Archive | February 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Sizing and Estimating

Take today’s 1-minute assessment:

  1. Do you differentiate between Sizing and Estimating?
  2. Do you have a standard bill of components, the quantifiable items that make up your software solutions? e.g. servlets, controllers, reports, tables, classes, queries, screens, the file types output by your development stack – these are ultimately the “things” that are quantifiable, that will drive estimates of effort and cost.
  3. Do you keep up history that correlates what’s built with the effort expended to build it?
  4. If your development team sold its services externally, would you be willing to do fixed-fee engagements based on your estimates?
  5. Do you have a lifecycle for estimating, aligned to your funding process?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be seeing some lack of control around project and portfolio delivery, the budget, resource allocation, capacity planning, and the like.  Capability in sizing and estimating is paramount for staffing, cost, and schedule accuracy.  It’s just a SWAG otherwise.  Lack of this ability is a chief cause of diminished IT goodwill in the Business.

Sizing & Estimating, something other than software:  Your partner asks you to redo the kid’s room.  It’s 10 X 16 with 8 foot ceilings; 416 square feet.  You’ll need 13 panels of sheet-rock (14 if you want some leeway) and 52 feet of ceiling molding.  The paint you like covers at a rate of 350 square feet per gallon.  You want 2 coats so you buy 2 gallons plus 2 quarts for the walls, and 1 gallon for the ceiling, giving you about 5% wiggle room for the walls and 9% for the ceiling.  The on-line shopper at your local store makes it easy for you to price the materials.  You let your partner know that it will take 5 days to complete the job, since you’ve experienced redoing a similar room just 2 years earlier.

Need more? If so, feel free to email me or comment below, and I will send another example where we size and estimate what it will take to make lunch for 10 guests – 6 vegetarians (2 of them gluten-free) and 4 carnivores.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Room for the heart?

As I host and attend events to support the days’ goals, I am often amazed at how many people – co-workers – are meeting each other physically for the first time, despite being co-located and holding stakes in common interests.  This actually makes it easier in many cases to get juices flowing, to use the freshness of the first encounter, to smash through the predictable, and take a first cut at new points of view.

While we gain goodness like this, in people connecting physically and intellectually, consider that the more compelling wins will come from further connecting at the heart, passion to passion.  Is your culture competent to nurture its mad scientists, artists, and sculptors?  Does it allow time for the creative process to take hold?  Do these ideas jibe with what you consider practical in managing the top and bottom lines?

For more on the topic, and about the love that goes into a mother’s butter cookies, please see:

Creativity: A Dialogue with Oliver Uberti.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

1-Minute Assessment: Quality Gates

Take today’s 1-minute assessment

  1. Does your IT organization have a standard naming convention for its quality gates? (e.g. DEV, QA, End-2-End, UAT, PRE-PROD, other)
  2. Do the delivery teams abide by those?
  3. Do the various functions who have a stake in the gates, like release managers, testers, and those who provision environments, subscribe to the same standard and coordinate their activities so?

Did you answer NO to any of these questions?  If so, you might be seeing some thrash across a handful of service and process areas that you can fix, relatively quickly, for good return.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

The year the Valley embraced sustainable food innovation

Richly informative piece on innovation in the food industry


“The food industry is broken,” says Josh Tetrick, a 32-year-old entrepreneur who’s creating plant-based egg replacement products that could one day disrupt the global egg industry. His 11-month-old company, Hampton Creek Foods, is working out of a food lab in the South of Market area of San Francisco, just a few blocks from Internet startups like Twitter, Zynga and Airbnb. During a tour of the lab this week, Tetrick’s lovable golden retriever, and unofficial company mascot, Jake, was parked good-naturedly on a bright red couch in the lobby, underneath a photo of Bill Gates eating a muffin made with Hampton Creek’s egg-free baking product. It’s a feel good sort of place.

In the culinary lab

In Hampton Creek’s lab, Tetrick’s staff of 19 — armed with a combo of science degrees, chef experience and food industry chops — are obsessing over eggs. What gives an egg — the result…

View original post 1,150 more words

What would you do with 1000 square feet?

You’re given 1000 square feet of real estate in your business’s headquarters, and have the financial resources to build it out and staff it as you please, as long as it becomes a major hub of activity for IT and the Business.  You need to make it a place that buzzes, where things get done.  What’s the plan?

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Slide show from Reid Hoffman: The Start-up of You

I am sharing today a slide show offered by Reid Hoffman to commemorate a year in print for the The Start-up of You.  Consider as you view the show, the potential for extending Hoffman’s ideas beyond the person, to small communities in the organization, to the collective You.  Hoffman says, “The last year has continued to demonstrate how work and careers need a new entrepreneurial mindset for everyone, not just entrepreneurs.”

Pour a beverage – hot or cold – and find some time to enjoy the slide show.

Dream Team Rides The Bench

You spend a lot of effort to acquire the best talent.  Scouts constantly on the lookout, poring over credentials, conducting interviews, filtering out, distilling it down to the very best, the Dream Team.  Each Dream brings that extra something to the court, a personal brand on a basic game.  In time the team gels, the fingers defer to the larger needs of the hand, they execute near-flawlessly from a common playbook, without sacrificing spontaneity and creativity.  The players get comfortable with one another, riffing, rocking, rolling through the opposition.

But over time, do they stay dreamy?  Are you finding beds of laurels where once there were workout mats?  Noticing a little hesitation in the dribble, flubbed crossover moves, alley oops to no one?  Their fault or yours, the head coach?  Still rallying them at half-time?  Willing to get thrown out of the game to fire them up?  When was the last time you stood center court and jumped the opening tip?

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Excellence at Milepost 171, the Garden State Parkway

It’s late Saturday night, driving home to Connecticut from Aberdeen, New Jersey, 2 hours still to goI stop for gas and wait in a long line.  Finally at the pump, the attendant there on the passenger side, tells me that the nozzle will not reach my gas tank on the driver side, though there is clearly enough hose  to wrap around an 18-wheeler if need be, and despite the fact that many cars before me had their gas tanks similarly situated. With dismissive twirls of his index finger, he motions for me to loop around to the pumps opposite.  I find myself again at the end of a long line.

Finally, fully serviced and $50+ poorer, I sense that 2 hours is a long way to go without going, so I park to make use of the restrooms in the food-court adjacent the pumps.  Once inside, I sense that I have entered a netherworld of sorts, dimly lit buzzing fluorescence, creatures shuffling about on sticky floors, the smell of old gym in the air.  I do what I need to, quickly.

As I’m about to leave the area, I notice a Starbucks nestled in the corner by the exit, bathed in a gold light, its green logo warm and inviting.  This post is for the 2 men, late teens or early 20’s, who were keeping the faith behind the counter that Saturday night.

Kudos to both of you.  Congratulations for excellent service and for upholding the brand .  I raise my Americano, to the way you handled the two little girls in front of me, along with their parents, personalizing their cups, playfully revealing the recipe of their vanilla lattes like it was a secret formula,  up-selling the Dad on a sleeve of cookies, and displaying extra care in securing the drinks in the cardboard tray.  They left feeling special; you made it fun.  Thank you for the small talk, and for asking if I wanted an extra shot of espresso, on the house.  I left the area feeling real good about you guys – yet I knew you less than 5 minutes – for your attention to the seemingly trivial details and for the honest pride you took in your work, even if that work was slinging cups of Joe @ Milepost 171.

From the Barista’s job posting:

A Starbucks barista.

  • Acts with integrity, honesty and knowledge that promote the culture, values and mission of Starbucks.
  • Anticipates customer and store needs by constantly evaluating environment and customers for cues.
  • Delivers customer service to all customers by acting with a customer comes first attitude and connecting with the customer. Discovers and responds to customer needs.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

What do Margaret Mead and Hunter S. Thompson have in common?

2 quotes to get you thinking about organizational change.

The first from Margaret Mead, an anthropologist known for her work in helping us to consider cultural evolution:  “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.”

Mead believes that transformation results from a cluster of interacting people who make choices and set direction, responsible for crucial innovations, disrupting relationships with other groups, funneling events until change occurs.

In Continuities in Cultural Evolution, Mead writes: “Even in the very simplest culture we find conditions which are favorable or unfavorable to evolution in the ways in which age, sex, and the manipulation of even very small amounts of esoteric knowledge are structured, so that the specially gifted are assured-or deprived-of a chance to exercise their gifts in any particular field.”

I think Mead’s ideas neatly complement the sentiment of our second quote, from Hunter S. Thompson, American writer and founder of Gonzo journalism:  “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

In upcoming posts we explore the potential for Communities of Professionals as disruptive clusters and their members as catalysts for change.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

What can the (extra) ordinary IT organization learn from the Apple Retail Store?

Ron Johnson, the current CEO of J.C. Penney, was the Senior VP at Apple who brought the Apple Retail Store and the Genius Bar concepts to market.  In a Harvard Business Review blog, he says that the Store is essentially about “the experience,” and building face-to-face relationships.  He recommends to start with a basic question: How do we reinvent ourselves to enrich our customers’ lives?  Let’s take a look at what IT organizations can learn by answering this question.

 First and perhaps foremost, the Store is a brick & mortar site in an otherwise electronic world.

The Store layout exposes visitors both to the products, and more importantly, to the solutions those offer. How might your IT organization benefit from a physical point-of-presence, open to your Business customer, at the various locations where you do business?

Sure, you’re not selling Macs and i-Products; instead you’re delivering ITIL services, and sales applications, or clinical trial databases, or the cloud, or security, to Business customers who are investing a lot in you.  Don’t they deserve to be similarly delighted, wowed, and enriched?

 Create your own flavor of the Genius Bar.

Why not re-purpose that unoccupied double-office on the 11th floor in a creative way? Perhaps a Usability Lab where Business Analysts (BA), Product Managers, graphic and branding folks, meet with the Business, to collaborate on Requirements and Design, make on-the-spot decisions, equipped with the right space and tools, executing on known capability patterns, to accelerate the time to make exciting and new functionality.  45 minute sessions – you can do 20 to 30 of these weekly if need be, in support of the projects in your current IT Investments’ Portfolio.

BMW and the Genius Bar

 Create environments – create buzz.

Consider performing everyday activities, in new and creative ways. Rethink the layouts.  Do your end-users typically do User Acceptance Testing (UAT) at their desks, when they have the time, negatively affecting your schedules and product quality? Consider a dedicated space with handsome maple tables, standard devices configured and ready to go, staffed by your Development, Quality Assurance, and BA team leads, ready to pace the users through the tests, iterating real-time as defects arise.  Name the space the Accelerated UAT LAB; make it easy – even fun –  to do business with IT, while decreasing costs and improving delivery.

Pick an IT function; imagine the sort of work that would queue up for them at a Genius Bar

How about Project/Program Managers and staff dedicated to sizing and estimating IT efforts? Change Requests and the impact of those on schedule and staffing, though commonplace, are still typically disruptive and difficult to coordinate across a meshed set of projects . Maybe a Change Request Studio? Maybe it’s only for the larger Programs: a well-designed facility, with a well-known and advertised agenda, a predictable set of activities and outcomes, that does nothing more – or less – than process complex change requests – with a smile – to the delight of the Business.

Roping off and promoting services as Bars, Labs, and Studios, brings them out in a bolder relief, more likely for IT and the Business to manage and control them.  Being in the physical space motivates those in the space to execute the process for which the space is intended.  Your delivery lifecycle comes alive.

Bringing the functions and flagship activities out this way creates transparency.  Scheduling for services makes it clear that there’s a wait for service when we are dealing with limited resource.

 Focus on solutions.

The Apple Store sales strategy is not to sell but rather to solve problems, to understand customers’ needs, some of which they might not even realize they have.  You might find your Managed Services partners and 3rd party vendors to be very happy to work with you to create Solution Labs to host various flavors of Workshops, One to One sessions, and other types of Learning events.


  • The physical space – the look, feel and bustle of the environment – is essential to the customer experience.
  • Human interaction is the order of the day.
  • You are attempting to execute a consistent and predictable process repeatedly in a dedicated space that is aesthetically pleasing to both you and your customer, to cut waste and to improve quality
  • Engagement typically takes place by appointment, though you will welcome drop-ins as well.
  • Staff provides support, executes lifecycle activities, focuses on solutions, and spreads IT goodwill.
  • The Bar complements the more standard customer support you offer, like the Help Desk and self-servicing portals.

The job of the Apple staff member is to make customers happy. Make your customers happy and you will likewise enjoy increased goodwill, growth, and return business.

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013