FedEx Day V: Joensuu Office rocking Ambientia

Ambientia has five offices in Finland and one in Sweden and also a couple people working from their homes. Because of the distributed nature of Ambientia’s offices, we have decided to do FedEx Days one office at a time. This is new territory now! It was the very first time we organised a FedEx Day at our Joensuu office. It was the fifth time Ambientia was arranged a FedEx Day…

The significant projects the team in Joensuu has been based on Liferay for a while now. Therefore, it was quite natural that most of the ideas were related to Liferay also. Only one project associated with JBoss SOA Platform was able to resist the Liferay dominance. The developers at Joensuu are quite experienced. Therefore, the ideas were also reasonably advanced.

The projects were:

  • Liferay, Adding code generation scripts to Liferay development environment
  • Liferay, Improve Liferay’s Image Gallery to match Ambientia Content Manager’s features
  • JBoss SOA Platform, Expose monitoring interfaces to BaseN Platform
  • Liferay, Extending Alloy UI Tag library
  • Liferay, Templates Based on Responsive Design Principles

During the evening I saw really concentrated programmers focusing on their code. The guys even refused to eat away from the computers to maintain flow state. To me, that was a prime sign of dedication and one of the points of FedEx Days! Excellent!

The picture below is a bit shaky and stirred but I wanted to include it because it shows quite well the feeling during the FedEx Day presentations Friday:

Everybody at Ambientia can vote for the FedEx Day Winner via an online form. The Winner was evident because about one-third of the votes vent to Laura who did the Responsive Design Templates. Laura received a bottle of Bollinger and loads of fame about her work. See, it is easy to smile when posing as a winner:

FedEx Day problems fixed

I wrote about the problems with FedEx Days around the second day we had over here. The issue has given me a lot of thought. I have been trying to device different rules and guidelines that would drive the benefits of our people and also benefits of the company. It seems that the solution is utmost simple. When people were thinking about the stuff they want to do during the FedEx Days I just asked if the ideas would be “something that Ambientia might be able to sell or benefit in future”. To me, it does not sound a too limiting rule…

Ideas for the next FedEx Day

Tomorrow is the next FedEx Day here. Here are some of the great ideas the guys are going to hack with.

  • An iOS app that connects to a content provider
  • A Jira archiving spike
  • An Instant messenger integration for Jira
  • An experimental Vaadin application

To me, it seems that the company’s and employees’ interest is well aligned with the above ideas. Excellent!

Three years in the dark

Eric suggested that he could work with a Jira archiving spike. He boasted how every client we have would be screaming to buy a license for such. He also said that he had had the idea for three years. Imagine, he had had the idea for three years! I was really astonished that we had never discussed the idea before. Still, it is hard for me to believe that we have had this limiting environment for new ideas.

Here is Eric full of energy explaining the four T’s of freedom during a FedEx Day:

Eric explains four T’s

Again, I am eager to see what the guys can deliver during a day of blatant hacking. Have fun!

Ambientia FedEx Day II

Preparations and the idea

At Ambientia we had our second FedEx Day last week. Before the day I had one lunch meeting with the team about the FedEx Day idea in general, and the stuff people were going to work with. My presentation about the concept owes mostly to Atlassian, Daniel Pink, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and of course to my own interpretation. I still could not pronounce Mihály’s name correctly, but I will keep trying! At least I think I got most of his ideas right about flow and intrinsic motivation and also the team on the right track for the day.

Jari and Kalle workingJari and Kalle working

The day

During the actual 24 hours, the team was a bit outnumbered this time because vacations but it seems they had fun while working and coding anyway. There were loud keyboard crunching and the usual things we usually see during work, but there was one significant difference. There were not any interruptions by clients or other staff. One of the comments I got from the team was that “I dwelled in flow easily, but I completely lost it when I had to calculate subnets with Java…”

FedEx Winner!

The whole company took part when we selected the winner of the day. I organised a simple form, and people voted while the presentations took place. Tero was the winner because his project received about 1/3 of the votes! Congratulations! The project is a spike in building rights management to Liferay with annotations. The cool idea is most easily described like this

The next time…

In retrospect, we need more planning before the next FedEx Day starts. The team has to be able to start from the very first minute of the day with bright vision what to do. Also, I need to fix the problems I discovered with the concept. I have a couple ideas about how to do this, but if you are having thoughts about fixes, please let me know!

If you made this far, thanks! It has been an exciting experiment so far, and I am quite confident that we will see more great results based on the work later on…

Problems with FedEx Day

Our second FedEx Day is currently running. The team testing FedEx Day selected exciting ideas, and they are hacking with them as I write. Cool! I do not know if I am too narrow-minded or do I have two real problems with the FedEx Day concept… I honestly think that the team has generated loads of great ideas. There are bright ways how to improve 1) our own tools, 2) Confluence and 3) Liferay Portal.

When Ambientia was starting, we did a lot of our own tools and components and such. Then our company grew and maintaining our own tools took more and more time away from real customer-related billable work. Therefore, we wanted to purchase as much internal software packages as possible because most of the time it makes sense as a business decision. Now about 1/4 of the ideas are again about tools! These ideas should be in the programming tool shopping basket – not in our FedEx backlog!

FedEx Days works really well for Atlassian because they are a product company. All neat ideas will help their products. Contrary, Ambientia is a professional services company. We implement Atlassian’s and Liferay’s products for our customers. Again, about half of the ideas are about improving Liferay or Confluence. We just today received the honour to be an Atlassian Premier Partner but should we be this good partner? I think we should concentrate more on improving our own stuff – not Atlassian’s or Liferay’s platform.


First FexEx Day at Ambientia

Lately, I have been pondering a lot about human motivation and the difficulty of being enthusiastic about work. As you all must know when you are grinding a project, you must do the sprint and nothing else. But what happens if you just know that you would have a great idea for something related but not allowed by the sprint scope? It usually is quite difficult to squeeze it into the sprint. Then the team and the client start a new sprint, and your exciting stuff is out again… So what happens? People do the exciting experiments during their free time, or the ideas will not happen at all.

I have modelled Atlassian for many of their methods and products. That is one of the reasons why Ambientia partnered with Atlassian in the first place. I have also modelled some of Mike’s ideas about management. Today we are combining the approaches. We will start our very first FedEx Day here at Ambientia! For now, it will be just a six-month experiment with one team, but it is a start.

Ok, I am a pointy-haired boss nowadays, but a remote hacker in me is knocking. So, I am also eager and full of interest to see what our guys can do in 24 hours of flow and blatant hacking during the FedEx Day…