Design, Develop, Create

Friday, 20 October 2017

Learner's links


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

MSc in Advanced Software Engineering - part-time applications

The UCD School of Computer Science invites applications for the part-time MSc in Advanced Software Engineering, starting in December 2017. This programme is tailored for the industry-based software engineer who wants to develop their skills further and gain a higher degree, without taking a break from full-time employment. Participants attend six, one-week-long modules over a two-year period, and undertake a masters project in the latter half of their second year.

The modules currently on offer are: Performance of Distributed Systems, High Performance Computing, Agent-Oriented Software, Comparative Software Engineering Process Frameworks, Knowledge-based Techniques in Software Engineering, Computational Network Analysis and Modelling, and Design Patterns.

The masters project itself is developed in negotiation with your advisor, and is usually based on your own proposal.

The UCD School of Computer Science is ranked as the joint top Computer Science department in Ireland, according to the 2016 QS World University Rankings.

For further information including student testimonials and how to apply, please see here:

If you have any questions, just email the programme director, Mel Ó Cinnéide, at

(on Linkedin:

Friday, 6 October 2017

Two industry seminars / careers presentations Wed 11th.

Open invite to seminar arranged by the MSc Business Analytics programme. 
On Wednesday 11th Oct in Lecture Theatre 1.
Version 1
Title: Accelerating the Value of Data Analytics
Time: 4.15-5pm
Location: Lecture Theatre 1
1) The move to Open Data Science and importance of IT & Data Governance
2) DevOps Fundamentals.
3) DevOps to DataOps
4) Tools for DataOps, How V1 uses them
5) Introduction to the Version 1 Accelerate Graduate Campaign.

Followed by.
Title: Opportunities within PwC
Time: 5.30-5.45pm
Location: Lecture Theatre 1

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Gathering and managing requirements

User requirements and analysis is often considered to be the starting point for the systems development process. There are many requirements management frameworks most of which are basically templates and checklists for gathering and recording a variety of user-oriented data.

  • Atlassian's Confluence/Jira offers a sophisticated holistic model for capturing, storing, presenting requirements for future development. See this example from the Confluence/Jira tutorial (link).
  • A typical/conventional/traditional requirements document; source - a student engineering project (link)
A selection of typical requirements documents.
Some musings on requirements:
Product requirements can be thought of as a rather unique kind of shopping list; a shopping list written by (more often on behalf of) the user, and written for (usually by) the developer to deliver. Taking the analogy further; the requirements shopping list is for a shop where the shelves are initially empty because the things the user wants haven’t been made yet. Alternatively there may be something on the shelf that approximates what the user wants but it’s not quite right and needs to be customized. To compound this seemingly odd situation we may also find that product requirements may be written (created) by someone who is neither the customer (user) nor the designer (developer). In this situation those charged with requirements capture have a lot of responsibility and power to influence the design process. Product requirements lie between the user and the designer and act as a communication device between the two. The requirements document is merely a representation of a potentially unbounded set of product requirements therefore the process used to create the representation is perhaps more significant that the document itself.

Links of interest?

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Previous research topic titles

Previous research topic titles listed below:
  • Using the Trinity ID as a starting point, how can iDly update that system in order to enhance the features of their digital ID cards?
  • How to improve the Dash students’ experience?
  • how to enhance the design and development features of a dog minding platform through a usability and feasibility study
  • BRS Golf Booking System
  • Plynk - the money messenger
  • Can sleep apps improve your sleep troubles?
  • Improving Hailo
  • Aer Lingus iOS app usability study
  • Usability analysis on IPF app for Patient M Power
  • How can the “dublinbikes” mobile application better reflect and channel the innovative nature of bike sharing 
  • The Dublin Bus Mobile Application: usability analysis
  • GiapSchool usability study and improvement
  • UCD Mobile: Usability & Requirements Study and Development proposal
  • Roomys Evaluation and Improvement Project
  • Effy solutions usability study and design proposal
  • Metrifit usability, requirements analysis and feasibility study to update extant system.
  • External Brain: Experiencing Evernote
  • Design and development proposal for ChildDiary v2.0
  • Buymie v1.2.0 – Usability Study
  • “Pay and Display” Is displaying necessary?
  • Cocoon: Lessons Learned From Evaluating a Software Startup.
  • A proposal for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system upgrade
  • (Kammavari Sangha Institute of Technology) KSIT website debunked
  • Redesign and Recreate a System for an Agency of Home Appliances Maintenance and Repair Services
  • Improving Trancehub
  • Selling, Point of Sale and Shop Systems for JD Sports
  • Smart Baggage Claim for RFID Enabled Airports
  • Coapp - collaboration tool for web designers
  • A Website Redesign of Ard Scoil Ris
  • Upgrading of Irish Light Rail ‘Luas Tram’ Ticketing and Fare Collection Machine
  • ‘Echo - The Premier Communication Application’
  • In-Car Voice Interaction System Redesign Proposal
  • Product for Bass Guitar to Midi Converter
  • Website Redesign Proposal for U.C.D Applied Language Centre
  • Redesigning Dublin’s Traffic Control System
  • Redesign of an Existing System Cineworld Ticket ATMs
  • Using Technology to Restructure Services
  • Tesco Mobile App: Connecting Recipes and Shopping function
  • UX/ID for Irish Multiplex Cinemas
  • To Improve the User Interface of the Blackboard Learn System
  • A Redesign Proposal for the Website
  • UPC Horizon UX Issues
  • CRM for an Online Insurance Broker - A Case Study
  • Stamp App - The Future of Postage Stamps
  • Redesign Proposal of PAYE Anytime
  • Android application for shopping and payment purposes with the use of NFC technology
  • HR System Functionality and Leave Management
  • Online Banking: A study of two Irish Bank’s and Possible Improvements
  • Leap Card New payment system proposal
  • Improving RTE Player
  • An Analysis and re-design of the current E-xamit website
  • Tool Repair System
  • UCARD System Development
  • Self-Service Library Machine: 3M ‘R-Series Model ‘8600’
  • Improving Tesco Self-Service Checkout
  • Bank of Beijing Personal Internet Banking System
  • SiSWeb – Redesign Proposal
  • Enhancing the Reporting Capabilities of a Banking Organisation
  • I-Concentrate - Control access to Apps, Networks, and Websites
  • A Redesign of the Current ATM System in Ireland
  • Improving user Experience on CopiPrint Machines
  • Introducing Mobile Payment to Irish Transportation
  • Bus Éireann Website and Tech Services
  • An Analysis and Redesign of Ticketmaster Event Ticketing Service Provider
  • Proposed Redesign of the Mantis Issue Tracking System
  • A Redesign of the Twitter Newsfeed
  • Analysis of current Intranet Facilities and Proposed Redesign
  • Re-design of the Ulysses self-service Help Desk module used by St. John of God Hospitaller Ministries
  • Redesign of Ryanair Website
  • Ad Server
  • LEAP Integrated Ticketing System
  • How can we do better?
  • Report on Sony Entertainment Network’s Online Store And Proposed Recommendations
  • Application Virtualization: An Aid for OS Migration (Windows)
  • Gamification of McDonalds App
  • Redesign Proposal
  • Trolly Folly: An Analysis of the Ryanair Online Shopping Experience
  • The Introduction of a paid car parking solution to the UCD Campus locations of Belfield and Blackrock
  • Improving the M50 Eflow toll system
  • Payzone Parking Tag
  • Protecting ATM Users from Fraud

Guest seminar - Version 1 - The Consultant’s Guide to Business Benefit

A presentation by Version 1's Sanket Dubey (MSc DI alumnus) and Alan Reilly - Learning & Development Consultant
Monday- 9th Oct @10 AM. Room D101, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, Blackrock, Dublin.
Google maps reference with room location and suggested parking zones.

The title of the talk is "The Consultant’s Guide to Business Benefit", a presentation and discussion about implementing CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) IT systems for the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine.

At go-live over €1 billion of EU Direct Payments were made to farmers in the first 3 months of system deployment, the highest volume of online payment of any EU member state.
Verison1 is the Irish Consulting, Solutions and Outsourced Managed Services Company
See Version 1, case studies -

Monday, 2 October 2017

Cantilever Exercise 2017

Cantilever Exercise 2017 - Class 1

Cantilever Exercise 2017 - Class 2

Design elegance - easier to understand, programme, and simpler to make

Thank you Jerome for sharing this with us... Wozniak inspired by Nova Computer

Readings, precis, impact, application

Prompting questions:
  • What did I learn from reading this article?
  • What was the intention of the authors?
  • Who is the audience for the article?
  • How could I use the article?

Readings are often difficult to understand or alternatively, to interpret and make sense of. I've often read a paper and said to myself "so what", "it's obvious", "what's the appeal of this stuff?" Sometimes I've been confused, overwhelmed with detail or just don't get the point. I've also read papers that have set off ideas, recalled past experiences, given an outlook that changes something I thought I knew well but now see in a different light.

Writing a precis of a paper turns the whole process back on itself somewhat; I go from being the reader of the paper to being a writer. Writing about a paper demands something of me, not just my impression of the paper and the information contained within, but how I felt about the ideas expressed, how I saw them applied, and reflected on their wider impact.

Written comments on a reading need to be succinct (if you go past a page then perhaps you should be writing a new paper?), and impact-full. Get to the point, don't just summarise, criticise! Refer to other works in a meaningful way (counter examples, supporting examples), and reflect on the bigger picture. If there are implications for practitioners and practice then state them, particularly if they are personal, affecting you.

When criticising a paper you should always attempt to be fair. Criticise it on its terms, not because it doesn't address certain areas that you think are more important; there may be good reasons for a paper's omissions: limited space, out of scope, irrelevance.

Finally, keep to the limits, wordcounts shouldn't be treated as "targets". If you can say less then say less; less is often more. It takes time to distill your comments and the result is often unexpected, but often in good ways.

  • Pick out some aspect of interest from the paper
  • Comment on it (there are no wrong answers, it's just an opinion)
  • Link it back to Managing Systems Development
  • And consider linking your argument with pertinent external readings.
Try not go off on a tangent or indulge yourself in a flight of fancy. But if the paper sets off your creative side then explain your logic:
"The reading included a discussion of X which made me consider Y (not in the reading) because...".
Relate it back to the course; to continue:
"...but both X & Y are pertinent to Z which we have seen is a fundamental of Managing Systems Development"

(II) IONA's Genesis - 1 (case)

Iona’s Genesis
"New York, 26th February 1997, 9.29am. The coming of age after six years of infancy. A Croke Park-pitch size of a room with hundreds of computer screens replacing the light lost by blind-dimmed windows, replete with silently intense players grizzled beyond their age. The second-hand tranquilly rotates to mark the opening of the market at 9.30am, and the Lehman Brothers trading room explodes, keyboards pounding, phones shrilling answered with bronx cacophony. Our own stock opens its very first day up, our trading volume is good, and our initial public offering (IPO) on the US Nasdaq stock exchange is completed after a full year of preparation with our bankers, underwriters, analysts, and lawyers." (Chris Horn, 2012)
The narrative of Iona’s trajectory to success can be summed up in a sentence. IONA progressed from campus company in 1991, releasing Orbix in ’92, IPO on NASDAQ in ’97, and over the next 15 years spawning over 20 other spin-off companies before being acquired by Progress Software in 2008. The detail of IONA's history however is more complex and interesting (Baker, 2000).

Trinity College's Distributed Systems Group (DSG) was a small team of academics and engineers conducting research and development into the problem of inter-network computing architectures. The DSG had become a centre for excellence in distributed systems technology and more importantly in distributed object technology. Over the previous 14 years many of them had become international experts and built up a wealth of experience in designing and building distributed systems support platforms. Their research was supported initially by the college and then by the the EU through the (then) EEC Espirt research programmes. The leap from the academic to the commercial world was tempting as industries like banking and telecommunications embraced networks and internets.

Figure: Iona's Engineering division mission statement
A Trinity College Dublin campus company, IONA occupied space in Trinity's rambling offices along Westland Row before spilling into office space on Pierce Street. At its height IONA would eventually employ over 1,000 people around the globe, providing work for many of the academics, researchers and post-grads from the DSG but at the end of that first week as an independent firm only seven new employees marked the occasion quietly with a toast at Mahaffey’s pub.

IONA's founder talent all came from this environment of academically led technological innovation and they were active contributors to the process of defining standards-based distributed object technology.
“[T]he start-up had three staff – Chris Horn, Sean Baker and Annraí O’Toole. But it had no bank balance, no marketing budget and no physical assets... On the other hand, the founders of Iona did not need to make a complete break from academic life or their incomes as lecturers. They could reduce their teaching time over three years, while they built up the company.” (Sterne, 2004)
Iona’s Justin Mason set up one of the first 100 servers on the new worldwide Internet. became the first non-academic Irish website (Mason, 2009) and Iona’s software could be downloaded on-line via FTP access – a radical departure from the conventional thinking that software came in a box or on disks.

During the early years the organisation funded itself through C++ training and consultancy services. Professional services work (aka consulting), brought in needed revenue from the Irish divisions of multinational technology firms like ICL and DEC. While the consulting wasn't as profitable as software sales it did produce unanticipated benefits. Delivering training and services contracts acted to expand the spread of object oriented skills and knowledge in wider industry. It produced new customers for Iona’s products and a cadre of skilled engineers many whom would subsequently work for Iona. They also leveraged their relationships in the local offices of multinationals to reach out internationally.

Inter-networked software was the heart of Iona's value proposition and its employees took advantage of the growing possibilities of the net.  IONA attracted talented people across all the disciplines: technology, programming, product management, legal, marketing and sales and more. In time many went on to start their own companies, innovating and playing influential roles in the open source movement, in standards development and other areas.

At the official launch at Object World in San Francisco in 1993 Orbix 1.0 defined and led the international trend to internet enabled computing. IONA was the first to market with its release of a commercial implementation of the CORBA standard. Orbix ran on Windows, Solaris, HPUX, and a long list of other operating systems (Durham, 2001).

Distributed systems arise organically in (and between) organisations because they allow specialised divisional applications to interoperate via standard interfaces with other applications running anywhere on the net. Iona’s Orbix technology enabled all these different programs to work together independent of their operating system or hardware platforms.

Iona was surfing the wave of the most recent paradigm shift in software architecture; object oriented design. The beauty of Iona’s approach to ‘object oriented’ was that Orbix could ‘wrap’ legacy software in a future proof IDL interface. IDL made programs look like ‘objects’ even if they weren't object oriented designs as such. It enabled firms to retain and maintain their huge investments in legacy and mainframe systems. It also provided the bits and pieces for the new distributed computing paradigm.
Orbix, Iona’s implementation of the CORBA specification, consisted of a software development kit (SDK), a daemon (computer service) and set of run-time libraries (libs). Orbix was also the technology used at the core of Iona’s growing family of internet centric products and services.
The CORBA standard enabled applications to deliver network interactivity ‘by design,’ at the same time as it future proofed legacy applications by wrapping them in an Object Oriented front-end. Object orientation could be layered over any system regardless of whether their underlying design was procedural, functional, or just plain ancient. Iona’s Orbix SDK (Software Development Kit) and the Orbix orb (an Object Request Broker daemon and libraries) enabled programmers to easily design distributed programs using IDL (Interface Definition Language), which enabled software object interfaces on one system to call and interoperate with objects on distant systems. Iona also provided language mappings to C++, SmallTalk, Java, Ada, and OLE (enabling access to Visual Basic, Delphi and Power Builder environments).
CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) is an open independent specification for distributed software architectures based on the object oriented interface paradigm. The Object Management Group (OMG) manages the CORBA standard.

Friday Night at Toner’s
Friday night in Toner's pub on Baggot Street was the usual spot for employees to catch up and enjoy some after-work banter. Tonight the talk was all about the recent jump in the share price and where the NASDAQ was headed. The share price had become an 'icebreaker' ever since the IPO (initial public offering) in February the previous year. Employees with vesting stock options had unsurprisingly developed a keen interest in the stock market.

Toner’s was also the venue of choice for Iona’s Professional Services (PS) engineers to debrief when they returned from international duty on customer consultancy ‘gigs.’ PS work was considered to be something of an elite job. International travel, expense accounts, on the road, but it also came with pressure to perform on the job, to deliver the goods on customer sites. Office-bound engineering teams relished these informal debriefings of PS field trips. They presented an unvarnished view of client projects; what they were doing, how well they did it, what worked, what didn’t, and Orbix product quality or features were never far off.

These discussions played an essential part in making sense of the market for product managers and the engineers, if only because PS engineers in ‘the field’ were usually isolated behind a client’s corporate firewalls and multiple layers of military level security, so live feedback was impossible or severely restricted. Being on a client site demanded absolute commitment, technical nous and frequent heroics but the PS crew got to be on the front-line of some of the most exciting software engineering jobs in the world; Boeing’s distributed aircraft configuration system DCAC/MRM (Newcomer, 2006) and Motorola’s IRIDIUM global satellite telephony service (Computergram, 1994) in Seattle, Washington State, and Phoenix, Arizona, respectively to name two. These were cutting edge international computer engineering crucibles and their trajectories were shaping the Orbix feature list, releases and fixes.
DCAC/MRM is Boeing’s Define and Control Airplane Configuration/Manufacturing Resource Management systems.
IRIDIUM now an independent company, was developed by Motorola to deliver a constellation of over 66 satellites providing seamless mobile telephone communications across the globe.
Listening in to one of these heroic tales, they were gripping once you picked up the jargon; “debugged, compiler, ridiculously large IDL, memory leak, o/s patch, hot fix.” Mark, a PS engineer, had resolved a major issue on site in California. He had done so by working with James (Customer Engineering) and Pierce (in the product team) back in Dublin. The Dublin crew had worked through the night on a patch for Orbix 2.3c. Mark downloaded the patch at 2am local time and installed it live in an operations centre for a government contractor research outfit. Exciting stuff if you enjoyed that kind of thing, but it annoyed Brian from QA. The problem shouldn’t have occurred in the first place he complained. It was preventable!

  • Baker, S. (2000) The Making of Orbix and the iPortal Suite. ICSE 2000. Limerick, Ireland, ACM.
  • Computergram (1994) Motorola Admits to Deal with Iona on Iridium. Computer Business Review. (link)
  • Durham, J. (2001) History-making components : Tracing the roots of components from OOP through WS. IBM. (link)
  • Iona Technologies (1997) Best of Breed Products: On time everytime. Dublin, Iona Technologies.
  • Mason, J. (2009) (link)Dublin.
  • Newcomer, E. (2006). Iona Technologies. (link)
  • Sterne, J. (2004) Adventures in Code: The Story of the Irish Software Industry, Dublin, Ireland, The Liffey Press.
  • Horn, C. (2010) Be Inspired. Be an Entrepreneur, DIT Hothouse 'Be Inspired' Seminars (link

(III) IONA's Genesis - 2 (case)

Leasing Pembroke Street from Crampton's (1995)
In 1991, Dr Chris Horn, Dr Sean Baker and Annrai O’Toole each chipped in £1,000 Irish Punts to bootstrap a business called Iona Technologies. There was no bank loan, no cash flow, and no Enterprise Ireland. I doubt anyone would have put up the money if they had even asked at the time.
They took an educated punt, building on the back of years of academic/industry R&D into distributed systems and programming, supported in part by EU Espirit research programmes.
One of the running jokes in Iona’s newsletter iContact was the management teams’ 3-year search in the wilderness for a business model, but the truth was, that they always had their eyes on the prize and were constantly tweaking the business model to the situation and demands of the market of the day. The way Iona ‘organised’ was the key. It was a young Irish company with a distinctly Irish culture. Small nimble close knit teams, everyone knew everyone and no one let formality get in the way of celebrating success or getting to the heart of a problem. As a place to work it was hectic, razor sharp, direct and fun. And Iona offered a launch pad to a new generation of home-grown technology entrepreneurs and leaders.

Iona’s product Orbix brought Iona success but Orbix was also successful because of the way the company was organised and the way it (the software) 'organised' or structured its customers. Professional services, delivering C++ and object oriented programming training to large multinationals like ICL brought in revenue. The profits from services when straight back into product development and PD delivered the product. The Orbix software in turn drove demand for further services and PS shifted from training to consultancy, integrating Orbix on client sites, understanding in the process how best to design and deploy mission critical cross-platform distributed systems, feeding this knowledge in turn back into better features and functionality for new versions of Orbix and its growing list of adapters, services, language mappings and platforms. Iona had an instinct for the business and economics of software networks a decade before the textbooks came out. They tuned their business model to the market. In a way the business model was built into the architecture of the product, linking software, linking firms, linking markets and people. The business model was evident in how they bootstrapped the market for their product. But the business model wasn’t Iona; Iona was the people. Networking is an intrinsically Irish thing, social banter at coffee docks, the Wine and Cheese, the Summer parties, the Christmas party, catching up after work in McHaffey’s, Tonor’s, Kehoe’s, or Slattery’s. Welcoming someone back from a PS gig in Seattle, politicking Standards at the OMG, attending JavaOne or Iona World.

The period 1999 - 2001 

The resources available for new R&D are being dragged down by customer support for current products. However there appears to be a consensus that a radical solution is needed to address the problem, although no one seems to agree on what the solution is.

Product Development Culture 
Growth is good and profits are better but they have a cost. The cost for Iona’s Dublin headquarters was having to move premises nearly every year. From Westland Row to Pierce Street, to Percy Place, to Pembroke Street Lower, then the big split from Pembroke Street to St Stephen's Green. Stephen's Green would have been nice except that Product Development and Customer Engineering were housed in an old office block tucked behind a Georgian town house while the corporate functions had modern air-conditioned comfort in the building on Pembroke Street. But this was only temporary, Iona had signed as the anchor tenant in a modern tower block on Shelbourne Road. They even had naming rights, "The Iona Technologies Building." This last big move took place in 1999 but the environment was changing in other ways. The atmosphere of the company shifted with each office move and each new employee. The company had been famous for its 'everyone knows everyone else' feel and exciting work culture. However a sense of 'community lost' was increasingly apparent in conversation, the demise of the traditional wine-and-cheese on the last Friday of the month was a symptom of this gradual distancing.
“What’s happening to the monthly ‘wine n cheese’? First it’s reduced to quarterly, and then half yearly... we need it for morale!” [PD engineer]
“The Iona wine and cheese was important, we need these opportunities to mix, to build spirit. Stop cancelling them!” [Anon]
Structure and Organisation
The company is structured around three main development centres; head office in Dublin, the US headquarters in Waltham Massachusetts (aka Boston), and Asia Pacific based in Perth. Internally the company has a hierarchical structure with teams of software engineers and management organised around 24 product lines delivering to 3 main operating environments (Solaris, HPUX and Windows) and over 20 version variations on other platforms (Macintosh, Digital, AS/400, MVS, SCO/Unix, QNX and others).

The Iona Product Development Process has four main stages: Planning, developing, testing & QA, and Launching. The project life cycle provides procedures for the development of products, covering the whole development process from beginning to end.
"Product Development is team-oriented. Teams have strong software engineering capabilities but also have product management, project management, customer service, business and other skills represented. Each team has significant autonomy and discretion on what products it develops, and has responsibility to describe why, when how and by whom the products will be built, licensed etc. Teams are ultimately responsible for product success, measured in market share and revenues." [The dev team guide]
The Product Managers and executive team develop concepts and business cases for new products that are then assigned to an engineering team for development. The support organisation is also organised by product line, this allows dedicated customer support engineers to develop technical product knowledge. All support engineers are expected to also be able to support core Orbix if customer demand levels on the support queues become unmanageable. Support engineers will also sometimes rotate into an engineering team to facilitate the transfer of technical product skill and knowledge to the rest of the organisation.

In order to grow and scale the company's capability it has proactively hired experienced executives and top engineering talent from large international technology companies such as HP, Ericsson, Digital, IBM, and others. These executives are intimately familiar with institutional approaches to organising technology R&D. This includes management system approaches like the Rational Unified Process, ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), the Capability Maturity Model, and ISO9001.

Orbix and ART
Orbix is the company’s 'cash cow', revenue-rich, mature products that 'only' require maintenance. Cash cows provide a steady income from license fees generated both by new customers, and renewed annual service or support fees from existing customers. In Iona’s case, sales of large site licenses with annual support contracts are a lucrative revenue stream.

The company has experienced consistent continuous growth in market share, revenues and profit in recent years, however rapid corporate growth has led to a situation where product engineering and support has been staffed by as many engineers and managers as it takes to develop, support and maintain the products.

The Orbix product architecture has itself morphed gradually from being a simple ORB (Object Request Broker) to now supporting multiple language mappings (C++, Java, ADA, PL/I) and a wide variety of operating system environments. Orbix is now a fully featured product architecture that reaches into object databases, messaging and transaction systems, media streaming, real-time (there is even talk of an Orbix Nano for chips).

As the Orbix product lines and architecture has grown the numbers of engineers developing, supporting and maintaining the product have also grown. This has generated problems for management and interdivisional communication. The old Orbix team has grown from 3 to well over 50 programmers plus 30 or 40 more in support and others in product marketing, documentation, and professional services.

The cost of supporting the legacy customer base on Orbix is now seen to be eating into the company’s profit margins. The board want to move beyond the limitations of the original Orbix architecture. The distributed computing industry is shifting towards new technology paradigms like XML based application servers, web services, service oriented architectures and enterprise Java.

A ‘top secret’ next generation technology project known as ART was started in 1996. ART development is based in the Boston office. An alpha version for early adopters was given a limited release in 1999, a feature complete beta version is expected in 2000. ART is expected to deliver a paradigm shift in function and performance. ART (Adaptive Runtime Technology) will be a highly flexible and high performance distributed computing engine. ART will be the perfect ORB to replace Orbix and overtake competitive technologies from BEA Systems, Oracle and others.

Engineering Stress:
Back to its roots, 2000 (image credit: Joe McCarthy)
It has become apparent that the challenge of managing the large numbers of people involved in Orbix's development and maintenance is reaching a breaking point. They are experiencing negative returns from the old strategy of just hiring more employees. The company is grappling with the challenges of communication, coordination, cohesion, and balance in managing its large portfolio of legacy and new product development work.

Steve Vinoski, IONA's Chief Architect, is based in Boston but travels to Dublin frequently. Steve is a former systems architect from HP and has long been involved in developing open computing standards, object oriented software, and he has a deep interest in design patterns. He has a wide personal friendship and professional network with other programmers with an interest in programming, architecture and management. Recently Steve has been having an on-going discussion about best practice with Kent Beck. Kent has been promoting a new practice based engineering management approach called "Extreme Programming.

The Dublin-based engineering managers, Mary, Aileen, Tim, Jan Willem, and Charlie, refer to themselves as the 'junior-management' team – all of the pain, none of the power. They are responsible for all Orbix engineering or support. Between them they manage 50 engineers and are responsible for all maintenance of all legacy products.

Steve has asked the engineering managers to consider the current situation and their options for improving things. There must be a better way to organise the teams! Many of the engineers in Product Development and Customer Engineering are working on legacy Orbix and seem deeply unhappy. Anyone who cares wants to work on ART, Iona's next generation architecture/product. Many of them feel that working on Orbix in all its various versions and flavours is a dead-end job. To top it off the workloads have grown horrendous; there is a real problem with excessive overtime (unpaid), meaning that people are spending more time with colleagues than they do with their families. The CEO has also let it be known that he wants to bring in an on-call rota to provide out-of-hours software support 24-7-365. But the engineers are already putting in huge hours and making heroic efforts just build and release patches and keep customers happy. There is also a rumour that an executive order is in the pipeline, that the Orbix team is going to be cut. It feels like something is going to break.

Comments gathered from a recent internal survey carried out by HR give a flavour of the mood.
'More inter-departmental cooperation please, people feel guilty asking questions.' [Anon]
'Get CE and Engineering teams working closer and get rid of the quick fix mentality.' [PD engineer]
'Outrageous workloads are destroying me, there must be an end in sight?!' [CE engineer]
“Product milestone dates come down from ‘on high’, the teams should estimate them, not some diktat.” [PD engineer]
'The company is a fun and challenging place to work, it’s "challenging" when we over-commit…' [CE engineer]
'We need workable processes to get us moving between teams and products.' [CE engineer]

(I) The Scrum proposal (case)

Implementation is that phase of the product life cycle that covers the more concrete aspects of product production, including: design, test, and delivery activities. The product life cycle controls how the organisation’s products progress and develop from concept (feature requirement and design) to completion (release).

Since 2002 IONA had achieved equivalence with ISO 9001 certification. Internal activities were described and monitored using the quality management system. Yet while new product development work was seen to be the most important, high value, high profile strategic activity of the company, the fact was that day to day effort was often diverted (reluctantly at times) towards support and maintenance of software already installed or being commissioned at customer sites. The company's engineers were spending considerable time working on software maintenance activities. In fact, 'next version' projects and new feature development time took a back seat to customer support.

The company used a traditional project management paradigm to plan and monitor development however they were struggling to cope with the twin demands of new product development and existing product maintenance. As this was happening the management team and engineers were discussing among themselves if and how it would be possible to adopt an Agile iterative development lifecycle.

This group of activists had decided to evaluate Kanban, Extreme Programming and Scrum. They needed to understand how it would impact their working environment, work practices, management and organisational structure, and also their status as an ISO9001 certified organisation (Figure below).
Figure: ISO9001 QMS continual improvement system

The company's products were large, some greater than 10M Loc. Their software offerings ranged over several industry categories: distributed objects, object databases, standards based architectures for financial and telecoms, embedded systems in 'scale industry' environments that generate, transmit, record and monitor event and process data.

Reviewing a corporate video made around then that promoted the company's product development lifecycle we were presented with a cyclic+layered management system aligned with the organisational structure of: support, test, project management, design and development. Some call this a V model and the same model is also used by many of the world's largest organisations.

However the company's product release history is complex. A typical product line is released in a steady sequence of major and minor releases (figure below). Major revisions of the main product are released approximately 4 times a year, but they also deliver maintenance releases including ‘roll-up’ patches, custom releases and minor updates every other week.

Subsidiary products that are dependent on the main product IONA's Orbix deamon (Object Request Broker). A daemon is a program that runs as a background process and in concert with daemons on other computers. The smaller teams that manage these software products will often need to release versions that are built with (synchronise against) the main product.
Figure: Indicative release history Y1-Y4

As is typically in the software industry, IONA's customer support queues were highly volatile (see figure below). Customer support queues fluctuate wildly over time and may sometimes halt new product development projects in order to address urgent customer demands. This is partially because the products depend upon each other but also because they exist within a constantly evolving external software ecosystem. The products need to operate within various browser versions, operating systems, and hardware platforms. External environmental changes often force software to be updated and drive both maintenance and new product releases.

Figure: Indicative support queue activity Y1-Y4

In summary; the organisation follows two very different approaches to managing production. On the one hand there is a sequential/linear process for managing and releasing new product versions; the NPD (new product development) approach. On the other hand there is on-going support and maintenance work which is highly responsive, crisis driven and reactive.

Provide an analysis and recommendations for future action.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

About our Academic Writing Centre

Writing Workshops 2017

Each session runs for 90 minutes

Academic Writing

Any topic you wish to write about has already received a significant amount of academic inquiry. Scholars communicate through citation as a method to trace how ideas develop through research. Learn the basics of argumentation, how to paraphrase research and how to cite your sources in the Harvard referencing format.

Persuasive Writing

Writers often labour under the misconception that if they just collect enough data they can persuade an audience. Yet people are rarely convinced by facts alone. We’ll investigate strategies to distinguish your writing from the default ‘officialese’ prose that dominates business practitioner style, but rarely inspires or encourages an audience to action. Persuasive writing incorporates stylish prose, an angle of vision, emphasis and storytelling.

Business & Report Writing

Business writing is transactional. People turn to writers who can help them to solve problems and make decisions. Practitioner style requires writers to be clear, concise and coherent when offering recommendations. We’ll cover report style, format and presentation.

Collaborative Writing

Group writing assignments can pose a major challenge for post-grads. Currently, more than 80% of writing produced by companies and organisations occurs through a collaborative effort. Learn effective strategies to balance and negotiate your team projects.

Be your own editor

First draft submissions will never garner top marks with lecturers, employers, clients or stakeholders. Develop a revision habit that allows you to benefit from building upon a tentative piece into a polished whole. Skilled writers do not leave projects to the last minute and they do not hesitate to delete and re-write. Learn how to identify problems at the sentence level in order to professionalise your writing.

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School
Academic Writing CentreDr Megan McGurk

A nice example - 'sunk costs'

Elon Musk provides what I think is a nice example that captures 'sunk cost', aka NRE (non-recurring engineering) expenses.
From the 10:50 mark in "Revenge of the Electric Car" (2011).
Musk "I'm ecstatic, this is fantastic, awesome day, it feels like victory..."
"This is the first production roadster.."
The 'first copy' or sunk costs of a new product.
At 12:50
Musk: "Well so far this is a very expensive car (nervous laugh). Call this the 50 million dollar car (nervous laugh), because that's about the amount of money I've invested in Tesla (nervous laugh). So (pause) it's kind of expensive."

IxDA Dublin presents - Designing Block-chain

 IxDA Dublin presents - Designing Block-chain  - New Products and Experiences - 28th of Sep

Designing Blockchain - New Products and Experiences

Blockchain has been dominating the media for the past few years now. It's hailed as the next big thing - and it's poised to change our lives in ways we can't even imagine. However, what are the implications of the blockchain when it comes to design?

How can designers take advantage of blockchain and related technologies to improve experiences and imagine new possibilities? To find the answer we invited a couple of designers to share their thoughts on the topic.

Cóilín Hegarty - Blockchain's Impact on Digital Design - 
Discussing what opportunities blockchain may provide for the design community.
Nur Karadeniz - Designing digital ID system with Blockchain
Case Study: ID2020 United Nations

  • Date: Thursday, September 28th, 2017
  • Time: 18:30 - 21:00
  • Location: NCAD, 100 Thomas Street, Dublin 8
  • Price: Free, but booking is essential from our event page

Huge thank you to our event partners - NCAD and Microsoft for their generous support!

We look forward to seeing you on the night. 

All the best from the IxDA Dublin team,

Filip, Chris, Laura, and John.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Human Centred Design Kit

Reimagining the shopping cart - IDEO's deep dive process filmed for ABC’s late-night news show Nightline (1999), narrated by Ted Koppel (link).

IDEO have put together a little book on design research ethics - do no harm right! (link)
"Respect your participants!
Some methods depend upon other people, often strangers, sharing generously their time, thoughts, and feelings. Have consideration for their health, safety, privacy, and dignity at all times.
Her are some principles that guide IDEO's interactions with participants:

  • approach people with courtesy
  • identify yourself, your intent, and what you are looking for
  • offer to compensate participants
  • describe how you will use this information and why it's valuable
  • get permission to use the information and any photos or video you take
  • keep all the information you gather confidential
  • let people know they can decline to answer questions or stop participating at any time
  • maintain a nonjudgmental, relaxed, and enjoyable atmosphere" (IDEO, 2003)

Go to for Design Kit: The Human-Centered Design Toolkit from IDEO for a range of resources and courses - many free.
Books, guides, and free downloads from

  • From IDEO itself on the Method cards (link).
  • As a diversion, MethodKit have indexed a large collection of social, entertainment, cultural and business purpose card sets (link)

Shared Calendar for upcoming relevant events

In response to a suggestion, I would like to share a calendar for upcoming MSc DI relevant and related events.

See Diginno - MSc Digital Innovation calendar in Google Calendar