Software Project Management

Fortune interviews Frederick Brooks, who wrote “The Mythical Man-Month” 30 years ago. Quotes:

Fortune: So if a project is already late and throwing more people on it is just going to make it worse, how do you solve the problem?
Brooks: One is to officially slip the schedule. And officially doing it has many benefits over unofficially letting it slip. Peter Fagg, a really wise System/360 engineering manager, gave very sound advice: “Take no small slips.” That is, if you’re going to take a slip, get everybody onboard, get organized, and take a six-month slip, even though you may at the moment feel as if you’re only four months late. The other obvious solution is to lighten the ship: Decide there are some things we’re not going to do. A third thing is to phase the work: Say, “All right, we’re going to do a version that has just the essentials for the most important or most numerous users.” Meanwhile schedule and develop the things that should go in version 2 and ship them later.

Online Retailing

The Economist writes that traditional retailers are turning out to be the big winners online.

With huge economies of scale it is hardly surprising that giants such as Wal-Mart often emerge as the vendor offering the cheapest prices. Besides attracting an online purchase, shopping-comparison searches can also be used by ordinary retailers as a relatively cheap way to advertise and attract consumers to their physical stores.

The traditional retailers are finding many other advantages in expanding their stores online. One is that in cyberspace, even the biggest supercentre is unconstrained by planning laws or dogged by protests, as Wal-Mart often is when it tries to expand offline. Both Wal-Mart and Target also use the web to test the market for certain products before they send them to their stores.

RSS Chess Game

Michael Parekh writes about the initiatives of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo:

Although it may be early to call the turning of the worm as it were, the tactical moves with some of these emerging Web 2.0 technologies are definitely interesting as they’re deployed by the GYMAAAE companies to best suit their existing and desired business models, along with their perceived tactical and strategic advantages.

RSS is definitely one of those technologies. But again, all participants must keep in mind, that these are but technologies, being crafted into products, services and features. The big test is how mainstream consumers eventually choose to make these things an everyday part of their lives, or not.

And it’s all going to take a lot longer than we’d all like to think, so we need to collectively cool our heels on calling winners and losers at every move and counter-move in this very long, multi-player chess marathon.

Microsoft’s Classifieds

Charlene Li writes why Microsoft Fremont is likely to be better than Google Base:

First, a quick description of Fremont. It looks and acts like a classic online classifieds site. A list of linked categories is on the front page and users can browse or search through the listings. A key difference though is that the listings are turbo-charged as the poster, you can control who can see them, from everyone to just a select group of people on your MSN Messenger buddy list. If you choose the latter, the next time one of your privileged buddies signs into Messenger, theyll see a little alert that says you have a set of golf clubs for sale. The categories include the usual suspects jobs, homes, apartments, cars, and one thing that caught my eye, tickets.

So I look at Fremont and I see a really nice service shaping up. The classifieds interface is familiar each category has the expected search fields (number of bedrooms in housing, make and year in autos, etc.) and the opening page lays out all of the options in a simple manner similar to Craigs Lists austere list of links.

Now compare that to Google Base. Honestly, can you imagine your average user trying to make heads or tails out of it? Dont get me wrong I love Google Base because of the audacious potential it represents in terms of creating new content for the Web. But in terms of a classifieds service, it will take a lot of application development to get it to the point where the average Joe will be able to use it.

Skype 2.0

Walter Mossberg writes about the new version that has just been launched:

the company plans to release a major new version of its phone-calling software, Skype 2.0, with added features — including video calling — and a cleaner interface. It is taking steps to make computer microphones cheap and easy to obtain. More importantly, it is moving its service off the computer to a new breed of Internet-based telephone handsets.

I’ve been testing Skype 2.0, along with the new, cheap, Skype-branded microphones and a new Skype-compatible phone that frees users from sitting in front of a computer while talking. Despite some flaws, this new combination of hardware and software generally worked well, and I believe it stands a chance of propelling Skype into the mainstream.

Om Malik: “The Video calling feature seems great, except when it starts getting mass adoption, it will start to choke the upstream part of your broadband, and for some odd reason that really makes incumbents mad! Tt also raises some crucial questions about the future of independent developers. As Skype continues to subsume great ideas implemented by its developer community, is it running the risk of alienating the very community that made it great.”

TECH TALK: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Peter Drucker: Managements Newton: Writings (Part 2)

A quote from HBS Working Knowledge on decisions:

A decision has not been made until people know:

  • the name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
  • the deadline;
  • the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve itor at least not be strongly opposed to itand
  • the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.
  • A few other quotes from Drucker:

    Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

    Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality.

    The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

    Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship… the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.

    We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.

    Peter Drucker wrote in the Economist about the Next Society in 2001:

    The next society will be a knowledge society. Knowledge will be its key resource, and knowledge workers will be the dominant group in its workforce. Its three main characteristics will be:

  • Borderlessness, because knowledge travels even more effortlessly than money.
  • Upward mobility, available to everyone through easily acquired formal education.
  • The potential for failure as well as success. Anyone can acquire the means of production, ie, the knowledge required for the job, but not everyone can win.

    Together, those three characteristics will make the knowledge society a highly competitive one, for organisations and individuals alike. Information technology, although only one of many new features of the next society, is already having one hugely important effect: it is allowing knowledge to spread near-instantly, and making it accessible to everyone. Given the ease and speed at which information travels, every institution in the knowledge societynot only businesses, but also schools, universities, hospitals and increasingly government agencies toohas to be globally competitive, even though most organisations will continue to be local in their activities and in their markets. This is because the Internet will keep customers everywhere informed on what is available anywhere in the world, and at what price.

  • A few quotes from a Wall Street Journal article:

    Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.

    True marketing starts outwith the customer, his demographics, his realities, his needs, his values. It does not ask, What do we want to sell? It asks, What does the customer want to buy.

    Peter Drucker leaves behind a wealth of work that will continue to inspire managers, leaders and entrepreneurs. He truly was managements Issac Newton.

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