How NatWest’s IT meltdown developed – validation and outsourcing? #btot

Recently worked on a project where a validation phase was supposed to prevent such issues. However since this was outsourced to highly expensive ‘validation specialists’ they didn’t actually know enough to find any problems that the developers didn’t catch. Added hugely to the cost and nothing to the quality of the deliverables. Outsourcing it vastly appealing to the bean-counters but when things go wrong they can go wrong on a greater scale.

a very interesting comment

Why are Telecoms so bad at Customer Experience? #btot

The company had a series of values the first of which said ‘We put the Customer first’. The reality was far from this. Customers came a distance second to what was good for the organization. Cost cutting, internal politics, profits and the need for positive analyst briefing always outweighed the Customer. Senior managers said they were interested in the Customer but their actions showed they weren’t. Two occasions spring to mind. The first was when my colleagues suggested we stopped measuring Customer Satisfaction as they never paid any attention to the results! The second occurred on the last day at the company. I attended a budget meeting. We were reviewing where we were spending money for our 55,000 engineers. I always remember observing at the end of the meeting that not one initiative was focussed on improving the Customer Experience. All new initiatives were focussed on cost reduction. The reality was the Customer was not in their blood. It was not part of the culture.

where’s your focus on the customer? Thanks to @martinfaux for this

Wonderful vitriol from Grauniad’s CiF…

Nick Clegg won’t be much use on this issue.

A sensible person might suggest that Nick Clegg is as much use as trying to get dog hairs from your favorite jumper by soaking it in hydroflouric acid, then running over it with a combine harvester, and then ignoring it for 25 years, then returning to the field dressed as a Roman soldier and then bashing at it with a rake, drinking a pint of paraffin and before your kidneys and liver give out, spending your last hour on the planet singing a selection of hits from the pop combo Dollar through the inside of a toilet roll.

Now imagine your jumper is social mobility, and you’ll have a good idea of how much use Nick Clegg is.

… I’d add that I think abolishing grammar schools removed the last vestiges of chance for the “working class”; The Labour party apparatchiks pulling up the ladder behind them. “Baroness” Shirley Williams? Looking at you…

Be #agile by doing less

The problem is that when a small system, like an Agile team, tries to change a large system, like a company and its customers, through long and continuous contact, the small system will change much more than the large system.

This is also known as Prescott’s Pickle Principle:

Cucumbers get more pickled than brine gets cucumbered

ht to @flowchainsensei for reminding me abou @Kallokain

Coding Horror: Please Don’t Learn to Code

Please don’t advocate learning to code just for the sake of learning how to code. Or worse, because of the fat paychecks. Instead, I humbly suggest that we spend our time learning how to …

  • Research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level.
  • Communicate effectively with other human beings.

These are skills that extend far beyond mere coding and will help you in every aspect of your life.

+1 for Research and communicate; it’s astonishing the number of people who *still* ask “How do you know that…” It is as if they never heard of Google, and they never learn anything interesting… because they spend their life just watching reality TV.

Diageo Screw BrewDog

As for Diageo, once you cut through the glam veneer of pseudo corporate responsibility this incident shows them to be a band of dishonest hammerheads and dumb ass corporate freaks.  No soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog

Nice vitriol, and clear expression from a very good craft brewer. Read the story.

An anecdote of social messaging as the killer app

An anecdote of social messaging as the killer app

Wicklin is one of the experts on statistical software development at SAS Institute. Prior to creating the Hub, SAS already had other collaboration systems in place, such as SharePoint, and implemented wikis and blogs on its intranet for knowledge sharing. But the Hub caught Wicklin’s attention in a way those other tools never had.

“I guess the difference between the Hub and all those others is that I use the Hub, and I didn’t really use the others,” Wicklin said. Internal blogs were a fine vehicle for “a select few” within the organization who committed to maintaining them, and wikis could be useful for finding specific information, but the Hub couldn’t be beat for browsing through short messages from people across the organization, in search of the “serendipitous moment” of finding something he hadn’t been looking for (but still found useful) from someone he never would have connected with otherwise, he said.

We first reported on SAS’s implementation of Socialcast in April, when it was fairly new. The company did an informal launch of the software in January 2011 and had more than 1,000 users within a month. By the end of the year, the Hub had nearly 8,000 users out of the company’s 12,000 employees. The adoption is even greater than it might sound from that, given that the total employee count includes people like landscapers and food service workers, who don’t use a computer to do their jobs. In divisions like research and development, use of the Hub is nearly universal.

SAS internal communication manager Becky Graebe said the Hub is delivering on the goal of providing new ways for employees to connect and collaborate. “People ask me, ‘Do you think this is cutting down on email?’ Well, I’m not measuring that right now. Our intent was to get people communicating more, not less. We’re a knowledge-based organization, so this is focused on knowledge sharing. We’re trying to get knowledge out of the minds of our employees, out onto the table where it can be talked about.”

– David F. Carr

As you might expect of a technology company, SAS already has plenty of Web-based collaboration in place, including internal wikis and about 600 intranet blogs. What it saw in Socialcast was the opportunity to spark conversations that link to all those other resources.

“Seeing the way communication was growing outside the company at a very rapid rate with social media, we asked, how do we bring some of that inside?” Lee said. “So we said, let’s bring a Facebook application inside the company—and that’s exactly what we did.”

David F. Carr


Something related I posted on Google yesterday is are social messaging and activity streams enough. We know they are the sweet spot in sense-making, ease of use and that primal social connection. But after the fact we need to curate this stuff before it falls into obscurity (ie. knowledge manage the knowledge flow). Wiki’s are a good tool for curation, as are blogs to describe what’s been happening…or you could move from social messaging to a blog or forum for extended discussion.

Yes social messaging can occur in group spaces, so this is a start of having this stuff in the right topic ballpark. But still tools like forums are really good after the fact if you want to browse by date or view a title index.

So blog, wikis, forums, are great content tools to share and do work; but for quick no frills one-click participation, you can’t go past social messaging in its appeal and effectiveness…and of course if that blog post or wiki edit ain’t appearing as a feed item in the activity stream, does it exist.

In the end social messaging and the activity stream is sustained as a killer app as it’s where we hang out, it’s where we already are. This is why email is so successful, and why blogs, forums, etc. did not replace this feeling. Now social messaging/activity streams are here as the real alternative to the inbox experience.

What are your thoughts on social messaging/activity stream apps like Yammer (now have wikis) and Socialcast. The both have group spaces. But are they getting by without blogs and forums. Not in the flow sense, but in consolidating this for easy re-use or findability.

Not blogs, not wikis, not Sharepoint(!) – but the allowing of serendipity!

The Content Economy: Winning with employee engagement

A paradox for employees today is that they really need to connect with and collaborate more with more people, and strengthen their personal networks if they are to deliver better results and strengthen our their positions. One problem they are facing when doing this is that most current incentive models do not reward employees helping their colleagues, unless there is a direct and measurable return on their contributions. Another problem is that many organizations fail at making the contributions that employees do outside of their own team visible, and thus if fails to recognize them. These problems put people in a kind of deadlock position. During uncertain times, most people will simply do what becomes visible and recognized by those who evaluate them, their managers. They will most likely also most be asked or commended by their managers to do so, because their managers are in a similar position as they will be judged by their managers on the visible contributions from the team they are managing (and so it goes on, all the way to the top).

Thanks to @johnt for the pointer to this.

The Fraying of a Nation’s Decency – Amazon in Pennsylvania

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS —, the books-to-diapers-to-machetes Internet superstore, is a perfect snapshot of the American Dream, circa 2011.

It grows by the hour, fueled by a relentless optimism that has made America America. First it sold books. Then it realized that buying printed words in bulk, sorting and shipping them was a transferable skill. It has since applied it to anything you could want.

In 2011, for example, I have bought the following from Amazon: a hard drive, an electric shaver, a Bluetooth headset, a coffee machine and some filters, a multivoltage adapter, four light bulbs, a rubber raft (don’t ask), a chalkboard eraser, an ice cream maker, a flash drive, roller-ball pen replacements, a wireless router, a music speaker, a pair of jeans and a shoe rack — and, oh yeah, some books. (Disclosure: A book and a long-form article I have written are sold on Amazon.)

Buying these things the traditional way would have meant driving around to many different stores and paying as much as twice the price for certain items. What’s more, Amazon knows me. It’s like family. It knows where I live, what I like, my credit card number. (Which, come to think of it, makes it closer than family.)

In a moment rife with talk of American decline, my Amazon experiences provide fleeting mood boosts. They remind me that, for now at least, this remains the most innovative society on earth.

And then my bubble burst.

Thanks to a methodical and haunting piece of journalism in The Morning Call, a newspaper published in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I now know why the boxes reach me so fast and the prices are so low. And what the story revealed about Amazon could be said of the country, too: that on the road to high and glorious things, it somehow let go of decency.

The newspaper interviewed 20 people who worked in an Amazon warehouse in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. They described, and the newspaper verified, temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius, in the warehouse, causing several employees to faint and fall ill and the company to maintain ambulances outside. Employees were hounded to “make rate,” meaning to pick or pack 120, 125, 150 pieces an hour, the rates rising with tenure. Tenure, though, wasn’t long, because the work force was largely temps from an agency. Permanent jobs were a mirage that seldom came. And so workers toiled even when injured to avoid being fired. A woman who left to have breast cancer surgery returned a week later to find that her job had been “terminated.”

The image of one man stuck with me. He was a temp in his 50s, one of the older “pickers” in his group, charged with fishing items out of storage bins and delivering them to the packers who box shipments. He walked at least 13 miles, or 20 kilometers, a day across the warehouse floor, by his estimate.

His assigned rate was 120 items an hour, or one item every 30 seconds. But it was hard to move fast enough between one row and the next, and hard for him to read the titles on certain items in the lowest bins. The man would get on his hands and knees to rummage through the lowest bins, and sometimes found it easier to crawl across the warehouse to the next bin rather than stand and dip again. He estimated plunging onto his hands and knees 250 to 300 times a day. After seven months, he, too, was terminated.

In a statement this week, Amazon acknowledged the complaints and said that it was working to address them, including by installing air-conditioners.

The prevailing American story line right now is seething anger at politicians: that they’re corrupt, or heartless, or socialist, or dumb. But the Amazon story, and many other recent developments, suggest that the problem is significantly deeper.

Far beyond official Washington, we would seem to be witnessing a fraying of the bonds of empathy, decency, common purpose. It is becoming a country in which people more than disagree. They fail to see each other. They think in types about others, and assume the worst of types not their own.

It takes some effort these days to remember that the United States is still one nation.

It doesn’t feel like one nation when a company like Amazon, with such resources to its name, treats vulnerable people so badly just because it can. Or when members of a presidential debate audience cheer for a hypothetical 30-year-old man to die because he lacks health insurance. Or when schoolteachers in Chicago cling to their union perks and resist an effort to lengthen the hours of instruction for children that the system is failing. Or when an activist publicly labels the U.S. military, recently made safe for open homosexuals, a “San Francisco military.” Or when most of the television pundits go on with prefabricated scripts to eviscerate their rivals, instead of doing us the honor of actually thinking.

The more I travel, the more I observe that Americans are becoming foreigners to each other. People in Texas speak of people in New York the way certain Sunnis speak of Shiites, and vice versa in New York. Many liberals I know take for granted that anyone conservative is either racist or under-informed. People who run companies like Amazon operate as though it never it occurred to them that it could have been them crawling through the aisles. And the people who run labor unions possess little empathy for how difficult and risky and remarkable it is to build something like Amazon.

What is creeping into the culture is simple dehumanization, a failure to imagine the lives others lead. Fellow citizens become caricatures. People retreat into their own safe realms. And decency, that great American virtue, falls away.

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– do you buy much from Amazon?