Warm welcome to David!

After the start of Carlos on December 16, 2010, we are again very proud and happy to be able to announce that David Wilson, our new Senior Solution Architect, has started to work at Innoveo yesterday!

David has a Bachelor of Science from the Edinburgh University, and is bringing with him 25 years of IT experience in the fields of Software development, engineering and architecture, consulting, and project management. He knows also the Insurance industry quite well, as he was working as a consultant for Winterthur, Zurich, and ZurichRe in the past.

David (in the middle of the picture) at our recent Innoveo X’Mas Event 2010 with Carlos, Nestor, Roy, Oli and Robert).

We are also very happy to welcome our first “English native” speaker, as David is Swiss and … Scottish!

cross-posted on the Innoveo blog

Warm welcome to Carlos!

We are very happy and proud to be able to inform you all that we have hired Carlos Prieto Cañal, our new Senior Solution Architect. Today is the first day of Carlos at Innoveo!

Carlos has a Master Degree in Computer Engineering of the University of Oviedo/Spain, with a Master Thesis pending in Artificial Intelligence. One of his publication:
Hybridizing a Genetic Algorithm with Local Search and Heuristic Seeding

Carlos is also a SUN Certified Java Programmer 6, and has a Master in J2EE Applications development from SUN.

He was working for CSC (Gijon, Spain) in the last 4 years, where he could, among others, acquire knowledge of the Insurance market while he was involved in an international project developed for a major Insurance company based in Swindon/UK during 2 years.

Carlos (middle right of the picture) at our recent Innoveo X’Mas Event 2010 (I will come back to that ;) with Andrea, Nestor, Laurent and Cédric.

Quite a long time that we haven’t got colleagues from Spain in our Team, so it’s a great pleasure to increase also our “internationality” again!

cross-posted on the Innoveo Blog

Do more vs. do better

via Seth Godin

In extenso ;-)

The easiest form of management is to encourage or demand that people do more. The other translation of this phrase is to go faster.

The most important and difficult form of management (verging on leadership) is to encourage people to do better.

Better is trickier than more because people have trouble visualizing themselves doing better. It requires education and coaching and patience to create a team of people who are better.


Innoveo 3rd anniversary!

Yes, already 3 years that we have founded Innoveo!

That was such a dense period, with so many experiences, wow.

As we are now used to, we have celebrated this special day with a good lunch near Zurich. Very good time indeed :-)

Warm thanks to the whole Innoveo team for making all this possible!

Cross-posted on the Innoveo Blog

IMPORTANT: Want a job at Innoveo?

We are searching for an excellent and motivated Software Engineer, with a focus on Java and Web Development, to support us in the development of our standard Software product -Innoveo Skye- at our office in Zurich, Switzerland. Some more information:

  • Web technology: (X)HTML, CSS, AJAX, JSF, jQuery
  • Basis technology: J2EE, Spring, XML & SOAP, Portal
  • Development: Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, Subversion, Maven, Tomcat, TeamCity, TDD, BDD, Scrum/XP
  • Languages: English and German

More information in this pdf (in German).

Do not hesitate to contact me if you need more information. And to spread the news!

Thanks in advance ;-)

Cross-posted on the Innoveo blog.

Lean, Agile & Scrum conference in Zurich

As you may know, Oli (our VP Product at Innoveo) and myself participated last week to the 2nd “Lean, Agile & Scrum” Conference in Zurich, also called LAS 2010.

The topic this year: From the Scrum project to lean enterprise.

Interesting, isn’t it?


  • For me the clear highlight of the day was the presentation of Mary Poppendieck (she has written the first book about Lean development in the Software industry with her husband) – The tyranny of “The Plan” (presentation here). She explained almost all principles and bases that led to the creation of the Scrum methodology. Very convincing ;-)
  • I’ve heard now for three times quite in a row that experienced companies using Scrum are implementing very strictly the Scrum frame (no adaptation and/or tinkering), but are very careful with other Scrum best practices and lessons learnt that cannot be always replicated.
  • Again, we have heard very often how far it is absolutely central to have the software engineering and automatization parts under control by introducing such kind of agile approach. What they call “software craftsmanship”.
  • All were also confirming how long it takes to transform deeply a company ;-)
  • Some speakers were explaining how far they are still struggling with Agile Software Architecture. Seems that maturity in this field is coming quite at the end of the transformation process.
  • Heard also that Scrum doesn’t fit well to Maintenance & Support, and that Kanban is more accurate for organizing these activities (but not enough experience yet to confirm Kanban in this field).
  • Anecdote: the CTO of bbv (about 110 developers using Scrum since 5 years) said that it is not so easy to spread this kind of agile approach, as “Swiss managers like very much to command & control, which is absolutely against the aim of agile approach”. Not sure that this is so particular to Switzerland actually :-)

Mary Poppendieck

The thinking tool called Agile

Henrik Kniberg, presentation

The illusion of a “good tool”, Don’t blame the tool

Good tools are helping to:

  • visualize the workflow
  • limit work in progress
  • focus on quality
  • prioritize
  • empower
  • support continuous improvements

Using the wrong tool vs. using the tool wrong (both have nothing to do with the tool itself)

The aim of going agile has to be linked with the vision and values of the company => be careful to solve the right problem, i.e. the root causes and not symptoms

Agile is simple but hard!

Transforming BBV into an agile company

Marcel Bauman, presentation

Why changing to agile?

  • business requirements are changing a lot, customers are asking for very short projects where you can show step-by-step results, reqs are changing during the projects
  • fun for people and developers
  • young people are coming more and more on the market with agile teaching

Why Scrum?

  • standard method, most used in Europe

Bbv favors (manifesto):

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • responding to a change over following a plan

Scrum works only with:

  • source mgt, continuous integration, wiki, test env
  • need a lot of virtual machines and processing power
  • automate everything that can be automated
  • remote access (VPN) for all employees
  • XP as a base! => 40% of developers don’t like pair programming


  • no reporting on individual level, just project-level
  • incentive on team-level
  • pair programming interviews

The tyranny of “The Plan”

Mary Poppendieck, presentation

Key Success Factors for successful projects:

  • teamwork
  • deeply experienced people
  • focus on key constraint
  • decoupling
  • cash-flow thinking

In other words:

  • design the system to meet the constraints; do not derive constraints from the design
  • break dependencies
  • manage the workflow

Schedules based on experience are reliable. Schedules summed up from task breakdowns are guesses, hypothesis about the future.

Optimize Throughput, not utilization (coming from Queuing theory)!

  • minimize the number of things in process
  • minimize the size of things in process

Level the workload:

  • manage workflow, not tasks
  • establish a regular cadence

Limit work to capacity

  • timebox, don’t scopebox
  • pull, don’t push

Cross-posted on the Innoveo blog.

Corporate Culture: unusual Netflix example


Netflix thinks that “as they grow, they have to minimize rules”. Different approach as what we all know, experience, read. And … Netflix is definitely not a startup anymore! I would like to share with you a document from Netflix I found on SlideShare about their culture and some quite innovative management ideas they have put in place. Feed for thoughts ;-)

Netflix – the company

Sources: Wikipedia, Netflix Shareholder communication

  • Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is an online DVD and Blu-ray Disc rental service, offering flat rate rental-by-mail and online streaming to customers in the United States.
  • Established in 1997 and headquartered in Los Gatos, California, it has amassed a collection of 100,000 titles and approximately 13 million subscribers.
  • The company has more than 55 million discs and, on average, ships 1.9 million DVDs to customers each day.
  • More than 90% of subscribers have evangelized Netflix. More than 70% of subscribers had an existing subscriber recommend Netflix.
  • Number of employees (2009): 2’000+

Netflix reference guide on freedom & responsibility culture

Source: Netflix presentation on SlideShare

Worth an entire read, as the presentation is meant for reading, more than presenting ;-)

Some abstracts:

Their nine values

Great workplace is stunning colleagues:

Great workplace is not day-care, espresso, health benefits, sushi lunches, nice offices, or big compensation,
and we only do those that are efficient at attracting stunning colleagues

The keeper test managers use:

Which of my people,
if they told me they were leaving in two months
for a similar job at a peer company,
would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?

Hard work- not directly relevant

• It’s about effectiveness – not effort – even though effectiveness is harder to assess than effort

• We don’t measure people by how many evenings or weekends they are in their cube

• We do try to measure people by how much, how quickly and how well they get work done – especially under deadline

Our model is to increase employee freedom as we grow,

rather than limit it, to continue to attract and nourish
innovative people, so we have better chance of long-term continued success

Seems like 3 bad options

1. Stay creative by staying small

2. Try to avoid rules as you grow, suffer chaos

3. Use process as you grow to drive efficient execution of current model, but cripple creativity, innovation, flexibility, and ability to thrive when market inevitably shifts

A fourth option:

• Avoid Chaos as you grow with Ever More High Performance People – not with Rules

• Then you can continue to run informally with self-discipline and avoid chaos

• The run informally part is what enables and attracts creativity

With the Right People,

Instead of a Culture of Process Adherence,
Culture of Freedom and Responsibility,
Innovation and Self-Discipline

Mostly, Though, Rapid Recovery is
the Right Model

• Just fix problems quickly

High performers make very few errors

• We’re in a creative-inventive market, not a safety-critical market like medicine or nuclear power

• You may have heard preventing error is cheaper than fixing it

– Yes, in manufacturing or medicine, but…

Not so in creative environments

“Good” vs “Bad” Processes

• “Good” processes help talented people get more done

– Web site push every two weeks rather than random

– Spend within budget each quarter so don’t have to coordinate every spending decision across departments

– Regularly scheduled strategy and context meetings

• “Bad” processes try to prevent recoverable mistakes

– Get pre-approvals for $5k spending

– 3 people to sign off on banner ad creative

– Permission needed to hang a poster on a wall

– Multi-level approval process for projects

– Get 10 people to interview each candidate

Vacation policy and tracking

Until 2004 we had the standard model of N days per year

We’re all working online some nights and weekends, responding to emails at odd hours, and taking an afternoon now and then for personal time.

We don’t track hours worked per day or per week, so why are we tracking days of vacation per year?

We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked.   Just as we don’t have an 9-5 day policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.

Summary of Freedom & Responsibility:

As We Grow, Minimize Rules.
Inhibit Chaos with Ever More High Performance People.
Flexibility is More Important than Efficiency in the Long Term

Appropriate context

The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people

Context, not control

Provide the insight and understanding to enable sound decisions


– Strategy

– Metrics

– Assumptions

– Objectives

– Clearly-defined roles

– Knowledge of the stakes

– Transparency around decision-making


– Top-down decision-making

– Management approval

– Committees

– Planning and process valued more than results

Setting the right context

Managers: When one of your talented people
does something dumb, don’t blame them.
Instead, ask yourself what context you failed to set.

Again, context vs. control

Managers: When you are tempted to “control” your people, ask yourself what context you could set instead

Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled

• Highly Aligned

– Strategy and goals are clear, specific, broadly understood

– Team interactions are on strategy and goals rather than tactics

– Requires large investment in management time to be transparent and articulate and perceptive and open

• Loosely Coupled

– Minimal cross-functional meetings except to get aligned on goals and strategy

– Trust between groups on tactics without previewing/approving each one – groups can move fast

– Leaders reaching out proactively for ad-hoc coordination and perspective as appropriate

– Occasional post-mortems on tactics necessary to increase alignment

Annual comp review

• Hiring is market-based at many firms, but at Netflix we also make the annual comp review market-based

– Applies same lens as hiring

• Essentially, rehiring each employee each year, for purposes of comp

– At annual comp review, manager has to answer the Three Tests for the personal market for each of their employees


• We develop people by giving them the opportunity to develop themselves, by surrounding them with stunning colleagues and giving them big challenges to work on

– Mediocre colleagues or unchallenging work is what kills progress of a person’s skills

• Individuals should manage their own career paths, and not rely on a corporation for planning their careers

Innovation & execution

• Need a culture that supports rapid innovation and excellent execution

• Both required for continuous growth

• There is tension between these two goals; between creativity and discipline

Team work and high-performance people

• Need a culture that supports effective teamwork of high performance people

• High performance people and effective teamwork can be in tension also – stars have strong opinions

Cross-posted on the Innoveo Blog