Open Insights 23 – Devil In The Details

OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter
Issue 23 – Devil In The Details
September 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
<shull@iheavy.com>
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


In This Issue:

1. Feature: Devil In The Details
2. Audio Interviews
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Miscellaneous
6. Past Issues
7. Technical Articles
8. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: Devil In The Details

We all have heard the saying, “the devil is in the details” but I wonder how often we remind ourselves of that when we need to. I have seen this situation over and over in ten years of consulting, and it is one that continues to challenge with new projects.

In science we call this phenomenon emergent complexity. Imagine you’ve some wires, or strings or ropes. Put them all in a bag to store away, and when you try to take them out again, somehow you always have knots and tangles! We have all experienced this problem with the wires behind our TV/Stereo systems, I’m sure!

Ever seen that commercial on TV for the PaintCrew sprayer? First they show someone struggling to paint their house by hand, and then they switch you to the happy person using the magic spraying machine. How easy my life will be if I just get one of those. Unfortunately they don’t have a shot of someone trying to clean that machine. I’m sure cleaning brushes would be easier. What’s more 30% or more of the house you have to use brushes anyway, so you’ll still have to clean them. And besides all that, the real work of painting a house, inside or outside, is taping it all up. So much for technology saving the day!

I hope by now everyone can see the parallels in consulting. When specing projects up front, there is often an incredible pressure to include the kitchen sink to “get it right” the first time. However in my experience, building small, starting modest at the outset, and then growing and building off of that is a much safer way to stay within bounds, on-time and under budget.

Also, please bear all these factors in mind when putting together a contract. Clearly outline what items will be completed, and what is in and out of scope. And converse back and forth between client and consultant, verbally reiterating what will be done and how. That’s because despite all efforts to outline perfectly on paper, there are always details that the client and the contractor envision differently. The more conversations you have going over those details, the more likely you’ll be on the same page as far as the spirit of the contract, even if the letter of the contract misses some minutiae.

Lastly a word of warning. This goes equally to consultants, as it does to clients to try to have a sense of perspective. Beware conversations saying “that should be easy”, and things of that nature. You will inevitably want to see it that way, before a contract is signed, as you want to get the contract in the first place. But as we all know, once you start digging there is always more complexity hidden away. In my experience statements like these also throw up a red flag because it is a coded way of saying we think this part won’t cost that much.

Try to emphasize that you’re available, convenient, and an outside resource, and so on. Emphasize the VALUE of having you solve the problem, and complete the project as a whole, and how your timeliness, and delegation of the project is a win for them. I always emphasize that we’re not the cheapest solution in town, but we have a very good track record of delivering what we promise, when we promise it. And that is worth a heck of a lot.

2. Audio Interviews

Ingres Chief Technology Officer Dave Dargo joins us this month in another podcast interview. We talk with him about the open-source Ingres Database, and the economics driving open-source software today. Great insights, and plenty of food for thought, so have a listen.

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading

Andy Wibbels – Blogwild!
If you’re interested in blogging as a way to build or grow your business, this book is one you’ll want to check out. It is chock full of practical advice on how to use tagging, and RSS, and other technologies to build word-of-mouth attraction to your business. Of course, he has a blog.

Jim Collins – Built To Last
Jim Collins is the author of “Good to Great”, that essential reading for understanding the anatomy of successful businesses. In Built To Last, he takes a look under the covers at 18 companies that have been around for at least fifty hears, and applies that same ruthless logic, and research to find out what really makes them tick, beyond the media glamour, and star CEOs.

David Allen – Getting Things Done
David Allen is one of the fifty people to know according to business 2.0. If you’re looking for a very good book on organizing your time, and making creative use of every last bit of it, this is a great place to start. David also has a blog.

4. Lightweight Humor

If you’ve never visited Overheard in New York, don’t waste anymore time. It is a funny side, full of little anecdotes, and quotes from funny new york situations, on trains and subways.

This one is particularly funny: overheard in NY tourist!

5. Miscellaneous

Next time you’re mulling over consulting fees, and considering the fulltime overhead of benefits, vacation time, 401k, and training, consider this article on office waste.

6. Past Issues
Issue 22: Beware of Software Fashion
Issue 21: Open Season, Open Sesame?
Issue 20: Better Web Better Business
Issue 19: Managing Fixed Fees
Issue 18: The Cost of Consulting
Issue 17: Secrets Of The Interview
Archive: Past Issues

7. Technical Articles

Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

8. About Heavyweight Internet Group

In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

Visit us on the web at www.iheavy.com