Design + Code

From the Ask Joel forums:

I think that the reality is that design and code are one – and every really succesful, productive software house I’ve ever worked for operates like this. Those that disrespect mere ‘coding’ and have a rank of higher paid, non-coding ‘architects’ who pass the code on to cheap minions struggle. Every software house I’ve known that works like this invariably struggles with way over budget projects. They then use creative accounting, time allocation and hundreds of hours unpaid overtime to keep the illusion going.


Wipro CEO Interview, Innovation, CMM Level 5, Input Bias, Workspace

  • eWeek Interview with Wipro CEO – interviews with offshore execs are always interesting. They’re becoming less defensive in response to the usual “you’re taking away jobs” question/claim, instead suggesting that it’s not their fault, but the fault of the country that’s leaking jobs, for example,

    To every one of the millions of unemployed people in the U.S., that job created in India looks like that was “my job.” So, there is an issue of a job lost here is a job created there. As a result, there has been an enormous magnification of how much impact outsourcing has had. The second is, as a result of the type of economic recovery being made in [the US], companies are not willing to open up the gates to hiring. Now you take that circumstance that in a political year it becomes a platform issue. It doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong, it’s a political platform. You will see this issue being politicized because of the perception of “that’s my job sitting over there.”

  • “The Offshore Proposition” – in a related column, Lundquist brings up the point that all this IT stuff might be too expensive (thus, prone to lower costs by offshoring) by design:

    Somewhere along the line, service stopped being, well, a service and started being a profit center. Once the bean counters took hold of the equation, they started to look for ways to charge users more for service while having their company pay less for it. The next thing you know, you’re talking to someone in Manila about your cranky computer. Designing systems that don’t need service because they work as expected would be the best service offering vendors could develop.

    And, as alluded to in the above interview Vivek Paul, if offshorers can create such services, they’ll start their own product lines,

    Once the offshore companies realize they have the business development, design, manufacturing and service skills, they’ll begin asking themselves just what their U.S. partners are bringing to the table. This will bring about the emergence of new competitors among companies that were once partners, which, I predict, will be a hallmark of the technology market over the next year.

  • Bursting the CMM Hype:

    [W]hat matters is what’s behind the impressive-looking number. Is there a verifiable commitment to quality, process and training? Can companies demonstrate improvements they’ve made over time in customer delivery times, developer productivity and defect density? Will the project managers that went through the assessment be assigned to your project? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a CMM Level 5 isn’t worth much.

  • Bias Beware – an interview discussing “input bias,” how the selection of information you’re given can lead to incorrect results. The ideas mix well with the bike shed by committee problem, for example,

    People’s judgments often depend on how easy it is to evaluate something. If it’s easy to measure the outcome, we may not rely on input measures. If someone is performing in the Olympics, their time is a clear measure of how they did. But in other cases, such as judging how innovative a pharmaceutical company is, it’s harder to reach a decision. So you might rely on whatever objective measures are available, such as how many patents the company has. But in reality, that’s not a good measure because more patents are filed for small modifications of existing compounds, and there aren’t really that many big blockbuster drugs involved.

  • Workspace Survey – most people give their workspace a C.

More Coderbonics

Here’s one we like around the office, a kind of phrase…

Good luck with no fuckin’ head” – an impossible, esp. comically so, situation or problem. For example, “Folkenaugle says this 2,000 page report, with charts, has to be done by COB Thursday. Yeah, good luck with no fuckin’ head.”

This saying, of course, comes from Barton Fink:

Mastrionotti: [The murders] [s]tarted in Kansas City. Couple of housewives.
Deutsch: Couple days ago we see the same M.O. out in Los Feliz.
Mastrionotti: Doctor. Ear, nose and throat man.
Deutsch: All of which he’s now missin’.
Mastrionotti: Well, some of his throat was there.
Deutsch: Physician, heal thyself.
Mastrionotti: Good luck with no fuckin’ head.

The Google Way (InfoWorld)

Quite simply, the Google philosophy can be expressed in five general principles: Work on things that matter, affect everyone in the world, solve problems with algorithms if possible, hire bright people and give them lots of freedom, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Full Column.

Not that this really applies to companies that aren’t flush with cash and time (as JP might say, “do those exist?”). Which is to say, principles and “Ways” seem nice, but only seem doable if you don’t have to run just to stay in place, as they say.

Offshoring: Cheaper Wages Mean More Training and Management

In the United States, high wages are a major reason for the understandable tendency of high-performing companies to strip out layers of middle management and to increase the operating span of the remaining managers, forcing them into administrative and supervisory roles. In Asia, by contrast, the ratio of managers to staff is much higher, so they can spend more time building the skills of employees.

[…]To give an example, eTelecare maintains a ratio of one “team lead” (frontline manager) to eight customer service agents, compared with a ratio of 1:20 or more for similar U.S. operations. The company invests heavily in formal training programs, which are reinforced by apprenticeship, coaching and mentorship. Agents who handle complex mutual-fund advisory calls, for instance, take a 16-week training course leading to the NASD Series 7 examination for broker certification.

Full Article

Now, that’s something interesting and (to me) new in this whole realm: domestic IT labor is very expensive, so to make up for that, companies hire fewer manager and provide less training. Offshore folks are cheaper, so companies can hire more managers and provide more training. Obviously, then, there’s the potential for the lower paid folks to be much more skilled.

While this may not be entirely representative of the entire arena, this also reframes the claims of pro-offshores that it’s not all about cost, but the lack of needed skills onshore: the argument going, “it’s not that it’s cheaper, we just can’t find enough qualified people here, so we have to go there to get them.” Instead, it looks like companies have to raise the skills of both pools of labor, it’s just cheaper to do it with the offshore folks. What was that about rapture and the LSAT?

Arley Posts on Offshoring

Arley has been posting again. In one post, he rips apart Kirkpatrick’s offshoring column of late…while in another one, he does the old ‘you’ll never be on the streets or worried the secret police will cart you off, so quit your bitchin’ thing. Both, as always, are quite well written, for example, on McKinsey’s report that “for every dollar spent on a business process that is outsourced to India, the U.S. economy gains at least $1.12”:

I also wonder how much I trust McKinsey Global Institute, run by McKinsey & Company, a major consulting company receiving millions of dollars from corporate customers espousing outsourcing. According to their guiding influence, Marvin Bower, they should have “unyielding loyalty to the client” as their website states. This hardly seems like an unbiased observer to me; it seems more like they were paid to say what their big-company clients want them to say, namely that outsourcing is good for us. I remember another ex-McKinsey consultant from my hometown, who stated that lots of things were good for us which ended up causing the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. The company: Enron. The man: president Jeff Skilling, placed in federal custody this morning on fraud charges.

As it’s at blogspot, he automatically has an ATOM feed.