Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Data Warehousing: Business Requirement Interviews

For whatever small amount of experience I have gained, I consider myself blessed enough that all my employers gave me enough opportunities for interviewing people. That’s a fun activity to participate in. And what did I got out of it?
1. Confidence and openness to go and start interacting with a complete stranger.
2. Experience in understanding what exactly person is after and where possible, a little insight towards the psyche of the person.

No wonder it was a great boost to what I have learnt over the course of last eight years. And one thing it has helped me a lot is looking under the skin of problem and to understand who is saying what and why. And that’s where it starts bending towards a business advantage !

But one can be terribly wrong to conclude that conducting interviews is nothing but a “templatized” course of action – with a little variation for Job Interviews and for Business Requirements gathering. No, they are not!

And here’s why I say that when I mention for Business Requirement Gathering interviews:
1. Don’t think you’re too smart, but be curious.
If you hear "Sorry, what’s the question again?" then that probably is a sign you are wrong track. Keep them short, and open ended. Pick at any interview published in a good magazine and you will notice, questions are one-liner and answers runs into Para’s. Keep it that ways and listen attentively. Also, don’t get into that "observe it all and truth will surface" syndrome. You aren’t a detective and the person in front of you isn’t a criminal. If you receive conflicting information, you always have a chance to clarify, keep it as an requirement gathering interview, not a cross-examination !
2. Converse honestly
Ask honest questions. Don’t pretend you are one among the "know-it-all" lot. You are there to know things in detail, and not "validate", so talk accordingly. Recording the meetings might not be the best idea as there are many times people mention for it to be kept off-the-record – and hence it breaches the whole idea of the honest conversation.
3. Leave the ego out of the room
There are many times when the client member you are interviewing is half your age. And it might be other way round as well. When you are interviewing, your key job is to listen attentively and keeping your presumptions and prejudices out of the picture. Use body language and verbal clues or gestures to encourage interviewees and express. Your attitude and approach as an interviewer are more important than the tactical and logistical concerns of setting up and conducting the sessions.  your interest.
4. Don’t judge
Concentrate on interviewee’s job and not if it’s right or wrong! If all goes well, DW/BI will address the issue anyways. Avoid jumping onto conclusions just on hearing a one-liner for a process, listen and find, there might be some genuine reasons for the way things are.

Especially, if you are going towards DW/BI or any large scale data application (e.g. Cloud Solutions) business requirements gathering, you might want to consider these as well:
– Its always best to have a lead in place with clear objectives and experience on the topic. Have a lead requirements analyst with the right tools, confidence and coupled with the right knowledge on business acumen and DW/BI’s potential. You don’t want somebody who himself is questioning if it really will reap the benefits as it "sounds". And this “lead” should own to clearly define the beginning and closure of specific stages of the project.
– Involve the right business representatives representing BOTH vertical (cross-management ranks) and horizontal (cross-department) perspectives. Don’t rely solely on the input from a lone power analyst who’s a pseudo-IT professional. Yes, the power dynamics is a key topic in management, and it might help you in getting a deal signed but it surely wont help in getting it executed successfully !
– Don’t presume you already know what the business wants just because you’ve supported them for the past decade. No business are same, and so is true for their requirements as well.
– Be explicit at what you will be delivering against. We have always learnt in Software Engineering that there is something called Explicit and Implicit requirements. See each "implicit" requirement as a loop hole where someone has a chance to bring you down to your knees. Convert them so they are explicit and then sign off as appropriate.
– Your delivered product and your mode of delivery are two separate pieces, and shall be addressed separately. The problem with long running engagements (as likes of DW/BI) is that we are so much lost in actual product that we loose concentration on modes of delivery. If not right away, ensure you have space defined to capture modes / frequencies / mechanics of deliveries as well. 
– If yourself feel comfortable to see your doctor in person, then same will be true for your clients too. Get face-to-face with business representatives (or at least voice-to-voice, but that too once you have rapport built up). There are many other modes of gathering requirements, and though they might be okay to find where your team wants to party, but that’s not enough to know where your clients want to reach.
– Be prepared, and try your best to impart some knowledge before you actually start with catching requirements. Prepare interviewees in advance so you don’t have to spend the time recursively at conceptually explaining "what’s DW/BI (or something similar and basic).


Corporate Social Responsibilities and The Art of Living

February 24, 2012 1 comment

Corporate Responsibilities, Social Responsibilities et all are deemed to be very heavy terms. You speak of them and all of sudden the air is heavy, and everybody seems serious. It’s a sense of corporate self-control built into a business model over a period of time. A fair deal of documentation can be referenced here if you like.

And then, there’s The Art of Living. Relaxed, without much of worries, and with a sense of detachment. Though one thing that Art of Living doesn’t teach is to walk away from the trouble and challenging times, and specifically of blaming others for your problems. But sadly Indian Corporate system is seeing a mess of senses of Corporate Social Responsibilities and that of the Art of Living. Am talking of Kingfisher Airlines and Mallya’s here.

The name “Mallya” indeed has now become a synonym to likes of: luxury, lavishness, loud (in good way), swanky life style etc. The name brings to you images of ultra-mod ladies as Flight Stewards and Calendar portraits, theme parties on just every occasion, Tipu Sultan’s Sword, Formula One Racing, glamour studded IPL matches, expensive bars and what not.

And think of Kingfisher Airlines now. Think of its Pilots, Support and ground staff who might not have received salaries for some time by now. Think of their suppliers who might be in trouble for their long dues on the Airliner – not just Fuel suppliers, banks, Air Traffic Controllers etc – but also likes of spare, transporter and food suppliers, who are very small to put any sort of pressure on an “air liner”. Image is indeed dull and uninspiring as of now. Almost every single Government body is after Kingfisher for its dues. And don’t forget the Aircrafts its using are on lease / rent, not purchased.

Every business (just like an individual) can have a low and high. But amidst of all this, what surprises is the fact that someone as rich as like Vijay Mallya is not doing much about it but blaming others. Pick up every single of his last few statements on the topic and you will find accusations on Air Traffic Controllers, Banks, Fuel Prices, Income Tax etc. Why? If one is responsible enough, he would pay taxes on time. If one has planned well, he would keep some buffers in the costing and would settle out dues in orderly manner. Talk of competition, but is the “price” only weapon to compete. For example, Kingfisher isn’t among the one considered to be very cheap – yet people preferred it many times. True story, I once travelled back from Chennai to Delhi in large size Air India flight, with hardly 25 passengers !

Still, imagine you have a loan of say INR 30Lacs and you go to bank saying you cant pay interest for next one year or more for any reason. Chances are bank will kick you first, then slash a NPA on you, and might even set up your loan to Auction for recovery. That’s when you are paying all dues on time and have a dependent family. But Banks are generous enough to large corporations like Kingfisher. They are at brink of losing their lending to Kingfisher, and now deciding to lend more so that the bad news can be deferred or delayed for some time. I think what Income Tax Department has done recently is very right. If you haven’t paid in past, without any intimation, then one has all right to doubt you for future as well.

Indeed the Air Traffic Industry is not in very good state. But when companies like Air India and Kingfisher Airlines demand for Government bail outs, they basically are asking for money that Income Tax Payers have paid. Basically, you think we should first pay for our travel so you are profitable, and then pay to keep you afloat just because you couldn’t manage the “variables” in your business. How about Kingfisher and Air India offering discounts to general masses in lieu of the funds received despite being a NPA now !?

Well, if you really want to settle this out, this is how you do it – you work for it. Start skipping the parties, and concentrate on your business. Your socializing is good enough only till the time you are King of Good Times. If no body is getting seen along side with you in your troubled times, then that’s a strong sign. World might not be too difficult to live if we don’t have Kingfisher Airlines or Air India in it, but this jolt might act against the other businesses too. Accept that, and try again to be what we (at least I) have always admired you for – own it up and deliver. Try to understand the true Art of Living. Corporate Social Responsibilities are part of it and not otherwise !

What Can We Learn From Manmohan Singh?

August 26, 2011 1 comment

No. This Post is not about Economics or Finance or Corruption. And, am not an Economist or a Finance guy. Not even a Politics enthusiast or critique for that matter. Am just a common man who wish to learn from common mistakes of those who were on top and fell straight back on their face – just because of small yet terrible mistakes !

Our current Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, is one such person. One might say that its too early for me to say that he has fallen. But if you have kept a tab on where he was in 90’s, and 2K era, to where his rapport is today – I bet you would agree with me. He was considered to be leading the Eco-Socio-reforms/ strategies think-tank within India. And today, even a small school going kid can mute him with his agitation and questions (but obvious, he is anyways on mute most of the times).

In my opinion, here are few things we can learn on what-not-to-do from Dr. Manmohan Singh. If you think there is anything substantial missing, then please write back and I will incorporate it.

1. Know your limits

Manmohan Singh, by profession, is a Specialist, in Finance and Economics. He was an excellent Economic and Strategy Consultant to the Governments of India. One who can stand aside, un-involved, dissect the financials data and stats, and suggest back what’s best thing to do within available constraints. His domain was best constrained within precision, numbers and statistics. And then he dodged himself into subjective, illusionary and petty Political Leadership. And not just a small department or a small project – but to lead the entire nation’s governance. In a state of its kind – India. He must have been fooling himself if he didnt knew what he was getting into. He was not much capable of balancing the act between different Ministries while he was owning Finance Ministry – and that’s a known fact. And if nothing else, the scams which happened when he was managing Nation’s Finances are a strong sign!

2. What comes as a Surprise, Goes as a Surprise

Its well known (at least, strongly rumoured) that Sonia Gandhi was to take the Prime seat after last elections. Its the Legislative Council/team of the group which called out that letting a foreign national sit on highest seat in Electoral System wont go well and might get into Judiciary clauses. And what happened next was shear History ! Pratibha Patil for President’s position, and Manmohan Singh for Prime Minister’s position. In my short career of seven years I have come across many people at wrong places, where they dont belong or not worthy of, but nothing matches what we see today in Indian Political Leadership ! If you are an Indian, ask yourself, or anyone around you and am sure you wont be surprised to know why highest positions have lost their capacity, dignity and respect today ! Manmohan Singh himself (and many others in political system) must have been surprised to see him taking the prime seat. And am sure that Manmohan is equally surprised with what has happened in last two quarters to take away all his life’s worth and credibility away from him!

3. Know your Team

In recent happenings, Kapil was let out in open to “negotiate” with Anna Jee and his movement. Why !? Before Kapil, I would rather doubt Manmohan Singh’s own consciousness on what he was playing for by empowering Kapil Sibal to take charge in such a situation ? You can’t expect a Coal Miner to be turned into a farmer overnight, right? Coal Miner’s love is to remain in dark and to remain black, he simply cant work with the upper crust of his field land that can lead to blossom! Manmohan and his team didnt learnt it from Baba Ramdev Jee’s movement, it was their first. OK. What about Anna Jee’s movement then, where the same group has failed twice already!

And when I say “Know your Team”, I meant for knowing strength and shortfall, both, of your team. Manmohan Singh is leading a team carrying some live stocks, who till date boast for scams like of 2G, CWG, Madhu Koda Money Laundering, Hasan Ali, Cash for Vote, and more. Telecom scam has surfaced twice this time round, both in leadership of Congress. Manmohan had been an Economist himself, he feels proud to be called upon with DOCTOR attached to his name for work done in Economics and Financial Management Practices, its beyond suspicion that he was never aware that his peers are cooking up the books!

I wonder, given the think-tank he loved to be part of, if he really didnt thought for once – why a common Indian isnt receiving the benefits what he is rightful for, and from where all his MLAs and MPs, and even the “damaad” of Gandhi fraternity has become Billionaire over a span of only few years – and that too in his self-proclaimed “clean” stint of 20+ years in Politics. He agreed to lead his current team who had a history of nothing but shame, and now he simply can’t step back saying am clean! If you were clean, then you should have had dragged your team’s dead meat out in open and should have refused to ignore their wrong-doing’s. Just like how APJ Abdul Kalam jee did. He was the first ever President of India, who was physically fit, intellectually superior to your complete lot put together. And yet he was brought down to give way to Pratibha Patil. How was it in India’s interest, and how was it respectful to the First Citizen of India at that time?

If Manmohan didn’t knew his team and what they are upto – then Manmohan Singh failed as a Leader. If Manmohan did knew his team (which my gut feel says, he was) and yet kept mum, then Manmohan Singh isnt clean and is equally responsible for corruption charges brought out against his team members !

4. Know when to call Quits

Since school, we have learnt that real men fight! They fight till death, and never call Quits ! If that’s for his mother nation’s or individual’s life and pride, yes, that’s how a man should live. But that’s where it logically should end.

For one like of Manmohan Singh, it doesn’t suite for him to be a Sardar (the entire community of which is considered to be rightful, truthful and pride in their ancestry) and yet be watching all what’s happening and not be doing anything about it. Its said that a Sardar can bring more glory then hundred enemies put together. But sadly he didn’t proved it when entire nation was looking upto him ! I don’t want to communalize this post by saying so – I have utter respect for anyone who respects and loves India, as much as I do. And, I just hope that some of my peers and friends don’t feel offended because I still think Manmohan Singh is a Sardar, somewhere, if not at core. Really, call out one good reason why Manmohan is standing in way of what this country and its masses need today. Why Manmohan is becoming the shield and shelter to the Corrupts and the Gandhi’s. Gandhi fraternity in today’s leadership is and will remain biggest blot on India’s future, but what stops Manmohan today. Entire nation is standing with Anna for what’s right, why not Manmohan ! He too comes from masses only ! One might say that he is protecting and balancing the Democratic System – but what System is it if a mass of more than 2 crore has formally declared to be supporting Anna Jee, and there are crores-and-crores of more who haven’t hit the roads as yet, but are supporting the Anti-Corruption Movement just like anyone else! Its true, that for some fights, you have to call quits first. India’s independence followed the movements from Shaheed Bhagat Singh, and a “Quit India” movement from Gandhi Jee. Subhash Chandra Bose had to even quit India for the greater interest and goals. Another Quit India movement is in making today, and yet Manmohan failed to realized when he should have called Quit !

5. Nothing lasts forever, except for your Values

Whole India seems to be standing besides Anna Jee today. Ever wondered why? He is not a MBA from IIMs or Harvard or Oxford, specializing in Leadership or Entrepreneurship. He is not born to any billionaire or Politician or some god-like figure (Buddha!?).

Its his values!

In last two quarters, petty Political parties have done everything to defame Anna Jee. They cursed him, challenged him to prove dignity, even man-handled him before on-going movement. And yet, this man stood by his values! Values are like meditation, more you see them getting practiced, more you are attracted to them. And in contrast to it, we have mind-boggling bureaucracy and governance system, and utter Politicians themselves. And guess who’s standing taller than ever? Guess who’s feeling more energetic – the one aged 74yrs, fasting since last 11 days or those feasting at PMs house in name of Iftaar!?

Our current constitution was defined by a great man (Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar). And then, some not-so-men-kind, got into power to sit in Parliament and defined laws in ways so they can do anything they like. And from last 60+ years, common masses of India are made to believe that Constitution is something Alien! That it cant be changed for them, but can be changed for those sitting in Parliament, and in just no time! The only trouble for Manmohan is that in past, such anti-corruption movement either didnt arise or they were settled out smartly (or rather, politically). In his utter Leadership, this topic was loud then ever. And reasons are obvious. Masses are done with what’s going on. Tax, Income, Expenses, Inflation, Corruption – everything has soared up, except for quality and just of common man’s life.

But Manmohan and his team has forgotten one thing – Nothing lasts forever; not you, not this continent, not the political power, AND not even the Constitution behind which they are attempting for an hide ! Even the Sun has to set everyday, and will as well vanish one day, what are the chances of this System then !

So, every occasion when you find yourself empowered or over-powered, remind yourself if your action leads to something that will last forever. And if it doesn’t, then be ready for a change !


Service Level Agreements (SLA) or Service Expectations

Every now and then you jump onto an article and on the first read they sound so… correct. Read them again, and may disagree to it !

A recent article on Gigaom is one of similar lot to me. It goes suggesting SLAs arent of much help, and one shall rather be worrying for Service Expectations. I suggest we revisit that.

SLAs are as what they stand for, an agreement – on basis of which a service level will be measured (and vendor paid up for). Service Expectations are some intangible facts and boundaries that a vendor shall understand and attempt to abide with before putting forth a SLA proposal – as they might have a direct impact on client’s business.

Now, there is a different between a mass offering and tweaked business/technical solution. A mass offering, as generally provisioned by Retailers & Utilities providers (cloud computing inclusive), only comes with a generalized SLA. E.g. amount of time service vendor would be able to keep the service online. Matching each SMBs (or small applications of big clients) service expectations would rather be next to impossible. As in any retail business, challenge here is to put out a service in market which excites majority (not, all) of potential clients by value it delivers. And it shouldn’t stop at point of excitement and buzz generated, but goes way to the point of meeting what you committed to masses. And you report it using SLAs.

A tweaked business / technical solution, on other hand, looks upon each and every business and service expectation for the specific client service is getting designed for. There are times when I have seen different SLAs being proposed for different times in a day / weekdays / weekends – for the same client. But that’s generally in the cases where you have a dedicated consumption line/resources (in some cases, private clouds inclusive). Though, once you have understood the expectations, have drafted the SLAs, you report back using those agreed SLAs – whether or not you are able to deliver.

Now, in any case, it would be bizarre to say I would give away SLAs as am concentrating on Service Expectations. Anyways, dodged SLA reports doesnt highlight Service Expectations more than the need for Business Ethics I would say. For retail business cases, an honest SLA report helps you consolidate current users confidence in your service, and in gaining new business. For bulk business cases, you definitely will have to start with understanding Service Expectations, but SLAs will hold equal importance so you can showcase whether or not you are able to meet those Expectations. Now, there are multiple things that goes out public in those monthly/quarterly/yearly review/reports, and SLAs should definitely be part of it !


Vikas Rajput

Colours of Life

March 19, 2011 2 comments

Would you paint the World in one colour to make it look anonymous, to make it one! Imagine a world without colours. Imagine a life without colours, and without people of different colours (i.e. behaviours and natures). And then you say what you feel. What I feel?

Black. We use Black as a symbol for something bad, to express agony. Yet fashion hasnt been more crazy for anything else but black! Black weather (rains) is celebrated most in one part of world (especially Indian Subcontinent) and other part see it as a curse (especially EU region). Whole world economy and politics is circumventing around this crude “black” liquid. And it continue to show its best colours (provided another tsunami doesnt come playing the world before we all die naturally).

White. What a soothing effect it has. I think its the second best after golden yellow that’s most close to the glittery and shiny world. But yet it gets dirty at earliest – we know it from recent world wide proceedings. I really dont know what our self-made “country leaders” had in their heads that they decided to ruin rapport of this colour by wearing it head-to-toe. More recently our Land Mafia too have started experimenting with it. But its good in one way – its becoming a sign of whom to be scared from. No wonder they ride in white cars, and with a red light on top of their vehicles to underline the threat!

Green. Such a good picture – in your mind! But how long do you think you can sustain it. Unfortunately and in reality, colour of money is taking over green patches. Dont know how many people know, but green is denoted with being laid back, with being satisfied. No wonder nature doesnt fight back till it has lost almost everything. More recently, there are groups rising up against “so-called” green companies – for they cause more damage then native one’s. Think why developed nations not going for CNG, while India is going after it big time. Just like anything else which is good, this “natural good” colour is scarce too and continuing to diminish.

Red. Aggression is the first word that comes to mind. Think again. Japan has it at centre of its National Flag. That isn’t so by chance. Most revolutions were caused by and lead to this colour. Use it in your advertisement and your intents are wide open. I wont hesitate in saying its the most preserved colour for politics and business – its fierce, and it ought to be it ! No wonder that a rising day starts with red sun..

Yellow. It can close your mind and eyes! Definitely closes mind if a metal bearing it shines hard ! And be ready to laugh hard if you see someone wearing it below waist ! Such an irony that most precious colour wore by ladies, is most infamous colour for the opposite gender. Yet, I really want to ask god one day on why he chose this colour to denote the most shitty thing in this world (at least for human beings). But still, it also denotes sunshine, it brings peace and war, and it brings smile.

Blue. Business and its people presents themselves as being cool and calm and professional by painting self in blue. Its associated to Irish for a good reason, its self assuring. Even god wanted to present himself as cool, no wonder he wrapped us with blue skies. And then us, humans, derived Monday Blues! I always wondered if its because some sadist was really sad about their professional counterparts being in blue.. Generally Hospitals use it, but dont know if its more good for hospital, or if its more bad for us that we have to see the hospital – irrespective of the colour they are wearing.

Now, why there are colours on my mind tonight? Because I was thinking about them. Because I was wondering why our ancestors decided to dedicate an important festival to celebrate colours, i.e. Holi – festival of Colours. I think they wanted us to pause and have a think about colours – those hated and loved one’s, and realize that the world we are in is made of nothing but colours. Same colours are likable and disliked in different context and situations. But its sad that the bad expressions or denominations remain in our minds and good one’s we forget right the next moment. As Bhullar (a dear friend) said recently – human mind is wired to retain bad, and forget good’s. Well, here is the festival to confuse ourselves – to remind the beauty of each colour – and to forget each one’s bad for a change.

I wish you be with your loved one’s, and start enjoying – the colours of life !

Client Presentation ? Stay Within Your Time !

Here’s why:

I could have added some commentary around it, but the write up is so precise, there isn’t any need for that. Save Time for actual Talking, and Stay Within Your Time !


On Wishes…

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Wishes are nothing but like Mirage.. you think they will do something.. but they seldom do so.. Its all about calculating things, deciding and marching ahead…
And then, see your decision as a wish and work with all energies to make it work..!! Remember, you have it in your will to make or break it !

%d bloggers like this: