Ideas on Enterprise Information Systems Development

This blog is devoted to ideas on Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) development. It focuses on Lean Thinking, Agile Methods, and Free/Open Source Software, as means of improving EIS development and evolution, under a more practical than academical view. You may find here a lot of "thinking aloud" material, sometimes without scientific treatment... don't worry, this is a blog!
Every post is marked with at least one of Product or Process labels, meaning that they are related to execution techniques (programming and testing) or management techniques (planning and monitoring), respectively.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Process Evaluation X Product Evaluation, How Companies Hire, and Parnassianism

It is usual to companies to post recruitment announces asking for people from given educational institutions (at least here in Brazil): "we seek professionals who graduated from X, Y, or Z...". Do you think companies check these institutions pedagogical material to choose which institutions list? I am talking about the dozens of documents we teachers must fill to show that we are following a giving teaching process. No, companies check the product: the professional that graduated from these institutions. It is something like "usually, students from these institutions are good professionals". You don't see things like "institution X has a nice pedagogical process, I checked their documents...", managers don't care about this, they care about the overall quality of the outputs of these institutions.

It is curious too see the same manager that behaves like this as a "costumer", saying that it is important to fill in dozens of forms showing "how good is their development process...". Funny, isn't it? As a costumer the main thing is the final product, but as a manager it is the process(?). Someone would promptly answer: it's obvious, as a manager you are responsible for the process. Yes, that's right, and we must take care of our management process as a precious thing.

However, what I am discussing here is a question of focus. I am not saying that correctly managing the development process isn't important, in fact, it is very important. I am saying that you should map every process activity into the client's value chain. The client is the important part, and executing tasks that don't aggregate value to the final product is simply waste. Doesn't matter if you "process framework" says they are necessary, it is waste. Sorry for that. Quality must me measured on top of the product, process quality is an indirect measure and don't supply any real proof of product quality. Yes, leadtime and cost are important process metrics but they don't say much about the quality of the product. And unnecessary tasks raise leadtime and costs without aggregating value to the client.

Here at NSI, we know some people who work for certified companies, and they frequently report informally some horrible real-world practices at these companies. The fact that your company got certified only prove that you could fill-in a lot of forms, and while the auditors where in place you managed to show that everything was really perfect. Sorry again, but the only thing that really matters for your customers is the delivery of good quality products, on-time and on-cost! Your certification today can reduce the chances of occurring a disaster tomorrow, but it doesn't give any guarantee to you, your company, and your clients. 

Only a process that focuses on keeping product quality - and not showing how good it(self) is - can give you more security that a disaster won't occur. At this point I introduce Parnassianism. According to Wikipedia, "Gerard Manley Hopkins used the term Parnassian to describe competent but uninspired poetry, where a talented poet is merely operating on auto-pilot." When I was in high school I learned that it was "the art for the art" and "poetry for poets (not for the public)."

Certification sometimes becomes Project Management Parnassianism.

You can say that auto-pilot is good, meaning that your process is industrialized, standardized and works smoothly. Ok. Now read the first part: uninspired. Do you really think that in times of highly dynamic Economy and Technology you won't need to be creative to attain competitive advantage? And do you really believe that processes based on taking notes, scheduling and running long meetings, and reporting to various hierarchical levels will allow you to be creative? Processes where workers cannot create, test, and put in production new stuff quickly are really the answer for market shifts? Moreover, what about activities for process control that increase costs and leadtimes, without improving the product?

The truth is that Certification Industry became "an end in itself", you do things because someone said to do that. And the time it takes from a good new idea to appear and to reach the certification documentation is too long to help innovation, someone will have the same idea and will apply it before you do - while you wait for the "new, official, certified documentation."

The best way of detecting that you are not innovating in management anymore is when someone ask you "why you do that?" and you answer "because our certified process says so." Or, even worse, "how this activity aggregates value to the final product?", and you answer "Oh, yeah, not directly, but this is necessary for us too <do something internally>."

That's Parnassianism in Project Management: doesn't matter the people's (that read your poetry) needs or wishes, what matters is to follow standardized metrics.

Beautiful, isn't it?

But who is going to buy pretty formated but non-inspiring poetry?


  1. In Your honor:

  2. I too feel that some time choosing on the basis of the institution can be time saving but it also leads to the fact that we may miss better quality available.

  3. Sure, evaluating product by product is the best way, evaluating the producer on the basis of its historical product quality represents a first filtering.