Ten Predictions for Post Tiger Ireland

If David McWilliams can take credit for the phrase ‘Celtic Tiger’, can I be first to use the phrase ‘Post Tiger Ireland‘? Looking 5 years out, whether or not the Irish property market has a hard or soft landing, Ireland is going to be a very different place.

We were looking at buying a car in Smiths Ford Garage in Drogheda. The Sales guy (very personable but old school salesman) knew that we were coming in. The car we looked at had a flat tire. In Tiger Ireland , this wouldn’t have mattered – he could shift his quota of cars in the first week of the month. In Post Tiger Ireland (TM), cars are still going to sell , but the salesman is going to have to work for his money – doing the basics like fix the tires and clean the car properly.

So, anybody want to put money on the following not happening over the next 5 years?

  1. Not a national disater:
    We’ll have a hard / soft / gentle as a feather (delete as appropriate) landing in the housing market. This will be talked about as a ‘national disaster’. It won’t be – the non construction 73% of the economy will continue along, maybe a little bit more cautiously, but it will carry on.
  2. We’ll find a way to ‘blame the Brits’
    (and everybody else) but unlike the last 800 years, we messed this one upselves. Don’t expect this to stop an unwanted increase in nastiness towards anybody looking non-Irish. The majority of the bullies will be those who left education early to take advantage of the construction boom and are now left high and dry. Sales of Harp Lager to increase?
  3. There will be an increase in the politics of envy.
    Before we were living the Irish Dream – everybody could make it big. Now, expect punative (an ineffectual) tax proposals on property developers , complaints (but nothing done) about high public sector wages and pensions and demands from the ‘losers’ to be compensated (reform of stamp duty anyone?).
  4. Ireland will become (even) more like Britain
    A mature but growing , first world economy. Yes, they’re our closest neighbour (geographically and culturally) , we support their football clubs and spend money in their chain stores. Expect the politics to become more similar – the key debate will be around improving the quality of public services (Health, Roads, Schools, Policing).
  5. At least one major multinational will pull out with job losses in the thousands.
    There will be demands for government to ‘do something’ (the time for action will be 5 years too late). Away from the headlines, Irish Startups (in knowledge sectors such as IT , Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals) will create jobs, but in smaller companies.
  6. Ireland will grow older.
    The average age of the Irish population will grow older as the baby boom passes. It’s possible that we could have too many schools in 15 years time – at least until the current babies have kids of their own. Another Irish Property Bubble in 2027?
  7. The ‘New Irish’ will draw more talent into the Irish Economy.
    Many ‘New Irish’ (choose this weeks PC term) are here to stay for the same reason that many Irish people still live in England and the US. Would you take your 5 year old daughter back to school in Poland if she only spoke English? ; Migrants tend to follow where friends and family have gone before. This will give the Ireland a boost as we get the cream of overseas talent, even when other EU desinations become available. Expect more Paul McGraths on the Irish Football team.
  8. Suburbs are the new Ghettos.
    Carbon taxes and higher fuel costs are here to stay. Traffic jams in Dublin are going to get even worse (think pre-congestion charge London). Doing an expensive 2 hr commute will become less and less attractive, especially when house prices fall. Poorly built boomtime housing will decay quickly when not maintained leading to a vicious circle of decline when those that can afford to get out, will.
  9. IT will be the major growth factor in the Irish Economy.
    Despite all the buzz around Green, Space and Nano technologies, few of these are ready for widespread commercialisiation. Not only will IT be the direct engine of growth, but it will enable growth in other industries (e.g. Irish Business using Skype videoconferences to offer Financial Services to the City of London).
  10. Something will happen that we can’t predict.
    In the 60’s , few foresaw the viciousness of the troubles. In the early 90’s , few predicted the robustness of the Celtic Tiger. What does this decade hold? A 9-11 with Irish linked perpetrator’s? Large scale social unrest caused by the Euro-straightjacket? Miracle cures for obesity, cancer and smoking? I have no idea.

There are some of these predictions (especially number 2) that I don’t like. What do you think?`]

More Blog Posts from Paul

Wexford Programmer needed – Enviromental Protection Agency

If you’re not interested in the Database Admin job with OSi, maybe you’d fancy a programming job with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This one is from the Irish Government e-tenders site, but doesn’t say what language they need , without applying for more information.

epa-logo

Free Money

Imagine writing an ‘I owe you’ note that people would accept them for whatever you wanted – in pubs , as payment for your car , or even as a downpayment on a property in Dublin 4. In your dreams , imagine that people trusted you enough that they would then use your IOU’s in shops as payment. This is even better, as people now want more of your IOU’s, so you can write even more of them and get even more free stuff.

This is fantastic – you’ve got a massive free loan. Best of all many of these IOUs will get lost behind the sofa or eaten by the cat so you’ll never have to pay them back. Free money. The situation is not so absurd as it seems : The 50 Euro note in your pocket is an IOU from the Irish (and other European) governments. Technically we can reclaim payment, but what would be paid in?

FT Logo

What has sparked this ‘free money’ post is the news from the Financial times is that the Euro has edged out the US Dollar as the international IOU of choice. Given that the Irish Government is allowed to issue a fixed percentage of the Euro in circulation, the Irish Government now has even more money in it’s coffers ahead of the next election.

RegisterToVote.ie

RegisterToVote.ie Good idea, shame about the implementation. To check if you’re registered , you have to go the individual County Council website – that’s about 30 different chances of error.

Did Local Government really pay web designers to do the same work 30 times?

Louth County Council

Anyway, try checking your ability to vote on the Louth website and you get the following error:

Electoral Registerindex.aspx?deptid=4&dpageid=0Register of ElectorsIndex.aspx?deptid=4&dpageid=0../XML/EREG/cntEreg0.xml
../XSLT/MainContent.xslt_parentOnline RegistrationeRegApp.aspx..
/XSLT/GenContent.xslt_parentOnline Enquiriesindex.aspx?deptid=4&dpageid=3_urlereg_parentFormsIndex.aspx
?deptid=4&dpageid=4_forms&secid=4../XSLT/FormDownloads.xslt_parent

Irish Government looking for Podcasters

The Irish Government are looking for Podcasters. More information is on the E-Tenders site (registration may be required). I wonder if any of the poster boys of the Irish Podcasting movement will take up on this?I’ll take back what I said in my earlier (slightly cynical post): Web 2.0 meets the government.E-Tenders Logo

Summary of invitation for bids:

Crossborder Visitor Podcasting Pilot for East Border Region

Abstract:

The BCDEN project has set up a series of thematic working groups in each of the three Crossborder sub regions and has conducted a consultation and needs analysis exercise with each of those groups. The objective of this process was to ascertain, based on the region’s current ICT needs, what pilots would help the participant local authority areas to adapt to, innovate and compete within the Information Society.

Resulting from the aforementioned consultation exercise, the Tourism working group in the East Border Region (EBR) have selected Visitor Podcasting as one of the pilots they want to see implemented.

The aim of this pilot is to explore the use of new media opportunities, namely Podcasting, to reach a wider and more mobile target audience to sell EBR as an exciting and vibrant destination.

The objectives of the pilot will be to:

  • To deliver quality content to tourists through many different channels to increase the reach of communications
  • To promote the use of ICT in tourism within the wider Crossborder economy by using podcasting to attract more visitors to the EBR.
  • To increase the usage of ICT services by tourists
  • To enable cross advertising of other tourist attractions within EBR
  • To promote and facilitate Crossborder tourism

Requirements
ERNACT is now inviting tenders from suitably qualified application providers to successfully deliver this pilot by:

1. Supplying audio, picture and where required video, to enable EBR to run a Crossborder Visitor Podcasting pilot to help them achieve the aim and objectives described in section 3.1
2. Guaranteeing integration with mobile devices.
3. Ensuring involvement in the pilot of at least 1 tourist attraction in each of the eight EBR council areas.
4. Ensuring the crossborder theme is echoed throughout the pilot.
5. Liaising with the necessary project stakeholders in order to ensure smooth delivery of the project.
6. Imparting the necessary training to the relevant staff.
7. Facilitating ongoing support to tourism staff over the lifetime of the pilot
8. Project managing the entire roll out of the pilot

Links to Irish Podcasters:

Update (1) Tom Raftery is now looking for a partner to handle the paperwork. Best bet for Tom is to go for a medium sized IT company that’s already winning Government Business in other areas (as that is something the Government buyers look for). What you bring to the table is the podcasting expertise. I can give you the contact details of one if you’re interested – drop me a line here.

Can I give my TV Licence fee to An tImeall?

The Irish Times has a story that ‘technically’ you need a TV Licence to have a 3G phone. Doesn’t matter if you never watch TV on it , the fact that you could watch TV is what matters.

rte logo

If that’s the way it’s going to be, can I give my TV Licence fee to An tImeall? In the last 18 months Conn Ó Muíneacháin has done more for the Irish language via Podcasting than the entire team at RTE, so I’d like him to get my 150 Euro. If you haven’t yet figured out how to recieve podcasts yet, Flirt FM are rerunning them on a weekly basis.

Architecture? One size fits all

No matter what your system does , be it insurance , banking , online travel booking or telecoms, the chances are it does the following things:

  • Gets information from users over the web
  • Does some business processing on that information
  • Saves the information in a database.

At a conservative estimate , about 99% of Enterprise systems would fall into this category.

If so, why do you need an architect , when you can use our ‘one size fits all’ architecture diagram (below)?! Most non-trivial systems, regardless of the language they are written in (be it Java, .Net , or your language of choice) follow the pattern seen in this diagram.

3 Tier Enterprise Diagram

There are 3 Pieces to the Solution:

  • Web Browser (for the user / client).
  • Web and Application Server – carry out business logic.
  • Database Back End – to store data and ensure data integrity.

Within the Application Server (the middle bit above, which as Java Architects is the bit we are interested in), there are a further 3 tiers

  • A Presentation tier (or layer), which is mainly about talking to the user (it gets and sends requests to the web browser).
  • A Service layer , which is mainly about talking to back end such as databases, legacy systems (such as mainframes) and XML-Web services that we may use.
  • A Business layer, the ‘meat’ of the sandwich, where the ‘Value add’ is in terms of business processing and validation.

For each of these layers , your priority in building them are slightly different.

  • The Presentation layer is the bit the user sees. You want it to be fast and give a good impression to the client. Underneath, use a standard framework (link: pick your framework here) and then customize the look and feel.
  • The Service layer you want to work fast and well (e.g. no data faults), but then then forget about. Unless things go wrong, no user is going to complement you on the quality of database persistence! Use standard libraries for the entire layer.
  • Unless your company is a clone or franchise, the business layer in the system is going to be completely different. Aside from the user-interface , concentrate most of your project effort here as this is the core of what system does. We’ve written quite a bit about how to increase the value-add of the business layer (link to O’Reilly Technical Articles)

By the way , we’re only half-joking about the ‘why do you need an architect’ bit. We can be contacted here.

Richard Stallman Speaking in Belfast

The FOSS Means Business conference will take place in Belfast on Thursday the 16th March 2006. This all-island event will focus on the adoption and use of Free Software/Open Source Software (FOSS), with particular emphasis on the economic and competitive benefits for both the public and private sector.

They’ve also got Bruce Perens.

More details here.

Spires Belfast

How to avoid losing 150m Euro

It now seems obvious that the Healthcare Payroll system was destined to fail. If you were working on the project, I’m sure it felt very differently at the time. How can your projects avoid a similar fate? While IT may sometimes seem disconnected from reality, the following guidelines show that ‘Real World’ lessons still apply.

  1. Know what you want and stick to it. If you’re building a house and change the plans several times the builder is going to fleece you, no matter how low the initial quote was. The same goes for IT Projects – if you change your mind after the price is agreed, you’re going to pay more.
  2. If you don’t know what you’re doing , find a friend who does. I know very little about houses, so when I was buying my own I got a friendly surveyor to check it out. With IT projects, this ‘friend’ should be genuinely on your side, and have something to lose (e.g. financial or reputation) if things go wrong.
  3. Little and often is better. Like exercise, smaller projects that deliver results little but early are best. If the results are good, try a second (and third) round to add more functionality based on the feedback from users.
  4. It’s been all done before. Tailored suits cost a lot more than ready-made ones – and most people are happy with a ‘Good enough’ instead of ‘Perfect fit’. There are literally thousands of ‘off-the-peg’ computer systems out there ready for final alteration to what you need.
  5. If you don’t understand the answer, ask more questions. Thankfully the days we sat and nodded at the Doctor’s Latin words are long gone. IT Consultants may sometimes speak a different language, but if they can’t explain what they’re talking about in English that you understand, the chances are they’re trying to hide something.
  6. Don’t build on sand. Like houses , projects need good foundations. For IT Projects , the good foundations are sound knowledge of the Business Processes being coded into the system. Changing processes and changing IT systems at the same time is like building on sand.
  7. Sometimes the tortoise wins the race. Unless your entire business model is built around being the very first to market, then being a tortoise and letting others race ahead has very big advantages. Not only can you learn from other people’s mistakes, but the chances are you’ll get it at a much reduced cost – For example websites now cost a fraction of what they did during the dot.com boom.
  8. Use a safety net. When building houses, often the first thing to go up is scaffolding, for safety reasons. The equivalent safety net in IT is called ‘Unit Tests’. Not only do they help you get there faster, but they let you know if you’ve broken something you’ve already built.
  9. Be a good poker player. Good poker players never give away valuable cards. For IT projects, owning all cards mean just that – make sure that you have full rights to the solution so that you can still move tables and use a different supplier. Even if you never make the move, knowing that you can is an effective bargaining chip.

And finally …

When you are in a hole, stop digging. The decision to call a halt to the projects was no doubt a difficult one, and is to be applauded. Too often, the temptation is to keep on going and hope things will turn out right. Recognising problems at an early stage means there is more chance of being able to fix them.

Checklist for IT Contracts

The Irish Computer Society (ICS) has a useful checklist for Irish companies of things to watch out for when setting up an IT contracts.

These items include:

  1. Take a look at your ‘standard’ contract in the light of recent developments in IT
  2. Review how you can make your supplier selection process even better.
  3. Use competitive procurement if possible
  4. Keep electronic copies of contracts
  5. Have formal contracts in place
  6. Watch out for IPR and use source code escrow if necessary