Guru Nature

1. People are doing something
2. Write about how revolutionary this is and so much better than the old way of doing something
3. Lecture on this way of doing things
4. Pick small number of arbitrary things about how the people are doing this something and define it as a framework
5. Find someone to offer certificates for this framework and then sell expensive training courses with certificates
6. Repeat until market saturation or revenue begins to fall.
7. Tell everyone that the framework has been abused and, having true guru nature, you now reject it and have found the real answer.
8. GOTO 1

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Forgotten

It would be easier if we either remembered things or just simply forgot them. But sometimes things just do not enter our minds.

If memory is one and forgetting minus one, then there is a zero. A nothingness of things that neither are nor are not.

Sometimes a thought trips over a nothingness and we feel a moment of unease, like but not like the sensation we have when we think we have forgotten something.

For that sensation still has an echo of the object, whilst this is wholly of the void. No matter how much we strain we can never find the lost memory, it never existed in the first place.

What is is but an infinitesimal in what is not.

And that is why your birthday card is still sitting on my mantelpiece.

Bartleby, the CIO

I recently shared this piece on how “IT Departments have become utterly useless”. The number of retweets shows that it has resonated with many people.

So why is that? I mean, I have been a CIO for a number of organisations and on some massive projects, why have we allowed ourselves to become a stereotype of delay, obstruction and failure?

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the reasons why:

Risk – We live in a world where the core assets of our businesses – information, money, delivery systems – are all completely reliant on technology. Companies are robbed these days not with guns but with 0-day vulnerabilities. This creates an immediate tension between what people want to do and what they should do.

This is not a technology issue, it is a business issue. Yet it is convenient, simpler to push the onus down to the CIO, on to the back of technology. So risk then becomes embedded in the service management sausage machine and like all machines, it grinds and it grinds, and it grinds and it grinds very small.

In the public sector we have the concept of a Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO). This is someone who can take a pragmatic, business view of the risks around a particular asset, system, service or project. I am often asked who the SIRO should be?

My answer, brutal but important, is that it needs to be someone worth sacking if it goes wrong. Their seniority, their reputation, their authority needs to be aligned with the value of the asset and scale of the risk. “Business is the management of risk.”

But individual responsibility is tricky concept so too often we return to the service management sausage machine to not just control risk but to grind it into vanishingly small chunks.

So when you wonder why you can’t access Twitter from your office machine or why it takes 7 minutes to boot up in the morning it is often down to an unowned risk being ground in the machine.

Outsourcing – Outsourcing is a tool, like all tools it is both morally neutral and proffered as a universal panacea. The MBA siren call of the recent past was “Focus on your core business”. Unfortunately outsourcing has revealed that a lot of people do not understand what their core business is.

Outsourcing has boundaries – I wash the plate, I hand it over to my outsourced plate drying service, they return a plate that has been dried to the agreed standards by the agreed upon deadline. And those boundaries need to be policed, policing of the boundaries means more service management and more grinding into dust.

Contempt – much enterprise IT demonstrates contempt for the user. I often ask people from big organisations, public and private sector, how they feel when they have to use their corporate HR or finance systems? And I do mean feel, usercentricity starts with how we feel.

The universal, UNIVERSAL, response I get is a chorus of groans. People hate using these core, fundamental business systems. Some of that is down to the business processes which themselves are often bedevilled by some of the things I have mentioned previously, but a lot is down to a user experience which seems rooted in a contempt for those who are forced to use these systems.

Delivery – by which I mean the opposite, no delivery. My current team and I have about 40 projects on the go at any one time. Some are large and involve perhaps 30-40 million users and in some cases hundreds of billions of pounds, some are small and involve a handful of users.

There are 5 of us, we ship an average of 5-6 products every quarter, we save an average of £10 for every £1 we cost.

Why aren’t we the norm? You can call it agile, you can call it digital, you can call it user centred. It is all of those things but most importantly, it’s delivery.

I have been a CIO, I may be one again. The name is irrelevant, the challenge is clear. What is stopping you from doing the same?

Or are you Bartleby?

Inventions – The Sausage Turner

If you cook sausages in the oven the problem is to ensure even cooking given that one side of the sausage will be exposed to heat from the baking tray whilst the other surfaces are heated solely by the oven.

We have all had to rescue sausages which were charred at the bottom due to the uneven cooking process or had to try and remove sausages stuck to the baking tray, which usually involves leaving large amounts of sausage behind.

One answer is to regularly turn the sausages but who has time to do that?

Instead I propose using an automatic sausage turner.

This is a small spit into which each sausage is inserted. At each end of the metal skewer holding the sausage, supported at the extremes by simple A-frame mountings, there is a metal fan. This fan is painted dark on one side, light on the other and made up of bimetallic strips, this means that as the metal heats the fan turns and as the fan turns so does the skewer. This means that the sausage rotates automatically. It also means that the fat released by the sausage drains away from the cooking banger.

The skewer can be replaced by prongs for larger or odd shaped sausages.

 

Image

Bringing dragons into the enterprise

I am currently playing Ni No Kuni and enjoying the excellent art work and well written script.

One of the grimmest neologisms of recent times is “gamification”. The concept that adding elements for gaming into, usually drudge, work will make us happier and more productive.

So we have seen attempts to combine role playing games with housework so you gain points for mopping the floor. For me this seems a bizarre hybrid of grinding and drudge work.

But playing Ni No Kuni I am reminded of something games do very well, guide the user through a world upskilling the player as they go. You start with a simple stick and seamlessly you are guided to a point where you are flying a dragon, commanding a ship, crafting items and performing magic.

Compare this with the grey, grim world of Enterprise IT with “Press F1 for help” that seldom ever helps, “wizards” that are never going to open the pod bay doors, and training courses that vanish from memory the instant one leaves the room.

Why can’t we replace that with the organic learning we find in Ni No Kuni?

In the beginning

After a pleasant lunch – scallopine alla limone, if you are interested – I popped into the Wallace Collection.

I find the Watteau’s to be painful but the corners of the House are full of odd and wonderful curios, as well as a perfect Rembrandt.

As I wandered around the House my eye was caught by the paintings of animals – mostly dogs, some horses, and one lone cat on a tapestry. I found myself wondering, “Which animal was painted first? The dog or the cat?”

Did we first paint the hunter’s companion or the deity? Man’s best friend or the enemy of mice?

Rover or Tiddles?