Thursday, August 10, 2006

August 14, 2006


An updated version of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen.

Once upon a time there was an IT Director who was so fond of his computers that he spent all of his company's money on elegant hardware and software. He was not concerned with managing his information resources or solving the business problems of the company; he was computer-rich in equipment and boasted of his prowess with technology.

There was plenty of fun going on in the department where the IT Director lived. Programmers were allowed to play to their hearts' content. Strangers were continually arriving to tour the director's facilities. One day there came two swindlers. They said they were IT gurus and could improve the productivity of the director's staff and reduce the backlog of user information requests. The IT Director found the swindlers hypnotic, especially when they promised to break the information bottleneck through sophisticated techniques and power tools for software engineering. Not only were their proposed tools and techniques unusually attractive, but also the information systems produced from them had the peculiarity of being invisible to anyone who was not fit for his post or who was hopelessly stupid.

"I say! These must be wonderful tools," the IT Director thought. "If I had them, I would have the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology in the industry. Imagine what I could do with them. Yes, I must have all of them at once." And he paid a large sum of money to the swindlers to deliver their tools as fast as possible.

And so it came to pass that the tools were spread throughout the department - visual programming tools, 4GL's, program generators, report writers, prototyping aids, CASE tools, data dictionaries, data base management systems, data mining tools, BPR tools, Agile Methods and personal computers, along with a collection of esoteric design techniques. The technology also spread quickly to other parts of the company, where users had access to them. And the machine cycles whirled, much to the delight of the hardware vendor.

"Well, now, I wonder how everything is going?" the IT Director said to himself. But there was one point that made him feel rather anxious, namely, that a man who was stupid or quite unfit for his post would never be able to see the information system that had been produced. Not that he, the IT Director, need have any fears for himself - he was quite confident about that - but all the same, it might be better to send someone else first, to find out how things were going.

"I'll send my honest old systems programmer for a demonstration of the consultants' tools," the IT Director thought. "He's the best one to see what the stuff looks like, for he has plenty of sense, and nobody fills his post better than he does."

So off went the honest old systems programmer to the workshop where the two swindlers sat busy at their screens. "Lord, bless my soul!" thought the systems programmer, with eyes staring out of his head.

"Why, I can't see anything!" But he was careful not to say so.

The two swindlers begged him to take a closer look - didn't he find the design most attractive? Then they pointed to the computer monitor, but, although the poor old systems programmer opened his eyes wider and wider, he couldn't see a thing, for there wasn't a thing to see. "Good Lord!" he thought, "Is it possible that I'm stupid? I never suspected that, and not a soul must hear of it."

"Well, what do you think of it?" one of the swindlers asked.

"Oh, it's elegant! Quite sophisticated!" the old systems programmer said, looking through his spectacles. "I shall certainly tell the IT Director how pleased I am with it."

By and by, the IT Director sent another honest technician to see how the technology was working in the company. The swindlers accompanied him on his journey. As they traveled throughout the company, the gurus made sure that the technicians saw only what they wanted him to see. He saw programmers generating software and prototyping screens; he saw users developing their programs and files, all at a high rate of speed. The swindlers were quick to point out how fast things were happening and marveled at their tools.

"But the software that is being designed doesn't satisfy any information needs and is making us dependent on our hardware more than ever," the technician thought to himself. "And the users are building systems that do not communicate with other systems through a shared data base. I know that I'm not stupid, but if I say that there is no management control here, then people will think I'm not fit for my position." And then he praised the tools, which he knew were compounding problems for the company. "Yes, it's quite sophisticated," he said to the IT Director when he got back.

The splendid tools became the talk of the town. And now the IT Director himself said that he must try the new tools. Quite a throng of select people, including the two honest old technicians, went with him to where the crafty swindlers were demonstrating the latest technology.

"Look, isn't it magnificent!" the two honest technicians said, as they gazed upon the monitors.

"What's this?" the IT Director thought. "I don't understand a thing - this is appalling! Am I stupid? Am I not fit to be IT Director? This is the most terrible thing that could happen to me..."

"Oh, it's quite wonderful," he said to them. "It has our most gracious approval." And he gave a satisfied nod. All the courtiers who had come with him looked and looked, but they made no more of it than the rest. Still, they all said just what the IT Director said, and they advised him to demonstrate the devices for the first time at the corporate executive meeting that was to take place shortly.

On the eve of the meeting, the swindlers sat up all night trying to prepare for the critical demonstration.

Then the IT Director went to the corporate executive meeting with the gurus and explained the new tools with great delight. The swindlers put on a demonstration that startled the executives. Not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or to seem stupid, they all praised the IT Director for the unbelievable technology. "Marvelous! Sensational!" they all said. Never had the IT Director's technology been such a success.

"But you still haven't solved your problems!" a visiting consultant said. "You've only attacked the symptoms. Your user backlog hasn't been reduced; in fact, it has grown. You haven't improved productivity. Your people still aren't addressing the critical business systems problems of your company. You are not applying any management control over your environment. You've only compounded the problem by adding a lot of technical overhead that is creating financial losses for your company. No amount of elegant technology will solve your problems - only management will."

"Goodness gracious, do you hear what he is saying?" the executives whispered from one to the other. Then they all shouted, "But you still haven't solved our problems!" And the IT Director felt most uncomfortable, for it seemed to him that the executives were right. But somehow he thought to himself, "I must go through with it now. I have too much invested in it already." And so he drew himself up still more proudly, while swindler gurus chased after him with more new ideas, for they had found an endless source of revenue, even in spite of the obvious.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"Technology alone will not solve our problems, only effective management will."


We've just introduced a new free service for managers to perform a self-analysis of their style of management, including leadership and corporate culture. Check it out at:


The British Academy of Management will be holding their 2006 Conference at The Waterfront Hall and Hilton Hotel, in Belfast, Northern Ireland on September 12th-14th. For information, contact Clare Saunders in their London office at +44 (0)20-7383-7770 or visit their web page at:

The Society for Information Management will be holding their SIMposium 2006 on September 17-20 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. For information, contact SIM headquarters in Chicago at 312/527-6734

Verify 2006, the International Software Test Conference, will be held October 10th-11th in Washington, DC at the Crown Plaza Hotel Crystal City. For information, call 703/725-3051.

The International Institute of Business Analysis will be holding their World Congress for Business Analysts (in conjunction with ProjectWorld 2006) on November 6th-9th at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, FL. For information, call 212/661-3500 x 3702 or visit their web site at:

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Folks, we've just released a new book on management entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

Charles Cole of Lyndhurst, OH, said it is a "Very interesting book. Good work! It reminds me of some of the early works I read by W. Edwards Deming. Too bad the American corporate gurus of his day didn't pay him heed."

And Wolf Hager of Fort Myers, FL, says it is "A very impressive publication which requires careful reading and reminds me somewhat of Peter Drucker."

The price is just $20 plus tax. For more information on our book or to order on-line, see:

We have also just produced a new one-day training program of the same name. For more information on both the eBook and course, please visit our web site at:

While there, look for our new MS PowerPoint presentation describing both the book and the training program.


The expression "State of the Art" is normally associated with leading edge technology; some say "bleeding edge" to indicate that it is not exactly stable yet and you should try it at your own risk. But I was recently asking some friends from outside of the I.T. industry how they would characterize the expression "State of the Art" and I got some rather interesting responses; some said it was simply "the most current," but interestingly, many others regard is as the "sexiest," or "most expensive." Frankly, its hard to argue with them. What is perceived as "State of the Art" is often very dated technology that happens to be sold very well. For example, its no secret that I am no fan of Microsoft products and, as such, I am already chuckling over the pending release of Windows Vista, Microsoft's next major release of the Windows operating system, which is suppose to ship in early 2007 (maybe). One of the features you'll get with Vista is speech recognition so that you can issue verbal commands to your computer and do voice-type dictation. Sounds "State of the Art" right? Hmm, this sounds familiar. Wait, now I remember, IBM issued the same functionality in OS/2 Warp 4 in 1996 (Gee, that's just ten years ago).

Regrettably, "State of the Art" is nothing more than whatever is fashionable, not necessarily what is leading-edge. And this is all controlled in Redmond, Washington.

As for me, I say the "State of the Art" is whatever is practical and cost effective to implement, and solves the problem in the most productive manner possible. Oh Yea, ...and will be around for the foreseeable future. In other words, you should spend less time worrying about what is the "State of the Art" and be more concerned with what gets you the most bang for your buck.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Friends, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but we've added a Frapper map to the "Management Visions" web site. Frapper is a free mapping service offered by the folks at Rising Concepts, LLC, and allows you to plot yourself on a worldwide map. This is a great way to keep track of our listeners and I encourage you to try it out through our web page or by clicking HERE.


I received an e-mail from a Mike Jones in New York who wrote me regarding comments I made recently regarding Agile Methodologies and requirements definition.
Mike writes:

"I see you are on the warpath again over requirements definition and Agile Methodologies. What's going on?"

Thanks Mike for your note,

Yea, I recently read that an Agile fanatic said it was pointless to define requirements since they are constantly changing. Instead requirements should be flexible. I think he's got it wrong for two reasons: first, the product should be flexible to implement requirements, not the other way around, and, second; I still don't believe the Agile people have a clue as to what requirements are all about in systems development.

Let's clear something up right now, you cannot say "requirements" without also saying what the targeted deliverable will be. How we specify requirements for an automobile is substantially different than how we specify requirements for a building. Along this line, how we specify requirements for an information system is substantially different than how we specify requirements for software; they are not synonymous, and I believe this concept alludes the Agile fanatics.

Information Requirements are needed to define a system architecture with its sub-systems (its business processes).

Data and processing requirements are needed to define software.

In other words, there are layers of requirements that are refined over phases of development, from general to specific, so that by the time we get to programming there should be no guesswork whatsoever. The point is, the requirements for defining systems are substantially different than for defining software. Comparing the two is like comparing apples with oranges.

The Agile fanatics rightfully ask, "What happens if a change occurs in the requirements or design?" Well, if you manage information resources correctly, using a repository, it is a moot point, for it will keep track of all of the relationships and update the documentation automatically.

But since the Agile fanatics resist structure and discipline of any kind, they will continue to bamboozle people with facade as opposed to substance. Remember, the Agile fanatics see themselves more as free-spirited artists as opposed to disciplined craftsmen. As soon as you ask them to start defining their terms and concepts, they start running for the hills. And because their scope of operation is limited to software, they will never be able to conquer any enterprise-wide systems of any substance. They'll just keep writing software one program at a time and hopefully, sometime down the road, it will all somehow turn into a cohesive unit. You know what, it will never happen. Time and again, history has proven such charades simply do not work.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

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Copyright © 2006 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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