A Small Scale Success - Big Lessons
Fellow ZDNet blogger Michael Krigsman writes a lot about project failures. He and I communicate frequently as these failures almost always involve package software and/or a systems integrator. Both of us wish we could find more success stories.
Today, I’d like to share the story about a very simple IT project that went really well. Admittedly, it didn’t involve an intergalactic sized integrator or a software firm that has hundreds of product lines. But, a success is a success.
This weekend I made my notebook a better machine. I upgraded its hard drive and got almost three times the disk storage for under $100. Most importantly, it all happened just the way it was supposed to occur.
Specifically, I’d like to thank HP/Compaq for designing my laptop such that the removal of the old drive required only loosening two screws on the base of the unit. My last laptop required a disassembly only a sadist would love. Next, I’d like to thank Hitachi for making their replacement hard drive exactly match the enclosure mountings, the wire connectors, etc. that the old drive used. This is what standards are supposed to do! I’d also like to thank an anonymous Chinese firm that made the SATA connector adapters that perfectly connected my new drive to the laptop while I cloned the old drive to the new drive. And, last, I’d like to thank the makers of HDClone (http://www.miray.de/download/sat.hdclone.html ) as this free Linux product was exceptionally easy to use and worked flawlessly.
In total, in took only minutes to prep the machine for cloning. The clone of the hard drive took about 3 hours and the switch of the drives took a couple of minutes. When I booted up with the new hard drive, Microsoft Vista found the new drive, updated a driver, and ran as if this was the way it should have been configured.
Not only did I get more disk space, I got a faster hard drive (7200 vs. 5400 rpm).
What made this project a success? - It did not require an army of experts - It did not require a number of integrators to bring together the technologies of several providers - It utilized standards (e.g., software, hardware) all along the way - The laptop was designed for easy upgrading - The HDClone product did exactly what it was supposed to do and was priced right - And, most of all, it worked the right way, the way it was designed to and on the first attempt
That's what technology solutions should be. But, few projects work out this way.
Years ago, the CEO of a major application software firm told me that he envied makers of systems software. Why? He said "When you make a disk defragmenter, for example, it only takes a user of it just minutes to determine whether it works or not. Plus, this user will not alter the product. When someone licenses our applications, the first thing they do is reach into the code, turn the product inside out and use it in some way no one has ever anticipated". Truth be told, he's right. Too often, software users try to commit unnatural acts with the products they license. When the badly altered product no longer functions (or functions well), the user blames the vendor.
However, as someone who made a living installing other peoples' code, I have first hand knowledge of software that is shipped incapable of clean compiling or running on the customer's target hardware platform. I've seen hardware arrive in non-functioning states. I've seen incompatibility issues all over the place and I've had to listen ad nauseum to vendors point fingers at everyone but themselves.
It's not a solution unless the totality of the offering works, works well, and works the first time. If you sell 'solutions' but don't stand behind your offering, you're deluding yourselves and creating expensive problems for your customers. Attention to the whole product, its trouble-free implementation and the ecosystem to efficiently and effectively implement it are key to project and solution successes.