Machiavelli on Agile

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is the Practice Director for Slalom’s Delivery Effectiveness solutions. He is based in Chicago and enjoys bringing actionable, tactical solutions to his clients to help them improve their delivery.

Co-written with David Roe

Benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.
–Niccolò Machiavelli, Italian diplomat, historian, and political theorist (1469-1527)

While Agile has grown in acceptance over the last decade, and is currently the fad of effective delivery in today’s development arena, a company taking on this change might consider moving slowly. By leveraging an incremental approach,  a company may realize a large stream of benefits from Agile. In the real world where companies have legacy methodologies, people with entrenched habits, and an aversion to change, implementing Agile methods can be challenging–thus necessitating the incremental approach. In many cases, new methods need to be tailored in such a way as to fit the company’s situation without diminishing the value and essence of the Agile approach. Read more of this post

Office Web Apps Image Generation

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

In 2010 Microsoft brought its largest business to the Cloud with Office Web Apps. Aside from Microsoft’s hosted version that is available to everyone, Office Web Apps can be installed on your own Windows Server environment.

On a recent project my team was building a SharePoint 2010 site that would host a number of files that users can download, including Word and PowerPoint documents. The client had a requirement that the site display thumbnails of the first page or slide of these files. Fortunately, Office Web Apps supplies an API to generate images from Office files. You can download the specifications for the Web Handlers for Word and PowerPoint from MSDN.

First you have to call the Mobile Doc Handler which is a simple ASHX and returns an XML document that contains the data you need to generate the images. The URL will look something like this when integrated with SharePoint:

The resulting XML will look something like this: Read more of this post

Presenting Rx and Windows Phone 7 at Mix

Slalom Consultant Jim Wooley

Slalom Consultant Jim Wooley is a frequent speaker, member of the INETA Speaker Bureau, MVP, and author of "LINQ in Action". He is always striving to stay at the forefront of technology and enjoys the thrill of a new challenge.

I’m happy to have been selected to speak at MIX this year. This is an exciting conference combining developers and designers and focusing on increasing application User Experiences. The focus of my talk will be to show some practical uses of Rx in the context of the Windows Phone 7. If you’re going to attend MIX, I would love to see you at this session. Otherwise, the sessions are typically recorded. I’ll add a link to the recording once it becomes available. Here’s the session description as it’s listed on the Mix website:

Rx: A Library for Managing Asynchronous Data and Events in your Windows Phone 7 Application

Lagoon B on Tue, Apr 12 3:30 PM4:30 PM

How do you manage the dizzying array of input sources, ranging from traditional UI events and external service requests to new user interface touch gestures and device sensor detections, while keeping your Silverlight and Phone applications responsive? In this session, you’ll discover how the Reactive Extensions (Rx) library simplifies the programming model by letting you declaratively compose increasingly complex Jim Wooley at MIX11asynchronous operations over these diverse data sources. We will demonstrate some practical uses of Rx for Windows Phone 7 by building a dice playing game including responding to user interactions, creating gestures from the device’s sensors, and making Asynchronous service calls. In the end you’ll learn how to coordinate pushing data around using Rx.

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Prototyping Made Easy

Former Slalom Consulting Practice Lead Peter Tweed

Peter Tweed was a Practice Lead for Technology Enablement in Slalom Consulting's San Franciso office when he wrote this post.

by Peter Tweed

So I blog a good amount about Silverlight. I think it’s a great technology with a lot of power and very easy to develop in to deliver world class rich internet applications.

But there is a tool that is in the toolbox for a Silverlight developer that can and should in my opinion be used by a wider audience. Packaged up with Expression Blend 3 is a capability called SketchFlow. This is a tool whose sole purpose is quick prototyping of user interfaces for applications.

SketchFlow lets the user build screens with all the available controls for Silverlight or WPF, integrate navigation between those screens (e.g. click on a button and display another screen), and implement animations on a screen to provide demonstration of what UX experience can be developed. On top of that, a style is provided in Expression Blend for use with SketchFlow that deliberately makes the controls and pages look like they are drawn in pencil, so that someone viewing it “should not” believe it’s a finished application. This would be a good solution in itself and a useful tool for Silverlight and WPF projects to prototype a Read more of this post

7 Reasons to Prototype with Microsoft Sketchflow

I’ve been trying to use more of the Microsoft Expression design tools (for a number of reasons). I’ve decided one of its biggest advantages over other options is its prototyping tool, Sketchflow (included with Expression Blend 3).

Slalom Consultant Aaron Hursman

Former Slalom Consultant Aaron Hursman is a user experience architect who applies user-centered design principles and techniques for his cients. He has a background in web development and enterprise applications and enjoys participating in the social web.

Why should you be using Sketchflow to prototype?

  1. It’s the closest digital option to paper prototyping
  2. Sketchy styles – helps people remember that it’s still under construction. More on this from this boxesandarrows article.
  3. Pen tablet integration – allows you to hand draw stuff, which is faster than anything else. Want one? Check out the ones from Wacom.
  4. Progressive Fidelity – move from hand-drawn objects to sketchy objects to wireframe objects to highly-polished designs
  5. Portable – can be packaged up quick and sent out to your team and your clients
  6. Feedback Management – your team and clients can annotate mockups directly and share back with designers
  7. Snappy transition to developers – it produces xaml and code behind files that front-end developers can use as the basis for their code (instead of just looking at a set of graphic mockups and having to translate those into development assets)

I recently watched a good video on Microsoft Sketchflow. If you just want to see a demo, jump to the 31 minute mark.

And if you didn’t know already, you should be prototyping your solutions, because it leads to better requirements and faster development. If you don’t have access to Sketchflow (or time to learn it), at least get out a pen and paper or jump on the whiteboard with your team. That would be better than nothing. Happy prototyping!

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