Show it, Don’t Just Talk About it

Do you still remember the world before ChatGPT? That was one year ago. It grew to one million users just five days after its launch on November 30th, 2022, and became the fastest-growing consumer product in history.

The advances in Large Language Models had been discussed by researchers for some time, but the general public didn’t understand the implications. Until the WTF epiphany, everyone had when they interacted with the product for the first time.

To get buy-in for new products or digitalization projects, you must give your audience and decision-makers a functioning prototype product to generate enthusiasm. The spreadsheet showing a solid business case only appeals to the brain’s left hemisphere. But the prototype Minimum Viable Product can engage emotions in the right side of the brain. Positive feelings and enthusiasm get complex new projects started and get them past the inevitable hiccups along the way.

You cannot build these MVPs quickly if you don’t have a Rapid Application Development tool in your toolbox. That leaves you only with spreadsheets and the annual budgeting process to get new things off the ground. Organizations that can build rapid prototypes will be able to seize opportunities and will overtake those who can’t.

Blockchain is Still a Solution Looking for a Problem

It turns out nobody wanted a blockchain solution. There are still crypto enthusiasts hodling their Bitcoin, but enterprise blockchain was a solution in search of a problem.

I did believe Danish shipping giant Maersk Lines and IBM had found a place where it made sense to build something blockchain-based when they announced their TradeLens platform. The idea was that all the many, many people involved in shipping a container of plastic bric-a-brac from Shenzen to Long Beach would all put their information on a blockchain. That would provide an immutable history of everything about that container.

After IBM closed down its entire blockchain business earlier this year, it was a matter of time before Maersk pulled the plug. Today, they admitted that “TradeLens did not reach commercial viability,” and the project is officially dead.

I believe a land register in a corrupt country somewhere was also planning to use blockchain, but it’s been a while since I last heard about it. In all likelihood, the existing corrupt businessmen and politicians have killed it.

If you know of any successful enterprise blockchain project, I would love to hear about it.

You Don’t Have to Move Just Because You’re Ready

I was worried when I saw Denmark ranked no. 4 in “The Global Cloud Ecosystem Index 2022.” I was afraid that we had somehow stumbled into the cloud trap without my noticing. But it turns out the index is not about actual cloud adoption, only cloud readiness.

Being ready for the cloud means having affordable, fast internet connections, digital public services, data protection regulations, and a well-educated workforce. I’m all for that.

But the fact that we can doesn’t mean we should. Just like the fact that you could move some of your services to the cloud is not an argument for doing it. There are some systems where there is a sound business case for moving to the cloud. But for most existing systems, attempting to move to the cloud destroys value.

Very Few Things are Impossible

You can get anything you want. But you have to ask for it. The U.S. had an election last Tuesday, and they still don’t know the result. We had an election in Denmark on Nov 1st. As usual, our result was ready before midnight on election day.

Now, we actually count paper ballots here in Denmark, and the U.S. uses computers. But that isn’t the whole explanation of why we are so much faster. The main reason is that we have decided that we want a quick result. Thus, we have a cut-off date for advance voting three days before election day, and all the advance votes are ready to count on election day. Vote counting is easily parallelized, and we have enough people counting. The U.S. could do the same, but they have prioritized other factors.

When IT says something can’t be done, it is rarely true. It might indeed be difficult, or expensive, or require you to give up functionality of higher value. If you work in IT, don’t say something is impossible. If you request work from IT, don’t accept the answer of “impossible.”

Why Should the Business Trust You With Their Money?

“Give us a bag of money and go away.” That seems to be the thinking of most in the #NoEstimates movement. They have, of course, misunderstood the original concept, just like people who claim to do Agile when all they’ve done is to do away with the documentation. I agree that estimation is hard and software is complex, but asking the business to commit money for unknown benefits in the uncertain future represents monumental hubris. The real world works by comparing costs and benefits, even though both cannot be evaluated exactly.

I’ll be meeting some of the best and brightest IT architects in Denmark at the annual Software Architecture Open Space next week. This is an open-format conference, and I noticed some of the other participants have already brought up estimation and #NoEstimates as a topic. I’m looking forward to an interesting discussion. If you are in the vicinity of Copenhagen on Nov 3rd, I encourage you to participate in SAOS as well. You’ll surely learn something.

Yet Another Project With No Business Case

There is nothing so good that you cannot do it badly. Case in point: Recycling. I’ve just received five new recycling containers in my summer cottage. The point is for me to sort plastic, cardboard, metal, paper, dangerous items, organic waste, and the remainder in separate compartments. I’m all for recycling, but I was curious about the business case for providing new plastic containers for summer cottages with limited amounts of waste and driving around with more big trucks on little dirt roads to collect the stuff.

It turns out there isn’t one. The danish Engineer’s Association has a weekly newspaper, and they have been running stories on this. Dispassionate calculation shows that the cost in money and CO2 of collecting and sorting several of these waste fractions far exceeds the benefit of recycling. For plastic waste, it turns out that we have to drive it – in trucks – to neighboring Germany because we don’t have a facility to reuse it in Denmark.

Surely, the government that invented this process would have a good counterpoint? Nope. I’ve been looking through several government websites. There is a lot of greenery and nice words, but no business case for recycling as much as we currently attempt to do.

So here in Denmark, recycling is a project with a worthy goal, political backing, and no business case. Have you ever seen something like that happen in IT?