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"The convergence of high-grade, open source support tools
and the availability and accessibility of smart people in
other countries, is changing the way we do business

                                        Doug Grimsted,
                              CEO Aginity LLC

ACM DL Author-ize serviceAgile…and offshore

Phillip G. Armour
Communications of the ACM - The patent holder's dilemma: buy, sell, or troll?, 2007



The Rogue Wave                               

This is a picture of the "Draupner Wave" that smashed into the Draupner Oil Platform in the North Sea on January 1 1995.  It had a peak height of 25m (around 80 ft) and came out of nowhere.  This is what is known as a "rogue wave."  It is not caused by storms, earthquakes, or tidal surges, it is caused by the chaotic combination of normal wave action.  It is erratic and entirely unpredictable and, at 80ft, very destructive. 

Sometimes businesses are hit by rogue waves.

A Phoenix from the ashes                                  

This article started with a story about a high performance, profitable, and smart company that came to grief during the tech-wreck.  A "perfect storm" combination of conditions drove an excellent enterprise to the wall.  A good friend of mine, the late and much-missed John Manzo1, introduced me to Geneer in the early 2000s.  It was a vibrant company with fresh ideas and smart people.  But even fresh ideas and good people were not enough to insulate against the toxic economic situation at the time and Geneer went under. 

But from it, Doug Grimsted, the CEO of Geneer rebuilt the idea as Aginity LLC.



I interviewed Doug Grimsted CEO of Aginity and Dan the company's CTO in August of 2006.  They are running an interesting company using a combination of agile techniques, open source support tools and offshore (in the Ukraine) development staff.  Here are the key points:

  • Why Ukraine?  Doug said he tried outsourcing in other countries, but felt that the culture in the Ukraine more closely matched the US and, more importantly, what he was trying to achieve.

  • A Personal Touch  One of the reasons Doug picked the Ukraine was that he had a personal friend who was Ukrainian and was returning home to Kiev.  He was able to act as an agent for Aginity and provided the necessary personal touch.

  • The Right People  Aginity hires for creativity and intelligence.  The application knowledge can be learned later.

  • Design the Project  The project is a system and needs to be designed just like, well, the system.

  • Common Vocabulary  Aginity uses design patterns to create a common vocabulary for development.

  • Write Stories  rather than attempt to create highly detailed (in inflexible) specifications.  Then rely on the Right People to interpret them and build on them.

  • Iterate  to reduce exposure to sub-optimal approaches and to prove ideas.

  • Allow some "failure"  Doug called the early iterations the "butt scratching" phase2 and expected them not to work--they are learning events, not building events.

  • Manage by Data  since the distance to Kiev reduces the human communication capability.

  • Use Open Source  support tools.  Specifically3:

    • Confluence  to manage the workspaces and frameworks

    • Mantis for task tracking and issue control

    • SubVersion  for CM

    • CruiseControl from ThoughtWorks and SourceForge to manage unit testing, code structures, etc.

    • NCover for code coverage tracking

    • Simian for additional code capability

As Doug said: "These tools are changing the way we do business..."



1. John Manzo, apart from being the CTO at Geneer and AgileTek was a VP at 3Com, a member of the Airlie Council, and the project manager for the Aegis Fire Control System.  Pretty nice resume, damn fine guy.
2. In the article in CACM, I called this the "head-scratching" phase, but this is what Doug called it.  The editors wouldn't let me use the word "butt"
3. These were the tools back in 2006.  I'm probably not going to attempt to maintain the links regularly, plus the software capability will change over time anyway, so no warranty implied or expressed.


Agile,... and Offshore