Assess your dev teams with the Ben Test

Introduction

The original Joel Test is a work of genius – it allowed you to assess the quality of your development teams in under 5 minutes.  By answering the yes/no questions, it steered you into thinking through each of the points and understand weak points in your process.

It was written in August 2000 (that’s before Windows XP was even released) and is still very relevant today, which suggests that a lot of IT teams are still making the same mistakes they were making 18 years ago.

I’ve heard one developer sum up the Joel Test perfectly when he said, “the beauty of the Joel Test is its simplicity vs its effectiveness”.

Just as the original did, these tests deliberately cover the basics. I have intentionally not included tests such as “are you agile?” or “do you do DevOps?” as a lot of people misunderstand these concepts and unfortunately they sometimes get thrown around as management buzz-words.

Just for the record, I have worked mainly as a data warehouse & BI developer for financial services firms in London, within IT teams ranging from 2 people to 100s; if I had spent my career working as a web developer for Facebook or Amazon then I’m sure my tests would be quite different.

TheBenTest_

Remember, Yes = 1 point.  No = 0 points.

11 or 12 points

Keep doing what you’re doing

8, 9 or 10 points

Keep going but analyse where you can gain efficiencies

7 or under

Stop what you’re doing, call a team meeting and make a plan

 

01 – Does your team have a goal… and do all your team members know what it is?

Do your team members also know what their individual goals are and those of the company?

This is universal and applies to any team/individual and is not really about having goals – which all companies will have – it’s about whether or not they are being communicated down the layers and making sure everyone is striving for the same success.

Benefits of having clearly understood goals

  • Much more cohesion between teams when people pull in the same direction.
  • Goal-relevant activities take up a lot more of the overall effort than goal-irrelevant activities.
  • Managers cannot motivate teams by assigning out a series of seemingly unconnected tasks.

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An Example Tableau Security Model

My experience navigating Tableau security as a novice…

I recently upgraded a Tableau 10.1 estate to Tableau 2018.1.  I used the opportunity to completely rework the security from the ground up.

When starting out, much of the guidance I found on the net was focused on the many individual components that make up a Tableau estate.

While I’m certainly not claiming what I have done is best practice, I hope it will trigger some ideas and serve as a starting point for your own implementations.

This guide doesn’t cover licensing although that is something which is definitely worth understanding if you are implementing a Tableau security model.  If you need to learn about Tableau licensing then this article does a great job of explaining both the old and new models.

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Top 10 concepts from Netflix’s culture of ‘Freedom and Responsibility’

Back in 2009 Netflix released a slide deck called ‘Freedom & Responsibility’ that explained some of their strategy and culture.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that it “may well be the most important document ever to come out of the Valley”.

I first heard about it a few years back when I read Dave Coplin’s brilliant (and succinct) book Business Reimagined, which you can download here for free.

‘Freedom & Responsibility’ was something that evolved at Netflix over many years.  Here are what I consider to be the 10 most notable ideas from the document.

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Software Development & Broken Window Theory

broken_window

Broken Window theory goes something like this:

  1.   Some broken windows are left unrepaired in a neighbourhood…
  2.   People see this state of disrepair and feel like no one cares about their surroundings…
  3.   Because nobody cares, people feel like they can cause further damage without repercussion…
  4.   Further damage is done, perpetuating the cycle.

We see this exact same pattern in all areas of life including software development.

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SSRS Standards

When I joined my current employer, they had just started an informal project with 6 BI developers to deliver a host of new reports against their new data warehouse using SSRS 2016 Standard.

These are the standards I put together to try and bring some consistency to both the reports and the environments.

Like with any standards, my goal was to address the main areas whilst not being too onerous by concerning ourselves with minute details.  It was also to provide a steer on items which end up being arbitrary decisions such as the names of data-sources.

Hopefully it can act as a starting point for your own organisations.  I’ll look to cover the rationale behind the access model in another post.

The document, which also contains details on how to setup the project configurations can be found here.

SSRS Standards

Related Links:

How to enable Remote Errors in SSRS

How to set retention period of the execution log

Data Dictionary

Data Dictionary w/ Search Functionality (2016)

At CNA-Hardy, I put together a data dictionary for an Underwriting/Actuarial MI system I looked after.

I created the data dictionary in Excel and put a search facility built in.  With around 250 calculations and attributes it made understanding and troubleshooting a lot easier.

data-dictionary-img

The .xlsx version of the tool can be seen here.

The .xlsm version which also filters the rows can be found here.

 

Technical Debt

Technical debt is a metaphor that equates software development to monetary debt.  In my opinion it is one of the most crucial concepts to be aware of when planning projects or road-maps.

Imagine that you have a project that has two potential options; one is quick and easy but will require modification in the future, the other has a better design but will take more time to implement.

In development, releasing code with a ‘quick-and-dirty’ approach is like incurring debt – it comes with the obligation of interest, which, for technical debt, comes in the form of extra work in the future.

Just like monetary debt, technical debt is interest-bearing and compounds.  You always have the option to pay down the debt (long-term thinking) or to take out additional credit (short-term) but your project can become insolvent where the only option is to write-off the debt (re-write from scratch).

To summarise, it is a debt that you incur every time you avoid doing the right thing like removing duplication or redundancy.  It will add an overhead to everything you do from thereon in, whether that is troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading or making changes.

[Some parts taken from MartinFowler.com and Techopedia]