I wasn’t thinking about the advantages of podcasting when I started Tech Done Right — or if I was, only vaguely. I wanted a way to have conversations about things that mattered in technology, with people I like and respect. If there were fringe podcasting benefits, great. But business wasn’t the primary motivator.
Since founding Table XI, I’ve only become more skeptical about professional services companies launching products. We built and sold Pegmo, a customer engagement platform and a modest success. But for the most part we’ve stayed away, wary of ending up stuck with an unpaid drag on resources that doesn’t do anything for us or our clients.
If you’re looking for an executive retreat about how to do the work better, there are plenty — I run one. But less than a year into taking over as Table XI’s CEO, that’s not what I needed help with (or at least not the only thing I needed help with). I wanted to learn how to be a better CEO from peers I admired. I wanted to understand how the stress was affecting them as leaders and as people. I needed answers. What does work-life balance really look like for the CEO of a growing company? And when, if ever, did people think about life after retirement?
So I led a group of nine executives into the depths of the Scottish Highlands.
Software risk haunts every development project. And yet we almost never talk about it. Every project manager focuses on the same big three constraints when putting together a proposal: scope, timeline and budget. For all three, you’ll get fancy graphs and analytics, a full, quantified representation.
Then software risks come in and blow it all apart.
In March, we celebrated 15 years in business at Table XI. I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and learned since we started in 2002. When we sold our first project to Dickson, it felt like proof of what we hoped — that doing good work for clients on our own terms was the right way to do business. 15 years later, Dickson is still a client, and Table XI has become a well-known UX design and custom software development company.
It’s been quite a journey, and I’m beyond excited for what comes next. As we plan for the next 15 years, we’re making changes that will help us form deeper and more strategic partnerships with our clients and our people. To start, we’ve launched Table XI Ventures and Table XI Labs — the former to partner with early-stage startups looking to explore problems and build game-changing solutions, and the latter to empower Table XI employees who want to pursue entrepreneurial ideas of their own.
We started a podcast — and called it "Tech Done Right" — because we wanted to talk about what matters in technology.
We’ve always been eager to teach people about technology. We teach developer bootcamps, we teach each other, we even teach our clients with a Chicago tech events series. It’s important to us to build a better community by building better software. That’s why I’ve published books throughout my career and continue to blog about Ruby on Rails. So when we found a partner in Mandy Moore who could help us produce a podcast, it seemed like a natural next step.
Every time we start an engagement, we sit down with our new partner to decide whether to build vs. buy software. It’s not something development shops typically do. We like our “hammer” of custom software solutions, but to be good consultants, we can’t treat every project like it’s a nail.
That’s why we help every partner weigh the advantages of buying software versus building. If we can find existing technology that meets their needs, we can save them tens of thousands of dollars.
Mobile usability testing is hard to do properly, and in-app analytics aren’t all that easy to collect either. But without the user insights both can provide, you’re leaving the success of your business up to guesswork. We can’t recommend you blindly launch a website, then try to improve usage by looking only at pageviews. So we also don’t let clients toss together an app, then guess at improvements based on download numbers.
That’s why, even though it’s hard, we’ve developed a mobile user testing process. We start by collecting the best insights we can while we’re building the app, then we track usage statistics and analytics after it’s launched. That way we can learn why users do what users do. To make informed decisions that improve the product and grow the business, we need to start with mobile app usability testing.
A code audit is the rare do-over in business, a chance to look through your existing codebase and make it better based on what you know now. Just like rehabbing an old house, code audits allow you to save everything that’s working and build on that, instead of scrapping the lot and starting from scratch.
This means they can be the best way to squeeze value out of what you already have.
You can trace most problems in software projects all the way back to the start. Maybe there was a large PDF of needs and requirements. A project kickoff meeting or call that had everyone nodding, but no one asking any questions. A set of goals for the project, but no understanding of how they support the goals of the business.
It’s no wonder things go off the rails — and yes, as a Rails development shop, we endorse that pun.