Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do not think that project management is easy

I find that some companies thinks that project management is a given, and would assign anyone to handle the project management. When the project fails, they blame the person who's assigned it. However, the fact is that project management is not easy if you really want to do a good job.

What is project management? In essence, you're managing scope, schedule and resource. However, is that all you're managing? You have to read between the lines.

What is scope? The requirements of the project constitutes the scope and I think all project managers know how often do stakeholders know what they truly want. The fact is that most stakeholders do not know, or do not want to be responsible to decide what the project should be. Many of them end up coming up with very vague or generic statements that does nothing to help the project succeed. How is the project manager supposed to manage that? Well, the project manager is supposed to. Easy?

What is schedule? Simply, management thinks that it's just a list of tasks with deadlines. However, schedule is always intricately linked with the scope. Anytime the scope changes, the schedule could potentially change. That's the part where management usually do not quite comprehend. For example, if the scope of the requirements suddenly increased due to the vagueness of the requirements, not only the time to confirm the requirements increase, the time to develop the requirements also increase. It's an exponential effect and guess what? The project manager is supposed to manage that aspect.

Resource... The problematic component of the equation. Is it easy to manage the morale of the team or the budget allocated to that project? Well, if you do not know what I'm talking about, you have never managed a project as a project manager.

All the 3 points linked to one critical aspect of the project. Quality, which I would say is the most important component of the project.

And guess what? In Singapore, most project managers are "part-timing" and yet senior management blame them when the project is not going well. Guess we can't please everyone.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

What does Detroit's bakruptcy filing really mean?

The Motor City's bankruptcy (Detroit) filing should set off alarm bells for the other US states mainly because of the reason of the bankruptcy. It's the cost of paying retirement benefits.

There were always rumours that the United States will not be able to sustain the generous retirement benefits for their workers and looks like Detroit is the first one to throw in the towel. The changing demographics of developed countries will soon be forcing a re-think of the concept of retirement because companies nowadays are too fixated on productivity.

Why do I link it to productivity? Long time ago, you go to work at 8am, and leave by 5pm. That leaves plenty of time for yourself, your spouse, and your family. Now, you're expected to go home later, and yet still check your email after that. Yes, on paper, it looks great because you're getting more output per worker but what's the cost? There is always a cost to productivity and it's whether you choose to recognise it or not. That's ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Coming back to Detroit, the worry is that this will set off a wave of bankruptcy because Detroit is not the only city in the world facing this problem. The more pressing problem at hand is that municipal bonds, once touted as one of the safest in the world, will no longer be safe. That would pose problems to other cities that raises money via these bonds. If all the mutual funds start to take flight from these bonds, it will trigger a chain effect throughout the US.

My guess is the US will step in to save the day. That is if their government is still functioning.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Be a Realist

I quote from William Arthur Ward:
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Inflation is up 1.8%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2013:
January: 3.6%
February: 4.9%
March: 3.5%
April: 1.5%
May: 1.6%
June: 1.8%

Healthcare is once again leading the pack, rising by 4.3%. Housing and Recreation & Others are tied, rising 3% respectively year on year.

Transport is still carrying on its downward trend, dropping by 1.6% year on year, which represents a lower drop compared to previous month. There is a slight uptrend most probably due to the increase of oil prices, increasing by almost 1% compared to last month. There was also a general uptrend in inflation for the other items in the inflation basket.

As mentioned previously, the next few months will most probably see an uptrend in the inflation according to the trend I'm seeing from the results, and based on my observations on the private transport pricing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Restrict foreign workers result in drop of productivity?

I've read recent comments that certain individuals have been saying that the restriction of foreign workers result in a drop of productivity. The only reason this will be true is that the company has been relying on very cheap labour to sustain the business operations. Therefore, when you restrict the cheap labour, the business operations will collapse because the business model is no longer sustainable.

Looking at this issue from the perspective of a Singaporean, I would say that this will be a good thing for Singapore because if the business is relying on cheap labour to sustain business operations, that would mean that there is a depression of salaries for all workers in Singapore. However, we all know that inflation has been consistently high for a number of years. This cannot be sustained.

Business has to change in order to survive, and that may mean re-thinking the business model.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Big Data is important.. for the SIs

Big data is a technology that helps customers analyse large amount of data in a short time. It is something that is being repeated by all vendors and deemed important to everyone. Some might have heard of Hadoop, the platform used to perform analysis of big data. However, is it that important?

First, big data technology is not new. In essence, it uses parallel processing to run queries concurrently using algorithms so that the processing of the queries will be quicker. Analysis of big data is never in real time, and is usually run in batches.

Therefore, I do not quite see why big data is suddenly so important to everyone when this technology existed for quite some time. Google has been using it for years.

Why is it important? Other than the importance of doing data analysis to find trends and patterns, it is also important because it causes customers to be more reliant on system integrations (SIs).

Why do I say that? It's quite obvious. Doing big data analysis requires 2 major works to be executed:
  1. A consultancy study to analyse the type of information that needs to be mined and if it is available
  2. A development project to develop the algorithms to mine the data and produce reports that is understandable to customers

Who does both works? The SIs.

Big data is important if customers are certain on what they require and they are already capturing the required data. If customers just want to jump on the big data wagon just because everyone is talking about it, I think the better suggestion is to re-analyse the business processes to find out what gives, or will give the business the competitive advantage.

After that, then look at if big data can help you.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Do not put your ego first

I quote from Jessica Simpson:
Well I think any designer that can understand what people need to be wearing right now is the biggest and best step that you can take. Instead of putting your ego first, you put the buyer first. And I think that that's a really important thing just to know what the consumer is wanting to wear.

Remember that it is not always about you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sony's divisions should be kept together

Many analysts are trying to get Sony to separate it's internal divisions as they are valued more individually than its sum of parts but seriously, I think they are quite old-schooled.

The reason is simple. Have the analysts tried to minus off the synergy benefits of the integration between the different divisions in Sony when they tried to calculate their individual value? Many people tend to discount the fact that the synergy between divisions within an organisation can often make 1 + 1 = 11. By splitting them, the standalone entity will start losing its edge because there is no longer any information flowing in and out.

For example, I could see so many integration points between Sony Music, Sony Pictures, and the Playstation division. If they are split, all 3 divisions might suffer "damages" that could not be recovered. In fact, there might also be integration points between the playstation, mobile and tv division.

I myself use a Sony playstation and integrate it with my Sony TV so that I can control it all with my TV remote control. It's something that many people have discounted, and no, it's not something new.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Finally less emphasis on academic subjects?

Recently, it was mixed relief that I read that children can soon use other subjects other than Maths, Science and Chinese to develop their other talents. I always find the strict curriculum puzzling because the government has always been trying to encourage innovation and yet makes the curriculum so strict from Primary school all the way to University. Not sure how that could encourage innovation.

According to what I read, if a child is keen to develop his musical talent in niche schools which have a Chinese orchestra or band; he could use his English and music grades plus two other subjects. The idea is to signal to students that they are free to discover their talents and develop them to a higher standard in secondary school. Arts could also include the visual arts, dance and theatre.

This is good news because I hope that this means the government finally realised that the world is bigger than Chinese, Maths, and Science. My results were never good except for subjects related to Information Technology, which resulted in my results being very poor until I went to Polytechnic.

I hope this means that students now do not need to go through what I've been through.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to hinge together

I quote from Lisa Kleypas in Blue-Eyed Devil:
I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together. 

It's not about perfection.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) values are derived from five major pollutants – particulate matter of 10 micrometres or less (PM10), sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide. In Singapore, the pollutant with the highest index over a 24-hour period is used to describe the air quality for the particular day, and Singapore has a 3-hour period PSI index.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was using the PSI Index until June 2000, where EPA started using the new Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI includes a new health risk category (unhealthy for sensitive groups) and two additional pollutants: ozone averaged over 8 hours, and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).

Yes, US has been reported PM2.5 since year 2000. Go figure.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Minimum wage used to curb discontent over widening wealth gap

Factories in China, Malaysia and Vietnam are battling rising costs as governments in Asia increase minimum wages to curb discontent over a widening wealth gap. Many companies have started shifting their factories either to areas where there is no minimum wage, or lower minimum wage.

Does it help? Well, it depends whether they take into account the costs of relocation to justify the move. My guess? It doesn't make sense, unless you're heavily into manual labour instead of using technology to help to make production more effectively. As long as you're not doing anything to reduce heavy reliance on manual labour, you will lose out to those that make use of process optimisation and technology to make their process more efficient.

Singapore has always been emphasising on productivity, too much in fact in my opinion. However, Singapore's version of minimum wage is by increasing the foreign workers levy and subsidising lowly paid Singaporeans. Does it have the same effect? If you look at the pay and maths perspective, actually yes.

However the issue is the enforcement of the foreign workers levy and the passes that companies used to justify the hiring of foreign workers do not seem to be heavily enforced. Once better enforced based on the current rules, I believe Singaporeans will start feeling the difference. Often when we go to work, we find ourselves in a "foreign land" where we rarely see Singaporeans. This needs to change.

I believe this is the main sense of our discontent. Why do we feel like a foreigner even in our own country? Doesn't makes sense right?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage

I quote from Andrew Solomon:
“It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.”

Something I like to remind myself when I'm at work as there are certain actions which I absolutely detest, but yet consistently exhibited by certain individuals at work. I hope my conscious mind can intervene at all times.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Listen to direct feedback from customers

Sometimes, I'm very amazed by the communications division of the organisation where direct feedback (e.g. emails) was given and the organisation instead used an externally conducted survey to discount that direct feedback. So which kind of surveys should an organisation listen to? Some survey that the organisation commissioned to get feedback or direct feedback from the customers or public?

Seriously, my answer is a no-brainer. Direct feedback from the customers or public is the truest form of feedback. I'm never a fan of commissioned survey because I believe that the sampling used will not be a good gauge of what's truly happening on the ground. All organisations should appreciate direct feedback from the customers or public because direct feedback is only given when the customers or the public truly hopes that the organisation will improve in that product or service, which to them is the only road-block to great service.

If you receive many of the same feedback, take it seriously. I believe many have learned probability when they studied Maths. Look at it. What's the probability of having hundreds or thousands of unrelated people giving feedback on the same issue and it's not true?

Monday, July 1, 2013

CRM for employees are mostly missing

Organisations have always tried to emphasise on external customers by investing in customer relationships management (CRM) software to provide the value-add to customers, to differentiate themselves. Research has shown that 86% of customers stop buying a product after a bad experience. However, organisations seem to mostly neglect one aspect of CRMs. Internal customers, a.k.a employees.

Seriously, it is extremely difficult for anyone to sell something that they do not believe in. If your employees do not believe in the organisation in the first place and that it treats you like "family", how do you sell the services and products effectively? Aren't employees internal customers of your products and services? Why are organisations not investing in "CRM for employees"? The same research for CRM also applies to employees.

Before someone plugs in an intranet social networking software and think that it will do the trick, just remember that software is only as good as the people who are using it. Having an intranet social networking software will give you the tool, but if you have no content or process to handle it, you might as well donate the money to charity. For example, are you giving employees the tools to provide feedback and to provide collaboration internally on the types of products and services available?

Do note that it is definitely possible for information from your intranet to flow to your CRM so that your frontline staff will be able to provide additional information to the customers from the discussions that you have internally, securely.

I guess people are looking too much at the bottom line to see the long term benefits.

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