Management Speak: You don’t understand the politics of this request.
Translation: You’re right, it’s stupid, but we’re going to do it anyway.
IS Survivalist Mike Little provides a synonym for politics

Fistfights sure have changed.

John Wayne only needed one good punch to win a fight, and he was able to take some time to set it up. Thirty years later we have Jackie Chan, who delivers as many as 10 punches (and other blows) per second.

Let’s do some metrics.

The Duke was the clear winner in productivity, achieving a UO-per-punch rate (Unconscious Opponent) of between 1:1 and 1:3 as compared with Chan’s rate of between 1:12 and 1:100. He wins when it comes to efficiency, too – our contender from Hong Kong burns far more calories per UO.

Effectiveness, though, is different from productivity and efficiency. In hand-to-hand combat with a dozen simultaneous opponents, the Duke would have been overwhelmed, while Jackie Chan regularly emerges victorious from duodecimal combatant situations.

Business competition in the Duke’s day looked a lot like his fistfights – fairly slow, deliberate, each move carefully calculated. Today it’s more like Jackie Chan – speed rules.

We all know this. We’ve heard about the acceleration of business cycles until we’re tired of hearing about it. “Internet time” is yesterday’s cliche.

Two other trends — molecularization and service/cost convergence — aren’t yet cliches. Molecularization is the growing need to customize marketing, service, and product delivery — in other words, every interaction — to each individual customer. Service/cost convergence means that customers no longer accept the classic trade-off between quality of service and product price. Combine these two trends with time compression, and every measure of effectiveness changes.

In the old days, companies worried most about measures such as capital utilization ratios, manufacturing output, and defect rates. Their goal was to produce the most products with the fewest defects using the least equipment.

What matters more and more are customer-focused measures such as product utilization (number of products owned per customer), customer loyalty (the likelihood of a customer patronizing your company first), and customer affinity (a customer’s emotional attachment to your company). Other measures, such as shipping service levels — the delay between receiving an order and shipping the product – are equally important.

While the Internet is the most visible driver of this dramatic change in business, the reality is that call centers are still more important in improving these new measures of success.

For companies to succeed in this new world, information technology must permeate every process and activity. It’s possible to “pop” customer information, such as recent purchases and the 10 most recent customer interactions, on the screen of any employee interacting with a customer automatically at the start of any call — inbound or outbound. It’s possible, and your chief marketing officer knows it. When are you going to deliver the capability?

Unfortunately, many IS departments are still mired in the old business model, failing to understand that “late” is just as bad as “buggy” … perhaps worse … when judging the quality of software.

Why? Although some bugs are fatal, others are merely inconvenient. The business will still run while you track them down and fix them. Software you haven’t delivered yet is completely inferior.

It doesn’t run at all.


Never confuse a spreadsheet with reality.

As evidence: A few weeks ago I discussed storage options for the 6 billion people now on earth. If you put us end-to-end, we’d only go around the world about 260 times, not the 2,600 times I claimed. I lost a decimal point due to bad parentheses. And a swimming pool big enough to hold all of humanity would have to be about 15 miles per side, not the quarter-mile I stated. One-quarter of a mile is the edge-length of a cube big enough to hold a “Homo sapiens puree.”

Thanks to all who wrote. And no, there’s no ironic tension between these mistakes and my suggestion that “fast” is more important than “bug-free.” These mistakes weren’t the result of haste — I made them quite slowly, in fact. I was just having a bad math day.