IBM Innovate UK conference keynote – Walker Royce


This is an almost live blog, I’m sat in the second row.

Software Economics – Walker Royce

Software delivery is an economic discipline, and is about managing uncertainty.

In order to optimise anything, you have to be able to quantify the current state and measure the right indicators.

Agile means accommodating change; we have to hone down the uncertainly. Less uncertainty results in more honest communication.

We unintentionally lie to ourselves about our progress and productivity capabilities. Trust is necessary, and honesty influences customer satisfaction.

do plan milestones and activities as demonstrable results – for testing;
avoid false precision – don’t specify what you don’t really know.

base progress on executable capabilities – the demonstrable product – not activities; speculation and opinion are secondary;
don’t attack the easy things first – (hah, we always say ‘get the boulders out of the way’. There’s no economic benefit in going after the easy successes, that falsely show progress.

quantify the cost of change to demonstrate agility;
avoid subjective and speculative measures.

Walker is talking about the importance of results, rather than activities, to assess progress. It’s evidence based, and it’s benefits based.

Software project cost forecasting – only within 25% accuracy in 3 out of 4 projects. Very uncertain for something where people expect firm prices and timeframes.

Resources = Complexity X Collaboration X Automation

Huge benefits in reducing complexity. Big benefits in improving agility. Big benefits in improving collaboration.

Investing time and money in innovation means reducing support and maintenance costs.


IBM Innovate UK conference – keynote Mike O’Rouke


Tuesday 11 Oct 2011 – third annual conference

This is an almost live blog – I’m sat in the second row.

It was very nice to be welcomed by Mike of ‘Digital Influence’ from Olgilvy; I can’t claim to have much ‘digital influence’ myself but I am professionally interested in collaboration within the enterprise, and that certainly involves software.

Mike introduced me to Derek and Mark who were able to tell me more about the Rational suite of software. I’m obviously behind the times, because while I know something of Agile Development, the Rational suite of products is new to me.

Derek and Mark explained how developing software within the Rational IDE (Integrated Development Environment) was only part of the need, as project management and decision making is also necessary, and Rational with Focal Point does all that.

What I’m getting from this is that while non-tech people may well rely on the intranet and, sadly, email, to collaborate with each other, tech people, developers and coders have their own needs and their own suite of tools.

The Architecture for a Smarter Planet – Mike O’Rourke, VP, Offerimg Strategy and Delivery; IBM Rational

Our world is becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.

Instrumented relates to all the chips, the processors that support the core service – i.e. Cars may drive, but they’re supported by tech hardware and software.

Last year, 12% of banking transactions occurred on a mobile device. Most banks expect that to reach 50% and so are preparing.

Mike’s talking about the cloud and virtualisation, which reminds me that a lot of companies don’t want to own expensive assets and don’t want to learn complex maintenance procedures. Many companies like to focus on their core activities and outsource peripheral activities (support activities) to external experts. Risk shifting.

Mike’s talking about ‘systems of systems’ and I think I know just what he means. There is no single system that our business runs on, or that or people use. Our systems have to be integrated.

Top-performing CIOs cited integration and collaboration between IT and the business as critical success factors. I know this personally; when we ‘leave’ IT to fix / deliver things, the business often fails to adopt the end result.

The most successful companies are the one’s where more people are innovating:

  1. Creating higher quality products (reduces support, complaints, maintenance);

  2. Reducing time to market;

  3. Reduce costs – making sure people are optimally placed to do the things they should do.

There’s something here about customer satisfaction, not just churning out cheaper products, faster.

Can software deliver innovation?

Mobile banking creates flexibility for people and institutions – but security, quality and different platform testing is necessary.

Cars contain more lines of code than a fighter jet. Is it well tested? Integrated in the hardware?

Ford have a key that restricts the speed of the driver – for your kids.

IBM, naturally, use their own software suite and approach to deliver to their customers. Y’gotta measure to know if you’re improving. The edict ‘thou shalt be agile’ plus the Rational software suite meant that ‘on time delivery’ jumped from 47% in 2006 to 95% in 2011.

Back in 2006, IBM were mostly using the waterfall project methods.

Mike admits that in 2009 they shipped 100% of products to customers, but that a couple of them shouldn’t have been shipped – that’s honest; he’d rather be at the 95% mark and make sure things are right.

IBM have an 8 year support lifecycle. Is that longer than Microsoft?

Collaboration – face to face is great, but isn’t always going to happen. A conversation about a certain change needs to be communicated to lots of other people, in India, across the globe. The tool itself must manage all this.

We can’t waste time managing a project plan and whiteboards and sticky notes (post-its) on the wall – not everyone has access to all this, and besides, the coders / developers are moving ahead right now.


Poor intranet pages will get published

Communications, Intranet

As promised in my previous article, we’re looking at intranet page quality and the four typical standards; perfect, good, good enough and poor.

I focus on quality a lot on this site and in my day job as an intranet manager, but regardless of our standards and goals we have to accept that sub-standard pages will get published on our intranets when we open up publishing access to more people than the Internal Communications team.

Everyone thinks they can write; they cannot. Some people are gracious enough to recognise their lack of experience and take help, support and guidance. Many people think they have a handle on communicating, and will genuinely feel your help and guidance is superfluous to requirements. These people will publish poor pages. On a more open, collaborative, decentralised intranet, such pages will get written and will even get approved by people who should know better.

Yes, you will even find yourself approving poor intranet pages in order to expedite processes and support business needs.

And that’s what we’re talking about; supporting the business. Poor pages will get online because, at times, we all have needs and no time. Look at this article; it’s poor. No image; no bullet list; no sub-headings; a spelling mistake; badly written over-long sentences and a topic that wanders over the page instead of being sharp and concise at the beginning. Yes, this is a poor page on my website, and the are poor pages on my intranet.

Poor pages, while inevitable, should not be left as poor. While it may be impossible to make them good enough at the time, they should be noted and the content owner or editor should return to them at a later point, in line with priorities. Poor pages should make up the smallest percentage of your intranet, and hopefully won’t be high-traffic spots.

We’ll take a look at good enough pages next. Listen to my little 4 minute rant about quality pages!


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Would you like to team up to write about internal communications?

Communications, Minutiae

I’ve been writing about comms for years now, and seriously talking about good practices for over a year. Considering Chris Brogan’s prediction that solos will need to consolidate and collaborate in 2010, I’d like to throw out an idea and invitation to you.

lego-doughIf you’re working within an Internal Communications department, would you like to join me and write about comms (writing, intranet, email, presenting, scripts etc.) here at kilobox communiqué?

Continue reading …

There must be a better way than Q&A (or, “I frequently hate FAQs”)

Communications, Design, Intranet

1. Why are business writers obsessed with the FAQ format?

I don’t know. Perhaps the FAQ format is so very easy to write; one covers all the concerns comprehensively, and it’s just so easy to think of a question and write the answer. It’s much harder to explain a subject in proper prose, spinning a narrative that moves a person’s understanding forward in a logical progression of facts and examples.

2. Are all FAQs made up of frequently asked questions?

Certainly not. Most FAQs are created from two distinct areas. The first area covers subjects and queries the author wished the audience cared about! Instead of writing engaging, perhaps even exciting copy to draw the reader into the subject, the author despairs and resorts to making up obvious questions. While these queries have never been voiced, they cover the subject fairly well. See FAQ 1 above.

The second area covered are real questions, but have only been asked once. Some of these queries are so random and specific even the most trusting reader will spot them for what they are – the authors agenda.

Continue reading …