Judith Merkies talk at #eyif

Some soundbites and opinion... Things are never going to be like they were before. No more life long shelter, no more people looking for you. We have accept that we are going to another society. We have accept that there is a duty to play our part as a society and influences on a daily based through social innovation. We are never going to be back to the old ways. You have to innovate in order to participate. Even as a consumer. Prosumer anyone? Eyif could well be a movement supporting this in our European space. SECURITY IS IN YOUR OWN TALENT!!!!! YEEEEEESSSS!!!! +10000000!!!!! SME is not equal to "startup". Geez yeah, I hope so. Knowledge is quite denser at a startup. If only one takeaway: security lies in our own talent. Cool! Merge Einstein and Jobs and keeps that in Europe. Interesting pun on jobs. And I am not really wanting such a cross over. Psychologically speaking, we may end up in dire straits!

Philippe Back Interviews Bernd Lohmeyer on User Centered Approaches and Usability

I had the good fortune to interview Bernd Lohmeyer. Bernd is big on usability and specifiying winning solutions that customers love to use. For the record, he was somewhat running the show when it comes to the StarOffice productivity suite. He was program manager.   Listen to the podcast episode:  

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United States Monetary Base Going Through The Roof (Really!)

I was having a look at some videos on the real estate bubble (this one went bust in the western countries and will do the same in Asia soon enough) and moved into the monetary base expansion of the US. Well, quite impressive, to say the least. Printing paper is cheap and moves debt burden down for government. But at the same time, it reduces the value of one's savings to nil and gets your work for about free. Talk about being competitive by lowering your population worth. That's what QE and QE2 did to US people and in Europe we see more or less the same, but somewhat more hidden with the actions of the BCE and the credit given to Greece, Ireland, and soon enough, Portugal. Keep my end of April target date for Spain in mind. June will really be the fireworks time. It will really be time to enjoy the summer then and not worry too much about the future. In the video: we see Mike and our dear Mogambo Guru (he's too funny even if he overdoes everything [FEIHOE!]) telling us about his views and ... well, I've got to say that he is very, very right. What's the point of this post when it comes to improving your way of working? Well, three things. Yep, three things:
  1. Do not trust our government to save the day, they are clueless and the sheer scale of the problem eludes them. Take action to safeguard your assets
  2. Take preemptive action when it comes to commodities. If you have money to invest, do it now, do it there. It will soon be too late. Being late to the party is just that: you are left with the leftovers. And more often than not, they taste bad.
  3. Grow your skillbase so that you can provide efficient delivery. Noboby will pass on talent. And talent is not falling down the sky. Talent is hard work, talent is focus. And talent turns into money. Talent is a store of value. And you can take your brain and knowledge wherever you want to. There is always a place in the world that will be willing to invest in dealing with you, given the incredible ROI that you'll get them.
We are going to live very interesting times indeed!    

Lean Technical Analysis – InformedTrades

A great resource for learning technical analysis is InformedTrades University. Links point to forum posts, which in turn contain a lot of useful content.

Focus. The ultimate power.

Burning Focus

The more I am in my line of business, the more I come to appreciate the power of focus. Focus is the enabler. Focus allows one to get somewhere instead of spending scarce energy and time for no clear outcome. Focus is really what is missing in a lot of places. Including mine when I am not achieving what I want to achieve. When I feel like I am spinning my wheels, it is that I've lost my focus. When focus is laser sharp, there is no issue. Things get done, progress happens, the client condition gets improved. And focus doesn't come only in one size: focus has to be clear from the top strategic positioning down to the task being carried out right now. This means: focus on what business line we are in, focus on what processes are key, focus on what objectives we are after, focus on what technology to learn and use, focus on what systems we put in place, focus on what kind of changes we want to do, and focus on what time and resources we want to spend on achieving our goals. Focus is a harsh master but it is like Zen. You have to get rid of the superfluous baggage to move faster, lighter, and with more confidence, pride, and joy. Given today's social pressure and hectic frenzied society, the only answer that makes sense is to focus on what is our true path. And that's not living the life of someone else because we think that it is what we think we want. We have to listen to our own drummer that calls us. That's the mission, that's what gives focus, that's where the energy comes from. I came to think that I am there to contribute to make better "next ones." Because we are still in the stone age when it comes to communicating well, improvement, walking the talk, and generally getting results that are up to what we can be up to. There is elegance is the mission, this is what feeds my soul when we work together. And it will feed yours too. So, focus is the ultimate power, the ultimate aligner, your harshest master and best friend ever. Cut the crap, drop the useless, harness the load, and get moving. You'll love the feeling!

Architect or Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

Now, I want to tackle one pet peeve of mine, which may well be making piles of cash evaporate from your earnings if you have any IT capability present in your business. I do come across a lot of businesses and organizations and one thing strikes me at times: how on Earth is it possible to have so many people keeping themselves busy on matters that they do not have a clue about? And not  contributing any progress? Ivory towers, wishful thinking, planning forever instead of executing, all of these make me wish for a huge broom to clean the floor! And it is nowhere as key as when I come across so-called IT Architects. True IT-Architects are a fine bunch. But sorting the cream from the  crop is a must do since they have such an important effect on enabling business to thrive through the use of technology. First of all, let’s look at what makes a great IT Architect: The IT Architect function is to be placed in the natural evolution in the career of a successful implementer. Amongst the required skills we find;
  1. Vision: the ability to have a vision of the future and how business and technology can mesh to deliver value.
  2. Knowledge: the understanding of what exists on the marketplace.
  3. Pragmatics: a willingness to practice Occam’s razor principle when it comes to systems.
  4. Ability to synthesize: there are just way too many viewpoints and items to consider. So, the ability to synthesize and focus on the essentials that do matter really making a huge difference.
  5. Ability to delegate work: following on the previous one, the architect who micro manages and isn’t unable to delegate work is doomed to fail. Just because he’ll be swamped in minute details. What the architect brings to the table is vision rooted in reality. He provides a reference frame that is solid enough for other to work on, so that the whole things isn’t sinking.
  6. Resilience to fads: a successful architect is immune to fads. He can see the value of technologies and approaches and will integrate them in his practice. But not herald one way as ‘the true way’. Becoming a zealot is not on his agenda.
  7. Widely read on architectural topics: there is more than one form of architecture, be it functional, technical, organizational, human, you name it. A never ending willingness to learn and put in practice for pragmatic results is what drives him.
  8. Willing to take prudent risk: architects aren’t lawyers. Lawyers are paid to avoid risks. But that’s not the way you succeed in the marketplace. Prudent risk is the way to go. Because it will give you that little edge advantage that will make you win. Prudent risks in sequence will make you go a long way. And so thinks the successful architect. Innovation, but not for innovation’s  sake. For pragmatic reasons that deliver value.
  9. Able to look from the telescopic down to the microscopic: this is really key. You need to be able to dream up, see the big  picture, while at the same time having your feet firmly planted in the ground. The devil is in the details. A willingness to listen to the rank and file implementers is recognized as a great feedback mechanism. Of course, feedback is only for information and the architect is able to take on the hard decisions since he has a global view.
Sorcerer’s apprentices usually share a set of characteristics as far as I can tell from my encounters with them:
  1. Freshmen with no historical perspective: these have been some kind of education but really don’t grasp the details. They are “in the moment” when it comes decisions and shoot from the hip when it comes to express an idea. Needless to say, in complex organizations, this is a recipe for disaster. Especially when their opinion is connected in real-time with the ever changing fads of the day they read about on the web one hour ago.
  2. Golden hammer syndrome: they believe that one thing will solve all problems. So, they make everything look like a nail. Even eggs. Needless to say, you need a hammer for nails, but hammers don’t work marvelously well for sawing parts or gluing things together. There is an attitude problem and it’s rooted in insecurity and unwillingness to open horizons.
  3. Castle in the sky attitude: typical of sorcerer’s apprentices with no real-world experience of scale, this castle in the sky attitude leads to over complex architectures, which nobody in their right mind would consider practical. But unaware management will fall into the trap and embark on a long, dark, and costly journey if they buy on these castle in the sky ideas. I’ve seen quite a number of tens of millions of good money evaporate this way. And more often than once mind you. Beware!
  4. Misunderstanding complexity: complexity comes in two flavors: essential and accidental. Essential is related to intrinsic complexity of the problem you are trying to solve, no matter the technology (e.g. quoting prices for complex risks). Accidental complexity is connected to accumulated stupid decisions, accretion of old parts, or technology that is just requiring you to be a rocket scientist to use. And sorcerer’s apprentices do create an awful lot of accidental complexity, making even the easy problems look hard.  This keeps the organization from moving into the future.
  5. Overinflated ego: sorcerer’s apprentices should be well inspired to take a huge dose of humility. Their overinflated ego has the bad side effect of alienating them from the other people, rendering their concepts rejected by the practicioner. Nobody wants to deal with a moron, let alone a moron with an overinflated ego. Even if not a moron, an overinflated ego will make you look like one no matter what. This is not to say that a good architect has not a healthy ego. On the contrary, he as one. Just that overinflated egos don’t help and hinder acceptance and forward movement.
  6. Ivory tower mentality: associated with the previous point, the ivory tower mentality has the sorcerer’s apprentices gather together in some department, usually named the “architecture group” whose nobody exactly knows what they do in. There seems to be activity but nothing that influences the field in any meaningful way. It looks like that the sorcerer’s apprentices keep their “valuable” knowledge to themselves. Net result? No evangelization of what works and delivers results. And also, money thrown down the drain.
  7. Paper centered instead of executable focus: sorcerer’s apprentices revel in producing realms of papers, charts -- the more convoluted the better, and other meaningless artifacts that don’t make sense to the people that would be in need of guidance. What people want from architects is guidance, frames of reference, and a sense of trust that they aren’t going to die a slow death into a bad project. Sorcerer’s apprentices don’t provide for that. On the contrary, they’ll send you down a bad trip just as a twisted experiment. And more often than not, they’ll not even be aware of the fact!
So, are your architects sorcerer’s apprentices? Or which one are you? Once known, where to go from there? A great question indeed. A question that may require harsh decisions to head the ship back into the right  direction instead of risking making it the next little Titanic of your organization. Until next time, happy hunt!