Recently our CEO, Graeme Strange posted up on his blog about the secret recipe for building a successful virtual business. Darren followed up the post with some more detail about how we approach software development at Readify, with a focus on our internal tooling.
One of the challenges that I personally have is figuring out how to productively use my allocation of Professional Development time. I’m not much of a book learner in that if I am going to sit down and figure out how to do something I really need to be in front of the compiler, and generally speaking, I want anything I produce to be useful.
Last year I came up with this idea whilst on a client engagement of creating a Team Project inside TFS called “Q”, named after Q branch in the James Bond universe. This year I transplanted this concept into my internal work at Readify and I’ve had some success building simple little tools, some for PD, and some for fun that benefit Readify.
These tools are:
- Q1 – a build server virtualization tool for TFS.
- Q2 – a batch program that e-mails out a list of consultant locations daily.
- Q3 – a reliable continuous integration engine for TFS.
- Q3 – a reliable dependency replication engine for TFS.
- Q5 – a set of web-services that can be used to manage TFS security.
- Q6 – a hack that allows Team Build 2005 to trigger Visual Studio 2008 builds.
- Q7 – a tool for requesting development servers.
- Q8 – a tool for encouraging the sales team to improve address data in CRM.
- Q9 – a tool for overriding bad address resolutions with lat/long information.
- Q10 – a tool for splitting PDF payment summaries and forwarding them.
- Q11 – a tool for replicating file sharing support in TFS.
Each of these projects are at various stages of completeness, but in general the ones with the real business drivers are complete. The only ones that I feel I haven’t really finished with are Q7 and Q9.
One of the interesting things that the Q projects free me from is my own procrastination around choosing names for the things I write. I often found that in the past I would spend a day thinking of a really cool name for a tool that would only take me half a day to actually code. Interesting huh?
Anyway – I recommend that you start a Q project inside your organisation and allow people to contribute their time to it based on where they see the immediate needs of the business. I actually have a task list in Outlook full of pet projects that I want to do and as I find the time I’ll probably churn through them and they’ll get their own Q designation.
P.S. I will soon be releasing Q1, Q3, Q4 and Q11. I’m thinking that I might put them up onto CodePlex and let them developer a life of their own. If you love something set it free 🙂