In time, On time, ASAP

Teaching CCPM in an Academic Setting: "I had a kind of slap-in-the-face moment some months ago regarding ‘on time,’ namely the difference between on time as a measurement and on time as an objective. "

(Via Robert C. Newbold's Billion Dollar Blog.)

I think Mr Newbold has an interesting point here. People find it hard to distinguish between a measurement and an objective. When I first read his comments it took me several seconds to figure out why I would be measuring something if that wasn't what I wanted.

In the case of software features, I want them completed as soon as possible; but I can't measure ASAP, so I'll probably measure what I can - compliance with a plan. It is important for everyone involved, project managers, developers etc. to understand that the plan isn't what we want. What we want is as much value as possible, delivered soon as possible. In fact the plan is, in real terms, often a listing of the worst case scenario that we can tolerate. Working to the plan in this case is a terrible idea.

Stride for stride isn't good enough any more.

I've just been reading Neal Forde's three part series on SOA. An interesting piece in of itself, but one part in particular caught my eye:

Tactics vs. Strategy (SOA & The Tarpit of Irrelevancy): "what is strategic to the business is always tactical to IT. Business people can go into a conference room and change the entire direction of the company in 2 hours. Or, the business may decide to merge with another company that has truly dysfunctional IT, but other business concerns override that. IT can never move as fast as the business, with means that IT always has to respond tactically to the decisions and initiatives brought forth from the business."

(Via Meme Agora.)

Is it true, that, IT can never move as fast as the business?

As a technologist, it'd be easy to dismiss this claim by pointing to a single example where technology drove forward the business, thus refuting the claim that it never happens. But that isn't really what the author is talking about and isn't really what interests me.

Businesses have a historical rate of change, how often they've changed their products, offerings, pricing, strategy, structure etc. And, if you look at the historical rate of change of technology it will match it one to one.

But that's only part of the story. Most businesses that I know, don't have a constant rate of change. Change is lumpy. Change comes from a stimulus: a new opportunity, a new marketing campaign, market conditions, technology, the economy, science, new staff, new ideas, failure of a competitor, a new competitor on the block etc. A stimulus occurs and a business must change to meet the new demands or opportunities.

When a business wants to change, how does their IT department work with them to support that change? Do they match them stride-for-stride? Are they a drag saying, "oh, no, we can't do that in less than eighteen months"? Or are they an asset to the company and they find ways to accelerate the change, giving the business options and opportunities they didn't think they had?

Too often a business can only move at the rate their IT department will let them. In the year 2009, everyone in IT needs to make sure that they are enablers for their business. We need to partner with the business people in our organisations so that we can give them options. We have tools of unparalleled power and flexibility at our disposal, we need to make use of them for the benefit of the organisations we work for. We need to do this to survive, we need to to this so that IT is a profit centre for our organisations not a cost centre. Now more than ever, if you can't point clearly to the benefits you bring to the bottom line, nobody else will. And if you can't point to those benefits then there's never going to be security in your role.

In many organisations there's a culture of hostility between the business and IT. In my experience, this is often because the business have asked for change in the past and IT have been unable to deliver. This situation will not fix itself.

The answer is partnership. That's the second time I've used that word in this posting .. and it is one of those words that everyone uses when they're stuck for a more meaningful concept. Everybody agrees we should be partners. Partnership is 'a good thing'. Nobody is going to stand up and say, "bah, partnership, bloody awful, not doing that".

What does partnership actually mean in real terms? Sadly, it is one of those "I'll know it when I see it" things. I can tell you where I start when I want to build a business partnership though. I start with the word but.

"Yes, I can build the thing you've described to me but I can do this in half the time. Would that be better?"

"No, I can't do that by tomorrow night, but I can do this other thing. Would that do in the short term?"

"Hey, I noticed we're doing this, but we could do this other thing. Would that save you time?"

"Hey, I spend a lot of my time doing this, but if we changed to doing things this other way, I'd have more time to help you with that. Would that be OK?"


Hello, world

As I mentioned in my last post, I've left JPMorgan and I'm now a free agent. Free agency is a term from the sports world, where it is a coy way of saying 'you can hire me'.

I don't really like coy so, in short, I'm available. You can reach me on rob@(domain).com if you're interested.

Sales pitch aside, I want to use my free time productively. I intend to write here whenever I have something to say. I'm going to catch up on the giant pile of books that I've bought over the last few years that I haven't had time to read.

Beyond that, my friend Clarke has been encouraging me to write. Like everyone else I feel I have a book inside me, so I'll try committing it to bits and see how it turns out. Maybe it's a book in there, maybe just gas.

There's also a huge pile of technical topics that I've touched the surface of, but haven't dived into as deeply as I'd like over the last year or two.

For the moment, as least, I've got time without commitments. I don't intend to waste it.


Good-bye, JPMorgan

After six and a half wonderful years with JPMorgan we've decided to part ways. I've had the pleasure of working with the smartest, most dedicated, hardest working group of people I've ever met. It was an honour and a privilege to know you and to work amongst you. We achieved some amazing things, you've forever enriched my life, and my time with you is something I'll never forget.

I thank you all.
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