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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Take a look at your ‘standard’ contract in the light of recent developments in IT
- Review how you can make your supplier selection process even better.
- Use competitive procurement if possible
- Keep electronic copies of contracts
- Have formal contracts in place
- Watch out for IPR and use source code escrow if necessary
If you are working in IT , then you are probably part of the knowledge economy. It is probably work your while checking out the Innovation Relay Centre Website, supported by Enterprise Ireland.
The centre acts as a clearing house, matching people how have patents and technology available for licence, and those that are looking to use it. As such is a good snapshot of the technologies that are up and coming in the medium term 12-36 months out).
In the 60’s, the Auto industry used to say ‘safety doesn’t sell’ – the thinking was that buyers were more interested in new features like whitewall tyres or the latest radio. That begun to change with Ralph Naders Unsafe at any speed and manufacturers became liable for their safety defects. Now any car that doesn’t do well in the Safety rankings won’t do well in the salesroom.
When it comes to Security, are your business applications still stuck in the 60’s? Until recently it was thought that ‘Security doesn’t sell’. That has begun to change as buyers become aware of the possible threats that are out there. One such initive aimed at end users is Make It Secure (it’s run by the Irish Government, so excuse the photo’s). Once users are aware of the risks they are going to demand that providers of software solutions , do much much better.