The Times They Are A Changing

I am focusing on some new things here at Oracle.  I’ll be dedicating a lot more of my time looking into emerging technology trends and how we should be applying them to the enterprise ERP or financial management space.

So how does this effect this blog?

I’ve been blogging for many years on Intercompany, Financial Management and ERP, mixing in some general technology posts.  Now I plan to start writing about new technology trends a lot more.  I have always been interested in this, but now I have more time to get deeper into it and I find blogging about things helps me understand them better and get feedback and insight from others, so it is a win-win.  I have enjoyed all the comments on the blog and words of encouragement that people have given me in person, that has been a huge motivation to continue writing (even tho I have been posting as frequently as I would like the last few years) and respond to comments.  I hope that feedback will continue.

So now I have got this announcement out of the way, I can get started… watch this space.

Trivial Software?

All software is hard.  Building good software is not trivial, but the challenges I face are different depending the intended use of my software.  For me it helps if I put software into three categories

  1. Critical – this controls nuclear power plants, medical equipment or aircraft control systems.  If it breaks a lot of people die.
  2. Enterprise Class – If it breaks I cannot run my business (pay my suppliers, pay my employees, serve my customers)
  3. Trivial – If it breaks I can’t check the latest sports results, or post my opinions on my lunch to facebook and twitter

The tolerance of the consumers of each of the above software for failure is quite different and as such the speed with which new features can be delivered and implemented will differ.  If the pilot of your plane sees a pop up on his screen right before he takes off saying “An update is available for your autopilot software, would you like to install it now?”;  would you want him to click ‘Yes’?

I build Enterprise software, which is the middle ground.  I certainly have to spend a lot of my time ensuring that what we build is robust and reliable, but there is plenty of scope to innovate.  I respect the people who build there other types of software as they each have their own unique challenges.  Critical software has to be totally safe and reliable and those pressures are obvious.  What I class as trivial software is a challenge because you have to move with the market and bring out new features and innovations very fast and keep your customers very happy and engaged because they can move easily to another product.  What is trivial software to the users may well be critical to your ability to make money and pay your own bills.

Do you agree with my categories, or do you prefer to slice it another way?  Is trying to categorize software a futile exercise?  Am I just trying to be controversial by calling some people’s life passion trivial?  Have your say in the comments below.

Some thoughts on global development teams

By David Haimes

I joined Oracle in 1997 working out of the UK, in a team split between Redwood Shores in California and the UK; my first project was working with people in The Netherlands and my boss was in Finland. So working globally is nothing new to me. At the moment my team are located in California, New York, U.K., Bangalore and Hyderabad. I have almost 15 years experience working in remote teams, to me it is the norm but some organizations are still getting used to it. So he are a few techniques I have found useful.

1) One team – Everyone is equal regardless of location

If you try to have one team your treat as an outsourcing team you will fail. You need to treat everyone as art of the same team and have everyone involved in design, code, test, etc. Having one location do a design and pas it to another team to code is not going to work. If you treat everyone as a single team you will be more productive, get the best out of all members of the team and have better motivated people who will stay in the team longer as they will get better opportunities to learn and grow. If you disagree with this, the rest of the post is not going to be relevant to you.

2) Get to Know Each Other

I did something called “Knowing Me, Knowing You” where each team member has to interview another and write up a little article about them. This should be trivial and light hearted and it’s essential that you decide who interviews who, to make sure everybody talks to somebody they don’t know well yet. After you have all written the articles, then post them in a central place and you can all read about each other.

3) Use Timezones to your advantage

You can get 24 hour coverage, so nobody should have to work through the night on critical issues – pass them around the globe. There are challenges here as you can lose efficiency with different people working an issue if it is not done right. I always recommend a warm handover – so you speak live to the person you’re passing the issue to and they get a chance to ask questions. Dropping them a mail and going to bed is not the right way!

4) Pick Up the Phone

It is very easy, particularly in a tech company to use electronic communication (IM, email, blogs, ec) all the time. These are great tools, but when you are remote you should use all the different communication tools available to you and sometimes you need t pick up the phone and talk.

5) Regular team meetings

This is something I have always struggled with, I don’t want to create a meeting that people don’t want to attend and get no benefit from, people’s time is valuable. However if I stop having regular meetings people feel they are out of touch, so I do my best to bring valuable content ie. not me droning on.

6) Have some fun together

Take a few minutes of team meetings or interactions for something light hearted. This checks everyone is awake and listening and lightens the mood, remember it will be early morning or late a night for some people. It is also good to share pictures of any team meals or events in each location with other locations. I was amazed when some team members in Hyderabad shared this Bollywood flash mob they were part of, great to see another side to them.

So these are 6 thoughts I had, but it is not the complete picture and I’d like to here your thoughts. The comments sections is below…