“Not for the Sake of Ambition” – Oh, Please!

One parenthetical phrase from President Barack Obama’s eulogy for Ted Kennedy made me cringe – “Not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country that he loved.”

I write this not as a criticism of the President or the deceased Senator, but of the attitude it conveys. First, it is blatantly false. No one without any ambition runs for the Senate or Presidency. Second, it raises an idea that I find disturbing, namely that political or governmental service is somehow more noble than economic service.

This idea is a derivative of zero-sum thinking about wealth. It encapsulates the idea that those in business are somehow stealing wealth from others and that those in government are there to prevent any massive accumulation of wealth by one person or a small group of people. What they miss is that while governments do not create wealth, businesses and individual do. Governments are instituted to allow for wealth to be created by protecting those that create it from the masses who would try to take it from them.

In short, they have hopelessly and irrevocable confused cause and effect.

Creating a Service Level Agreements

Creating an SLA (Service Level Agreement) is by far the most frequent topic of conversation I have with partners of Sage. I recently came across an mp3 file I recorded while in Sydney, Australia delivering the service level agreement section from Customer Boot Camp, so I have decided to post it.

Please note it is not the best quality recording, but I think you will be able to understand most of it.

If you have any further thoughts or question, please feel free to post them as comments.

UPDATE: As of June 2010, I refer to these as Access Level Agreements not Service Level. I admit I was wrong. Sorry!

ScreenR Is a Game Changer

Remember Lotus ScreenCam? I do and I recall it being a big deal to do them. Yesterday, I came across ScreenR, a social media tool that I think is a game changer.

Below is the first one I created as a test. In it I demonstrate how to create a new group in Facebook.

ScreenR allows you to create screen shot movies with audio and immediately post the to Twitter and the Web where they can be embedded into a blog post or sent along in an email. The service also allows you to download them movies as mp4 files for the iPod and send them to your youtube channel. It does all this for free and with zero downloaded software. It is all a web service.

To me this could change technical support in a way that remote control software and service has not. Think about it you can have your customers make a movie of their problem which they send to you. You can then create a screen movie of the solution, combine the two together with some free video editing software and publish the whole thing back on your youtube channel where you can send any customer that might have this situation in the future.

Update: Below is the ScreenR presentation I did creating this post. However, this time I am posting the embed source from youtube.

Update 2: Clearly I was wrong on this one. It is not the first time.

What Do You Know – I Am Mainstream

Yesterday, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal opposition to the billable hour went mainstream – Billable Hour’ Under Attack. The article begins, “With the recession crimping legal budgets, some big companies are fighting back against law firms’ longstanding practice of billing them by the hour.”

In addition, the Journal also posted this accompanying video, in which the client (Pfizer) lays down the law (of economics that is) to her firms. While there is much here to agree with, she misses an important point. No billing by the hour can be financially beneficial to the firm as well. The question that I have for these firms is will you now eliminate the time sheet? Your customer has just told you that you have no reason to keep them. If anyone out there works for one of these firms, please let me know what the buzz is.

Killer PowerPoint (as in death by)

Comedian Don McMillan has a terrific routine about inappropriate use of PowerPoint.


It is not quite as good at this one created in 2000 by by Peter Norvig, the director of research at Google.

My thoughts:

  • PowerPoint should be use to augment, not make your presentation.
  • Use pictures and movie clips.
  • If you need speaker notes, use index cards.
  • Join Toastmasters. The only way to improve you public speaking it to speak in public.

A Review of The Israel Test

Even the thought of summarizing the premise of George Gilder’s new book, The Israel Test, causes my mind to reel.

To attempt: The cause of the conflict between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries is not religion (although there are certainly elements) nor racism (although there are certainly elements), but rather it is caused by envy. Israel, in the 60 plus years of its existence, has been extraordinarily successful and the perception is that it has done so by taking from the Palestinians. In short, the conflict is about the zero-sum thinking of demand economics versus positive-sum thinking of supply-side economics. It is about the jealousy felt against people who have attained success and the belief that the only way they could have attained that success is by taking from others.

“The real issue is between the rule of law and the rule of leveler egalitarianism, between creative excellence and covetous ‘fairness’,’ between admiration of achievement versus envy and resentment of it,” Gilder says.

In Part One, Zerizus, Gilder, in his best and most brilliant prose since Wealth & Poverty, develops this premise and destroys any and all arguments against it. He posits his Golden Rule of Capitalism – The good fortune of others is also one’s own. One of the troubles with government, indeed with even democracy, is that government (transfers of wealth) and democracy (elections)  are zero-sum, while the economic system, capitalism is positive-sum. This influences the thinking of all leaders in democracies that they need to create an equity of outcomes, not just an equality of opportunity. He terms these people, “handi-capitalists!”

In Part Two, Israel Inside, Gilder introduces us to Jewish and Israel scientists and entrepreneurs who have had a profound influence on the world as we know it and a few, who he believes, are about to have even great influence. Intel’s latest microprocessors, they are coming from Israel; Petaflop networking, from Israel; Wireless high-definition interface standards, from Israel; Algorithms which map the human genome, Israel.

In Part Three, The Paradox of Peace, Gilder puts forth his by far most controversial and thought provoking  postulate – the Peace Now movement inside and outside  Israel, condemn themselves to Peace Never. Gilder quotes Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann, “If you want peace now, you may well never get peace. But if you have time – if you can wait – that changes the whole picture; then you might get peace now.” Gilder states, “Peace requires the imposition of penalties on aggression.”

Simply said, The Israel Test is not a easy read, but it is absolutely a must-read.

My New Pill Box – Part Deux

N.B. – This post asks more questions than it provides answers.

I have been thinking more about the analogies between the medical and the ERP/CRM/HR software implementation professions. Reflecting once again on my new pill box, I noticed that there were two different types of pills.

Type A pills are of the over-the-counter variety – vitamins and an allergy medication. Self diagnosis and prescription writing is the norm. Certain pain killers, such as Tylenol, and cold and flu medication are in included here as well. Type B pills are prescription drugs. I had to obtain a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor. I then made the connection that in the ERP/CRM/HR software world we have the same situation.

Type A software is available over-the-counter meaning anyone can go into Staples or Best Buy and just purchase it, think Peachtree, Act! and Quickbooks. Type B software you must get a prescription from a qualified professional to obtain (and yes, it is more expensive).

A key difference is that in the software world the person who does the diagnosis (needs analysis) and writes the prescription (list of software needed), also fills it. Is this a good idea? Why did this separation of roles happen in the medical field? Was it to allow or even perhaps force physicians to concentrate on the diagnosis?

One of my mantras is that “prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.” I believe this is just as true in software consulting as it is in medicine. Yet, I think this practice occurs far too often in the software world. Is this because the implementation people (doctors) are usually aligned to specific publishers (the pharmaceutical manufacturers)? If this were to be common practice in medicine, would this pit Sanofi-Aventis doctors against Merck doctors? Am I naive, maybe this is already the case?

Other questions also arise:

  • With over-the-counter medication there are brands (Tylenol) and generics (acetaminophen), is there an equivalent in software?
  • Is SaaS just the equivalent of the emergence of health insurance (pay a monthly fee for your health needs)?
  • Why is it that certain drugs make the leap from Type B to Type A (my allergy medication for example), yet software does not?
  • Can we next expect government regulation?
  • Am I just stretching this analogy too far?