Sunday, April 06, 2008

More comments on ACCU conference


Some more comments, observations and thoughts about, and provoked by, the ACCU conference. No particular linking theme.

Jobs and banks

There were a lot of bankers at the conference this year - or rather developers who work in banks. In truth this is always the case but this year I think there were more. It also gave the opportunity to find out what was happening in the financial job market.

Before Christmas I think many people were expecting a shake-out similar to that of 2001/2002 but it seems the effect of the crisis or credit crunch is very mixed. I observed a few weeks ago that one effect has been to push up rates and while some banks do seem to be shedding staff others are still hiring and demand is strong. I talked to someone from one (American) bank which had drastically cut back staff, while people at another (English) bank were still hiring lots, and another (Scottish) bank which recently bought another (Dutch) bank is having to hire lots of people to help integrate the systems of the two banks.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

I’ve had a downer on metrics and statistics for a long time. But I’ve also been aware that getting the right data and measuring the right numbers is often the key to success. Tom Gilb is firmly in the numbers and metrics camp and argues a good case for measurement and targeting. I was lucky enough to spend lots of time listening to Tom and talking to him.

It seems that, as with so many other things in life, the key is doing it right. It is very easy to set the wrong targets, to measure the wrong thing and produce side-effects you don’t want. But when you look at the right numbers, measure the right thing, and set the right targets you can get great results.

But it isn’t easy, most people get it wrong.

Tom is a fascinating guy, if you ever get the chance to hear him speak do so. A lot of his ideas come directly from Deming - who he knew personally. I don’t think it is too much of an exaggeration to say Tom may be the Software World’s own Deming. If nothing else Tom interprets Deming’s message for software development.

Software development success

In an aside Tom also pointed out that the UK now has Royal Academy of Engineering and that they (not so) recently produced a report on software development. Its a shame that you can’t down load the report, I’d like to read it.

I notice the comment that “only around 16% of IT projects can be considered truly successful”. That 16% seems very close to the figures given in the MIT Sloan Review piece on the IT alignment trap last year. That report said 7% of companies had effective IT departments which delivered on business objectives and another 8% who were effective but were not aligned with the business.

Unfortunately that means 85% of us are working on failing projects. Depressing.

The 1968 wrong turn reconsidered

I’ve been heard to say that somewhere about 1968 the software industry took a wrong turn. We went down the route of engineering, planning and tools rather than people and learning. But the conference made me wonder, maybe it wasn’t such a wrong turn, maybe it was a diversion we needed to take so we could solve some problems. Now those problems are kind of solved we need to refocus on the people.

Maybe.

Product Managers

I have long claimed that UK business do not get Product Managers, this might now be changing. The term Product Manager was in wide use and more people seemed to have a Product Manager on their team.

Lets hope I’m right.

Still, there are too few Product Managers, too few of them are really good, their role is still misunderstood and there is not enough training for them.

Next years conference

I’m no longer on the committee for the conference but I still have conversations about it. It is already taking shape in peoples heads and promises to be an even better conference. For better or worse the conference is unlikely to get any bigger. If it were to get bigger it might loose some of its flavour.

I think the next 2-3 years will be an interesting time in the UK and European conference scene. The arrival of the profit making QCon is having an effect and I know there is some debate about the future, style, content and so on of other conferences. At a guess I think you might see one or two new conference appear and others (perhaps) disappear or change.

My book

It was good to see Changing Software Development selling, and fun to sign copies!

Latest figures say it is selling well, yippee!!!

This Blog

I met several readers of this blog at the conference. Seems they want shorter entries. I’ll try my best. But I’ve said this before and failed!