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Gary Campbell

Gary Campbell, CEO ITBGNSoftware Development Pitfalls

My name is Gary Campbell, Founder and CEO of the IT Business Group Network (“ITBGN”).

My corporation is a commercial software development company.  This environment is vastly different than “In-House” development.  Our infrastructure must comply to strict F1000 security standards, we must provide extreme visibility to stakeholders since we are not in-house: daily progress reporting, visibility of code drops,  staging access to view progress, task progress (% complete), deliverable recordings, etc.

My group and I have been involved in over 200 separate software products (different clients).  I have over 20 years of hard-core software development experience.  My management team has been managing software projects for a combined total of 125 years.  Our developers have over 300 years of commercial software development experience.  Believe me when I state we know the primary pitfalls of why projects go sour.

Here’s my take on what is wrong with this industry:

  1. PROBLEM #1 – Management wants to hire a developer. Below, I copied and pasted a random listing from Monster for a .NET developer offering position for $65,000 to $85,000 per year.
    1. Minimum 4 years of Experience
    2. NET (C#)
    3. JavaScript/ HTML/CSS/JSON/REST
    4. WCF/LINQ/Entity Framework
    5. Scrum or Kanban
    6. SQL Server
    7. Additional Web frameworks (Angular, React, Bootstrap, jQuery)
    8. CMS Development Experience
    9. Unity3d Development
    10. Azure Development
    11. Mobile Application Development

Here’s what wrong with the Job Post above:

The skills desired encapsulate 3 to 4 completely different careers.

SQL Server (DAL) / LINQ / Entity Framework – This is a DAL career.

JavaScript/ HTML/CSS/JSON/ Angular, React, Bootstrap – This is a UI career.

Mobile Application Development – This is a separate career, for native development, it is 3 careers (Win, iOS and Android) as all 3 require different languages, API knowledge and deployment experience.

Odd-Ducks – Kanban, Unity3d – Every job seems to have odd-duck specialties, good luck finding a person with all of the skills AND experience with odd-ducks.

No developer can possibly be competent in the above. As a matter of fact, based upon the example above, of the skills required, the developer would ACTUALLY be 70% incompetent in most.  Really?  You want to hire a person who at best, is 70% INCOMPETENT?  This is where we are today for ALMOST all job postings.  What this means is that effort estimations will be UNDER ESTIMATED by 300%.  It also means that the developer will unknowingly introduce performance and security issues.  Sure, a great developer will eventually figure it out, but it will cost you dearly.  Also, by having 1 developer code all of these layers, the code will be tightly coupled, difficult to test and debug, and you will need to tack on an additional 30% to the overall project budget for maintenance.

  1. PROBLEM #2 – The developer wants the job. They exaggerate their experience and knowledge depth.  This is normal for every job anyone has applied to.  However, employers do not expend enough effort verifying past employment, education claims nor the validity of technical certifications they state they have. And fewer perform criminal checks.  This is just plain lazy.
  2. PROBLEM #3 – Management does not have the ability to verify developer skills. Why not?  Well, the resource that previously worked for them has quit, management does not have a clue about the complexity of skills required and other than vetting the applicant’s work history and education and interviewing the applicant, they NEVER ACTUALLY assess the skill depth of the developer.  Sure, they may request Brain Bench tests, but all tests I have ever seen other than live, real time vetting by an expert can EASILY be fudged.  All the developer needs to do is setup 3 or 4 phony accounts, take the online test multiple times, then after collecting the questions and answers, and possibly with a few people assisting them, pass the tests with incredible results.  I once interviewed 50 people for a single skill set (Telerik).  29 passed the initial interview (with back ground checks, reference checks, confirmation of employment, etc), 28 failed a live, real-time exam producing nothing, only 2 actually had true experience and only 1 person was able to code a tiny test project in 2 hours compared to 45 minutes by our people.  Vetting is extremely important but most companies do not do it as they can’t do it.
  3. PROBLEM #4 – The CTO or management DOES NOT utilize a multiplication factor on estimates provided by a developer. In some 200 projects my company has been involved with, estimation breakdowns are NOT deep enough.  In our experience, if an estimate involves only 1 level of itemization (does not include UI, BL, DAL, model breakdowns of effort),  we have found that the estimate needs to be multiplied by a factor of 2.5 for medium complexity projects.  For F1000 companies, this factor must be raised to 3.5.  I once had a contract with Verizon for 4 years, working many hours every day with key Verizon managers.  They used a 7x factor.  So when a developer states a task will take 30 hours, it’s more likely 75.
  4. PROBLEM #5 – Most project managers I have worked with are incapable of knowing the EXACT status of a project, as the developers or team lead CONTINUALLY mislead the actual state of progress as they do NOT want to be berated for being behind.  However, this is NOT the fault of a project manager, it is the fault of management of NOT employing a code check-in reviewer who reviews daily check-ins and compares check-ins against the coding requirements.  Also, most project managers are not coders, so they themselves cannot actually verify the state of the code, code omissions (aka: try|catch with no error handling), empty methods, incorrect models, non-compliance to security, etc.  In my opinion, the project manager must be provided the tools to confirm project status PLUS the skills to determine status down to a code level.
  5. PROBLEM #6 – Management does not set aside time for education, and worse, management does not identify strengths or interests of a developer of where the developer should focus their education and skills. How is it possible for a developer to keep up in a rapidly moving career without knowing what’s going on in the real world?  Based upon our experience with some 200+ clients, only 1% to 2% of them allocated time and budget for skill upgrades of the developers.  This is pathetic, the costs of education is far less than the cost of moving forward with easier to consume technologies.

Software Fails

Summary:

The primary problem is under-estimating the competency required of everyone involved in a technology project.

The secondary problem is management’s inability to understand that tech stacks between layers are separate careers.

The third is that any mistake in the first two proceeding items result in costs and effort to be understated by multiples.

The fourth is that management does not wish to invest in skill upgrades.

It is no wonder that 68% to 70% of technology projects fail.  Or that every day, major organizations report that their data was exploited, hacked or their servers went down. Incompetency has been a HARD FACT for the past decade, as reported by reputable companies such KPMG and others.

ITBGN is in the “business” of software development.  We do not make these mistakes.  We have not failed on 200 projects, YET KPMG and many other reputable and unbiased surveys state that 70% of all technology projects will fail this year. Our commercial infrastructure and policies are unlike In-House.  Our promise is to deliver higher quality software faster, for less.  There is NO value in our services UNLESS we deliver our promise.  We are unlike most commercial development companies that try to emulate an in-house infrastructure.  Even without making these “novice” mistakes, projects can be challenging.  Our clients state they wished they called us first as being a trusted non-offshore Canadian company, we must LEGALLY deliver our promise of providing better software, faster, for less.  We do this everyday.


April 14, 2016 – ITBGN is proud and excited to announce we are the Title Sponsor of the 2016 Better Business Bureau Awards Event for the British Columbia provincial chapter.

With almost 4000 accredited BBB members, the event will showcase some of the most outstanding businesses in British Columbia.  Gary Campbell, ITBGN’s CEO will be presenting the award for the “Innovative Business Practices” category.

As the highest level sponsor of the event, we will enjoy networking with other accredited members whose business ethics and Our Core Business Values exemplify the BBB.

BBB Awards Nominee Cocktail Party
Date: April 21, 2016
time: 5 – 8 pm
Location: THE VIEW ON LONSDALE, 2121 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver

BBB Awards Dinner
Date: June 16, 2016
Time: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location:  The Diamond Ballroom – 4th Floor, 1495 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver


Do the Glue Test First

A wise colleague stated to me “Get it out faster to see if it sticks to the wall”.  Why spend thousands of dollars perfecting the UI (move the image up 2 pixels) or perfecting the data layer for complex Role based functionality on a perception of what you think people want instead of consulting your marketplace first?

My advice is to get the product out sooner than later.  Let people play with the product and provide feedback while informing them it is a “PROTO” release.  Attract groups of people to provide feedback BEFORE embarking on the perfection effort.  Maybe you can get 2 or 3 “things” to stick to the wall in the same time as it takes to perfect a single feature nobody is interested in.

Today, people perform their own research when looking for a product.  Getting them involved sooner than later is a benefit. Once involved, they rarely change gears.

The point I am trying to make is expend effort on winning features, not on efforts which you “think” will be winners.

When something sticks to the wall, go for it.

Using my Stick to the wall approach, you can get people actively involved testing 4 or 5 features they want in the same time as it takes for you to perfect 1 idea that nobody wants.


Non-Profit Cloud Migration

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ITBGN is pleased to announce a major ALBERTA based hosting client funded by the Alberta provincial government.  By providing them with a custom designed solution which included virtual machine servers (such as ACCPAC AND OTHER CRITICAL business applications), Active Directory users and security migration, Exchange server with MS Forefront and AV protection (200 mailboxes), remote desktops, site to site CISCO VPN hardware, SAN drive, tape and offsite backup, the non-profit society can now focus on their tasks and responsibilities instead of being challenged to maintain their networks, data and security.

We also provide them with 24×7 support and regular business day support for their two hundred (200) users, including support for all of their different mobility devices. We did this for less cost than Amazon.  We are also hosting their website for $0.00. No bandwidth charges, no charges for electricity…  We also improved their connectivity as we provide BGP fail-over routing (4 up-streams) and our systems have UPS with 100% redundant fail-over permanent power.

Instant support when you need it.  All migration services.  Low cost data storage with 3 levels of data backups, AD security, security groups, remote device wipes (mail)…   If your non-profit is looking for a provider who handles ALL OF THE DETAILS to provide a seamless custom solution to migrate to the cloud, call us.


BBB A+ Rating

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ITBGN is pleased to announce we have an A+ Rating from the Better Business Bureau.


DEVConnections Sponsorship

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ITBGN sponsored the DEVConnections conference in Las Vegas in September 2014.  We had a great time in Vegas (see pictures of us at DEVConnections), as did the attendees and sponsors.

Official sponsors of the conference were:


DEVIntersection Sponsorship

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ITBGN recently sponsored the DEVintersection conference in Las Vegas in November 2014. The conference was an amazing success for the attendees and ITBGN as well.

We were in good company!  The DEVintersection sponsors were:


Microsoft


Text Control


SQL Sentry


Solliance


.NET ROCKS!


CommVault


SharePoint-Videos.com


CODE


/n software


Red Gate Software


IT Unity


Microsoft ASP.NET


Microsoft Visual Studio


RSSBus


ComponentOne, a division of GrapeCity


Aspose


Microsoft SQL Server


Microsoft Azure


CBTClips


Stackify


SSWUG


Countersoft


combit


Microsoft Office 365




Wintellect


Telerik


ITBGN


Melissa Data


PDSA, Inc.


Using a commission placement fee business model, recruiting agencies are not heavily invested in the success of the company they are placing talent for.  And why should they?  They make a commission for placement, plain and simple.

Do IT recruiters know that the scope of skills the employer is requesting is beyond what a developer can humanly possess?  Does the employer?   While recruiters perform due diligence and expend tremendous energy trying to find the best candidate, due to the commission based business model, there is little incentive for them to inform the employer (if they know) that the scope of expertise requested is far too wide.

Consider this:  The candidate wants the job.  Will they exaggerate their competencies to get it?  Of course.  Yet the candidate will be expected to work using technologies they exaggerated their competency in.  Everyone knows the end result will not be good.

In many cases, employers themselves do not have the skills to assess a candidate’s skill level for specific technologies (that’s why they are hiring the candidate).  This is a classic catch 22.  “We need people with XYZ technology expertise, but we cannot determine the depth of the XYZ expertise the person has.”

When an employer expects scope of experience that is too broad, recruiters should suggest that the employer validate and rank the competencies of the candidate short list using a 3rd party agency.  OR, the recruiter should provide this service using a contracted 3rd party.

After all, it’s in the best in interests of everyone.  Hires will not struggle with technologies they are weak in.  Project timelines will not be multiplied due to exaggerated or weak competency levels.  Project risk is reduced.  And the employer will be extremely satisfied with the recruiter.

A KPMG formal study showed that 70% of corporations do not employ the competency level of skills required for a project.  Think about it.  A whopping 70% of IT projects are being worked on with people who do not have the level of skills required.  Kind of like having a plumber fix the roof.  The industry needs to fix this and recruiters are on the front line and in a position to help.

Here’s my summary:

Many employers expect too wide of scope of expertise because they do not understand the difference between the technologies involved.  As a development professional spanning over 2 decades, I have long concluded the same findings as the KPMG study.  NOT Competent = Incompetent.  Even if the scope seems small,  if the technologies involved span physical layers (such as .NET 3.5/4.0, MS SQL, WCF, CSS, Telerik, jQuery) and the same developer codes all layers, dumb things will be done.  Read this article where 95% of candidates produced nothing when a specific skill was assessed.  And that was AFTER the 50+ candidates were trimmed down to a short-list.

I have seen it time and time again: when developers work with technologies they are weak in, they take 3 to 5 times longer than expected and will inevitably get stuck.  In many cases, working in unfamiliar territory is dangerous to a project.  The industry needs to address over-expectations and recruiters are on the front line and in a position to help.  But the existing recruiting placement fee business model is antagonizing to the process.

That’s my opinion.  Are you are recruiter willing to explore a different business model?  Any suggestions?  Feel free to comment.