Book Review: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful BusinessesThe Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This main point of this book is the principle of “failing fast.” Since you don’t know everything (and a startup knows very little), it is most efficient to quickly create some data to base decisions on.

The distinction between “vanity metrics” and real, useful metrics is illuminating. A “vanity metric” shows (more...)

Being Right and Proving It

One of the great things about working in IT is that you can often win an argument simply by being right. Not because of who you are or because you are more eloquent than others, but because the facts support your position. Almost every IT person I have ever met respects facts.

In order to win arguments this way, you of course need some facts to work with. And that’s where too many people fail. (more...)

OK Watch, What’s the Time?

While we’re waiting for the mythical iWatch, Google has already released Android Wear, and the first two Android Wear watches are here.  And they’re ugly.

If I’m going to wear something like that on my wrist, I need a really compelling usecase. I’m not sure that getting even more notifications and reacting 0.8 seconds faster is what I’m looking for.

When my latest Nike FuelBand eventually dies (they seem to last about (more...)

Incompetence or Malice?

We’ve just had a leak of 900,000 national identifier numbers here in Denmark. That’s about 16% of the total population, so it’s pretty big. These numbers are unique identifiers for a person (similar to Social Security Numbers) and are a good starting point for identity theft.

Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.

Napoleon Bonaparte

 

So how did these numbers leak? Through plain incompetence and lack of procedures. It (more...)

They Took Away My Cloud

On Monday, a U.S. judge gave Microsoft control of 22 domains owned by domain hosting service No-IP.com. Microsoft intended to filter out some domains used by malware, but promptly screwed up. The result was that millions of legitimate users could not access their servers.

This will happen again and again as infrastructure moves to centralized cloud providers. What do you think will happen if the server just above yours in the server rack (more...)

Citizen + Open Data = $55,000 savings

Big Data is not necessarily about crunching massive amounts of data – it’s about finding unrealized value in a data set. This might be done on huge sets of billions of records, using Map/Reduce running on thousands of servers. But it might also be done at a smaller scale by a concerned citizen.

More and more data is being made available by municipalities and countries. These are typical “big data” collections: Just a bunch of (more...)

Poor Usability Puts Dangerous Criminals on the Street

Good usability is often seen as optional – something we can include in a system if we have the time and the resources for it. But sometimes, bad usability can cause economic damage. A couple of years ago, here in Denmark, a large, well-respected organization had to write manual checks for months to avoid having their phones cut off. The reason: Their new ERP system was so hard to use that invoices were not getting (more...)

Late to the game: SAP

Having working with Oracle Fusion Applications, I know what a modern, cutting-edge user experience for enterprise software looks like. Something like this:

fusion-applications-screenshots-3I’ve also sometimes been subjected to SAP. Suffice to say, it does not look like this.

But maybe they’re upping their game – according to job hunting site Glassdoor.com, SAP is looking for 58 User Experience engineers. A bit late to the game, given than Oracle is already shipping stuff like the (more...)

Cool or Safe? Volvo Chooses Cool

Safe driving has two components: Safe cars and safe drivers.

A Volvo car is built like a tank and is equipped with all kinds of safety features – it’s a very safe car. Unfortunately, Volvo has unthinkingly undone all the advances they have made on the car side of the equation by making the driver much more likely to cause an accident. How did they do that? With touchscreens, of course.

A driver in a (more...)

Keeping the Programmers Out

When an implementation project for a standard system like SAP or Oracle E-Business Suite runs completely off the rails, it’s because the programmers have been allowed into the project.

Programmers are very accommodating people and they don’t like to say no. And true enough, given enough time and money, they  can build anything.

The problem is that the business case for a standard system rests on the word “standard”. Not “almost-standard-with-a-little-bit-of-code”. By all means use (more...)

Why you’re not getting hired

If you’re applying for permanent positions and not getting hired even though you have the skills the organizations asks for, consider whether you are proving your ability to learn new things.

I’m often talking to people who believe their 20 years of experience with technology X or Y should make them shoo-ins for a job. However, they are not getting hired.

The reason is that a modern organization can’t depend on the same skill being (more...)

Cool or useful?

This is the dashboard of a Tesla S:

tesla dashboard

With a large touchscreen and very few physical buttons. A lot of design time went into building this. Very cool-looking.

This is the steering wheel of a Formula One racecar (which is incidentially the whole user interface of the car):

formula1 steering wheel

A small screen and a lot of physical buttons. A lot of usability engineering went into building this. Very useful.

If you are going to be handling (more...)

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The above phase means “who will guard the guards themselves?” and is relevant in many security contexts.

Here in Denmark, we are currently having our own “News of the World” affair. In our case, a contractor at the payment processor handling almost all Danish credit cards was able to automatically send a tip to a journalist whenever a celebrity used his or her credit card. That makes it hard to take an incognito honeymoon (more...)

DIY Disasters

When people take on home renovation “Do-It-Yourself” projects beyond their skills, disaster ensues. Apparently, this is so common that you can base a whole TV series on this theme – where professionals rescue the disastrous DIY project for the grateful and clueless amateur handyman.

I’ve seen the same thing happen in many IT projects. The people in the organization overestimate their own skills and are unable or unwilling to pay the cost of professional external (more...)

Unfocused Learning

The manager was proudly showing off his new IT classroom.

“Where is the projector?” I asked.

“Oh, we don’t need a projector. The instructor can just take over everybody’s screens.”

I have been teaching in environments like this, and it does not work well. When I have a piece of information or a computer screen projected in large format in front of everybody, the class has a common focus on the task. If (more...)

IT Defence in Depth

The Heartbleed bug has shown that security vulnerabilities can pop up everywhere. Unfortunately, many IT organizations depend on a single security layer to secure their network – and as the ineffectiveness of the Maginot Line proved, that is a risky strategy. You need multiple security layers – what soldiers call Defence in Depth.Security LayersThis illustration is from my weekly Technology That Fits newsletter – sign up here.

Good IT hygiene

Everybody knows they need good dental hygiene – daily brushing and flossing, regular checkups at the dentist. But many IT professionals don’t realize they need good IT hygiene as well – regular maintenance, security patches, etc.

If you don’t practice good IT hygiene, you will experience pain down the line. I’d like to help you avoid that – get in touch.

Information Evaporation

Have you noticed that knowledge about IT systems seems to evaporate over time? I’ve seen quite a few systems where the only knowledge left was a few pages of yellowed paper in a dusty binder.

Information EvaporationHowever, in some application systems, this does not happen. Why is that? Because the information about what the system does is stored in the code.

Keep system documentation inside your code to prevent information evaporation.

Dutch Cars – Technology That Fits

I was just in Amsterdam last week, and they have the smallest cars I have ever seen:

small_carAt first, it looks counter-intuitive, given that the average Dutchman seems to be several meters tall. But really small cars is actually a very obvious solution for a crowded city like Amsterdam with many canals, narrow roads and very limited parking. These mini-cars are actually parked on the pavement, probably avoiding the 5 Euro per hour parking fee (more...)

Thinking it Through – Nest Smoke Alarm Fail

The company Nest, recently acquired by Google for the usual billions, makes smart thermostats and smoke detectors. Unfortunately, they did not think through the user experience of their Nest smoke and CO detector.

In principle, it’s great that you can turn off your smoke detector by waving your hand at it – like in “oh, cut it out, I just overcooked my microwave popcorn a bit.”

Less great is that if people experience an (more...)