No Train Wrecks Allowed

clip_image002Earlier this week On several occasions this past week, we were trapped inside a Mobius loop of inactivity due to failures of network equipment that resulted from the failure of some AC equipment as well as ill-timed changes to our DNS servers. Having tossed most of our technology eggs into the network basket, we limped along without phones, email, SharePoint and even access to our shared folders. Of course, we have contingency plans, but at what point do you pull the trigger on a change that requires relocating people? I can’t answer that, but I know it isn’t an amount of time that is measured in hours, unless something has been destroyed – enterprises, even small ones, just don’t move that fast.

I am counting on Microsoft to understand this fact about enterprises. Consumer pressure to respond to social, mobile and usability issues aside, they can’t expect to drag corporate America behind them at warp speed. The enterprise will turn about as quickly as the Enterprise. As we sit here today, looking at Windows 8, SharePoint 2013 and the next version of Office, we are in no hurry to adopt any of them. Sure there are machines here that are already sporting the Metro soon-to-be-named interface, but they are R&D items. In the past, we have been among the early adopters of new technology, but this time, we are likely to drag our feet – here’s why:

Mass – Despite the recent wave of annoying technical problems, our current configuration works pretty well. SharePoint, Lync, Exchange, SQL Server, and a whole bunch of systems that use those technologies are humming along. Those systems are talking to each other, and people are getting work done. Most of the job descriptions in my department include references to “staying current” and “researching emerging technologies” but the core requirement of every position’s job description is one that deals with “maintaining technology that is critical to company operations.” Watching over the past week as people lost phones, Internet access and email, I was reminded as to just how important that requirement is. The next generation solutions don’t only have to be released to manufacturing, I need to know that they all work, that they all work together well, and that they support our installed base of software and solutions. Given the speed at which Microsoft is remaking everything, I’m thinking we might not get to that one-big-happy-family state until a bunch of Service Pack 1’s are released.

Motion – Projects don’t stop when new releases are announced, even when the new technology will impact the solution being developed. For example, we are working on a SharePoint-based solution that is using the Mickey-Mouse method of enlisting workflows associated with multiple lists to iterate over the items in one list. SharePoint 2013 is said to support loops in workflows, but that doesn’t mean that we are going table this current project until we are on SP2013. One reason is that I don’t know if the way SharePoint will support loops will do us any good. A second reason is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the feature get yanked out at the last moment. Finally, I have users waiting to use this solution. We may tweak our design to make it easier to change our workflows once looping is available, but for right now, it’s full speed ahead.

Here’s an example of how mass and motion combine to create momentum: prior to Microsoft announcing their upcoming slate (no pun intended) of tablets, we standardized on iPads. By standardize, I mean we put one in the hands of 2/3 of our employees, so that’s the mobile platform we have to work with through 2013. We have promised those same people a very specific app later this year, and I am still planning to build that app in xCode.

Planning – Microsoft might be reluctant to give me a roadmap that extends past the end of this year, but I have to give my boss one that stretches well into the future. In addition, I have to complete my 2013 budget request within 45 days. It was this time last year that we decided to buy those iPads, and when I think back, I didn’t see any reason why I should have made a different decision. So, looking ahead, I see continuing progress on using SharePoint to help us manage digital content and to improve the effectiveness of certain business processes. Our plans are based on what we know we can deliver during 2013. I stopped writing lists of accomplishments that begin with “due to the later than promised release of…” a long time ago. Our hardware, software, storage and bandwidth budgets will all be predicated on what we know (in September 2012) will happen in 2013.

3 thoughts on “No Train Wrecks Allowed

  1. PictureIf you want to think about momentum, think about 130 tons of moving iron and steel. The old New Haven Railroad paint scheme is my favorite among trains, and I keep trying to get a great picture, but I keep settling for any picture I can get.

  2. Dan I think settling is the only thing we have to learn in every field whether it is to take any picture or it's related to nay failure in development. Better settling always solves most of your problems which one needs to learn in every phase of their life as well to other things.

  3. Marsden, I hae the idea of "settling" but I am also a firm believer of the adage "perfection is the enemy of good (or good enough)" so I guess I'll go along with you on this.

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