The Field Ops Guide - or The Art of Looking Away From Explosions

• 09.05.19 •

Mike Arvela • Director, People & Culture, Tampere

If you have worked in a software project, you are probably familiar with the intense effort required. A project can succeed or fail for a multitude of reasons. The more spectacularly a project fails, the more likely it is to make the news.

Pointing out problems after the damage has already been done is easy. Not stepping on any of the mines in the first place is a lot harder. And a lot more awesome.

Both military and aviation make full use of checklists to avoid total catastrophes. At Futurice Tampere we decided to experiment with the idea of creating a similar "field ops guide" for software projects. Maybe it would help someone working on a challenging software project to live to tell about it… We’ve completed hundreds and hundreds of successful projects, but not without experiencing our fair share of spontaneous explosions resulting in acute hair loss. Some things you only learn the hard way, but we figured that if we can take away even a bit of the pain someone’s about to experience, our efforts have not been in vain.

Answer “no” at your own risk

We picked a format that asks a number of questions per approximate project phase. One should be able to answer each question with a "yes", or fail to do so only on purpose and for good reason. For example, “Has it been validated that the problem is actually worth solving?” – if your answer is no, chances are there’s a great opportunity to both gain trust and save money by putting your effort where it has more potential for impact. We worked with the following design criteria in mind:

  • Helps save human lives
  • Fits your pocket: not too thick, nor too rigid (~A6 size)
  • Combines a guide and a notebook in one, making it multi-purpose
  • Is carefully curated: contains the most important things, and only the most Important things
  • Is usable by anyone in a client project
  • Is inexpensive enough to be forgotten lying around rather carelessly


Rewind a few months to late 2018, and we got the first batch out of print. It was great to see our ideas finally come to life! We shared copies of the booklet around the Futurice offices and gave some to our clients and friends. Based on the feedback, we did some subtle tweaks, such as making the text more fluent and adding a checklist of all the questions on the back.

We have some cool ideas reserved for the future, such as making the guide double as a field shovel, or maybe adding a bit of fragrance for that extra touch. Suggestions included a lavender-wild raspberry mix with a hint of napalm.

Like many cool things, the Field Ops Guide is open source! In addition to the physical booklet, you can download the guide in your format of choice:

  • PDF (recommended for on-screen reading)
  • Mobi, for Amazon Kindle
  • EPUB, for e-readers and iBooks
  • GitHub source, for building and printing instructions

We would love to hear what you think!

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