7 deadly smells

A fish rots from the head they say and that's certainly what appears to be happening to many enterprises. But if you are a CEO of an enterprise company I'm not sure how you are supposed to know what is going on in the world. Technology has taken over and a lot of what you thought you knew just isn't true anymore. You're probably a certain age, a certain gender and a certain sexuality. When you grew up the world operated in a certain way. People like you were in charge. Now there are these mobile phone thingies, these crazy tech companies like Facebook have multi-billion dollar valuations and no matter what you do you don't seem to be able to make anything work quite like they do.

Maybe you can just blame your CIO for this mess. How many have you had in the last few years? is it getting any better? No. I thought not.

So I thought I'd write a helpful guide for these folks that they could use to at least sense check whether they have a problem with technology, or not, as I expect their existing technology leadership tell them.

It's not long. I know you're, errrrr... busy. Or something.

release time

How long does it take you to release software? If it takes anything longer than 20 minutes you probably have a problem. If it takes more than an hour you definitely have a problem. If it takes multiple hours you have a laughably serious problem.

This is a very specific question. You can ask it about each one of your systems.

cycle time

How long does it take you to deliver an idea that you had? I bet it's months. More than 6 months I bet. This is a problem. It means you're not cutting the idea down to the essentials. And it means your tech leaders are spending time on over engineering (I know! that sounds incredible because your systems seem so poor, how could they be spending time gold plating??).

you have one size fits all for your IT tools

Your developers particularly need different tools to your business people. Engineering, after all, is all about tools, hammers, lathes, microscopes. IT engineering is no different. If you have a corporate IT department that are putting in one strategy for everyone, or worse, some outsourced arrangement doing the same thing, then you are likely causing massive problems for building quality software. Technology has made it possible for us to manage more complexity. So why are your IT people constantly arguing to simplify things?

do you have manual sign off?

Are your business people affraid to release your software? do they insist on having a manual sign off by them before software is released? then you have a major problem. You probably have people who's job it is to test your website in the dumbest way possible. You don't want to be spending money on that. It also means your programmers aren't spending time making sure this stuff works.

your tools are all 10 years old

Java, for example. If your technical people say "we use tried and trusted tools" it's not a good sign. Technology is about the application of new things. We all know that the rate of change is accelerating. So why are you using things that are 10 years old? It's probably coz the other straight, white guys you've hired to run technology are comfortable with what they used when they were still real engineers, instead of the managers they've been turned into. You know the rate of change is accelerating so why do you accept what they're telling you? it's obviously false.

you don't publish open source software

Software isn't like other things. Another thing you know implicitly. People spend a lot of time comparing it to building a house, or a soufle. It's not. It's nothing like those things. Non-technical people compare it to those things because they know you need a comparison you understand. One of the ways software is different is that it's better when it's collaborative. Open source is like, the ultimate, collaboration. You need to be doing it. If you're not, you're doing it wrong. Check.


Are nearly all your programmers blokes? This leads to poor teams. That might sound counter intuitive because the Rugger and Footie teams at school were all chaps, right? But then the Rugger and Footie team probably also not known for their scientific understanding or creativity. Having everyone the same leads to group think and tolerance of the failure of that sort of individual. That is the enemy of good technology.

Note that it's not enough to check you have ladies wandering around the tech department. Find out how many non-white and non-male programmers you have.

You want to test my assertion? try a tame locker room joke and see how your programmers respond.


These are just 7 things. Note that I didn't talk about how much you pay for good IT people. I don't think you'd listen to that. I think you'll learn that one for yourself if you start to challenge people on these above.

Why should you challenge your people? Well, these are just 7 little things right? Why would it be a problem asking?