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Damian Maclennan

Technologist, Agilist, Speaker, Ex Musician, Cyclist, Troublemaker, Dad. Engineering Manager at Tatts Group

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The Speed of Innovation

Forbes magazine published an article in the latter part of 2012 about the top strategic issues for CIOs in 2013, and these issues remain high on the list today.

Organisations need to be investing in or at least having understanding and strategies around Big Data and analytics, cloud, social media and mobility etc. to remain competitive both now and in the future.

Essentially the message is this: if you’re not directing the majority of your investment in innovation rather than program maintenance then you should start working on your resume now because you’re driving your company towards obsolescence.

The business environment today is one where we have the tools that allow a scrappy startup to eat away at the marketshare of the most stable enterprise by coming up with better / faster / smarter / cheaper ways to do something.

The key here is that the company that can innovate faster wins.

Business news is filled with headlines of once-untouchable companies teetering on the edge of administration when the creditors start calling in the loans because the companies have basically failed to keep up with their customer’s expectations. Failed because the changing world has changed the expectations and someone has shown a better way and the trudging incumbent have forged ahead, first because they didn’t notice what was happening, then because they didn’t think it could hurt them, then finally because they couldn’t steer the ship in time.

In my career, particularly as a consultant talking about better software development practices, I hear all the time that “we’d like to do that, but there’s no time” or “I can’t get a budget for that” or “I don’t have the ‘resources’“.

Worse still, in the event that people do actually know exactly how and what to do, they aren’t allowed to get started on it because there needs to be board approvals, project governance and three months worth of meetings.

Meanwhile, everyone in the room is either filling out documentation so that some guy in a different room can install their software manually, sitting around waiting for permissions for their application to run on a testing server, off building some ridiculous software framework that the world will never see or waiting on someone from “the business” to “sign off” on a “requirement”.

(As an aside, I’m highlighting these terms because I think they are fundamentally flawed concepts in the way we do business, but more on that later).

While we claim to have no time / money / resources to get things done, we are wasting more of those than we’re spending on doing something useful.

Companies at a certain size have fundamentally forgotten how to produce useful software quickly.

The Speed of Innovation

Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time speaking, teaching, mentoring teams and understanding technology problems and structural problems inside companies. I’ve seen teams produce great software and solve business problems, I’ve seen teams produce miserable failures and I’ve seen the organisational failures that allow the latter.

After spending time doing this I’ve got some thoughts about what I see as the main challenge for companies doing software development and I want to start putting them in writing. The theme is the Speed of Innovation, and the articles here will be around the ideas and thoughts posed by the question :

“How long does it take to get a good idea in front of your customers ?”.

I want to cover things that a CIO, CTO or Software Development Manager should be considering. Topics such as the “why’s” of Agile and Lean as software development methodologies, build vs buy decisions, dealing with legacy systems, handling requirements within your business, project budgeting, development standards, hiring practices and how to deal with evolving architecture and technology needs.

It’s a consolidation of the thoughts and conversations I have with managers, CIOs, developers every week and the insights I’ve gained along the way.

Let’s see how I go.


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