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testing vs agility

September 24th, 2007 . by maria

Gartner group vice-president Richard Hunter also author of ” IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into Competitive Advantage” , defines IT risk as ” anything that poses a risk to either the availability, access, accuracy or agility of a business” . He ranks availability as most important. ” Dollars spent on availability are dollars well spent,” he said.

One thing that jumps out at me is ” agility” . I’ve found that as our company grows, we have been losing agility. As we incorporate more checks and balances and testing into our application development process, we lose the ability to pop out new applications or new features as-needed. As we standardize on certain software and hardware, we lose the willingness to incorporate one-off items where the business processes call for it – at least without a lot of red tape and justification. Even processes themselves, such as processes surrounding purchasing and procurement, can hamper agility.

While I agree that agility is important for a business, I am struggling to see how businesses that are trying to please auditors and improve processes can also maintain agility. Hunter himself seems to recognize this, too: ” IT risk is related to IT value. It would be short-sighted not to recognise either value or risk,” Hunter explained. There are risks associated with agility. When we roll out an application with little testing, it may fail. We allow a department to use a consumer digital camera, but our Helpdesk struggles to offer assistance because they aren’t familiar with the product, and we find there is a hidden cost – it isn’t as durable as the models we usually buy. A new vendor doesn’t deliver quickly enough, and our project is delayed. We spend weeks taking calls from laptop users before we determine that the new laptop battery fits too snugly and doesn’t always charge. We lose agility when things go throught the layers of testing necessary to prevent most of these failures, but we lower our risks.

This article goes on to explain that IT managers need to better be able to explain the risks to executives. But again, it is couched in an explanation of what happens when a server fails, which is a function of availability. Measures which ensure availability are fine, but I think most businesses are seeing the value of availability, access, and accuracy. It is agility which has taken a beating. The article references a loss of agility due to government regulation, but offers no suggestion that this should be considered, and no advice on how to regain agility.

So I’ll offer my advice: build transparency and trust into your IT department, instead of processes and red tape. Give someone personal responsibility for the project, and ensure that they know they will receive the calls if it fails, and they’re likely to do a much better job of preventing it from failing. A bunch of red tape, lab testing, and good vendor references doesn’t guarantee that a new barcode scanner will work. When it fails, who feels personally responsible for getting it fixed? Nobody. ” I checked the vendor’s references ” , says one guy. ” It tested fine in the test lab ” , says another. No one person is personally invested in the project, so why are they going jump up and dig in when it fails? But when someone has a cradle-to-grave relationship with a project, they feel personally responsible when it fails, and come running to the rescue. Give techs the ability to reject layers of testing and red tape when they can explain why they aren’t necessary, and authorization to utilize a complete test lab when they are, and my guess is that there will be just as much testing, but even better results.

The New “Shroud of Turin”

March 13th, 2007 . by maria

It was the end of the day. My boys had their newest attraction – a box turtle. We had safely tucked it into a lidded plastic storage bin with enough dirt, twigs, and rocks to make any landscaper proud. We even had a plastic sandwich box full of water, big enough for the turtle to take a dip. What we didn’t have, apparently, was turtle food. It wasn’t eating leaves. It wasn’t eating banana pieces. It wasn’t eating lettuce. As the boys headed up for their showers, I vaguely remembered that we once had a pet turtle, and we fed it live grasshoppers. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. I stepped out the front door into the wooded night, but surprisingly didn’t see any bugs. The only thing buzzing around our front door light was a dragonfly, and he was way too big. “Any other day, I’d be swatting moths away from my face right now,” I thought. In desperation, I turned to the plastic pool we had set up for the summer. There were always wasps, bees, and other assorted bugs floating in it.

That’s when I saw the largest swallowtail butterfly I’ve ever seen…floating outspread in the pool. My heart sank. Poor thing. Her wings were bedraggled. She wasn’t moving. But she was still beautiful. (She was most definitely NOT turtle food. The turtle would just have to learn to like banana.) My mother’s most recent decorating fetish is butterflies, so I thought perhaps I could figure out a way to frame this butterfly. I got a piece of computer paper and carefully slid it under the butterfly. Bingo! I was able to lift her out, wings outstretched, and perfectly flat. I brought her inside and laid the paper on top of a cardboard box in the kitchen to dry.

I showed my prize to my husband and the boys. Hubby headed over to chat with a neighbor. I tucked the boys in and set to work cleaning up the kitchen. When I next checked on her, she looked to be drying well. Her antennae and legs weren’t stuck down anymore, and she seemed to have more colors than before. Her body was still plump, so it was easy to imagine what she might have looked like as a caterpiller. She looked so lifelike, I knew she’d be beautiful framed.

I watched TV for a few hours. My husband came home. We started turning off lights and heading up to bed. I checked on my butterfly. “She’s gone,” I yelled to my husband. “One of the cats ate her,” he replied. I couldn’t imagine…not that I’d put it past them, but I would have heard them getting on the box. There would be paper and…little butterfly parts…around. This was no crime scene. And then I saw her – perched on a pair of jeans hung over the stair railing beside the box! “Honey! She’s alive!” He came in to look in wonder, and then carefully lifted the jeans and carried her to the back deck. He deposited her on an aloe plant I had out there. She took a few steps and wiggled a little. She seemed content to perch for now, wings still outspread (and probably still drying).

I told my husband I was glad I saved her, even though it meant I couldn’t frame her. He told me that to frame her, we’d have had to dry her in the oven a few hours. I was glad he hadn’t told me that a few hours before!

The next morning I looked out onto the deck. She was gone. I turned back to the kitchen and saw the piece of computer paper still sitting on the box. On that paper was a perfect outline of her wings. I knew my mother would rather frame this outline than the butterfly’s body. Butterflies are often used as a symbol of the resurrection. But this…this was an extra-special resurrection symbol.

Why Grama Had All Those Pictures

January 19th, 2007 . by maria

My favorite author has always been Madeline L’Engle. In one of the passages she is talking about the difference between blessing and cursing people, and the need to speak blessing even for those we are at odds with. (Southern women say things like “He’s just not real bright … bless his heart.”) I have also been thinking a lot about a story told at my Grandmother’s funeral: that she had so many pictures of family and friends to remind her to pray for each one. My mind wants to link these ideas. Isn’t it eloquent to imagine blessing each person who comes to mind, as they enter your mind, throughout the day? Knowing my grama, I can easily believe she blessed each of us she saw our photo.

But Madeline takes it a step further (as Jesus did also). We are asked to bless our adversaries, our enemies, the unlovely people in our lives – the people whose pictures we would never want in our homes. My grama didn’t have pictures of her enemies, as far as I know…if she even had any, (which I doubt). But I can easily beleive she prayed for them, too. What would be the impact if our enemies were blessed? I don’t mean given everything they want, but being given the Lord’s blessings? The world would be changed.

Perhaps that is the reason for all my grandmother’s prayers. I am not alone in wishing – in vain – to follow her example. Liek many, I find it difficult sometimes to even wish for blessings for those I love. When they frustrate me, when I lose my patience, when we’ve had a spat, it sometimes seems harder to bless them than to bless an enemy. The enemy is separate, and to bless them requires only that I ignore a small part of my life. But to forgive the very fabric of my life…to know that a loved one intentionally made a hurtful comment and to bless them anyway, is an act of will. Perhaps that is why grama needed the pictures. It is too easy to try to ignore those things which make us uncomfortable, or to not think about the person whose lifestyole we don’t agree with. Unless their picture is staring right at you.

Madeline coins the phrase “Bless the bas***d”. While I can appreciate the easy flow of alliteration, the word bas***d is a bit too harsh for my tastes. It’s a word I wouldn’t have been allowed to say as a chile, and it carries a harsh judgement. But I can appreciate the sentiment, and this passage has influenced me. Instead of cursing someone, I think “bless the dummy”…and I find that I’ve blessed myself. I feel less stressed, less bothered, more loving. Imagine that.

How Blessed We Are

December 25th, 2006 . by maria

This is something I wrote for my boys on Christmas 2004…

“A Devotional to Remind Us How Blessed We Are”

This Christmas…

In Africa, a little boy is starving. But today, we have plenty of food.
In Iraq, a little boy is told that to get to heaven he must fight a war. But today, we celebrate a savior.
In South America, a little girl sits ona dirt floor. But we have a beautiful home.
In OUR COUNTRY, a man will spend today alone. But you have a family.
In OUR STATE, a little boy is in the hospital dying of cancer. You are healthy.
In OUR COUNTY, a little girl has a disease that keeps her from moving her arms to play. But you can play.
In OUR TOWN, a family of nine kids lost their father last week.But you have a wonderful father.
On OUR STREET, a firl lives with her father and visits her mother. But you have both parents.
How blessed we are.

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