Improving product quality the open source way

July 7, 2010

Originally posted on 7/7/10

If we look at the differences between closed and open source software development processes, we can identify aspects that can be generalized and applied to other industries and domains.

Open source development—that combination of transparency, iterative development with early-and-often releases, and open participation—leads to higher quality products. When we’re talking about software, people tend to think of quality in terms of bugs. But this is only part of the story of open development.

Defects can be anywhere within the requirements, design, implementation, or delivery processes, and we need to consider all of these areas to assess the full quality picture.

  • Requirements defects result in a product that does not meet the needs of the market or misses significant opportunities.
  • Design defects result in a product that tries, but fails, to meet the users’ needs.
  • Implementation defects result in a product that has lower customer satisfaction.
  • Delivery defects result in a product that no one hears about or can get hold of.

The earlier these defects arise in the process, and the longer they are unresolved, the more they cost to fix. When you compound defects in requirements, design, and implementation, the result is an expensive mess. (Windows Vista, anyone?)

A closer look at how this works inside the world of software development will yield larger principles to be applied to any project that aspires to use an open development model.

Under the closed model

Sales reps and account reps relay requirements to product managers, who then describe the required features to software engineers, who then design and implement the features and pass them to quality engineers, who try to test the features and report bugs that need fixing. After all this has happened, customers eventually receive the software. The lack of transparency means defects in the requirements and design don’t get spotted until after the product has been implemented and delivered. Another major problem is that, typically, the quality engineers don’t have any personal use for the software, so it is hard for them to imagine the different use cases that real users will have.

The final product suffers from the lack of connection between the software engineers and the software users.

Under the open model

A transparent requirements process includes consumers adding their own requirements and perhaps open voting to determine the most popular features. An open design process means consumers can ask questions about the design to validate it against their use case. Early-and-often releases during implementation mean that consumers can help find defects, which can be fixed early on. Fixing these defects during early development means features built later are not layered upon resolved defects from the earlier development.

Moving beyond software

So how do we apply these open principles outside of the software industry? Following are some good examples (and one bad one).

Open requirements

Some companies manage to meet unanticipated needs by enabling consumers to create new products for them to sell.

Amazon: As an independent author, Amazon allows you to sell your own books through their service. My mother wrote a book about British birth and death certificates. She uses a print shop in her village, and through Amazon UK she sells to a global market. Amazon sends her the customers’ addresses to mail her books to, and a check to cash, with Amazon’s commission already deducted.

Cafe Press: Create a cool slogan or logo, then upload it to Cafe Press and sell it on a wide array items. The designer needs almost no investment other than time and talent. Cafe Press gets an huge product set, over 250 million unique products—and a portion of each sale.

There are services with similar models for bands, musicians, photographers…

Open design

Lego: Using a free CAD design tool, Digital Designer, Lego customers can design new models, then order that kit from Lego. The creator can also upload the design to Lego’s Design by Me, so that other people can build it. The creator gets satisfaction and kudos, while Lego gets all the money. This builds community and revenue.

Nike: Nike ID lets you customize your own sports shoes. By allowing customization of the product appearance, consumers can create a unique-looking shoe that very few, if any, other people have. The Air Jordan basketball shoe has so many colors and customizable parts that even if every person on Earth bought five pairs, every pair could still be unique. Nike could take this further by letting people name their designs and allow voting for the best.

Local Motors: An open car company, Local Motors holds competitions for the concept and the design of their cars with open voting. Then they hold more competitions for the interior design, parts designs, exterior skins, and accessories. Then they put the vehicle into production. Their first is the Rally Fighter. They also encourage owners to participate in the manufacturing of their own cars. Their vision is to have small manufacturing facilities in most cities, hence their name. The effort put in by the contributors is stunning. The designs are awesome and it’s a highly supportive community.

Open delivery

Transparency and participation can also be used to help spread a message or engage consumers.

T-Mobile, UK: T-Mobile UK started with a successful advert where they staged a flash mob dance in London’s Liverpool St Station, an idea they must have borrowed from a Belgian radio station. Then they broadcast an open invitation to be part of their next event. Over 13,000 people showed up to find out the event was mass-karaoke. The result is really quite touching if you watch it all. It’s not often you can say that about a commercial.

Mountain Dew: Mountain Dew’s Dewmocracy was an open voting system for its next flavor. On their web sites you can see how the voting went down to the county level.

Kraft, Australia: An example of how to do it badly. When coming out with a new variant of their popular Vegemite spread, they had a naming competition. Fifty thousand people submitted entries. Unfortunately the winner was picked by a closed panel of “experts.” They selected “iSnack 2.0” as the name, thinking it was edgy and cool. Public reaction was swift and very uncool. Within days Kraft announced they were revoking the name and opened a new poll to allow the public to choose the new name. The selected name was “Vegemite Cheesybite.”

Both the T-Mobile and Kraft campaigns involved large numbers of people participating of their own free will. The difference is that everyone participating in the T-Mobile event was part of the final product; if only 10 people showed up the result would have been very lame. In the Kraft case the closed selection panel proved to be the flawed element.

In all of these examples, there are similarities and differences. Some cases require a very flexible manufacturing process, while in others the inventory is electronic. Sometimes the individual contributors do their own manufacturing. In some cases the participants are highly skilled; while for others, little or no skills are required. But in all these cases (well, except the unfortunate Aussie Kraft example) the companies provide more choices, better products, or a better message by enabling open participation of individuals or communities.

Where to find Pentaho this June

June 15, 2010

June may be half way over but there are still 20 opportunities to learn about Pentaho this month at live and virtual events….and in 6 languages!

This month Pentaho is bringing a ray of Open Source BI sunshine to some of the industry’s most preeminent cloud events. Following the successful announcements of Pentaho’s On-Demand BI Solution and support of Apache Hadoop, we will demonstrate these offerings in action, bringing insight, clarity and flexibility to data in the cloud.

Pentaho Featured Cloud Events

GigaOm Structure 2010, June 23-24, 2010, San Francisco, CA – Join Pentaho ‘s CEO, Richard Daley and CTO, James Dixon at Structure 2010, to learn more about using Pentaho’s data integration and analytic tools to more quickly and easily load, access and analyze data in Hadoop, whether its on-premise or in the cloud.

In the exhibit hall, see a live preview demo of Pentaho’s integration with Hadoop and learn about the integrating of Pentaho BI Suite with Hive database. Take advantage of our 25% sponsor discount code by clicking here.

Hadoop Summit, June 29, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA –Pentaho is attending the third annual Hadoop Summit 2010.  Organized by Yahoo!, Hadoop Summit sessions span numerous industries and cater to all levels of expertise.  Richard Daley and Jake Conelius will be on hand at the conference to demo and discuss Pentaho’s integration with Hadoop and Hive and benefits of “Pentaho becoming the face of Hadoop.” They will also pass out limited edition Hadoop Elephants with Pentaho sweaters.

Pentaho Agile BI Events

Pentaho’s Agile BI initiative is full speed ahead as we recently delivered the Pentaho Data Integration 4.0 GA. To learn more about how to get started and why, make sure to attend one of these Agile BI focused events in the US and Europe:

North America

Worldwide webinar’s







Visit the Events and Webcast section of our website to stay up-to-date on virtual and live events.

We want to connect with you. Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook and get the inside scoop from the BI from the Swamp Blog by signing up to receive post via email or rss.

Rebecca Goldstein
Director, Corporate Communications
Pentaho Corporation

What is Agile BI? Your answers from business user to fluff

May 12, 2010

Last month, Pentaho sponsored a contest where people answer the question -“What does agile BI mean?”  I was lucky enough to be one of the judges to determine who made it to the final five and win a Flip Ultra™ camcorder.  The results were posted today Now it’s up to the community to vote for their favorite answer and the winner gets an iPad – (yes, that means you).

When reading through hundreds of entries I began to see a pattern and being an old BI guy, that meant I had to make a pie chart. The answers fell into 5 main groups: BI Solution Development, Business Users, Entire Business marketing Fluff and Other.

Almost 34% of the entries cited Agile BI as an iterative methodology for developing BI solutions involving the end user as early and often as possible.  It is exemplified by one of the finalists “Agile is about speeding up the design/create/ship/observe cycle. The more you ship and observe, the better you learn to design and do. Whether you’re headed in the wrong direction or the right one, it’s imperative that you find that out as soon as possible.” Exactly what we have started with the PDI 4.0 release and are continuing to focus on.

A full 25% of the responses focused on the business user with quotes like, “Agile is never being caught flat-footed – being able to react and adapt with ease, leaving competitors in your wake.” The ability for end users to explore and analyze business data beyond static reporting is very important.  Applications like Pentaho Analyzer and Web-based Ad hoc Query and Reporting address this need. The modeling perspective added to PDI 4.0 reduces the complexity and learning curve associated with building metadata models and schemas in order to put that analytical power into the end user’s hands.

A little over 12% were not concerned whether the agility was on the development or user side.  They just knew that the business had to react quickly to changing business conditions.  “Agile means being able to rapidly adjust to changing conditions with speed and accuracy” was a typical response in this category.

Exactly 15% of people responded with what I call fluffy messages. These were creative and got the most attention from our marketing people (I wasn’t the only judge)  “The antonym to SAP”, “Less work, more money” and “Agile (with Pentaho) means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The last 14% were entries like “agile is eliga read backwards” and the self-referencing “The only way to make agile decisions.” Not sure where they were going with some of these but they were also entertaining.

Out of the entries, there were nine attempts to make a phrase by using words that start with the letters A-G-I-L-E. Two people submitted papers on agile BI.  We even had a submission written in Haiku.  No one went for the extra creativity points by using video or interpretive dance.  We didn’t get any abusive, obscene or SPAM entries, which was nice.

There were only two negative responses complaining that Agile BI was marketing hype.  Here is one of them, “Two answers. 1. Personally, “Agile BI” means nothing to me. Sounds like yet another attempt by marketing to create an artificial differentiator. 2. If I had to describe “Agile BI” or die, I’d say, “An Agile BI environment enables an organization’s people and processes to quickly adapt to new or changed user requirements, ideally through self-learning and pre-emptive adjustments.” Answer two is exactly what we intend to enable with this initiative and when we are successful, that will prove the number one answer wrong.

Pentaho is committed to Agile BI. We believe our development plan is in line with the majority of respondents to this contest. PDI 4.0 is a great start but it is just the first steps and we are using this feedback to help set the product roadmap for the next half of this year and beyond. Thank you for participating! Please vote for one of the finalists.

Doug Moran
Pentaho Community Guy

San Francisco Recap

April 19, 2010

Orlando is my home, but I always enjoy my trips to the Bay Area. For the past two weeks, I have been non-stop in San Francisco with our board meeting, partner and customer meetings, multiple conferences and meetings with our growing west coast team. With so much going on, I wanted to share with you quick recap.

Home base for the trip was the Pentaho office located in the Financial District near the Ferry Building. It was great being able to spend time with our rapidly growing sales team led by the SVP of WW Sales, Lars Nordwall. They mixed the trip with a lot of business with back-to-back customer and partner meetings and a little pleasure with a happy hour one of the nights. Below are some photos with a few members of the team:

Left to Right: John Simon, Director of North America Direct Sales Team, Brian McKibben (Sales Exec), Jay Revels (Sales Exec) and newest member is Matt Stone (Sales Exec)

Rebecca Goldstein (Corporate Communications), Jay Revels (Sales Exec) and Tonya Harris (Sales Administrator & Office Manager, North America & excellent photographer)

Last week Pentaho had a presence at three conferences. The first was the MySQL Conference where were a sponsor. I presented on the topic, Agile BI – Collapsing BI from Months to Minutes . Our booth was very busy with quality conversations and people who were excited about our Agile BI initiative. Next was the SugarCon Conference on Wednesday where I presented, ‘The Information Rain Dance: Business Information in the Cloud.’ We also had a presence at the Gartner BI Summit in Las Vegas.

Listening the community over the past two weeks, I wanted to highlight some of the chatter.

Here are my favorite Tweets (April 11-16):

There is also a great discussion in the works on the Open Source BI Group on LinkedIn about Pentaho vs. Jaspersoft. We encourage you to speak up!

To join the conversation, make sure to follow us on Twitter at @Pentaho. We also have our own LinkedIn Group and active fan page on Facebook.

I look forward to a busy week back home in Orlando.



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