Faith

I was back at my alma mater last week speaking to the computer programming class about making a living as a consultant. It’s a presentation that I do every year, and I thoroughly enjoy it. At one point, though, one of the students said that I came across as “anti-management.” I certainly didn’t intend to— although, with the popularity of “Dilbert,” it’s almost politically correct these days to make fun of managers. I don’t think it’s right, myself. First off, it’s wrong to work with stereotypes. And second, I do like managers. After all, they give me all of this lovely money. Continue reading

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Eyewitness Testimony

Here’s a story from my life (stop me if you’ve heard this one before): I was project manager for a purchase order/contract management system. At one point I asked the system’s prospective users if they’d ever need the system to create purchase orders where the items on the order would be delivered in several different shipments. “Oh no,” I was told. “Everything on the purchase order is to be delivered at the same time.”

When I tell this story at conferences, I always pause at this point and ask, “So how long do you think I had to wait before…” and I just let my voice trail off. People know (instantly!) what I mean—how long before the users tried to create a multi-shipment purchase order? Estimates range from three days to a few months (for the record, everyone is too cynical; it was actually about six months before it happened). Continue reading

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Eyewitness Testimony

EVERYONE tells you how important it is to know the business requirements. And, presumably, you find out what the business requirements are by talking to your business users. That’s all well and good, except no one tells you how unreliable your users are.

Probably everybody has a story like this one: I was working on a purchasing system and, as part of gathering the business requirements, I asked my users, “Do you ever do a split order?” (A split order occurs when you place a single order but plan to receive the goods in a series of shipments.) “No,” I was assured. “We never have split orders.” So we implemented a system without split orders. When I’m doing seminars and tell this story, I stop here and ask the audience “How long after implementation?” Like I said, everybody has this story, and everybody knows that I’m asking how long until the first split order showed up. People are much more cynical than I am—most answers are in the one-to-three week range. In actual fact, it was about two months before I got the call: “Peter, we’re up here trying to put in a split order and can’t seem to figure out how to do it. Could you come up and give us a hand?” Continue reading

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Definition of Insanity

So, I have a cat. At night, when I get in bed, the cat, desperate for love/attention/pets, throws his whole body against me. But that’s not enough—he then slides up along my body and mushes his face into my face while purring like a washing machine with a bad set of cogs.

It’s not nearly as attractive as you might think.

If I don’t respond because I’m too tired and want to go to sleep, the cat performs this act again. And again. And again. Eventually I punt the cat. A definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting to get a different result.” This is also, apparently, the definition of having a brain the size of an apricot. Continue reading

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Connections

AN enormous amount of my work revolves around e-mail. I get requests for work, and I get the components of the jobs that I’m working on through e-mail. I send the results of my work and progress reports out through e-mail. A lot of what I do involves receiving e-mail, reacting to it, and either returning it or sending it on.

Much of what I do with e-mail generates more than just e-mail. E-mail turns into appointments in my day book, reference notes, and portions of projects that I’m working on. Continue reading

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