Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I've got a secret and I can't explain...

So...I've seen a lot lately about conferences and BIM calls, and groups, and the same people getting up saying the same things.  And that's all fine and well, but it got me thinking about those who don't say anything, and are doing wonderful and amazing things...but you will never know.

There's a great movie / documentary called "Born Rich".  It was created by Jamie Johnson, who is an heir to the Johnson & Johsnon consumer good and pharmaceutical empire.  One of the best lines in the whole movie is by Johnson's father...and I'm paraphrasing, but he basically said "Those who have money don't talk about it. "

Now, how does that apply to BIM?  First and foremost, this is not a finger pointing exercise, so don't take it that way...but having said that, I have been to many a BIM conference or a BIM presentation in my time, and the presenter is presenting something that is "cutting edge" or the vendor is espousing "look how advanced 'this' is"...and you sit back and say "Huh?  ah, no."

In Februrary 2013, I tweeted this with @NigelPDavies from Evolve Consultancy.

I can tell you from experience:  I have three categories for some of the most advanced use of technology you'll never hear about:  government projects, EPCM projects, and "I don't want to brag" projects.

1) Government - while some of the projects the AEC community does are for "public
entities" like the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), or the Military Health Systems (MHS), or the Veteran's Administration (VA), many are not.  Many projects are done for either the Department of Energy on super secret sites, or for other organizations that can't be mentioned at this time.  In many of these cases, innovations are happening that you will never know about because the firm CAN'T talk about the project, let alone the innovations on the project.

2) EPCM - The very nature of Engineer, Procure, Construct Manage (EPCM) projects is "Black Box."  EPCM is very common in energy, mining, and large infrastructure projects. Lots of risk, lots of reward.  In many of these cases, the owner has little or no say in the means and methods the EPCM entity uses: all the owner wants and gets at the end of the contract is a turn-key deliverable (plant, building, whatever.)  To stay competitive, these EPCM entities have their own technology which is very sophisticated, and very proprietary.

These technologies are part of the individual differentitors the EPCM firms use to get the work...and you'll never know about them because those firms don't talk about them openly.

UPDATE 10/18/2014  - Full disclosure here:  I work for an EPCM firm.  I am absolutely OK with EPCM firms not sharing their means and methods.  It's our risk, it's our reward.  I think they should do more talking about their scope and deliverables.

3) I don't wanna brag -  There are a lot of AEC firms out there that will not share or talk about what they do.  They go to conferences, and presentations, write down notes, never say a word about their company...and then implement "Phase Next" of anything they see, because they've already been doing whatever they saw in the presentation.   I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just suggesting there's a lot of firms out there that that do that.  (I have friends that call these folks "information sucking leeches.")

UPDATE 10/18/2014:  Context.  I have been giving and going to presentations at AEC technology and Industry Group conferences since 1988.  The "ISL" (Information Sucking Leeches) comment comes from people I used to work with, and one particular person in particular (unfortunately, passed away) who noticed the same exact attendees to conference over the span of years who never got involved with the conference or the sponsoring group...even with the group was begging for involvement, new speakers, and volunteers. 

It's very frustrating when you put your time and effort into a cause or group, where many people benefit but few volunteer their time.

What does it all mean?  I'm not sure it means anything.  I will just say that there are a lot of cool things happening all around us that you will never know about.

UPDATE 10/18/2014:  as I said above in the update:  I'm very OK with AEC firms, especially EPCM firms, not sharing their means and methods.  Learning about scope and deliverable is always a good thing as firms and professionals can learn how to push themselves by seeing "Look 'they' are doing project work just like us, using processes, procedures, and technology similar or just like ours.

My point to all of this rambling is while there are many out there who share what they do in an open forum, there are just as many who don't...and just because they don't share doesn't mean they aren't being innovative...it just means you don't know about it.

Song lyric:  "Secret" from Orchestral Manuevers in the Dark

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Nowhere is the Dreamer or the Misfit so alone

I make Glass Tubes.

One of my favorite television shows is "Sports Night."  This Aaron Sorkin written show was the precursor of all the West Wing / Studio 60 /  Newsroom scenes that everyone fawns over (including myself), and is filled with little pearls of wisdom...to see one, hit up my Vizify account and see my quotes.

One of the best scenes ever is a scene where a ratings consultant discusses with the upper corporate management about how to get the best out of people, and how to assist the team as a whole.  He uses Glass Tubes as his mechanism.

You're saying to yourself:  "Huh...glass tubes?"

Design Technologist in my mind

I consider myself a "design technologist."  What does that mean? That means that I came from The Projects:  I know how projects work (from both a multi-discipline standpoint AND my primary discipline standpoint), and I know a lot about technology (design technology specifically, general IT as well) and how it affects project deliverables , production.  I believe in innovation, trying new things, and taking a risk to make the whole better.

But do I work on projects right now at my company?  From a direct production standpoint...no.  But on the project, yes!  Absolutely.  Design Technologists provide guidance, oversight, mentoring, assistance to both management (strategic) and production (tactical.), amongst many other tasks (Go ask "X", he'll know!)   A rare breed.

Does this mean that those who work directly on projects with a similar technology flair or savoir-faire are not Design Technologists?  Of course not...but for right now, I'm taking it from my POV, which is oversight, guidance, etc....

Where does Glass Tubes fit in? If you know the story of Philo Farnsworth​ and Cliff Gardner you'd know....

Glass Tubes 

Philo invented "television" in a little house in Provo, Utah, at a time when the idea of transmitting moving pictures through the air would be like me saying I figured out a way to transfer matter across the universe...Philo was inventing the Cathode Receptor, which is the basis for the initial televisions.  His brother-in-law was Cliff Gardner...who didn't have Philo's capabilities for all things science, but wanted to be a part of what Philo was doing (plus they were in business together at one point in a radio repair business, and of course, Philo married Cliff's sister.)

Cliff figured out that Philo was going to need glass tubes in his process.  Cliff taught himself to be a glass blower (not like you could go down to Home Depot in the early 1900s and get a glass tube), and made all the tubes Philo needed.  That's pretty amazing if you ask me:  he looked at a situation, wanted to be a part of it. and jumped in to assist.

So how does this fit into Design Technology and how we do our business?

Where's the fit?

Traditional Design Technologists (that is, those who sit in a consultant capacity within the company but outside of the primary project) may not be designers or engineers on the project, but they've been there before and know what needs to be done...they can look at the process and identify technology that can help you on the way.  They can work with the teams on workflow, innovation, and new ways.  They can help you get the most of what you may be trying to accomplish...they can help!

They can make glass tubes.

Now, whether those Glass Tube makers should be folded into the project or be separate as a consultative group to help all is something for another discussion.

Song lyric referenced:
Subdivisions from Rush

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time, can't afford no time...

Time..Can’t afford no time...Can’t afford the rhyme 

I'm starting to get my blog back on again.  I thought I would put my toe back in the pond by re-posting this item that I wrote a few years ago for Eat Your CAD (www.eatyourcad.com).  While the example is geared towards implementation of new technologies in an environment, it can be  applied to almost any process where a different process is introduced and must be presented/sold to the staff. 


In a previous life, I was a Reseller.  As such, we were the vendor’s local sales and implementation arms. We had no problem getting selling base tools and introduction training classes.

Beyond that, it got difficult. How can you show a firm how important it is to buy into new technologies and stay competitive in a changing world?  How can you prove that these new technologies provide value? How do calculate soft-cost dollars lost by staying where you are and not moving ahead? More importantly, how do you determine how the people you are talking / marketing to perceive new technology, and its implementation within their firm?

In 1991, a gentleman named Geoffrey Moore came out with one of the answers, and it was called "Crossing the Chasm". "Crossing The Chasm" became the bible for bringing cutting-edge technologies into large markets.


Now before we go any further, you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with Process Improvement and Technology Management?” EVERYTHING! You, as a technology leader and Agent of Change in your company, must understand how to ‘sell’ new philosophies, technologies and workflows every single day, whether it’s a new toolset in an old solution (to an entire new way of doing business (like using a Building Information Modeling workflow).  Even professional development has to be “sold” to management. Understanding HOW your “market” (i.e. your office leaders, your users, etc) reacts and wants to implement technology can help you bring new ways of doing business into your life.

Life Cycle
Let’s start by defining something called “Technology Adoption Life Cycle”
The cycle is separated into five groups, each group presenting a set of people/users/buyers to whom a product is sold during its life cycle: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.

Innovators are technology enthusiasts. These are the people at your office who live, breathe, eat, and sleep “the latest and greatest”. They probably have LINUX boxes at home, have had home media centers before they were cool, and are working on getting Google Glass.  They are always on board to try anything new, and they represent the smallest part of our cycle.

Early Adopters, also known as visionaries, are somewhat happy to try out new technologies. They represent a larger slice of the market. They aren’t necessarily technically-minded, but understand the value that technology brings. In most cases, they are the person who empowers the Innovator.

The Early Majority, sometimes called pragmatists, represent the large part of the market. They “keep up with the Jones” and only after they have witnessed outside successes and ensure there is a safety net in place, just in case. Securing the pragmatist, Moore states, is the most important marketing challenge.

The Late Majority, or conservatives, are also a very large portion of the market. They are extremely cautious. Unlike the Pragmatist, they want internal proof before they will accept a product's usefulness.

Laggards are skeptics who would prefer to avoid new technologies altogether. They will buy only if they really must. They are the ‘kicking and screaming” folks who say “We’ve always done it this way, why change?”  (I use the term "historical inertia")

When new products are released, they follow a buying / adoption trend called the Technology Adoption Life Cycle.

From left to right, you can see how the Innovators and Early Adopters are a small part of the cycle, getting on board very early in the cycle, with the Majority holding the biggest part, and the laggards to the end of the cycle.

Moore changes the graph slightly.

Moore teaches that the break that divides the Early Adopters from the Early Majority is actually a chasm. This chasm is significant enough to warrant a full-scale effort to pass a product across. He argues that many software vendors get so caught up in early market success that they don't anticipate the chasm, and their products then fail owing to an inability to traverse the gap.

Let’s look at this graph a little differently

The Enthusiasts and the Visionaries are getting the most value, but also spending more and have the most pain…but have the most to gain. They want performance, and love technology.

The Skeptics on the right have the least to gain, as they are waiting for the “latest” to become “tried and true”. They get on board at the very end. However, the least value is on the right, because the cycle then starts over.

Here’s where the ‘Chasm” challenge comes into play: the Early Majority want good references before getting into a new technology, but Early Adopters may not necessarily make good references. They talk about horror stories and wasted effort, lessons learned...but in most cases, Early Adopters have all concluded that it was the right road to take, and they would take it again.

Cross the Chasm – How?
Moore defines a four step approach to this. He calls entering this market “an act of aggression.” He cites Eisenhower’s assault on Normandy as the way to Cross the Chasm. He calls it “The D-Day approach” - 

• Target the point of attack
• Assemble the invasion force
• Define the battle
• Launch the invasion

Target the Point of Attack
For an Agent of Change in an office or a firm, targeting the point of attack means to understand the people in your office. Find out and rate each person's compelling reason to implement a new technology, based on what Moore calls a "must-have value proposition." The key to winning is to provide a solution that the pragmatist truly feels they need. This is why rating your folks is crucial. Once rated, you can prioritize what technology (or training, or whatever you want to implement) should come first.

Assemble the Invasion Force
Getting the "force" in place means that you need to show your office leaders "the whole product"…not just the tool set, but whole gamut, including supporting services, training, administration, vendor services (if needed), and possibly other tool sets that plug into what you are trying to get accomplished ("If we get 'A', we can also use data from 'B' "). Keep is simple, and have everything in place. Also, your "force" may include your competition, but friendly competition. Don't use the "keep up the Jones" theory, as we are going on value, but you can use your contacts in the industry to help you assemble information, success stories, lessons-learned case studies, etc.

Define the Battle
Moore believes that the key to defining the battle is to create the competition. As weird as this sounds, Moore takes this view from the pragmatist and believes that the pragmatist is more interested in how a product is positioned amongst other competitors. For an Agent of Change, this could mean showing a variety of different toolsets that could met your need. In a workflow situation, your competitor could be the "old way of doing things." In training, your competition may be Billable Time.

Don't exclude a reasonable competitor....this could blow up in your face, and alienate the pragmatist. Remember, he's looking at all things.

Launch the Invasion
In Moore's cases, he describes Launching the Invasion as obtaining access to a distribution channel that will attract the pragmatist, as well as pricing models. Moore also discusses Leadership Pricing, whereby you show value no matter where the competition is pricing their toolset.
In this case, I believe one has to Launch the Invasion based on ROI...or more commonly, So What?   What's in it for the firm? Pricing is important, and you need to include not just software, training and implementation costs, but opportunity/billable time costs. The real "pricing" for you can come from what benefits the pragmatist will receive by going this direction (no matter what you are marketing), and providing those benefits in both tangible and non-tangible format. Tangible meaning dollars to the firm, non-tangible meaning good will to the firm.

So what does this all mean?
Well, here are a few things to take from all of this:
  1. Learn the personalities of the people of your firm, and how the implementation of technology relates to them
  2. Learn what drives the decision makers
  3. If you want to really get high ROI from a new technology, get on the left hand side of the Chasm
  4. If you have pragmatists in your firm, D-Day them!
If you are looking for Geoffrey Moore’s book, Google “Crossing the Chasm” or go to this Link to Amazon for the book.

In a different post, we’ll go into Moore’s second book entitled “Inside the Tornado”. Basically, if you’ve crossed the chasm, what happens if the crossing becomes wildly successful, and how do you handle the onslaught? I’ll do my best to try to take the sales stuff out and put it into context for us.

Until next time….
Oh, the song is "Favourite Shirt" from Haircut 100.