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Don't Take Too LongIt is indeed ironic that Hadoop is picking up support in the general community about five years after Google moved on to better things. Hence, the rest of the world followed Google into Hadoop with a delay of most of a decade.  Google has long since abandoned it.  I wonder how long it will take the rest of the world to follow Google’s direction and do likewise… Michael Stonebraker, What Does ‘Big Data’ Mean? Communications of the ACM, January 2015.

The VP said “Bruce, it takes us 90 days from feature complete to debug our product and release it.”  The good news was that she had heard this stat from me.  The bad news was that it was about three years old.  Things had changed, as they do, over the past few years and we were now closer to four months for the final integration and debugging phase.  I of course had regularly published our project performance numbers but for some reason she was not up to date.  Actually, I was floored that she even knew the 90 day number from three years ago.  Our VPs never wanted to hear numbers that were at odds with their desire to deliver a product by a customer promised date.  Instead, they were happier to be able to make promises they couldn’t keep and then deliver months late. Go figure.

The trick to staying on top of what is really relevant now is to keep ourselves educated.  I ran across this article in the Communications of the ACM because many years ago I set a goal to read more of my technical publications regularly.  I’ve discovered that if I didn’t proactively reach out to learn then while I got real smart in whatever job I was doing at the time, a lot of things changed however by the time I came up for air, finish the project or job, and started to look around again.

I once felt pretty good about what I had accomplished over a ten year period in doing software development projects.  I had helped several organizations move from late and buggy software deliveries to on time with good quality completion.  Because of these accomplishments I was selected to spend a year at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in Pittsburgh PA, deep diving into how to achieve successful software projects.  I thought I was pretty smart until I showed up at the SEI.  In what I did, I did very well and better than those around me.  However, I discovered I was almost clueless in so many areas (e.g., change management, technology transition, process improvement, quality management, organizational maturity, etc.) that I was surprised in retrospect that I had been as successful as I had been.

If we don’t keep current on what is going on in our field and industry then there is a great chance we’ll be working with information that is out of date if not downright obsolete.  I will say that I’ve worked with many organizations that still did pretty well working with stone age techniques, but once we got them updated, they then did much better.  The trick is to sort out the hype and marketing fads from the real core foundational advancements.  I find I can only do this by keeping my nose in the technology and trying out new things as we discover them or hear about them.  Only then do we know what to pick and choose and when to change course.  I still remember one employer telling us that the iPhone was just a niche product and could be safely ignored.  So, just don’t take too long before you make the next change.

What is the next step your team needs to make in order to continue to improve?

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