Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Pitfall of Business Software Development

After so long in the IT industry, especially Software Development / Business Consulting, I kinda feel the approach we are applying are flawed.

The customer says they need some system (maybe wanted to build a child bicycle), thus we come in to find out what they need. In the process of asking what they need, they feel maybe the child bicycle is too simple and not powerful enough, thus they told us to build a high-speed bicycle instead. After the second discussion with top management, they feel the high-speed bicycle is not good enough. They wanted to add in a motor, add some bell and whistle, change to metallic colour with stripes, and perhaps attached a mobile shopping cart at the back. Then we have the first release out, and the CEO feel that the motorcycle is not good enough, that they need a car. Then we call for enhancement to modify the motorcycle into car, and the car ends up to be a sport car and launch the product after a 12 months delay. Then the luxury car is too powerful and complicated, that no one knows how to use 90% of its feature. The sport car is too expensive and too difficult to use, and it ends up as a white elephant. What they user actually need is just a children bicycle, but the feature-creep within the users, management and CEO wanted mega-project to fulfilled their own desire.

So, what happen when you let the customer decide what to build? They would want everything under the sun, everything to be automated and everything from the best of the world. You can have all that, but it comes with time, money and risk, which you might not be able to afford. A simple accounting system can cost from RM 2000 to RM 1,000,000. Can you lived with a RM 2000 accounting system, or are you willing to fork out another RM 10K to buy another slightly better one. Is the money worth spending? Do you staff really need it or know how to use it? Yes, the RM 2000 is not really powerful, but can you live with the slight inconvenience, but lower cost and great simplicity? Are you paying money to make your life miserable? Do you intend to buy a perfect system which is too costly or too hard to build? Do you actually need those extra features? Are you being a wise consumer?

Most software project fails, or turns out not profitable. Perhaps it is wrong to let the customer to be the 100% decision maker. As consultant, we could persuade and advice the customer, sometimes they don’t listen, or sometimes our advice could be bad for our own business. It's not easy, it require education on the customer side and the software developer side. The customer can't always be right, as they customer don't know what they actually want.

Solution? No one simple solution for all. Why not always just build a simple bicycle first, launch the product and see how it goes. If it works well and become profitable, then we could slowly upgrade it to a motorcycle or car. Or just use some off the shelf product if you could, as you might not be ready to deal with the cost and risk of customised software. Simplicity (if you could afford it) is the key to a successful implementation. Even if you have 10 system to build, you could always start with 1 rather 10 at a go, as there is always a lot of lessons to be learn from the first one (so that it could benefit the rest). Every system is urgent, but you could actually spent 12 months talking and making decison, while only allocate 1 month for the system to be delivered? If this is not digging you own grave, tell me what are you doing here? Forcing the vendor to deliver the system at unreasonable timeframe doesn't benefit you at all, and does it make you feel powerful in the process?

Simple, Low Cost, Low Risk = Happiness + Satisfaction. It ain’t perfect, but it didn’t screw you up and it helps your business.

The pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of Happiness is a "sad" story which I want to avoid to watch, yet I feel that it is very meaningful and very touching as well. It kinda tell about life, the hardship in life and the struggle to achieve happiness.

Chris (Will Smith) is a single father with a cute young son, Christopher. Chris is struggling with his failed business, lost his wife, car and house, and had to find a job and struggling with a place to stay everyday while taking care of his child. He found a job (with good future) which doesn’t pay for 6 months and only pick one candidate out of a dozen at the end, and he try to make ends meet by selling the remaining medical equipment from his failed business. It’s not an easy path, where time is against him as he had to rush back to pick up his son and secure a place to stay at a local church, once spend the night at public toilet, and he did always need to go the extra miles so that he can complete things faster and better than others. He is smart, but life isn’t easy on him either. And this is a story of happy ending, for those who persist.

I guess most of us live in a life of luxury, where we have a place to stay, food on the table everyday and possibly a car. We don’t have to worry about survival, and we don’t go through much hardship. We try to make more money so that we could have a better life, but that’s a luxury. Maybe this is not really true, but at least I don’t know of anyone who is really hardcore poor. Even some charity homes in the city are getting enough funding nowadays, perhaps just not enough love and care to go around.

Is hardship really necessary to make us a better and stronger person? Is life nowadays to easy, or they are other nature of challenges awaiting us? Life is a journey, so it matters how we actually go through it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hong Kong & Macau Travel

Hong Kong is an energetic city, where everything is fast: people eat and walk fast, the elevator and train is fast. I think it can understand why Hong Kong is such a developed and competitive city, and the people really work hard for it.

On the other site, Hong Kong is not such a nice place to travel, not really friendly. People tends to be very moody (perhaps to tense up), and get angry very fast even at customer. I mean, you can’t browse the shop for too long if you didn’t plan to buy, or try the cloth and end up not buying, or eat for too long at the coffee shop or food stall. People will actually scold you or chase you away, and that is not really good hospitality or friendliness. You could actually feel the pressure when moving around the city, definitely not a place for enjoyment or retirement.

The Busy Street at Mong Kok
I notice a lot of people actually have their dinner after 10 PM, some even at midnight while I was having my supper. The food is quite expensive, but slightly cheaper if you order the set meal. They city is pack with people walking around all the time, thus there can be more than 10 coffee shop on the same street. A lot of luxury shopping complex (like Pavilion or Lot 10), and even more normal shopping complex (like Sungei Wang). Public transportation is very convenient (if you want to take the train, prepare to walk a lot), but sometimes street sign is not abundant. I would say Singapore is more systematic, but Hong Kong had bigger crowd. Hong Kong has Victoria Harbor and its ferry, the beautiful skyline, some village island for weekend vacation.

Meetup with Christine (aka Dream Girl), Terrence and Joanne (met 3 years back during our KK trip). Chit chat around Mong Kok area to catch up a bit about the past, about Hong Kong, and a little bit about everyone.

Madam Tussauds Wax Musuem with Yao Ming (give me the ball!)
Hong Kong night skyline, too bad it's hazzy
The Beautiful Lanma Island
Macau is a more relaxed city than Hong Kong, with less crowd and awful lots of Casino. The food is not as nice as Hong Kong, except for the small eateries and street food. Filled with museum, churches and Casino (Wynn, Sands, Venetian, etc). Sands is large, but I think Wynn is nicer and more comfortable.

I think I still prefer a non-City tour, something more village-like or nearer to nature :)

Hong Kong & Macau Travel Itenary

Day 1

Landed in Macau, take ferry to HK, check into Alisan Guest House (HKD450 per nite for 2 person) in Causeway Bay. It's a nice area with a good combination of Street Food, Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Dim Sum and Shopping Complex. Take the Train to Central, walk to the Tram Station and go up The Peak and visited the Madam Tussauds wax Musuem. Can't get a nice view of Hong Kong from the hill top due to the heavy mist.

Day 2
Went to Kowloon (start from Prince Edward) by ferry and train, visiting the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, Flower Market, Goldfish Market (Tung Choi Street), Fa Yen Street. Went to Jordan to take a rest at the Kowloon Park, visit Knutsford Terrace (western food around HKD 300 per person) and went straight to Star Ferry Terminal for the 8PM light show. I don't think it's spectacular, but it's a must do for tourist like me.

Day 3
Had Dim Dum at Chao Inn / Chiu Lau, pretty good with nice discount on weekdays morning. Take a ferry to Lanma Island, landed at Yung Shue Wan. It's a nice little village with a lot of nice place to stay and eateries. Cycling around here should be nice. We take a 90 minutes walk to Sok Kwn Wan, passing hills and beaches. The air is good, sceneary is nice. Go for seafood lunch for HKD 700 for 4 person. Took a ferry to Kowloon to visit the Temple Street and went back to Causeway Bay.

Day 4
Had dim sum at traditional chinese restaurant (Bak Sin Lau), not as good as the previous day one. Checkout and travel to Macau by TurboJet, and Check in at Holiday Inn for HKD 600 per room. The location is convient, room and bed is large and comfy. Went to Leal Senado Square, Ruins of St. Pauls. Lots of biscuit and street food. Wanted to visit A Lorcha for a protugese dinner, but it was closed on Tuesday. End up at another Portugese restaurant (few shop away) which is expensive with poor service. Went to Wynn Casino at night, plenty of free mineral water and a very nice ambience.

Day 5
Visit Fisherman Wharf in the monring (should visit this place at night), with replica of Romans, Alladin and Tang Structure, and a full row of dining shops. Visit Sands casino which is just the apposite. Take a flight back to Malaysia.

Links: Mei Ru's Multiply Hong Kong Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Macau Day 4 & 5

What about Mountain Trekking (Gunung Liang)

With more then 50 sand fly bites which still itches while I am typing this, about 2 dozens cuts, 1 bee sting, 1 bleeding knock on the head, countless fall, 2 leeches bite, a pair of aching leg, 1 bruised foot and a pair of torn pants, and I don’t quite have the answer for my parents when they ask me why I do it.

I start regretting after the 1st hour of going up, as I can feel again that I don’t really have the stamina and fitness to accomplish the task. Things aren’t getting any better, as the path just keep going up and up and up, and Mei Ru and I are the last pair of the team. There is no way for me to keep up with their pace, but I just have to make sure I don’t give up and keep moving up (just like when at Mount Semeru, I know I can make it, it’s just the matter of time). But time is of essence this time, as it’s getting darker and the misty surrounding and confusing path doesn’t quite make it easier. It took us around 9-10 hours and reach around 7PM plus, about 2 hours behind the team.

Liang is a moist and misty forest, with some leeches along the first one tenth of the journey (some said the leeches are awful lot, maybe it depends on the season). It had many varieties of mushrooms along the way, and quite a bushy track due to not many people trek up this hill. The scenery is nice, but nothing too spectacular. It’s a “breath-taking” mountain to climb, and think not many will return after the first visit (except Siong Har who conquer it 5 times).

Why do it? With all the pain, why?. To me, I think it’s about conquering myself. When I am in despair and on the verge of giving up, and I didn’t give up and keep on going until I reach the top to get my much deserved rest. I think it’s more of a psychological pleasure rather than physical. I think I give up too easily on many things, and I am neither a very energetic person nor good in sports. Maybe it’s something I am trying to conquer, or be good at it. But to be good in anything, there is a price to pay. For this, I need time and discipline.

Every time I realize that I am not quite fit enough, and I really need to do something to make my journey more comfortable, or at least to keep up with others. 2 weeks later is Batu Putih, and I wonder if I should take the challenge or retreat?

Photo Links: Mei Ru Multiply