More In House

Hot on the heels of my post about doing work in house, InfoWorld’s Deep End column takes a look at build-vs-buy.

Relying solely on support contracts and generic solutions is a good way to self-limit the agility and performance of any business. In short, more gurus equals less hand-wringing and stress all around.

In an era when software is eating the world, information agility is key to competitiveness (or, in government terms, “effective service delivery”), when competitors are investing heavily in brain power, why would any organization dumb itself down?

Do It In House

This morning, I was struck by this nice write-up about how the Hungarian railway accurately geo-located and inventoried their assets:

The work was done entirely by MAV employees which made it much less expensive than if external contractors would have had to have been used. Overall it is estimated that as a result of using internal resources and a GPS/GLONASS-based approach the project was 16 times more efficient than a traditional survey. And the project generated a lot of pride among MAV employees who carried out the work because it was such a remarkable achievement from a data collection, management and quality perspective.

Here’s is an incredibly stupid thing for a consultant to say, but nonetheless: if you can do it in house, why wouldn’t you? Even if it’s a bit of a stretch, your in house resources:

  • have a predictable cost structure
  • already understand your core business
  • have a feel for the historical reasoning behind business processes

New IT infrastructure is strategic almost by definition. Why would you outsource your most important strategic initiatives? If you’re anticipating failure, perhaps it’s a good idea. But if you succeed, you’ve just invested in building intellectual capital in a population of people outside your organization. And you’ve lowered the engagement of your core staff in the future of the organization.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and it’s all too common that management is most contemptuous of the people they are most familiar with: their own staff. Hence the lure of the shiny consultant (love me! I’m shiny!).

2012 Code Sprint

One of the nerdy highlights of my year is the always the annual North American code sprint (previously held in Toronto (2009), New-York (2010) and Montreal (2011)). It started out as a MapServer, C-Tribe kind of thing, but has also had participants from the OpenLayers and GeoServer community too. Basically, if you have an open source geoproject and a team of more than one, the sprint is an excellent opportunity to get face time and serious progress under your belt.

This year, the sprint is on Bainbridge Island near Seattle and the nature of the venue (all inclusive, room, board, meeting space) means pre-registration is de riguer. So if you’re coming, please register now.

Federal NDP Leadership Poll

The Federal NDP is in a leadership race, which means that candidates who have paid their entrance fee have access to the membership list, some 100,000 Canadians like myself. As a political observer and data fiend, who had access to such a list myself only this spring, I love watching to see how people make use of it: do we get the standard policy screed, the informative candidate-is-visiting message, or something more devious… like the below! So, an email arrives stating:

Dear Member of NDP,

I would really appreciate your participation in a study we’re currently conducting amongst members of the federal NDP.

I recognize that you’re busy, so this survey is very straightforward and can easily be completed online at your convenience, in about 15 minutes. Please complete the survey before Tuesday November 15th.

All information provided by respondents will be kept strictly confidential and used only for legitimate research purposes. Study sponsors will not have access to your name, address or phone number.

To begin the survey, simply click on the link below. If your email does not support hotlinks, copy and paste the link into your browser.


If you encounter any problems, please contact me at the e-mail address below.

Thank you in advance for participating in our survey.


Agnes Klich Project Management Team Leader

The fact that they have the NDP membership list, and the content of the poll, lead me to believe it is associated with a leadership campaign in some way. But it’s been done anonymously. The campaign that has done this both (a) gets the data and (b) pretty much ensures that anyone else trying the same gambit will get a much lower response rate. The poll itself is very long, I wonder how many full responses they get? I also wonder if there will be any blowback for using the list in this way? Based on the content of the poll, which campaign do you think is behind it? If the answer seems obvious, and you think there will be blowback, could the poll in fact be the product of a different campaign? Ain’t politics grand?

Update: Just to leave no stone unturned, I asked the researcher who commissioned the study, but the answer is not illuminating:

The Logit Group is a Gold Seal Member Agency of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Associaton (MRIA), Canada’s governing body for all market research firms. As such, we conform to all regulations related to privacy and confidentiality. In this instance, the organization that provided us with member lists required that the survey be completed in a confidential, or “blind” method (whereby the survey sponsor was not identified at the outset). In return, the responses of individual members (such as yourself) would not be attributed to you specifically when reported back (survey findings would only be provided in aggregate form).

Manager, Strategic Management

Every week, LinkedIn kindly sends me a list of “jobs I might be interested in”, which I have to say is an interesting feature, given the data they have to work with. Like the early days of Google advertising, it’s fun to see what the algorithm comes up with as “relevant” to me. And this week I got this awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome entry:

Manager, Strategic Management
The Manager, Strategic Management is accountable for leading the development, maintenance and evaluation of corporate planning, performance management, benchmarking, risk management, and reporting programs. The position reports to the Chief Executive Officer of BC Assessment and works directly with the governing Board of Directors to facilitate strategic planning and risk management sessions. The position exercises considerable latitude and independence to oversee and develop a coordinated and consultative corporate plan, risk and performance management culture across BC Assessment. In this role, the position is expected to manage the corporate planning cycle to achieve a top to bottom linking of mandate and vision of operational business activities including the annual and year-over-year alignment of budgets, resource allocation, performance and risk management programs. This position leads a small team, including senior program analysts and a research officer.

People I trust tell me BC Assessment has so much money, they really do eat $16 muffins for breakfast, but the existence of the “Manager, Strategic Management” is all the proof I need.