The New Global Brain: Find & Direct Brainpower

January 22, 2010

In an article published in Newsweek, Work The New Digital Sweatshops, Jonathan Zittrain talks about how the Internet is revolutionizing tasking by aggregating global resources, termed “crowdsourcing”, similar to how aggregated computing power speeds the engines of technology companies ability to process millions of search requests every minute.

In the latter, the computers dont have emotions, rights, or shed a tear when called into action at 3AM after cranking out search results for the last 1,345 days.  The ethical dilemma, Zittain purports, is when you seemingly take advantage of a hungry resource halfway around the world to execute mundane tasks like deal with a drunk, hungry sports fan ordering a pizza at halftime.

Frankly, I see it as supreme supply chain optimization, a zero-waste global economy, that will eventually create a certain global “synchronicity” where we all continue to quickly evolve technology through global teamwork and collaboration.  The mundane task of pizza order-taking may quickly evolve into chip design for our next-generation zero emission vehicles.  There is always distribution of labor, now today we have global connectivity enabling a more perfect distribution to the right resources with the right skills at exactly the right moment.

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Nothing in Life is Free

January 21, 2010

Recent announcements by Hulu and the NY Times, that their content will no longer be served up gratis to consumers, and that “new business revenue models will be ‘tested'” (ben.fritz@latimes.com) strengthens the notion that online business is still searching for the “holy grail” of revenue models, using the braille system.
Easy for large partnership enterprises like Hulu and NY Times to experiment, as they have the luxury of tweaking different business-revenue models until one eventually works.

But what about the SMB market that can’t afford to spend an exorbinant amount of time, money and resources, coming up with their ideal revenue business model?

It becomes more mission-critical than ever to minimize expenses dedicated towards IT initiatives, and the seemingly interminable changes, enhancements and scope creep elements associated with them.

Without the large IT budgets that are at the disposal of many big corporations, it’s imperative for SMB’s to root out the most cost effective, reliable, quality IT resources as efficiently as possible.
This is where the online outsourcing service provider networks will prove their weight in gold. The best, value-driven, content-rich networks that rise and prove to be the cream-of-the-crop, will surely command subscription fees, as true business-savvy consumers will gladly, albeit begrudgingly, put money into the tip jar to ensure providing themselves with the best possible IT solutions and resources….because after all, they know….nothing in life is free.


Reducing the Fixed Costs in Project Management

January 3, 2010

Sudoku puzzles teach an important lesson in project management, that we almost forget- there are fixed costs associated with every project.  In Sudoku, there are different levels of complexity – from the very easy to the excruciatingly difficult ones.  While the time taken is correlated with difficulty, it is not linear.  No matter how easy the puzzle, it takes a finite amount of time to simply fill the puzzle.  This is also true for any project.  Initial project reviews, user-buy in, planning, resource allocation, project briefing, and de-briefing after the project is completed all have a “fixed cost” component to it. While it is impossible or even desirable to eliminate the fixed costs, it will be helpful to streamline the project management process to develop efficiencies. 

These guidelines help in reducing the fixed costs associated with projects:

1. Develop a simplified project management methodology (PM-Lite).

2.  Use simple workflows (automated workflows add more benefits) using a portal approach to oversee these “small projects”.

3.  If you outsource these projects, use a set of pre-screened and pre-credentialed vendors who are specifically suited for delivering small projects.  This is discussed in more detail in this blog.

4. Set limits on the number of deliverables (such as 5 to 7).

5.  Keep the distance between each deliverable small (time and technical relationship).

6.  Set simple success criteria such as 10% within each deliverable’s costs and schedule as green, between 10% and 25% as yellow, and more than 25% variance as red.

This simple guideline should not be construed as one shoe fits all.  For example, risk management, compatibility with enterprise architecture, adherence to standards, and other project management principles also apply, but they should not become onerous and increase the fixed costs of a project. 

A note on the Fixed Costs associated with Outsourcing

Following the ignominious collapse of several major outsourcing deals, IT services providers and customers alike have had to revise their approach to the entire outsourcing business.   The trend towards more small projects is gaining momentum, and it further reinforces the need for organizations to develop an IT governance methodology for small projects. SMB CIOs have an alternative solution in extending their resource capability using project-based sourcing.  Project-based sourcing is a convenient way to balance the need for reducing costs and maintaining core competence in-house.

While outsourcing makes good sense, organizations, particularly SMBs (Small to Mid-Sized Businesses), simply maintain status quo. Either they cite lack of expertise in managing off-shore engagements or perceived quality issues to not engage in off-shoring. To a large extent, their fears are justified. Tier-1 outsourcers seek outsourcing of entire functions – not the ideal method for SMBs which seek help for specific projects.

When outsourcing the projects, the overhead gets accented as procurement and sourcing decisions have their own components of fixed costs.   The lack of a well established Service Provider network who deliver project-based off-shore solutions adds to procurement costs, often negating the benefits of outsourcing. Fortunately, web-based brokerage solutions are emerging. These solutions are built on a solid pre-credentialed Service Provider network to ensure that lower cost is not negated by poor quality.  These web-based solutions benefit both the SMB as well as the Service Provider.  SMBs benefit from low administrative costs and accelerated contracting.  They also benefit from selecting a vendor from a pre-credentialed network.  Many Tier-2 and Tier-3 off-shore Service Providers have the ability to provide niche IT solutions that match SMB project needs.