Saturday, October 23, 2010

To revolutionize the unknown at App version 1.0

How do you create a seasoned application already on version 1.0? One that completely revolutionize a field/discipline that you as a Software Craftsman know little about?

Can it be done? How is it possible to create something that neither you nor your customer can’t be assumed know up front. Nor should either of you be expected to know. Sure, sometimes people have bright ideas, but the model is potluck and doesn’t scale.

In traditional waterfall, the user is expected to outline his requirements even though his expertise is the current (obsolete) work  model that you shouldn’t be constrained by. Also, his experience with the work model is the execution of the work model,  not the work model itself.

In our world of outsourcing, the distance between the supplier of the tools and the place where the work is executed becomes considerable. Even in our little organization of a few thousand employees.

So how do you do it?

The old model is to enter the process by connecting a few dots from his existing work flow from a fresh perspective. You can give the work flow a face lift by reducing the amount of clicks and giving more sensible GUI. You can represent something in a rich grid. You can do a parent-child separation to remove a couple of small popup dialogs. But the result is in danger of being like a horse carriage with mechanical horses instead of inventing the automobile.

How do you go about revolutionizing a labor intensive work flow that neither you or the customer should be expected to have broken down up front.

You do it by pair programming with a non-programmer. You perform the work alongside the person. You watch him work over his shoulder, you ask, you nag, you challenge and you reward. You switch back and forth between annoying the hell out of them and blowing their minds.

In my current work model, LinqPAD is a key component in this. The other person is able to field-test a function just seconds after I have written it. At the end of a cycle, I have created an empowered person equipped with functions that he can bring to the field. Never losing productivity during the process.

And when we have the complete set of functions that are both complete, validated and field tested…. then we are ready to create App version 1.0 based on wealth of experience from seasoned functions all in a revolutionized work model…. without it sounding contradictive anymore.

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