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Friday, August 20, 2010

Creative Solution

Will Marshall of Marshall Strategic Marketing  has been getting some spectacular results for his clients. We were talking about how that happens and I realized he is doing something I learned about 30 years ago, finding the Creative Solution.

It’s difficult to positively define the creative solution. I get irritated when I am looking for one. I know what I want and it’s aggravating I don’t already have it. It can take days, weeks, or months, when I am sorting through information defining the best way to proceed.

The negative definition of creative solution is quite common. I collect them.

Ted Long, the former mayor of San Bruno, California said, “No matter how hard you try the wrong thing it never quite works.”

Tony Byrne of The Real Story Group once told me, “Never buy software that is too sophisticated for your organization to maintain.”

The positive definition is a little harder, and it is found across industries.

In the construction trades, a high accolade for one who consistently gets the creative solution is, “He is a ‘mechanic.’” Bob Harold observed that a young industrial plumber will wear out three pairs of boots a year. A mechanic wears out a pair of boots every three years and gets more done every day before lunch than his younger counterpart does all day.

Anon variously said, “One good programmer can do the work of five, a hundred, a thousand programmers.” What I see is many programmers spend their morning tearing up what they did the previous afternoon. Also called one step forward and two steps back.

Clay Christensen told me that a hospital has three businesses, diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care. When initial diagnosis is wrong, the chance of successful conclusion is greatly reduced, costs soar.

On the Architecture/Design/Execution/Evaluation model the creative solution is not any one of the stages. It occurs before that process starts and at each stage.

I find project management professionals are consumed with running efficient projects with wildly varying results. I would rather have a slipshod effort aimed at the right target than an immaculate execution going the wrong way. Starting with a creative solution is easier to fix.

Please share your experience with “creative solution” below.

Noon, Thursday, September 15th, we are offering a free presentation of How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources , Mount Vernon – Lee Chamber, Alexandria, Virginia.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

1987 Grace Hopper Interview

Robert Collins of It's A Cobol World sent a 1987 Grace Hopper interview 

Robert sent:
I just spent the last bit reading an interview with Grace.

There are some gems in the interview which have nothing to do with COBOL.

Her approach to management, sales, leadership, etc. come through quite well in the text. (And is quite revealing about government information technology practices, then and now - Dick)

She was even a proponent of distributed computing and felt the reason everything ran on a mainframe was that "that was the only box they had".

An interesting read.

Robert Collins
Senior Solution Architect
Micro Focus

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Social Economy

Can I get an “Amen” that the economy is slightly askew? Are you spending time wondering what is going on? Here are some emerging patterns that might help.

Daemon/Freedom™  is one story in two books about our economy if it was based on social rather than economic resources. It’s also a good shoot ’em up. Actually, the action makes the new thinking easier to understand…and makes me realize we are seeing parts of a social economy already.

Hippie 2.0  is a raucous blog, many posts daily from a phalanx of talented writers. I never know what to expect, but I haven’t read anything unimportant since I subscribed.

Which gets me to Social Capital: The Value Game  a recent video on Hippie 2.0 Wow! It’s a 12 minute video that shows the steps to create a social value leveraged economic model. The video is short, and not hard to understand, and it explains many things that I see today.

Doc Searls  one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the book that predicted and then started Web 2.0, has been working on the Project VRM  to “provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors.”

All these smart blind men are describing an important elephant that I suspect may become our dominant reality…soon.

Can you add some light to the discussion?

On Wednesday, August 18th, Sales Lab is presenting How To Scale Your Organization…Build, Borrow, or Buy? 7:15 am, in Rockville, and Front End Selling at noon for the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria. Both events are free. Details and registration are available at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

As Users Become Programmers

Dick was interviewed by Tom D'Auria of IMI TechTalk, on KFNX News Talk Radio, Sunday, August 1st. The conversation was about how programming is becoming less complex and how computer software is being fashioned directly by users, instead of professional programmers. These are Dick's notes from the interview.

What users are becoming what programmers?
30 years ago slides were made for executives by graphic artists. Those slides were on a carousel that went "kachunk" every time the slide changed in the projector. Powerpoint allowed anyone to make slides. YouTube allows any fool to make and post a video, and they all do. Today Google Apps gives anyone a free website and free email, Google App Inventor  lets anyone build an Android App without programming. Microsoft has Kittyhawk  which will allow non-coders to create dot net , Silverlight, and XAML products.

The trend is that building gets faster and easier, so more people can do it, which extends the number of useful projects which extends the value of the coding suite and the hardware.

What is driving this trend?
As we move from Enterprise software to open source software, to create revenue we have to give customers what they want, not what the programmers say they want. In large projects there has traditionally been a formalization of project management and project. There is a “cutoff date” after which the customer can’t suggest improvements.

Let’s see, our understanding of what we want is dynamic and enterprise code development methods are static.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with code developed with this model. It is almost universal. The reason given is usually "stupid customers" and this new programming paradigm lets those stupid customers have exactly what they want. It works quite well, actually. So this is primarily about software quality and value to the user.

Second, If you want people to use your software, you have to make sure they can use it.

A key part of having Android surpass iPhone could be having any user create the apps they want to use on their phone.

What experience do you have with user programmed software?
Quite a bit actually. 30 years ago, I was the king of "desktop slide making" selling a box that would make a roll of film you would take to the drug store and get your slides back in a carousel, an early technology that was wiped out by powerpoint and the computer projector.

In 1995 I hand coded a large website that was used for marketing my company. I remember my triumph at learning how to code curly quotes. I stayed up for nights on end tracking down and fixing typos and thinkos.

More recently I've put up two Google apps websites, and, in less than four hours each, and two blogs, and Through The Browser, in about ten minutes each.These are all free. I even get free email accounts with them.

I use them to touch over 100,000 people twice a week, which takes less than an hour. I am not sending email blasts, readers have opted in to read my posts.

What about quality of communication if we let amateurs create the code?
Theodore Sturgeon, the great science fiction writer, studied the history of our species at length, and gave us Sturgeon's Law, "90% of everything is crud." If anything, it's getting a little bit better as we have more people playing.

Code has never been very good. We talk about which code is awfuller. This could change that discussion to, "Which code is more useful to me?" which may be a more valuable conversation.

What will happen to IT professionals?
The reason the best got into the trade was they were the best problem solvers. There is always need for competent problems solvers. I just read a book The Science of Liberty by Timothy Ferris, that shows how the founding fathers, the guys who wrote and signed the Constitution, were practicing scientists and problem solvers.

We know about Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, but I read a great story about George Washington and James Madison down in the swamps of Jersey discovering what causes swamp gas during a lull in the Revolutionary War.

The louts who say, "I won't open port 80 no matter what the mission of the company is!" have ROAD status. That's a military acronym for Retired On Active Duty, but they can do that anywhere. No reason for IT to get all the credit.

I had a chance to meet with the head of strategic planning for one of the largest government contractors last year. He said they were getting out of IT services. Not much goes wrong when you are looking at other people's websites. They are going after more real science and engineering work.

Last week I related that story to the sharpest pricing mechanic I know, who is at a mid-tier government integrator. He said, "That's most of the IT contract work in the government!" Welcome to the new world.

How can people find out more?
Sales Lab gives many presentations on this new economy, and we put them all on the web. I learned that from Tom Peters. He must have a million slides on the web. If you are interested in our view of where things are going, go browse That will get you to two blogs, two websites, and over 20 presentations.

Tell us your reaction. Please comment about you see the paradigm shifting (below)

On Wednesday, August 18, Sales Lab will be hosting two free shows,
How To Scale Your Organization? Build Borrow or Buy? 7:15 am in Rockville, and
Front End Selling, Noon, Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria