Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Work on something that matters and learn to love it

I have just finished reading "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. During a family visit to Disney Land in 1969, Randy and his sister bought a set of ceramic salt and pepper shaker as a gift to their parents with all their savings. As they were leaving the store to take the next ride, the set slipped from his hands and broke. The siblings knew that they should have been more careful, but one of the shoppers who saw this told them to talk to the employees at the store. They did not want to do it at first but then decided to go to the store and explain the situation. To their surprise, they got a new set after they told the store employees what happened. After this event Randy and his family became a true Disney fan. His parents returned to Disney multiple times with their volunteer troupes. Randy himself worked at the Disney Imagineering lab (not only this was his childhood dream, he also wanted to give back to Disney). That small return from Disney eventually earned them almost $100,000 over the years. Randy calls it running a business with heart.

I like this story because it teaches us two things,
1) Be honest and Never Give Up : Most of the times if our life we want to give up easily. But if we are honest and reach out to the right people, we can get a lot in return. Randy and his sister was outright honest with the store employees and they admitted their callousness. They could have just given up and carried on through the rest of the day with a sad face.

2) Companies with vision and heart will sustain: Walt Disney not only had a great imagination but wanted to create a fun place for children and parents. That day in 1969 store employees carried Walt Disney's vision more than anything. Over years, probably that vision has become blurred while managing stockholder expectations. While working for Disney, Randy asked executives whether they still have the same policy as it was in '69, and all he got was a confused look from the executives. However I am sure, Walt Disney's passion, humility and good heart helped the company survive over four decades.

Tim O'reilly's keynote speech at the NY Web 2.0 Expo jives with my second point. His message to all of us was - "While you are working towards your first billion, do something that matters". Something that matters - is a simple sentence yet no so simple when you think about it. What matters in today's world? How can we become global citizens and think about the impacts of our decisions globally and locally? While the companies who already made billions may not care about lot of things, but it creates an opportunity for companies like us to start fresh with game changing ideas, vision and most importantly to something that can change our world for better.

What matters to Code71? We started this company with the vision to make Bangladesh an attractive destination to global outsource market and while doing so motivate, coach, educate and encourage the software engineers to become globally competitive. It is not easy to achieve that. We need to sacrifice our individual goals and greed and work for a greater common good - improving the perception of our country globally. We hope with our talented workforce we will be able to achieve that soon.

Talking about our talents, Syed presented on Agile QA at 2008 Stockholm Scrum gathering. You can download his presentation from our Code71 site. Fattah submitted a Rails plug in to Google Project on behalf of Code71. You can find the project at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Code71 celebrates 2-year anniversary

We (Syed and Nimat) were in Dhaka from May 1st till June 5th. It was a busy month for us as well as the rest of the team, so the weeks passed like a moment.

We celebrated our 2-year anniversary on May 18th. It's hard to believe 2 years have passed since we started. I am sure some of us still rememeber the small informal place where we started our operation in May 2006. It is a major milestone for any startup. From a humble begining with a 3-member team, we are now a 17-member team. Check our site for our latest team profile. A few of our achievements over the last 2 years that we are proud to share with you,

  1. We have become experts using Ruby on Rails and Amazon's cloud computing.
  2. We have become experts in using Scrum for remote delivery. We are presenting a paper on this topic at Agile Alliance conference in August 2008.
  3. We have built a Web-based project management tool- ScrumPad. We and our clients are using it everyday. We are getting ready for the Beta release soon.
  4. Our client list is growing.

We still have a long way to go and a lot to achieve. We are looking forward to the coming years to handle new challenges, growth and partnership. We could not come this far or cannot go further without our team's support. But behind our team's success we feel that our family and friends played a vital role. So, we decided to show our appreciation to our family and friends by including them in our 2-year celebration party at Jamuna Resort. It was a great day with family and friends. The team played basketball, soccer, and then chill out in the pool. Sohan brought sweets from his hometown Tangail. The sweets were very yummy and I don't know about others, but I had 3 of those. Later in the afternoon, we went for a boat ride on the river. The scorching May heat bothered us a little, but we were a hotter are some photos from our trip.

During our visit we met with Munir Bhai from Bangladesh Open Source Network. When Munir bhai propsed that we should conduct a Ruby on Rails workshop in Bangladesh, we jumped at the idea. BDOSN organized and advertised the event, Code71 conducted the workshop, and IICT, BUET hosted the workshop. So right after we got back from our Jamuna Resort trip, we got busy with planning and developing the 4 day course. Fuad, Zahid, Ratul, Faruk, Rubaiat, Sami and Sohan taught the class. They did an excellent job. The three-way partnership- BDOSN, IICT, and Code71 was a scuccess. We have also established a Ruby on Rails Google group to provide support to RoR community in Bangladesh. Our group name is code71_on_rubyonrails. Join the group today and let's promote RoR adoption in Bangladesh and learn as community.

Instructors, Students and Organizers from the RoR Workshop

I am going to end our this month's blog with some issues that we have been pondering about at Code71. We are interested in what others are thinking about these issues. Lately we have been reading or hearing about Bangladesh's potential as an IT outsourcing destination. However, it seems we are still struggling to figure out how to unleash that potential. We will leave you with where our thoughts are,

  1. How do we address the infrastructure (e.g., power, reliable and affordable Internet bandwidth) issues?

  2. How do we attract enough students to study computer science to support the potential growth?
  3. How do we put in place a sustainable training & education programs that will produce enough progranmers

  4. How do we market Bangladesh as an outsourcing alternative and get our customers interested?

    Are you also trying to find the answers to these questions? Let's talk.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Code71 at Scrum Gathering Spring 2008, Chicago

We attended Scrum Gathering Spring 2008 in windy city Chicago. This was our first time at this event. Some facts for the curious-

1. It was 8th gathering. If you don't know, Scrum Alliance hosts such events 2 times a year- one in the US during spring, and the other in Europe during fall.

2. 15 people attended in the 1st event 4 years ago. This time we had about 250 attendees.

3. Scrum is rising in popularity and so is the membership to the alliance. It has 27000+ members.
We also did a presentation on our experience in using Scrum on a large Government project, an unlikely place to consider Scrum. The presentation was well received. See Syed in action-

You can get the presentation from either the Scrum Alliance Web site or our company Web site. We also attended two sessions offered by Mike Cohn, the author of two very popular agile books, on effective story writing and estimation. We met many people. The highlights of our attendance were our lunches with Ken Schwaber (co-developed the Scrum process with Jeff Sutherland in the early 1990s) and Mike Cohn. Ken recently started recommending that Scrum of Scrum is unnecessary. He explained why at the conference as an Open Space topic. Some raised eyebrows, some were concerned, while some questioned the recommendations.

The most interesting part of the gathering was the Open Space. We participated in the Open Space sessions for the first time. It was a great experience. Open Space is a self-organizing way of conducting conference sessions/meetings. I think all conferences should have a part organized in Open Space fashion. We had great conversations on latest challenges and practices at the Open Space. One interesting topic was Lean/Kanban vs Agile/Scrum. Apparently a team at Yahoo is experimenting with Lean/Kanban for software development. After learning how it works from the person who is leading the team, our thought was it seemed like a great idea on pen and paper, but "it is not for software development." Later more on this topic. All in all, it was a great experience. We would recommend anyone practicing Agile/Scrum to attend one of these gatherings. We plan to attend the Fall gathering this year in Stockholm. We hope to see you there...:-)

By the way, we decided to postpone our Beta release of ScrumPad until the end of May. We are trying to decide on a long-term hosting platform for it. We are experimenting with Amazon cloud computing infrastructure. If we do move to AWS EC2, we probably will also introduce a new subscription model. So stay tuned for more on this.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Upcoming ScumPad Beta Release in April

February and March have been very busy for us. Besides working on ScrumPad and client projects, we have been participating in conferences and workshops in Bangladesh and in the USA. Hence a long delay in posting this blog.

We had a successful alpha release of ScrumPad in February. Now we are working fast and furious on upcoming beta release in April. Today we want to share with you our philosophy behind ScrumPad.

If you ask us what sets ScrumPad apart from its competitors? We will say its simplicity and intuitiveness with its focus on collaboration at the core. Unlike many other similar tools, we strive to reduce the need for configuration. We believe in "convention over configuration" like the platform behind ScrumPad- Ruby on Rails. With ScrumPad, Scrum framework already defines the convention, we are making it available through the tool. If you are familiar with Scrum, you will feel right at home when using ScrumPad. It is the first tool to recognize the four core roles of Scrum- Product Owner, Scrum Master, Developer (team member), and Stakeholder. No matter what role(s) you play within a project, you only need to focus on your job, not spend time in managing the relationship among artifacts that you produce as part of your job. The tool automatically manages those relationship for you. You might be saying that is expected, otherwise why would I use a tool? I am better off using plain old Excel spreadsheet. We say you are absolutely right. And we make it seamless. We capture and manage the links among different artifacts (bugs, chat conversation, design elements, issues, time, impediments) centered around stories. We ask you to take a test drive. It is free. We would love to hear what you think. Even better, help us shape ScrumPad and make it your favorite tool.

We were also busy introducing Scrum Framework to non-profit organizations. We offered a Webinar organized by NTEN on February 19. The session was appreciated by the attendees. We received requests for follow-up Webinars on related topics. Please stay tuned for such seminars from our Web site as well as from NTEN's in the near future.

We also offered a seminar on Social Networking tools for non-profits as well as Scrum at the annual VAFRE conference in March. We are now preparing for a presentation at the Spring Scrum Gathering in Chicago. We will be sharing our experience using Scrum on a government project. We hope to meet you there.

Out of our busy life, four of our guys managed to attend a 2-day Scrum training class in Bangalore in the last week of February. The training was conducted by Pete Deemer of Goodagile ( Even though the journey was hectic, but the trip was successful. Congratulations Omar, Zahid, Sohan, and Fuad for becoming CSM (Certified Scrum Master). Here is our picture with the instructor:

During the class, we met participants from Microsoft Global Services (India), IBM, Yahoo, Infosys, First Indian Corporation (an offshore office of First American Corporation), Cognigent and some other big companies. It was exciting to find out that even though we have been using Scrum only for 1.5 years, we can be proud of all the practices we have established so far. It seems that most of the attendees were interested in understanding how to mange projects with fixed budget as well as projects with teams at multiple locations.

Congratulations to Sohan for becoming an MCTS (MCP).

We have a new member in our Code71 family: Hafij. Welcome to the team!!!!

Expect to hear more about Scrum and ScrumPad after our trip from Scrum Gathering ....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

ScrumPad- an Agile/Scrum Project Management Tool

We are very excited to share with everybody that we are nearing our alpha release of ScrumPad, an Agile/Scrum software project management and collaboration tool. We are targeting February the 19th for an official announcement of ScrumPad alpha release at our Webinar on Scrum for NTEN (a non-profit technology network) members. We believe ScrumPad will be the best tool out there. We are not just saying this because we are developing it, but because we are using it daily to meet our needs. It all started with our dissatisfaction with tools currently available in the market. We said "there gotta be a better way." Here is a little history behind our ScrumPad initiative.

We use Scrum for managing all our software development activities. We started with good old Excel spreadsheet and emails for keeping track of our stories/feature requests, bugs, iterations (sprints), burndown charts, and times. However, in remote delivery environment, it soon became a major headache. We looked for a suitable agile project management and collaboration tool at a reasonable price. We selected Version One in 2006. Although it provided a lot of flexibility, but it took us a good couple months to learn how to use it. When we asked our clients to start using it, they also found it difficult to learn. So, we looked for another tool that is simple to use. And we found one called Basecamp. I am sure many of you are using it. We all including our clients picked up the tool in no time. Life became easy. However, since it was not designed for Scrum, we had to improvise how to adapt it for Scrum (If you are interested to learn how we are using it for Scrum, just give us a shout. We will be happy to share our adaptation of Basecamp for Scrum). One glaring issue though still remained with Basecamp. Its time tracking mechanism was not suitable for Scrum and so we had to continue to use Version One. But using two tools for managing projects became a hassle. So, we finally decided to build something that will make our life simple forever.

One sleepless night, Omar came up with the name ScrumPad and quickly laid out a basic outline/concept for the tool. We all liked the name and immediately got the domain. And now three months later, it took its own life. The team is hard at work creating the most simple, yet complete Web 2.0 Agile/Scrum management tool. For the geeks out there, we are building the tool on RoR platform. We will share our experiences with RoR on our site and in our blogs in the coming weeks.

We are currently looking for alpha customers. If you are in the same boat as we were just a few months ago, please write to us (respond to this blog) to express your interests in becoming our esteemed alpha customers. Please hurry while it lasts...:-)