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Welcome to IS boot camp
by George Harrar

Cambridge Technology Partners uses rapid prototyping and rapid application production to develop applications for companies.

Forbes ASAP: A Technology Supplement, Oct 25, 1993 v152 n10 pS112(5)

Abstract: Computer services company Cambridge Technology Partners uses rapid prototyping and rapid application production to speed the process of application development. For instance, the company produced a prototype of a decision-support system (DSS) for Hughes Space and Communications Co. in only three weeks, then finished the requirements definition and design for the system in two months. The DSS was in use after only 10 months. According to the company, rapid prototyping and development are necessary in today's business environment because software may take as long as two years to develop using traditional methods. In that time, businesses may undergo changes, such as mergers or acquisitions. Cambridge Technology claims to produce applications in less than six months three-quarters of the time.
Selected Quotes

"A full-bodied prototype in three weeks, on a complicated decision-support system? Such is the potential of rapid prototyping - and its follow-on stage, rapid application production - for companies willing to take some risk and expend considerable effort to achieve it."
. . .

"Most companies cannot do so alone. Lacking a culture of change and a stable of software jockeys skilled in the latest technologies, companies often need a jump start from outsiders to get "mission critical" software into use in time to deliver some strategic punch."
. . .

"Today it can take companies longer to build applications than their business cycles last," says Cambridge Technology CEO and president James Sims, explaining his organization's emphasis on speed. Mainframes can't turn out applications fast enough to keep up with the pace at which new products must be launched. Technology aside, few organizations have figured out how to coerce or cajole consensus out of their executives in a timely way."
. . .

"In Sims' view, the economics of development clearly argue for searching out strategic-strike applications. He reasons this way: 'Let's say you have a choice between two applications. A mission-critical one in purchasing is 80-percent functional right now. You could move it from the mainframe to a client/server architecture. That may cost you $1 million and save you $2 million in two years - not a bad investment. Then you have a customer-service application that has taken two to three years to build on the mainframe. But now you have the opportunity to build it in six to eight months for $1 million and get a $15 million return. That $15 million can pay for the infrastructure to do the next application.'"
. . .
Anatomy of a Rapid Consensus Week
. . .

"In the typical Rapid Solutions Workshop, Cambridge Technology spends two or three days identifying potential applications, then two weeks on-site gathering user input and exploring the client's computer operations. A final week brings a client team to Cambridge for actual screen development of the application."
. . .

"There are, however, certain catalysts to rapid development. First and foremost, the process is driven by users, who fill five to seven slots in the typical eight- to 10-member client team. Screen creation takes place before their eyes, based on their suggestions, not deep in the bowels of IS."

"Second, the workshop takes place off-site. No member can be seduced into dashing back to his desk for messages or claim emergencies at home that require attention. Much like a jury charged with sifting through mounds of evidence to reach a verdict, the workshop team is sequestered in Cambridge and must arrive at a consensus."

"Third, Cambridge Technology applies a not-so-subtle incentive to cooperate - an end-of-the-week demonstration before top managers ranging from division heads to the president. The unspoken message is clear: Your company has paid thousands of dollars to send you here to work as a team and build a prototype. Do you want to appear before your bosses and your bosses' bosses on Friday and say you couldn't agree and failed to achieve a prototype?"
. . .

"Lack of consensus often hobbles traditional systems developments, as differing groups guard their jurisdictions. In the Cambridge Technology workshop, users and IS are removed from their turfs. They are taken to neutral territory and propelled toward consensus by a more objective third party."
. . .

"Experiencing the quick results of rapid prototyping, with real data presented in a visual way, often has this ['I don't believe it"] effect on senior managers. They suddenly see possibilities where before they had seen only barriers. "
. . .

Twelve Steps Toward Consensus

1. "Choose a mediator who has no stake in the outcome and is not in a position of power.

2. Acknowledge past failures. [Express] frustrations rather than hide them.

3. Keep the group to 12 or under. If a jury of that size can decide the fate of people's lives, surely 12 executives can eventually agree on some corporate move.

4. Hold the session off-site, and leave ties and jackets back at the office. Both moves help people understand that this is not a normal workday; they are free to speak their minds.

5. Prescribe a time limit. ... Two days is an optimum time, because it allows for a night of reflection.

6. Start with a motivation session that gets people thinking not about the functional specialties that divide them, but about some human experience that unites them.

7. Paint a bleak picture about the status quo. ... Change had to be seen not as a choice but rather as a necessity for survival.

8. Set clear goals.

9. Brainstorm. ... Each opinion should be discussed in a nonevaluative way.

10. Weigh each option for its potential to help the organization reach its goals. Handled this way, options are divorced from their source, which depersonalizes the discussion.

11. Don't ask for a vote. As in jury deliberations, taking public votes on ideas hardens people into their positions.

12. You have to know what consensus is in order to realize when you have achieved it. A consensus ... is a decision that everyone can live with, one which takes into account everyone's opinions and does not compromise any person's strongest beliefs. "

Short Quote:

"Experiencing the quick results of rapid prototyping, with real data presented in a visual way, often has this ['I don't believe it'] effect on senior managers. They suddenly see possibilities where before they had seen only barriers. " --George Harrar
Copyright 1995, 2000, HP Management Decisions Ltd., All Rights Reserved.

Author:Harrar, George
Title:Welcome to IS boot camp
Place (City):
Publication Date:Oct 25, 1993
Source Type:
Quote Number:2