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Systems Thinking

Your software project is going to fail

Your software project is going to fail and I can tell you why.

I’ve been developing software solutions and involved in the technology space for nearly 20 years now. I’ve been responsible for designing and implementing some incredibly complex business platforms and I’ve seen over and over what works and what doesn’t. I’ve seen everything from huge successes to spectacular failures and just recently watched a huge belly flop of a platform rollout (I had nothing to do with it!) that got me thinking about how this keeps happening to so many companies trying to solve their technology challenges.

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A System is NOT a Process


I presented a workshop a few weeks ago for CONNECT called Bulletproof Information Systems and I noticed that what people struggled with most was understanding the distinction between a System and a Process. When asked to list a process they would like to map out, many people listed things like marketing and lead generation, both systems not processes.

A light bulb went on – they don’t know the difference, and neither do most people.

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Optimize BEFORE You Automate

optimize before you automate
Happy new year! 2017 is off to the races and companies are coming back online and ready to tackle their goals for the new year. Like a lot of companies, a technology upgrade may be on the table for you. Maybe it’s a project management system, a CRM, an accounting platform, a workflow system – maybe it’s an off the shelf solution or a custom build… either way, STOP. Consider this quote before anything else.

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. – Bill Gates

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Email is not your friend, Visualized.

Visual Analysis of Typical Email Exchange
Let’s assume for a moment that you have a finite amount of mental bandwidth and that every piece of visual information that you have to process uses up some of that bandwidth. Here’s just one way that email robs you blind without you even realizing it.

To illustrate, I took a 7 email exchange with a colleague and dissected the information. The exchange went like this:

  1. I emailed a colleague with a simple request.
  2. He responded with a question.
  3. I replied with an answer.
  4. He emailed a 3rd person for clarification.
  5. He forwarded the 3rd person’s response to me with a question.
  6. I replied with an answer.
  7. He confirmed, and closed the thread.

I looked at this email exchange and highlighted all the new information, the redundant information, the sub-thread information and the completely worthless information. For all the text in the exchange, there were about 9 or 10 short sentences (6.81%) worth anything at all, out of the pages and pages of content. Continue Reading

Your Systems Suck and You Need to Know Why

Business systems and process imrovement

Do your systems look like this?

Two words; Deliberate and Variance. If your business systems and processes have NOT been carefully designed, tested, documented and measured then they are not deliberate and I guarantee you that they have variance. If your processes use words like usually, typically and sometimes – we’ve got red flags.

Why do I care?

Without intention behind the design of operations and when each process varies from instance to instance you end up with massive inefficiency. Employees buried in excel and email, with desks covered in paper and post-it notes are all the rage in these companies. The fun really gets going with manual double data entry, having to correct errors constantly, and slow, inconsistent service. Forget real-time data and reports – that’s science fiction. Continue Reading