Working Up

Working Up in Project Management, Systems Engineering, Technology, and Writing

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Technology Triggers

July 25th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Knowing, ahead of time, when to change the design of a technology system.


We have software running on different computers. We don’t have much electrical power available for computers “out in the field,” i.e., they probably run on batteries. Hence, we move heavy computations to lab computers where electrical power is plentiful. This requires sending a relatively large amount of data from the field to the lab. The computers in the field don’t have much computational power when compared to the lab computers.

Technology Trigger: when a commercially available processor has X computational power at Y or less electrical power, we change how we assign which software to which computer, i.e., we can change the design of the system.

We have a design for today that works with the technology we have today. When technology changes, we change the design. If we are smart, and a bit lucky, we can set an explicit technology trigger so that we only have to monitor one or two things in the technology press.

The concept of the technology trigger is simple. Times change, technology changes, and solutions change with them. Simplicity, however, is not often practiced.

What are the technology realities that drive your designs today? Understand how your design would change if the wished-for technology existed. Watch those technologies as wishes will one day come true.

→ No CommentsTags: Choose · Design · Technology


July 21st, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We have yet another case where a manager failed to perform the job title, but someone else was fired.

This is an interesting story. A software tester wrote some software to run all the tests. The tester didn’t have anything to do, so the tester sat around for five years twiddling thumbs.

After five years, a manager discovered what was happening and fired the tester.

Where was the manager when the tester created a money-saving system for running tests? The tester should have been give a big bonus.

Where was the manager when the tester was doing nothing for five years?

Why wasn’t the manager fired?

Come on guys. We all know what should have happened. Let’s do what is right.

→ No CommentsTags: Management

The New Architect and the Old Designer

July 18th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I am again disappointed in job titles, but at least I learn some new lingo.

Architecture = Design (noun)

Architect (noun, person) = Designer (noun, person)

Solutions Architect = Solutions Designer (well, that else would you design but a solution?)

Then we have the verb form…

to architect =  to design (verb)

On charitable days, I think this is a bit much. On other days, I find it silly. I guess a systems architect is paid more money than a designer. Oh well, at least I’m learning more things to interpret.

→ No CommentsTags: Clarity · Communication · Design · Employment

The History-Story Gap

July 14th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

There is often a gap between our history and our story about our history. I suppose, since most of us are not famous, that is okay.

We have experiences—those comprise our history. Then we tell people a story about those experiences. Sometimes the stories enhance the histories.

Barack Obama has some doozies. So did George Bush. So did Bill Clinton, and Brian Williams, and…

Well, those are famous people with famous stories and lots of fact checkers. The trouble that famous people have is that there are a lot of fact checkers out there. These fact checkers might as well be called

history-story gap closers

The rest of us, well, we get away with our stories because it isn’t worth checking on them. I suppose this is another security from obscurity case. I guess that is okay.

Want to get away with lots of history-story gaps? Write fiction that is loosely based your history.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Excuses · Fable · Family · Security · Teaching

The Great Value of Policies

July 11th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

This isn’t politics, it is groups of people endeavoring to accomplish something. Give them a gift—policies.

A policy is one of the best gifts upper managers can give to an organization. No, I’m not kidding. We have to understand what a policy is and how we use it.

A policy is a statement that helps everyone decide things everyday.

Here are some example policies:Fewer, better people

    Software that we can move to other environmentsDecide nowOnly decide today what we need todayMake the user’s job easier, not your own

Make these short, simple statements. Put them on the walls. When anyone needs to decide anything, they glance at the wall and use the policy to guide them.This isn’t complicated. This works. Try it.

→ No CommentsTags: Communication · Expectations · Management

YAC – Yet Another Certification

July 7th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I receive yet another certification.

I just passed yet another exam and received yet another certification. Contrary to advertisements, the exam was full of trick questions and didn’t test knowledge of the subject matter. Nevertheless, that is the certification industry, and it is a big $$$ indu$try.

I find it a shame that these types of things don’t seek to provide knowledge and learning and improve professional practice. I suppose I am naive.

Which certification? Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect – Associate level. I did learn much about AWS while preparing for the exam. I didn’t learn anything new about the certification game while taking the exam.

→ No CommentsTags: Certification · Competence · Education · Learning

Happy Birthday America

July 4th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

It is great to live in a country where I don’t need a permit or background check or anything to write a blog or go to church where I want or not worry about the Army showing up at my door wanting to house soldiers or… These government actions are prohibited by the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. I find it odd that some Americans want our government to require permits and background checks for some of the other items in the Bill of Rights.

→ No CommentsTags: America

Agile Development and Being a Victim

June 30th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A major part of the agile methods is that we refuse to be victims.

In agile development, persons talk face to face and speak candidly. There are no bureaucratic victims.

There is no, “Look, I know doing X this way doesn’t make sense, but we are required to do so by some large, mysterious group of persons somewhere who declare these things. So let’s just push through this stupid stuff and maybe one day we will find the time to do this right.”

Instead, in Agile, someone says, “Look, I can’t find anyone who will put their name to doing X is a nonsensical way. So let’s do what we all know is the better way to do this.”

The Agile methods require courage to do what the group believes is right. The group cannot just do it the old way and blame someone else. Gosh. The absence of blame. Perhaps that is the real definition of Agile.

→ No CommentsTags: Adults · Agility

An Idea Person

June 27th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

There is the great idea, then there is the great execution that brings the idea to fruition. In my experience, the idea is greatly over valued.

I worked 28 years inside government. I was bombarded with examples of, “Oh, so-and-so is a great idea person. We need you to work all the little details to make it work. We’re moving the idea person on to the next great idea.”


Here is my government-born-definition of an idea person

A person with enough friends in high places who allow the idea person to get by without ever finishing anything.

Often, people who can finish things are called in to clean up the mess left by the idea person. These idea persons are scorned by the few persons who actually understand what is happening.

Everyone has ideas. Not everyone has well-placed friends who cover up bone-headed actions during the execution phase.

→ No CommentsTags: Government · Ideas

The Catalog Readers

June 23rd, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

We give new titles to an old profession.

Back in the last decade of the prior century, I met several people at work who had one skill:

They could read a product catalog.

They would read the catalogs from DEC, Sun, IBM, and even Dell. They would proclaim, “Look what is out this year? We can buy one of these, one of those, duct tape them together and have a system.”

Soon thereafter, these catalog readers would proclaim themselves to be some kind of engineer because, by reading a catalog, they had designed and built a system. Wow.

Now in the second decade of the current century, we have a new generation of catalog readers. This is what

  • systems engineers
  • solution architects
  • systems architects
  • and others

They have read the product catalog end to end and then again. Except today we don’t have paper catalogs, we have websites and control consoles and such. The catalog publishers have changed: Google, Amazon AWS, Facebook, and even Apple and Microsoft.

As a user, I describe my needs, and the catalog readers point to the glossy pages in the catalog and tell me, “We’ll get one of these, one of those, and hold them together with duct tape, and …”

Cynical? maybe, but the resemblance to the 1990s is striking.

→ No CommentsTags: Analysis · Computing · Design