Managing reality in Information Systems - strategies for successISSN 1649-2374
Systems Modelling Ltd. http://www.sysmod.com
Welcome and reader survey
Eurobarometer no 57
UK firms should prepare for the euro
Dear little country
Euro cash and card payments get cheaper
Online VAT validation to save costs for businesses
EuSpRIG 2002 Symposium July 18/19 programme
MS security patch EULA alert
Professional Ethics article
On the lighter side
PWC : that Monday feeling
The worst of the web
13 Web links in this newsletter
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Please take the reader survey contained in this issue - that's how I know what interests you!
The first results of the regular Eurobarometer Spring survey contains findings on eight key questions including support for EU membership, the euro and for an EU constitution.
There is a definite shift in the media attitudes in the UK.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business/newsid_2060000/2060391.stm BBC reports on the British Chambers of Commerce advice to members to get ready.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-343181,00.html The Times newspaper quotes Professor Iain Begg : “We would have reached a negative assessment five years ago, but there has been far more convergence and other developments which mean we now believe there is a clear and compelling case for entry. On economic grounds we believe the five tests have, on balance, been met, but we also recognise there is going to be a political element in this decision"
http://www.rte.ie/news/2002/0626/euro.html RTE "Irish Times reveals that by February of this year, Ireland had become the second most expensive country to live in in the Euro zone, second only to Finland."
The consultants said there was no evidence of a generalised rise in prices beyond what would normally be expected as a result of the currency change. However, when specific sectors were examined, there was evidence of unusually large rises.
Among those sectors where prices rose unusually sharply were dentists, doctors, opticians, pharmaceutical products, cinemas, package holidays, beer, spirits and soft drinks in licensed premises, restaurant meals, hairdressers and the provision of services to householders.
Holiday or business travellers will pay the same to withdraw euros from cash machines or make card payments in euros in other EU Member States as in their home country when the EU Cross-Border Payments Regulation comes into effect on Monday, 1 July.
The Cross-Border Payments Regulation creates a 'single payments area', and makes it "easier and cheaper for people travelling to other Member States", according to EU Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. More details:
A new free service allows businesses across Europe to check the validity of customers' VAT identification numbers on the Internet. The site should save time and administrative costs both for businesses and for tax administrations. Full story: http://www.eubusiness.com/item/83549
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What is the main BUSINESS challenge (strategy, marketing, finance,
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you would like solved right now?
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For everyone who responds, if you would like to mention a web site you think would be of value to my readers, please let me know and I'll list them as space permits. Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor
Booking information: http://www.eusprig.org
I am looking for a corporate sponsor who would be interested in working with me to bring this prestigious event to Dublin in July 2003. Please contact me if you would like to be associated with this group.
DAY 1 : Thursday 18th July starts at 1pm Registration and
2pm: Session 1 Spreadsheet Risks – ‘The Corporate Gamble’
Management Summary: David Chadwick ‘The Subversive Spreadsheet’
Paper: David Banks ‘Interpretation As A Factor In Understanding Flawed Spreadsheets’
Management Summary: Ray Butler: ‘Losing at Spreadsheet Roulette’
4.00pm: Session 2 Invited Speaker: ‘The Rise and Rise of the Spreadsheet’
DAY 2 : Friday 19th July
9.30am: Session 3 : Risk Management – ‘Avoiding the gamble’
Paper: Thomas Grossman ‘Spreadsheet Engineering : A Research Framework’
Management Summary: Grenville Croll 'Spreadsheet Audit'
Paper: Markus Clermont ‘A Spreadsheet Auditing Tool Evaluated In An Industrial Context’
11.30 Session 4 Panel : ‘Corporate Gamble Or Corporate Tremble’
"MS security patch EULA gives Billg admin privileges on your box"
Thomas C Greene comments "You will not be warned; you will not be offered an opportunity examine the download or refuse it. MS will simply connect remotely and install what it will, or install it secretly when you contact them. "
As revelations about Worldcom and Xerox continue, an article I wrote in May is worth reproducing in full here.
First published in the "Business-IT Strategies E-Mail Advisor", a weekly electronic briefing from the Cutter Consortium Business-IT Strategies Team, email busIT@cutter.com
by Patrick O'Beirne
The Vasa warship was one of the tourist attractions for visitors to Stockholm, Sweden, when I was there for 'EuroStar 200'*, the software testing conference. This beautifully ornate ship sailed on its maiden voyage on a calm day in 1628, but capsized before it left the harbour and sank with the loss of over 100 of its crew and civilian passengers. It was recovered from the seabed after 350 years.
Why was the story of the Vasa retold at the software testing conference, and still features in articles (e.g., Linda Rising's detailed article in 'The Software Practitioner, 2001'; http://members.cox.net/risingl1/articles/Vasa.pdf )? Mainly because it vividly illustrates classical project risks -- an overambitious design with new technology, the loss of the only designer, and a sponsor (the king) who changed features frequently and set an unbreakable deadline.
I want to focus on the heart of the story -- a final product test that was ignored and wished away for reasons of political fear. And that behaviour pattern is with us today.
The Vasa Museum Web site (http://www.vasamuseet.se/skeppet/darfor/why.html ) states:
In the inquiries after the Vasa disaster it was revealed that a stability test had been performed prior to the maiden voyage. Thirty men had run back and forth across the Vasa's deck when she was moored at the quay. The men had to stop after three runs, well before the test could be completed -- otherwise, the ship would have capsized. Present was Admiral Klas Fleming, one of the most influential men in the Navy. His only comment to the failed stability test was "If only His Majesty were at home!" After that he let the Vasa make her maiden voyage.
The official story tries to airbrush the failure out of history by concluding: "However, the inquiries showed that no one could really be blamed for the disaster. The main reason being the insufficient theoretical know-how of the period." But the telling indictment is that the admiral could have stopped the ship after the stability test.
The museum Web site reports, "On the other hand, the ship was already complete and the king was waiting impatiently in Polish Prussia." Obviously, the admiral was afraid to report bad news to the king.
As with so many other stories that we can read today about professional neglect, the person in charge escaped punishment by blaming it on others. Indeed the design was flawed, but the test gave them a chance to stop before lives were lost. And I wonder what was said among the seamen? The 30 men must have talked afterwards. Did any of those on board hear the story and suspect what was going to happen to them?
We may say that that could happen in feudal times, but not now. However, we read in the newspapers about cases where professionals knew what was going on but did nothing about it. In civil life, we read about the unsavoury details unearthed by tribunals of inquiry into political or institutional corruption. In the business world, confidence in the auditing profession has been shaken by the revelations of the involvement of Anderson in the Enron crash. It is clear that the ability to deceive oneself, to deny bad news, to reject data that puts one in a bad light or that could open an "appalling vista" on an institution, is endemic in human nature.
You may be lucky if your software projects don't endanger life. If the acceptance test fails, it may cause an inconvenience, cost your company money, cost you your job, or cost a team their jobs. But in the pharmaceutical or medical device companies, life is often at stake in the use of internal knowledge.
Does your organisation have a rigid, hierarchical, feudal structure so that people are afraid to report bad news? Reflect on those occasions when the project is "too important to fail." Watch for language like "the deadline cannot be missed, we must ship what we have," or "that is not really a defect," or "the test is flawed, that would never happen in real life."
Maybe the Vasa admiral argued that "In real life, we won't have 30 men running from one side of the ship to the other." Watch for people insisting that the specs be signed off so they can claim that they delivered "exactly as designed," rather than what the user's needs are.
If all you have are suspicions but you don't have data, then at least make sure the decision makers know what data is missing. Be aware of the almost involuntary desire to hide bad news, and face your own fears of telling the truth.
You may not have life or death decisions on your hands, but you can manage your own conscience and move forward with confidence in your integrity.
Last month I reported on PWC's loss of the domain pwc.com. Now their rebranding as "Monday" has provoked more domain name hijacking - in the UK this time. http://www.introducingmonday.co.uk/
The funniest comment is in "The Register" :
Rebranding: madness: provokes: savage: comedy: backlash: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/28/25815.html
Can you suggest a page worse than this? (try it with the sound up ;-))
Copyright 2002 Systems Modelling Limited, http://www.sysmod.com . Reproduction allowed provided the newsletter is copied in its entirety and with this copyright notice.
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Patrick O'Beirne, Editor
ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
"Praxis" means model or example, from the Greek verb "to do". The name is chosen to reflect our focus on practical solutions to IS problems, avoiding hype. If you like acronyms, think of it as "Patrick's reports and analysis across Information Systems".
To read previous issues of this newsletter please visit our web site at http://www.sysmod.com/praxis.htm
This newsletter is prepared in good faith and the information has been taken from observation and other sources believed to be reliable. Systems Modelling Ltd. (SML) does not represent expressly or by implication the accuracy, truthfulness or reliability of any information provided. It is a condition of use that users accept that SML has no liability for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The information is not intended to constitute legal or professional advice. You should consult a professional at Systems Modelling Ltd. directly for advice that is specifically tailored to your particular circumstances.
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