Shipping Greatness
Practical lessons on building and launching outstanding software, learned on the job at Google and Amazon
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: August 2012
Pages: 228

Need a shortcut to a degree in shipping great software? Successful team leaders must have an extremely broad skill set to find the right product, work through a complex and ever-changing development process, and do it all incredibly quickly. In this guide, Chris Vander Mey provides a simplified, no-BS approach to the entire software lifecycle, distilled from lessons he learned as a manager at Amazon and Google.

In the first part of the book, you’ll learn a step-by-step shipping process used by many of the best teams at Google and Amazon. Part II shows you the techniques, best practices, and skills you need to face an array of challenges in product, program, project, and engineering management.

  • Clearly define your product and develop your mission and strategy
  • Assemble your team and understand enough about systems to communicate with them
  • Create a beautiful, intuitive, and simple user experience
  • Track your team’s deliverables and closely manage the testing process
  • Communicate clearly to gracefully handle requests, senior-management interactions, and feedback from various sources
  • Build metrics to track progress, spot problems, and celebrate success
  • Stick to your launch checklist and plan for marketing and PR
Table of Contents
Product Details
About the Author
Recommended for You
Customer Reviews

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oreillyShipping Greatness
 
4.0

(based on 8 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (4)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 2 Stars

     

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86%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Helpful examples (7)
  • Easy to understand (6)
  • Well-written (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Intermediate (7)
    • Expert (3)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Developer (3)

    Reviewed by 8 customers

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    5.0

    Concise and loaded with useful info

    By Daniel

    from Southern California

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Concise
    • Easy to understand
    • Helpful examples

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Intermediate
      • Novice

      Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

      As a new Product Manager, I'm always wondering what else I don't know. This book does include interesting anecdotes from famous companies, but the value to me were all the tips, checklists and templates that he included.

      For example, there's a "Madlib" crisis notification message that I immediately typed-up and saved in my drafts-folder. His advice is to "remain calm" and having something like this at my fingertips will make that easier, should the need ever arise.

      I expect to be referring back to many of his other checklists as well.

      (0 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

       
      3.0

      "Shipping Greatness" by Chris Vander Mey

      By Andy

      from Germany

      About Me Developer

      Verified Reviewer

      Pros

        Cons

        • Too basic

        Best Uses

        • Intermediate

        Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

        Chris Vander Mey is a former Google product manager and Amazon engineering manager that has held multiple roles in small company startups. He has a Masters in Engineering Management from Dartmouth College and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from University of Virginia.

        The Book has 13 chapters which are divided in two parts and three short appendices with further information including references for further reading.

        Part one (chapters 1-7) is about the process to ship great Software and part two (chapters 8-13) is about the needed skills for any project leader.

        It's target audience are managers of bigger companies. It explains the whole life cycle of a new Software product from the initial idea up to shipping the product.
        In my opinion the reader should already have some knowledge about product management before reading this book.
        Chris gives a lot of tips and examples from his own experience at Google and Amazon.

        After all i think the Book is a bit to short to cover all the topics adequate.
        I am not sure if like the book or not. I don't like Chris writing style and IMHO he uses to many superlatives.

        (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        3.0

        Not for Developers - Managers Only

        By Will

        from Chicago, IL

        Verified Reviewer

        Pros

        • Based On Experience
        • Easy to understand
        • Helpful examples

        Cons

        • Not comprehensive enough
        • Too basic

        Best Uses

          Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

          If you want to learn how professionals develop software, this is not the book for you.

          If you are already in the software development world and you know your way around building features, this book will give you a concise introduction in leading a team of developers. The book gives cool information about the inner workings of Amazon and Google's project / product management.

          The worst part is that I can't even define what this book accomplishes. It doesn't tell you how to manage engineers. It doesn't tell you how to get a job in shipping software. Nor is there any discussion on how you develop an idea for adding features or building "ship-worthy" software.

          (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

           
          4.0

          Software project manager reference book

          By horalass

          from Lomé, Togo

          About Me Developer, Project manager

          Pros

          • Easy to understand
          • Helpful examples

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Expert
            • Intermediate

            Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

            Have you got a new job as Project Manager or you want to hone your skills as one who already is a Project Manager? Either way, this book is for you! Chris takes the pains to go through all the necessary steps before delivering a good product. As former Project Manager at Amazon and Google, Chris gives you an insight into Amazon and Google's processes. These organizations are known to be successful in launching new products. He sometimes compares the processes used by the two giants and gives personal advice on what he thinks should be the best practices.
            The book starts off from the product idea and ends up with a product launch. This is an essential reference book, one you should refer to regularly, so keep it handy. It's full of checklists for all the stages of project management. You would find advice on uncommon tasks like how to acquire a company when building your team and also the usual ones.
            The book is divided into two parts: the first focuses on the processes and the second on the skills for launching a great software product.
            As the author said "...shipping great software is damn hard...". So you can read this book and learn a little bit from the Chris

            (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

             
            4.0

            A must Have

            By Jose Betancur

            from Medellín, Colombia

            About Me Designer, Developer

            Verified Reviewer

            Pros

            • Accurate
            • Easy to understand
            • Helpful examples

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Intermediate

              Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

              If you are an entrepreneur, and building solutions on your startup this is a must read. You will learn a lot form the experiences from Google and Amazon, and must of all, this books cover so many different things that it would be a learning experience.

              A must have one.

              The book has a lot of key points that a product/service developer has to keep track of it. Is a great collection of good information. Easy to read, and personally a book not to read from begin to end, but to came back from time to time.

              (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

               
              4.0

              Shipping checklists

              By Rhaen

              from Germany

              Verified Reviewer

              Pros

              • Helpful examples
              • Well-written

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • Expert
                • Intermediate

                Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

                Shipping greatness is a book written by Chris Vander Mey about delivering software products and software projects. It's starts by describing the initial startup process and the initial idea up to the point of actual delivering software and the deployment process. The author worked for Google and Amazon in the past and uses his experiences to give the reader a hand by providing useful insights, helpful checklists and some terms or phrases which are easy to remember. The book doesn't describe a new methodology, it contains recipes, best practices and a summary of lessons learned by the author.
                Shipping greatness is also a book about "shipping checklists". I started to read the book just before I became responsible for a big software project and I decided to read the book all in one during a weekend. I was very disappointed about it's style at first - you just finished reading about a checklist, then you start diving into the next one. However, after some breaks I start liking the style of the book and it served incredibly well as reference at certain points in the project. The checklist style with the explanation for each item helps you to get started real quick. Take your time, read the chapter again and finalize you work.
                The book is a great help and provides a sane way to stay on top of the project and not getting buried by. This book is a must read for every project, product or development manager.

                (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                Great book for growing Project Managers

                By Leam

                from Blacksburg, VA

                About Me Dog Walker, Linux Engineer, Network Engineer, Programmer, Project manager

                Verified Reviewer

                Pros

                • Easy to understand
                • Fun To Read
                • Helpful examples
                • Idea Stimulating
                • Well-written

                Cons

                • Vast Scope Changes

                Best Uses

                • Help Energize Pm Skills
                • Intermediate
                • Spur Pm Skill Growth

                Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

                "Shipping Greatness" can help get your thought process kickstarted. In the enterprise software field it is easy to get bogged down in doing the same things and getting the same unsatisfactory results. Chris let's you take advantage of his career to seed your creativity and find new ways to ship good stuff. It is not the "Dungeon Master's Guide" but more Gygax's "Role-Playing Mastery". You need some experience to see the value in the ideas and enough courage to take some risks.

                (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                4.0

                Scalable Principles

                By Martin Rowe

                from Oakfordbridge, Devon, UK

                About Me Educator

                Verified Reviewer

                Pros

                • Easy to understand
                • Helpful examples
                • Well-written

                Cons

                  Best Uses

                  • Expert
                  • Intermediate

                  Comments about oreilly Shipping Greatness:

                  I like this book; it is based on experience. As the author states in his introduction:

                  "The tools and tips herein are blunt and directional; it's up to you to sharpen them and make them your own".

                  These tools and tips are good: use them as is, or modify them.

                  Part I contains the author's process for shipping software: defining the vision at the start of the project, choosing and working with a team, handling management, knowing enough technically, interacting with the UX team, testing, and launching the project. There are good tips. e.g. create a FAQ at the start of a project as a way of imagining the end result.

                  There are detailed examples usually followed by a good summary of the principles behind the practices. e.g. make sure the software you ship does not embarrass you: insist on test-driven development, build a testing team around a great test lead, review your test plan and test cases personally, automate testing, make the team use the software that they've built, arrange a big bug bash, triage your bugs diligently, and establish trusted testers as a last line of defence. The author includes his own project management spreadsheet (downloadable from the book's website) as a bonus.

                  Part II contains techniques, best practices, and skills that the author has found successful and is based on the premise that you can always increase efficiency. There are sections on team building, understanding technology, and communication. His view on how to handle the product development process? Know the four S's: servers, services, speed, and scaling, and - know how to say no to feature creep. Why? because "every line of code decreases the probability of shipping".

                  His definition of success: find the right balance between shipping, quality and impact of the software, and your team's health - deliver a quality product that people want and finish the project with a team still intact.

                  The book gives an interesting insight into the way large software companies manage projects. And the principles here are scalable; they would work in a small business or a startup. Would the book help me to create a minimum viable product and ship it? Yes, but with my eyes open. As the author says "...shipping great software is damn hard and crazy stressful. It's also incredibly rewarding".

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