D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Canada’s Tech Heart Beats – Winnipeg’s Emerging Tech/Startup Scene

Winnipeg is known for cold winters, the Winnipeg Jets hockey team, and…well, probably not much else. To be honest, the prairies are typically ignored by Eastern and Western Canada aside from decade old stereotypes. But its always those you don’t expect that surprise and impress.

Over the last few days the Winnipeg technology and startup communities flexed their collective muscles to show that amazing things are happening in Manitoba, and that Winnipeg can’t be ignored anymore.

Hacking Health

The first ever Hacking Health Winnipeg event was held over the weekend, bringing technology, creative, and business people together with health care professionals to brainstorm solutions to health care problems and needs (article via ChrisD.ca on the event).

Global Day of Code Retreat

Amir Barylko along with others organized this year’s GDoCR – a day-long event where software developers get together to hone their skills in a collaborative environment. It was hosted this year in Ile Des Chenes, a community just outside of Winnipeg and home to Bold Innovation Group who are taking the Manitoba tech landscape by storm with their Shopify products.

Speaking of Bold Innovation Group…

This Manitoba success story picked up a national award over the weekend, taking the Lauriers de la PME Start-Up category! 

More Funding for Startups

The Manitoba government made some impressive announcements on Monday:

Three-year $300k grants to Startup Winnipeg, a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing support and community for startups.

TechFutures, a program to provide financial assistance, training, and business counseling for up to 20 young entrepreneurs every year.

This is all fantastic news for the every-growing startup community that’s been building for the last few years, thanks to guys like Chris Johnson who really pushed the idea and formed it into what Startup Winnipeg is today.

Chris actually operates his own startup, Permission Click, which has been winning awards and is getting attention throughout North America. By the way, it was an idea that grew out of a Rampup Weekend event – the next one is November 21 – 23, go check it out of you can!

Winnipeg – Technology Conference Hub

This past October Winnipeg held the SDEC – Software Development and Evolution Conference, which brings technologists and Agile/Lean experts together every year.

This weekend the Prairie Developer Conference closed its call for speakers and will be announcing the March 2015 event lineup soon.

*Note: These events aren’t specific to this past weekend, but highlight that people from around the world are coming to Winnipeg to meet and discuss the future of technology, process, and industry.

What’s Coming in 2015?

There’s been a tension building for quite some time here – those that felt their options shouldn’t just be to “stay and settle” or leave for greener pastures. Manitoba has challenges like anywhere else, but its the tenacity and persistence of the citizens here to not accept the status quo that’s bolstering this new era of technology, business, and growth. Keep an eye on us, we’re just getting started.



What Microsoft’s Announcements Mean to Partners

This week Microsoft made some announcements around open sourcing the .NET Framework, providing Visual Studio Community edition for free, and showed off their ability to develop across platforms. For developers this was a huge win on a number of fronts, and everyone is applauding what they’ve done – including me.

Partners, maybe not so much.

For those unaware, Microsoft has always had a strong relationship with their partners and its a big source of revenue for them. Microsoft does have a consulting group, but its very small compared to the global partner network they’ve built. The model typically goes that partners sell customers on Microsoft solutions, where Microsoft gets the license revenue and partners get the services/consulting revenue. Where friction comes into play is when Microsoft pivots on products and services; if you’re a partner for a specific product and Microsoft stops supporting it, or changes its strategy around it, then you also need to pivot. Consider all the IT partners who have been installing on-premise Windows servers who are now being told that the future isn’t on-premise but in the cloud. Or the Lync partners who have built up marketing materials that need to all be changed since Lync is being rebranded Skype for Business in the new year? Or the custom app-dev shops that were the darlings of Microsoft in 2000 – 2010, but now go unnoticed unless they’re integrating their solutions with some aspect of Azure.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a comment recently that spelt out pretty clearly where Microsot is focusing their efforts:

There is Windows, there is Office 365, and there is Azure. That’s it.

Now of course there’s more than that. Surface and Windows Phone grow out of Windows. SharePoint is part of Office 365. Azure runs anything and spans developers, IT pros, and system integrators. But at its core, these three things are what Microsoft is focused on.

Now, if you’re a partner focused on anything other than these three things, where does that leave you? And that has always been the double edged sword of Microsoft partnership – or partnership with any 3rd party vendor: when they pivot, you need to pivot. While there is money to be made in a partnership agreement, being a Microsoft partner is not a 50/50 arrangement. Microsoft sets the course, communicates the coordinates, and its up to each partner to decide whether or not to follow. And that could be a discussion that happens as frequently as every year.

So yes, developers should celebrate the announcements and we should all celebrate the changes Microsoft is implementing. But from a partner viewpoint, the days of custom software development *on* the Microsoft platform being important to Microsoft is over. The days of on-premise licenses being important to Microsoft is over too. Time to pivot.



Roam Mobility Review and Rogers Comparison

On a recent trip to Seattle I used Roam Mobility, a service that offers Canadians travelling to the US with greatly reduced cell phone fees compared to roaming with our big telcos. Here’s my review of the service.

Set Up

With Roam, you purchase either a SIM card or a device. I purchased a SIM card for my Nokia 920 at my local Staples. That’s one pro of Roam that’s changed over the years – there are LOTS of retail locations that sell their SIM cards now, so its easy to fine one…even here in Winnipeg.

One thing I would mention is that you the consumer need to know what *type* of SIM card you require. I never even though about this when I bought my first Roam SIM , so I got the wrong size for my phone. Luckily I didn’t open it and was able to exchange it.

Setting up your services with Roam is somewhat simple. I say somewhat because their online ordering is a little…different.

image Once you create your account and activate your SIM card, you can top it up with different services. The UI is actually very straightforward, but jarringly different from what other online experiences offer. It’s definitely better, but I noticed today when I took the screenshot to the left that they’ve added little tool tips to help people along. This is a good thing, but make no mistake – they’re the ones doing the right thing.

After upgrading my SIM to allow for 4G LTE data speeds, I opted for a talk-text-data plan, which gave me 400 MB of 4G LTE data per day in addition to unlimited calling and texting (even long distance calling back to Canada!). I also decided to add on an extra 300 MB of 4G LTE data. Note that if you hit your limit on 4G LTE data you *still have unlimited data*, it just downgrades to 2G speeds.


Usage

I had no problems with usage. Remember your phone must already be unlocked before you can use the Roam SIM card. Once you have the new SIM in place, you alter your APN settings (very easy step in my case and Roam offers walkthrough instructions), and that’s it – you’re on the Roam Mobility network!

I was in the Seattle area, and I had absolutely no issues with connectivity, using data, texting, or calling home. I cannot tell you how incredibly impressed I was with the service! Seriously, I experienced absolutely no issues whatsoever once I was on the Roam network. However, I was at a conference in early October in Atlanta and a colleague there was using Roam and had issues using data. Knowing that cellular service varies from place to place even with the same carrier, my comments should be taken in the context of the Seattle area only.

Pricing

I did *not* use Roam Mobility for that conference in October – I used Rogers default roaming rates. So let’s compare Roam and Rogers over similar trips and see what value I received and the cost for each.

 

Roam
5 Day Trip to US

Rogers
4 Day Trip to US

Long Distance Calling

Unlimited

Didn’t have a plan, so used Skype

Texting

Unlimited

$7.50 (10 sent x .75)

Data

Unlimited 2G,
400 MB per day 4G LTE
(+ 300 MB add on)

$31.96 for 200 MB
($7.99/50 MB per day)

Total Cost

$24.79

$39.46


A few comments on the pricing:

There is an up-front cost for the Roam SIM card, but its a one-time $20 cost. Comparing the two trips above and that I was able to make lengthy long distance calls home and had no concerns about texting throughout my trip, even with that cost it’s cheaper than if I had called/texted with Rogers.

Also note that the 50 MB of data Rogers offers is PER DAY. I call that out because I paid almost $32 dollars for 200 MB of data over four days, but I actually used under 70 MB over my trip!

Because Roam’s pricing is based on unlimited calls/texts/data per day, I didn’t have to think about my usage unlike Rogers which is entirely based on a per-usage scenario. Also because of the type of plan I have, I can’t take advantage of the new Roger’s Roam Like Home plan (you’ll see why below), so while I could sign up for one of the Travel Packs from Rogers I find them expensive and awkward (if I only have a 4 day trip planned in a month to the US, why do I need a plan that covers 31 days?).

Roam is UNBELIEVABLY cheaper than Rogers and yet offers so much more value! It makes you really wonder how the big telcos can get away with gouging us on roaming fees.

But what about Rogers new $5 roaming plan?

This week Rogers announced a new roaming plan – for $5 per day you get the same services you currently get with your Rogers plan. That *sounds* like a good deal, but depending on what your current plan is it may not be. The crux of the $5 deal: You Need a Share Everything Plan.

I have the rate plan they offered a few years ago, with 6 GB of data, unlimited text, and 200 weekday minutes with unlimited evenings/weekends. Because I’m on that plan and not the Share Everything plans they currently offer, I don’t qualify for the $5 roaming.

Even a bigger kicker – if I did switch to a Share Everything plan, I would start paying $125 for the same level of services and data as I’m paying $60 a month for currently! ARE YOU KIIDDING ME ROGERS?!

So for those who are forced into the new Share Everything plans, the $5 is a good deal. But just realize you’re getting gouged on your regular bill anyway so you’re not *really* gaining anything.

Conclusion

Roam Mobility provided fantastic service for me while in the Seattle area. They were better on cost, options, and service than Rogers hands down. I will absolutely use Roam Mobility for future trips to the US!



Demystifying the Cloud Presentation Posted

I had the opportunity to talk about “Demystifying the Cloud” last week at the SDEC conference here in Winnipeg. I recorded the presentation last night with audio commentary for those who missed it at the conference or for those that would be interested to see it.

In the 20 min video I cover at a high level cloud concepts – how do we define what cloud computing is, what are the models of cloud and cloud offerings, and considerations like geolocation, tech stack, and security.

Enjoy!



Check Out the Prairie Dev Con Podcast

Back in June I started recording a podcast under my conference’s banner (Prairie Dev Con). So far there’s 5 episodes covering topics like ASP.NET, cloud, security, agile, and the recent Xamarin conference.

You can get all the info on the podcast here:

http://www.prairiedevcon.com/Podcast

D



Report Card is Out, Time to Do Homework Manitoba!

News outlets are having a field day trumpeting that “Manitoba Gr 8 Students Rank Dead Last in Canada” thanks to a recently released report called the PCAP 2013 – Report on the Pan-Canadian Assessment of Science, Reading, and Mathematics. You can read the full report here.

The Minister for education is already making the rounds on radio and will be announcing something at 10AM. The opposition will lambaste them on why our students are doing so poorly and how this is a blight for Manitoba against the backdrop of Canada. People will demand to know what our teachers are doing (or aren’t doing) and on and on it will go.

But let’s boil down what the report actually says. We got better at Math, we got worse at reading, and while they didn’t provide year-to-year comparisons on sciences we can assume from the numbers that we have some work to do there.

Check it out – we got BETTER at math! This is a good thing. We got WORSE at reading – this is a concerning trend. But now that we know, we can take action.

I don’t see this report as being negative. I see this as a great source of information for our schools and school boards to use to adjust curriculum and approaches. Don’t think that will help any? Again – WE GOT BETTER AT MATH! So obviously we are doing something right.

The whole backdrop of Canada is a red herring – don’t fall for it. Firstly, if your goal is to be better than everyone else you’re focusing on the wrong thing. I work out at least 3 times a week and I’m seeing gains. Will I ever look like The Rock? No. Should I be disappointed in my gym gains because of that? Of course not! Same here – our focus needs to be on Manitoba and how to make us better than we were last year.

And before we start grilling school officials on what our teachers are doing, we as parents need to start looking at what *we* are doing at home. Are we following up on homework? Are we touching base with teachers regularly to get updates on how our kids are doing? Are we trying to incorporate activities that will bolster their abilities in reading, math, and science?

I think its great that we have this information from the PCAP 2013 report! It gives us the information on where to focus our efforts to change things and to continue doing the things that are showing results.

So chill out Manitoba, all this means is we have some more homework to do.



Monday Morning Thoughts – Apple Has Fans, Not Sheep

So the iPhone 6 was released last week and with that comes the numerous comments about sheep. Here’s a sampling from Twitter:

“I saw a bunch of people in line outside an Apple Store for the iPhone 6 and I fell asleep. Turns out counting sheep really does work.”

“How do you milk a sheep? Release an iPhone”

“Trolling iPhone 6 users at work. Such sheep. They don’t get it.”

“You know what I'm not doing today? Buying an iPhone 6. Maybe I should have written this in "baaa" so all you sheep could read it.”

I used to think along the same terms, but now I have a different point of view. Actually, its not just that – its an appreciation for what Apple has been able to do over the years: build a rabidly-loyal fan base.

Apple took technology and made it cool for the everyday-person. In Seth Godin terms, they created a tribe around their brand. Consider this passage from Godin’s book “Tribes”:

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Once you choose to lead you’ll be under huge pressure to reconsider, to compromise, to dumb it down, or to give up. Of course you will. That’s the world’s job: to get you to be quiet and follow. The status quo is the status quo for a reason. But once you choose to lead, you’ll also discover that it’s not so difficult. That the options available to you seem really clear, and that yes, in fact, you can get from here to there. Go.

While many companies were trying to build a customer base, Apple was building a fan base. The difference is that a fan base has some element of loyalty tied to it; of connectedness, of ownership. It makes no logical sense but neither do fans of major sports teams – people will follow, cheer, buy merchandise, plan vacations/trips , and decorate houses/cars/etc. around sports teams that they have no other affiliation with besides residing in the same city or state/province (and that isn’t even the base criteria to be a fan – you could live on the other side of the planet and still cheer for a team). And even when things are bad, fans still stick behind their team.

Apple has created that for themselves. The people lining up for the new iPhone 6 are not sheep, they are fans. They have bought in to the idea of what being part of the Apple Tribe is about and will support their “team” to the bitter end. Those that make sheep comments do so out of jealousy and/or misunderstanding of what they’re witnessing – a continued case study in how to create a loyal fan base that propels a business to places unfathomable.



Seriously, Screw CASL

Legislation will go into effect July 1st restricting who businesses can contact via email, or direct messaging on social media sites, to only those that “opt in”. I’m sure the politicians think this is a fantastic win for consumers and will go far to eliminate unwanted email. Of course, they’re politicians which means they live in a realm far removed from reality.

Then you have the businesses themselves who are just reminded of all this a few weeks/months ago (even though, yes, this technically had been known about for much longer). Now everyone is freaking out trying to understand the rules because, since politicians wrote them up, they’re confusing and unclear.

Take the Edmonton Humane Society who is trying to contact its more than 50 thousand individuals that it sends information to on a regular basis. Wait…but aren’t they a charity? Aren’t they exempt? As their director explains in this CBC story, its “not entirely clear how exempt they are” with both CRTC and lawyers saying they “can’t interpret the legislation for them”.

Let that sink in. Politicians have made this law. CRTC is in charge of enforcing it. But there’s no history, no actual application of the law for anyone to really know whether those million-dollar fines will ever be a reality or not. And all the while criminals who are sending phishing attacks and other email scams will continue on.

The CRTC has already said they’re understaffed to manage the expected hundreds of complaints sent in PER DAY.

I think firming up the rules around needing a proper un-subscribe method is good. I don’t think pushing the penalties ahead of how the CRTC will act is wise. And honestly everyone is in worst-case mode because we haven’t seen this law applied in court. We need precedent before knowing whether CASL has teeth or not.

In the meantime, Canadian businesses bare the burden of decisions made in that alternate reality called Parliament Hill. Screw CASL.



Are You a School Thinking of Using iPads/Tablets?

My daughter’s junior high school is wrapping up its first year with an iPad program. In this program, every junior high student in the division gets an iPad Mini. To collect feedback on the program they put out a survey asking parents what they thought. Included was a field for comments and I want to share what I wrote so schools, or parents with kids attending schools, who are thinking of adopting an iPad or other tablet/BYOD program can learn to avoid some of the pitfalls we experienced in our first year.

Class is in session, let’s begin…

As someone in the IT industry there were a number of concerns I’d like to raise about the iPad program. Let me first say that I think integrating technology into the school curriculum is fantastic and I applaud the School Division for attempting this. As will always happen with new programs, there will be things to adjust. My feedback is intended to raise issues I believe need to be looked at closer.

Teacher Awareness and Training

It became obvious throughout the year that teachers were not trained in utilizing iPads effectively/properly in the classroom or given the opportunity/time to create ways to integrate the technology with the existing curriculum. The extent of iPad use by my child was Math vs. Zombies, creating videos and presentations for classes, email (we’ll get to that in a second), and using a fitness app which required them to lie about their age to access the content. The perception formed is that teachers were given these devices without adequate guidance or time to integrate the devices/applications into the curriculum delivery plan. I would suggest that teachers be given direction and time to determine how to best integrate applications and usage scenarios into the day-to-day teaching.

Security and Device Management

Security was not thought through for this program and my fear is that many parents who are not as technically savvy left their children open to various vulnerabilities. There is no reason that parents should have been left to oversee the management and security of a school-provided device.

The tablets should have been maintained centrally through the division, as other organizations do. Parents who did not want their children to have email accounts, let alone Apple IDs, were forced to create them anyway – regardless of whether they were used or not. That the school required students to know their Apple ID resulted in students being given the ability to load and install applications on their iPads. My daughter’s friends had Instagram, Facebook, and other social media applications installed and accounts created; some of these restrict users to being 18 or older. This is important – the iPad program allowed students access to social networks their parents may not have known about and that the school was not policing! Furthermore because internet usage was only controlled through the school’s network, parents may have been unaware of their children’s internet activities either through home or free wi-fi access points. If the iPads were not easily configurable to be centrally managed by the division, then perhaps these were the wrong device to be selected for this initiative.

When we were told the students would be using iCloud, the assumption (wrongly) that I made was it was going to be cloud-based storage for uploading class assignments and *not* an email address that students would use for contact with teachers and students. This was an email account that parents were not given access to. The school division provided a communication channel that parents had absolutely no insight or control of and I believe in many cases without our awareness or permission. If I had known an iCloud account equated to an email account, I would have had a much different discussion with my daughter and possibly with the school. Parents must be told how their children will be interacting online when mandated by the school.

Guidance on Online Behaviour – Students and Parents

To my knowledge there was little (if any) instruction or discussion about online behaviour. In a time when we’re heightened to bullying, the school division enabled every child to potentially be an online bully, to be victimized by online predators, or to simply make mistakes that will stay with these kids for their lives (i.e. posting pictures/videos). Sessions on the internet – how to be safe, how you should interact with others online, how to protect oneself, how to identify devious behaviour (phishing, email/social media scams, etc.) – should have been part of the program.

Additionally there must be more resources and support for parents who are left with managing many aspects of the iPads outside of the school. Not everyone is tech savvy or has access to people who can help. As someone in technology (as I’m sure other parents are), I’d have no problem volunteering to help with workshops or information sessions to help parents fully understand their role in this initiative. I’d encourage you to reach out to parents as resources in this way.

In Summary

Thrilled that we’re encouraging students to take advantage of technology.

Technology for its own sake does not solve problems, it only introduces them.

We need to protect our children better. More security, education, and oversight is required.

We need teachers to have a plan on how to integrate the iPads/applications into the curriculum.

We need parents to be more involved in the program.

If you have any other questions or would like to discuss further, please let me know.

Thanks,

D’Arcy Lussier



Answers to Conference Revenue Tweet Questions

I tweeted this the other day…

image

…and I had some people tweet back questioning/asking about the profit number. So here’s how I came to that figure.

Total Revenue

Let’s talk total revenue first. This conference has a huge list of companies/organizations paying some amount for sponsorship.

Platinum ($1500) x 5 = $7500

Gold ($1000) x 3 = $3000

Silver ($500) x 9 = $4500

Bronze ($250) x 13 = $3250

There’s also a title sponsor level but there’s no mention of how much that is…more than $1500 though, so let’s just say $2500.

Total Sponsorship Revenue: $20750.00

For registrations, this conference is claiming over 300 attendees. We’ll just calculate at 300 and the discounted “member rate” – $249.

Total Registration Revenue: $74700.00

Booth space is also sold for a vendor area, but let’s just leave that out of the calculation.

Total Event Revenue: $95450.00

Now that we know how much money we’re playing with, let’s knock out the costs for the event.

Total Costs

Hard Costs

Audio/Visual Services $2000

Conference Rooms (4 Breakouts + Plenary) $2500

Insurance $700

Printing/Signage $1500

Travel/Hotel Rooms $2000

Keynotes $2000

So let’s talk about these hard costs first. First you may be asking about the Audio Visual. Yes those services can be that high, actually higher. But since there’s an A/V company touted as the official A/V provider, I gotta think there’s some discount for being branded as such.

Conference rooms are actually an inflated amount of $500 per. Venues make money on the food they sell at events, not on room rentals. The more food, the cheaper the rooms tend to be offered at. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s set the rooms at $500 each knowing that they could be lower.

For travel and hotel rooms…it appears that most of the speakers at this conference are local, meaning there’s no travel or hotel cost. But a few of them I wasn’t too sure…so let’s factor in enough to cover two outside speakers (airfare and hotel).

There are two keynotes for this event and depending on the event those may be paid gigs. I’m not sure if they are or not, but considering the closing one is a comedian I’m going to add some funds here for that just in case.

Total Hard Costs: $10700

Now that the hard costs are out of the way, let’s talk about the food costs.

Food Costs

The conference is providing a continental breakfast (YEEEESH!), some level of luncheon, and I have to assume coffee breaks in between. Let’s look at those costs.

Continental Breakfast $12 per person

Lunch Buffet $18 per person

Coffee Breaks (2) $6 per person (or $3 a cup)

Snacks (2) $10 per person (or $5 each)

Note that the lunch buffet assumes a *good* lunch buffet – two entrees, starch, vegetable, salads, and bread. Not sure if there’ll be snacks during coffee breaks but let’s assume so.

Total Food Cost Per Person: $46

Food Cost: $14950

Gratuity: $2691

Total Food Cost: $17641

Total food cost is based on the $46 per person cost x 325. 300 for attendance, 12 for speakers, extra 13 for volunteers/organizers. Gratuity is 18%.

Grand Totals

So let’s sum things up here.

Total Costs

Hard Costs: $10700.00

Food Costs: $17641.00

Total:          $28341.00

Taxes:         $3685.00

Grand Total  $32026.00

Total Revenue

Sponsorship  $20750

Registration   $74700

Grand Total   $95450.00

Total Profit

$63424.00

Now what if the registration numbers were lower and they only got 100 people to show up. In that scenario there’d still be a profit of just under $26000.

Closing Comments

A couple of things to note:

- I haven’t factored in anything for prizes. Not sure if any will be given out

- We didn’t add in the booth space revenue

- We’re assuming speakers aren’t getting paid, but even if they were at the high end its $12000 ($1000 per session), which is probably an inflated number for local speakers.

- Note that all registrations were set to the “member” discounted price. The non-member registration price is higher. There is also an option for those that just want to show up for the opening keynote.

There you have it! Let me know if you have any questions.

D



Business Analysis – We’re Doing It Wrong

Do you know what a Business Analyst does? They analyze business practices. Doesn’t that seem simple? And yet organizations the world over, and even the IIBA it would seem, consider them a super role that encompasses a wide variety of skills and capabilities:

Requirements Gatherer: Instead of utilizing techniques like value stream mapping to identify areas of business process that could be optimized/corrected, BA’s tend to be assigned the task of Requirements Gatherer. They meet with users and hear what it is the users want a system to do, what data should be captured, and even how system screens should flow. This usually leads to BAs also being assigned the role of…

User Interface Designer: I have personally been on projects where BAs were expected to own the user interface design of a system/application, and it seems commonplace to assume BAs would fill this role on projects. Very rarely have I seen where a BA actually understands the capabilities and limitations of the underlying technology being used. At this point some would point out here that technology shouldn't be needed to form a solution, yet in the majority of my experience this decision has already been made at some point. BAs are then left to generate user interfaces on technology platforms that they have no insight into – and nothing bad can come from that, right?

Test Writer: Wait, isn’t this a QA role? One may think that, but since the BA is gathering the requirements anyway doesn’t it make sense that they also write up the test cases for QA staff to run through?

There’s this idea that through the exercise of requirement gathering a BA will become an expert in the business, and that’s just not the case. Throwing a BA into a requirement gathering role is a systems level exercise because you’re capturing requirements of a system, not the details of how the business operates. There’s a huge gap here in identifying the proper roles needed on a project, and this is in part because not all organizations see the value in some of them. “We have a BA, isn’t that good enough?” No, you have a person that you’re assigning multiple responsibilities to when they may not be qualified for some of those roles. You may also not be getting the most out of a BA if you aren’t leveraging their core skills and abilities.

Part of the problem lies with legacy views from the Waterfall days. Big Design Up Front required people to gather requirements and fully design a system on paper before feeding it to developers (who were never included in those up front discussions). This type of application design *still* happens today, and even in shops that fly the Agile banner proudly!

So what should a Business Analyst do? They should analyze the business domain and key value streams an organization wants to improve upon. Technically agnostic, without any expectation of having systems-level knowledge. They don’t come up with domain models, they don’t do data models, they don’t even do screen shots. All they do is learn the business and identify opportunities to optimize/change/tweak to meet an organization’s goals.

At that point new roles are introduced to the flow:

Solution Architect
A technical person (but not a developer) who oversees all aspects of the realization of a solution.

UI/UX Designer
More and more I see how this is an important discipline. Note that this is *not* someone who knows Photoshop and is artistic. This is someone who is educated in the techniques of identifying how an end user structures their work and how to translate that into meaningful system user interfaces. This is an area I predict we’ll see huge growth in over the next few years.

System Analyst
A system analyst works with the Business Analyst to translate the needs of the business into a technical solution. All those requirement gathering exercises we talked about? This is where those happen – not at the Business Analyst level. The System Analyst should have a strong technical background and be able to make recommendations on how to best implement a technical solution. They work closely with the Solution Architect and the…

Technical Architect
Think of the TA as the leader of the software developers. This is someone who deeply understands the technical space and can speak authoritatively to the limitations and capabilities of the technical implementation.

Now, you may be thinking “Woah, there’s a LOT of people needed here. Are they all necessary?” Of course they are! For decades we’ve been assigning many of their responsibilities under one title: Business Analyst! How has that worked out for us? Have we gotten better systems? Are our end users happy? Are our developers excited to be part of a project that they had input to at the design stage, not just completing the potentially unrealistic requests of some requirement-gathering Business Analyst?

YES these roles are necessary, but they are useless unless all are stitched together with an attitude of collaboration and cooperation. No one group is more important than any other in the common goal of delivering the technical solution; all have their role to play.

The BABOK (Business Analyst Book of Knowledge) 3.0 is coming out soon, and includes the following definitions:

Design – A usable representation of a solution.

Requirement – A usable representation of a need.

“Usable” here scares me. Also they have two sections each titled “Requirements and Design Analysis” and “Requirements and Design Management”.

I fear that the current world view that Business Analysts are responsible for/own requirement gathering and solution design will continue and we’ll have the same issues as we do now on technical projects. Business Analysts are important and integral but we need to ensure we’re leveraging their skills and abilities in the right way in concert with other important roles.



Prairie Dev Con’s Evolution – Thoughts on Covering Speaker Expenses

Greg Young tweeted this recently…

image 

This started a really good Twitter discussion about whether conferences should cover travel expenses (airfare and hotel) for speakers, with some event organizers weighing in. Having run a successful conference for the last four years I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences around this (Twitter’s 140 character limit is very…well, limiting :) ).

Conferences are a collaborative effort between four groups: Organizers, Attendees, Speakers, and Sponsors. Each group has a certain expectation of each other in the context of the conference.

Attendees want engaging speakers who bring unique knowledge, skills, and experience; organizers who provide a great venue and amenities, and who respects the audience’s time and money being invested in attending the conference; and sponsors who are active participants and add an extra element of fun through on-site presence, swag, contests, etc.

Speakers want attendees who are positive, participatory and ready to learn; organizers who value the time and talents they lend to a conference; and sponsors active in conference events who may be affiliated with them (i.e. a speaker who is also a Pluralsight author).

Sponsors want excellent speakers who will help draw a large number of attendees; attendees who will engage with them at or through the conference; and organizers who look at sponsorship more as a partnership than simply a money-for-logo opportunities.

Organizers want attendees who appreciate the work and effort that goes into putting on a conference; speakers who’s professionalism and preparedness help form the culture and personality of the conference; and sponsors who recognize the importance of community events and want deeper engagement with attendees.

At my work we like to talk about a 3-legged stool analogy between customers, employees, and employer. The same analogy holds true with conferences, but with 4 legs instead of 3.

image

It’s this model that I’ve based Prairie Dev Con on, and one that continues to evolve as the conference does. For the last three years I’ve been fortunate to have speakers who invested in the conference through covering their own airfare expenses (I cover all hotel costs as well as a speaker’s dinner). Admittedly that was an imbalance that allowed me to work through my conference model and refine it; if not for those speakers over the first 7 iterations of Prairie Dev Con, it wouldn’t be the success it is today.

Going forward, and starting with the 8th Prairie Dev Con I just held last week, travel expenses for speakers (airfare and hotel) will be covered by the conference – as it should be. My model has matured and has been proven to be successful, and being able to provide speakers with the proper expense coverage is an important step to ensure Prairie Dev Con continues to offer top-tier talent to it’s attendees.

Now, I don’t want to call out any other conference because no two conferences are alike. Each has their own nuances, mission statements, cultures, and goals. But for conferences that charge a non-trivial amount for registration but don’t cover speaker travel expenses, I would challenge those organizers as to why.

The problem with having the legs of your stool at different lengths is that you’re constantly trying to balance. Ensuring that all our participant groups are having their needs met means that you have a solid base to grow from…and that small foot stool eventually becomes taller and taller as your conference grows and matures over time. That’s what I’ve seen with Prairie Dev Con, and ensuring speakers are taken care of is a huge part of that growth.



Orleans–Cloud Services at Scale

Putting this here as a growing data dump of links/resources around Project “Orleans”. What is Project Orleans?

Project “Orleans” provides a straightforward approach to building distributed high-scale computing applications, without the need to learn and apply complex concurrency or other scaling patterns. It was designed for use in the cloud, and has been used extensively in Microsoft Azure.

There’s a great story about how Orleans is used to back Halo and deliver stats and info in real time to gamers. You can read a great intro that explains what it is and how to get the bits for it here:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dotnet/archive/2014/04/02/available-now-preview-of-project-orleans-cloud-services-at-scale.aspx

There was also an in-depth session at Build this year focussing on the Halo implementation. No video as posted yet (10:45 PM CST on April 2), but I expect it to go up here at some point:

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/3-641

Here’s a link to the CodePlex site for Project Orleans samples:

https://orleans.codeplex.com/

More links/info here as I find them.

D



Prairie Dev Con 2014 - Early Bird Pricing Extended

Prairie Dev Con 2014  - Early Bird Extension to March 21st!

Attending Prairie Dev Con is still one of the most affordable professional development experiences you can get as a software developer! 

Our Early Bird price of
$499.99 has been extended through Friday, March 21st! Remember groups of 3 or more still get an extra $50 off each registration!

Get all the information on how to register on our Registration page!

Incredible Lineup of Sessions!


We have an amazing lineup of sessions for Prairie Dev Con Winnipeg! Taking your feedback, we've focused the content on web, mobile, ALM, and development patterns & practices, with sessions on other topics as well! This is one of the strongest Prairie Dev Con session lineups I've ever seen, if not the strongest!

You can view all of our sessions on our website here!

Post Conference Workshops


We're offering three post conference workshops lead by leading experts in their field! The workshops are on Domain Driven Design (Donald Belcham) . Kanban & TFS ALM (Dylan Smith), and Angular JS (Matias Niemela)!

Check out our Workshops page for more details!

 

Thanks, and I hope to see you in April!

D'Arcy Lussier



Winnipeg Tech Community’s Loss – Thoughts on Dean Clarke’s Passing

It was one of the last two weeks in February when I spoke with Dean Clarke, president of Apptius. We both happened to be at the same client site and we talked about our respective work assignments, my upcoming conference in Winnipeg, and just general life stuff. On Friday Feb 28th I looked out the project team room and saw Dean talking to one of the client’s staff, friendly and smiling like he always seemed to be. I made a note to myself to follow up with an email on some items we had discussed.

On Saturday March 1st Dean passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

There’s many lives that Dean has touched, foremost his family, friends, employees, and colleagues. Dean was also a huge reason for the Winnipeg tech community’s success over the years, something that many people may not realize due to Dean’s modesty; he always supported, always contributed, always asked how he could help, but never did it for his own personal celebrity or recognition.

If you enjoyed going to the .NET User Group in Winnipeg over the years you have Dean in part to thank. For years Apptius has been a financial sponsor of the user group because Dean recognized the importance of community. Some companies mull over community support – the cost, the benefits, whether it makes strategic sense. But not Dean. He was always willing to help because he saw it as the right thing to do.

If you enjoyed attending any of the many Winnipeg Code Camp events over the years, you also have Dean to thank. Whenever I’d talk to Dean about sponsoring the Code Camp the conversation never ended at how much money we needed for the event. It continued with “What else do you need?” Dean was the one who provided those “Code Camp Survival Kits” – plastic containers filled with snacks that were given to attendees for free. That, in addition to bottles of water, was all Dean’s idea and doing – he just wanted to do something nice for the community.

Dean wasn’t just someone who “provided stuff” for events, he was hands on. He offered to print out all the attendee nametags, plastic badgeholders and all. And when he arrived at the Code Camp, one of the first things he’d ask is “How can I help?” Here’s a picture of Dean manning the registration booth, something he did often at the Code Camps.

CodeCamp2009Dean

Dean was that rare example of true “leading by example”. A company President who never let his title define him; instead it was his actions and his interactions with people. I will miss Dean greatly not just as a leader in our technical community but as an amazing person who always had the betterment of others in mind. Dean was the embodiment of what the Winnipeg tech community is all about and he’ll be dearly missed.