Softwire Blog


Focus on the future, not the present


6 December 2016, by

What follows are three examples of how focusing on the future improves efficiency over focusing on the present.

Running — don’t look down

I often like to run at the weekend. I’m not sure what I’m running from, but I feel significantly more happy for the rest of the weekend if I go for a run on Saturday morning.

I’ve got some tactics to make sure I actually go for my run, as I’m very good at putting it off. Giving myself some accountability and telling my fiancée the night before helps, as she then keeps reminding me until I go out. I also find removing barriers to starting very helpful, by which I mean make sure everything is ready for me to head out the night before. This usually involves putting my running shoes by the door, and sleeping in my running shorts.

I’m not running with any particular aim at the moment, other than my happiness and fitness (although given the advice I’m giving in this blog post, perhaps I should have a more tangible goal to be aiming for), but I do use run keeper to track my run. This keeps me focused on my pace and encourages me to try my hardest. This also means I can notice when I’m speeding up/slowing down, to try and keep a consistent pace.

The main factors that I find, which affect my run are:

  • hills
  • posture
  • focus

Hills are obvious. If it’s steep, I’m slower. Posture is perhaps less obvious, and I’m not going to focus on it here, but good posture aids breathing, and consequently speed.

Focus is the big thing here. I’m much faster if, rather than staring at my feet, I focus on where I’m running to. Unfortunately, the more exhausted I am, the more difficult this is, so I’m active in checking where I’m looking while I run. If I find my head drooping, and my vision staring at the floor, I revert it back to far away, and focus on getting myself there. This helps me reach that place, and means I get to pay more attention to my surroundings as I pass them by.

Projects — where is the project going?

I’ve spoken about this before in Don’t touch the patient, but I was mainly talking about tech leads in that post. This point applies more generally to everyone on a team.

You need to know where your project is heading, or your short term decisions will be in the wrong direction.

If you only focus on your current tasks, it’s easy to not spot things that will be an issue a week/month down the line. It’s important to spot these issues and resolve them early, as they are easiest to fix the earlier you address them.

To maintain this forward looking vision, it is important to know how your current tasks fit into the larger picture. What is the higher purpose of your work, and what can you do in the present to ensure that your work fits in with everything else going on. Working this out will involve communicating with other people to know what their aims are. Often other people will come to you first, but if they don’t, ensure you know who to talk to and make sure that the conversations are happening.

Work — where am I going?

At the highest level, this focus on the future applies to your whole career. If you only ever focus on what you are doing this day/week/month, then when you come to reflect on the past year, you’ll find that you missed the chance to take the opportunities provided to you to further your career and drive it in the direction that you wanted.

Zoe Cunningham has written an excellent series of blog posts about getting the career you want, which I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more:

What do you want

Make a plan

Do it

Summary

There are lots of situations in everything you do to ensure your focus is in the right place. Your life will be easier overall if you make sure that you focus on the future, as it will allow your present tasks to be progress you to your goals. Without this anticipation, you may find that you have not ended up where you expected, with lots of work required to get back on track.

This post first appeared on Chris Arnott’s blog.

How to become a supplier for the public sector


9 November 2016, by

Have you ever wanted to work for the public sector, but didn’t think that as an SME you would have the same opportunities as a large supplier?  Softwire’s experience as a software supplier to the public sector has shown us that this is not the case. In this blog post we explore why bespoke software developers, design agencies, cloud product vendors or freelancers should consider working for the public sector.

  1. Firstly, the Government has a genuine commitment to increase public sector spend with SME’s. The target for 2020 is 33% * this follows an upward trend of 25% in 2015.
  1. Even if you have no experience in the public sector this should not detract you from applying. Softwire had little experience in the public sector but we have recently been able to win multiple varied and exciting projects. Experience in the private sector is extremely valid along as long as you can demonstrate your expertise through case studies and testimonials.
  1. There are procurement portals which list all the current opportunities available. Some good starting points are:

Explore all the frameworks on offer  http://ccs-agreements.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/

Freelancers, bespoke providers, cloud product providers and cloud consultants should head to the digital marketplace https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/ and to search for larger digital projects from across the EU: http://ted.europa.eu/TED/misc/chooseLanguage.do=

  1. In most cases the projects have been scoped and funded in advance of selecting a supplier, mitigating your risk. Requirements and budgets are usually stated upfront allowing you to assess which projects would be a good fit for your organisation and there’s a clear and open process for asking questions.
  1. The scope and range of public sector work is very diverse. It’s not just local authorities and large public bodies. Public sector includes research institutions, infrastructure providers, regulators and many more.
  1. There is a strong government directive for digital transformation and you could be working on projects using leading-edge technologies, methodologies and design techniques. The Government Digital Service manual explains and encourages best practice to ensure project success. https://www.gov.uk/service-manual
  1. Public sector projects have a strong social impact. Through digital transformation the Government wants to push the boundaries of technology to improve and make public services more effective and efficient.
  1. The government mystery shopper portal ensures that the procurement process is fair to SME’s. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mystery-shopper-results-2016
  1. techUK works with the Government on behalf of the industry and is an advocate for the needs of small and medium sized tech companies.
  1. With the Government digital transformation budget expected to be around £1.8bn next year – what are you waiting for?

*https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Governments-spending-with-small-and-medium-sizes-enterprises.pdf

Tips for managing technical people – Recommended reading


7 October 2016, by

Galvanizing the geeksThe following is an excerpt from my new book, “Galvanizing the Geeks – Tips for Managing Technical People”. You can buy the full book on my website, here.

These are some of the books – not all of them aimed specifically at the technology sector – that I’ve found useful throughout my career.

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Writing Good Documentation


28 September 2016, by

There are certain standards that govern good design and user experience. But eventually we all need to do something out of the ordinary or sufficiently complex that it will be accompanied by documentation. I’m not talking about the comments you leave in code (that’s a whole other kettle of fish). I am discussing the big document you have to write, which explains the nuances of your API, and how best to use your shiny new touch gestures.

If you think it’s almost as boring writing these documents as it is reading them, then I say you’re doing it wrong!

If you read on, I’ll explain what you should be thinking about before writing any documentation, and how this will help you enjoy the writing process more, as well as ensuring the end user gets the most from documents you produce.

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How to get the career you want – What do you want?


15 September 2016, by

This is the second in my series of posts about how to get the career you want. Step 1 in my infallible all-purpose career plan is to work out what you want to do.

How many of us really know what we want to do? And does anyone have a good way to find out if you don’t?

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How to get the career you want – Do it


13 September 2016, by

This is the fourth in my series of posts about how to get the career you want. Step 3 in my infallible all-purpose career plan is to execute the plan that you came up with in Step 2.

This is the step that really sounds the simplest. You’ve made a plan, so now you just need to follow it. Don’t be fooled though; this is the step where it’s easiest for us to trip ourselves up.

How often have you decided that you will do something, and then found that you didn’t actually do it? I will tidy the kitchen. Doh! If you’re anything like me – all the frigging time!

There are two things that work against us here FEAR and DOUBT.

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How to get the career you want – Make a plan


12 September 2016, by

This is the third in my series of posts about how to get the career you want. Step 2 in my infallible all-purpose career plan is to make a plan that will get you to where you want to be.

Now I bet that almost all of you make plans to execute tasks and projects all the time. But somehow when you come to make a plan to achieve a big scary career goal, it doesn’t seem so easy. Sure, you say, I’d love to be Managing Director, but how on earth would I ever get there?

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How to get the career you want – Intro


5 September 2016, by

I recently gave a lunch and learn on how to get the career that you want.

I find this a fascinating subject, as all of us have so much more potential than we realise and could achieve all of our dreams with sustained application.

Of course I can only speak from my own experience. My thoughts come from my own journey to become Managing Director (you can hear more about that here – https://youtu.be/DqRPymBHAPM), my career chats I have with other members of Softwire and my experience outside of my job trying to make a second career in acting.

The basic way to get anything you want is really simple.

  1. Work out what you want to do
  2. Make a plan
  3. Do it

The challenge is that each of those steps is harder than you think. I’ll write about each in a separate blog post.

In the meantime, I made a list of my top career tips.

  1. Work hard; find what helps you to work hard
  2. Discover self-efficacy – what have you done that made a difference?
  3. What do you want to do? I recommend the Artist’s Way
  4. Leap into a big goal (5+ years)
  5. Find a way to be buoyed up by your successes (use http://achievements.io)
  6. Don’t stop; don’t go too fast (I use this tip for jogging!) i.e. KEEP GOING