Welcome post from Mikhail Sudbin, Advalange CTO.

Mikhail Sudbin, Advalange CTODear friends,

In this welcome post I want to shed some light on my joining the Advalange organization. First, let me say a couple of words on my vision of software development and the safety-critical domain in particular. This will help to understand better what made me make this decision.

Revise your memory and compare the software industry in the early ’90s and now. Various frameworks and engines significantly changed the way application and solution software are developed. Just imagine if anybody tells you: “Every single line of code for this ERP system was written within these walls.” You would take it normally in 1995 but today you won’t believe it. New technologies are developing along with new methodologies. There was no such phrases as “scrum” or “application platform” 20 years ago.

The safety critical area is a little bit more conservative but now it is entering the new period of evolution and similar techniques come into play. As an example, look at integrated modular avionics and new approaches and challenges it brings to the aerospace domain. Organizations should accept the evolution and change accordingly to face it.

“Always be focused and keep in mind
how the result should look like.”

The organization I used to be working for was quite conservative and was not eager to catch on to the new trends. I was searching for the new opportunities when Evgeny proposed to found the new company. At first I was quite pessimistic. No solid background, no corporate culture, no proven structure… However, when we talked it over I saw that the idea could work. Let’s gather experienced, like-minded people and build a new entity. We can make “drawbacks” our strengths. Let’s build culture and infrastructure aimed at facing the new challenges. Our people are knowledgeable and creative enough to do it. There will be no bureaucracy or legacy constraints that other organizations face, and it will be a huge benefit.

We all sat together and discussed our positive and negative experiences of working with various organizations. It was quite a wide range of case studies: from Fortune 500 corporations with 10-year-long projects with thousands of people involved to tiny labs with a dozen people max. We came to the decision that often very few people know for what reason they are doing particular things, especially in big organizations. We definitely wanted to be different.

“Business process is a means encouraging
people to act and aim for results,
while the team is a core of Advalange.”

Thus, one of our main principles is “be focused.” You need to know what the result should look like. You need to put on the hat of the customer, manufacturer, user, vendor, and, at the very end, the hat of the engineer to figure it out. You need to understand how each particular task influences the result. Another principle that we agreed upon is that our world is not perfect. If you try to build a perfect product, you will fail. Even the famous gadget has its own drawbacks. Be a little bit more pragmatic: deliver the right result, spending the right amount of time and money.

Other key features of our new organization were based on these two principles. We accepted that people and teams should be the core aspect of our organization. Business processes should encourage people to act and aim for results. On the other hand, every single individual should commit to the principles and be tough enough to follow them. I was happy to know that the awesome group of cool professionals shares this point of view and we would be able to get the team together.

I did not doubt long and accepted the role of chief technology and process officer at Advalange. I think that this role is very close to the opportunity I was searching for. I believe the Advalange principles can be a sound basis of a unique corporate culture in the safety critical domain. I would be proud to prove that such a way of doing things can lead to building a solid and respectable organization. It will be a challenge and will definitely bring me to a new level of mastery.

Welcome message from Evgeny Rodin, Advalange CEO.

Evgeny Rodin, Advalange CEODear friends,

I’m delighted to greet you on our website and in our blog and let me start a series of posts from Advalange partners about the foundation of the company.

Advalange has been on air for a few months already, but I still keep asking myself if it’s real or not. Actually it was my dream. I had a desire to apply my knowledge and experience and create something new and different. Now I can say I’m a lucky person. I was fortunate to meet my Advalange partners. We share the same values and speak the same language. We had almost no discussions on what Advalange would be doing. Software development in the safety-critical areas was an obvious and reasonable choice supported by our core engineering team.

It is a hard time to start a new business, but the Advalange team, and I as a part of it, love challenges. We love aerospace and engineering. I believe it will outweigh all the issues and obstacles we’ll face. I’m sure that strong aerospace expertise and experience in performing embedded software and IT projects will help us taking off smoothly in this rough air.

As one of the means to deal with the obstacles, we chose sharing our knowledge with colleagues, partners and customers. And in this first post in our blog I want to tell you about the first challenge we ran into. After Advalange founders agreed on the services and markets, we had to figure out what will make us different from many other players. Now I can say we found it.

“Regulated mindlessness of actions
is a source of inefficiency.”

Since the beginning of my career 12 years ago, I’ve participated in a number of projects with companies of different sizes, regions, and history. Regardless of the project’s scope, complexity and schedule, many of them had a common feature, which I call “regulated mindlessness of actions”, when a process is performed just for the sake of process.

Software projects are getting bigger and more complicated following the demand for increasing complexity of the electronic equipment. In turn, more rules, procedures and regulations are created to manage larger numbers of similar and repetitive operations. At the same time, attention of corporations has been turning to the schedule performance due to demand for lower time-to-market and pressure from competitors. As a result, higher productivity has become very important even in intellectual work.

“Keep being critical even when
everything seems to work fine.”

In such an Indy-car race even high-class engineers forget that the improvement process slows or even dies as soon as you stop questioning and criticizing existing approaches and decisions. I was watching the great teams able to solve complex problems and to complete projects on time and fully according to the procedures and regulations. However, even members of those teams often failed to answer the following question: “What is the business value that you add to the project and to the customer by doing your particular tasks?” Teams keep working without a vision, and sooner or later their performance starts degrading.

When a project team stops being critical, the mass production approach wins. Project teams tend to unify what is not supposed to be unified and it gets especially dangerous when each single result of the same process is unique, which is fully applied to the software development.

Furthermore, any business-process improvements aimed at increasing the production rate can lead to the opposite result in the long run. It happens when a team fails to recognize what brings the real business value and needs to get improved. Breaking this conveyer trap becomes a long, complex and in some cases painful procedure, especially in large corporations.

“Continuous and persistent search
for meaningful work makes
a professional employee.”

There are methodologies and philosophies like Kaizen called to resolve such type of issues. A company can hire proven experts to audit existing business processes. The experts can advise and lead the process optimization. The danger comes at the implementation stage. In many cases implementation goes mechanically. Project teams are often told what to do, but don’t get clear understanding and acceptance of why they need to do it. Consequently, the same people perform new sequences of actions after the process is optimized and reset. But they didn’t have time to figure out why one or another aspect of the process has been changed. They were concerned about their personal performance, rather than about what is really valuable and what’s not. In such circumstances, the change to the process relaxes over time, often quite quickly. It accretes new unnecessary steps and “improvements” that may not bring any additional business value but allows teams to simplify the process that is not equal to make it efficient.

“Simplification doesn’t necessarily
increase the business value.”

I’m sure that meaningful awareness of the real business value that is brought by each particular task is not just a means of improved efficiency.  It is also an important motivation factor, the importance of which can’t be overestimated. Continuous and persistent search for meaningful intellectual work is what makes a professional employee, while a company that creates conditions for such research has higher chances of long-term successful development.

We put this important principle into the foundation of the Advalange system of corporate values. I’m sure that consistency in doing the job based on the common company values is an important prerequisite to successfully implementing a chosen strategy. And I really hope that openness, transparency and respect for each other – colleagues, customers and partners – will create the greenhouse conditions for sustainable Advalange growth and development.