Management by Results – With an Assist from Jazz

Earlier today one of the people who works on my team (Sudhakar Frederick, or Freddy) sent me an email challenging me to do a blog post on how I manage our technical team.  He is going through his yearly review, and he found that he was able to pull his information together in record time.  I don’t know if it is worthy of a blog post, but Freddy is a pretty smart guy.  I learned a long time ago that it pays to listen to his opinions.  I’m not sure if he wanted me to highlight another effective usage model for RTC and Jazz, or if he felt that I should highlight the management style and philosophy, so I’ll try to highlight both things.

Background

I am a pretty technical guy, and I like being a technical guy.  However, at some point in time each one of us technical types runs into the horror of being recognized for our work, and rewarded with a position as a manager.  For some folks the thought of it is so unpleasant that they turn the job down.  I didn’t, and for the past three years I have been a manager.

IBM/Rational has a performance rating system that we go through every year.  Each year people are evaluated on the results that they have achieved over the previous 12 months.  Each person needs to briefly describe how their actions contributed to some type of measured results.  Now the results being looked for differ depending on your job.  So the relative importance of my results is viewed in the context of my current job.

So each year our technical people are asked to put together a short narrative on their significant accomplishments over the past year.  The key here is that we want a focus on measurable results.  Management will then go over these narratives, and be able to give people feedback on where their results rank within the organization, and then give the technical people feedback on what they can do to improve.

How We Ran Jumpstart – and Run Emerging Technologies

When the Jumpstart team formed, we decided that the best way to learn everything about Jazz was to actually use the tools ourselves.  So while RTC might not be a perfect fit for team focused on customer enablement and education, it can do a pretty good job.  We designed our own work items, with one type representing our customer engagements, as well as the existing Agile work items for epics, stories and tasks.

We record information in the work items, using the discussion area to keep notes, observations, and to share the progress that we make.  We record what we have done, what we learn, and current status of our various tasks and customer engagements.  By having someone indicated as an owner of each work item, we force ourselves to be accountable for moving things forward.  We also added an additional owners field which we use to indicate efforts where a small team of people are collaborating on something.  My team runs with the motto of, “if it isn’t on my dashboard, then it doesn’t exist”.

When we help customers, or provide some sort of enablement and training session, we record these in a specific work item type.  We also use epics, stories, and tasks, to help define and track the work that we do that might not be related to a specific customer.  So if we know that we want to create a “Getting Started Guide”, we will create an epic for this.  Then each chapter of the guide will be a story that is a child of this epic.  In this way we can divide the work across the team, while everyone is able to see what the other guide authors are working on.

Because we collect notes and observations on ALL of our work, the Jazz instance becomes something of a knowledge base for my team.  We often get questions from either our IBM field teams or our customers that we know we have seen before.  We just cannot remember the answer.  When this happens, we can go back through our old work items and search for the situation that we dimly remember from before.  Even if we have not noted the solution to the issue in the work item, we can see other people who were involved, and this often allows us to get input from other people who DO remember how to address that particular situation.

We also use the subscribers field in ALL of our work items, and add the names of team members (or managers) that we want to be aware of what is happening with any particular piece of work.  One of our other techniques is to use @username in the discussion areas of our work items.  When someone is called out in the subscribers area, or in the discussion through the use of their username, they will get an email alerting them to changes in the work item.  It’s a simple technique that we use to help us get the right people involved in any work that we are doing.

This is all predicated on people updating their work items, and in people keeping their notes in the discussion area of the work items.  As long as we stay disciplined about this, then we all reap the benefits of this approach.

How We Share Our Information

We use dashboards, and I refuse to use slides.  We have multiple Jazz instances within our organization, and I need to be able to share information with all of these stakeholders.  Some of this information is direct from the widgets that I use on the dashboard that my team uses.  Because we use special work items for our customer engagements, we are able to easily create queries and widgets that quickly inform people who we are working with, and what we are working on.  In these instances, we need to establish friend relationships between the different Jazz instances.

We use a common convention on what we use for the Summary field of our work items.  We use the  customer name followed by WHAT you are helping them with.  This allows me to use Work Item widgets coupled with queries on open work, to provide a quick list of the things that my team is doing.

How do I filter out just the open content?  I look at the state of the work item, and check to see that it is unresolved.  To see not just what is open, but what people have been working on, I use a different query.  In this Active work query, I look at the open work items, and then I add an additional condition that the Modified Date is after some period of time (I use 14 days, so I see what we have been working on in the past two weeks).  This allows the team to see what has really been actively worked on in the past 14 days.

I often provide analysis and bullets that help describe the data that we are posting on our dashboards.  This is usually in the form of single sentences and bullet lists, which is EASY to do with HTML.  I used to do this with HTML widgets, but I quickly ran into the issue of having to update the same HTML widget in multiple dashboards.  I didn’t like doing that, and I made mistakes.  Not a good solution.  So I decided that I could leverage the new External Content widgets in Jazz.  These widgets allow me to build some simple HTML pages, and then provide a simple pointer to include the content from those pages on my dashboard.  And on a bunch of other dashboards.  So I now can just update a simple HTML status file, and my updates get reflected immediately on ALL of the dashboards of my various stakeholders.  This allows me to focus on giving all of my stakeholders a consistent message and content, based on real data from my team, with each of them seeing the things in the context that they want to see.

Using this approach, with some simple HTML files used to report common status across multiple Jazz instances, does have a downside.  Our various Jazz instances use secure HTTP (with an https:// web address).  My simple HTML status pages are served out as unsecure http content (with an http:// web address).  Newer browser versions will often block this content by default.  You can get around this in a couple of ways:

The first option is the best option, but for the short term I am currently employing option #2.  I don’t have an secure HTTP server just lying around that I can use to host my little status updates.

What Do People Think?

My bosses love being able to surf around and see how my team is doing.  They love having this ability.  They also like being able to put widgets that update automatically on their own dashboards.  They probably also love the fact that they can find out what my team is doing without having to actually talk to me (although none of them will admit it!).

I like only having to update a small set of HTML files to report a consistent message to all of my stakeholders.  If I use a WYSIWYG editor to access those, then I can essentially give this to someone who is not technical, and have the reasonable expectation that they would be able to successfully use this solution.

My team loves this because they get to tell me what is happening, as it happens.  When we talk, they don’t have to remember everything that they have done over the past week.  If they have been updating their work items, then I already know about it.  No need for status reports!  (Hooray!  I hate writing status reports, and I hate reading status reports.)  It allows us to focus on and discuss the issues that we can collaborate on and resolve together.  When we get to end of the year reviews, my team can easily do reports and queries that remind them of all of the work that they did during the year.  They are able to easily and quickly pull together a powerful narrative that highlights their accomplishments and results from the past year.  It also helps us validate who participated in certain efforts, and by looking at the work items, we can determine the relative contributions made by our team members.

As a manager, I love it.  It allows me to see things at a glance, and see what my team is involved in.  By looking into the work items, I can “get up to speed” on any issues that have come up, and I can ask intelligent questions to help people discover solutions to their problems.  So while the dashboard gives me good information, it is only valuable in that it allows me to ask good questions.  You cannot just use it to blindly drive your team, and I don’t try to.  What it does do is give me an efficient way to get an overview of what we are doing, how we are doing it, and discover ways that I can help us improve.  It also gives me a way to consistently report status and analysis to my numerous stakeholders, so they can all have a consistent picture of how my team is performing, and the things that we see in our customer environments.

Key Points to Remember

  • In a team with people solving new problems and discovering new approaches every day, it is important to capture this knowledge somewhere.  We often get so focused on the NEXT thing, that we forget about the solutions that we have already discovered.  Being disciplined about updating work items helps us remember things, and helps us share information inside of our team.
  • We use subscription and the “@username” indicator in discussions a lot.  We use this to pull people into conversations and work.  You team should have a culture of holding each other accountable to responding to these types of alerts.
  • We also use the tags field.  We use this to tag certain work items for inclusion in very specific searches.  If I have a series of work items related to a particular issue, or pattern of issues, then I will tag all of the work items with the same tag, and create a query that returns only the work items with this tag.  That allows me to use a work item widget with this query on my dashboards to bring these things some executive level visibility.
  • I create dashboards for a lot of my stakeholders.  I use the team dashboard for my team, but I create a personal dashboard (and then share it) for many of my stakeholders.  If stakeholders only care about a subset of the activity that my team does, I create a specific tab for them on this dashboard.  That way they can see things in the context that they want to see.
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Jazz Jumpstart at Innovate 2013

Note: Updated on May 10, 2013 – Added Sudhakar “Freddy” Frederick’s presentation, which was a late addition to the Innovate 2013 schedule.

The Jazz Jumpstart team is a development team of highly skilled technical and business experts that work directly with our customers.  The members of the Jumpstart team are thought leaders in various areas of the Jazz technologies, and the application of those technologies to solve business challenges.  Many Jazz users are familiar with our work as published in our blogs, in LinkedIn groups, our developerWorks articles, a whole bunch of Jazz.net articles and workshops, and in the Jazz forums.

Wouldn’t it be great to meet some of these thought leaders face to face?  This year we will have a bunch of Jumpstart team members at Innovate 2013, the Rational Software Development Conference.  So come to the conference and make sure to catch our sessions, or just catch us taking in some of the other great sessions at the conference.

If you see any of us at the conference, feel free to stop and introduce yourself.  We really look forward to talking to Jazz users, administrators, and the people who depend on the Jazz solution to deliver value to their business.

Also be sure to check out the various blogs of the thought leaders that I have compiled on the right hand navigation bar.  These folks are on the cutting edge of actual Jazz deployments and product innovations.

JumpStart Biographies

Here are biographies of the Jumpstart team that will be present at Innovate.  I could say that I left the best for last (since I am the last one here), but the list is actually alphabetical.

Grant Covell

As a performance expert, Grant has worked extensively with the Rational tools and our customers to help identify performance issues, and to help characterize successful deployments of the Jazz technology.  His thought leadership in the realm of performance and scalability are reflected in his involvement with a wide variety of Jazz customers, as well as in his blog Ratl Perf Land.  This year Grant will be presenting:

  • RDA-2485 – Jazz High-Availability and Disaster Recovery Levels and Best Practices
  • RDA-1327 – Maximizing your Jazz Environment and Performance
  • Ask the Experts on CCM and CLM – in the Red Carpet Lounge

Jorge Diaz

Jorge is an expert in the deployment of Jazz solutions in both the distributed and mainframe environments, and Jorge has helped numerous customers quickly realize the value of the Jazz tools.  You can see examples of his work on his blog Development and the Jazz Platform.  He has also done extensive customizations of the Jazz solution for our customers.  At Innovate 2013, Jorge will be presenting:

  • WKS-1116 – CLM Practice Enactment Workshop
  • CCM-1629 – All You Need to Know About Customizing RTC
  • SZ-1203 – Building Mainframe Applications with RTC Enterprise Extensions

Sudhakar “Freddy” Frederick

Freddy is the premier thought leader for Jazz in the Asia-Pacific region. His work on mobile development with Jazz and with Jazz reporting (which you can read about in Freddy’s Jazz Blog) is the gold standard for the “best practices” in these areas of the Jazz solution. This year at Innovate Freddy will be presenting:

  • MDEV-1120B – Solving the Android Platform Development puzzle with RTC.

Rosa Naranjo

Rosa is an expert in requirements management and in the installation and upgrade of the Jazz solution, as well as in the Lifecycle Integration Adaptors (LIA) that were just released this year.  Rosa has already enabled the IBM field and business partners around the world with the LIA technologies.  You can read some of her writing on her Blog about Collaborative Lifecycle Management (CLM).  Rosa’s Innovate presentations for 2013 include:

  • RDA-1481 – Strategies for Planning and Completing and Successful CLM Upgrade
  • RM-1174 – Using OSLC to Extend Your Development Tools
  • WKS-2208 – Integrating with Third-party Tools Using Rational Lifecycle Integration Adapters

Jim Ruehlin

Jim is a process enactment and process definition expert, with deep knowledge of implementing process in the Jazz tools, and in the use of tools like RMC to help define Jazz development processes.  He has also presented on extending the Jazz solution with RTC process extensions.  His blog on Jazz Practices is a must read for anyone looking to deploy a common process across their development organization.  His knowledge of a wide array of processes, and deep technical knowledge in how to best implement these with the Jazz tools, has been used by Jazz customers worldwide.  This year at Innovate, Jim will be leading:

  • WKS-1116 – CLM Practice Enactment Workshop

Ralph Schoon

Ralph is the owner of the highest reputation in the world on the Jazz forums, and his Jazz blog is read by over two thousand people every month.  Ralph’s deep technical skills with the Jazz tools, coupled with his ability to link this to business value, has made him one of the premier thought leaders in the Jazz community.  This year Ralph will be doing three presentations at Innovate:

  • WKS-1116 – CLM Practice Enactment Workshop
  • CCM-1629 – All You Need to Know About Customizing RTC
  • RDA-1051 – CLM Solution Deployment Tips and Tricks
  • Ask the Experts on CCM and CLM – in the Red Carpet Lounge

Dan “Tox” Toczala

As the manager of the Jazz Jumpstart team, Dan has fostered a culture of technical excellence and transparency for a team of software development experts who enable IBM customers and the IBM field with the Jazz technologies. The Jumpstart Team’s thought leadership has helped deliver measurable value to IBM customers, and has influenced the direction of this technology, and the ability of organizations to rapidly realize value from their Jazz investments.  Dan is well known for his blog One Jazz Professional’s Perspective, which has focused on Jazz architcture and performance in recent months.  At this year’s coference, Dan will be presenting:

  • RDA-1327 – Maximizing your Jazz Environment and Performance
  • Jazz Deployment Topologies for Enterprise Environments – in the Red Carpet Lounge

Recent Interesting blog on RTC for a Mac

Just read this post on Installing Worklight 5 and RTC on a Mac, written by Aaron Allsbrook of ClearBlade. The guys at ClearBlade have done some very good work with RTC in the mainframe environment, and it’s really interesting to see them expanding their skills to cover software development in the mobile market, making use of the integration with Worklight.

Another Good Recent Blog Post

Boris Kuschel on my team sent me this link to a blog post that illustrates the differences in liberal and conservative software development cultures.  It is written by Steve Yegge of Google (whom I don’t know and have never met).  The blog post is pretty lengthy, but if you start reading it you will get sucked into it.  He makes some really good observations about how the relative importance we place on risk management influences the way we develop software, select programming languages, and do our daily jobs.  I love this post because he comes out and states what his preferences are, and then goes on to give a rather even-handed analysis of the situation.

Other Observations

I am seeing more demand in the market for basic Jazz administrative skills. I see job postings for Jazz Administrators, and people to architect Jazz solutions, almost daily. It all feels a little bit like the 90’s, when I could spend an entire month teaching Admin courses for ClearCase and ClearQuest.  There seems to be a growing demand for these skills, and some of these job postings seem to stay open for quite awhile. I am also seeing more independent consulting firms (like ClearBlade) involved with some of our Jazz customers. This is a good sign of a healthy Jazz community.

 

Collaboration and Innovation – It’s not all tools

If you are looking for my usual blog posting where I tie some concept to the Jazz platform, and then show or tell you how to realize it with Jazz, then you can quit reading now.  This is more of a general set of observations on collaboration and innovation, which are not really specific to any set of tools or technologies.

I just read an interesting article by Neil deGrasse Tyson, entitled Back to the Final Frontier.  In the article he argues for improved funding and focus on space exploration in the United States.  If you strip out the nationalism for a second (keeping the USA competitive as a superpower), it could really apply to any nation or to the world in general.  He makes the point that true innovation in any discipline comes from EXTERNAL sources.  He uses the microwave oven as an example.  It could never have been invented by a thermodynamic engineer.  Someone that close to the problem would start with what they know (conventional convection ovens), and make improvements in efficiency, design, and operation.  These represent engineering improvements.

True innovation came from the study of radar/radio, and the use of microwaves to heat objects.  This was a completely new approach to the problem of more quickly cooking food, and it came from a discipline that is completely unrelated to normal thermodynamics.  It is a variation of the usual argument that the technologies developed for space travel and exploration often end up having “spin off” applications that greatly benefit society, which more than make up for the research and development costs associated with them.  It is a convincing argument, and one that I find myself in general agreement with.

This is not a review of his article.  What got me thinking was taking some of these concepts around innovation and applying them to my own situation.

People often talk about Jazz as being a platform for more efficient communication and collaboration.  I think that it does do this.  Where the real power in Jazz lies is that in promoting this communication and collaboration, an atmosphere that promotes true innovation is created.  That innovation is where significant economic and social value can be created.

I think that we often get so locked in on creating business cases and justifying decisions, that we lose sight of the fact that software can be a source for innovative new products and services for our customers.  Having a software organization that is confident, transparent, and predictable, can help the business stop worrying about execution, and begin to focus on the identification of new opportunities and new revenue streams.

The Jazz platform can help lead you to this, but I need to make a distinction between the platform, and the tools.  The platform is the core technology, with a REST based architecture, use of linked data, and OSLC integrations.  Notice that I have not mentioned any tools.  As far as the tools are concerned, the Jazz Applications (tools) can include the IBM Jazz products like Rational Team Concert (RTC), Rational Quality Manager (RQM), and Rational Requirements Composer (RRC).  They can also be some non-IBM products, utilizing things like Subversion, Jenkins, Maven, and others.  Many of these non-IBM products now have OSLC wrappers, that allow them to look like OSLC content providers.  Check out some of the OSLC integrations that exist today, and also see what else is being planned.  The list is beginning to get expansive enough to make a unified software development environment a reality for most organizations.

The impact on the end user is that they now have the ability to choose from a mix of tools; some from vendors like IBM, some from other vendors, and some from the open source community.  Utilizing the concept of linked data, and leveraging OSLC, software development teams now can focus on their work, and not have to waste a lot of time and effort in tool evaluation.  Let the teams use what they want.  The rest of the organization will still be able to easily see what those teams are doing, and how they are doing it.

In the bigger picture, this tends to make tools less of a focus, since there is much less energy and drama spent in selecting tools, training users on tools, and worrying about tool vendors.  Tools become what they should be: a means to an end.  What is that end state that we should be worrying about?  Innovation.

Conclusion

In the interests of full disclosure, I work for IBM and I am part of the Jazz development community, so I have a stake in this.  I honestly believe that the Jazz platform is something that should be a “no-brainer” for most software development organizations.  It leads to greater transparency, more collaboration, and better innovation.  Innovation is engine that most companies need to help secure their long term revenue, and maintain their long term viability.  Innovation in the business world is not going to come from within the business world.  True innovation in the business world is going to come from outside sources, and unique disciplines.  Having people who can easily collaborate and communicate is going to fuel the injection of new technologies, new disciplines, and new approaches into the organization.

So quit worrying about the tools – software teams will use what they like.  Instead, you should focus on making the software development platform a springboard for innovation.  Innovation is where significant business value and social value are created, so make sure to keep your eyes focused on the big picture.

Innovate Day 5 – June 7, 2012

Today (Thursday) is the final day of the Innovate 2012 conference.  The last day is always kind of strange.  Some people are focused on attending the final sessions, and getting every last drop of knowledge and value out of the conference.  Others are sitting in the lobby, killing time until they go to the airport to catch their flight home.  Some people just look tired.  There is a definite change in the energy level.

I didn’t have any scheduled talks for today, so most of my day was spent following up on some conversations started earlier in the conference.  I was also able to attend a couple of sessions that I was not directly involved in.  The session on Cool Extensions Using the Rational SDK was excellent.  It should have been.  The presenters were Geoff Clemm and Ralph Schoon, the two highest reputation guys out in the Jazz.net forums.  Ralph is a member of our Jumpstart team, and he is extremely knowledgeable about the Jazz platform.  Both of these guys don’t just sit at a desk and talk about theory, they are constantly interacting with our customers and helping people do things more effectively.  The session was very good, and loaded with content.  The tip on using Plug-In Spy and YARI was a good one.

I also attended a session by one of our other Jumpstart team members, it was on the Enterprise Extensions for zOS, and it was given by Robin Yehle.  During the session, I found that there were a lot of people who were unaware of some of the core capabilities of the enterprise extensions.  The impact analysis capability is not well understood by a lot of people, and it is something that can have a lot of value for many of our customers.

I am finishing up the last day talking to a few specific people, and after that I am done.

Reflections on Innovate

Just some broad observations, information and thoughts about Innovate 2012……

  • Those Jazz.net forums are now quite different.  I am still getting used to using them, and using the tags, but I really like the user interface and some of the social aspects of the new forums.  It is interesting because I have heard people talking about how they need to participate more in the forums for quite a while.  This week I am hearing people talking about building up their reputation on the site, which is great.  More participation will just make the forums much more effective and helpful.
  • People seem to always ask about the Jazz Jumpstart team member blogs.  The new Jazz.net site now has these aggregated, so you can see our new postings out on Planet Jazz.  It’s not just Jazz Jumpstart, you will see blogs from a variety of thought leaders on subjects involving Jazz technology and many of the common issues in the software development community.
  • There is a new community sprouting up on developerWorks, called the Application Lifecycle Management Community.  It is open to anyone, you just need to register and get an IBM ID.  It has a wiki associated with it.  I love areas like this, where people can share tips, code snippets, and other information that will make ALL of us more effective.  I even added a page for sharing information on Jazz Extensions after hearing that session today.  Check it out, and share links to your favorite resources with the rest of the Jazz Community.
  • In general, I find the conference is a great way to meet people and learn.  I find that the most valuable types of interactions seem to happen in many of the small group discussions that I have during the conference.  I would love to see us encourage more of these small group discussions in the future.

Quote of the Day

“Seaworld was fun, but I don’t think that was really Foreigner.  Those guys were too young…”

Innovate Day 4 – June 6, 2012

Today was consumed primarily with the delivery of the Jazz Administration Workshop.  The workshop was the most popular one of the conference, in terms of the number of people requesting to be able to attend.  Unfortunately we did hit some technical snags with the resources available to us on site.  Students can still run through the labs on their own, in their own environments, since the workshop begins from a “bare metal” configuration.

In talking to some of our customers, I have seen an interesting trend in the support of our solutions begin to emerge.  Many of the people that I talked to are attempting to better serve the needs of their organizations by driving tools administration and infrastructure support closer to their internal customers.  They are moving away from a single, central tools administration team for the Enterprise, and instead are creating smaller tool support teams within their various business units.

Many customers are finding that they waste too much time trying to please a variety of internal stakeholders, and that this is slowing adoption of new methods and technologies in their development environments.  So I am seeing customers move to deployments of several instances of CLM, one within each business unit, rather than one single instance supporting the Enterprise.

The key point seems to be getting multiple different business units to agree on a core set of software development process and software development metrics.  This is understandable since in many cases these business units are doing very different things and operating in very different business environments.

I am not opposed or supportive of this trend, it just struck me and I felt the urge to call it out.  What is YOUR organization’s approach to supporting the Jazz technologies, and the rest of your software development infrastructure?  Are you moving to a single central team to provide support for the enterprise, or are you moving towards a model where the individual lines of business each have their own implementations and support?

Innovate Day 3 – June 5, 2012

It’s Tuesday, the day where I have the least amount of free time.  Most of this time was spent talking to individual customers facing a variety of different challenges.  I got questions about our new CLM 2012 capabilities, deploying Jazz to an organization, using OSLC to support multiple tools, and a bunch of other topics.  I hope that the people that I talked to found these discussions informative.

In the afternoon, I did a presentation on Enterprise Deployments with Grant Covell.  Grant is a great guy to work with, and presenting with him is always fun.  The crowd was a bit smaller than I would have liked, but we had some good questions.  I get the feeling that people would like to see us come up with a set of standard topologies and recommendations for how to deploy Jazz to their organization.  You are in luck, since one of the Jumpstart team members (David Chadwick) was recently working with a group of people (including Grant), that have produced a set of Standard CLM Topologies.  It’s a great article, be sure to check it out.

After that presentation, I got to go and see CLM Deployment Tips and Tricks, presented by Ralph Schoon, who is also a member of the Jumpstart team.  You have probably encountered Ralph at some point in your Jazz usage, since he is the second ranked user in the Jazz forums (in terms of reputation points).  Ralph is a great guy, and his presentation was very good.  There were a lot of questions from the audience, and he and Fariz Saracevic did a great job addressing those questions.

Just realized that I am name dropping all over the place in this post.  Sorry, but there are so many people with so many ideas here, and I want to make sure that they all get the credit that they deserve.

Quote of the Day

When asked what type of development process they use, one customer replied to me, “We use a scrumerfall process….”.  That was a new term for me, I have heard of “Wagile”, but not “Scrumerfall”.