How do you ‘win’ at software development?

The latest Microsoft Development Disaster is that Windows Vista is going to be Delayed until Jan 2007Scoble’s not commenting before he hears the factsMini-Microsft is calling for people’s heads.  This announcement puts me into a quandry…  I agree with Mini, but as a software developer, slipping is what we do…
 
First off, I applaud Microsoft for slipping their schedule rather than shipping a bad product.  People will quickly get over a product that slips *IF* the quality and features are worth the wait.  The number of PCs that Windows runs on is staggering.  The issues that the OS has to deal with is *incredible*.  Just being able to work with the multiple languages boggles my mind.  It take a *LOT* of work to verify that drivers work, and that the software runs correctly.
 
Now, for the dark side…  Software development slips.  It’s a fact of life.  Look at how many other products slip.  I work for a home builder, which is an industry where schedule slips are a daily fact of life.  People don’t get fired over when a specific house schedule slips.  They do get fired for not completing a minimum number of houses in a time frame.  I unfortunately have to agree with Mini that some heads should roll.  Major features in Vista have been watered down and/or removed compleletly to ‘meet the schedule’.  Missing this deadline is a major thing for the computer companies.  The winter holiday season is the biggest buying season of computers.  Not only are home users buying new computers, but businesses are buying to fill out their budgets for the end-of-year.  Missing this season is huge.
 
I predict that we are going to see a major coupon initiative, like what happened with Windows 95.  ‘Buy now, get the Vista upgrade for free!’  Mark my words, that you will see those coupons by October/November.
 
Ok, I’ve digressed from my original thought to rant about Vista.  Back to my serious thoughts…
 
Here’s my question… How does one ‘win’ at software development?  Requirements are fluid.  Hardware is fluid.  The tools we use are fluid.  The user’s expectations are fluid.  Which means that developers that actually complete tasks are walking on water. (Ok, bad joke)  It seems that even more important than delivering software is managing the customer’s expectations.  Customers get tired of vendors that overpromise and underdeliver.  Hmmm, I’m beginning to sound like Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowle’s book, Raving Fans.
 
I’ll be writing up my thoughts on how to solve some of these problems soon…
 
Stay tuned!
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Doing what needs to be done instead of what you want to do.

This is a follow up to my ‘Slamming the door in Opportunity’s face’ post.
 
One, I want to thank the guys in the band for trying to accommodate me.  I had backed out on Monday, saying that I didn’t have time and didn’t like driving to the practice area.  They were willing to explore some options about practice locations, and also do Saturday only practices. 
 
So, I agreed to practice on Saturday.  Unfortunately, two things happened.  One, I wasn’t feeling very well, and I did *not* want to get sicker by wearing myself out lugging an amp and guitar around.  Second, I had a realization.  The other guitar player had sent me a list of two (2) songs to learn for Saturday.  My week has been so busy, that I hadn’t even had time to try to figure them out!  Saturday morning found me listening to the two songs and figuring them out.  I could have been OK, but reality hit me at that point.  My week had been a ‘normal’  (for me) week.  I caught a concert, worked out, fixed a computer for a client, and worked late to keep on schedule.  And this was not one of my ‘busy’ weeks.  So, I’m back to the state that I have no time to devote to a band… unfortunately. 
 
This leads me to my topic for posting.  I have a lot of things I *like/love* to do.  Playing guitar *is* one of these.  I have come to the conclusion, though, that I do not have the time to put much more than ‘dabble-time’ into it, and it is a low priority at best.  Work is very hectic (when is work NOT hectic!), and I have a LOT to learn.  I’ve started learning how to manage my own projects with M$ Project and M$ Team Foundation Server.  It’s a great system, but like any new system, one has to put time and effort into learning it and making it work.  Also, I’ve begun to learn to use Excel like a normal user would.  There is a ton of functionality that would be useful to add to our reporting solutions.  Again, learning how to do this takes time.  And because eating/living/paying the bills takes ultimate priority, my work stuff has to come first.
 
I also have to be careful in work about doing what I want to do before doing what needs to be done.  I constantly like to try out new products and procedures.  I would like to believe that someone has designed products to solve the problems that I am having.  What I need to keep hammering into my brain is that this is not true.  I am finding out that it is more important to finish one concept before moving onto the next.  Sometimes, one has to finish a project, even it the solution is not elegant, just to get the project completed.
 
Ok, I’m rambling… (what do you expect on a Sunday night after a long week?)
 
(We now return you to your regularly scheduled fluff…)

Sometimes you need to slam the door in Opportunity’s face

I know, I know, it’s been a little while since I’ve blogged about something interesting.  Other than my recent escapade with Bellsouth, all I’ve been doing is working for the company I work for.  I’ve had some deadlines that have been absolutes, and they’ve taken me away from doing my ‘enjoyment’ activities.  I’ve been squeezing in a little bit of guitar playing and working for my consulting customers, but for the most part, my life has been work.  I’ve even stopped going to the gym for a couple of weeks just to get this stuff finished!  (The gym resumes Monday!)
 
Ok, enough background…  What does my complaining about work have to do with ‘Guitar Playing’ and letting opportunities go?  Well…  One of the guys I work with has just joined a band.  They need a second guitar player.  The guy I work with invited me to listen to their music, see if it was something I was interested in, and come out and jam.  So, I listened to their stuff (it is very good) and decided to at least try out, even though my band chops are horrible. 
 
So, Saturday was audition day.  I packed almost all of my guitar stuff up, and drove about 45 minutes down to Miami.  I found the place, met the guy I work with, and the rest of the band.  The guys were great, they welcomed me in, and I proceeded to have a blast.  It’s been over 3 years since I’ve practiced with a band.  Everything went well…  In fact, they invited me to practice Tuesday.
 
This is were things might go wrong.
 
During the week, work comes first.  No if’s, and’s, or but’s.  That’s how I survive, and I wish to do more than survive at my job.  I *do* want to flourish, get raises, get promoted, etc…  If that means staying late to get work done, so be it.  That also means not being out late during the week.  It is very hard for me to get up on only 4-5 hours of sleep.  Plus, schlepping my equipment around (which is not light by *any* stretch of the imagination) wears me out quickly…
 
Also, I don’t know that I have the kind of time this band *needs*.  It is an all original band, which requires a *LOT* of time and effort to get the songs sounding incredible.  The last all original band I played with met *every night* during the week.  You need that kind of commitment to succeed with original music.  I want to have that kind of time, but I don’t think I have enough available.
 
Besides, I, personally, don’t think I’m the quality of guitar player these guys need.  The other guy I work with is very good, and I think the need someone far more creative than me.
 
Maybe I’m copping out.  Maybe my priorities have changed in the last ten years.  I don’t know.  One doesn’t get many opportunities like this, and I *REALLY* would hate to turn it down.
 
I definitely have to think on this…

Thank you, Bellsouth!

The title on this is both sincere and sarcastic…
 
I have had Bellsouth’s FastAccess DSL for almost 6 years.  For the most part, the service has been excellent, and the speeds have been good and consistent since day 1.  I started out with the 1.5 mbit/second, then moved to 3.0 mbit/second when it was offered a couple of years ago.  I’ve been very happy with the service, and the price has even dropped!  (Take that, cable!) 
 
Unfortunately, *before* our hurricanes from 2005, my service started developing a hiccup.  Every now and then, the modem would just drop the connection, for no apparent reason.  For the most part, it would sync back up after a few minutes, then go on with no issues.  Then, the nasty hurricanes came through.  Two weeks to get the DSL restored, with a LOT of problems with every other service imaginable in the area.  The sync issues started to get worse.  For the most part, I wrote that off to hurricane damage. 
 
I tried calling the service center when the modem would loose sync, but usually by the time I spoke to someone, the line had corrected itself.  I was starting to get fustrated.  First, Bellsouth sent me a new modem (mine was over 3 years old).  They did this free of charge, even though the warranty had expired on the modem.  (Big thumbs up for that!)  Unfortunately, the problem persisted.  I kept calling the service center every time my line would drop.  Eventually, they sent a tech out to take a look at my house.  He couldn’t find any issues, but he called in and had some parameters adjusted on my line.  This still didn’t help.  I kept calling the service center, and every time they reset the port on the D-Slam, my line would work for a while.  I was not happy about this, but I could live with it.
 
The final straw came this weekend.  I had a project due for work and I needed to RDP into my work computer.  I started working on the DSL, and poof, the line went haywire.  I couldn’t keep it running for more than a moment or two at a time.  I called Bellsouth, and I was furious.  Five months, no solution, and no one was listening to me that the problem was on their end.  I called tech support with the ultimatum, ‘Fix it or I go to cable’. 
 
My support call was on a Saturday.  On Sunday, an *AWESOME* tech showed up @ 9:00 am.  He looked over my house line, and said everything was fine.  I told him about the problems that I was having with the port, and how when the service center reset the port, everything would work for a bit.  He said that he would go and move my connection from my current port to a different port.  Heaven’s to Betsy, it WORKED!  FINALLY!  Why did it take so long for someone to do something simple like that, I have *NO* idea. 
 
One of the side benefits to this was that the new port supports the 6 mbit/second transfer rate!  That showed up on my options for my DSL the very next day!  To say the least, I ordered that, and am now *VERY* happy with my download speed!