A Pile of Sand

30. July 2015

A Pile of sand

Been in the IT community for many years I sometimes wonder, do we ever learn from our mistakes? It is as if it does not hurt too much when we repeatedly do the same mistakes or just jump the fence where it is lowest instead of where it is correct. Alternatively, just do a proper planning even though it seems a waste of time in the beginning

It made me think back, to the time before IT, I was not always the “Technical nerd” I actually was a construction worker and a paver.

I remember ones a friend of mine ask me to help pave two terraces at his summer cottage, he was a friend, and even though I potentially did not have the time, I accepted (Sounds familiar). This made me the “vendor” of the project

He was acting as the “Active Customer”, and he was going to help me do some of the legwork, moving sand, leveling out etc. His wife obviously was the CEO, and part of the steering committee on how it should look, what material etc.

What happened?

We had eight cubic meters of sand to move with wheelbarrows from the street an around the house, and we had 150 Square meters of garden tiles to move and pave the terrace.

My friend is not very patient so we just jumped in to the task without much thought. I was experience in hard labor, but not in project management, so I was aware of the pace I could follow. My friend however, a big strong person, worked like a maniac for 4 hours until his back “broke” and had to sit in the sofa for the rest of the weekend.

So now, I was stuck with no backup plan and had to finish the work by myself, and on top of this, it started to rain. I will explain later why that is important. With pain, staking effort and almost 40 hours of work from Friday to Sunday the job was done, but we had expected to sit on the terrace drink beer and do some barbeque that weekend which of course we never got around to do.

So why try to tell this story and relate this to the work I am doing on a daily basis with IT

Did we confirm with the wife that it was vital that both the terraces was done on the same weekend, or did my friend just wanted to impress the “boss”?

Good customer
Did I as a vendor really try to understand the task, just because he was my friend? I should have said that this is too big a task with one professional and one “amateur” in paving. I was despite all, the experienced person in this task at least

Project Planning
Did we make a plan on how to move the sand, which would have told us we started the wrong way around. At the end, we had to run more than twice the length with both the sand and the tiles.

Technical design
Did we take into consideration that if it started to rain the sand would be wet, and hence almost had to move around twice the weight, and the garden would turn in to a muddy hell that was almost impossible to wheel on.

Fall back plan
Did we ever consider that one of us could be injured? Hence, the process will slow down with at least 50 percent.

Customer aftersales
Did we ever tell our self that we started this because it should be fun, enjoy some beers and beef? Instead, it turned into a living hell. Even professional, important work should be fun to execute. Having fun is not equal to bad quality. The opposite might even be the case. This absolutely resulted in that we never did this again.

Therefore, my simple question is

Why are we constantly implementing IT solutions with closed eyes and making all the same mistakes?

I have seen so many times customer and partners chose the wrong solution on the wrong base like

The Emperor’s New Clothes
Customer getting three quotations of several million, where one of the quotes is more than 30% cheaper. Choosing this without knowing that something must be hidden. When two independent says 10 and one says six, somebody must be “naked”.

I could not say no
Customer starting off, with a project that lasted 6 years, and when they finally got live they were three version behind. This ended up in “fellowship” and an organization that was self-sustained in implementation

Make a plan and stick with it
Customers that moves the target repeatedly, making any part of the project uncertain. The people got unengaged because the general opinion was, we can never succeed, and management will just cover up that fact by moving the target.

What if the condition change
Customer that never took the effort to design the solution from bottom up, when you build something you need a foundation. Choosing the bad design from beginning can bring you in a situation that can either be very painstaking or impossible to get ou of

Murphy’s law
Customer that fires a whole team of order takers, because the new system will take over even before the system is implemented. Stressing everybody especially the people that is laid off. With no thought of what happen if the project failed.

It should be fun for everybody
Customer that hires a vendor for the implementation, and squeezes all juice out of them in order to save a penny. With the result that both the vendor and the customer at first occasion ran In both direction an landed the project in and “unknown” state

So what is the lesson learned if any

Many elements on day-to-day work can be related in the IT business. I think that maybe this is the reason why a lot of the colleagues, I would categories as the “elite” within IT, actually does not have an IT education. Maybe they “just” apply common sense from other business when working with IT

You would be stupid if you, as a construction engineer, did not create your foundation properly. It will be very visible what happened after the building collapsed to the ground, ending up as a pile of sand, and closed the universal circle of live!

From soil you have come to dust you shall return”



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