In a luxurious conference room sit the CEO and his creative quartet:
VP Marketing, COO, CIO, VP Sales.
On the eastern wall - a giant plasma screen. You can see there CNN and FOX news.
You can also see there real time indicators on the company: Sales sums, call counts, max holding times in the call-center, goals vs execution, colors, graphs, etc., amazing!.
We look at the white board - a red list of topics is crossing it.
The idea was to seat a few days and assemble a list - we sat two hours.
Two day earlier I got a call from Charles.
Charles is an interesting merge between Seinfeld and a kibbutznik.
If you bump into Seinfeld in San Francisco - there is a good chance you met Charles.
If you see Seinfeld with Jeans, Crocs, Square flannel shirt half inside the pence half out - it is Charles.
He said on the phone: "Hi, I set up a week-long meeting, starting on Monday. We talk about our problems her and we think you should manage it. You need help in something?"
I am always happy to meet Charles - "I'll check and get back to you ...". I knew it is already lost ...
"Ah Ah, Well, it is Saturday evening at your place, it might be a good idea to pack and get a Taxi to the airport, see you on Monday, bye."
Charles works in an American company that gives financial services.
He is the CIO.
"New product time-to-market - 12 months!"
This is the first red point, in bold with font-36 (it is a gadget white board. of-course it is.)
Why? - many reasons, excuses, stories.
The CEO wants to shoot somebody. "It is unbelievable!!!" he barks.
He got a company with large turnovers, profitability was OK. He didn't come for that.
Growth. This is what the board wants. This is why he is here.
The company is not growing for years, he needs to bring growth. Period.
VP marketing - a marketing genius brought by the CEO - he and his crazy team has zillions of good ideas. He looks nervousely at Charles.
The VP Sales draws the smallest phone/camera/computer/Patriot in the northern hemisphere, looks at it and say: "American asks why not begin in two months, they will be ready in the end of the month".
Every product of the company should be supported by information system with maximum level of reliability, maximum level of concurrency, maximum level of availability (unavailability is a disaster). Everyone would like that, not everyone can afford it. In this company the budget was not an issue. They will spend anything to get it done.
The information systems infrastructure is AS/400 (every couple of years IBM changes the name...) and COBOL - and it goes all the way to the Plasma.
The systems are remarkably available, concurrent, reliable. The control is Amazing!
Changes? Not so fast ...
They have tens of millions lines of code.
It takes 10-20 months to put a new programmer into the code.
It takes 100 days to insert a minor change and verify nothing was damaged from the change.
Every year, 4-5 programmers are retired.
A new product? One year is considered an achievement.
Charles got two months to create solution plans. He also got a new product and had to implement it in two months (usually you don't say no to American Express).
First thing Charles did was changing from Crocs to Clogs.
First thing Charles said was: "I don't know what's worse: sweat smell in a car, feet smell after a day in Crocs, our information systems, or the phone call you are going to do with your wife..."
To be continued ...
(Clue: what is more simple - one large and complex problem or three small and not so complex problems. Or - how did NASA got to the moon?)