J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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    How To–Design Your Week with Skill

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    I wrote a how to on How To Design Your Week.  It’s all about mastering time management.

    Let me first say that mastering your time is one of the most challenging things you can do in life.  It’s a topic that folks like Peter Drucker have filled books with.  Let me also say that, while it is tough, it’s also one of the best things you can do to lead a better life.  And the beauty is, the moment you start spending your time in more meaningful ways, you get immediate payback. 

    What if right now, you were working on your next best thing to do?  (It’s a simple question, but it cuts to the chase.)

    This How To is based on helping many folks inside and outside of Microsoft design a schedule that helps them simplify their work, free up more time, get more done in the same amount of time, spend more time where it counts, and use their best energy for their best results.  The trick in today’s world is that you don’t get more hours in a day – but you can amplify your results by improving your energy.

    I prioritized creating this how to because I need to scale.  Lately I’ve been helping a lot more fellow Microsoft colleagues design a schedule that brings out their best results and helping them get a handle on their work-life balance.  The bottom line is, they wanted to spend less time, but get better, faster, simpler results.  Most importantly, they wanted to stop thrashing and start thriving.

    Just about everybody I know is feeling the pain of an increasingly competitive, increasingly connected, “always on” world.  There’s always more to do, than you can possibly get done, but throwing more time at the problem isn’t the answer. 

    … So what is?

    Design your time with skill.

    If you let your week just happen, it’s very easy for your weekly schedule to erode to a point where it works against you in every possible way:  your best energy gets wasted on the least impactful things, it takes ten times longer to get things done, the faster you go, the more behind you get, you wear yourself down emotionally, mentally, physically.  Perhaps the worst thing though is, without carving out time for what’s important, you never have the time for the things that mean the most to you.

    If you can design a week, you can create repeatable patterns that serve you throughout the year.  The key is spending the right time, on the right things, with the right energy, the right way.  This is the magic formula for getting exponential results from time you already spend.  This is how you unleash your best, time and again, get more done in the same amount of time, feel strong all week long, and free up more time for the things you really want to spend your time on.

    If you’re ready to exponentially make the most of what you’ve got and unleash yourself, take How To – Design Your Week for a test drive.

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    Focus is the Key to Success at Microsoft

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    "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." -- Mark Twain

    Focus is the key to success at Microsoft for many people.  I put together proven practices for how to focus in a comprehensive set of “Focus Guidelines”. 

    One of my mentors, a seasoned manager at Microsoft, once told me that the difference that makes the difference – why some people succeed and others do not – is focus. Those that lack focus spread themselves too thin, or never finish what they start. They have a lot of dreams, ambition, and ideas but they never spend enough time working on any one thing to make it happen. On the flip side, those with focus, know what they want to accomplish, and they apply concentrated effort, and see it through to completion. They also focus on less, yet achieve more.

    I set out to nail a set of proven practices that could help anybody improve their ability to focus.   I gave myself a timebox of four hours to see what I could put together for a v1 release.  I sanity checked the results with a few folks that said it very much echoed what they thought were the keys to improving focus, so now I’m sharing with a broader audience.  (If you’re wondering why I gave myself a timebox of four hours for this it was to help me focus Winking smile   Focus is a complex topic and deserves attention, but I also have other priorities I’m working on.  I was willing to spend 2 hours Saturday and 2 hours Sunday to chip away at this stone, if it could help the greater good to have a robust set of practices that actually work for achieving the highest levels of focus.  I expect my four hour investment to help many others get exponential results and help them take their game to a new level, by expanding their mental toolbox.  Even if that’s not the case, spending four hours to work on such a key cross-cutting skill for life is still a good investment.)

    These practices are time-tested and Softie approved.  As you can imagine, with all the bright and shiny objects that go flying around, it takes skill and discipline to stay focused.  The beauty though is that if you know the key strategies and tactics for improving your focus, then it actually gets a lot easier to focus where it counts and enjoy the ride.

    Explore my “Focus Guidelines” and learn how to focus with skill.

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    Email Therapy

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    One of the scenarios I get asked to coach teams on is, “Email Therapy.”

    Basically, this translates to, “Help our team deal with email overload” or “Help our team get un-swamped” or “Help our team process and manage email more effectively.”  In a lot of these scenarios, it’s where the team uses email as a heavy part of their workload.

    Why do they ask me?  Usually it’s word of mouth where somebody I’ve mentored shares the approach.  In other cases, it’s a team that wants to adopt Getting Results the Agile Way, but want to first get a handle on their email challenge.

    Why Keep an Empty Inbox
    I deal with hundreds of email each day, but I keep my inbox empty.  Having an empty inbox is not only a good feeling, but it streamlines things.  My inbox really is for incoming messages.   I keep my inbox clear because I have a place for actions and tasks, a place to stick the email I’ve read, a simple way to schedule time for things that take time, and a simple folder system for archiving useful reference information.   I avoid “death by a 1000 paper cuts” and “paper shuffling” using this approach.  Because my approach is designed to easily deal with large volumes of email, it’s easy for me to batch process.  I limit the amount of administration time I spend, so I can optimize the time I spend on higher value activities.

    5 Patterns for Keeping Your Email Inbox Empty
    To share my approach, I use patterns.  This way whether you use GMail, HotMail, Outlook, etc., you can still apply the same concepts.

    1. Pattern #1 - One Folder for All Read Mail
    2. Pattern #2 - One Rule to Filter Out Everything Not in Your Immediate World
    3. Pattern #3 - Tickler Lists of Action
    4. Pattern #4 - Schedule Items You Need Time For
    5. Pattern #5 - Reference Folders

    Here are the main ideas behind each pattern:

    Pattern #1 - One Folder for All Read Mail

    • Don’t use your inbox as a holding station.  Use your inbox as one place to look for incoming messages.
    • Do have a single folder where you can dump all the email after you’ve read it.  In Outlook, I create a folder either on the server or locally.  In GMail, this would be the “All Mail” folder.   In HotMail, you can simply make a folder for all your processed mail.

    Pattern #2 - Filter Out Everything Not in Your Immediate World

    • Do create a simple rule to filter out everything that’s not part of your immediate world.  For example, in Outlook, I create a single rule to filter and allow only email sent directly to me, CC me, or to my immediate team, and a few organizational aliases.

    Pattern #3 - Tickler Lists of Action

    • Do create a a place to dump your action items outside of mail.   For example, you can use a pad and pen, or keep notepad open, or a single email to dump all your actions.  The power of a separate list in text, means you can quickly prioritize and sort based on any rules you want.  The trick is to extract just the action item from the email.
    • Do use your action items list or “To Do” list as the place to drive your action, not your inbox.  This is your “One Place to Look” for action items throughout the day. 

    Pattern #4 - Schedule Items You Need Time For

    • Do create appointments for things that take more time.  For example, in Outlook, you can Drag+Drop the email item to your calendar and create an appointment or reminder.
    • Don’t create a bunch of separate appointments.  Instead, create a block of time to batch process your work.   For example, you might block off time each day, or consolidate to a couple of days, and use that as your “catch up” time.

    Pattern #5 - Reference Folders

    • Do create folders for storing copies of emails that you think you will reference key information.
    • Do keep the folders flat.  Avoid nesting.  For example, I simply have a set of folders, A-Z, that I use as a light-weight, email knowledge-base.
    • Do use your Reference Folders to keep copies of key emails.  Rather than keep searching for the information, if you have to keep looking for it, just make a folder for it, and stick it in there.  Key tip – if you find that when you look for the email, it’s not where you expected, then rename the folder to whatever you expected.   This will help you refine your naming strategy over time.

    The main anti-patterns that these patterns help you avoid are:

    • Filing email into a bunch of folders.
    • Sifting through email that’s not primarily for you (such as sifting through discussion lists, or other tangents outside of your immediate world or scope.)
    • Nesting folders and having deep-trees of email.

    My Related Posts

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    What is Agile Results?

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    As I’ve been teaching Getting Results the Agile Way to more people and teams, I’ve had to simplify the mental model.  Here is the simplest visual that I like to whiteboard to show the main idea:

    image

    It’s all about having a simple system for flowing value each day, and each week.  I’ve focused more on the story-driven approach, because I find that this helps people connect more deeply with what they do.  Instead of focusing on “doing tasks” or just “getting stuff done”, they focus on meaningful impact and meaning results.  It’s also about living your values.  Or, to put it another way, doing what makes you strong, all day long.

    A Story-Driven Approach to Great Results
    Using simple and sticky “one-liner stories” each day, and each week, helps you turn tasks into results:

    • If the task is, call a a customer back, then light that up – “Win a raving fan.”
    • If the task is, finish closing out the list of bugs in your queue, then – “Slam dunk your bug backlog in record time.”
    • If the task is, create a Vision/Scope for your team, then – “Paint a compelling vision that inspires the team to go for the epic win.”

    The more you turn your tasks into compelling outcomes, and the more you connect your outcomes to your values, the more you will ignite yourself and others on fire as you blaze your trail forward.  The key here is connecting to your values.  In the simple examples above, winning a raving fan is all about connecting with customers, slam dunking your bugs is about making it a game while testing your skills, and inspiring your team to go for the epic win is all about making it an adventure.  If customers, growth, and impact are high on your values, those results take on new meaning and jazz you vs. drain you.

    Anyway, I’ve created a simple one-page guide to answer the question, What is Agile Results.

    Enjoy.

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    Friday Links 07-15-2011

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    From the Archives
    Customer-Connected Engineering – Involving customers throughout your software development cycle can help you make sure you make something your customers need and want.  It also helps you better understand the requirements and prioritize more effectively.  It also helps you get more relevant and timely feedback so you can ship stuff that people will use.  We’ve called the approach we’ve used in patterns & practices, Customer-Connected Engineering (CCE), and this is the approach in a nutshell.

    Methodologies at a Glance – At the heart of every software methodology, there are core practices.  When you know the key activities and artifacts that make up a methodology, you can easily compare across methodologies to find the best fit.  You can also fill your toolbox with practices so that you can use the ones that you need, when you need them.  This is a bird’s-eye view of some of the more popular software project and product development methodologies.

    From the Web
    Focus Guidelines – It’s been said that the difference between those that succeed, and those that don’t is focus.  Focus is a skill you can build and use throughout your lifetime, to counter distractions, fully engage in what you do, reduce stress, and improve your results.  This is a comprehensive set of guidelines that give you an edge in today’s world.

    How To – Set Goals and Achieve Them – This is a step-by-step guide for setting compelling goals, and making them happen.  If goals leave a bad taste in your mouth, this can help you turn it around.  It’s all about creating goals that inspire you and that help you achieve whatever you set out to do.

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    Getting Results the Agile Way on Stepcase Lifehack

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    Chris Smith wrote a great overview of my productivity system on Stepcase Lifehack.org.  The article is Productivity System Overview: Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Chris is very familiar with various productivity systems, including Getting Things Done.   I enjoyed reading Chris’s article, and I especially liked how he covered so much ground in such a short amount of space.   He honed right in on what’s important, and made the key points pop.

    I think what Chris really caught on to, and surfaced in his review, is that Getting Results the Agile Way is all about achieving meaningful results, and not just doing more tasks.

    My Related Posts

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    Elevator Pitches for Projects

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    As a Program Manager, one of the things I’ve had to do a lot is, “pitch projects.”   Whether it’s pitching a project or talking about a project in the hall, it helps to have an elevator pitch that sticks. 

    The ideal elevator pitch for a project is simple, sticky, and makes the point fast.  Somebody shouldn’t have to work too hard to figure out what it’s about.  It’s the essence in a nutshell.

    The Minimum Elevator Pitch
    Here are a few example elevator pitches I’ve used for some of my projects:

    I’m a fan of the one-liner reminders.  They make it easy for you to tell and sell the story.  Additionally, they make it easier for others to tell and sell your story if they have a simple, sticky, one-liner reminder, and in today’s world, word-of-mouth marketing is your friend.

    The Maximum Elevator Pitch
    Here is an example of an elaborated elevator pitch template, I’ve used in patterns & practices on a slide, as a more formal way of expression the cornerstone attributes of the project:

    • Customer - For solution architects, lead developers.
    • Need – Prescriptive Guidance for the design and architecture of applications on the Microsoft platform.
    • Product name – Cloud Security Program
    • Key benefit – A durable and evolvable Microsoft playbook for application architecture which is on point with future Microsoft direction, principle based, pattern based, integrated and consolidation across the Microsoft technology stack, and a good frame that integrates the actionable principles, patterns, and proven implementations.
    • Differentiator – Principles, patterns and practices connected to Microsoft strategy and customer scenarios. The opposite is piecemeal, siloed, product-centric guidance and industry patterns efforts, not connected to technology stacks, and connected to expensive consulting services.
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    Video–Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way

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    It’s always great to see how technology can help make the world a better place.

    You might remember Ed Jezierski from his Microsoft days.  In his early years at Microsoft, he worked on the Microsoft Developer Support team, helping customers succeed on the platform.    These early experiences taught Ed the value of teamwork and collaboration, extreme customer focus, and the value of principles, patterns, and proven practices for addressing recurring issues, and building more robust designs.

    From there, Ed was one of the early members of the patterns & practices team.  As one of the first Program Managers on the patterns & practices team, Ed was the driving force behind many of the first guides from patterns & practices for developers, including the Data Access guide, and the early Application Architecture guide.  He was also the master mind behind the first application blocks (Exception Management Block, Data Access Block, Caching Block, etc.) , which forever changed the destiny of patterns & practices.  The application blocks helped transition patterns & practices from an IT and system administrator focus,  to a focus on developers and solution architects.  In his role as an Architect, on the patterns & practices team, Ed played a significant role in shaping the technical strategy and orchestrating key design and engineering issues across the patterns & practices portfolio.  One of his most significant impacts was the early design and shaping  of the Microsoft Enterprise Library.

    In his later years, Ed worked on incubation and innovation teams, where he learned a lot about streamlining innovation, making things happen, and how to create systems and processes to support innovation, in a more organic and agile way, to balance more formal engineering practices for bringing ideas and innovation to market.

    But, just like James Bond, “the world is not enough.”  Ed’s passion was always for helping people around the world in a grand scale.  His strength and amazing skill is applying technology to change the world and making the world a better place, by solving solve real-world problems.  (I still remember the day, Ed showed up in his bullet proof armor, ready to deploy technology in some of the most dangerous places in the world.)

    Now, as CTO at InSTEDD, Ed hops around the globe helping communities everywhere design and use technology to continuously improve their health, safety and development.  As you can imagine, Ed has to make things happen in some of the most extreme scenarios, responding to natural disasters and health incidents.  And he uses Getting Results the Agile Way as a system for driving results for himself and the teams he leads.

    Here is Ed Jezierski on Getting Results the Agile Way …

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    One-Man Band vs. Pairing Up On Problems

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    How you split the work is one thing.  How you team up on work is another.

    This is one of those patterns that can be counter-intuitive, but is one of the single-biggest factors for successful teams.  I've seen it time and again, over many years, in many places. 

    When I compare the effectiveness of various organizations, there's a pattern that always stands out.  It's how they leverage their capabilities in terms of teamwork.  For the sake of simplicity, I'll simply label the two patterns:

    1. One-Man Bands (or Teams of One)
    2. Pairing Up (or Crews of Capabilities)

    In the One-Man Band scenario, while everybody is on a team, they are all working on seperate things and individual parts.  In the Pairing Up scenario, multiple people work on the same problems, together.  In other words ...

    • One-Mand Band -- One person works on problem 1, one person works on problem 2, etc.
    • Pairing Up -- 5 people work on problem 1, then problem 2, then problem 3, etc.

    The Obvious Answer is Often the Wrong Answer
    The obvious choice is to divide and conquer the work and split the resources to tackle it.  That would be great if this was the industrial age, and it was just an assembly line.  The problem is it's the knowledge area, and in the arena of knowledge work, you need multiple skills and multiple perspectives to make things happen effectively and efficiently.

    Teams of Capabilities, Beat Teams of One
    In other words, you need teams of capabilities.  When you Pair Up, you're combining capabilities.  When you combine capabilities, that means that people spend more time in their strengths.  You might be great at the technical perspective, but then lack the customer perspective.  Or you might be great at doing it, but not presenting it.  Or you might be great at thinking up ideas, but suck at sticking with the daily grind to finish the tough stuff.  Or you might be great at grinding through the tasks, but not so great at coming up with ideas, or prioritizing, etc.

    The One-Man Band Scenario Creates Bottlenecks and Inefficiencies
    As the One-Man Band, what happens is everybody bottlenecks.  They spend more time in their weaknesses and things they aren't good at.  Worse, the person ends up married to their idea, or the idea represents just one person's thinking, instead of the collective perspective.

    Crews Spend More Time in Strengths and Gain Efficiencies
    If you've had the benefit of seeing these competing strategies first hand, then it's easy with hind-sight to fully appreciate the value of Pairing Up on problems vs. splitting the work up into One-Man Bands.  For many people, they've never had the benefit of working as "crews" or pairing up on problems, and, instead, spend a lot of energy working on their weaknesses and meanwhile, spending way less time on their strength.

    When people work as teams of capabilities, and are Pairing Up on problems, the execution engine starts to streamline, people gain efficiencies, and get exponential results.  Several by-products also happen:

    • Individuals end up with shared goals instead of bifurcating effort and energy
    • Collaboration increases because people have shared goals
    • Individuals start to prioritize more effectively because it's at the "system" level vs. the "individual" level
    • Individuals grow in their core skills because they spend more time in strengths, and less time in weaknesses
    • Employee engagement goes up, and work satisfaction improves, as people find their flow, grow their strengths, and make things happen

    There are Execution Patterns for High Performing Teams
    Of course there are exceptions to the generalization (for example, some individuals have a wide variety of just the right skills), and of course their are success patterns (and anti-patterns) for building highly effective teams of capabilities, and effectively pairing people up in ways that are empowering, and catalyzing.  I learned many of these the hard way, through trial and error, and many years of experimenting while under the gun to bring out the best in individuals and simultaneously unleash and debottleneck teams for maximum performance and impact.  I’ve also had the benefit of mentoring teams, and individuals in reshaping their execution.  This is probably an area where it’s worth me sharing a more focused collection of patterns and practices on leading high performance teams.

    If you have a favorite post or favorite write up that drills into this topic, please send it my way.  In my experience, it's one of the most fundamental game changers to improving the execution and impact of any team, and especially, one that does any sort of knowledge work, and engineering.

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    Friday Links 07-22-2011

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    From the Archives
    Agile Architecture Method -- Scope and focus your architecture exercise, use scenarios to drive the design and evaluate potential solutions, and expose key choice points.  It's a way to bridge traditional architecture with more agile, iterative, and incremental ways.  This approach is the synthesis of more than 30 seasoned solution architects inside and outside of Microsoft, as well as  security experts, and performance experts.

    User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy -- A collection of user stories for the cloud.  This collection is a simple map of the most common scenarios that Enterprise Architects, business leaders, and IT leaders will be facing as they adopt cloud technologies.  These are real scenarios from real customers, thinking through and planning their cloud adoption.

    Windows Azure Whitepapers Roundup – If you want to read up on Microsoft’s cloud story, there are plenty of whitepapers to get you started.   This is a collection of the various Windows Azure whitepapers around Microsoft for developers, IT Pros, and business leaders.

    From the Web
    Motivation Guidelines – A set of proven practices for improving your motivation, finding your drive, and inspiring action.  Motivation is a skill you can use the rest of your life.  Find the key practices that work for you, and use this collection as your mental toolbox to draw from.

    36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders – The beauty of Microsoft is the extremely high concentration of smart people and  I like to leverage the collective brain  I posed the following question to several Microsoft leaders, past and present, and up and down the ranks, ““What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?”  This is the answer I got.

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    Microsoft Cloud Case Studies at a Glance

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    Cloud computing is hot.  As customers makes sense of what the Microsoft cloud story means to them, one of the first things they tend to do is look for case studies of the Microsoft cloud platform.  They like to know what their peers, partners, and other peeps are doing.

    Internally, I get to see a lot of what our customers are doing across various industries and how they are approaching the cloud behind the scenes.  It’s amazing the kind of transformations that cloud computing brings to the table and makes possible.  Cloud computing is truly blending and connecting business and IT (Information Technology), and it’s great to see the connection.  In terms of patterns, customers are using the cloud to either reduce cost, create new business opportunities and agility, or compete in ways they haven’t been able to before.  One of the most significant things cloud computing does is force people to truly understand what business they are in and what their strategy actually is.

    Externally, luckily, we have a great collection of Microsoft cloud case studies available at Windows Azure Case Studies.

    I find having case studies of the Microsoft cloud story makes it easy to see patterns and to get a sense of where some things are going.  Here is a summary of some of the case studies available, and a few direct links to some of the studies.

    Advertising Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in advertising:

    Air Transportation Services
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in air transportation services:

    Capital Markets and Securities Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in capital markets and securities:

    Education
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in education:

    Employment Placement Agencies
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in employment agencies:

    • OCC Match - Job-listing web site scales up solution, reduces costs by more than U.S. $500,000.


    Energy and Environmental Agencies
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in enery and environmental agencies:

    • European Environment Agency (EEA) - Environment agency's pioneering online tools bring revolutionary data to citizens.

    Financial Services Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in the financial services industry:

    • eVision Systems - Israeli startup offers cost-effective, scalable procurement system using cloud services.
      Fiserv - Fiserv evaluates cloud technologies as it enhances key financial services offerings.
    • NVoicePay - New company tackles big market with cloud-based B2B payment solution.
    • RiskMetrics - Financial risk-analysis firm enhances capabilities with dynamic computing.


    Food Service Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in the food service industry:

    • Outback Steakhouse - Outback Steakhouse boosts guests loyalty with Facebook and Windows Azure.

    Government Agencies
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in government agencies:

    Healthcare Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in healthcare:

    • Vectorform - Digital design and technology firm supports virtual cancer screening with 3-D viewer.

    High Tech and Electronics Manufacturing
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in high tech and electronics manufacturing:

    • 3M - 3M launches Web-based Visual Attention Service to heighten design impact. - http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?CaseStudyID=4000005768
    • GXS Trading Grid - Electronic services firm reaches out to new markets with cloud-based solution.
    • iLink Systems - Custom developer reduces development time, cost by 83 percent for Web, PC, mobile target.
    • Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group - Microsoft quickly delivers interactive cloud-based tool to ease partner transition.
    • Sharpcloud - Software startup triples productivity, saves $500,000 with cloud computing solution.
    • Symon Communications - Digital innovator uses cloud computing to expand product line with help from experts.
    • VeriSign - Security firm helps customers create highly secure hosted infrastructure solutions.
    • Xerox - Xerox cloud print solution connects mobile workers to printers around the world.

    Hosting
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in hosting:

    • Izenda - Hosted business intelligence solution saves companies up to $250,000 in IT support and development costs.
    • Mamut - Hosting provider uses scalable computing to create hybrid backup solution.
    • Metastorm - Partner opens new market segments with cloud-based business process solution.
    • Qlogitek - Supply chain integrator relies on Microsoft platform to facilitate $20 billion in business.
    • SpeechCycle - Next generation contact center solution uses cloud to deliver software-plus-services.
    • TBS Mobility - Mobility software provider opens new markets with software-plus-services.

    Insurance Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in the insurance industry:

    IT Services
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in IT services:

    • BEDIN Shop Systems - Luxury goods retailer gains point-of-sale solution in minutes with cloud-based system. - http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?CaseStudyID=4000008195
    • Broad Reach Mobility - Firm streamlines field-service tasks with cloud solution. - http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Windows-Azure/Broad-Reach-Mobility/Firm-Streamlines-Field-Service-Tasks-with-Cloud-Solution/4000008493
    • Codit - Solution provider streamlines B2B connections using cloud services. - http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-BizTalk-Server/Codit/Solution-Provider-Streamlines-B2B-Connections-Using-Cloud-Services/4000008528
    • Cumulux - Software developer focuses on innovation, extends cloud services value for customers. - http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?CaseStudyID=4000007947
    • eCraft - IT firm links web applications to powerful business management software.
    • EdisonWeb - Web firm saves $30,000 annually, expands global growth with cloud database service.
    • Epicor - Software developer saves money, enhances application with Internet-based platform.
    • ESRI - GIS provider lowers cost of customer entry, opens new markets with hosted services.
    • Formotus - Forms automation company uses cloud storage to lower mobile data access costs.
    • FullArmor - FullArmor PolicyPortal Technical Brief: A Windows Azure/Software-plus-Services Solution
    • Gcommerce - Service provider transforms special-order process with a hybrid cloud and on-premises inventory solution.
    • GoGrid - Hosting provider extends service offerings, attracts customers with "cloud" platform.
    • Guppers - Mobile data services quickly and cost-effectively scale with cloud services solution.
    • HCL Technologies - IT firm delivers carbon-data management in the cloud, lowers barriers for customers.
    • HubOne - Australian development firm grows business exponentially with cloud services.
    • IMPACTA - IT security firm delivers low cost, high protection with online file transfer service.
    • Infosys - Infosys creates cloud-based solution for auto dealers using SQL data services.
    • InterGrid GreenButton - GreenButton super computing power in the cloud.
    • InterGrid - Software developers offer quick processing of compute-heavy tasks with cloud services.
    • ISHIR Infotech - IT company attracts new customers at minimal cost with cloud computing solution.
    • K2 - Software firm moves business processes and line-of-business data into the cloud.
    • Kelly Street Digital - Digital marketing startup switches cloud providers and saves $4,200 monthly.
    • Kompas Xnet - IT integrator delivers high-availability website at lower cost with online services.
    • LINQPad - Software developers gain the ease of LINQ data queries to compelling cloud content.
    • Meridium - Asset performance management solution increases performance and interoperability.
    • metaSapiens - ISV optimizes data browsing tool for online data, expects to enter global marketplace.
    • Microsoft - Microsoft IT moves auction tool to the cloud, makes it easier for employees to donate.
    • NeoGeo New Media - Digital media asset management solution gains scalability with SQL Data Services.
    • Paladin Data Systems - Software provider reduces operating costs with cloud-based solution.
    • Persistent Systems - Software services provider delivers cost-effective e-government solution.
    • Propelware - Intuit integration provider reduces development time, cost by 50 percent.
    • Quilink - Innovative technology startup creates contact search solution, gains global potential.
    • Siemens - Siemens expands software delivery service, significantly reduces TCO.
    • Sitecore - Company builds compelling web experiences in the cloud for multinational organizations.
    • SOASTA - Cloud services help performance-testing firm simulate real-world Internet traffic.
    • Softronic - Firm meets demand for streamlined government solutions using cloud platform.
    • SugarCRM - CRM vendor quickly adapts to new platform, adds global, scalable delivery channel.
    • Synteractive - Solution provider uses cloud technology to create novel social networking software.
    • Transactiv - Software start-up scales for demand without capital expenses by using cloud services.
    • Umbraco - Web content management system provider moves solution to the cloud to expand market.
    • Volantis - Mobile services ISV gains seamless scalability with Windows Azure platform.
    • Wipro - IT services company reduces costs, expands opportunities with new cloud platform.Zitec - IT consultancy saves up to 90
    • percent on relational database costs with cloud services.
    • Zmanda - Software company enriches cloud-based backup solution with structured data storage.

    Life Sciences
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in life sciences:

    Manufacturing
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in manufacturing:

    Media and Entertainment Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in media and entertainment:

    • OriginDigital - Video services provider to reduce transcoding costs up to half.
    • Sir Speedy - Publishing giant creates innovative web based service for small-business market.
    • STATS - Sports data provider saves $1 million on consumer market entry via cloud services.
    • TicketDirect - Ticket seller finds ideal business solution in hosted computing platform.
    • TicTacTi - Advertising company adopts cloud computing, gets 400 percent improvement.
    • Tribune - Tribune transforms business for heightened relevance by embracing cloud computing.
    • VRX Studios - Global photography company transforms business with scalable cloud solution.

    Metal Fabrication Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in metal fabrication:

    • ExelGroup - ExelGroup achieves cost reduction and efficiency increase with Soft1 on Windows Azure.


    Nonprofit Organizations
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in non-profit organizations:

    • Microsoft Disaster Response Team - Helping governments recover from disasters: Microsoft and partners provide technology and other assistance following natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan.

    Oil and Gas Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in oil and gas:

    • The Information Store (iStore) - Solution developer expects to boost efficiency with software-plus-services strategy.

    Professional Services
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in professional services:

    Publishing Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in publishing:

    • MyWebCareer - Web startup saves $305,000, sees ever-ready scalability—without having to manage IT.


    Retail Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in retail:

    • Glympse.com - Location-sharing solution provider gains productivity, agility with hosted services.
      höltl Retail Solutions - German retail solutions firm gains new customers with cloud computing solution.

    Software Engineering
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in software:

    Telecommunications Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in telecommunications:

    • IntelePeer - Telecommunications firm develops solution to speed on-demand conference calls.
    • SAPO - Portugal telecom subsidiary helps ensure revenue opportunities in the cloud.
    • T-Mobile USA - Mobile operator speeds time-to-market for innovative social networking solution.
    • T-Systems - Telecommunications firm reduces development and deployment time with hosting platform.

    Training Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in training:

    • Point8020 - Learning content provider uses cloud platform to enhance content delivery.

    Transportation and Logistics Industry
    Examples of the Microsoft cloud case studies in transportation:

    • TradeFacilitate - Trade data service scales online solution to global level with "cloud" services model.

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    Organizing, Reading, and Writing Information Faster

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    “Information is not knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

    What if you could streamline your way through vast seas of information to find the needles in the haystacks, or make sense of an ever changing landscape?  Information comes at us so fast, from so many directions.  The world changes fast, and, in a knowledge worker world, what you don’t know can hurt you.

    One of the FAQs I get asked by colleagues is, how do I make my way through so much information so fast?

    If I just say lots of years of deliberate practices writing and reviewing prescriptive guidance in patterns & practices, that doesn't help them much.  If I say, I spent hundreds of dollars on books each month and that forced me to read a lot faster, that doesn't help either.  So, I started paying attention to where the speed comes from.  It’s ultimately a system of things and habits from practice, but here are a few keys you can use …

    Organizing Information

    • Alphabetize long lists -- It makes it easy to spot duplicates, and it makes it faster for you to do lookups.
    • Chunk things up -- If you have a long list, simply bubble up the most important things and then create some space.  This gives you the simple + complete view.
    • Optimize for your scenarios -- If your main scenario is filing it away, then keep that super simple and as flat as possible.  Don’t add little traps or tricks that complicate it.   Make it so that you can do it in batches.  For example, I have one folder for all the mail I read.  It’s fast filing.  If your main scenario is retrieving, then make it easy to do so.
    • Wherever you keep looking for it, that’s where it should be -- One way to figure out where to put information is to simply put it where you keep looking for it.  Then you will leverage your natural pattern and thought process.

    Reading and Analyzing Information

    • Identify your objectives – By knowing your goals, you improve your clarity, focus, and motivation.  You can also choose better strategies.  You can identify your objectives by asking what you.
    • Make a short list of questions or problems you want answers to – Questions focus your mind, and engage it in a way that’s more resourceful and active, versus just going along for the ride.  If you’ve ever read a page and then realized you just read a page and didn’t realize you read a page and you have to backtrack, then you know what I mean.  Wanting to answer a few questions or solve a few problems will make the information more interesting and it will help you focus on what counts.
    • Switch gears -- Think sprint not marathon and actually flip the switch so your brain is ready to rumble.  Think “race to the value” vs. “walk in the park.”
    • Ask, "How can I use this?"  -- If you can't turn the information into action fast, then it might not be useful or relevant, or there might be a better way to figure it out.  The simple act of asking yourself how you can use it, will cause your brain to look for useful and actionable insights.  You’ll find that lots of useful information, tends to be garnished in unnecessary wrapper.   Your job is to hack through the information jungle with your mental machete to get to the good stuff.

    Writing Information Faster

    • Write with a plain text editor that’s fast – This helps you focus on just the bare-bones value, and not get caught up in look and feel.  The most important thing is to not be waiting on your editor to catch up with you … that will break your rhythm and your pace, and it will break your flow.  Your flow is where the speed gets exponential.
    • Make it work, then make it right -- This is another way to say write it down, then edit later.  If you self-edit your way on every line you write, you create your own worst bottlenecks.  Let the information fly free, then go through and tune and prune it.  It will also be easier to think on paper, once you have it looking back at you.  The trick is to keep the information terse, so you can easily rearrange or reshape it, and later embellish it, if need be.  Just breaking free from your inner-editor, will exponentially increase your ability to write faster.  Get used to multiple passes though.
    • Sketch it, then elaborate it – This is the key to information engineering and information architecture or knowledge engineering.  Think in terms of a backbone and start with that.  Simply write down the big ideas and big framing concepts first.  Set the frame, then add the meat to the bones.
    • Think master and details or “hub and spoke.”   This is a useful model for when you need to create a bird’s-eye view of a space.  You can summarize the most important points, and then point to the details.  The master is the hub, and the details are the spokes.
    • Frame the space, then elaborate – This is another way of thinking in terms of “sketch-first.”  In this case, what you’re doing is setting the frame.  The frame is what’s in and what’s out of the picture.  The frame is how you look at or what lens you create for the information.  It’s the frame that helps bound the information.  Once you have the frame, it’s easier to and faster to know which information is relevant, so when you elaborate, you have some guard rails in place.
    • Iterate and version it – Don’t think “one pass.”  Think “as many passes in the timeframe to balance beauty, benefits, and effectiveness.”   In an age of information overload, and where people are used to edu-tainment, and info-tainment, beauty counts for something.  However, information that solves a valuable problem and actually delivers some benefits never goes out of style.  If you measure against effectiveness, and problems solves, you have a measuring stick for the value of your information, and this will help you stay on track as you write with might.
    • Set time limits – For example, I set a time limit of 10 minutes for this post.   I didn’t want to over-engineer it, and I wanted to just solve a very simple problem – give people that need it a few strategies that can help them deal with information overload and speed up their own ability to organize, read, and write information faster.  Having this time limit means I won’t second-guess myself and I won’t word-smith things to death, and I’ll avoid analysis paralysis.  Instead, it’s how quickly can I solve this problem in a meaningful way, and if I test it against the key scenarios, does it hold up “good enough for now”?  This also helps me focus and prioritize, and chop the stuff that just doesn’t add enough value.  The downside is, I don’t have enough time to write a shorter post, but the upside is … I’m done Smile
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Unbundle Your Business for Business Agility

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    Since joining the Enterprise Strategy Team at Microsoft, I’ve had to shift gears and focus more on business, business architecture, and strategy patterns.  Luckily, there’s no shortage of material on business design.  The trick is finding the useful nuggets of insight and action. 

    Here’s an example of a useful nugget regarding how to think about the three core types of businesses …

    In the book, Business Model Generation, Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Alan Smith, Patrick Van Der Pijl, and Tim Clark suggest unbundling your business by splitting it into three core types:

    1. Product Innovation – Develop new and attractive services.
    2. Customer Relationship Management – Acquire and build relationships with customers.
    3. Infrastructure Management – Build and manage platforms for high volume, repetitive tasks.

    While the three types can co-exist within a single corporation, you can avoid conflicts or undesirable trade-offs by unbundling them, into separate entities.

    When your business is bundled, it’s tough to streamline things or make it more effective, because the focus is fractured.

    When you unbundle your business, you can gain clarity, focus, efficiencies, and effectiveness.  You can also make it easier to innovate in your processes, platforms, and products because of the clarity and focus.

    As you can imagine, this is crucial for any significant cloud plays and business transformations.  I’m in the business of business transformation now, as well as connecting business with IT (Information Technology), so it’s helpful to fill my toolbox with business strategies and business design methods, and I’ll share my toolbox with you as I go.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Focus on One of Three Value Disciplines for Competitive Success

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    In their Value Disciplines Model, Treacy and Wiersema suggest that a business should focus on one of three value disciplines for success:

    1. Operational excellence
    2. Product leadership
    3. Customer intimacy

    This re-enforces the idea by John Hagel and Marc Singer to split businesses into three core types (infrastructure businesses, product innovation businesses, and customer relationship businesses.)

    The question of course is whether, does Traecy and Wiersema’s model hold up in today’s world, where business blends with technology, and social media makes customer intimacy a commodity?

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    Models for Competitive Advantage

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    In the article, The Strategy Accelerator, Alfred Griffioen identifies three models that have been used for strategic competitive differentiation:

    1. Porter's Model on Product differentiation, cost leadership, and focus strategy
    2. Treacy and Wiersema's model on product leadership, operational excellence, and customer intimacy.
    3. Boston Consulting Group portfolio matrix - how to direct the cash flows in your company depending on market growth and market share.  The BCG portfolio matrix has four categories: Cash Cows, Dogs, Question Marks, and Stars.

    Griffioen raises the question whether the models are still relevant, given  Porter’s is circa 1980, Traeacy and Wiersema’s are circa 1995, and the BCG portfolio mix is from 1959.

    I think the key is that while the landscape may change, the principles remain the same, they just need to be adapted.

    This helps show why knowing the *why* and the context behind a principle is always key (as in *why* or *how* does it work … or even *when* does it work?)  That’s why patterns are a key way to share principles and strategies (they not only build a shared language, while sharing a problem and solution pair, but they also bound it to a context.)

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    The Four Gears of Competitive Advantage

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    In the article, The Strategy Accelerator, Alfred Griffioen shares four gears for differentiation and competitive advantage:

    1. First gear - No unique product and low customer relevance.
    2. Second gear - High customer relevance but no unique product.
    3. Third gear - A unique product but low customer relevance.
    4. Fourth gear - High customer relevance and a unique product.

    Strategies for Each Gear
    Griffioen shares strategies for each of the gears, to make the most of your market position:

    Scenario Solution
    First gear - No unique product and low customer relevance. Ally with others as the quickest way to build competence or product portfolio.
    Second gear - High customer relevance but no unique product Combine several matching products under your brand and become even more relevant for your customers.
    Third gear - A unique product but low customer relevance. Excel in what you do to make sure that you can continue to develop.
    Fourth gear - High customer relevance and a unique product. Consolidate your position by constant renewal and by keeping close watch on your competitors.

    I think it’s useful for evaluating, and is complementary to existing competitive models.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Changing Landscape of Competitive Advantage

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    In the article, The Strategy Accelerator, Alfred Griffioen shares some specific examples of how today’s landscape changes the competitive arena:

    • Online auctions replace relationship-based purchasing processes.
    • Small, innovative companies can offer their services and compete with larger players.
    • Faster product rationalization -- fast distribution technologieis increase the competition among products, while prices decline.
    • Transparency has increased, moving investment decisions from a company level to an activity level.
    • Knowledge can be obtained more easily, relevant components and partners can be found all over the world, and financial. resources can be obtained more easily for a good idea.
    • Small, specialized organizations with high added value activities can lead the new economy.

    I’ve seen this in action, and I like how Alfred called these out.  It helps us not just see the landscape, but start to form new rules for the road.

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    Brand is the Ultimate Differentiator

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    One town that all roads seem to lead to, is that … brand is the ultimate differentiator.

    It’s a reflection of the perception of perceived value, the emotional benefits, the intangibles and the culture and the values that the brand stands for.  In fact, a good way to test your brand is to figure out the three to five attributes that it represents.  

    Brand is a powerful thing because it’s a position in the mind.  For some categories, especially on the Web, sometimes you only need one brand at the top, and the rest don’t matter.  That’s why sometimes the only way to play, is to divide the niche, or expand to a new category.

    As an individual, your brand can serve you in many ways at your company, from opening doors to creating glide paths … especially, when your reputation proceeds you in a good way.

    The trick as an individual is, how do you fit in, while finding ways to stand out and sharing your unique value?

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    Trends for 2011

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    I put together a trends map in my trends for 2011 post.

    I took a look across consumer trends, Enterprise trends, market trends, and what's on the minds of CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs.  I also drew from my experience from talking with key folks on what's going on, including many customers and what they're focused on.  I included a round up and distillation of many sources, so you can drill into even more.

    The post is long, but I've saved you several hours, if not days, of research and bubbled up several key sources that will help you create your own map of trends.  I designed the post to be very scannable so you can hop around pretty fast.

    Trends are your extreme advantage. By knowing where the action is, you can focus your energy for better results.  You also avoid surprises.  You can also reshape your job to be more relevant, and you can use market insights to follow the growth, or create new growth.   As cycles of change get shorter, one of your best skills to build is anticipation.  Anticipation helps you respond over react.  Key tip – The Art of the Long View teaches us to have multiple long views.

    Explore trends for 2011.

    Enjoy!

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    Windows Phone Developer Guidance Map

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    image If you’re interested in development with the Microsoft Windows Phone, this map is for you.   Microsoft has an extensive collection of developer guidance available in the form of Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training.  The challenge is -- how do you find all of the various content collections? … and part of that challenge is knowing *exactly* where to look.  This is where the map comes in.  It helps you find your way around the online jungle and gives you short-cuts to the treasure troves of available content.

    The Windows Phone Developer Guidance Map helps you kill a few birds with one stone:

    1. It show you the key sources of Windows Phone content and where to look (“teach you how to fish”)
    2. It gives you an index of the main content collections (Code Samples, How Tos, Videos, and Training)
    3. You can also use the map as a model for creating your own map of developer guidance.

    Download the Windows Phone Developer Guidance Map

    Contents at a Glance

    • Introduction
    • Sources of Windows Phone Developer Guidance
    • Windows Phone Architecture
    • Topics and Features Map (a “Lens” for Finding Windows Phone Content)
    • How The Map is Organized (Organizing the “Content Collections”)
    • Getting Started
    • Architecture and Design
    • Code Samples
    • How Tos
    • Videos
    • Training

    Mental Model of the Map
    The map is a simple collection of content types from multiple sources, organized by common tasks, common topics, and Windows Phone features:

    image

    Special Thanks …
    Special thanks to Adam Grocholski, Allison Kent, Constanze Roman, Dan Reagan, Dragos Manolescu, Georgia Pettigrove, Kevin Lam, Mark Chamberlain, Paul Enfield, Pete Brown, Srinivas Iragavarapu, and Will Clevenger for helping me find and round up our various content collections.

    Enjoy and share the map with a friend.

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    Lessons Learned in Execution

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    I’ve been thinking about execution and the lessons learned.   I’ve summarized some insights and reminders.

    I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with patterns & practices over the last 10 years, so I’ve been able to see what works, what doesn’t, and the difference that makes the difference. 

    The Vital Few
    Here are the vital few lessons:

    1. Portfolios, Programs, and Projects.  The portfolio helps paint the map of investments at a glance.  It’s your heat map of opportunity, where to invest, and de-invest.    Programs connect the projects to simple themes and big bets.  Your execution is gated by how many projects can run in parallel at a healthy rate.  For example, “each year, we can produce 5 big projects, and 3 small ones”, or “every six months, we can do 3 big things, or 10 little ones”, etc.
    2. Product Line and Catalog.  Internally, you have a product line – the “things” you make.  Externally, you have a “catalog” which organizes your products in a meaningful way for customers.  Customers can ask for “xyz” in the catalog.  An effective model for catalogs is organizing by “topic or category” and “type of thing”  The closer you can map your portfolio to your catalog, the easier it is to see execution, results, and customer impact.  Your product line helps you know at a glance, roughly how long a given product takes to build.  A good product line is also a way to ensure that the interfaces across your product line and the key relationships among your products is well understood.
    3. Project cycles and product cycles.  Having a distinction between the project and product cycle help you optimize and use the right tool for the job.  For a simple example, Scrum is more of a project process, while XP is more of a product development process.  The project cycle is important at the business level.  It’s the cadence of the projects.  It’s where the vital few milestones are established in terms of start, key checks, ship, and post-mortem.  Product cycles on the other hand, are geared towards the product development.  The secret sauce here is that the work breakdown structure (WBS) is shaped by the product line, and maturing your work breakdown structure is how you streamline execution.  The WBS is also a way to share tribal knowledge and promote success across teams.  It’s how we know how to build patterns, or build a guide, or build a Reference Implementation versus make it up as we go, do it ad-hoc, or just wing-it.  It’s also how we know the right people and skills to have on the project, understand the nature of the work, know the key bottlenecks, and know the basic timeline.
    4. Vendor partners you trust.     This is the key to scaling execution.  It’s the key to keeping engaging work.  It’s the key to moving up the stack.  It’s the key to keeping up with a changing landscape.  The partnership is also key though, versus throwing over the wall.  Sharing values, principles, patterns, and practices helps optimize the execution.  One way to improve execution here is to have the right relationships in place (such as an account owner).  Another way to dramatically improve results is simple checklists that help share tribal know-how.
    5. Project teams and resource pools.   If project work is how we get things done, then the model for the project team is essential.  Time and again, projects fail because they didn’t have the right skills or capabilities on a team, and too many dependencies or risks, that weren’t obvious.  The key though is having resource pools of the right disciplines that support having the right project teams.  The keys to effective project teams are: roles, responsibilities, capabilities, accountabilities, empowerment, processes, and tools.

    20 Additional Game-Changers …
    Here are some additional ways to improve execution:

    1. Planning Frameworks.    This is the heart of the portfolio planning and creates buy-in from the top down, and an execution framework for the bottom up.  What’s important is that you have an agreed planning framework and that’s easy to change.  Additionally, it should be responsible to learning from the bottom up and by people in the trenches.
    2. Organizational model.  This is the heart of the execution engine.  The key here is reducing decision making complexity, pushing autonomy to the end leaf nodes, and providing a clear escalation path for cross-team issues.
    3. Feature/Scenario crews.  This is the unit of execution for projects.  It’s the assembly of the key roles and disciplines into a functional team, for a product, feature, or scenario.  In patterns & practices, our “solution” or feature crews consisted of program manager, product manager, architect, developers, testers, user education, and vendor support.
    4. Cadence and communication.   This is where project milestones, checkpoints, and communiqué or newsletters, as well as quarterly business reviews help make a difference.
    5. Know your Worst Bottleneck.  TOC (Theory of Constraints) boils down to knowing what you’re gated by: ideas? People? Money? Time? … where’s the friction?   If you had X, how much more Y could you do?
    6. Rhythm of the Business (ROBs).   ROBs help create a cadence and a framework for enforcing accountability.  Minimally, this translates into quarterly business reviews.
    7. Measures, metrics, and Scorecard.  The key here is having a small frame around both internal success and external success.  For example, external success is measuring awareness, adoption, and sat.  Internal success might be around product impact, execution excellence, team health.
    8. Dashboards.  Dashboards are a simple way to reflect back to everybody how we’re doing.  A good dashboard helps confirm what you know, reveal surprises, and helps create a spirit of momentum and learning.
    9. Customer Success Metrics.  This is crucial for online success.  It’s about having one measure that you can use to evaluate customer success.  For example, with Amazon, they can measure completed transactions.  That means somebody found what they wanted and voted for it by paying, and Amazon successfully fulfilled the need.  When you have the one simple measure of success, then you can experiment with your online strategy and do A/B testing to see whether you improve or reduce success against the one guiding metric – it’s your North Star of online success.
    10. The Pie and the Slices.  This is about knowing at a glance, how big the pie is, and what your slices are, that you can impact.  This impacts charter and helps establish boundaries and collaboration, and reduce or change competition in a healthy way.  
    11. Innovate in your process and product.  Innovation in your process is what enables innovation in your product … otherwise, you end up to expensive or get pushed out by a competitor’s approach.
    12. Pilots and experiments.   This is a way to reduce risk, while setting the stage for innovation.  The simplest way to reduce the risk is to timebox it, constrain resources, or set a budget limit, or a combination thereof.  The key to getting results is knowing what your pilot or experiment is testing for.  Start with hypotheses so you can guide your work and make the most of it.
    13. Raving fans.  Measure results by building raving fans and brand loyalty.   Net Promoter score and customer satisfaction scores are keys.
    14. Customer-Proof Points.    These give you a quick way to tell stories of customer success, and to boil down to two simple numbers: 1) a change in satisfaction, and 2) a change in customer confidence. 
    15. Customer-Connected Engineering.  Co-create the product with the customer.  Rather than build it and they will come, or throw it over the wall to see what sticks, pair with customers up front.  See Customer-Connected Engineering.
    16. Surveys are the short-cut.   Surveying customers up front to influence the investments and where to invest, helps ensure hitting the customer sweet spots.  It’s part of Customer-Connected Engineering for creating feedback loops.
    17. Scenario Maps.  Create maps of questions and tasks from customers.  This is one of the most effective ways to gain a solid handle on the problem space.  What you lose in time from execution, you make up in time by working on the right things (and more importantly, by not wasting time on the wrong things.)  It’s a focus on the vital few, while having a shared map of the larger context of the problem space.
    18. Measure against effectiveness.  This is the short-cut to intrinsic value.  Rather than chase perception, you can cut right through and measure customers against performing concrete/actionable tasks with the product.  This provides actionable feedback to improve your product, and it improves customer success, effectiveness, and satisfaction along the way.
    19. Quality gates and inspections.  A simple way to streamline the execution and to avoid downstream do-overs is to inject just enough quality gates and inspections that bake in the learnings.
    20. Templates and tools.  Templates speed up projects.  By having templates for scorecards, vision scopes, and checkpoints, it makes it easier to scale section across the team, and make success more systematic and repeatable.  It also makes it easier to fine-tune the process since there is a common backdrop.
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Leadership Blogs

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    I added a map of Leadership Blogs, A- Z at http://sourcesofinsight.com/2010/12/06/leadership-blogs/.

    Here is my short list:

    1. 800.CEO.Read
    2. David Zinger on Employee Engagement
    3. Extreme Leadership, Inc., by Steve Farber
    4. HBR.org (Harvard Business Review)
    5. How To Change the World, Guy Kawasaki
    6. Lead by Example, by John Baldoni
    7. Michael Hyatt on Intentional Leadership
    8. Seth’s Blog, by Seth Godin
    9. The Art of Change, by Dr. Richard Kirschner
    10. The Blog of Tim Ferris

    Do you have a favorite blog on leadership I should know about?  Tell me about it – I think of my collection of leadership blogs as a living list.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Guidance Product Model for Domain “X”

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    Here is a sketch of the mental model I use when thinking through how to address a space with prescriptive guidance:

    image

    At a high level, it’s a “stack,” and by having a model of the stack, you can choose how far up the stack to go:

    • Domain Knowledge – This is about breaking the problem space down into useful nuggets.  The most useful nuggets I’ve found are: frames, application types, qualities, hot spots, design guidelines, principles, patterns, and capabilities.  Frames would simply be mental models or ways to look at the space.  Hot Spots are areas within the problem space that get a lot of attention, either because they create a lot of pain, or create a lot of opportunity, or they are simply high use.   Qualities would be quality attributes like security, performance, reliability, etc.  These cross-cutting concerns shape the solutions within the space.
    • “Blue Books” – This is a way to package, share, and scale the expertise within a given domain.  It’s a collection of the key principles, patterns, and practices for that domain, packaged into a cohesive whole.  This action-guide, or prescriptive guidance, creates a bird’s-eye view of guiding principles that help govern solutions within the space.  By sharing the common application types, hot spots, frames, deployment patterns, technology maps, etc., it creates a way to make sense of the problem domain, and serves as a firm foundation for more specific solutions.  It’s like the driver’s guide for the space.  See The Power of Blue Books for Platform Impact.  They have been the most effective way I’ve been able to transfer large amounts of know-how to the developer and architect communities.
    • Playbooks – These are like thin “Blue Books.”  A playbook can be used to target a specific scenario or set of scenarios.  These are effectively “thin” Blue Books.  They build on the generalized guidance and make it more specific, by walkthrough through instances or examples to light up the guidance.
    • Knowledge Base (KB) – I’m a fan of a “thin guide” + “thick KB” approach.  The knowledge base serves as a clearing house for the nuggets of insight and action within the domain.   They are more of a random access collection of useful solutions or insight into key concepts, without having to be packaged into a guide.
    • Tooling – There are many ways to provide tooling.  The ideal scenario is to have flexible tools that codify the patterns and practices by having better defaults, starter templates, starter code, guiding principles, baselines that can easily be tailored, etc.  Ideally, the tooling is connected to a live stream, where it can continuously evolve based on the knowledge from the community.  For example, “building code” would be very specific guidelines, such as technology recommendations or scenario-based patterns.  Ideally, these can turn into either rule-checkers or at least provide support for manual inspection.
    • Community – This is where the magic can happen.   By providing enough of these raw materials in the form of mental models, principles, patterns, etc. it’s easier for folks in the trenches, thought leaders, and anybody with a passion in the space to build on the knowledge and stretch and evolve it into new directions, and continue to advance the knowledge in the domain.  A key to enable this though, is having places to go where people feel like their contributions can actually make a difference, and help influence or impact the greater good.

    One thing I didn’t explicitly show in the model, is the idea of media, such as videos and slides, and train-the-trainer material.  To really get adoption, the media and train-the-trainer material help spread the word.  They make it easier for raving fans to adopt and to help spread, as well as to help teach others.

    Together, all these parts work to create a “platform” and an “ecosystem” for prescriptive guidance.  While it’s not a hard and fast model, it has helped me both figure out the opportunities, as well as evaluate competition, and it helps me see where various types of deliverables fit into a bigger backdrop for impact.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Just Enough

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    I happened to look over to my bookshelf and noticed that I have two books that landed together by chance:

    1. Just Enough Project Management
    2. Just Enough Software Architecture

    I’m a fan of “just enough.”  One of my mentors liked to quiz me with the question: 

    “How much process do you need?”

    The answer was always, “just enough.”

    The question, of course, then becomes, how much is “just enough?”  The answer to that is, it depends on what’s the risk? … what’s at stake?  It should be commensurate to risk.

    I always liked the example we gave regarding how much to invest in performance modeling:

    “The time, effort, and money you invest up front in performance modeling should be proportional to project risk. For a project with significant risk, where performance is critical, you may spend more time and energy up front developing your model. For a project where performance is less of a concern, your modeling approach might be as simple as white-boarding your performance scenarios.”

    Just enough not only helps you eliminate waste, in the form of unnecessary overhead, but it frees you up to better balance your other trade-offs and priorities.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Why Does Culture Matter?

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    I saw the Facebook privacy issue on the news. I remember somebody saying, developers should just be responsible.  A common practice is to "make it work, then make it right."  The problem is, you don't always get a chance to "make it right."  That very much depends on what your organization values.  The values define the culture.

    I flashed back to our early values in patterns & practices.  The thing to know about values, is that values flow down.  It's what the leaders say, it's what they reward and punish.  It reminded me of why our collective set of values was so important.

    If you value cost …

    1. You might find that nobody that makes the stuff, cares about the stuff.
    2. Your customers only love you while you're the cheapest.
    3. You might be chasing a losing battle, or win a battle to lose the price war ... another person, team, company, country is always cheaper.
    4. If it's all about cost, nobody will be excited about making great things, or fixing the stuff that gets in the way of great.

    If you value execution …

    1. You might ship a bunch of stuff.
    2. You might spend all your time on the wrong things.
    3. You might find nobody cares about the stuff, including your customers.
    4. You might ship at a rate, that nobody can absorb.
    5. You might ship a bunch of problems that your users have to deal with.
    6. You might ship a bunch of stuff, but lack the impact that counts.
    7. You give yourself a chance to iterate your way to goodness and greatness.

    If you value learning …

    1. You might find the problems, before your customer do.
    2. You might fix the problems, your customers tell you about.
    3. You might prevent your problems in the first place.
    4. You might evolve your process and your product enough to stick around.
    5. You attract continuous learners, who like to improve what's around them.
    6. Your learning loops create a path to greatness.
    7. You might invest in innovation and R&D, in a way that changes the game, or at least your game.

    If you value quality …

    1. You might change your game.
    2. You attract people with a passion for excellence.
    3. You create trust and reputation (good things in a reputation world.)
    4. You improve your people, process, and product as a natural by-product.
    5. You prioritize time and energy to "make it right."
    6. Your quality becomes a differentiator that's hard to copy.

    If you value customer-connection ...

    1. You might value, what your customers value.
    2. You might know how to price your stuff.
    3. You might figure out, what they don't like, maybe even before they do.
    4. You might ship the things that your customers care about.
    5. You might find more ways to create value, in ways that match your customer's world.

    When I look back to the values we had in patterns & practices, I see how they helped pave the way for great:

    • Continuous Learning - Continuous learning, innovation and improvement - We have a bias toward action (over more planning) and customer engagement and feedback (over more analysis.)
    • Customer-Connected - Open, collaborative, relationships with customers, Microsoft field, partners, and Microsoft teams.
    • Execution - we take strategic bets, but we hold ourselves accountable for creating value, shipping early and often, and delivering results that have impact with customers and in Microsoft.
    • Transparent - Explicit, transparent, and direct communication with customers and with our team and others in our company.
    • Quality - Quality over scope - no guidance is better than bad guidance.

    If you don't think you, your team, your company, etc. are on a path to great, check the values for clues.  It’s not about having this value or that (after all, all values are … well … valuable) ... the magic is in the blend, and often the difference is in what’s missing or out of balance.

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