Open Insights 42 – On Efficiency

OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter

Issue 42 – On Efficiency

  February 1, 2008

by Sean Hull

It’s now the end of our third year publishing the Open Insights newsletter. We thought we’d celebrate by relaunching our popular blog Oracle + Open Source.  The design is new, there’s a lot more content, things are easier to find, and overall it is indexing great on Google, even better!

Like what you see here? Forward us to a friend. And let us know if you have any suggestions or comments. They are always welcome.


In This Issue:

1. Feature: On Efficiency

2. New Articles

3. Audio Interviews

4. Current Reading

5. Lightweight Humor

6. Miscellaneous

7. Past Issues

8. Technical Articles

9. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: On Efficiency

Efficiency in consulting is a tricky business.  So many variables can affect it.  How a team works together, how well people are communicating, how well it is managed, and how well the individuals on the team operate.  There are also differences in perception.  Some people downplay their strengths, making their triumph seem less pronounced.  Meanwhile others inflate their strengths.

Examples

We all remember situations when working with someone who is rather green.  We may have the luxury of

more time, and being able to help them along as they get up to speed, but when we’re faced with a pressing deadline we’re surely frustrated.  Fast-forward to a memory of working with someone who is very astute, efficient, together, and good at reading between the lines.  They seem to be a breeze to work with, and you feel confident that what they deliver will be what you expected.  What’s more they probably finished the work in less time.  You’ve probably also encountered individuals who can strategize well enough to completely avoid tasks that in the end may be redundant.  If you’ve ever played a fast paced sport and being outfoxed by someone who you know you are fitter than, you know what I mean.  It’s plain that some people just strategize better, and that can dramatically impact our performance and efficiency.

What Happens With Fees

Why dwell on all of the above?  Well when engaging a consultant, it is one-half (and the often ignored half) of the equation of cost.  cost = rate x hours  remember?  I have to think most people don’t consider this equation, if my conversations with clients, and recruiters are any indication.  Most of those conversations are extremely oversimplified, dwelling on the dollar amount, as though some who bills twice as much per hour will cost twice as much in the end.  The implication, everyone has the same efficiency!  Of course people don’t, and when we emphasize the big picture, most people can recognize the point. 

Talk To References

So what to do?  One thing you can do is ask for references from your consultant.  These will serve as testimonials, and though you may not want to ask rates as those vary from client to client, and quote to quote, you can and should ask that reference if you found the consultant to be efficient.  This is fair, and the consultant will probably encourage this.  In my experience with new clients that I didn’t get through referrals, they are generally pleasantly surprised and satisified with what they got for their money.  This is probably due in part to reading between the lines, and intuiting what the client wants, but also a reflection of efficiency.

Consider Fixed Fees

If you want to further reduce your doubt about how much a project will cost, consider fixed fees.  Clients, suggest them to your consultant, and consultants, suggest them to your clients.  Build in a buffer, and be clear about requirements.  Note to self, requirements, specifications, and boundaries are the keys to making this work.  So it’s very important that all parties be honest with themselves.  If certain areas seem more vague or imprecise, build in more buffer for those.  While running the project, be vigilant about what is in and out of scope, and have everyone refer to the specifications as outlined in your agreement or contract.  In the end fixed fees keep everyones eyes off the clock, and on the project, and allow the client to know the project, if it stays within scope, will not grow or involve surprises in cost.

Conclusions

In the end, a lot comes from experience.  Senior consultants tend to have the experience to be more efficient, and thus charge seemingly higher hourly fees.  Furthermore client experience should lead one to check references, and consider the entire equation when looking at the overall costs of a project.



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2. New Articles

Eight Ways to Hack Oracle – Part I

Eight Ways to Hack Oracle – Part II

Oracle, MySQL and Postgres – Feature Comparison Part I

Oracle, MySQL and Postgres – Feature Comparison Part II

Open Source Technologies for Oracle DBAs Part I

Open Source Technologies for Oracle DBAs Part II

3. Audio Interviews

In our most recent interview we had the opportunity to talk with Norman Yamada CTO of Millburn Corporation.

Norman shares with us his experiences providing world-class computing solutions, and the pros and cons of doing it with open source.

We’ve also moved our podcast to Odeo for Audio Podcast hosting. It is a great service, and provides all the RSS and subscribe links automatically. So please subscribe if you haven’t already!

4. Current Reading

 

The Logic of Life:  The Rational Economics of an Irrational World by Tim Hardford

It’s always insightful when someone applies the unwavering science of economics to questions we encounter everyday.  You may turn up your nose when he turns his eye towards questions of love and finding your someone special, you have to agree he’s not afraid to ask difficult questions.  Perhaps not as wacky as "Freakonomics", it as accessible, and fun to read.

Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Robert Cialdini

Cialdini is the author of the famous book "The Psychology of Influence".  He has an excellent writing style, and the science to back it up.  This is the more science-y version of "How To Make Friends And Influence People" with lots of simple suggestions, and things to keep in mind.  If you’re a consultant, freelancer, or any business that sells products and services (who does that leave out?) then you need to know how to be persuasive, and have a bit of charm.  So we should all welcome a few hints and suggestions.

5. Lightweight Humor

A little inane humor to brighten up your day…  Jessica Hagy has this cute little blog called indexed.  She uses index cards to illustrate little truisms, often with funny comments on venn diagrams.  Here’s a funny one the relationship of status to money.

6. Miscellaneous

We all want to optimize our sites for Google.  I mean other than a select few, that’s where most of our traffic comes from, so the more our site plays well with Google, the more users, readers, customers, and clients will find their way to us.

Most of the SEO material I’ve read has been pretty sparse, and unclear.  But I’ve been following the topic over at my good Felix’s #comments blog, and I’m starting to get it.  So you can too!  Take a read: Google loves me, again!

If you haven’t been following the news on the topic, take a look over at this NY Times piece: Silicon Valley Start-Ups Awash in Dollars, Again.  Personally I don’t think there is much hysteria this time around, sure there’s some, but not much.  The industry is more mature now, and computers in general have lost their initial wow factor, so people are general more sober, and able to step back and see what is actually useful, can make money, is making money, or might well make money.  That’s the root of investing smart.

7. Past Issues

Issue 38: Are You Fast Failing

Issue 37: A Real Open Book

Issue 36: Rarity of Excellence

Issue 34: Hindsight Is Always 20/20

Issue 33: Market For Experts

Issue 32: Different Heritages

Archive: Past Issues

8. Technical Articles

Oracle DBA Interview: click here

Tools for the Intrepid DBA: click here

Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here

Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here

MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

9. 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.

Looking for a top-flight DBA? Visit us on the web at www.iheavy.com.