Innovation and funding in lean times

It’s budgeting time with many organisations putting together their budets for 2009. In the current climate IT is an easy target for cutting costs. Stories such as “no new non-core projects till 2010” and “no project that can’t demonstrate a postive ROI in 12 months” are abound. There is a risk that only focusing upon projects that keep the lights on will do longer term damage to the company. Seth Godin writes:

Wealth is created by productivity. Productive communities generate more of value.
Productivity comes from innovation.
Innovation comes from investment and change.

Annual budgeting cycles combined with inflexible development approaches preclude real innovation. It is hard to justify any cost, especially untested products that brings a burden of risk to the organisation.

There are two solutions that go hand in hand. Agile software development enables IT to release value from production earlier and more often than waterfall development. Rather than significant sunk cost in risky product innovation, it removes waste from the process and focuses upon delivery of working software that is of value to the business, taking the product to market at the earliest possible time.

This is a challenge to the annual budgeting charade where line item projects compete for guessed amounts in return for notional value. (IT put crude guesses – not even estimates- against even cruder descriptions of required features from the business). A better model would be to take that of the venture capitalist, with different rounds of funding. Rather than allocating specific funds to specific projects, far better to ring fence budget for ‘product innovation’. Within this pool of cash projects compete with each other with a pitch for seed funding. Those that are successful go straight into agile development with sufficient funding for a first release (say three to four months). Getting to production (and to market- internal or external) will validate further funding or equally enable the business to make an informed decision and kill the idea – fail fast, fast cheap.

Lotus notes, outlook and Office 2007

I’m no fan of Lotus Notes. I prefer to use Outlook to read Lotus Notes; there is a connector that makes it possible to read your mail and use your calendar without ever having to open Notes. So it was happy days until I got a new laptop which only had Office 2007 installed. Office 2007 may be great, but the connector is not compatible and it meant having to go back to using Notes again. A couple of days of that and I was tearing my hair out. Even the promise of Lotus Notes 8 would entice me to stick with the experience.

So, how do you run Office 2007 and use Outlook as your mail client on top of Notes? It is possible… Office 2003 needs to be installed first with the notes connector working. Then install Office 2007, selecting to keep the old version of Office, perform a “custom install” and in the installation options remove all outlook components. You must not install Outlook 2007.

Result? Happy days again – Office 2007 goodness for all but Outlook! And I can live with email and calender in Outlook 2003 using Outlook’s text editor to write mail if it means that Notes can once again be an unused Shortcut on my desktop.