Secret ingredients to quality software

SSW Foursquare

Rules to Successful Projects - 60 Rules

What is a successful project?

A successful project for a developer might mean something different compared to a project-manager and again quite different for the client.

Since our focus is on the client, a successful project for SSW means every client receives what they are expecting, on time, and for the estimated amount of money.

Project managers define this as On Time, On Scope, and On Budget.

"A successful project is where everyone involved is happy with the final outcome."

What is it that makes a good software development consultancy? What sets one company completely above the other? What makes a project completely successful?

The promise of a successful project is something we all work harder to achieve, but working harder is not the answer. Software companies need to work smarter before, during, and after development, to ensure that the client gets not only what they want, but what they need.

There are real gurus in this field like Joel Spolsky, Kent Beck, Tom DeMarco, and Timothy Lister. We like what they say, but we also reckon they miss a few things as well - everyone has their own ideas. These are the rules we run by every day. We believe they can help every software developer and team manager to deliver better code and a better end product.

  1. Do you understand the value of consistency?

    If you need to do something more than once, then there should be a standard for it. At the heart of our philosophy on creating rules and standards is the idea of consistency. There are 4 main benefits you will get:


    Say we are creating a windows forms application. We can expect to:

    • Improve productivity - because there are fewer decisions to make, and you build on existing work. For example, we don't need to discuss the pros and cons of MDI versus SDI because there is already a standard.
    • Improve quality - because you are following best practices. For example, which logging library is better out of Microsoft Application Block or Log4NET.
    • Improve communications - because people know what to expect. For example, when we complete a task we are clear and educate the customer by including a screenshot, the code and the time taken. We are consistent with whether we call it a bug or a feature because we define what's a bug.
    • Get straight to the meat of the customer's problem. For example, our developers don't need to decide whether to implement base forms or user controls. They already know because it's covered in Rules to Better Windows Forms Applications.

    At SSW we create standards for all manner of processes: from coding practices to project proposals and how to lock the office up at night. From the developer's perspective, consistency means that we understand each other's code, and if we don't know something, a standard will often save us asking someone. No more Chinese whispers and less time wasted. From the customer's perspective, consistency leads to a reliable and repeatable experience.

    The following story illustrates these values:

    The Barber (excerpt from "The E Myth")

    I went to a barber who, in our first meeting, gave me one of the best haircuts I had ever had. He was a master with the scissors and used them exclusively, never resorting to electric shears as so many others do. Before cutting my hair, he insisted on washing it, explaining that the washing made cutting easier. During the haircut, one of his assistants kept my cup of coffee fresh. In all, the experience was delightful, so I made an appointment to return.

    When I returned, however, everything had changed. Instead of using the scissors exclusively, he used the shears about 50 percent of the time. He not only didn't wash my hair but never even mentioned it. The assistant did bring me a cup of coffee, but only once, never to return. Nonetheless, the haircut was again excellent.

    Several weeks later, I returned for a third appointment. This time, the barber did wash my hair, but after cutting it, preliminary to a final trim. This time he again used the scissors exclusively, but, unlike the first two times, no coffee was served, although he did ask if I would like a glass of wine. At first, I thought it might be the assistant's day off, but she soon appeared, busily working with the inventory near the front of the shop.

    As I left, something in me decided not to go back. It certainly wasn't the haircut-he did an excellent job. It wasn't the barber. He was pleasant, affable, seemed to know his business. It was something more essential than that.

    There was absolutely no consistency to the experience.

    The expectations created at the first meeting were violated at each subsequent visit. I wasn't sure what to expect. And something in me wanted to be sure. I wanted an experience I could repeat by making the choice to return.

    The unpredictability said nothing about the barber, other than that he was constantly - and arbitrarily - changing my experience for me. He was in control of my experience, not I. And he demonstrated little sensitivity to the impact of his behaviour on me. He was running the business for him, not for me. And by doing so, he was depriving me of the experience of making a decision to patronize his business for my own reasons, whatever they might have been.

    It didn't matter what I wanted.

    It didn't matter that I enjoyed the sound of scissors and somehow equated them with a professional haircut.

    It didn't matter that I enjoyed being waited on by his assistant.

    It didn't matter that I enjoyed the experience of having my hair washed before he set to work and that I actually believed it would improve the quality of the haircut.

    I would have been embarrassed to ask for these things, let alone to give my reasons for wanting them. They were all so totally emotional, so illogical. How could I have explained them, or justified them, without appearing to be a boob?

    What the barber did was to give me a delightful experience and then take it away.

    What you do in your model is not nearly as important as doing what you do the same way, each and every time.

    Figure: The Barber gave an inconsistent experience. Excerpt from "The E Myth"

    Standards don't need to come at the expense of creativity. Following standards means less time doing the administrative stuff and more time for the creative. Of course, standards are works in progress, and so we are always on the lookout for improvements. That's why standards should be shared with everyone.

  2. Whenever you're doing something more than once there should be a clear procedure. We call them “standards” or “rules”. That means that there should be lots of standards.

    Standards should *not* be followed blindly. Aim for continual improvement.

    There are pros and cons to having standards:

    The pros:

    • They help speed up the decision making process – getting you to the best decision faster
    • They help consistency

    The cons:

    • They take time to write in a generic fashion
    • Technological rules rust easily. Technologies and techniques change often, so you must be on the lookout for the new and better approaches and continually update these
    • They have errors as they are written by imperfect people
    • People will sometimes follow an inappropriate rule. A set of rules can never predict every path, so cases can and will appear that the standards fail to cater for

    Standards should always help the critical thinking process, but never replace it.

    If you think something can be done better or the standard is simply out of date, you should improve the standard. This is best done as a team effort with everyone making little changes often. Whenever you come across a standard which needs updating or improving you have three options:

    1. Fix it yourself straight away by editing the rule (preferred)
    2. Fix it yourself later if it's too big. In this case, send yourself an email
    3. Ask someone else to fix it following the change "x" to "y"

    What you should never do is to ignore that improvement and expect someone else to work on it.

  3. Do you aim for Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose?

    • Autonomy — Software developers have a desire to be self-directed. Many find that micro-management is restrictive and stifles their creativity.
    • Mastery — Software developers love sharpening their skills.
    • Purpose — Software developers want to work on important projects that have meaning and make an impact.

  4. Do you manage clients' expectations?

    "Software development can be painful and costly." Hang on, that should say: "Software development is painful and costly."

    There's no doubt custom software development is a challenging industry. According to Critical Success Factors In Software Projects by John S. Reel:

    Nearly 75% of all development projects missed their target release date or never ship at all.

    But what is so interesting is that at least 7 of the 10 most common signs of product development failure are present before the design is created or a single line of code is written.

    Projects often fail because clients think suppliers under-deliver and over-charge. The client and the supplier have different expectations about the goals of the project. This difference of opinion often leads to a project's absolute failure.

    fail image

    Tip #1 - Don't give ranges!

    Let's say a prospect asks me "How much to do this Release?" I could say "Somewhere between $15k - $20k"... then I hear "20k", the prospect hears "15k". I'm pleased we got it done for "25k" with a whole bunch of changes, the client is annoyed we didn't get it done for "12k". So, never give a range to a client. Tell them something like "The first Release, along with its spec, is likely to take $35k. That's two guys working full time for two weeks."

    Tip #2 - Be upfront about bugs

    There is no such thing as bugless software. It's important to admit that bugs will happen. Bugs will get through testing, and bugs will cause a headache in production. In a fixed price agreement we cover bugs, because the goal posts are stuck in the ground, but in hourly-rate work, bugs are covered by the client. See what is covered in fixed price contracts for more information in relation to what is and what is not a bug.

    Tip #3 - Don't give fixed prices

    A big fixed-price contract can also be dangerous in managing expectations because it removes flexibility. If you deliver exactly what the spec says, the client can quite easily be unhappy, because the hundred and one things they thought of during development weren't included.

    If you need to go with fixed prices, we recommend to do it in Releases of no more than 2 weeks (1 - 2 releases), which helps alleviate this problem.

    It will often occur that in the middle of a fixed price contract a client will ask you to add extra functionality. You should not do any such items straight away, but turn this request into a task for future development. You should generate another release plan for all the extra items once the fixed price contract has been signed off. It is important that the customer is always clear on what is part of a fixed price contract and what is not, that is why you should always finish a fixed price contract and have it signed off before starting extra work.

    Tip #4 - Talk dollars ASAP

    Talking dollars with the client is often something consultants don't like doing after the initial meeting. I've heard of consultants refraining from sending invoices when a project is suffering a few delays, or the client is unhappy with the application state.

    If the client is unhappy to receive an invoice now, they will not be happy to receive it in two months!

    Send invoices for time and material projects every week. This way the client is informed of costs every week, and if a hassle arises, it's trapped straight away.

    Tip #5 - Be transparent about rates and resourcing

    Defining the hourly rates and resources that will be available to clients ensures they are not surprised later. Additionally, explaining the differences between resources makes it clear why specific resources are grouped together and what kind of services they provide. At SSW, we have clear definitions for all of our roles so that clients understand the part their resources play.

  5. If you still need help, visit our Scrum consulting page and book in a consultant.

    SSW's Rules to Better Scrum using Azure DevOps allows businesses to address their most important challenges first and respond quickly to change. Our rules advocate software consultants working on-site, or on the phone, so long as there is close consultation with business users, with the goal to become integrated members of the client's team.

    Software must help a business become more efficient and build better relationships with their clients. Business need software to be produced cost-effectively and quickly. Simple steps upfront stop software being slow to build and difficult to change. - Adam Cogan, SSW Chief Architect

    projectmanagementsummary small
    Figure: Classic stories of Project Management

  6. Do you provide ongoing support?

    Just like a car, applications need servicing and tuning every now and then to stay in top condition. They might need alterations to deal with new business problems, or just tuning to increase efficiency.

    sucessful project and now
    Figure: What happens after the software has been delivered and the development team moves on. The next phase is maintenance

    So you’ve done 10 good Sprints and the software has been delivered (ready) and the team is winding down. It will need maintenance.

    Different clients need different levels of support. Offer your clients a few different support offerings.

    1. Ongoing Maintenance: 1 day per week (or whatever quantity suits), a developer will work on enhancements and bug fixing. This is useful because the client always knows when work will next be done.
    2. Support Plan: For a small monthly cost, plus a multiple of the hourly rate, you can guarantee specific response and resolution times. This way your client will be guaranteed that they can get out of a fix quickly when needed.
    3. Time and Materials or Prepaid: A client can simply call for bug fixing or support as and when needed. However, unless it's a show stopper, this model can involve waiting for developer availability.
    4. Fixed Price Warranty: For a fixed price project, a warranty commences after the Sprint Review. The warranty length is half the length of the sprint and, during this period, any bugs reported will be fixed for free.

    Warranty on a Fixed Price Contract

    Once the Sprint Review is complete, the Product Owner has half the sprint period again to report any bugs. The conditions are:

    1. The warranty period pauses when the client reports a bug that stops them testing further. The warranty period resumes when a new version is sent. For example, the client may report a bug on a Wednesday morning on "Day 4" of the warranty. The bug is fixed on Friday and a new version is sent late in the afternoon. The warranty period resumes on Monday morning, at "Day 4". Therefore Wednesday through Friday was not included in the warranty.
    2. During the warranty period, all feedback from clients should be moved to backlog unless they fall into the bug definition.
    3. There is no warranty on a time & materials contract.
  7. The first problem with specs is that nobody writes them. Joel Spolsky says:

    "Writing specs is like flossing: everyone agrees that it's a good thing, but nobody does it". - Joel Spolsky,  The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code

    The second problem is that when people do write them, they try and spec the whole project, spending months detailing every Use Case, Business Rule, and Process Flow Diagram. The client spends lots of money and sees no real progress, and the requirements change and the process begins again.

    After a long phase of planning and speccing, hand-offs between stages of a project would traditionally involve wighty documents and getting a project from start to finish could take months or years. By embracing "Emergent Architecture" and using an agile approach to project management you spec just enough, at the last responsible moment. Just-in-time speccing ensures:

    jit speccing
    Figure: Just-In-Time speccing in an agile Scrum project can handle evolving requirements

    The most popular and most successful way to deliver projects is using a framework called Scrum. In Scrum, you fix the timeframe and the cost so the only variance is in the features that are delivered in that time. You should keep your time to between 2 and 4 weeks and all your team members should be full time, thus fixing the costs.

    See Rules to better Scrum.

    At SSW we spec in two phases: first to get an overview of the project, and then ongoing as needed to flesh out each PBI once it is about to be added to a Sprint:

    • Spec Review
    • Just-In-Time Speccing - this phase is repeated through the project
  8. Complex documentation can waste time. Many user requirements can be best encapsulated in screen mock-ups. Spend more time on mockups compared with time on documentation.

    Storyboarding is a technique taken from movie production.

    movie storyboard
    Figure: Movies are expensive to produce, so directors do storyboards first and then the product designer, costume designer, lighting people etc. all know what they need to do for each sceneSource: Woodsman Film Company

    There are five primary types of mockups:

    1. Hand-drawn Mockups
    2. Wireframe Mockups
    3. Developer HTML Mockups
    4. Designer HTML + CSS Mockup
    5. Designer Photoshop Mockups (recommended)

    Often it's best to start with some hand-drawn ones to get started. Then if you have access to designers, complete a couple of full 'Designer Photoshop Mockups' for "look and feel" approval, then complete the balance as wireframes.

    Hand-drawn Mockups

    'Hand drawn Mockups' are recommended to be done with the customer. Since it doesn't deal with any styling/color issues, 'Photoshop Mockups' will be needed after.

    Hand Drawn Mockup
    Figure: A 'Hand drawn mockup' example. Nice and quick for early concept design

    Wireframe Mockups

    A layout of how the controls will look is usually all that is needed initially, without worrying about images. An example of Wireframe Mockup

    Tip: The tools to develop a wireframe depend on your skillset and the front end technology chosen. For example use:

    • Microsoft PowerPoint (ubiquitous)
    • Balsamiq
      c24602 WireframeMockup
      Figure: Wireframe storyboard mockup on Balsamiq
    • Adobe XD - preloaded with the most popular UI design blocks (recommended for web & mobile app design)

      Figure: Adobe XD prototyping

      Figure: Adobe XD Google material design UI kit


    • Sketch (Mac Only and for UX designers)
    • Moqups (HTML5 based App)
    • Photoshop (primarily for designers who already have the skills)
    • UXPin (more sophisticated, helps you create responsive designs)

    Developer HTML Mockups

    These are mockups done in the front end technology that will be used. Meaning it could be done as a Web/Windows Forms/Access UI with limited functionality:

    An example of an ugly Developer HTML Mockup.

    1d9b4a DeveloperHTMLMockup
    Figure: Developer HTML Mockup example - not recommended as it is a bad starting point from an HTML view and refactoring later is harder (if even possible) + this reeks of Bodgy Brothers and doesn't do a very good sales job

    Designer HTML Mockups

    These are also mockups in a Web/Windows Forms with full CSS Styling and graphic designer enhancements:

    An example of a pretty Designer HTML Mockup

    11fe40 HTMLMockup
    Figure: Designer HTML Mockup - not recommend because it is time-consuming to make changes (and change is all you do at the beginning of a project)

    Designer Mockups

    These are concept mockups produced by designers in Photoshop providing a guidance of the final look with full styling.

    Warning: Don't go down the track of giving a customer a few concepts (on some projects we gave 2 or 3 completely different concepts by different designers). There becomes too much mixing and matching when they see them. Once the images are approved, then the designers slice them up and turn them into HTML (slicing is the exporting of each image).

    1d6c03 PSMockup
    Figure: Designer Photoshop Mockup example - recommended as quick to change, when changes happen

    More information – Add notes at the bottom

    Wireframes should include numbers (in orange circles) and notes at the bottom, explaining features and/or indicating priority.

    wireframe with notes
    Figure: This wireframe indicates priorities of features

    Mock-ups notes should also include the business rules that apply to the page. If there are a lot of rules then it is acceptable to link off to a Microsoft Word document.

    88215b Mockup 1
    Figure: Good Example - This mockup states the validation and business rules that apply to the page

    Don't use UML - it is virtually impossible to get clients to understand these

    Bad UML
    Figure: Don't use UML diagram which clients can't fully understand

    UML is not all bad. UML and other formal documentation methods can be useful for developers.

    The overarching problem is it gets out of date, so it gathers dust (aka Technical Debt). A better way of getting documentation is to flesh out the classes and use the VS Dependency Graph or NDepend. A demo can be seen in "A Modern Architecture Review" presentation.

    23f19c ndepend
    Figure: Tools like NDepend can generate diagrams from your source code so there's no "Technical Debt"


    Mock-ups and wireframes are far easier to understand.

    For example, to communicate that “a customer has many phone numbers”, a storyboard/wireframe of how that relationship will appear in the user interface is highly more likely to be understood by the client.

    The clear communication of the message is more important than the medium used to convey that message.

    Here are some more hot tips on mock-ups:

    • Avoid the thought of a "throw-away" prototype. An example of a throwaway prototype is when you design screens in Access, but the application will be HTML. So design the screens you and the customer are happy with the technology you will be using, and then use them in the app.
    • It is best to have a designer and developer and customer working together.
    • Get the mock-ups physically initialed, especially if you are performing a fixed-price contract. Yes, paperless is great - but not in this case.
    • If you can't get mock-ups initialed, then page by page approval over email is the 2nd best option.
    • A tip I picked up from Tom Howe was to always add a client's branding into the mockup - it makes a big impression
    • Mock-ups should follow standard interface rules
    • Write the related business rules at the bottom of each screen - and turn into unit tests.
  9. Do you conduct Market Research via the Web?

    Why write code when you may not need to write any at all? In every industry Market Research is conducted before a product is developed. Why is IT any different? Doing Market Research focuses the product on the right set of people so you can satisfy their needs. If you can't connect the dots between the work you do and how it helps the customer, consider investing your time elsewhere. Market Research bridges the gap between the techies and the users.

    A great way to get feedback on upcoming projects is by putting specs of upcoming projects on the web and inviting user comments - not forgetting to acknowledge their contribution. Often Surfers will tell you what is needed to make the product great instead of just good, or you may be told that there is already a program out there that does the job. You should also spend two days looking for similar products and speaking to users about the features. Since the specs are full of screen captures, this allows us to think of our end-users and increases the likelihood of creating a great product which our users love.

    Who comes first? The Technology or the User? I even wonder about Microsoft, they've built this great .Net Core technology but shoehorn a user interface and experience onto the framework so the user experience is compromised. What great products are designed this way? Do tailors measure their clients after the suit has been sewn together? I'm sure Microsoft spend heaps of time and money discussing the specs amongst themselves, but I believe they should've put the interface/Images on the web so that experienced users could voice their opinion and offer suggestions early in the product cycle. Instead we wait for the beta versions - if you offer a suggestion now, there is no time for it to be implemented as the shipping deadline is too close. The only contribution we can make at this stage is finding bugs!

    So balance engineering, business and usability, put your specs on the web, keep them updated with changes, and listen to your users!

  10. There are a lot of different CRM solutions on the market. We would never suggest to develop a CRM solution from scratch. Instead pick an existing solution and customize it for your needs.

    The main choices for CRM solutions are:

    At SSW we implemented a lot of CRM services based on Microsoft CRM. The experience with this solution showed us high trust in using Microsoft CRM as a base for future business needs.

    Read the rules to better Microsoft CRM to get an idea what CRM can do for you.

  11. The best developers are also extremely good at finding a solution to a problem they don't know.

    I am pretty good at Googling but when I can't find something, I ask my friend Scott on IM. Scott Hanselman is the best Googler I know. He can find anything in 2 minutes...Tips:

    1. Think of a piece of the code that will be in the answer
    2. Include the company name if possible
    3. Use the advanced searching functionality
    4. Use quotation marks when you're searching for an exact string
    5. Include the technology used if appropriate

    If someone asks you for help searching, always tell them the keywords - that will help them learn to search better.

    For example, take, a leading Australian news website. If you search on the keywords 'Australia' and 'news' you won't find it on the first page, but if you add 'Sydney' (a word from the company name) then you're number 1...

  12. Often you will want to quickly find a file on your computer or local network. With the advancement in built-in search functionality on the latest operating systems this is easy to do and can help you quickly and easily find your local files or network file locations.

    If you are using Windows, desktop search is integrated within the operating system. This can either be done from the Start Menu, Cortana or File Explorer. Additionally, third-party tools such as Everything can be installed and used for fast searching of files on your drives.

    If you are using a Mac, Spotlight Search 🔎 is located on the top-right corner or Finder.

    If you are using Office 365 (Teams, Delve, OneDrive, Dynamics) you can use SharePoint Search to easily find your documents, profiles, and web pages.

  13. For one off-pieces of work, put actual time taken into your done email. It's all about education and accountability - a customer that understands how long things take is better than one who doesn't.

    During the course of a Time and Materials projects, a client will often ask for an estimate on a particular piece of work. Of course we duly go about investigating the work to deliver to the client the required estimate.

    Sometimes, due to the nature of the work, the time taken to investigate is completely out of proportion to the time taken to complete the work. As an example, if you are working on a legacy ASP application with loads of spaghetti code, and the client wants a particular bug fixed, it can take 2 hours to locate the bug, and then only 15 minutes to fix it. When you report to the client the estimate for 'how long' - ensure you include the 2 hours investigation, not just the time to fix it. Thus, you need to put 'this took me 2 hours 15'.

  14. Do you know the 8 Steps to Scrum?

    Scrum is easier than it seems, we'll explain how in these 8 simple steps.

    8 steps to scrum
    Figure: This Scrum image includes all the important steps from the Initial Meeting to the Sprint Review and Retro

    Print out the SSW 8 Steps to Scrum PDF and put it on your "War Room" wall.

    1. Initial Meeting

    In the Initial Meeting, the Product Owner explains the product vision. The Developers think about the Architecture needed and how long they will need to come up with an estimate.

    2. Backlog Construction

    The next step is Backlog Construction, also known as a Specification Review. The Developers propose a high-level software architecture and a to-do list called the Product Backlog. The required features are broken down into Product Backlog Items (PBIs for short).

    These PBIs are estimated and, before a dollar figure is presented, a buffer is added for generic tasks such as DevOps, Testing, Bug Fixes, Project Management, etc.

    This is also when the Product Owner 1st defines the Product Goal (aka the "why" of the project), although this can and should be refined throughout the project.

    A quick note, there are only 3 roles in a Scrum Team, The Product Owner (the boss), the Scrum Master (a kind of project manager), and the Developers (who do the work).

    3. Sprint Planning

    The Sprint Planning session is for the Developers to focus on the subset of the Product Backlog that they think they can complete in the next Sprint, (which is most commonly a 2-week time-box).

    The Product Owner puts the PBIs into priority order and makes sure the top ones have enough detail to be worked on. The Developers then pulls PBIs from the top of the Backlog and commits to delivering as much as they forecast they can, in the coming Sprint.

    The Developers and Product Owner together then define the Sprint goal, (aka the "why" of the sprint).

    4. Sprint

    The Developers work on features in priority order, having done a Daily Scrum and sending 'Done' emails once the 'Definition of Done' is met. A task board is often used. During this process, the team also refines items in the Product Backlog to ensure they conform to the 'Definition of Ready'.

    5. Product Increment

    Each Sprint is a potentially shippable Product Increment, and with good DevOps, including automation of deployment and testing, this can be done on a "PBI by PBI basis. This means each feature worked on can be in production as soon as it is finished.

    6. Product Feedback

    Product Feedback will then come in. Some will be bugs, and some will be small changes that can be added to the current Sprint. Other suggestions should be approved by the Product Owner and then added to the Product Backlog.

    7. Sprint Review

    At the end of the Sprint, there is a Sprint Review, where the Developers demo or play done videos of the completed PBIs. The goal is for the Product Owner to understand the increment and to discuss the feedback to make the product better. This is the real measure of success of the Sprint.

    8. Sprint Retrospective

    Lastly, there is the Sprint Retrospective, and this is the best part! The Scrum Team discusses what went well, what didn't, and what to improve, always inspecting and adapting.

    From here, another Sprint Planning session commences, and the wheel keeps turning, getting better and better with every revolution.

  15. Tight project teams have a Daily 'Scrum' every day at the same time.

    It was once called a 'stand-up meeting' but that discriminates people in wheelchairs.

    It is best to have it standing up, so it's short and to the point. No-one wants to stand around waffling.

    Everybody knows the 3 essential questions:

    1. What did you do yesterday? (and did you update Azure DevOps (was TFS) OR other bug tracking system)?
    2. What are you going to do today? (and my current task on the physical task board has my picture on it)
    3. Do you have any roadblocks? (aka issues/impediments)

    Asking these questions of every team member means no-one can hide and everyone remains connected. Further, you can notice what was promised and what was performed. This enables the team to discover issues quickly and keep abreast of the progress.

    The team's successes and failures are shared, and anyone who knows the answer to someone else's problem can help with a solution, after the meeting.

    Figure: Watch a Daily Scrum at Microsoft (short)

    Figure: Watch a Daily Scrum at Microsoft (long)

    "Great video guys. Remember, it is ok to change Scrum, actually, it is necessary for success. Just adhere to the values of Scrum. " Stephen Forte (Board member

    Follow these essential tips to improve your Daily Scrum meetings:

    Tip 1: Be prepared for the meeting

    Before you join the Daily Scrum, check the Teams group to see what your colleagues have been discussing and working on, and check the portal to confirm the meeting time. If you’re joining a new project or re-joining a previous one after some time away, these steps are important to keep yourself up-to-date and abreast of progress.

    Then you’ll be able to say to your Scrum Master, “I’ve had a look at the Teams group. I am ready to join the daily Scrum.”

    Tip 2: Have your Scrum Master review the Sprint Progress at the end

    At the end of the Scrum, the Scrum Master should review the current burn down to check on the progress of the team.

    Figure: A burndown chart in

    Tip 3: Keep a schedule of the Daily Scrum times on a wall (+ have a recurring appointment in Outlook)

    Figure: Schedule a recurring Daily Scrum meeting in Outlook using this template

    teams meeting daily scrum
    Figure: Or you can use Microsoft Teams

    Tip 4: Keep to the schedule. Same place, same time (and start even if people are missing)

    Get started on time. Especially in the beginning, people will be late, but the meeting should be held with the remaining people. Don't worry. People learn.

    If the Scrum Master is not a full-time member of the team (often they are), they should attend every now and then to check the Scrum process is being followed and the Daily Scrums are being used synchronize the team and not a general meeting.


    • The Product Owner (often the client) is not required at the stand-up meeting. If they wish to turn up, remind them that they have tape stuck over their mouth, so they don't talk
    • If you are not doing an approved Sprint and doing ad-hoc work, then best if the Product Owner (aka client) attends (see Ad Hoc work)

    Tip 5: Do you update tasks before the Daily Scrum?

    Daily Scrums are more effective when team members arrive when their tasks are already updated.

    See Do you update your tasks before the daily stand-up meeting?

    Tip 6: Don't go into detail

    Keep your answers short and concise. Do not stray from the 3 main questions. Remember to use the "Parking Lot" to record topics to discuss after the Daily Scrum.

    Tip 7: No phones + no checking email. No distractions

    Technology in the Daily Scrum causes people to lose focus on the goal. The goal is for the team to synchronize by sharing what they are doing. Avoid giving people the opportunity to be distracted easily by forbidding email, SMS and mobile phones from the Daily Scrum.

    Tip 8: Use a task board (even better use an electronic one)

    A task board allows people to visualize what the team is talking about.

    Figure: A Task Board from Azure DevOps

    Tip 9: Carry a pen and paper

    Use a pen and paper to jot things down.A whiteboard is also great for "Parking Lot" topics that arise, to be discussed after the meeting.

    Tip 10: Don't let your Daily Scrum become a general meeting - use a "Parking Lot"

    A "Parking Lot" is the place for any discussions that stop the Team from answering the 3 main questions. Only interested people stay for the "Parking Lot" to discuss issues after the Daily Scrum.

    Tip 11: If you have raised impediments, consider contacting the Product Owner

    Often the Product Owner won’t be at the Scrum. However, call the Product Owner if you have an Impediment (aka Roadblock). Communication with the Product Owner is essential and if you haven't touched base with him in the few days, then do so. A disconnected or absent Product Owner is a sign of dysfunction.

    Figure: Call the Product Owner if you have an Impediment (aka Roadblock)

    Tip 12: What to do when you're working for a PO directly

    If you don't have a team, and you're doing ad hoc work for a PO directly, it's best to contact him for the Daily Scrum every day if possible, and follow up with an email. This will keep the 2 of you synchronized.

    Tip 13: How do you enter Scrum meetings into your timesheets?

    Once you have completed your stand up, add “S” to your timesheet as per Rules to Better Timesheets.

    Tip 14: Use Teams or Skype

    Use Teams or Skype to bridge gaps in geography.

    Focus on the Flow

    "Extend this rule to focus on 'flow of value', not just people. In a continuous flow mindset, the daily standup is less about the people..... it's about flow. The team faces the Scrum board and goes ticket by ticket for all the items in the 'work in progress', finding out what is needed to get it to the next stage.. respecting work in progress constraints." Joel Semeniuk

    When using email or IM try to be as specific as possible:

    Hi Adam,

    I have XX days until my next client booking. I have 22 emails in my inbox. Yesterday I was on sick leave.

    Today I am working on:

    • Timepro PBIs
    • Tidy inbox

    Figure: Bad example - Lack of details. Eg. Yesterday - if it's Monday, you wouldn't say “Yesterday was Sunday"... so if you were sick, it's more useful to go back to the prior day you were working\


    I have XX days until my next client booking. I have 22 emails in my inbox. Last Friday I was on sick leave.

    Today I am working on:

    • TimePro - Adding new button to the next day
    • Getting my emails on "" to zero

    Figure: Good example - Clear details

    Tip 15 - Auto-generate your Daily Scrum with AutoScrum

    AutoScrum will scan your Azure DevOps repositories and find all the PBIs that you worked on yesterday and that are In Progress today.

    More details:

    More information

    What happens when you run out of tasks?

    The goal is to be productive for 8 hours of the day, so communicate with the rest of the developers and work with them on any other outstanding tasks. If there are no more tasks then take the next task from the top of the Sprint Backlog.

    What happens if there is a major incident?

    It is important that any major incidents are dealt with first. Start with any major incidents that occurred in the last 24 hours.

    Figure: Daily Scrums will alert everyone if there is a major problem and get all brains aligned in the right direction. There is no sense in putting a Band-Aid on a patient's scraped knee if there is a big knife in his eye!

  16. It is important to give users the ability to check for a new version of the application they are using. And once located it should be easily downloaded and installed. You need:

    1. A visual identifier such as a tick or a cross on the main menu
    2. A "Check for Updates" option in our Help menu.


    • This is mainly for Windows Forms, but you can do the same for new versions of Web Applications - e.g. a knowledge base package or Reporting Services Application.
    • You can do a complete check of your PC at the click of a button using SSW Diagnostics.
    • Since this check occurs over the web, you should use threading to avoid slowing down the forms responsiveness. This is a generic component that is available in the SSW .NET Toolkit.
    • If the UI is a Windows Service, be aware that they don't open up the UI very often. Therefore you can't rely on this method. In a coming release Diagnostics will ask for your email and let you know when updates are available for you PC.

    Figure: Bad UI - a nagging message box that forces the User to click OK

    Figure: Good UI - Show a Tick when the application is up to date

    Figure: Good UI - Show a Cross when the application is out of date

    To keep the consistent look and consistent code, we have implemented our version checker as a user control.

    Figure: SSW.Framework.WindowsUI.VersionStatus

    As it is a user control, we can easily implement this in all our applications. We just need to place the user control on the winform, and have the ProductDownloadID and ProductLatestVersionURL entered with the correct values.

    Figure: Enter the ProductDownloadID and ProductLatestVersionURL

    Figure: Include 'Check for Updates' in your applications

  17. Do you keep the best possible bug database?

    There are 101 bug databases on the market at the moment and of course many companies make up their own in-house systems.

    bugs This is a common scenario: Your tester/client finds a bug, they log on to your on-line bug database, and enter the data, they save the error message as a gif and upload the image. As Project Manager, you get notified by email of the bug, you log on to the application, view the image, review the status, assign a priority, and assign it to a developer. The developer receives the email, logs on and sets about fixing the bug. When completed, he logs back on to the application, enters a completed date, and an email is sent to the tester/client. The tester/client logs on, and is told what to test, reviews the work, enters a checked by date, and the final email is sent to the manager who closes the bug.

    Phew! That sounds like a lot of steps which is why most people resort to just sending an email. I believe most people send requests for tasks via email, if this is the case, why should developers have a separate "to-do" list, in the form of a bug-database in which they re-enter data?

    MS TFS has an Outlook addin which can save you a lot of this work called Team Companion. This has a number of benefits including:

    • Developers don't have to re-enter data
    • TFS fully integrates your bug tracking with your source control.
    • Managers can see important information like Tasks Completed and Tasks Assigned in TFS Reports
    • Clients can see what developers are working on via TFS
  18. Do you log every error?

    When you walk into a clothes store to exchange a pair of jeans, you expect to be treated with respect. The sales person should talk to you at your level, deal with your issues, and in a polite and fair way handle your problem. Developers should not expect software users to be treated any differently.

    Every error message you put into your products is an opportunity for good service. Users don't want to see "Run-time error. Can't save record with zero length string", instead the User should receive a message that helps them through the situation.

    Figure: Log every error

    Not to say though that there is any ideal error message - a great error is one that has been eliminated! In packaged products, every unhandled error is our problem.

    In the old days, unhandled errors would be stored in a local Access db, but now all unhandled errors should be automatically emailed to the product team. This is a proactive and polite approach to dealing with unhandled errors. If it's serious we will contact the client to resolve the situation - they get a bit of a surprise and think we have ESP!

    Remember what it is like to have good service in a restaurant. A good waiter knows when to interrupt you, when to leave you alone and how to do it all in a courteous and respectful way.

  19. We recommend adding these menus to your Tools Menu:

    • Tools - Validate code and links with SSW Code Auditor
    • Tools - Validate Data
    • Tools - Validate Reports with SSW Reporting Services Auditor
    • Tools - Run Unit Tests (with NUnit)
    • Tools - Validate PC with SSW Diagnostics
    • Tools - View Application Errors with SSW Lady Log
  20. Having a clear Definition of Done for your team is critical to your success and quality management in Scrum.

    Every team is different, but all need to agree on which items are in their "Definition of Done".

    There are 3 levels of 'Done' in communication

    Level 1

    Level 2

    • Sending a "Done" email
    • Screenshots
    • Code

    Level 3

    • Sending a "Done" email
    • Recording a quick and dirty "Done Video"
    • Code (showing a full scenario e.g. a user story)

    level 3 done
    Figure – Coded UI Test passes in Visual Studio

    There are 8 levels of 'Done' in software quality

    Start with these examples showing typical "Definitions of Done" from beginner teams to more mature teams:

    Team - Level 1

    • The code compiles
    • All tasks are updated and closed
    • No high priority defects/bugs are on that user story

    Team - Level 2

    • All of the above, plus
    • All unit tests passed
    • Greater than 1% code coverage (not earth shattering, but you need to start somewhere)

    Team - Level 3

    • All of the above, plus
    • Successful build on the Build Server
    • Git Branch Policies
      Azure DevOps Check in Policy - Change set Comments Policy (all check-ins must have a comment)
    • Azure DevOps Check in Policy - Work Items (all check-ins must be associated with a work item)
    • Code reviewed by one other team member (e.g. Checked by Bill)
    • Sending a Done email with screenshots

    Figure: Good example - Add check in policies to enforce your Definition of Done

    Team - Level 4

    • All of the above, plus
    • All acceptance criteria have been met
    • All acceptance criteria have an associated test passing (aka. Automated functional testing with Web Tests (Selenium), Coded UI Tests, or Telerik Tests)
    • Tip: Use Microsoft | Azure Test Plans
    • Sending a Done email (with video recording using SnagIt)

    TestPlanning 1
    Figure: Organize tests in suites with built-in E2E traceability across requirements, test artifacts and defects

    MTR 2
    Figure: Use the client, Microsoft Test Manager, to run tests and not just capture the pass/fail of steps, comments/attachments and bugs, but also capture diagnostic data during execution, such as screen recording, system info, image action log etc

    XT 3
    Figure: Explore your web applications, find and submit bugs directly from your Chrome browser – no need for predefined test cases or test steps

    Figure: Good example - Done video showing the features worked on

    Team - Level 5

    • All of the above, plus
    • Deployed to UAT (ideally using Continuous Deployment)
    • Complex code is documented (removing technical debt)
    • Product Owner acceptance

    Team - Level 6

    • All of the above, plus
    • Multiple environments automatically tested using Lab Management

    Figure: Good example - A tester Lab Management to create VMs for testing the application, then defines a test plan for that application with Test Case Management

    Team - Level 7

    • All of the above, plus
    • Automated Load Testing
    • Continuous Deployment

    Figure: Good example - Load testing involves multiple test agents running Web Performance Tests and pounding the application (simulating the behavior of many simultaneous users)

    Team - Level 8 (Gold)

    • All of the above, plus
    • Deployed to Production

    Congratulations! You are frequently deploying to production. This is called “Continuous Delivery” and allows you to gather quick feedback from your end users.

    You might have everything deployed to production, but it might not yet be visible to the end user. This can be achieved by having “Feature toggles” in place. The actual release of the functionality is a decision that the Product Owner and business takes.

  21. Management - Do you fix bugs first?

    This rule has been important for a long time: Fix bugs before adding functionality.

    • Bugs get more expensive as they get older
    • Bugs become more complex the longer you wait to fix them
    • You have better access to the developer who created it who will be able to fix it faster

    0 f1mn8rittlwl3zwz
    Bugs cost more to fix over time

    Source: What is a Software Bug? Cost of bug fix!

    Failing to follow this rule encourages developers and creators to focus on new 'interesting' functionality which is exactly what you don't want...You must be strong in the face of pressures from project plan scheduling!

    Note: The principle of this bug rule can apply to more than just developers.

    Let's suppose you work in Marketing and have a problem with a hypothetical report. You should fix that issue first, before adding new information to the report.

  22. It’s not uncommon for critical workflows in projects to become flaky and brittle, and on occasion, this will not be caught until the product hits production. An example of a critical workflow is placing an order on a shopping cart, or adding a timesheet in a time tracking site.

    These are workflows that, if errors occur, the product becomes rather useless, and thus needs to be strongly tested.

    The best way to test this workflow is by performing the workflow against a real environment, using a real browser – of course, in a repeatable, consistent way.

    A nice option is to use Seleno with an appropriate web driver for the desired browser – see the Seleno documentation. This library lets you write code to drive a user’s action in a browser, including for example logging in, searching for a product, adding it to the cart, proceeding to checkout, entering test credit card information and ensuring the success message.

    This isn’t free though. The nature of these tests mean that without proper care and maintenance, tests will fail intermittently. There are difficult-to-predict timings, DOM changes and browser compatibility issues and ongoing maintainability - so it is beneficial to limit these kinds of tests to critical happy-paths.

    test bad
    Figure: Bad example - No end-to-end tests, no automatic feedback when things go catastrophically wrong

    test good
    Figure: Good example - End-to-end Seleno tests run in Continuous-Integration, giving us very rapid feedback when the deployment breaks

  23. There is a myriad of options to choose from when storing and sharing documents: SharePoint, or OneDrive/Dropbox/Google Drive, or Microsoft Teams. The best choice is Microsoft Teams because it brings together the best of SharePoint, cloud file storage, real time collaboration and more into a single location.

    Warwick Leahy tells us why it's so important to save our files in the right place:

    Want to learn more? Watch Jean Thirion's longer video on this topic:

    teams   network share
    Figure: Bad Example - You shouldn't look for files on network shares

    Don't start searching from your start menu either for a program whether that be Notepad, Notepad++, OneNote or even Word. This will open the new file locally on your laptop which requires manual copying/sharing later. It's easy to forget to do.

    teams   Not from start menu
    Figure: Bad Example - You shouldn't create files locally first and then copy them

    Instead create your file in the Team for a start. It is immediately backed up and shared to the entire Team.

    teams   file tab
    Figure: Good Example - You can use the files tab in Teams (without leaving the app

    The great thing about having conversations next to the file is that it is always in context. Also, future users can view the conversation when they open the file in teams.

    teams   document conversation
    Figure: Good Example - You can have a conversation about a file

    Behind the scenes, storage is provided by a SharePoint site; so that is there if you want to use it. As an added bonus thanks to this; you can take the files offline by syncing with OneDrive for Business and by default each channel gets its own folder.

    teams   open sharepoint
    Figure: Good Example - You can open the files in SharePoint

    teams   sync onedrive
    Figure: Good Example - You can sync the files in SharePoint with your current machine through OneDrive. A toast notification should popup indicating that files will be synced

    Note If you realise later that you have created a client document and not saved it to Teams but have uploaded it to Onedrive instead then to keep the file history you should Sync Teams to your drive and copy the file locally. This will keep the file version history. Uploading the file in Teams loses that history so you may end up with an old client Team containing notes that appear to be new.

    What does not get stored in Microsoft Teams?

    1. For developers,

    A: Code obviously belongs in GitHub, Azure DevOps, etc.B: Also the 7 important documents should be stored in Azure DevOps (was TFS/VSTS)... or instead use Markdown with the Wiki

    1. For designers with large files, OneDrive is a better choice. See: Do you know the best Source Control for Designers?

    What about usernames and passwords?

    Documents with user names and passwords should not be stored in Microsoft Teams. Security is very important for everyone and every company. Use a password manager to store usernames and passwords.

    Note: API keys, whether generic or for the individual should also be stored in a password manager.

    Note: You can add other cloud storage providers for file storage e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
    This is not recommended - as they aren't first-class citizens i.e. if you want to share files from them, you need to go to the provider's sharing settings outside of Teams.

    Warning: By using Teams instead of SharePoint, you are losing a number of key features:

    • No full fidelity support for Metadata in Document Libraries e.g. can’t add extra columns into the “Files” tab
    • No support for private channels e.g. you will need a team per subset of users with different permissions
    • No direct access to version history from Teams UI (still exists on SharePoint UI)
    • No access to the cross-office365 Search feature e.g. SharePoint search is better (see video:
    • No access to external content in the search feature e.g. can’t search
    • No access to SharePoint designer workflows (although the new way to do it is Microsoft Flow)
  24. When you are regularly creating new releases of a cool .NET application or simply producing new proposals in Microsoft Word, files will inevitably become outdated. Rather than hit the DELETE key put a 'zz' at the front of the filename. The old versions should not be deleted straight away - it is just an unnecessary risk! The zz'd files can remain there until you need more space, then you should delete them.

    Obsolete old files aggressively
    Figure: 'ZZ' your files rather than deleting them! Alternatively add a folder named zz and move the outdated files into the new folder.

    Note: Other systems are used that are less aggressive than our 'zz' rule.

    • In .NET, the keyword obsolete is used to mark types and members of types that should no longer be used - these then turn up as a compiler warning.
    • In HTML, the keyword deprecated is used.

    Both allow for some backward compatibility.

    See our Rules to Better SQL Server Databases - Do you add zs prefix to table name?

    Video versions and using 'zz' on YouTube

    When uploading to some video hosting sites, like Vimeo, you can update a video by replacing the original video while keeping the same URL and view count.

    In YouTube an uploaded video can't be replaced, so to create a new version of a video it will be uploaded as a new video with a new URL.

    So that there are no broken or missing links, the video status is set to "unlisted", and we use the 'zz' process:

    • Add 'zz' to the beginning of the title.
    • Add a link to the latest version at the top of the description

    Figure: Good example of the 'zz' process for YouTube videos

  25. Recurring tasks are tasks that happen on a regular basis, but not necessarily every day (and therefore potentially easy to forget!). They might be personal tasks, such as changing the oil in your prized Datsun 120Y every six months, or booking a holiday for you and your partner a month before your anniversary. They could be work related tasks, such as updating your profile on the Microsoft Gold Partner website (every three months), running financial reports on a monthly basis, or even watering the office plants every week.

    Now managing those tasks can be difficult. "Just stick an appointment in Outlook" - yes I've heard and tried that method. Outlook is perfect when you are the one performing the task. But it's nowhere near perfect if you're managing people who are allocated to perform the task. In fact it's a disaster, because when that person leaves, (or just changes job role) that scheduled task/reminder disappears with them.

    The other problem with Outlook is if you are an organization that relies upon email as a to do/task list, Outlook doesn't send an automated email.

    After reviewing a few different options, we decided using Google Calendar to manage recurring tasks was the best option.

  26. Do you constantly add to the backlog?

    In the course of work everyone encounters bugs or problems. They can be dealt with by either:

    1. Pretend you didn't see the problem
    2. Fixing it straight away
    3. Add the issue to the backlog so someone else can fix it

    The best solution is to use a combination of 2 and 3.

    • If it will take less 15 mins to fix, do it straight away.
    • If it will take more time, add the problem to the Product Backlog and email a link to the appropriate person (even if it’s a third party product).

    This approach raises the question of priorities. If you hit too many hurdles you continually get diverted from the main task. For example when fixing the Client form you encounter a problem with the Client Contact form which breaks the Products form etc. (This can be described as the "Tree Approach" as opposed to the "Straight through to the Goal approach".)

    You need to try to balance short term productivity with long term improvements. The idea is that it is better to get 2 things done at 100% than get 4 things done at 75%! At a minimum, always add the issue to the backlog.

  27. Do you have a Knowledge Base (KB)?

    Do you know what the most useful thing on Microsoft website is? It is their knowledge base at

    When a problem arises it should be your first port of call - it allows you to help yourself.

    So, if you answer questions on your products to customers, you are wasting time if you don't have a knowledge base. Just think, you might not be answering Harry's question if he could have looked it up himself.

    Now of course there are many customers who don't look for a KB, but instead, you fire off the same old email that you already know is an MDAC related error, and your current solution is to tell them to run SSW Diagnostics and get all the green ticks.

    Dear Harry,

    Thank you for taking the time to report the issue to SSW Code Auditor. I'm happy to let you know that this is a known issue and has been addressed in our knowledge base: [link]

    Thanks, Bob

    Figure: Responding to a known issue with a KB article

    The basic rule is: don't send back the answer in your email - instead send back the link. More specifically:

    1. If you can answer a support email then reply to the support email (using one of the 4 templates on the right)

      • TO: the client
      • CC: the developer and your manager with the KB link
    2. If you can’t answer the question then reply to the support email

      • TO: the client and the developer
      • CC: your manager
      • Ask the customer if they can get diagnostics to all green ticks.
      • Ask the developer to “Please action?"

    Dear Harry,

    Thank you for taking the time to report the issue to SSW Code Auditor.

    I am sorry to let you know that I cannot reproduce this. Could you please provide me with more details or, even better, would I be able to connect to your PC? It is simple and you can see everything I do. To do so, you can send me an appointment for an appropriate time or add me to your Skype

    Kind Regards, Bob

    Figure: Responding when you cannot reproduce the issue

    Dear Harry,

    Done. The code changed from

    XXX to      YYY

    Thank you for reporting this bug - our software only gets better with help from our customers. This fix will be available in the next version shortly.

    Kind Regards, Bob

    Figure: Informing of a Fix (Email 1 of 2) Note: In this email, you can offer them an interim build

    Dear Harry,

    Thank you for taking the time to report the issue to SSW Code Auditor. I'm happy to let you know that this problem is fixed in this release.

    Please download the new version at [link]

    Kind Regards, Bob

    Figure: Informing of a New Version (Email 2 of 2)

    Notice how by just giving them the URL, this email does the job of encouraging them to use your knowledge base in the future. You need to make sure the support staff knows that there are really only 4 types of emails customers should be receiving (see the 4 grey boxes).

    Things are running well when you have support staff adding new KB for:

    • Known issues
    • Hot tips
    • Performance tips KBs also play a very important role in getting a product released. You will never get every feature done or bug fixed - we all know it. Focus on getting a version out. It is usually more important to have a version available than having no version at all. When you are looking down the Project Plan, decide on what the * must-haves * are. The other features and known bugs will have to remain outstanding. All the longer-term bugs should go into the KB. We also put in the feature requests that we plan on doing. This way our customers know of our exciting features coming in future versions of our software.

    However * don't * write a KB article if fixing the bug and making a new version solves the problem. You'll have to fix the problem anyway, so don't waste time writing a KB, just email the new version. Please see How to Develop and Reply "Done"

    You don't need to be Microsoft to build a KB. A Knowledge Base does not need to be complicated. We use a simple knowledge base which is located at

    Suggestions for features should be added to the backlog and voted on at

    Dear Harry,

    Thanks for the suggestion for SSW Code Auditor!

    I have added it to the list of future developments (which we call our backlog). Future features can be voted on at

    Thanks, Bob

    Figure: Responding to a Feature Suggestion

  28. There are a few methods to control a client's machine remotely, all of them have the same functionality, but different usage, and different pros and cons.

    Desktop support

    For supporting end users' workstation machines remotely, here is the order you should try with the end users:

    Teams give control
    Figure: Teams allow you to give remote control, making it the best option for giving support


    For server machines, we recommend using either Windows' built-in Remote Desktop (also knows as "Terminal Services") or a VNC-based tool. Remote Desktop provides each authenticated user a Windows login session that is not shared. If your client lives in a place where the time zone is different, Remote Desktop should be your first choice as it doesn't need the client's interaction once Remote Desktop is enabled (typically it should have been enabled for a server for the ease for remote maintenance and monitoring). For servers, Remote Desktop is usually enabled via a group policy (AD GPO), although it can also be enabled through Windows System Properties.

    Figure: Enable Remote Desktop

    Remote Desktop works for workstations, but it's not recommended due to a security risk if Remote Support isn't disabled. Also, because of the End User License Agreement (EULA), only allows 1 user at a time, if you log in to client's Windows machine, the client will be logged off.

    If you can't use TeamViewer, Skype, or Remote Desktop, you can try VNC. There are a number of VNC servers and clients available. VNC-based sessions typically behave as if you're physically using the computer. This means that it shares the same login session with the user who is currently logged on the machine. VNC software allows you to configure a specific username and password for remote access, which means that you don't have to share Windows usernames and passwords or create a temporary Windows user account. Some clients may also prefer this as they can sit in and watch what is happening.

    The VNC tools we prefer: TightVNC and Ultra VNC.

    Read SSW Remote Support Standard.

  29. Do you stop dealing with Data and Schema?

    Why don't most developers plan ahead? Take an average Desktop application that you sell to a few customers. When the customer wants a new version, there is no problem giving the customer the new exe. But what if you made a back-end structural changes to your database? Big hassle! You need to compare the database to remind you what was changed. Sure there are utilities for this - for Access back ends you can use SSW Data Renovator or for SQL Server back ends there is Red-gate SQL Compare - but why go to this trouble?

    Version control for your Schema and where required your Data should be an important part of planning your projects.

    For more information read Rules to Better SQL Server Schema Deployment.

  30. It is important to maintain three separate environments for development, testing and production. Some companies skip the testing server because it can be a hassle to copy new files, register DLLs and deploy backend changes. This will usually result in higher support costs and unhappy users due to simple bugs that could have being found in testing.

    The old solution is to use build scripts (.bat and .vbs files) to automatically create a setup package that can be used to deploy to testing and production environments. For backend changes, you can either include the change scripts with the setup package (if it's a localised database), or run those scripts as part of your deployment process.

    Read more about setup packages at SSW's Wise Standard for Products.

    Bad Example - using scripts to deploy your product to different environments

    The best way to manage your product across different environments is to use DevOps tools (like Azure DevOps, GitHub Actions, and others) and Infrastructure as Code (IaC).

    For more information, see our rule: Do you know how to create Azure resources?.

    Good Example - use DevOps tools and IaC to deploy to different environments

    You should also place the resources for each environment into its own Resource Group, and the resource group should have a tag to easily identify which environment the Resource Group relates to.

    For more information, see our rule: Do you apply tags to your Azure Resource Groups?.

    Now make each environment clear.

    Whenever an application has a database, have a visual indicator. I recommend a different background color for each environment

    • Red for the Development database
    • Yellow for the Test database
    • Grey (no colour) for the Production database

    Note: The Yellow could have been Orange (kind of like traffic lights) but the color palette in Word doesn't give Orange.

    Figure: Colors in Word color palette

    For more information, see our rule: Do you identify Development, Test and Production Web Servers by colors?

    Note: Relying on color alone is not accessible for people who are visually impaired. It's important to use other identifiers to distinguish between environments.

    For webapps and websites, make the environment clear by using a URL prefix too.

    For more information, see our rule: Do you always rename staging URL on Azure?.

    This prevents testers from accidentally entering test data into the production version.

    Static Site Tip: Add a "THIS IS THE X ENVIRONMENT" banner header to your non-production websites.
    Windows Forms Tip: Implement in the base form in the header
    ASP.NET (at least version 2.0) Tip: Implement in the master form in the header

    Figure: Spice up your environments with different colors

  31. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" goes the saying. Having a strict coding standard is prevention. To create good code you must have good standards, such as commenting standards, naming standards, versioning standards and knowing the value of consistency.

    But this can really only happen if you’re going to go the extra mile and stick your neck out and correct someone.

    watchdog mean
    Figure: Bad Example - Receiving corrections is never easy and often received more harshly than the giver intended

    watchdog watchdog
    Figure: Good example - Go super gentle when people make mistakes. Correct them as though they’re a soft cute puppy 🐶

    Every member of a team plays an important role in maintaining standards. Whether it's your work or someone else's, always keep an eye out for things that can be improved.

    This rule applies to all company standards. Standards are important because they ensure your experience at work is consistent and enjoyable. For example, if there was no standard to stack the dishes in the dishwasher when you were finished using them, dishes would build up and create a big mess in the kitchen!

    Be nice, not harsh

    Do you know the nice way to correct someone?

    Small things = Tiny Tip

    When the 'mistake' the person made is not an actual mistake, but something that the company has decided to do in one way for consistency, without a strong argument.

    Tiny Tip: I’d use international format on your phone number so people outside Australia can just click to dial - as per

    Figure: Good example - nicely informing of a small standard oversight

    Important things = Tip

    When there is a proven better way to do something different from what the person has done. You should try to include the reasons.

    Tip: I noticed your email has a very generic subject: "website". Please resend with a descriptive email subject as per Rules to Better Email. This way it is easier to identify, categorize and find this email later, without having to open it :)

    Figure: Good example - nicely informing of a better way to do something

    Crucial things = Critical

    When the error the person committed can lead to a misunderstanding or a security breach. You should include a task with action when necessary.

    Critical: When sending a proposal never use the word "quote", but use "estimates" instead. As per Rules to Better Project Management we don't work with a fixed price, which is opposite to what the word "quote" implies. This might create different expectation and consequently frustration and legal problems with the client.

    1. Please fix asap

    Figure: Good example - nicely informing of a critical mistake

    Coding - For Developers

    When you come across an error, don't just fix it, as the developer who made it is likely to make it again. Instead, write an email to the person explaining what has been done wrong and how you would've improved the code. CC relevant parties to improve others, to collect your brownie points or to set a good example.

    No one likes being corrected but hopefully, with everyone doing this in the office, it's not a matter of finger-pointing, it is working together to write better code or developing better solutions.

    Tip: In code, if you don't know who made the mistake, use the annotate tool.

    What if it's recurring?

    When you notice someone doing the wrong thing:

    • First time just send an email with a pointer to the rule
    • The second time, have a very quick chat with them
    • Third time call them in and give them a formal talk about it

    Focus on the meat first

    When you receive a great 'done' email or document, make sure you mention how great it is before correcting any potential error.

    Timing is everything - Don't bottle it up

    It can be tempting to offer your feedback as soon as you think of it, but it's better to hold off until the recipient is in a place where they can hear it. If a person is busy, distracted, or in a poor emotional state, chances are your feedback won’t hit the mark. Wait until the person is calm and relaxed before asking them if now is a good time to offer your feedback.

    For more, check out Do you know to create a safe space instead of jumping into feedback?

    watchdog ghost
    Figure: Bad example - seeing a mistake and not pointing it out doesn't improve a person. Allow them to benefit from your experience!

    Going Anonymous

    When something is really personal, you can’t really correct someone unless you are a close friend and have credit with the person, so you should discretely ask your manager how to proceed in that specific case.

    Taking Feedback

    watchdog thankyou
    Figure: Good example - say 'thank you' to a person's corrections to show you don't have thin skin and encourage further positive and negative feedback. It all helps you to improve

    In Summary

    It's important to ensure others are doing their best to maintain and follow the standards. Remember, it can be just as important for someone's professional development to give feedback as it is to receive it. Being able to communicate feedback in an effective and professional manner can benefit you in any career.

    Figure: Good example - nicely informing of a standards violation

  32. Do you thoroughly test employment candidates?

    Do you rely entirely on the claims of Recruitment Agencies when selecting new employees? If you do, it may be a very costly mistake. We have been giving coding tests to new employees for 10 years. A candidate has to prove they can walk the walk before they can join our team.

    We give a Project Management test to coders as well. Developers should be able to contribute to the working of a project from end to end. They need to communicate with not only sales and marketing staff, but also clients and people that walk off the street! Clients typically think developers (aka computer nerds) come from another planet. Getting Project Managers at the go between is good, but on many jobs it just adds a layer and an unnecessary cost to a job. Recruiting developers that understand the ins and outs of project management means that that developers have less reliance on a Project Manager, they get to speak to customers more (a very good thing) and the customer gets a cheaper solution.

    Another thing is that when interviewing you have to go on your instinct a bit. This won't always work, but as Joel says: "a bad candidate will cost a lot of money and effort and waste other people's time fixing all their bugs." It's best to let a good candidate slip occasionally than let a bad one spoil your coding and client relationships. Joel again: "If you have any doubts whatsoever, No Hire."

  33. Do you have a healthy team?

    Developers are notoriously unhealthy people. They don't exercise enough, don't sleep enough and eat the wrong food. An unhealthy developer is not going to be able to concentrate or put in the hard-yards when required, nor are they going to be very happy. In the office I try to look after them as best I can by:

    • Not having chocolate biscuits and instead keeping a bowl of fruit
    • Not having coke machines and instead having a purified cold water bottle in the middle of the office
    • Encouraging them to do as much exercise as possible - even doing push-ups every day.
    • And instead of dinners for birthdays where you eat and drink all night, every few months we always do something fun for someone's birthday, like indoor climbing, ten-pin bowling or even a bush walk in the Blue Mountains.

    I also conduct a monthly weigh-in, with incentives to look after yourself. I don't encourage my developers to stay up all night investigating new stuff, and I take them away for a two weeks every year to work by the beach and get some fresh air into their system, as well some early morning swims.

    I find that encouraging a healthy life-style really helps my team be more productive and have more fun.


  34. Do you know how to deal with distractions?

    Keeping your mind on the job is very important, especially when you're trying to fix a bug/issue or finalize a task to meet this afternoon's deadline. Here is how you keep "in the zone":

    1. Refer people to standards and you will be helping them learn + reducing the number of interruptions they get. This is why we invest in the SSW Rules.
    2. Avoid multi-tasking as much as possible. Don't open an email, respond to half the questions, and then open another. Complete the first task and then delete the email. When you multi-task, there’s a higher chance your work quality will be dropped, as well as your attention to detail.
    3. Set your Browser's default to "About: Blank" so you don't get distracted by news or social media, for example. Tip: There is an extension for Google Chrome to replace your homepage called Momentum, where you will be shown a photograph as the background, time, greetings, and your own focus for the day.
    4. Minimize Phone distractions. If you are in a meeting, it’s a good idea to put your mobile phone to “do not disturb”.
    5. Minimize Microsoft Teams distractions.
    6. Minimize Outlook distractions.
    7. Minimize Skype distractions.
    8. People should avoid distracting you - using IM unnecessarily can be evil. See Do you know important chats should be in an email?
    9. People will interrupt you less if you let them know what you are working on. Tip: Use the Teams status to let people know what you are doing (saves them having to ask you). See Do you use the status message in Teams?
    10. Whenever you can, programming/working in pairs is great as it means you will be forced to focus, you won't cruise the web, or play Solitaire.
    11. Use a concentration technique, such as Pomodoro.

    Square SM photos
    Figure: Multi-tasking can be your deadline's enemy

    Figure: The Pomodoro technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

  35. Employees need easy access to standards that are used everyday. We maintain standards at SSW for any activity that can be standardized including coding practices, naming conventions, standard form layouts and documents. There are also internal standards like expense and leave procedures.

    The first step is to use HTML rather than MS Word documents.

    The second step is to think about location. Should it go on a Web site or Intranet? We believe in dividing it up into 2 groups:

    • Public - e.g. /Standards
    • Private - e.g. /Standardsinternal

    The benefit with standards on the Web is to get feedback from other developers. See our SQL Server Naming Standards for an example. The third step is to decide on a web page theme so every page is consistent. I am continually surprised at how much time is wasted by managers explaining to web designers the corporate template - so get smart and do one up that they can follow.

  36. Do you manage your papers?

    It is common during the course of a project to assemble a pile of papers of notes and other information related to the client you are working with. Some of these will be tasks that relate to the project, some will be general information that does not require any action, and some will have no use. In any case, it's important that you don't lose anything that may be needed later.At SSW we use the following system for managing papers around the office:

    All SSW staff are allocated a physical inbox. You must check it daily to ensure that it is kept empty - this is where papers relating to your projects will end up.

    1. Paper is related to a task:

      • Send an email to yourself with 'Note to self' in the subject line, and the task in the body.
      • Throw the paper away.
    2. Paper has no use:

      • Throw the paper away! Examples of this would include your own notes that are no longer relevant.
    3. Paper is not a task but needs to be kept anyway:

      • The SSW filing system is split into 3 categories: current clients, past clients and SSW internal. It is your responsibility to make a new folder if one doesn't exist for your client (filing supplies and the label maker are in the machine room). Write the ClientID and your initials and date in the top right hand corner of the paper. e.g. HOED - CA - 11/11/2000.
      • Hopefully any papers you may have will be related to current clients. Paper in this category include Non Disclosure Agreements, and Terms and Conditions. File the paper in the clients folder.
  37. If a client says:

    "This application is too slow, I don't really want to put up with such poor performance. Please fix."

    We don't jump in and look at the code and clean it up and reply with something like:

    "I've looked at the code and cleaned it up - not sure if this is suitable - please tell me if you are OK with the performance now."

    A better way is:

    • Ask the client to tell us how slow it is (in seconds) and how fast they ideally would like it (in seconds)
    • Add some code to record the time the function takes to run
    • Reproduce the steps and record the time
    • Change the code
    • Reproduce the steps and record the time again
    • Reply to the customer: "It was 22 seconds, you asked for around 10 seconds. It is now 8 seconds."

    Code Auditor performance
    Figure: Good example – Add some code to check the timing, before fixing any performance issues (An example from SSW Code Auditor)

    Also, never forget to do incremental changes in your tests!

    For example, if you are trying to measure the optimal number of processors for a server, do not go from 1 processor to 4 processors at once:

    Figure: Bad Example - Going from 1 to 4 all at once gives you incomplete measurements and data

    Do it incrementally, adding 1 processor each time, measuring the results, and then adding more:

    Figure: Good Example - Going from 1 to 2, then measuring, then incrementally adding one more, measuring...

    This gives you the most complete set of data to work from.

    This is because performance is an emotional thing, sometimes it just *feels* slower. Without numbers, a person cannot really know for sure whether something has become quicker. By making the changes incrementally, you can be assured that there aren’t bad changes canceling out the effect of good changes.


    For sample code on how to measure performance for Windows application form, please refer to rule Do you have tests for Performance? on Rules To Better Unit Tests.

  38. A great way of motivating your staff is to have some form of recognition in place; happy employees are good employees! One of the simplest ways to achieve this is by having a bell located within the office for employees to ring when they have made a large sale, secured a big deal or some important news to announce. By showing appreciation to your employees you encourage all your staff to perform.

    At SSW whenever a big new project is signed up, we sell an enterprise license for one of our products, or we release a project into production we send an email to all staff and then ring the bell, which is located in the middle of the office.

    ring the bell
    Figure: Ring the bell email - send an email when you have good news with a prefix of ‘Ring the Bell - xxx’

    Management Tip: As a company owner or manager, you might want to see who of your employees are contributing to this feeling of appreciation around the office, and you can do that by querying your Mail Server for threads with "Ring the Bell" in the subject.

    Note: For really large milestones, you may want to go a step further and organise a reward for the team.

  39. **Level 1: Use Source Control. **You should always use a source control system! SSW uses and recommends Team Foundation Server (TFS).
    It is not for a backup, it is because changing code can introduce new bugs. Often these bugs are non-obvious and appear in a part of the system, far removed from your changes. They are especially useful when another developer made the breaking change. So source code tracking allows you to see what changed recently to introduce a new bug. This dramatically reduces the time it takes to find and fix a newly introduced error.

    Level 2: Do you integrate your source control with your bug tracking tool? Source control works best when integrated with a task tracking system. SSW uses and recommends Microsoft Team Foundation Server which allows you to check in changes and link to the work item (Bug or Task)... all from within Visual Studio.

    Tip: If your systems are not integrated automatically, you can still integrate manually by convention. Just quoting the work item or bug ID in comments, whenever a source code change is committed.

    Whatever you use, your toolchain/process/IDE should fulfil the following user stories:

    1. As a developer working on a code file

    I want to easily view a file’s change history and navigate to the work items that were associated with the changes

    So that I can fix a recently introduced bug quickly

    1. As a senior software developer I want to browse work items of junior developers, and have it linking/showing the code

    So that I can easily review their recent code

    SSW Rules to Better Source Control

  40. There are a few things to look out for when signing legal documents:

    1. Make sure there are no specific damages mentioned in any legal document. They should always be left to the relevant courts to decide.
    2. Make sure the courts that would be adjudicating any conflict are local. (i.e. in your state or at least your country).
    3. Lastly, for time and materials style software projects, make sure that there is a common understanding of how bugs are handled. i.e. there is no warranty on work done, as bugs are just a natural part of software development
  41. Do you ask clients to initial your work?

    A person's signature is extremely valuable. Getting a signature is hard work. Salespeople use all sorts of euphemisms to avoid that confronting request: "if you could just sign here..."

    However, requesting a signature (or just an initial) on non-contractual type documents (especially screenshots, mockups, or data-schemas) is very beneficial.

    When you ask a client to 'review this screen mock-up' they will generally take a cursory glance, perhaps make a comment or two and then move on to something else. Asking them to initial/sign the document always makes them take a second or third look, ask someone else, or at least spend a few more minutes working out whether it's correct or not.

    Training clients to review the work carefully leads to better quality projects.

    SuccessfulProjects Signature
    Figure: A signature can be very valuable but sometimes hard to obtain, like Michael Jackson's autograph

  42. It is important to refer to your standards when trying to explain a concept. This process ensures you always give the most up to date information and that the documentation gets updated when needed. They will then know where the standard is so they can refer to it later.

    When a new programmer on your team needs to get up and running on the SharePoint image you know the right and wrong way to say it.

    Sit with John Liu and he will get you up on our SharePoint image

    Bad Example: Explain how to run the SharePoint image

    Get the URL to the standard from our intranet, if the standard is unclear, check your changes with John Liu and then make them

    Good Example: Refer to SharePoint rules

  43. Mock-ups are very powerful tools to communicate requirements with clients, however it could be very time consuming and costing to create a good looking mock-up. Also, we don't want to "create and throw" our mock-ups, they should be picked up by developers and add features on top of them once the client approves the work.

    Using Expression + SketchFlow, you can:

    • Quickly create sketch-style mock-ups with little efforts,
    • Share your mock-ups with the whole team and clients easily,
    • Collect feedbacks from clients,
    • Use them in development process directly (as they are real Sliverlight and WPF solution files)


    Figure: Expression + SketchFlow

    Read Do you conduct specification analysis by creating mock-ups? to learn more about other mock-up types.

  44. Do you know how to handover a project?

    A common source of pain, is picking up a project without a decent/complete handover. To have a successful project you must navigate over the problem of changing resources/people leaving etc.

    As soon as an employee has given their resignation notice, their manager should become responsible for ensuring a successful handover takes place.  Each project they were involved in should be reviewed and another employee with a matching skill set should be selected to receive the handover. Handovers should be booked in for each project with both employees in attendance, as early as possible and with high priority.

    Figure: This is not how you handover a project

    Once the handover is complete, the resigning employee should no longer work on that project so that any gaps in knowledge can be covered ideally before their notice period expires.

    Always ensure that you complete the following checklist and always send the email confirming the handover is complete.

    Here are the 8 steps you should follow for a good handover.

    1. Confirm current tasks
    2. Confirm future tasks
    3. Confirm the primary contacts
    4. Do a code review (only for developers)
    5. Review the client portal
    6. Confirm and document the location of info and procedures (hopefully, these are on a wiki or SharePoint document library). For a development project this may include:

      • Source control. Make sure there is no stale or old branches. Check out: Do you know when to branch in git?
      • Database
      • Documents
      • How to Build and Package
      • Testing Steps and users and passwords to access the test and staging servers
      • Deployment Steps
      • Servers and Passwords
      • Failure & Recovery Steps
    7. Test that the users, passwords, URLs and server details provided in the handover are correct by logging in with each
    8. Complete the Handover by sending an email with: As per our meeting the handover has been completed to my satisfaction

    Figure Bad Example - This handover is incomplete and light on details

    Figure: Good Example - This handover has lots of URLs and is complete

    If you need to handover only a single task there are more details here: Do you know how to hand over tasks (aka Emails) to others?

  45. Do you have a deployment plan?

    Instructions are very important when maintaining a project. When someone new joins the project, you want to make sure that they can easily find the documentation to do tasks like setting up the project and deploying it.

    See the rule "Do you make instructions at the beginning and improve it gradually for web projects?"

    That being said, the deployment plan is an important part of the Instructions.docx. It should clearly layout all the steps required to:

    1. Deploy from scratch to a new server
    2. Update versions
    3. Rollback to a previous version
    4. Update Schema or data

    It should also include checks to verify the deployment was successful. E.g.:

    1. Check zsValidate.aspx
    2. Check runtime settings (e.g. Payment Gateways, Google Analytics, Connection strings)
    3. Manual testing procedure (e.g. Place an order)

    This document should also be signed off by the project lead and verified by the client.

  46. Sometimes a client may ask for a small amount of time to be written off and may not have a good reason (from SSW’s point of view). Normally this would mean that the time would not be written off. However, sometimes, in the interest of continuing relationships with valued clients, some time may need to be written off simply to keep the clients happy.

    This may seem counterintuitive since there is no logical reason to write off the time but in situations where it is necessary:

    • Make sure you are not setting a precedent (“This is a one off” or “We don’t normally do this, but...”)
    • Make sure you are not allowing yourself to be bullied (If the client seems entirely unreasonable or just expects a discount, they may need to be trained to our way of working)
    • Make sure that the potential for more work substantially outweighs the amount of time written off
    • Make sure that you are actually solving the problem, and not just giving a token gesture which may not fix the issue (e.g. just giving a discount as a way of placating a client who is unhappy about our project management methodology etc.)
  47. Any time you come to some verbal arrangement with an employee, client or contractor, which creates or varies a contract (for example changes to rates, deliverables etc.), it's crucial you draft the agreement yourself.

    SuccessfulProjects DraftAgreementYourself Figure: Can you really trust the other side to draft the agreement correctly? Sometimes, especially if you are an efficient manager and enjoy delegating, it's tempting to ask the other party to write up the change. This is a major risk:

    1. The other party may not even get around to drafting the agreement leaving you without a paper trail
    2. If they do draft the agreement it may not accurately reflect the conversation

    Take responsibility for any agreements you make. Draft them yourself and then send an email "as per our conversation".

  48. Bad way: use the Global Address List in Active Directory, because you can’t update it from Outlook... Only an administrator can maintain the detailsNote: good UI as it is easy to find inside outlook

    Good way: use the Dynamics 365 (formerly CRM 2016) toolbar?Note: We have a suggestion that Outlook should allow you to put the CRM2016 URL into Tools | Options so this is better integrated

  49. Do you have an Engagement Lifecycle?

    Having a documented process for managing engagements provides clients with a consistent experience. It also helps to get new employees up to speed quickly, and provides a reference to existing employees to ensure no steps are accidentally missed.

    Our engagement lifecycle overlaps with our sales pipeline, and maps to the 8 Steps to Scrum.

    Engagement Lifecycle
    Figure: Good Example - Engagement Lifecycle

    1. Initial Phone Call

      • The client has made contact but no initial meeting has yet been made
    2. Initial Meeting - Booked

      • Sales team has arranged an initial meeting and it's booked in.
      • The Initial Meeting is a non-billed meeting that maps to the Initial Meeting described in the 8 Steps to Scrum. It is attended by a Sales person and ideally a Solution Architect.
    3. Follow Up Meeting - Booked

      • In some cases, more than one initial meeting may be required before work or speccing commences.
    4. Specification Review Proposal - Waiting for Approval

      • After the Initial Meeting, if the work requires it, a specification review is proposed.
    5. Specification Review - Booked

      • The Specification Review meeting has been approved and booked in.
      • The Specification Review is a billed meeting with the customer to review existing specifications, understand specific goals, risks and relevant technologies appropriate for the solution, and create the initial backlog.
      • During the Specification Review, the Solution Architect prepares a document, presentation, or video outlining the results of the Specification Review, as per Spec - Do you effectively present the outcomes at the "Specification Review Presentation"?.
    6. Project Proposal - Waiting for Approval

      • After the Specification Review, the client is given a proposal for a chunk of work. Once this is approved, the Sales Team closes the opportunity as 'won'.
      • Proposal is sent to the client including financials and the result of the Specification Review.
    7. Project Execution

    8. Project Closure

      • Project is completed, any handover or other transition that has been defined is completed with the client.
      • Just like a Sprint Retrospective is held at the end of each Sprint, a Project Retrospective is held to learn from the project that has just completed.
  50. These are the steps you should take when request a "test please":

    1. Find two free testers to send the email below
    2. Stop working on the project until you receive either a "pass" or "fail" email
    3. Create your "test please" following this template:

    Note: For clients on fixed-price contracts, the test please reply marks the start of the 30-day warranty period.

    DO NOT send a 'Test Please' via Teams (with the content)

    You should use Teams to point the tester to the 'Test Please' email:

    I need you to see my 'Test Please' email
    See subject: Test Please - Product Name v1.11"

    Note to developers If current version is better than the last version you can release (even with a test fail) as long:

    • The bugs reported in the test fail existed in the old version
    • Two people have tested it
    • The changes in this version are fairly important to get out
    • You get to work on the failures ASAP

    What if you're doing a Windows Forms test?

    Then you should also include this to the email:

    • The latest version of [Product Name] has been uploaded to \frog\SSW\Download[Application_verX-XX_beta.exe
    • Test on a fresh VPC image of Windows
    • Install into a non-default directory
    • Check the installation folder for misplaced items
    • Test Unit Tests via "Help - Run Unit Tests"
    • (If Applicable)Test the "Create" and "Reconcile" buttons. Read Rules to Better .NET Projects
    • Test open and closing forms and saving values
    • Test most buttons and menus and links
    • Disable your network connection and test again (check for unhandled errors)
    • If your test fails, please rename the executable to Application_verX-XX_failed.exe

    What if you are doing an email test?

    In most cases, you can follow Do you use 'Checked by xxx'?

    For really important stuff you may need to actually send a 'Test Please' email to test your email. In these cases:

    • DO NOT add 'Test Please' to the subject. (it is too easy to forget later!)
    • Instead, add 'Test please' highlighted in yellow to the top of the email body
  51. Don't let your client find bugs in production that they would have found if you had asked them to do a 'Test Please' 1stBetter still... Don't let your client find bugs that your internal tester would have found.Better still... Don't let your tester find bugs that a tool could have found?

    So, prior to a version being submitted to the client, these are the 4 steps you should follow:

    1. Perform automated testing with tools:

      • SSW Link Auditor (for Web Apps)
      • SSW Code Auditor (for all Apps)
      • SSW SQL Auditor (for all Apps with databases)
      • SSW SQL Deploy's Reconcile (for all Apps with databases) 
      • Visual Studio Team System Code Analysis (optional)
    2. Perform automated testing via Unit Tests

      • nUnit (for Windows Apps), or
      • Visual Studio Team System Unit Tests (for Web Apps)
    3. Perform an internal "Test Please" (aka "Alpha Testing" e.g. only testing that pages or forms load, not checking the business rules)
    4. Then send a "Test Please" to the client (aka "Acceptance Testing" to check the business rules)
  52. Every week the project manager should meet with the client to conduct an external "Test Please" as well as to discuss the status of the release.

    Tip #1: Choose the same day each week (for example SSW chooses Tuesday) Tip #2: While it is better to conduct an internal "Test Please" before the meeting (for example SSW chooses Friday), this "Release Update/Debrief Meeting" should proceed (even if it hasn't been completed).

    This is the agenda:

    1. Status of original work items - are they all done?
    2. External Test Please - go through the application and get the clients thoughts. Many issues they see, will already be reported by the internal "Test Please". Send emails to the new ones.
    3. Triage these additional work items - try to move all to the next release
    4. Approval for additional work items/budget overruns - talk $$ e.g. look at the "Actual" and "Estimate" figures on the top of the report
    5. Release sign-off - "Yes" or "No"?

    If "Yes"

    1. Ask the client for a mark /10 for the release
    2. Ask the client if you can do a deployment to Production?
    3. Ask for Approval for next release

    There are tools to help you do this:

    ProgressReport small
    Figure: The actual output of the Release Update Report

    Here is a PDF format SSW Release Update Report.

    If you are at the end of a main section of work, promote your success

  53. Management - Do you know who has authority?

    Ok, once a project gets going, you can end up dealing with many people on the client side. From the Boss to the Business Decision Maker (we call them the "Product Owner") through to Mary the receptionist (aka "users"), everyone has something to say about the software as it is being developed. However, when you are working on a Time & Materials basis in a rapid development environment with continually changing specs, you have to be certain that the work you are doing is authorised by the person who signs the cheques.

    Figure: Sample Change Request Confirmation email

    So, say Alan from Accounts would like the Username and Password authentication to have a "remember me" checkbox for the Accounts module. This sounds reasonable, but it doesn't mean that you should charge right in and start coding.The following is the recommended approach to governing this process:

    • At the beginning of the project an employee from the client is assigned as Product Owner. This person has full authority as to what work is "in" or "out". Every new item of work should be visible to the Product Owner. (CC is your friend, @mention is your friend)
    • Whenever someone who ISN'T the Product Owner makes a request for work, the Product Owner must be CC'd. For example, if Mary the receptionist has not done this, the developer sends the email again to himself, and CC's the Product Owner (and of course other relevant people).
    • Note: The assumption is made that the task is good to go, so it is the Product Owner's responsibility to reply ASAP if they don't want the problem fixed.
  54. Test, test, test! Testing is the most critical part of any project. Before the delivery of any release the application must pass an internal "test please". Clients quickly become disillusioned if you have delivered a bug-riddled application.

    Figure: Do you want users to have good first impressions?

    There are a number of different types of tests that you can perform:

    • Unit Testing: It validates the smallest testable parts of an application. Unit tests do not cover the UI layer. There is no industry standard 3rd party unit test tool but at SSW we use NUnit and Visual Studio Team Test.
    • White Box Testing: White box testing or structural testing is done knowing the internal code implementation and targeting specific aspects: for example security risks or a potential performance bottle neck. By looking at the implementation it helps to identify areas where the system could be flawed. Because the tests are designed to match the code, if the implementation changes, the tests will need to change.
    • Black Box Testing: Black box testing or functional testing, unlike the White box testing, doesn't rely on the knowledge of the internal code structure. It relies on the software specifications and requirements. The tests use valid and invalid inputs and check that the output is correct.
    • Integration Testing: Integration testing is performed when all the software components are put together. This testing should be done after each individual software component has passed unit testing. This type of testing highlights interface problems or misunderstanding of the software specifications where unit tests local to each component actually passed. Automated integration testing is essential and often run overnight due to the time it takes.
    • User Acceptance Testing (UAT): UAT or Beta Testing occurs at the end of the software development cycle (this could be at the end of a Scrum Sprint where the software is potentially shippable). As its name points out the end users will test the software and check it meets their acceptance criteria.
    • Security testing: Security testing is done to check that a system protects data and maintains confidentiality as intended. The concepts covered by Security testing can include: network mapping, vulnerability scanning, password cracking, confidentiality, integrity, authentication, authorization, availability, non-repudiation and virus scanning.
    • Performance testing: Performance Testing is used to determine the responsiveness, the effectiveness of a system under a given workload. Qualitative attributes such as reliability, scalability and interoperability may also be evaluated. Performance testing is often done along with stress testing.
    • Smoke testing: Smoke testing is done to ensure the system doesn't have any critical bugs that would make other types of testing unnecessary. This type of testing is generally performed on a new or fixed software. A Smoke test should cover essential parts of the application so it is said to be shallow and broad.

    Does the "Test Please" principle apply to more than code? Yes! A "Test Please", aka peer review highlights unseen errors, proposes new ideas for consideration or confirms the existing work as the best solution. A peer review can also effect cultural change amongst your development team as developers become more open to critiques of their work and comfortable with a 'continuous learning' environment. A "Test Please" will also be applied to:

    • Brief proposals
    • Release plans
    • Estimates
    • Anything else being sent to a client
    • Anything else being sent to an employee of a sensitive nature
    • Anything being sent for public consumption - such as newsletters, print documents and or advertisements.

    Always put "test please" in the email body so readers know they are expected to react quickly.

    Lead Developer responsibilities

    Please cc the client in all your "Test Please" emails including internal ones.

    1. At the end of a release, prepare a "Test Please" email. Create the email by copying the text from the sample Test Please Template .
    2. Get two testers to test your app - if it's a web app make sure one uses IE and the other Firefox.
    3. Specify exactly what is required to be tested by adding some bullet points at the top and highlighting in yellow, so it stands out from the template text. e.g.

      • Run Timesheet report
      • Check changing a rate
    4. Make sure the testers send one bug/suggestion per email.
    5. Triage emails as they come in for completion in this release, or a later release.
    6. Don't change testers in the middle of a release. It is just sneaky to get a test failed from a tester and then try again by using another tester :-)
    7. Make sure that the testers know which build they are testing. The developers may be 3 builds ahead of the testers, but they need to complete a test run on an individual build to make sure that bugs are fixed and that there are no regressions. Note: Having a good branching strategy makes this easy as you can run an Internal and External "Test Please" on your DEV branch before allowing the code to be committed to Main/Trunk. This protects your Main/Trunk branch from contamination by code that does not work.
    8. Randomly have the manager do a "Test Please" as well. He gives a pass or fail on the job the testers did.
    9. When you receive a "Test Please Succeeded" from both testers (and never before) prepare a "Test Please" for the client. (If you are requested to issue a non-tested release to a client state "Has not passed internal testing" in the email.)

    Tester responsibilities

    1. Confirm you are a tester - If the developer did not name you, make sure he corrects himself and resends the 'test please' email.
    2. Ensure you are working on the Standard Operating Environment specific to the client and using the right browser for web apps.
    3. Use Team Viewer if you aren't available locally.
    4. Test within the hour - testing is typically urgent.
    5. Know what to test.
    6. Be thorough - anything from a crash-to-code bug to a minor UI change should be reported .(one email at a time)
    7. Classify issues accordingly to "this release" or "next release" following the report bug/enhancement standard. Any crash to code bugs must be fixed in the current release.
    8. "Reply to all" for each bug or feature. (to ensure no issue is reported twice)
    9. Specify how you replicated the bug through clear instructions and screenshots.
    10. When finished reply to the 'test please' email with "Test Please Succeeded (as no Critical bugs)" or "Test please failed (as per critical bugs reported)".

    Figure: Good Example - This is how to reply failed to a "test please" email

    Note: If the test to be performed is quick and the tester is available on the spot, consider using a "checked by" style instead to save some time.

  55. Do you have an induction program?

    Companies have a lot of information and standards – some of it is public (E.g. SSW Rules), some of it is private (E.g. SSW Intranet). When there are thousands of documents, new employees should be given a guided process so they know what is important.

    When someone joins a company, it is a stressful event... they have to remember people's names, references to where things are... there is a lot of assumed knowledge and explanations of "this is how we do things".

    New employees often get inconsistently onboarded depending on who they got their initial information from.

    An induction system is a way to solve these problems. SSW uses and recommends

    What SugarLearning does is aggregate your learning items into the one space to make it easy for you to complete your induction. Once you've done your reading, the follow-up quizzes help you confirm what you have learned.

    It's also a great continuous learning tool that shows employees where to find relevant information and also tests their knowledge. It's especially useful when a process changes, as a learning item can be invalidated and all employees informed to complete a new process.

    Certain jobs have a module and completing them gives each employee a license to do that job.

    What's what?

    SugarLearning is an induction program for things you must complete before starting work… E.g. Before you do a Spec Review, you must have done the Module - Spec Review. It’s like getting your license.

    The Intranet is the location of all information, standards and "how-tos" that must be private. In some projects we have specific Wikis for those too.

    Rules is where we kept all information, standards and "how-tos" that can be public.

    - Adam Cogan

  56. As per rule "Do you have separate development, testing, and production environment?", it's better to use different background colors to identify Development, Test and Production servers.


    ssw staging 2
    Figure: Staging uses blue background

    ssw production 2
    Figure: Production uses red background

    The way to change the default background color is to edit the CRM CSS files. These changes aren't supported and may be overwritten when CRM Rollups are applied.

    CRM 2015 and CRM 2016

    Using theme feature to change the environment color.

    Figure: Changing CRM 2016 UI by using theme feature

    CRM 2013

    Edit <CrmWebsiteRoot>** **\\_controls\navbar\navbar.css:

    background-color: #006600;
    margin: 0;
    z-index: 999;
    float: left;
    width: 100%;
    position: relative;

    Figure: Edit the background color to reflect the environment

    crm2013 greenbar
    Figure: CRM 2013 with a green navigation bar

    CRM 2011

    Edit <CrmWebsiteRoot>\\_static\css\1033\cui.css, locate and modify the section ms-cui-tabBody so that it reads:

    background-color : #ffffff;

    Change color to a suitable color for the environment:

    background-color : #bbffaa;

    CRM2011 ColorCodedRibbon
    Figure: CRM Ribbon color green to signify production environment

    CRM 4

    Edit, <CrmWebsiteRoot>\** **\_common\styles\global.css.aspx

                    <% if (CrmStyles.IsRightToLeft) { %>
                    <%} %>
                    border-top:1px solid #6893cf;
                /* background-color: #d6e8ff; */
                background-color: #ffff00;
                padding: 4px;
                /* background-repeat: repeat-x;
                background-image: url(/_imgs/app_back.gif);

    Figure: In C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\\_common\styles\global.css.aspx comment out and change the reference in yellow so the users know what server they are on

    CRM DevelopmentColor
    Figure: Color of CRM Development Server - Red

    CRM TestColor
    Figure: Color of CRM Test Server - Yellow

    CRM ProductionColor
    Figure: Color of CRM Production Server - Default

    SharePoint online

    Regarding the color codes, we use to differentiate Production to Test with SharePoint online.

    Here is what we change:

    • Site Settings | Change The Look
    • Test – Orange

    sharepoint orange theme
    Figure: Selecting Orange theme for test

    sharepoint orange applied
    Figure: orange theme applied

    Production - Office

    sharepoint office theme
    Figure: Selecting Office theme for Production

    sharepoint office applied
    Figure: office (blue) theme applied

  57. When you've finished a PBI you should record a video to send to your Product Owner and anyone else that is interested. A 'Done' video is much better than a screenshot because you are proving the PBI workflow actually works. Even better, this video can double as documentation or release notes for your users.

    When deciding whether a PBI might be a good contender to record a done video for, consider these factors:

    1. Is it a key piece of functionality that has high business value?
    2. Would it be difficult to quickly demo in the Sprint Review without a video?
    3. Is it UI heavy? i.e. would the video be compelling?

    Choosing software to record your screen and camera together:

    • Remote recordings: Zoom, or Microsoft Teams via NDI
    • Basic recordings: Snagit, Loom
    • Advanced recordings: Camtasia

    Tip: Camtasia 2021 is recommended because it vastly improves upon 2018 and 2019.

    Choosing software to edit your video:

    • Basic editing: Camtasia
    • Advanced editing: Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut, DaVinci Resolve

    Here's a quick video describing how to record and edit a quick done video. (Notice how it itself is also in the done video format?)

    Figure: How to make a 'Done Video'.

    For a great 'Done Video' here are the key things to remember:

    • Introduce the video - start with “Hi everyone, today I would like to show you xxxx”.
    • Show the pain - don't just demonstrate your new feature, start by showing the problem you are solving and why you needed to add the feature.
    • Record it in one take - it doesn't matter if you stuff up or something goes wrong, treat it like you're having a conversation with them in the room. If it's super bad, just start again.
    • Make it quick and easy - if you spend too much time, you will be less likely to want to do it again in the future.
    • Be quick and concise - you don't want to waste other peoples' time either!
    • Use a clean browser - hide visible bookmark bars, browser tabs, add-in icons, and taskbar items to make it easier to view.

      • Tip: In Chrome you can use the "guest" profile to open a clean window with no history or cookies.
    • Set your screen resolution to 1080p (1920x1080) - higher resolutions (e.g. 4k/3840x2160) will scale down graphic elements and make it harder to view.
    • Zoom in to 125% in your browser - as per: Do you make sure your screen recordings are easy to view?
    • Record both your screen and webcam - PC and Mac can both use Camtasia (2021 version recommended). For Mac you can use Quicktime, but it’s not as flexible.
    • Don't edit the video - your introduction and closing should have your webcam on full-screen, and the rest of the video should be your screen with your webcam in the corner (also called a picture-in-picture, or PiP).

      • Tip: If you are using Zoom you do not need to edit the video. Zoom includes your face automatically in the screen capture. Awesome!
    • Check your audio devices - if you have multiple microphones (e.g. headphone/mic set, webcam mic, inbuilt mic, etc.) do a test recording to see which is the best quality.

      • Tip: You can use the default Voice Recorder app on either Windows or Mac to quickly record audio.
    • Audio needs to be clear and not distracting - if there are lots of background noises it will prevent audiences from focusing on you, as per: Do you record better audio?
    • Interact with your webcam like it's a person - look into the camera and smile when doing your introduction and closing for the video!

    Tip: Some offices have a professional setup:

    E.g. SSW have the Marantz Turret hardware and desktop recording kit. The Turret is an ideal device to record these videos as it has a professional podcasting microphone, built-in light and good quality High Definition video camera.

    turret usage
    Figure: 'Done' video in progress using a Marantz turret broadcasting kit

    Learn more about the Turret:Product Review: The Marantz Turret — Wistia

    -- Camtasia Tips --

    Tip #1: Camtasia - See great example by Ben Cull

    E.g. SSW TimePRO - Power BI Ad-Hoc Reporting:

    Figure: A real example of a 'Done Video' with Fades

    Tip #2: Camtasia - Fix the audio before making any cuts to the video

    After recording your video, you need to do some basic sound processing to make the audio awesome.

    • In the Timeline, select the clip with the audio
    • On the top left panel, click ‘Audio Effects’ and drag the ‘Levelling’ effect onto your clip
    • On the timeline, move the new audio meter up just until the audio waveform is about to hit the top
    • Listen and adjust as necessary

    audio effects panel
    Figure: Camtasia - audio effects panel with the compressor

    Tip #3: Camtasia 9 - Fade-out and fade-in the video track of your face

    1. With the video track of your face selected, click on Animations (1) . Track 3 in the image below.
    2. Select the No Opacity (2) animation effect for the fade-out.
    3. Drag and drop the No Opacity effect (3) to the point in the track where you want to fade-out. Adjust the start and end point of the fade using the handles on the animation arrow.
    4. Select the Full Opacity (4) animation effect for fade-in.
    5. Drag and drop the Full Opacity effect (5) to the point in the track where you want to fade-in. Adjust the start and end point of the fade using the handles on the animation arrow.

    fade in and out
    Figure: Camtasia - Steps for adding fade-out/fade-in animation to video track of your face in 'Done' video

    Tip #4: Camtasia's Final Step – Export your video

    Follow the steps to export your video:

    1. Click the Share button on the top right of the window

    export video1

    1. In the new dialog, select custom production settings

    export video2

    1. In the next window, uncheck the ‘Produce with controller’ option

    export video3

    1. In the ‘Video settings’ tab, copy these settings:
    2. Frame Rate: 30
    3. H.264 Profile: High
    4. Encoding mode: Quality o Increase the quality to 100%

      export video4
      Figure: Copy these settings

    5. In the ‘Audio settings’ tab, make sure the Bit rate is set to 320 kbps

    export video5

    1. Click Next and save your file!
  58. Do you know the best way to learn?

    Learning a new technology is something a developer has to do at least every few years. The industry landscape is constantly changing and to keep up and the developer has to really master the art of learning.

    Over the years, SSW has trained thousands of developers and we have found that the best way to learn is through mentorship. Mentorship is when an experienced developer teaches and codes with their mentee. By working closely together on a regular basis they are able to impart their knowledge and experience into the mentee.

    Of course, there are other ways of learning and the chart below discusses the effectiveness of each.

    learn rate

  59. Do you use the brains of your company?

    Employees are a company's best resource, but often there is no light shone on their knowledge. A great way of making this happen is to conduct a brainstorming day. Check out this video!

    Employees on the front line often have valuable insights into opportunities for improvement, what is painful, increased efficiency and even entirely new business ideas. Empowering these employees with an annual brainstorming day is a great way to transform their good ideas into valuable solutions, as well as giving them the opportunity to learn and grow from each other. Also, many employees enjoy the opportunity to flex their creative muscles in fun ways that their day-to-day jobs may not always afford them.

    Different companies have different approaches to this. For example:

    • Atlassian - give employees 1 day a year to work on a feature they want
    • Google - employees are allowed to dedicate 20% of their time to 'pet projects' (subject to approval)
    • Microsoft - Scott Guthrie takes senior leaders offsite for 1 week each year
    • SSW - Adam Cogan conducts an annual brainstorming day in each state office

    How an annual brainstorming day works

    At an annual brainstorming day, employees are invited to share their ideas, give feedback, and pick the best one to work on. The benefits of brainstorming arewell understood, but in order to focus the productivity on something useful, it is important to have a system for suggesting, voting, and working on ideas.

    Everyone at the company is encouraged to suggest ideas prior.

    The process is broken down into 2 key stages: preparation and participation.


    1. Email Attendees

    Start by sending out an email to staff, inviting them to send through their suggestions in advance. E.g.:

    Email Template

    ::: email-template
    | | | | -------- | --- | | To: | SSWAll | | Subject: | Prepare for our Brainstorming day |
    ::: email-content

    Hi All,

    I’m really excited about our brainstorming day! I hope you’re all thinking about what you would like to work on.

    To prepare for our Brainstorming day, send Adam and Matt W. something that you would like work on as a group.E.g. Our awesome SophieBot project came out of the Melbourne Brainstorming Session last year.

    See video on:


    Friday 29th of November

    9:00am – Meet upstairs in Suite 15

    9:30am – Discuss items to work on & vote

    10am – Start work on your fave tech project (in groups)

    10.30am – Coffee order

    1pm – Lunch

    2pm – Continue work

    4pm - Presentations

    6pm – The pub
    ::: good
    Good Example: Email template for brainstorming attendees

    2. Setup Trello

    Use Trello to manage and vote on the suggestions, using thevoting Power-Up. First add the voting Power-Up, then set up your board for the day:

    • Create a list called 'Retro - Highlights' Add a template card ('[your name] - [your highlight]')
    • Create a list called 'Retro - Suggestions' Add a template card ('[your name] - [one thing to fix]')
    • Create a list called 'Todo - Vote'
    • Create a list called 'Chosen'

    During the session, you will populate these lists with the input from the attendees.

    3. Pre-cooked suggestions

    By the time you get to the session, everyone should have emailed you their suggestions. But it can still be intimidating for some people to be the first person to get up and share their idea with the group. To get the ball rolling, you should have some suggestions prepared in advance, preferrably provided by some of your team. Have them record a short video that 'sells' their idea, ready to show the attendees at the start of the session.


    On the day, follow the agenda set out in your attendee email:

    • Have the Trello board showing on a projector.
    • Send all attendees invitations to the Trello board.
    • 9am: Welcome everyone and thank those that submitted ideas.
    • Call out who the scribe is. (They will update the Trello board in the background).
    • Retro: hearing everybody's top highlight. (The scribe will add these to the list).
    • Suggestions: Hear everyone's top pain (the scribe adds these too).
    • Suggestions: Once you have everyone's highights, share the pre-cooked suggestions you have prepared (hopefully a video or two).
    • Vote: invite attendees to vote via Trello for the suggestion they would most like to see implemented at your company. Depending on the size of your team, you may choose to allow each attendee 3 votes.
      Eg. "Guys, you've got 5 minutes to get your 3 votes in"
    • Vote Results: after the votes are in, you can reveal the top voted suggestions. The attendees then break into smaller groups and set to work building a prototype or proof of concept.
      Tip: The moderator can decide which suggestions are viable and invite attendees to self-organise
    • 1pm: Give the attendees a break for lunch.
    • 4pm: Attendees come back in, and each group takes turns presenting their work to the rest of the attendees.

    Note: The top voted suggestion may not be technical, and the prototype or proof of concept doesn't have to be a technical solution. It could very well be a protoype application or website, but equally could be a new business process or a video.

    MicrosoftTeams image
    Figure: Good Example - A brainstorming session is like an office party but more productive

    2019 12 07 16 06 18
    Figure: Good Example - A Trello board with the voting power-up allows people to suggest and vote on ideas they would like to work on in the brainstorming session

    2019 12 07 16 26 04
    Figure: Good Example - The selected ideas are moved from the Vote column to the Chosen column and the real fun begins!

  60. Do you know how to handle duplicate requests?

    Sometimes you get the same task from 2 different people. Sometimes even the same person sends over-lapping emails. Sometimes you find duplicated PBIs.

    Whether you keep a backlog or are just using your email inbox as a to-do list, you have a choice to make:

    A: Get rid of the duplicates and only keep one (you need to spend time informing everyone about the merge)

    B: Recommended - Keep them all and when you do it, reply to all the emails with your ‘Done’ OR close each of the PBIs. (Of course it is a good idea to relate those tasks by adding links or the email subjects)

    Figure: Bad example – This email will never get a ‘done’ when completed

    Figure: Good example – Both emails got a ‘done’ reply and were referenced to each other

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