Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Last post here - starting a new blog

I will from now on blog on See you there!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Work management and the big brother feeling

I just watched again Terry Gilliam's "Brazil", an old love of mine. It makes me think about the application we produce, which can be perversely seen as a mean for worker control. Perversely? Well, if you are so silly to think that people working should be "controlled", instead of motivated, you have a problem. Surely you shouldn't be in management; maybe read "Peopleware", maybe go do some public service.

The problem and the opportunities start in managing one own time and aims (projects), not other people's. That's why contemporary project management is more related to personal productivity than to say, Pert charts. It's as if management should come as a sum and elaboration of infos voluntarily provided by different and scattered sources. Until not long ago, there was no source from where to get information, so the application had to provide a space to fill. Now we have somehow to make it fill by itself.

And the need for a group tool for managing shared work is ever increasing, as work get more and more complex...


Sunday, December 21, 2008

How people select project management software

The term “project management” in time has acquired a more and more wide and hence vague sense. Once this term would be resolved in a methodology, today its meaning has merged with “groupware” and “personal productivity software”. It is noticeable that there has been a collective and quite uniform move, so that methodologies, needs and software have been evolving towards a common new idea.

So most people classifiable as searching for "project management software" actually search a web based application that will help them manage and share what their group has to do at work. So if for example one searches for “project management software” on Wikipedia, gets a long list, and there are several applications that may be said to meet the problems evoked above. Then, which one among the possible ones should one choose? Well, I’m not going to get here into details of which to pick, it often depends on what you need. But in my by now considerable experience in the field, there are two ways of selecting software: those that try it, and those that don’t. Yes. It’s not a typo: there are many companies that want to select software without trying it. It works this way: in a badly managed large company, often a public service, some high ranking manager decides that the company needs a project management software. They put together user requirements, which by itself would be a good thing, only these requirements come from people without any experience in motivating people to use software, such as groupware, where there isn’t the prescription which leads people to use say an accounting tool. So they throw in restrictive and cumbersome features that no real group of people will ever adopt, but that makes them look responsible to even higher officials.
Notice that they also presume (wrongly) that having a local domain knowledge of the problem implies that they know the best way to get help in managing it from the software.
They have the habit of getting all software made custom for them, even when there are perfectly viable (and much better made) low cost and shrink-wrapped solutions for their problem.
Now that they have the specifics, they should go on and try a list of software solutions. But here too they have very bad habits: they are used to buying software not because they really need it, but because someone goes there and convinces them that they need it. So they ask some IBM-like shiny shoed fellow which visits them periodically whether he/she has some solution of the sort, and of course the fellow says yes, and demos an incredibly old and complex system which is actually a fake web façade of an outdated project management system, which does almost nothing, is unusable, and most importantly is sold ridiculously overpriced, because it has to pay the Porsche and the continuous trips to the customer of the fellow. They would go for that, but.. they have the corporation standards, that “no software should be bought without evaluating alternatives”. That you need an internal regulation to state what is dictated by very basic common sense, testifies the esteem of the company for the intellectual quality of its managers :-D

So, an alternative, how does one go for that.. that other ridiculously overpriced solutions salesman is not coming this week, oh dear. Let’s check the internet.

They find the list on Wikipedia. Of course they don’t try the software listed, that would mean working, and worse of all, taking some responsibilities for the choice. So they just send a badly written Request For Information (these people love acronyms), attaching the file with their absurd specifics, and pretend to be called (they still use the phone a lot).
Now I enter the picture: because up to very very little ago, we were so stupid to call back them, resulting in a huge waste of time (on our part); for their part, they got from us a detailed answer to the RFI, satisfying the company standards, and of course they always go for the local ridiculously overpriced local provider, so they can minimize responsibilities; they didn’t know what they were talking all along, and fundamentally don’t care.

The same story happens when organizations pay another one to do the software selection for them, just with even lower quality in the process: they carefully avoid really trying the software, they just want signed declarations of features present from software houses, so that they bear no responsibilities and can close the job quickly.

This can happen in any organization, and is not necessary linked to large size; and in fact, the opposite happens at times: I provide a positive example that I observed amused recently. A bank was looking for a project management web solution, and the directors involved were putting together more and specifics and system integration requirements. But the single director who was responsible for starting the adoption, simply ignored the requirements: chose the software that looked better to him, that cost almost nothing, and simply started using it in his small group. People started seeing how effective it was, and more and more people joined in, also those of the groups that were still meditating on the specifics and integrations; the solution, without any custom development is today used by 80 people every day, and the total cost would not pay a wheel of the Porsche of the shiny shoed fellow above.

Back to the question of whether software gets tried in evaluation, there are even “software houses” that think that in opacity there is an opportunity. When you are evaluating a software though its web site and you find it hard to get to the demo and/or the price, and that they try to get in contact with you first, they try to call you back, just consider for a moment what is happening and why: isn’t it very likely that the quality of the software is not sufficient to expose it and its price? And who is going to cover the (huge) overprice of having professional salesman calling you back? Those that end in the trap, of course.

Attribution: picture taken here.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Il "senatore" Giulio Camber

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A wise man: Philip Roth

Monday, June 30, 2008

Come parla!!!

Oggi ho purtroppo sentito un'intervista a Fahre a una supposta scrittrice, tale Pulsatilla. Spero che incontri presto Moretti.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Book exchange party

Friday, April 25, 2008

Italy's political trap: distributive justice

Last elections in Italy have finally decreed the selection of two main parties that share the liberal view of economy, which is simply a recognition of the world’s dynamics in the last n centuries.
Now if someone is a firm believer in redistributive justice, like myself, can only vote the Democratic Party at the moment. The main instrument of distributive justice is the state. So to believe in distributive justice, you have to agree to a high and progressive taxation level, and in particular to high inheritance taxes. Fine. Then the state will provide wealth redistribution, in particular ensuring universal access to health, housing and education. Fine.
Now in contemporary Italy the problems start here: in every single occasion of contact with the state, you realize the irresponsibility and incredible inefficiency with which the state “workers” operate, and this be it local, regional or central government. And if, like myself, you get in contact with the state not only as citizen, but as supplier of solutions (software), you become aware that it is much worse than the common citizen realizes: the waste of money is a habit, and nobody cares. Works that 3 people could do well, are done badly by 10. Managers have no power, thanks to state unions, and hence are either corrupted or absent. Unions have abused their privileges to the point that even when a worker commits crimes against the state, it is impossible to get it fired.
Only if belief in redistributive justice has been implanted in your mind in early childhood (like in my case), your belief can survive in this context. And the first aim of anyone who wants to enhance redistributive justice in Italy should be to work on the state and make it effective. This is something that in the last 15 years the left party when in power has not done, and it is a big mistake.
What is “funny” is that if instead you don’t believe in redistributive justice, you should give your vote to Berlusconi’s private party: but as he has shown, his government just sticks to power, and cultivates it; the huge reforms of which the Italian state should be subject to, to become slim and effective are not even planned by his coalition. The little that has been done, has been done by his opposers!
What should be understood, is that Berlusconi is not a capable entrepreneur: he made his economic success through politically enforced trust (in private TV’s, through his old time friend Craxi, another scary individual), establishing a monopoly, and also taking obscurely founded construction and editorial initiatives (corrupting judges along the way). He highly resembles in style and story the Soviet communist bureaucrats put in charge of monopolistic companies just after the Soviet collapse, which fits perfectly with his Putin friendship (they also share the same respect for democracy). He is an incompetent clown, not an effective manager.

Hard times for Italy…

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Obama Speech: 'A More Perfect Union'

I had no idea that this fellow was so uniquely talented.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Amélie Nothomb - two books

Two more nice books you should read:

Stupeur et tremblements
Ni d’Ève, ni d’Adam

by this Belgian delicate woman writer. In the first book she portraits corporate life in Japan, a sort of hell on earth, inhabited by racist idiots with neurotic sweat-horror; how can anyone bear such worklife escapes comprehension. Japanese workers, escape to Europe!

The second shows a completely different side, where her life is reflected and empowered through the tenderness of her Japanese boyfriend, and the side of Japan which we (priviledged enough to not work there) are used to enjoy comes in light again.