile. 6 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton gives us a ten-minute course on how to be a confident project manager.
  • John Goodpasture explores Pareto, Exponential, and Poisson distributions, and explains why we seem to use Normal distributions even when not applicable. 3 minutes to read.
  • Roger Swannell addresses the question of compiling documentation over the project life cycle. 2 minutes to read.
  • Kiron Bondale shares the questions he asks in project manager interviews. 2 minutes to read.
  • Maya Bernstein and Rae Ringel explain how to plan a better meeting using Design Thinking. 5 minutes to read.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his list of Agile content, from Launching an Agile transformation to distributed Agile leadership to product management trends. 7 outbound links, 2 minutes to scan.
  • John Yorke examines successful Agile software development and finds three underlying pillars. 6 minutes to read.
  • Henny Portman reviews The Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams, by Daniel Vacaniti and less than 2 minutes to read.
  • Jeff Langr notes that Behavior Driven Development (BDD), like TDD, can generate more tests than benefits. Aside: false positives consume scarce resources! 5 minutes to read.
  • Ron Jeffries suggests that we can’t wait until the deadline to be done. 6 minutes to read.
  • Justin Rohrman shares some observations from working with a group that practices pair programming about 95% of the time. 3 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • David Rock shares the leadership lesson that Microsoft learned: tell employees what you want them to strive for, in as few words as possible. 5 minutes to read.
  • Valerie Senyk describes the Netflix culture in terms of qualities and behaviors it values. 2 minutes to read.
  • Jim Taggert points out the importance of our mental models and their underlying assumptions. 2 minutes to read.

Technology, Techniques, and Human Behavior

  • Avery Phillips gets us up to speed on how to deal with national and medical security breaches. The more sensitive the data, the more valuable the target. 4 minutes to read.
  • Ham Vocke concludes his lengthy reference on the practical test pyramid. An excellent resource, nearly an hour to read but worth your time.
  • Khe Hy describes his approach to making better use of everything he reads. 6 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Rosie Spinks reports that Estonia will soon be offering a visa for “digital nomads” who want to park there for up to a year while working online. About half of the population speaks English. 4 minutes to read.
  • Leigh Espy points out some of the behaviors that sabotage our careers. 4 minutes to read.
  • Dorie Clark explains how women can develop and promote their personal brand. Excellent advice for men in here, too. 6 minutes to read.
  • LaRae Quy articulates what it means to be positive in terms of what positive people never do. 5 minutes to read.


Survey: State of Software Development

Survey TakerI don’t normally promote surveys, even those pushed by PMI. But Tamas Torok and the folks at Coding Sans are collecting data for the 2018 update to their State of Software Development report. Last year’s report was probably the most interesting of the 40 or so I read in 2017, in that it included both utilization and aspirational data on technologies and methods and practices for recruiting and retention. However, it was hampered by the fact that their responses were heavily weighted toward Europe. I suspect that if they can get more responses from the Americas, India, and Oz / NZ, the results will be even more accurate and actionable.

So even if you don’t manage software development projects, please pass this link along to one of your colleagues who manages development teams. The list of questions is comprehensive but it shouldn’t take more than 7 minutes to complete, assuming you don’t ruminate over “What have you done about it?” I believe they will close the survey around March 9. When they publish the report, I’ll include it in the weekly round-up.