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Product Owner

A Product Owner is a member of an agile development team. They are responsible for defining ‘what’ gets built, and for maintaining a prioritised and refined backlog of user stories.

I’ve been a Product Owner for about 3 years now, having migrated from working as an IT Business Analyst. The roles and skills required aren’t that different, but the agile way of working enforces a rigor to the quality of written requirements.

It also helps that the Product Owner is embedded in the development team, and is able to ask and answer questions to clarify exactly what’s required. And with agile I can respond quickly to changing priorities of the business.

In my company we’re using something called the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), which extends the traditional agile model to complex projects and organisations. In July 2017 I completed my SAFe Project Manager / Project Owner certification.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity

When things go wrong, it can be tempting sometimes to think that people have deliberately caused the problem.

It’s the basis of conspiracy theories. We imagine that governments and faceless corporations have gone out of their way to mislead or damage us in some way. When in actual fact, pretty much everything bad that happens can be attributed to someone (or often more than one person) screwing up.

Inaction, bad decisions, and lack of thought or empathy for others are usually to blame for all of life’s ills.

People really aren’t out to get you. It’s worse than that. They don’t care about you at all!

Post title is a quote of Hanlon’s razor.

Business Analyst

Richard has been an IT Business Analyst for over 18 years, working in the Telecoms, Utilities, Financial, Online Gaming and Healthcare sectors. For a full breakdown of his career, see his LinkedIn profile.

The role of an Business Analyst (BA) is varied and interesting.  A BA will liaise between the business operation and Information Technology teams, to help communicate, clarify and focus the needs for IT services and products.

The BA has the unique advantage of being able to build a comprehensive overview of an organisation, through the involvement in projects across different divisions.  This overview enables the BA to take a holistic approach to defining problems and solutions, and enables a good understanding of how business rules and processes interplay with each other.

A good BA will act as a communication bridge between business and technical people; being able to communicate ideas and concepts in terms that they understand.  In converting business rules into technical requirements, the BA needs to be careful that nothing is lost in translation.

 

Departure from Christ Church

After around 8 years service in the choir stalls at Christ Church, I’m due to hang up my cassock for the last time at the end of June 2015.

I joined the choir as Lay Vicar in April 2007, having just moved to Dublin from Edinburgh. I knew nobody in the city, had no job and nowhere to live, and the choir and congregation of Christ Church quickly became my urban family and support network.

Over the years since then I’ve been privileged to sing some amazing music with some equally amazing people, and have also acquired some lifelong memories. My singing, and my appreciation of music and liturgy, have all blossomed in the cathedral choir. But as with all good things, it must eventually come to an end.

For the last few months I’ve been feeling near end of my journey as a Lay Vicar. I guess I just don’t enjoy it as much as I used to, and feel some time away from singing will be a good thing – at least in the short term.

I’m also looking forward to reclaiming my Thursday evenings and Sundays!

In the mean time, I’m currently in the throws of Holy Week, with Easter only a few days away. After that’s there’s only about two and a half months of next term to go until I leave in the summer – and I’m sure the time will fly.

Highly Connected Household

Have you heard of the Internet of Things?  The idea behind it is that more and more of the electrical gadgets in our life are going to be internet-connected.

The example that the media always used when talking about the Internet of Things is a internet-connected fridge, which knows when you’re running low on milk, and automatically re-orders a few pints. And when explained like that, it all sounds a little far-fetched – as if it’s trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist.  It also makes the Internet of Things sound like some futuristic utopian dream, rather than something that’s already happening.

These days, many homes are highly-connected, and have many devices connect to the internet. And although most people don’t have an internet-connected fridge, they still have a staggering amount of electrical devices that are connected to the net.

A quick check of my home, and there’s several smartphones, two tablets, two laptops, a desktop computer, a NAS drive, a PlayStation, an Apple TV, the cable TV box, and an internet radio all sharing the broadband connection. I also have one of those health monitors that can upload my activity (or lack of activity) to the internet via my smartphone.

The desktop computer and NAS are set up so that I can access files remotely when outside of the home, and I can also tell the cable box to record a TV programme from anywhere in the world.

Also, if I had the time and money, I could go out now and buy an internet-connect security system, electricity monitors, light switches, and thermostats – so that I could monitor and manage my home remotely.  And there are more and more home automation products being released every day.

It also won’t be long until every new car will be internet-connected, and every security-concious parent will be equipping their children with GPS-enabled tracking watches.

And while an internet fridge may not be available in your local electrical store any time soon, it’s clear that the Internet of Things is already upon us.

All about being a Lay Vicar Choral

Richard is a Tenor Lay Vicar Choral in the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, one of two Anglican cathedrals in Ireland’s capital city.

The choir is made up of 18 Lay Vicars Choral and 4 Choral Scholars, and sings 3 weekly services in the cathedral, as well as additional services on feast days, concerts, and broadcasts.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin is unique in Anglican cathedral circles in these islands in that it employs women adults to sing the soprano and alto lines in the choir instead of children – although it does also have a separate girls choir.

Commitment

The choir is made up of professional musicians, and each singer is paid an annual stipend in return for their ongoing attendance and commitment. Lay Vicars are expected to be good sight-readers, and produce a good-quality tone that will blend with the rest of the choir.

Ahead of each service there is a rehearsal:

  • On Thursdays, the choir rehearse at 5.20pm for a 6.00pm service, and then again after the service till 8.30pm
  • On Sundays, the choir rehearse at 10.00am for the 11.00am Eucharist, and 2.30pm for the 3.30pm Evensong.

A Lay Vicar are required to be warmed up, robed, and ready to sing in the choir stalls ahead of the stated rehearsal time. Singers are also expected to prepare music at home on occasion.

Choir terms traditionally operate a bit like school terms. In Christ Church the choir year starts in September and runs through to Christmas Day. The choir then has a Christmas break, and returns to sing for Epiphany on 6th January. The term then continues through to Easter Day. There is then a week’s break after Easter, and then the choir continues on till the end of June.  The choir does not sing during July or August.

The name “Lay Vicar Choral”

The term Lay Vicar Choral generally refers to a professional adult singer in a cathedral, church or chapel choir. A Lay Vicar Choral (also sometimes called a Lay Clerk, Song Man, or Vicar Choral depending on the institution) will generally sing with the boy (or girl) choristers at the sung services in a cathedral.

The Lay Vicar Choral name is derived as follows:

  • Lay – refers to a non-ordained person – someone who is not a priest
  • Vicar – refers to someone that acts on behalf of someone else. The word derives from the same linguistic root as the words Vice (as in vice-president) and Vicarious, where you act on behalf of another person. In this case, the Lay Vicar is hired to sing the services on behalf of the canons (priests) of the cathedral.
  • Choral – refers to being a singer

Richard has been in the choir since 2007.

Business Intelligence

The role of Business Intelligence seems only to have come to the fore in the last few years, as organisations have become more reliant upon solid information to support their decision making, and as Business Intelligence tools have become more prevalent.

Reporting has been around for a long time, in one shape or other – including manual reports compiled from data collected in spreadsheets, and the standard reports available in many individual IT systems.  However in the past the compilation of such data into meaningful information would take a lot of manual effort and time.

Data warehouses, and the sophisticated data mining tools now available, are now delivering integrated information from a number of sources to decision makers in a timely manner – allowing people to spot trends and anomalies more quickly, and use the quantitative and qualitative data to drive corrective work and help everyone work smarter.

All organisations are now recognising the key role that Business Intelligence plays in driving growth and profitability in an increasingly competitive market. Decision makers know they have to be nimble in order to react ahead of other players, and access to key information can help them respond quickly and decisively.

I worked for four years in the field of Business Intelligence, helping to deliver reports, dashboards and forecasting tools to the senior management team. The information helped managers to understand the organisation better, beyond the bounds of their normal reporting structure, and deliver real and lasting improvements.

Getting Married

In September 2012, I asked Louise to marry me, and thankfully she said yes! It was just a year and a week after we first met, but we both knew the time was right.

Since the engagement it’s been a very busy and exciting time for both of us, as we plan the wedding and our future life together.  The wedding has been set for August 2013, and the details of the day are available on our new web site louiseandrichard.info

I’d like to thank everyone for the messages of congratulations we’ve received, and for the numerous engagement presents and cards.