the_sn0wygoose: (Default)
[personal profile] the_sn0wygoose
Sometimes, you can have a successful deployment of a complex equipment/software and memorialize as another successful benchmark in your career. Sometimes, even with a thousand deployments under your belt, you still can have one project that goes completely wrong and the only thing you can say is, “Well, that didn’t work…not at all!”

I recently took a side-project with a startup. One of the focuses was deploy or create a platform for multiple users to access one of five calendars for various projects, appointments and dates. One issue that delayed deployment was, the stakeholders (that is the Chief Executive Officer ‘CEO’, and Chief Information Officer, “CIO”) could agree on which platform to use, and the CEO and CIO both had different needs and calendars already trying to work from. So here I am, the hot-shot MBA with experience in deploying calendars and, being brilliant with lots of deployments under my belt, decided on creating a solution for the company: If no stakeholder could agree on a single platform, I would recommend a platform and begin organizing, programing and deploying.

So, I chose a platform I was comfortable as a single user and configured for multiple users and for the platform’s software to run from an iPad. Simple and elegant. I made my recommendations on a Monday and spent the next four days creating and deploying the platform.

The result was less than encouraging. In fact, it was rather discouraging. “Well, that didn’t work…not at all!” was a gross understatement. It was not simple nor elegant.

The platform scrambled the dates, names and the contact information making the information useless and suspect. The CEO kept getting email bombed with useless reminders and calendar links which didn’t work, and the CIO was completely locked out of the platform. Needless to say, that Friday, they were both very unhappy with the results and wished to tell me so. In no uncertain terms. My ears were ringing an hour later after that meeting.

So, the following Monday morning, I met with both stakeholders and we agreed & decided on a simpler solution and an agreed platform. It took me less than a day to configure and deploy. It took about a week to fine tune without email bombs and verified the data was 99.9% accurate. The Monday thereafter, both were overjoyed and pleased the platform was up and running.

So, what went so wrong with this deployment? What did I learn from the project? Simple!

FIRST - IF NO ONE AGREES, THEN NO ONE GETS DEPLOYED:
It should be a no brainer, and yet sometimes innovators forget this simple concept. If you cannot get the people who will be paying for and using the platform to agree, in unison, you will never get a happy users. I should have walked the plans through with both the CEO and CIO, gotten their consent which included the benefits and downsides of any software or platform (cost, training time, easy to use, etc.) and get an implicit agreed; even if it meant holding their feet to the fire. Once the stakeholders agreed, the rest was simple.

SECOND – DON’T LET MBA THEORY CLOUD THE FACTS:
All MBA graduates have one shortcoming; they sometimes confuse theory for hard facts. They are trained to use theory in lieu of experience or fact to facilitate their careers until fact and experience can be obtained. The downside of this training is that MBAs confuse theory for hard facts and proceed untested with that theory. With consequences. I have seen it time and time again; sometimes MBAs lose lots of money, sometimes ending their careers. I had seen enough to avoid most of the pit falls. What I failed to take into account was my own mental blind spot. Because I had successfully used a platform as a single user, I theorized the platform could supply multiple users easily; the literature suggested it was not only possible but probable. This is what a good MBA does, researches the literature.
So instead of A-B testing or Stress testing or any reasonable amount of testing prior to deployment to gathering factual data, I proceed with the theory only.

The result was predictable. Had I stressed tested, or even A-B tested, I would have found multiple users crash the platform and the iPad could not handle demands of multiple users.

No matter how the theory appears to be sound, it is not practical until you put it into fact. And that means testing theory in harsh reality. If it survives, so do you. It's as simple as that.

THIRD – SIMPLE IS ELEGANT:
Although the latest and greatest toys impress your friends and adversaries, it does not mean it’ll work. In Gregory Moore’s 2002 book, “Crossing the Chasm”, a large part of his book discusses how consumers who want the latest and greatest usually are the test subjects for capacity and errors. It looks shiny, but doesn’t work. However, Moore believes that the greatest market to focus your sales effort to is the second or third generation of a technology which now has been tested and create the desire that everyone wants that technology.

Even the great Harvard Business School Professor, Clayton Christensen, espouses that, sometimes, the simpler technologies or existing technologies re-purposed to other uses, are the most efficient way to capitalize on technologies.

In other words, simple is elegant.

Just because this was a startup company, I should have not proceeded with a fancy and complicated system. I should have just stuck with something old-school and dependable and made my pocket richer quicker than my ear ringing. Now, they are happy and my ears can stop ringing.

Simple and elegantly.
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