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What Happened Before The First Product Backlog?


Some people like to ask: “What happened before the big bang?“. Being a geeko-nerd, I like to ask: “What happened before the first product backlog?”.

The missing artifact

Regarding agile framework definitions, IMO, Scrum has the most well-documented and coherent definition of the bunch. However, since it remains silent on the issue, I still wonder: “WTF happens before the first product backlog?”.

For innately complex systems requiring a large amount of coordinated effort, here’s what I think should happen:

  • A small group of senior domain analysts and system architects should spend a fair amount of un-pressured time to develop and document the high level, technical blueprints (structures + behaviors) for what needs to be built.
  • The authoring group should disseminate and educate the rest of the development team on the technical vision.
  • The team should populate and iterate on the first version of the product backlog.
  • The team should decide on, and put in place, the development toolset and infrastructure that will be used to develop and test the system throughout the effort.
  • The team, including the technical authors, should start incrementally and iteratively building the system – revisiting/updating the plans/product backlog frequently when new knowledge is discovered as the project moves forward.

What do YOU think should happen before the first product backlog?

Is There REALLY Such A Thing?

M Of N Fault Detection


Let’s say that, for safety reasons, you need to monitor the voltage (or some other dynamically changing physical attribute) of a safety-critical piece of equipment and either shut it down automatically and/or notify someone in the event of a “fault“.

FaultDetection

The figure below drills into the next level of detail of the Fault Detector. First, the analog input signal is digitized every ΔT seconds and then the samples are processed by an “M of N Detector”.

Fault Detector

The logic implemented in the Detector is as follows:

MofNLogic

Instead of “crying wolf” and declaring a fault each time the threshold is crossed (M == N == 1), the detector, by providing the user with the ability to choose the values of M and N, provides the capability to smooth out spurious threshold crossings.

The next figure shows an example input sequence and the detector output for two configurations: (M == N == 4) and (M == 2, N == 4).

FDExamples

Finally, here’s a c++ implementation of an M of N Detector:

#ifndef MOFNDETECTOR_H_
#define MOFNDETECTOR_H_

#include <cstdint>
#include <deque>

class MofNDetector {
public:
  MofNDetector(double threshold, int32_t M, int32_t N) :
    _threshold(threshold), _M(M), _N(N) {
    reset();
  }

  bool detectFault(double sample) {

    if (sample > _threshold)
      ++_numCrossings;

    //Add our newest sample to the history
    if(sample > _threshold)
      _lastNSamples.push_back(true);
    else
      _lastNSamples.push_back(false);

    //Do we have enough history yet?
    if(static_cast<int32_t>(_lastNSamples.size()) < _N) {
      return false;
    }

    bool retVal{};
    if(_numCrossings >= _M)
      retVal = true;

    //Get rid of the oldest sample
    //to make room for the next one
    if(_lastNSamples.front() == true)
      --_numCrossings;

    _lastNSamples.pop_front();

    return retVal;
  }

  void reset() {
    _lastNSamples.clear();
    _numCrossings =0;
  }

private:
  int32_t _numCrossings;
  double _threshold;
  int32_t _M;
  int32_t _N;
  std::deque<bool> _lastNSamples{};

};

#endif /* MOFNDETECTOR_H_ */
Categories: C++, technical Tags: ,

The What Before The How

April 17, 2016 2 comments

While paging through my portfolio of dorky sketches and e-doodles, I stumbled upon one that I whipped up a long time ago when I was learning about Linux shells:

Linux Shells

Unless I’m forced to rush, I always bootstrap my learning experience for new subjects by drawing simplistic, abstract pictures like the above as I study the subject matter. Sometimes I’ll spend several hours drawing contextual pix from the lightweight intro chapter(s) of a skill-acquisition book before diving into the nitty gritty details. It works for me because I’m not smart enough to learn by skimming over the “what” and immediately diving into the “how“.

Whenever I feel forced to bypass the “what” and bellyflop into the “how” (via pressure to produce “Twice The Software In Half The Time“), I make way more mistakes. Not only does it degrade the quality of my work, it propagates downstream and degrades the quality of the receivers/users of that work.

Categories: technical Tags:

QIQO, GIGO

March 17, 2016 Leave a comment

QIQO == Quality In, Quality Out

GIGO == Garbage In, Garbage Out

In the world of software development, virtually everyone knows what GIGO means. But in case you don’t, lemme ‘splain it to you Lucy. First, let’s look at what QIQO means.

If a domain-specific expert creates a coherent, precise, unambiguous, description of what’s required to be mapped into a software design and enshrined in code, a software developer has a fighting chance to actually create and build what’s required. Hence, Quality In, Quality Out. Of course, QI doesn’t guarantee QO. However, whenever the QI prerequisite is satisfied, the attainment of QO is achievable.

SWDesign

On the other hand, if a domain-specific expert creates a hairball description of what’s required and answers every question aimed at untangling the hairball with sound bytes, a scornful look, or the classic “it’s an implementation detail” response, we get….. GIGO.

gigo

Note that the GIGO vs QIQO phenomenon operates not only at the local level of design as pictured above, it operates at the higher, architectural level too; but with much more costly downstream consequences. Also note that the GIGO vs QIQO conundrum is process-agnostic. Its manifestation as the imposing elephant in the room applies equally within the scope of traditional, lean, scrum, kanban, and/or any other wiz-bang agile processes.

Categories: technical Tags: , ,

Customers, Features, Components

March 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Umm, let’s see. Customers interact with features. Features are implemented across components. Components are designed/coded/tested/integrated by developers. Well, duh!

CompsFeatures

 

 

Design, And THEN Development

February 15, 2016 Leave a comment

First, we have product design:

Pdesign

Second, we have product development:

Pdev

At scale, it’s consciously planned design first, and development second: design driven development. It’s not the other way around, development driven design.

The process must match the product, not the other way around. Given a defined process, whether it’s agile-derived or “traditional“, attempting to jam fit a product development effort into a “fits all” process is a recipe for failure. Err, maybe not?

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