Monday, March 7, 2016

Book Review: Agile Product Development: How to Design Innovative Products That Create Customer Value

I picked up this book to gain a rich, practitioner’s perspective on the art of product design and development. I call this art because as any true science would propagate, there is no single way to develop the products that customers find valuable. Knowing Tathagat and having followed his work closely over the years, i knew that this book will have practical insights. The insights that are not overly academically oriented and are sought with rich practical Tech. industry experience that Tathagat brings to the fore.

After having read through the book, i can very convincingly say that- it was a time well spent reading the book. It was a time well spent on learning. It was a time well spent on getting that additional 1% perspective that can make a true difference to build products that positively influences the customer's experience.

Let me first say what this book is not. This book is not a primer on best practices. Infact, the way it is narrated- it mostly rejects the notion of best practices. Rather it preaches practitioners to be adaptable to situations and evolve the methodologies. Towards this, it gives insights into various frameworks, methodologies that can be leveraged based on the contexts and limitations under which given projects are being executed. This thinking is quite in alignment with the spirit of Agile manifesto.

Secondly, this book does not over-glorify any single phase of the entire process of Software development. It covers virtually all aspects of building (does not cover marketing/selling) products including Product management, design, development and testing. I could see this balance beautifully maintained throughout this book.

Thirdly, this book will not make you expert in each of the different phases in product development as quite visibly, that's not the intention here. But it gives you an end-to-end perspective of the entire life cycle of building the product, which not many books (atleast in my viewpoint) provides.

In order for me to convey what this book is all about, i would better say it with the quotes from the book that i shared (as tweets) while reading this book. Some of them are as below-

- Deliver Not documents … but the software! #AgilevsWaterfall
- Work estimation is not a mechanical activity. If anything, it is a social activity.
- An old saying goes that walking on water and working on product requirement are very easy— if only they were both frozen!
- Human-centered design is a mindset that recognizes we can build better products by learning from our users.
- “Design is a popular subject the face of increasing competition, design is the only product differentiation"- Deiter Rams, 1976
- "Develop customers in a similar fashion as we develop products—start with several hypotheses and rigorously test them..." - Steve Blank
- At last count, Google had done 178 acquisitions, Yahoo! 112, Cisco 170, and even a company as young as Facebook had done 53 acquisitions.
- Agile takes the idea of a cross-functional team to a “self-organizing team” which is beyond silos, adapts itself & acquire newer competencies
- There is a saying in the Swiss Army manual—when the map and the terrain disagree, trust the terrain!
- Processes are meant to serve people— not the other way round.
- For today’s businesses, adaptation is key. Process is secondary. And the specific flavor of process is a distant tertiary.
- "Agile process" is an oxymoron
- In the past man has been first. In the future the System will be first. —Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Mgmt, 1911
- There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement, otherwise you’ve made a discovery.
- "Reality is that following an agile process, or any process for that matter, makes us “un-agile."

In all, the book is quite rich in references- some of which i read during the course of reading and few others i have bookmarked for future. This book rightly promotes Agility as a mindset and set of values and practices rather than a written-in-stone process and it makes this point very well. Already in my re-read list.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Recent (bad) Experience of Fuel Theft by HP Petrol Pump

HP Petrol Pump at Koramangla
This is my story of catching the pilferage at HP Petrol Pump at Koramangla 3rd Block, Bengaluru. 

Below sequence of events are from Thursday, 3rd-Mar-2016, starting around 5:35 PM.

1.       I had visited HP petrol pump to fuel-up my vehicle. I always go for full tank while filling in Diesel and I fill the fuel roughly once per month.
2.       On the said day, Thursday, 3rd-Mar-2016, I went to this petrol pump in Bengaluru and asked for full tank.

.       As I drive a Scorpio, my average full tank bill hovers around INR 2300-2400. This time, the attendant filled up the fuel and stopped at INR 1986 and asked me whether I want to top-up. The top-up is a term that the fuel attendants use when the fuel being put in the tank touches the nozzle. The top-up means if I want to fill the fuel to the brim. I usually say No to this request and this is what I did that day too.
4.       Seeing the bill as only INR 1986 surprised me a bit especially given the fact that Diesel price was increased just a few days back on 1st-Mar. By this increase, I should have ideally got higher bill. Since this struck me odd, I checked my fuel indicator in the vehicle, which listed that its just about less than 3/4th filled.
5.       The fuel tank indicator clearly indicated that my tank was not full, which I had originally requested.
Litre reading is blank

6.       I asked the attendant if there is some problem. While I was asking this, I noticed that the measure on the pump only indicated the cost of fuel transaction i.e. INR 1986 but it didn’t indicate how many liters of diesel were consumed. (see the image on the side- the litres reading is blank )

Manual receipt hurriedly created
    .       While I gave my credit card for billing, I asked the attendant on how many liters worth fuel was put couple of times. I didn’t get a clear answer. Then suddenly, one of the attendants created a manual receipt written by hand that said 41 litres and INR 1986. He probably assumed that i will take this and go.

   .       I questioned him back on why the pump is not showing the liter reading as it normally does. Seeing me question so much, they started talking among themselves.

   .       One of the guys from HP who was attending, then attached the machine to the pump where nozzle
rests and generated the printed bill for my fuel transaction. And to my amusement and anger, it showed that the diesel consumed was 33.33 Ltrs (see the image) and the actual cost of transaction was INR 1616.838

After seeing this, I gave the HP attendants piece of my mind and made sure to tell each and every person at the petrol pump who were filling in the fuel on what these guys just did to me. In all the rush, the attendants, seeing me create a scene, quietly said Sorry to me and handed over the remaining INR 370. After handing over, again said sorry to me.
It’s such a shame that fuel companies do such pilferage and have such a corrupt mindset at the grass-root level.

Just wanted to share some of my learnings from this incident in the end-
1.       Please do check the fuel pump reading properly while the fuel is being filled.
2.       Please ensure that post fuel filling the fuel pump shows both liter readings and the amount of the bill. In my case the litres were clearly missing and that would have been intentionally done.

3.       Ask for the machine generated receipt. Do not go for handmade receipt.

    Update on 13th-Mar-2016:
    Thanks to my friends in Facebook for sharing this ordeal, to my surprise, this blog eventually reached the In-charge of the petrol pump under question and he updated the following as a comment in my blog on 9th-March, 2016.
     Anonymous Anonymous said...
     Dear Mr. Anju,
     Thanks for sharing cheating incidence. I request you provide your contact number.
     March 9, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      After a few exchanges over the comments, i requested Prakash to send me an email where i sent my contact details. I received the following email-

     Prakash did diligently call on the same day and even followed-up when i was not able to receive his call a couple of times. I spoke to him around 9:00 PM or so. He said the following to me-
1. He acknowledged why he was calling me.
2. He said that he has seen the CCTV footage since gave exact time and acknowledged that some of his staff has indeed cheated.
3. He further suggested me to come over to Petrol pump. He requested to come with an empty tank and said that he will ask the employees who cheated to completely fill the petrol talk. Post that he will ask them to pay me for full tank from their pocket and will fire me post it. He said to inform me before i came.
4. Though it sounded like a good gesture on his part but it lead to some unanswered questions in my mind like-
   - If he has seen the CCTV footage, then why is he asking me to come ? He can fire the employees just based on that.
   - Why is he asking me to come only empty tank (he suggested that 2-3 times).
   - Why should i trust him ?
5. I did question whether he was not in the petrol pump when the incident happened. He said that he had gone for lunch. It again sounded fishy on why would any go on lunch break close to 6:00 PM in the morning.
I eventually decided to stop following-up due to these open questions but learned a good deal from this experience.