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Musings

Cakes vs. Cupcakes

12 Sep 2012 by Claude Botes

Are we more productive now that we are Agile and using Test Driven Development (TDD), Domain Driven Design (DDD), Scrum and all the bells and whistles, than we were before? This was the question posed to us recently at one of our Leadership sessions.

Think Cake

To give you a little bit of insight into our past; we’re a leader in Delphi and Database solutions, going out to war with an array of mean templates at our side. Imagine a bakery mass-producing round chocolate cakes; no variety, one standard size and flavour, and definitely no icing. If you wanted something different, we could make it happen, but it would take considerably longer and cost more.

Cupcakes, People want Cupcakes!

That was a long time ago and now people no longer want cake, they want something that will make them happy. Something they can show off to their friends.

People want cupcakes! Different shapes, sizes, textures, icings and flavours and they want a taste before they buy. Most importantly these cupcakes need to “speak” to each other. If you can deliver that, customers won’t mind paying a bit more. But be warned, cupcakes are addictive. Happy customers will want a fix faster with each new cupcake, and if you’re not able to deliver, they’ll go somewhere else.

The Ingredients

For great tasting cupcakes, you need a variety of technological components when considering recipes like:

  • Relational Database Management vs. NoSQL
  • Desktop vs. Web vs. Mobile Solutions
  • Server Based Computing (SBC) vs. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
  • Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage

Tools

Mixing these ingredients together would be difficult if you were limited to just a spoon and a measuring cup. What you need is a variety of integrated development environments, tools, and for best results you need to know them inside out. You would need to understand how they complement each other, which ones to avoid and which ones would best suit your needs.

Kitchen and Recipe

No longer is our kitchen in the back, hidden away from our clients. It’s visible and easily accessible where we can interact with our clients and build lasting relationships. It allows for customer-centred design, short intervals and constant feedback so we can improve each day. It gives us rapid delivery and responds to change on demand.

Oven Temperature

Generally your oven temperature is the biggest risk when baking a cake. If the temperature is too high or too low your cake won’t rise. Open the door at the wrong time and your cake will collapse.

With cupcakes, it’s a different story. With some recipes your concern will not only be with the oven, but you may also need to know how to work the grill, a blow torch or a blender. The secret however, is timing.

The same can be said about your teams. Apply too little or too much heat at the wrong time and they won’t rise to meet your expectations. Back in the day, much of the responsibility lay with the Project Manager. Today however, it’s divided between the Scrum Master (SM), the Product Owner (PO) and the Team. They need to be self-organised, mature, accountable, empowered and equipped with a high level of soft skills. Timing is key to a harmonious working environment.

Time and Cost

If you’ve been appliance shopping recently, you would know that purchasing a microwave might be cheaper than an oven, but much harder to configure and use. The same is true for this recipe. When you invest, you need to invest for the long run and forget about instant returns. This is not a recipe for those who are risk-adverse. Your cupcake will go through many a trial before you get it exactly right, but when you do get it right, you’ll be minimising your losses and soon you’ll realise that the plain chocolate cake just won’t do anymore.

Coming back to the Question

The IT industry is an organic industry and the recipes from the past won’t necessarily be able to live up to the expectations of the future. Perhaps we shouldn’t really ask whether we’re doing things better than before, but rather, do we really want to bake the same old chocolate cake every day, or do we want to bake an assortment of desirable cupcake creations that not only look good but taste good too?

Being successful means adapting to your environment, doing the hard things right and the small things perfectly.

About the Author:
Claude Botes is a Scrum Master (CSM) at KRS, with an interest in User Experience (UX) and a solid development background.

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