Keeping In Touch



When you are a project manager on the road, happiness is a working phone, any phone, just as long as you can stay in contact. And pictures of sites, problems, designs, notes or whatever is an essential piece of that communications puzzle. Cairo or Cape Town, just get the message through.

I’ve been on Symbian for a few years (my favourite is a Nokia E72) and all my apps and contacts and mail simply works. I don’t have to waste time on technology, I can focus on getting the job done. Even if I lose a phone completely I could take (and have taken!) a brand new phone from the box (or a spare from the cupboard) and be fully operational in a few minutes. That is called peace of mind.

But as we all know, technology doesn’t stand still. Nokia sold out to Microsoft and their new technology is not very robust right now. iPhone is an option as a phone, but a few apps didn’t quite work together and so my iPhone went to one of the children. The remaining option is Android. But this is a big jump, changing your platform is a commitment for 3 or 4 years to get return on investment on all the time wasted transporting things across to the new world.

Nevertheless I decided to give the new Motorola RAZR a try. Note that this is not my first foray into the world of Android, I’ve played extensively with Froyo 2.2 and I have tons of experience on a Galaxy tablet. What I need is just that little bit extra in speed and future upgrade possibilities. Looking back, I made exactly the right decision.

My Motorola RAZR has been a pleasure to use, generally. I had a small problem with sending MMS pictures, which turned out to be a Vodacom problem but the folks at Motorola kept me constantly updated and they made sure the guys at Vodacom were aware of their responsibilities to deliver a working network. I love the RAZR form factor, I really like the software skin and Motorola customizations, and all my apps work exactly as they should. For staying in contact I use a cloud-based approach mostly based on Google. The RAZR excels at this task. I’m very cautious about exposing my contacts in the cloud, and my notes too, and I use a strong encryption layer. Encrypting files are a pleasure on the RAZR, it has more than enough power in the dual-core processor. I’m still toying with some minor utilities to do better backups of SMS messages, but there are tons of nice apps in the Marketplace to help me.

Back home I quickly set up a media centre and I can now stream any of my movies or music to the RAZR, something I wasn’t able to do previously. Clearly the guys at Motorola is pushing the envelope of what a simple hand-held device can do.

I’ll keep you informed of any new developments, but as of today I can confidently say that I am transitioning my lifeline (as a project manager) from Nokia/Symbian to Motorola/Android for the next few years, and I’m looking forward to the journey. Well done, Motorola!

Christmas Blessings 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

And so it has come to be Christmas 2011.

We wish you a blessed Christmas, and many happy returns for 2012.

See you next year!

Is Consulting The Better Option



And then there was the story about the Consultant.

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can’t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don’t get pissed off and buy another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external Consultant to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution – on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, someone would walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done to re-start the line.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” – he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after three weeks of production use. It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO traveled down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.

“Oh, that,” says one of the workers – “one of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang”.

I don’t know if this is a true story, but it certainly raised a smile …

So did you read your email this morning?

Emails Gone

Emails Gone

Hello! Howsit? So did you, or didn’t you read your e-mail this morning?

I’m not seriously probing of course, because the point I’m trying to make is that you read it this morning – as opposed to a few minutes ago. Except if you’re a Blackberry user, then it might have been three days ago. My latest phone, a Motorola Droid RAZR, also gets push e-mail en so did my previous Nokia E72 (did you notice that BB?), so getting an electronic mail on your mobile device is nothing new. That is not the point.

The point is that you probably update or check your Facebook or Instant Messaging far more frequently, with far more urgency, than your e-mail. Or your snail-mail for that matter.

A few months ago I wrote to some friends and said that e-mail was beginning to slow down, that it is becoming far less important. I don’t think they understood what I said because they just shrugged it off. Perhaps they are a little older – it is a known fact that children today have an e-mail address for one purpose only: To talk to their parents. The youngsters have already made the transition and is already on the new platforms.

I never said that we will stop using e-mail. Like IBM Mainframes, they will never really die. But they will become surrounded and supported and served by other more agile and more friendly systems. E-mail, like snail-mail, will always be with us. Once a day, or when we get to it. On our desktop computers. In the mornings when we check for e-mails.

But new information, the stuff that makes our world turn – appointments, news, business, transactions – will be carried over a different medium and delivered to new much more mobile devices that you carry in your pocket.

I will make a bet with you: Very soon, perhaps in less than 6 months, mobile transactional computing will overtake traditional communications. Wanna bet?

But before you make the bet, maybe you should quickly read the article Email heads for the bin by Adam Sherwin [click here]. Fascinating.