Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The XML Condom: A New Type of Consultant?

It was with a curious eye I reviewed a presentation from a well known consultant (read:integrator) that has a very interesting thesis. I can hear the collective "WTF" from my blog readers now, so I better explain.

You see, this consultant is part of the traditional speaker circuit, you know the one...quid pro quo, you speak at my conference and I will speak at yours. As always, gratuitous pictures of him are included in the PowerPoint, because we all know how important it is to see these. Additionally, the presentation usually names drops companies or people, in this case, a sales prospect in the audience.

The thesis is this: You need protection from software companies! Thus, the XML Condom consultant is born. Without the condom, you will be taken advantage of, sold goods you do not need and probably fail in your job because you are too stupid to select software and services on your own. The XML Condom will protect you. This Condom has super powers, it's industrial strength with charisma of a used car salesman.

Well, we have all bought products and services that we wish, after the fact, we should not have bought. Whether its sofware, legal services, financial products, electronic equipment or even food, we have all been "sold" something we did not need or was not a perfect fit. So, do we really need this type of "protection"? And more importantly, how does this protection get paid and what conflicts of interest exist. Is there a hole in the XML Condom Consultant Story?

I must admit that our company hires consultants for issues we have no expertise. In fact, some of these people are very well trusted in the industry. One of the common attributes they are share is the fact that none of them are tied, compensated or paid in any fashion to sell or represent any product or service. There is no conflict of interest. This is the best consultant, one that has no incentive to push one way or another. If the consultant has products listed on his/her website, you can be sure he/she is not impartial, no matter what they say.

Back to our XML Condom Consultant. So, I recently had the honor to visit one of his customers. They are currently reviewing software packages to make a purchase decision. I asked them, "How does it really work with the XML Condom Consultant?" WOW. Here is the real deal. The customer calls the consultant and says they are thinking about buying software. The XML Condom Consultant says for 2,000 per day, I can come in and protect you and tell you what to buy. Customer says, "No thanks, we just want to buy software". XML Condom Consultant turns around and magically transforms himself into extra lubed "Value-Added-Reseller" and tries selling software product. The ones listed on his website. The ones where he gets a nice cool commission or maybe the next speaking gig, or in this case, the software package that requires integration services, offered, of course, by the XML Condom much for impartial protection.

There are many experts that deserve our support. They are highly skilled and qualified, and many times underpaid. When you find one of these, you will use them over and over again. The XML Condom Consultant is simply a ruse. I think we have torn a hole in the story. In the end, anyone claiming to be altruistic in providing software and services is simply not being honest at best, and misleading at worst. Ask for a "conflict of interest" disclosure from your consultant. Ask him to disclose all financial remuneration from third parties. That might offer you the best protection in the end.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To express an opinion or not?

I have received a few interesting reactions to the blog below. One guy wanted to thank me for expressing an opinion that he was feeling, too. He works for a large defense company and is “sick and tired” of dollars being spent on consultants and un-necessary projects. I can think of one project that was over 80mil that was essentially put in the trash after someone retired and they let go of all the staff.
The other response was actually more interesting, because it’s a person that is well respected in the community. He felt I was taking the program office to task. Quite honestly, it was not the intent or reason for the post. I was taking to task another set of consultants that really did not do much, and I am sure they billed quite a few hours.
Some have eluded that by expressing my opinion that I will no longer be able to do business with the DOD. Let’s hope that not the case. Let’s hope the DOD makes buying decisions not on blogs but on best value to the American taxpayer and what is in the best interest of our troops. I am sure that’s the case!

Monday, April 19, 2010

US Airforce Business Rules Document. Is that all there is?

The US Airforce with the help of a PTC and another consultant have proudly posted a business rules document on the web for review.

So, as a tax paying citizen, I have one comment for the US Airforce. "I hope you did not pay too much money for this document"

I mean, come on guys. Did you need a consultant to state

"S1000D Chapter, Paragraph 2
USAF projects must decide on which information sets are used and the definition of their content.

USAF projects must agree with the customer on the project specific information sets."

I am completly suprised by the number of simple references to the specification. You could have gotten that for free in our pocket guide. Is it not obvious that you need to decide on which information sets are going to be used? The standard says so. Plain and simple.


Gosh, I hope us taxpayers did not pay too much for the creation of that document. I can't wait for round two. Let's hope these consultants can put some meat on the bones.

Also, someone in the S1000D community should file a Freedom of Information Act filing to see how much we paid for this.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When does a standard or specification lose its meaning?

This is a question that I have been thinking about for a long time with S1000D. Look at the most important specficiations or standards we have today; xml, xslt, html.....80211...

Look how many versions these standards have. You see my point? The fact is the velocity of change for S1000D is hurting its viability. The cost to create, maintain and train staff of each new version is becoming a large problem to many in the industry.

The tug of war between industry, Defense Departments and now users has begun. I think it might be time to slow the train down. Everyone cannot catch-up, and it appears that a new version has become expected like the vendage of wines. It's October, there must be a new version.

The great standards don't change so often. If its a windmill that is in constant movement, many may just decide to look for another standard that is not in constant flux.

Let's hope S1000D does not continue to shift and shimmy like the wind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What version should I use? Our View....

This is one of the most basic questions that many users are struggling with. What is the correct version to use for the new S1000D project. We have seen many project fail based on the wrong decision here. One important point DO NOT SELECT a .0 release of the specification. It has proven to be very unreliable followed by an update such 4.0.1 or 4.1 which comes out nearly one year after the 4.0 release. Our take right now is that 3.x is the most robust and reliable version. If you must use 4.x, then we suggest you look carefully and you justify in your own mind the "Why" of the decision.

The latest in not the best, it is simply that, the latest. In all cases, Inmedius will support the latest version and we will continue to be first to market with our support

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's really going on...

This blog will take you through the unique world of S1000D. Insider information, practical advice, the politics of the standard and of course, real world examples that will help you navigate this unique world.

If you want to really know how to adopt this standard and be succsseful, this will be the resource you are looking for. If you want the same old answers, from the same old people, then you might want to look elsewhere.