Friday, August 24, 2007

The Value Of An Employee

Some recent project activity I've been involved with has reminded me of the all too commonly occurring scenario that plays out in corporate offices up and down the land each day; the relegation of the employee to support while the contractors populate the projects. (Disclaimer : I've been a contract resource, an employee, a project manager, and team manager so I've covered pretty much all the bases...)

Now, it never ceases to amaze me that organisations persist in driving project delivery with their contract staff in preference to their corporate staff. The usual argument is to better manage resources and budget for asset development enabling easy capitalisation of time, depreciation of asset cost, and flexible staffing levels with project load, but consider this.

  • How will your employees feel if they're forever stuck on support and bug fixing while the glory of new project delivery (and the happy celebrations on project completion) are forever the domain of your contractors?
  • How will you stop your people believing that your employees are second rate staff to the contractors you bring on for the big projects?
  • How do you successfully manage operation of the project deliverables when the operational staff were not involved in the project development?
  • How do you continue long term development and idea innovation on a system produced by one team and operated by another?
  • And just how many projects actually really do successfully deliver generating the actual value originally envisaged in the business cases? Wouldn't it be better to manage the cost up front knowing you can capitalise after the fact?

If you're building a valuable asset then you should be building a commensurately valuable human structure to continue development over time, not just hand over and dash off to the next engagement.

It's a naive view that sees a complex system developed, deployed and left alone. Again, anything valuable at a point in time needs to change to remain valuable in response to a changing environment. It's simply ridiculous to imagine a complex system can be simply bounded by the original project definition.

Relegating employees to operational activity because of concerns over managing budget is a strategic error for any company.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Richard Rumelt on making choices and Disruptive Innovation


Thanks go to the McKinsey Quarterly Journal for this great interview. You'll need to register (it's free) to read the original article.

Now the title of this post isn't exactly what Rumelt wrote but the theme runs strongly through the interview.

While responding to questions on the nature of corporate strategy Rumelt gives the example of the resurgence of Apple (and really Steven Jobs) through the iPod:

"Jobs didn't give me a doorknob-polishing answer. He didn't say, 'We're cutting costs and we're making alliances.' He was waiting until the right moment for that predatory leap, which for him was Pixar and then, in an even bigger way, the iPod. That very predatory approach of leaping through the window of opportunity and staying focused on those big wins - not on maintenance activities - is what distinguishes a real entrepreneurial strategy."


"Enter Jobs. He was perfectly positioned because he was a bit of an insider in the entertainment industry but didn't have any of those asset positions that were being threatened. He didn't need to make a fantastic leap of imagination into the far future. He found a set of ideas that needed to be quickly and decisively acted upon."

Two other good points in the interview are the power of writing down thoughts in sentences over bullet points and the concept of value denial.

Computerworld Article Response

Well I was quoted in Computerworld yesterday( as a result of statements made during my voice of the customer track presentation on Kiwibank at TechEd 07 in Auckland. During the presentation I made a point that platform infrastructure is an important enabling factor in exploiting future opportunities; and that at Kiwibank we were embarking on a desktop upgrade, initially to XP and at a later date to Vista.

During question time at the end of the presentation I was asked to explain in more detail why we were not going directly from Windows 2000 to Vista. The answer is simply that we need to complete our natural desktop replacement to ensure people get a reasonable performance. This is underway and from my perspective, being mostly interested in application deployment, it is not a great inhibitor to future progress. Windows XP does provide organisations with the ability to deploy the .net 3 components for presentation, workflow management, and communication and while I'm sure that from an infrastructure perspective there are many good reasons to deploy Vista for improved management, I'm satisfied with the operating system for application hosting.

The remainder of the article referred to some of the more interesting ways in which we're trying to take advantage of a range of new technologies within the bank; if I had had time in the presentation I could've shown many more.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Web

These notes come from Michael Platt's Web 2.0 presentation at TechEd07 Auckland.

Why TCP?

Why not UDP and BitTorrent...
This follows on from the SAF06 event and Bill Gates talk. Current web protocols were designed with low bandwidth environments in mind; now there is a high bandwidth environment and the time is right for a disruptive innovation. A new read/write peer to peer protocol could easily supplant HTTP with the PUT/POST/GET verbs.

If we do this then REST could provide a model for a new implementation.

Basic support available in WCF1.0 but it's native in Orcas.

Question could be what REST support exists in Silverlight?

Interesting point raised on process management and the Robotics SDK which contains graphical process designer. In a bidirectional web environment you need process support.

Monday, August 13, 2007

TechEd 2007 Auckland Presentation

Just finished! I can never tell in advance how the presentation will go until it's performed in front of the obvious. It's only then that you can gauge the feed back and know which areas of the presentation were actually important to the audience.

In this particular case I think the following areas stood out:
  • Innovation is not the result of projects
  • My rant on incubators never succeeding
  • The requirement to sell internally your ideas
  • The need to think ahead two, three or more years and use that to build your strategy for your technology development

Big thanks go out to Lou Carbone for his keynote, best keynote speech I've seen, and I took a hint and used my time before the presentation to add some pictures - they speak a thousand words.

Main message from Lou's speech was that emotional clues are everywhere; and you're daft if you don't take heed.