Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
It's long overdo, but we're kicking off a project for v2 of the patterns & practices Application Architecture Guide. You might be familiar with Tom Hollander's post "Application Architecture for .NET" 2 - The Revenge. Well, now it's time for results.
Solution Architects / Dev Leads / DevelopersOur primary audience is solution architects, developer leads, and developers.
Principles, Patterns, and PracticesI'm a principles, patterns, and practices kind of a guy, so expect the guide to be principle-based, durable, and evolvable.
CodePlex Community Site It's a work in progress and it's early, but you can follow along here:
TopicsHere's some of the areas we're looking at for the guide:
Your FeedbackWhat would you like to see in the guide?
As part of the App Arch Guidance project, we've created an organizing frame to help think about application architecture:
Anatomy of the App Arch Meta FrameYou can see from the figure, we have a few parts that work together:
How We Use the FrameWe use the frame to explore and gain insight into different aspects of application architecture. App arch is a big space. We'll be using the frame to catalog and organize our various principles, patterns, practices, and assets.
Keep in mind that this is a meta-frame (so it's a frame of frames.) We'll have a collection of frames that shine the spotlight on more focused areas.
FeedbackWhat do you think? ...
Our patterns and practices team has just released new prescriptive guidance for Visual Studio Team System!
Since my previous post we've made significant updates with the addition of the following content:
This puts us on course to deliver on these main outcomes we have in mind for our Visual Studio Team System Guidance Project
Project OverviewWhile Visual Studio Team System provides powerful new tools, customers are asking "where's the guidance?" ... "where do I start?" ... "how do I make the most of the tools?" In response, our team is building a definitive Body of Guidance (BOG) for Team System. This includes How Tos, Guidelines, Practices, Q&A, video-based guidance, and more.
We’re helping customers walk before they run, so we’re starting with the foundation. On the code side (for developers) – this includes source control, building your dev and test environments and setting up a build process. On the project side (for PMs) – this includes work items and reporting. Once we have the foundation in place, we can move up the stack to making the most out of Team System for the various roles (tester, architect, developer … etc.) We're framing out the tough problems using Scenario Frames (for an example see Source Control Scenario Frame). We then identify where we need guidance and perform solution engineering. This involves building out reproducible customer scenarios, vetting potential solutions, and sharing the ones we can generalize enough to be broadly useful, yet still specific enough to be actionable. We're partnering with customers, product teams, support, field, MVPs, and subject matter experts. We’re working closely with Jeff Beehler to synchronize efforts with the VSTS Rangers, such as the Branching Guidance.
Today we released our Beta 1 of Team Development with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Guide. It's our Microsoft playbook for TFS. This is our guide to help show you how to make the most of Team Foundation Server. It's a distillation of many lessons learned. It's a collaborative effort among product team members, field, industry experts, MVPs, and customers.
Contents at a Glance
About Our Team
Contributors and ReviewersHere's our contributors and reviewers so far:
Our patterns & practices WCF Security Guidance Project is in progress on CodePlex. This is our first release of prescriptive guidance modules for WCF Security.
How Tos Our How Tos give you step by step instructions for performing key tasks:
Videos Our videos step you visually through key guidance:
About WCF Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is a service-oriented platform for building and consuming secure, reliable, and transacted services. It unifies the programming models for ASMX, Enterprise services and .NET Remoting. It supports multiple protocols including named pipes, TCP, HTTP, and MSMQ. WCF promotes loose coupling, supports interoperability, and encapsulates the latest web service standards. With WCF, you get flexibility in choosing protocol, message encoding formats, and hosting. For more information, see the MSDN WCF Developer Center.
About the Project WCF provides a lot of options and flexibility. The goal of our patterns & practices WCF Security Guidance Project is to find the key combinations of security practices for WCF that work for customers and share them more broadly. At a high-level, you can think of the project in terms of these main buckets:
The plan is to incrementally share our guidance modules on CodePlex as we go, then build a guide, then port the guidance to MSDN once it's baked.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker
This is my summary of key trends to watch for 2010. Putting it together is a time-consuming exercise, but it’s one of the most important things I do for the year. It helps me see the bigger map. With the bigger map, I have a simpler way to understand what’s going on, anticipate what to expect, respond more effectively, and most importantly – make better bets on where to spend my time.
Don’t read this as a definitive list. Draw from it to help you create your own lens to make sense of the landscape and find your path forward. It’s long, I tried to keep it as scannable as possible. I didn’t want to cut it short for the sake of simplicity. Instead, I wanted to provide a solid map with sources you can draw from as you plan your road ahead.
Key Sources I primarily draw from my own experience working with customers, and paying attention to what they’re paying attention to, as well as paying attention to my mentors and smarties across the company, and whoever they tell me to pay attention to. I also draw from the following:
Aside from these, I also scoured the Web and scanned bloggers, industry luminaries, and any relevant and significant insight I could find.
The Short List – 5 Keys to the Future Before the longer list, I want to shin the light on 5 key things:
Key Trends for 2010 Here is my summary of key trends for 2010:
My synthesis -- stay customer connected, create value for society (it’s not a vacuum), create raving fans, build to change over build to last, learn and respond through effective business intelligence, think in terms of platforms/ecosystems/execution, be the best in the world at what you do (on the Web, you don't need a bunch of #2s), stay flexible and adaptable, and build the network and relationships that support you and your ecosystem.
With that in mind, here are some more keys to watch for …
Trends to Watch in 2010 by John John deVadoss John runs our Microsoft patterns & practices team. He’s great at boiling things down, spotting trends, and his super skill is providing insight for technical strategy. Here are some of his insights for 2010:
Economy + Internet Trends by Morgan Stanley Economy + Internet Trends is a very nice report by Morgan Stanley. While it reinforces the “jobless” economic recovery, it does show growth in the IT sector, and it calls out some key tech trends:
I also like some of their distillations, such as “Facebook = unified communication + multimedia repository in your pocket.”
Web 2.0 Trends from Scoble Kevin Skobac put together a short presentation interpreting Scoble’s “principles of the 2010 web” from a user perspective:
Key Questions I Ask to Find and Rationalize Trends These are some of the basic questions I ask to find and rationalize key trends:
The Meta-Pattern for Trends These are some of the patterns I’m noticing about the patterns of the trends:
There are a lot of kings here. In checkers, it’s easier to win when you have a lot of kings.
The Way Foreword What’s past is past and the future
What else is important that I should know about or have on my radar and heat map?
Dr. Stephen Covey presented at Microsoft today. It’s one thing to know the information; it’s another to experience the delivery live.
This post is a bit longer than usual, but hey, it’s not every day that Covey is in the house. Here are some of my highlights from today’s session.
The Lighthouse Story Covey opened with a story of Captain Horatio Hornblower. As the story goes, one night at sea, Horatio awakens to find that a ship is in his sea-lane about 20 miles away and refuses to move. Horatio commands the other ship to move starboard, 20 degrees at once. The other ship refuses and tells Horatio that he should move his ship starboard, 20 degrees at once. Next, Horatio tries to pull rank and size on the other ship, stating that he’s a captain and that he’s on a large battle ship. The other ship replies, and it turns out it’s not actually a ship, but a lighthouse.
The take away from the story is, there are lighthouse principles. You don’t break them. You only break yourself against them. Don’t break yourself against lighthouse principles.
Values and Principles Covey distinguished values from principles:
The key take aways are:
Personal Mission Statement Covey asked us whether we had personal mission statements? Some folks raised their hands. He then asked us how many have them written down. A lot less kept their hands raised. I kept my hand raised because I happen to have my personal mission statement written down. My personal mission statement is, “To find the best way for any person to succeed in any situation.” I tie this back at work, where I try to help customers be as effective as possible, building on the Microsoft platform.
Family Mission Statement Covey then challenged the audience whether we had mission statements for our families? That one made me think. He then challenged, if you asked your loved ones, would they know it? Now there’s a good test!
He challenged us to go home and ask, “What’s the purpose of our family?” He warned us though, that our families will know that we’ve been seminar’ed!
Write and Visualize to Imprint on Your Subconscious Covey reminded us that writing down your mission imprints it in the subconscious mind. He added that visualizing also imprints on the sub-concsious mind.
The take away is that you should write and visualize your mission statements.
Keys to a Mission Statement Covey put it succinctly that a good mission statement is:
Why a Mission Statement Covey told us that the power of a mission statement is that it governs every other decision.
Sean Covey Covey introduced his son, Sean Covey. Sean wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers and The 6 Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make. When Covey introduced Sean, he also mentioned a 49th grand-child on the way. 49 … WOW! That’s quite the impressive team.
Point to True North Covey had us close our eyes and point to true North. When we opened our eyes, it was obvious there was little consistency. He said he gets similar results when he asks any department, group, or team – “what’s your purpose?” Urgent But Not Important Covey asked us how many struggle with work/life balance. Many hands went up. He then asked us what we think is the percentage of time we spend on things that are urgent, but not important.
He said people often report they feel they spend 50% of their time on urgent, but not important tasks. Why is that? Covey stated it’s because everybody defines purpose differently. Office Politics and Dysfunctional Activities Covey asked us how much time people spend in office politics. By office politics, he meant, reading the tea leaves, dealing with hidden agendas, fighting cross-group conflict, … etc. The data says that 75% of people claim they spend 25% of their time on these things. 25% say that 50% of their time is spent in dysfunctional activities. Urgency replaces important activities.
The key take away is that people feel they spend a lot of time on dysfunctional activities. Six Metastasizing Cancers (Victimism) Covey showed us a slide that listed what he called the Six Metastasizing Cancers:
The take away here is that these are ineffective behaviors and you end up acting like a victim.
Are You Utilized to Your Full Potential Covey asked us whether we can use our full talent and capacity in our organization. He then asked us whether we feel the pressure to produce more for less. The point here was to emphasize how there’s a demand for greater results, but that we’re not necessarily utilized to our full potential.
It’s Not Behavior, It’s Not Attitude … It’s a Bad Map Covey gave us a scenario where somebody gets a map of Seattle. The problem is, the map maker made a mistake. It’s not really a map of Seattle. It’s a map of Oregon. With this map, you can’t even make it out of the airport. There isn’t one corresponding point.
Trying harder isn’t the answer. If you double your speed, now you’re lost twice as fast. Thinking negatively isn’t the problem. Covey said some people might try to use a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude.) Well, that doesn’t help either. Now you’re all psyched up, but really you are just happy and contented in a lost state.
The take away here is that it’s not behavior and it’s not attitude. It’s a bad map.
Self-Educating Covey told us that we need to be self-educating. School taught us how to learn, but we need to continue to learn. He said we need to be willing to pay the price to be self-educating, which includes being systematic and disciplined.
Industrial Age vs. Knowledge Worker Age Covey points out that 20 years ago, it was about goods and services. Today, it’s about knowledge workers.
Expenses and Assets Covey asked us what we are called in spreadsheets. He said that in spreadsheet and financial accounting, people are called expenses and cost centers, while things like microphones, tools, and machines are called assets. He said this is left-over from the industrial age.
Finding Your Voice Covey asked how do you help people find their voice? You ask them what are they good at? What do they love doing? What is your greatest unique contribution?
The key is finding a voice that meets a human need.
Inspiration Over Jackass Theory The Jackass Theory refers to the carrot and the stick. Covey asked us what kind of supervisor do you need when you have a job that you are passionate about and is using your talents and you feel you are appreciated.
People are volunteers. You want them to contribute their greatest, unique contribution.
Keys to Effective Large Team Covey outlined the keys for effective large teams::
One person may represent the group, but accountability is to the team versus the boss. Accountability to the team versus an individual is a knowledge worker concept.
How To Find the Win / Win Performance Agreement Covey suggested an approach for finding the Win/Win for teams and organizations in terms of performance:
When you have that, you have a win-win. The key is to have a win/win performance agreement where it is mutually beneficial between the individual and the organization. The individual should be able to use their full talent and passion (there voice.)
Information is the Knowledge Worker's Disinfectant Covey mentioned that light is the greatest disinfectant in nature. For the knowledge worker, it’s information. For a knowledge worker to be effective in a team, they need information, they need the criteria for success and they need to be accountable to the group.
The Whole Person According to Covey, the whole person includes four parts:
Control-Paradigm to a Whole Person Paradigm Covey reminded us that today’s workforce is about directed autonomy. You manage (things) that can’t choose. You lead people. People have the ability to choose.
Keeping Top Talent Covey told us about how Admirals in the Pacific were losing people to better paying jobs. There was an exception. Covey got to meet the group that kept their top talent. The keys to a committed group included:
Indian Talking Stick Communication Covey shared a technique for improving empathic listening. It’s the Indian Talking Stick:
You don’t need to use an Indian talking stick. You can use any object. The value of the object is that you don’t get it back until the other person feels understood.
Industrial Age Concepts Throughout the session, Covey made reference to some "industrial age concepts":
Lighthouse Principles Throughout the presentation, Covey referred to some lighthouse principles that govern behavior:
Continuum of Communication Covey showed us a continuum of communication that moves from hostility and transaction-based communication to transformation:
Empathic Listening is the No. 1 Communication Skill Covey stated that communication is the number one skill in life. He went on to say that empathic listening is the number one communication skill. Covey explained that empathic listening is listening within the other person’s frame of skills. Listening empathically is listening with the other person’s frame of reference. The key is to listen until the other person feels heard and understood. Empathic Listening Over Telling and Selling A satisfied need, no longer motivates. Covey used the example of air – it’s a satisfied need. When the other person feels heard and understood, it’s more likely they will listen to you and that you can seek a better solution, that’s mutually beneficial. You are no longer telling and selling.
Our Experience is the Lens We Use to Interpret Life Covey showed the audience three pictures. One half of the audience looked at the first picture. Next, the other half of the audience looked at the second picture. Then the full audience looked at a third slide which was a composite of the first two slides. Depending on which of the pictures you saw first, influenced what you saw in this third picture.
The key take away here was that what you saw was influenced by your experience and that rather that impose your view, first understand the other person’s perspective – there’s a good chance, you’re both right! (This is a good case where the Indian Talking Stick could come in handy.) Resolving Conflict By Finding the Third Alternative Covey shared a technique for resolving conflict that works for him in 95% of the cases he runs into around the world. Here’s the key steps:
The key here is to listen to the other person first and listen empathically. The proactive part here is that you can choose to listen to the other person first (seek first to understand, then to be understood.) Listening to Loved Ones One of the audience members asked for advice on counseling a loved one. Covey responded with the following solution:
The key here that Covey mentioned is that most people will not pay the price of listening empathically.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People Covey shared a slide that framed out the seven habits of highly effective people in terms of private victory, public victory, dependence, independence, and interdependence.
Habits 1,2,and 3 are the foundation for private victories and integrity. Habits 4, 5, and 6 are the keys to public victories.
Peace of Conscience Over Peace of Mind Covey made a distinction between peace of mind and peace of conscience. He explained that integrity is more than honesty. Integrity means that if you make a promise, you keep it. If you’re honest, you might have peace of mind, but if you don’t have integrity, then you won’t have peace of conscience. You have peace of conscience by avoiding duplicity.
Loyalty to the Absent Covey made his point very simply – only talk about people as if they are there. You can be critical, but speak as if they were there in front of you. Don’t bad mouth them behind their back and then sweet talk them to their face. This is a lack of integrity and creates deep duplicity inside you. This inhibits your ability to have peace of conscience. Use I Messages Over You Messages Meet with the people you have a problem with directly. Practice the following:
Genuine Happiness Covey said the key to genuine happiness is to develop integrity. The key to developing integrity is the first three habits (your Private Victories):
Greek Philosophy of Influence Covey shared the three parts of the Greek philosophy of influence:
You Are the Creative Force of Your Life Covey challenged us to be a creative force: 1. Get out of victimism – You’re not a victim of your circumstances. 2. You are the creative force of your life.
Empathize first. Grow your circle of influence. Make tremendous impact.
The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Do Covey closed with a powerful message we could take away:
The most important thing you’ll ever do is in the four walls of your own home.
The most important thing you’ll ever do is in the four walls of your own home.
Personally, I want to make more use of the Indian Talking Stick Communication technique, particularly at some of my more vibrant meetings.
I'm dedicating this post to anybody who's faced with task saturation, or needs some new ideas on managing their days or weeks...
One of the most important techniques I share with those I mentor, is how to manage To Dos. It's too easy to experience churn or task saturation. It's also too easy to confuse activities with outcomes. At Microsoft, I have to get a lot done and I have to know what's important vs. what's urgent, and I have to get results.
My approach is effective and efficient for me. I think it's effective because it's simple and it's a system, rather than a silver bullet. Here's my approach in a nutshell:
Monday VisionMonday Vision is simply a practice where each Monday, I identify the most important outcomes for the week. This lets me work backwards from the end in mind. I focus on outcome not activities. I ask questions such as, "if this were Friday, what would I feel good about having accomplished?" ... "if this were Friday, what would suck most if it wasn't done?" ... etc. I also use some questions from Flawless Execution.
Daily OutcomesDaily Outcomes is where each day, I make a short To Do list. I title it by date (i.e. 02-03-07). I start by listing my MUST items. Next, I list my SHOULD or COULD. I use this list throughout the day, as I fish my various streams for action. My streams include meetings, email, conversations, or bursts of brilliance throughout the day. Since I do this at the start of my day, I have a good sense of priorities. This also helps me deal with potentially randomizing scenarios. This also helps batch my work. For example, if I know there's a bunch of folks I need to talk to in my building, I can walk the halls efficiently rather than have email dialogues with them. On ther other hand, if there's a lot of folks I need to email, I can batch that as well.
Friday ReflectionFriday Reflection is a practice where I evaluate what I got done or didn't and why. Because I have a flat list of chunked up To Do lists by day, it's very easy to review a week's worth and see patterns for improvement. It's actually easy for me to do this for months as well. Trends stand out. Analyzing is easy, particularly with continuous weekly practice. My learnings feed into Monday's Vision.
It Works for Teams TooWell, that's my personal results framework, but it works for my teams too. On Monday's I ask my teams what they'd like to get done, as well as what MUST get done. I try to make sure my team enjoys the rythm of their results. Then each day, in our daily 10-minute calls, we reset MUSTs, SHOULDs, and COULDs. On Fridays, I do a team-based Lessons Learned exercise (I send an email where we reply all with lessons we each personally learned).
Why This Approach Works for Me ...
Why Some Approaches I've Tried Don't ....
I've been using this approach now for many months. I've simplified it as I've shown others over time. While I learn everyday, I particularly enjoy my Friday Reflections. I also found a new enjoyment in Mondays because I'm designing my days and driving my weeks.
My Related Post
Today we released our patterns & practices App Arch Guide 2.0 Beta 1. This is our guide to help solution architects and developers make the most of the Microsoft platform. It's a distillation of many lessons learned. It’s principle-based and pattern-oriented to provide a durable, evolvable backdrop for application architecture. It's a collaborative effort among product team members, field, industry experts, MVPs, and customers. Keep in mind it’s Beta so there’s still moving parts and we’re processing quite a bit of feedback across the guide. Now’s the time to bang on it.
Key Scenarios The guide helps you address the following scenarios:
Conceptual Framework At a high level, the guide is based on the following conceptual framework for application architecture:
Reference Application Architecture We used the following reference application architecture as a backdrop for explaining how to design effective layers and components:
Core Dev Team
My Related Posts
Today we released our patterns & practices Application Architecture Guide 2.0 Beta 2. This is our Microsoft playbook for the application platform. It's our guide to help solution architects and developers make the most of the Microsoft platform. It's a distillation of many lessons learned. It’s principle-based and pattern-oriented to provide a durable, evolvable backdrop for application architecture. It's a collaborative effort among product team members, field, industry experts, MVPs, and customers. This is the guide that helps you understand our platform, choose among the technologies, and build applications based on lessons learned and proven practices.
Key Changes in Beta 2 Beta 2 is a significant overhaul of the entire guide. We carried the good forward. We made some key additions:
Contributors / Reviewers
Some readers asked to hear more on how I use my Scannable Outcome Lists in conjunction with My Personal Approach for Daily Results. Here's the work flow in a nutshell ...
MondaysOn Mondays, I figure out my key outcomes for the week. To do this:
I keep my inbox completely empty, so the only items are what comes in over the weekend. The empty inbox is particularly important for me. I get ~150 mails directly to me each day, and I send about that, so I can't be a paper shuffler. For my Scannable Outcome Lists, I use a flat list of posts in Outlook. I name each post according to category: Body, Career, Mind, Project X, Project Y .. etc.
As I scan, I use four guiding questions:
As I scan, I also do some quick shuffling:
I get a few outcomes from this
I have weekly iteration meetings with my team on Mondays, so this information helps me shape the outcomes with my team.
DailyEach day, I construct my Daily Outcomes list. Since I did the bulk of the work on Monday for identifying key priorities, this is a fast exercise. In fact, it's usually 5 minutes. It's as fast as it takes me to open a new post in Outlook, name it the current day (e.g. 02-25-07) and write the key outcomes down. Throughout the day, I add to this. I fish my email stream throughout the day for relevant actions and I add these to the current day's daily outcome. If it's a longer team outcome, I list it under the relevant Scannable Outcome List.
FridaysThis is the day where I do more reflection. To do this:
As I scan, I ask some guiding questions:
I'll note that underlying my approach is my belief that important things should float to the top, less important should slough off, and I should be able to deal with change. Having my Scannable Outcomes keeps me grounded in what's important vs. urgent. This to me is the key to driving versus reacting. If an area is slipping that I want to improve, I narrow my focus and concentrate on that. There's few problems that withstand sustained focus.
Well, that's the heart of the approach. What I like most about this approach is that it's low-overhead and it works. I've done away with over-engineered approaches, where you die the death of a 1000 paper cuts in administration. I also like this approach because it's systematic, yet holistic and flexible. Basically, it's designed for getting real results, in real life.
I've seen a few customers asking how to structure projects for Team Foundation Server. I don't blame them. Finding a structure that works well for you can be tricky, particularly if you don't have the benefit of hind-sight or a bunch of reference examples to draw from.
My team spent some time this past week evaluating various approaches and lessons learned from various projects We boiled it down to something that seems to be working well, and distills what's worked for some teams. With the caveat that we're still evaluating, here's what we learned ...
SolutionLocal File System
Source Control (Team Foundation Server)
Key pointsHere's a few highlights about this approach:
Repro StepsHere's a brief walkthrough to test using a file-based Web:
Verify your folder structure on your File System:
Adding to TFS
Verify your folder structure in Source Control Explorer
More InformationYou should know that while I talked through the single solution scenario, there are additional patterns. Here's the key patterns we see:
You can find more on these patterns at Team Development with Visual Studio .NET and Visual SourceSafe. You should also know that we have a few How Tos on structuring your projects coming your way. We'll post them to our VSTS Guidance Project.
Share Your StoryIf you've got lessons learned the hard way or practices to share, I'd like to hear them. Now's a great time to share since we're actively building guidance. Either comment here or write a post and leave a link.
The secret to time management isn't more time management hacks at all. Here's the keys I've found:
I often here the argument, "if I had more time for this or that, I could ..." Well, unfortunately, having more time doesn't always mean getting more done. It doesn't guarantee getting the right things done either. Sometimes I get more done in an hour than I can sometimes get done in a week. Why is that? For me, it's actually about energy. There's only so many hours in a day. While I can't make more hours in a day, I can use my energy better. Sure there's lots of interesting little time savers, but there's plenty of time wasters too. I find the force that makes the most measurable difference is the energy and engagement I bring to the table.
Assuming I have all my energy ready to tackle my day, I need to distinguish between urgent and important. If I'm only reacting to urgent, then I'm missing out on opportunity to deal with important, whether that's job impact or personal growth. The moral of the story is, if I don't make time for the big rocks, the fillers in my day won't leave room. I like Steven Covey's perspective on urgent vs. important in his First Thing's First book. Here's a nice summary of the popular Make Room for the Big Rocks story.
Anticipation is a actually a skill that I haven't worked on as much as I should. I actually plan to do a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, when the time is right. It's funny how many recurring things happen each year, that take me by surprise. Birthdays. Holidays. Reviews. Events. Geeze! You'd think I'd see the patterns ;)
Well, I do. I've seen the pattern of me reacting to events I don't anticipate. While the corporate ninja expects the unexpected, I also find that with a little anticipation, a stitch in time saves nine. If I make project plans, and there's a major event I didn't account for, I shouldn't be surprised when suddenly nobody's around. At the same time, I'm sure I can find a way to leverage the sudden spurt of energy some folks have right after mid-year discussion.
You too can have a zero mail inbox, if you choose to. I chose to go zero mail in my inbox when I first joined Microsoft years ago, and I'm glad I did. With a single glance, I know whether I have new mail to deal with. I never have to scroll to see what my next actions are. At a more basic level, an empty inbox feels good. I thought it was just me, but others say the same. Proven Over Time It was tough when I first joined Microsoft. My inbox drove me. Eventually, I learned how to drive my inbox. I studied the masters around me. I also studied those that failed (there's no failure, only lessons.) I refined my approach over the years. Since then, I've successfully taught my mentees and others how to spend less time on administration and more time on results. Now I'm sharing with you.
Slides Here's a short deck that steps you through and highlights the keys:
Note Normally, I work with my mentees one-on-one and tailor the approach for their particular scenario. It's a learning by doing approach. While I've blogged about clearing your inbox before, this is an experiment in how effectively I can share techniques in slides. If it works out, I'll do additional slides on focused topics. The more I can reduce friction around sharing, the more I can share. If you have tips or tricks for improving my slide sharing approach, send my way.
We released the final version of our patterns & practices Performance Testing Guidance for Web Applications. This guide provides an end-to-end approach for implementing performance testing. Whether you're new to performance testing or looking for ways to improve your current performance-testing approach, you will gain insights that you can tailor to your specific scenarios. The main purpose of the guide is to be a relatively stable backdrop to capture, consolidate and share a methodology for performance testing. Even though the topics addressed apply to other types of applications, we focused on explaining from a Web application perspective to maintain consistency and to be relevant to the majority of our anticipated readers.
Key Changes Since Beta 1
Why We Wrote the Guide
Features of the Guide
Contributors and Reviewers
We released our final release of the patterns & practices Application Architecture Guide 2.0 on Codeplex. It's the "Microsoft playbook for application architecture." This is our guide to help solution architects and developers make the most of the Microsoft platform. It's a distillation of many lessons learned. It’s principle-based and pattern-oriented to provide a durable, evolvable backdrop for application architecture. It's a collaborative effort among product team members, field, industry experts, MVPs, and customers.
Key Changes Since Beta 2
Architecture Meta Frame (AMF) The Architecture Meta Frame integrates context, application types, architecture styles, and an architecture frame to help map out the application architecture space.
The Architecture Meta Frame serves as a durable, evolvable backdrop for the guidance in the patterns & practices Application Architecture Guide 2.0.
Key Scenarios for the Guide
Key Features of the Guide
Team Here's the team that brought you this guide:
Contributors / Reviewers One of our themes throughout the guide was "Stand on the shoulders of giants." We leveraged a lot of experts inside and outside of Microsoft:
The ASP.NET Code Samples Collection is a roundup and map of ASP.NET code samples from various sources including the MSDN library, www.ASP.net, Code Gallery, CodePlex, and Microsoft Support.
You can add to the ASP.NET code examples collection by sharing in the comments or emailing me atFeedbackAndThoughts at live.com.
Common Categories for ASP.NET Code Samples The ASP.NET Code Samples Collection is organized using the following categories:
ASP.NET Code Samples Collection
AJAX / jQuery
All-in-One Code Framework
Logging and Instrumentation
patterns & practices
ASP.NET Developer Center (www.ASP.NET)
State / Session Management
Visual Studio and ASP.NET Development
I mentor several folks on how to make money online, either because they are trying to supplement their income, or take their game to the next level, or simply trying to reduce the worry around losing their job.
An interesting pattern is that many of the folks that I know that make a second (3rd, 4th, 5th) income online, show up strong in many ways. Their second source of income is always a “passion business.” They find a way to monetize what they love in a way that’s sustainable and creates a ton of value for their tribe of raving fans.
They end up spending more time in their art, so they recharge and renew, and show up fresh at work because they found a way to spend more time doing what they love (it’s an interesting question when you ask the question, “What do you want to spend more time doing?”, and then actually do it
One of the most important success patterns I see is that people do what they would do for free, but pay attention to what people would pay them for. This does two things:
I see people succeed at making money online by doing lots of experimentation and continuous learning. The ones that do the best, learn from success AND failures. The ones that create truly outstanding success, learn the patterns of failure to avoid, and the patterns of success to do more of.
Lucky for me, I got to see several people right around me making $10,000, $20,000, etc. a month online, and they happily shared with me what they were doing, including what was working and what was not. The variety was pretty amazing, until I started to see the patterns. As I started to see the patterns, what surprised me the most is how so many people fail to make money online because “they try to make money online” – it’s like chasing happiness, and having it always evade your grasp.
There are so many ways NOT to make money online. In fact, they are worth enumerating because people still try them and get incredibly frustrated and give up.
Here are 50 Ways How NOT To Make Money Online.
It’s serious stuff.
I took a pattern-based approach, so that it’s easy to see the principle behind each recipe for failure.
You can actually apply many of the insights whether it’s an online or offline business, and whether you are a one-man band, or a business partnership, or working in a corporation.
It puts a distillation of many business basics, great business lessons, and business skills at your fingertips.
I’m hoping that more people can be entrepreneurs and create their financial freedom by doing more of what they love, in a business-smart way.
Also, I’m hoping this helps more people get their head around the idea that we’re in a new digital economy and the ways to make a living are changing under our feet.
The future is here and it belongs to those that create it and shape it.
Own your destiny.
I realized another key for helping manage To Dos. It's having scannable lists of outcomes. I keep flat lists of outcomes chunked by area or project. These aren't the next actions. They're the results I want to accomplish. They act as prompts to help me quickly identify next actions.
I keep lists for all my various areas for outcomes:
In a single view, I can first scan all of my areas. I can then quickly scan any particular area for outcomes. What I like about this approach is that I get a bird's-eye view of all the areas that I'm working on. Because I like to focus on a given area for results, I could easily neglect areas. This approach keeps important things on my radar and helps keep me balanced.
I use my scannable outcome lists in conjunction with my personal approach for daily results.
I'm using 30 day improvement sprints as a way to sharpen my skills. I pick a focus to work on and I committ to improving it for a 30 day timebox. Committing to 30 days of improvement in a focused area, is easier to swallow than changing for life. However, improving an area for 30 days, is actually life changing.
With 30 days, persistence and time are on my side. It's a big enough time box that I can try different techniques, while building proficiency. Using 30 days makes working through hurdles easier too. A lot of the hurldles I hit in my first week, are gone by week 2. Little improvements each day, add up quickly. I look back on how many things I tried for a week and stopped thinking I hadn't made progress. The trick was, I didn't get to week 2 to see my results. Lesson learned!
The Microsoft Application Architecture Guide, 2nd edition, is now available on Amazon and should be available on the shelf at your local bookstores soon. The PDF was downloaded ~180,000 times. This is the Microsoft platform playbook for application architecture. You can think of it as a set of blueprints, and as your personal mentor for building common types of applications on the Microsoft platform: mobile, RIA, services, and Web applications.
The backbone of the guide is an information model for the application architecture space. It’s a durable and evolvable map to give you a firm foundation of principles, patterns, and practices that you can overlay the latest technologies. It’s your “tome of know-how.” While it’s not a step-by-step for building specific applications, it is a pragmatic guide for designing your architecture, with quality attributes, key software principles, common patterns, and architectural styles in mind. It’s holistic and focused on the key engineering decisions where you face your highest risks and most important choices.
Key Features of the Book The book has several compelling features for slicing and dicing the application architecture body of knowledge:
Contents at a Glance The full Microsoft Application Architecture Guide is available for free on MSDN in HTML. This is the contents of the guide at a glance:
The Team Here is the team that brought you the guide:
Application Architecture Knowledge Base The guide was developed in conjunction with our Application Architecture Guide v2.0 Knowledge Base Project. The knowledge base project was used to inform and steer the guide during its development. The Application Architecture Knowledge Base includes a large amount of material that expands on specific topics in the main guide. It also includes draft material from the main guide that is targeted and packaged for more specific audiences, such as the Pocket Guide series.
Key Links at a Glance Here are the key links at a glance:
Time management is a key skill for work and life. I’ve posted my collection of Time Management Quotes on Sources of Insight. While organizing my collection of quotes, I got clarity on a handful of lessons for time management:
“People only see what they are prepared to see.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
At the beginning of the year, I like to take a quick survey of the Microsoft application platform. It helps me figure out where to put my bets and where to explore. It’s a “see the forest, from the trees” exercise.
And oh, what a forest it is. The beauty is it covers a wide spectrum and supports so many scenarios. The challenge is finding your way around. To find my way around, I map out the platform and I think in terms of application types:
By thinking about deployment targets such as cloud or desktop or browser or phone, etc. it makes it very easy to get in the ballpark in terms of context and technologies very quickly. From there, I can worry about things like presentation or data access stacks or language platforms (native, .NET, or scripting.) It’s also a quick way to explore relevant quality attributes (security, performance, reliability) or evaluate architectural styles. In other words, it’s a way to hack through information overload and cut to the chase.
Microsoft Application Platform at a Glance This is my draft map of the platform. It’s a strawman that I use to walk the platform, find clusters of technologies, figure out what’s changed, and evaluate the latest story. It’s easier for me to have conversations about the platform with customers or product teams when I start with a shared frame. The hard part is putting the initial map together. The easy part is improving it through feedback. If something is missing, it’s easy to add. If something is wrong, it’s easy to fix.
As simple as the map looks, it compacts a lot of information. I stuck the code names in where I could find them. Enjoy …
Where To Find Out More I’m a fan of teaching people to fish, as well as giving some starter fish. Aside from people, events, and social media, the three best ways I know to figure out what’s happening on the platform are Wikipedia, Channel9, and the MSDN Dev Centers. I started you out with some pages below …
Channel9 Training Centers
MSDN Dev Centers
Why invest in prescriptive guidance or “Blue Books” for Microsoft platform impact? While the answer is obvious to many, it’s not as obvious to others, so I’ll attempt to paint the picture here.
Building Secure ASP.NET Applications was the first “blue book” at Microsoft, but it was Improving Web Application Security that really made people take notice (it was downloaded more than 800,000 times in its first six months and it changed how many people in the industry thought about security and it changed their approach. It’s also the guide that helped many customers switch from Java to .NET.) An interesting note about Building Secure is that the Forms Authentication approach was baked into the Whidbey platform (ASP.NET 2.0.)
Blue Books Shape Platform SuccessBlue Books have played a strategic role in both shaping the platform and driving exponential customer success on the platform. They’ve helped us find and share platform best practices, create mental models and conceptual frameworks, and create systems and approaches that scale success and create powerful ecosystems. They’ve also helped us spring up offerings for our field, reduce support costs, and win competitive assessments.
Ultimately, Blue Books give us a strategic look at platform pain points as well as competitive analysis, and a consolidated set of success patterns to run with.
From patents to methodologies to better ways for better days, “Blue Books” have been the definitive way for improving platform success in a sustainable way – a durable backdrop that provides continuity of the platform over time.
Benefits at a GlanceHere is a quick rundown of some of the key ways that Blue Books have helped Microsoft and customers win time and again:
The list goes on, but the essence is that these playbooks help customers make the most of the platform by sharing the know-how through prescriptive architectural guidance.
End-to-End Application Scenarios and SolutionsHere’s an example of an application scenario. We use application scenarios to show how to solve end-to-end problems. It’s effectively a baseline architecture based on successful solutions. Here is an example from our WCF Security Guide:
We share them as sketches like on a whiteboard so they are easy to follow.
Methodologies and MethodsMethodologies, frameworks and approaches are nice ways to wrap up and package a set of related activities that you can use a baseline for your process or to overlay on what you already do. Methods are step-by-step techniques for producing effective results and they are a powerful way to share expertise. Methodologies and methods are how we create exponential results and amplify our impact.
Example Methodology – Agile Security Engineering
Example Method – Threat Modeling Technique
Conceptual Frameworks and Mental ModelsWe use mental models, conceptual frameworks, and information models to learn and share the problem space.
Example Conceptual Framework for Web Security
Example Mental Model for Application Architecture
Hot SpotsHot Spots are basically heat maps of pain points and opportunities. We use them as a lens to help us see customer pain points and opportunities, and to prioritize our investments. They also help us identify, organize, and share scenarios. Hot Spots also help us organize and share principles, patterns, practices, and anti-patterns for key engineering decisions. Hot Spots are a powerful tool for product planning and for building prescriptive guidance, platform, and tools.
Example of Security Hot Spots
Example of Architecture Hot Spots
Scenarios Organized by Architecture Hot Spots
Competitive WinsOur Blue Books have consistently been used for winning competitive assessments or at least making significant impact in key areas. Whether there’s a gap in the tools or a gap in the platform, prescriptive guidance can smooth it out by creating a success path for customers.
Example of beating IBM in Every Category Around Guidance
You can find a deeper rundown on the competitive assessments in my previous posts.
The Bottom Line on Blue BooksThe bottom line for me is that Blue Books have helped shape platforms and tools and to create glide-paths for customers through mental models, methodologies, and methods. They’ve been a powerful way to share success patterns, help paint the bigger picture, and connect the dots across platform, tools, and guidance.
The adoption and usage has accelerated over the years to the point where just about any customer in the application development space that works with the Microsoft platform is familiar with either patterns & practices for the Microsoft Blue Books.
Blue Books have been the freemium offering from Microsoft that have paved the way for premium experiences.
Personal productivity is one of my passions. As one of my little experiments while I'm out of the office, I put together The Zen of Results E-Book. I turned a slide deck into a PDF to see if it makes it easier to share. It's brief (17 pages) and quick to flip through. More importantly though, it captures the heart of how you can improve your productivity, in a principle and pattern based way. It's a lightweight approach and it's easy to tailor for your situation.
The Approach in a Nutshell Here's the keys to the approach:
Thoughts on Productivity I'm not a fan of productivity for productivity's sake. Instead, I care that I'm working on the right things, I care that the time I spend working, is as efficient and effective as possible. I also care that I can carve out time in a way to achieve work/life balance. I care more about outcomes than activities and I work backwards from the end in mind. To put it another way, I put more emphasis on learning, improving, and enjoying, than simply going through the motions or putting in my time. I'll also add -- I like my downtime and my free time ;)
What The Zen of Results is Based On I'd like to say it's based on Getting Things Done, but somehow we just never crossed-paths. Instead, it's born from a combination of the school of hard knocks, masters at Microsoft, software development practices, and my mentoring experience. when I first joined Microsoft, I was overwhelmed. I was on a sink or swim team with lots of trials by fire. I wanted to swim. Long story short, I learned from anyone and everyone around me. In fact, I started seeking out people in the company and comparing email practices, storing information, and how to become more effective. I learned a lot.
Software Engineering Meets Project Management Meets Productivity When I joined patterns & practices some years ago, a few things happened. I had to figure out project management in the context of a competitive environment where the ultimate judge is results. Not just the results of what you produce, but how you produce results. How many dead bodies and what sort of wake do you leave behind?
Meanwhile, Agile was becoming increasingly pervasive and I had the benefit of working with folks like Ward Cunningham and Peter Provost. They taught me lot about the principles and concepts behind Agile. Somewhere along the way, I had figured out how to catalog, manage, and prioritize an endless stream of potential activity from various sources: my teams, my manager, my inbox, my head.
I learned that improving an hour, improved a day, improved a week, improved a month. I learned the value of sharing lessons learned. I learned the value of biting off what you could chew. I learned that it's better to finish what's on your plate and go up for seconds versus overflow your plate up front. I weaved in my timeboxing lessons from performance and my compartmentalizing lessons from security.
I used my lessons from my manager to focus on strengths over weaknesses to keep a high level of energy. Bottom line, the sum is more than the parts, but it's an integration of software development, project management and personal productivity with an emphasis on meaningful work for a meaningful life ... by design (that's my inner engineer talking).