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THE MEANING OF LIFE

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 24, 2015

BRYCE ON LIFE

– It is ultimately about good versus evil.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

In the Monty Python movie, “The Meaning of Life,” the troupe offers a tongue-in-cheek explanation; “Well, it’s nothing very special: Try to be nice to people; avoid eating fat; read a good book every now and then; get some walking in; and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” Their explanation was very succinct and made for a humorous ending to the film. However, as far as I’m concerned, it misses the mark. It is not my intention to offer a profound statement along the lines of French philosopher René Descartes, but simply make my own modest observations. To me, there are three elements to the meaning of life:

1. A person must lead a worthy and productive life. This is required for our perspective of ourselves, our work, and the people we come in contact with at the company and society in general. How we perform our job is an expression of our soul. If we treat it frivolously, our perspective tends to be shallow and irresponsible, but if we conduct ourselves professionally, regardless of the job, we will take pride in ourselves and earn the respect of others. We must recognize there is dignity in all forms of work, regardless of how menial it appears on the surface. As such, we should perform it as professionally as possible and as craftsmen. Those without this perspective, particularly managers, tend to be tyrannical in nature and are typically avoided. They will never know the simple concept of respect, just fear. However, if we “do unto others as we would have others do unto you,” this would inevitably lead to an honorable existence.

2. Our second responsibility is to reproduce, thereby extending the species. However, this requires more than just the simple biological function of birth, it also means taking responsibility for teaching your offspring values, morality, and how to become responsible and productive people who will eventually take your place in society. Abdicating this duty is to allow evil to flourish.

3. Leave the Earth a better place than when you entered it. By doing so, we make it possible for the species to evolve. This means not becoming a burden on society, lending a helping hand, and returning to our first responsibility. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather forsake and destroy the world as opposed to make it better.

Implicit within these three elements is the idea of good triumphing over evil. Without this caveat, life could easily regress as opposed to progress which is why we must thwart evil wherever it is encountered.

So, the meaning of life is not about eating, walking, or reading a good book. Rather, it is about leading a worthy and meaningful life. No, we will not all be compensated the same way. Some will make more based on their education, their work ethic, by making smart decisions along the way, or plain luck. Regardless, we should be more concerned with what our contribution will be in life as opposed to the financial prosperity of the next person. If we can rise each day and be proud of our family, our business, and ourselves, and celebrate the bounties of the world around us, then we have realized the meaning of life.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  WHAT’S WRONG WITH SERVING THE CUSTOMER PROMPTLY? – The customer should never have to wait.

LAST TIME:  THE BUDGET BATTLE  – Just how badly do we want to manage the budget?

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Life, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE BUDGET BATTLE

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 22, 2015

BRYCE ON POLITICS

– Just how badly do we want to manage the budget?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

We are finally coming down to one of the pivotal differences between Democrats and the Republicans, namely the federal budget. This is something the GOP has wanted to address for a long time, and now that they control both chambers of Congress, a confrontation is finally at hand. Most voters understand the overwhelming amount of debt we have incurred over the last seven years, that deficits and government spending is out of control, and to fix the problem certain cuts have to be made, like it or not. We certainly do not want this to be a legacy for our grandchildren to address. Now is the time to clean it up, but we face the problem of a divided nation over ideological differences.

President Obama, the Senate and the House have assembled three different budgets. Of the three, the Senate’s and the House’s are similar and represent the Republican’s proposal to straighten out our financial mess and work towards a balanced budget. The president’s represents the Democrat’s point of view and is not concerned with a balanced budget.

According to a recent analysis by the Associated Press (AP), there are significant differences between the three:

In terms of REVENUE:

President – “Would increase taxes on wealthy people, corporations and smokers.”

Congress – “Tax hikes do not figure in either GOP budget, though both Republican blueprints call for a tax code overhaul — with details to be worked out later. Curiously, the Republicans make repeal of the Affordable Care Act a key provision of their blueprints, but they still assume the tax revenues created by the law will still flow to the Treasury.”

In terms of SPENDING:

President – “Increases spending on public works, education and defense, and would eliminate the automatic cuts imposed under a 2011 budget deal.”

Congress – “Boosts defense spending but makes cuts to domestic social programs like Medicaid and food stamps. The House plan would convert Medicare to a voucher-like program, and both GOP budgets would repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic achievement.”

In terms of THE DEFICIT:

President – “Sees deficits stabilize at about 2.5 percent of GDP.”

Congress – “Seek $5 trillion in reductions over the next decade.
Both Republican plans bring the budget into balance in 2025 – a modest $3 billion surplus for the Senate plan, a $33 billion surplus in the House plan. Democrats accuse the GOP of using shady accounting practices.”

In terms of THE PUBLIC DEBT:

President – “Debt held by the public does not fall appreciably, declining from 75 percent to 73 percent by 2025.”

Congress – “Both GOP budgets project a debt below 60 percent of GDP by 2025.
Public debt is still expected to exceed $20 trillion in 2025, with interest reaching $857 billion. Under the GOP plans, interest be less than $625 billion in 2025.”

In a nutshell, to reduce the debt without raising taxes is good news for both the wealthy and the middle class (not to mention smokers). Not surprising, the GOP plan is an open attack on the Affordable Health Care Act, Obamacare, a plan that Americans still do not embrace (see Gallup). All three budgets make use of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which, frankly, is limping along (currently 2.2%) and reflects a sluggish economy. If we had a robust GDP, the country would feel its effect through more money from taxes. Finally, the president’s plan openly does not support a balanced budget, but raises spending instead. As another AP report contends, “While his (Mr. Obama’s budget) leaves a projected deficit exceeding $600 billion 10 years from now, the Senate plan claims a surplus of $3 billion.

So, the question comes down to: Do we compromise again or do we really want to address our economic problems? If we want the latter, we must surely move beyond the status quo and take corrective action. However, the battle lines have already been drawn. According to a statement by the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, the Senate-passed budget “relies on top-down economics and gimmicks,” and “refuses to ask the wealthy to contribute a single dollar to deficit reduction.” He goes on to say, the Senate bill would lock in severe spending cuts “to investments in the middle class like education, job training and manufacturing,” and it fails to “responsibly fund our national security.” As to national security, this is simply not so, as the GOP proposes more money for defense as opposed to the president’s plan. Further, we would generate more money for education, job training, and manufacturing by simply lessening the regulations and taxes on corporate America, thereby allowing them to thrive.

The next step is to have the two chambers of Congress negotiate a compromise budget in mid-April. Interestingly, the legislation is non-binding, meaning that it will not require the president’s signature, but will inevitably lead to veto fights with Mr. Obama in future bills.

It will be interesting to see if we truly have the fortitude to manage our finances responsibly. If we do not, God help our grandchildren.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE MEANING OF LIFE – It is ultimately about good versus evil.

LAST TIME:  BUSINESS WRITING  – A crash course on writing for people in a business setting.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

BUSINESS WRITING

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 20, 2015

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– A crash course on writing for people in a business setting.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

INTRODUCTION

How a person writes for personal purposes is substantially different than how they should write for business. Whereas the former requires no discipline, the latter requires poise, discipline, and attention to detail. However, unless corrected or properly supervised, sloppy habits will inevitably turn up in business writings. Remarkably, companies spend little time teaching their employees how to write in various business situations. Consequently, troubles arise in sales and customer service settings, not to mention vendor relations.

There are many instances where it is necessary to write for business, be it through correspondence (letters, e-mails, and faxes), proposals (e.g., RFP, RFI. RFQ, etc.), feasibility studies, policies and memos, administrative procedures (manual processing instructions), audits, employee reviews, etc. Aside from possessing an understanding of grammar and language, it is necessary to convey a professional image. This sends an important message, the author does not take the subject matter lightly and should be regarded as competent and credible in the subject matter. To do so, the author must be cognizant of both the content and the format (packaging).

Narratives should be factual and represent a logical progression of ideas. Word choice and sentence structure should be kept simple. A verbose vocabulary can alienate readers as opposed to supporting your message. Likewise, avoid colloquial expressions (jargon-e-z-e and slang). Again, keep it simple. Above all, concentrate on benefits and how they will affect the other party. By doing so, the reader learns to appreciate your argument and “why” your message is important. Learn to write “tightly,” meaning avoid long and flowing sentences. Think economy of effort and keep it simple and to the point. By doing so, you are creating a professional image, not just of yourself, but of your company as well.

In terms of packaging, learn to divide paragraphs into smaller sections, separated by a space (as expressed herein). The intent is to encourage your readers to review your text, not avoid it. There should be sufficient margins to force the text to smaller and easier to digest sentences. It is also useful to highlight sections and key comments, either by using a bold font, italics, or an underline, but do not use such highlights excessively thereby becoming an amateurish distraction. In terms of fonts, stick with a standard, such as Arial and Times New Roman, the two most commonly used fonts in the world. Flashy fonts may be interesting, but if they hinder the ability to read your narrative, it is useless.

As another rule of thumb, avoid the use of jokes. In this day and age of political correctness, such humor can be misinterpreted and possibly lead to allegations of sexism and racism, and ultimately termination of employment.

The following are some basic tips for the different types of business writings:

CORRESPONDENCE

– Observe the use of honorifics and titles in names, e.g., Mr. John Doe, Dr. Joe Smith, Ms. Betty Jones, Mrs. Sally Black, Director of Human Resources, Softweare Engineer, etc.

– Use the old military trick: begin by telling the reader what you are going to tell them; tell them; at the end, tell them what you have told them.

– Write an e-mail just as you would a business letter.

– Avoid the temptation to use slang, even in an e-mail.

– If you are writing a letter, consider printing it on some professional stock as opposed to plain white paper. The feel of paper adds a touch of class to your message.

PROPOSALS

– In most cases, it is necessary to follow the format as prescribed by the requester. This is particularly true in RFQ, RFI, RFP situations. If possible, investigate the names of the other vendors who will also be responding. In many cases, proposals are designed for a specific vendor. If so, do not waste your time and simply thank the requester for the opportunity to review the proposal.

– Give considerable thought to packaging the proposal for readability and to highlight key sections. Try to reflect a sense of class thereby reflecting well on your business.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

– Respond to customer compliments, complaints, or suggestions tactfully and positively. If a customer becomes combative, it may be necessary to seek legal counsel.

POLICIES

Policy Manuals (aka “Employee Handbooks”) are tightly worded legal descriptions of the official policies of the company. Great care should be taken in writing policies, preferably by someone intimate with the policies and knowledge of legal wording. Although many companies ask law firms to write such documents, it can also be done internally by skilled writers. Policies address such things as Equal Employment Opportunity, Sexual Harassment, Hiring, Employment Agreement, Orientation and Training, Medical Procedures, Probation, Transfer, Promotion, Hours of Work, and much more.

Policy manuals typically organized by common types of policies and follow a numbering scheme for quick reference. Each policy is written with a definition of the policy, followed by terms, conditions, and additional notes; for example:

611:1 – USE OF PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES
Policy: It is critical that employees working with clients remain focused on the tasks
at hand and do not have any unnecessary distractions thereby promoting client satisfaction
as well as job safety. It is for this reason that the policy of the Company on portable
personal electronic devices such as I-pods, CD players, MP3 players, radios, video games,
computer multimedia software, etc. are prohibited for employees during working hours.
Comment:
1. Disciplinary action may be taken against any employee who does not adhere to this policy.

– If a policy manual is written internally, it is a good idea to have an attorney review it before releasing it within the company.

MEMOS

Memorandums are now issued more by e-mail as opposed to on printed paper. Nonetheless, they should not be crafted frivolously as employees may misinterpret it and use it as an excuse for not executing an order. In fact, the fewer the memos, the better. However, if you have to issue a memo to one or more employees, write it particularly “tightly.” Define the purpose of the memo (why is it being issued), and explain what employees are expected to do about it. Instead of an electronic version, consider printing it on paper and ask for employees to initial it thereby confirming their understanding of it, and have it returned to the author.

FEASIBILITY STUDIES

Feasibility Studies are used to study a business problem or opportunity and recommend a course of action. There are six basic parts to any such study:

1. The PROJECT SCOPE which is used to define the business problem and/or opportunity to be addressed. The Scope should be definitive and to the point; rambling narrative serves no purpose and can actually confuse project participants. It is also necessary to define the parts of the business affected either directly or indirectly, including project participants and end-user areas affected by the project. The project sponsor should be identified, particularly if he/she is footing the bill.

2. The CURRENT ANALYSIS is used to define and understand the current method of implementation, such as a system, a product, etc. From this analysis, it is not uncommon to discover there is actually nothing wrong with the current system or product other than some misunderstandings regarding it or perhaps it needs some simple modifications as opposed to a major overhaul. Also, the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach are identified (pros and cons). In addition, there may very well be elements of the current system or product that may be used in its successor thus saving time and money later on. Without such analysis, this may never be discovered.

Analysts are cautioned to avoid the temptation to stop and correct any problems encountered in the current system analysis at this time. Simply document your findings instead, otherwise you will spend more time unnecessarily in this stage (aka “Analysis Paralysis”).

3. REQUIREMENTS – how requirements are defined depends on the object of the project’s attention. For example, how requirements are specified for a product are substantially different than requirements for an edifice, a bridge, or an information system. Each exhibits totally different properties and, as such, are defined differently.

4. The APPROACH represents the recommended solution or course of action to satisfy the requirements. Here, various alternatives are considered along with an explanation as to why the preferred solution was selected. In terms of design related projects, it is here where whole rough designs (e.g., “renderings”) are developed in order to determine viability. It is also at this point where the use of existing structures and commercial alternatives are considered (e.g., “build versus buy” decisions). The overriding considerations though are:

* Does the recommended approach satisfy the requirements?

* Is it also a practical and viable solution?

A thorough analysis here is needed in order to perform the next step…

5. EVALUATION – examines the cost effectiveness of the Approach selected. This begins with an analysis of the estimated total cost of the project. In addition to the recommended solution, other alternatives are estimated in order to offer an economic comparison. For development projects, an estimate of labor and out-of-pocket expenses is assembled along with a project schedule showing the project path and start-and-end dates.

After the total cost of the project has been calculated, a cost and evaluation summary is prepared which includes such things as a cost/benefit analysis, return on investment, etc.

6. REVIEW – all of the preceding elements are then assembled into a Feasibility Study and a formal review is conducted with all parties involved. The review serves two purposes: to substantiate the thoroughness and accuracy of the Feasibility Study, and to make a project decision; either approve it, reject it, or ask that it be revised before making a final decision. If approved, it is very important that all parties sign the document which expresses their acceptance and commitment to it; it may be a seemingly small gesture, but signatures carry a lot of weight later on as the project progresses. If the Feasibility Study is rejected, the reasons for its rejection should be explained and attached to the document.

– For busy executives, provide a cover page with an “Executive Summary” stating the highlights of the study, such as its business purpose and why it is necessary to pursue this problem/opportunity, the type of requirements being addressed, the proposed solution, costs, and the return on investment. In other words, this is where the real “sales job” is performed.

AUDITS

After completing a major project, it is a good idea to conduct what is called a “Project Audit.” The idea is to document what went right and wrong during a project and, hopefully, learn something beneficial from the experience. The Project Auditor should analyze the following:

1. Estimated versus Actual schedules and estimates (both costs and time).

2. A final Cost/Benefit Analysis should be prepared which, hopefully, can be compared to one prepared in the initial Feasibility Study.

3. If the project is product oriented (to design and develop something), an analysis of the finished product versus its design specifications should be prepared.

4. Conduct interviews with project participants to gather insight as to what went right and wrong.

The final report should be professionally prepared and presented to pertinent managers and executives to study. The presentation should be somewhat clinical in nature as the presenter should avoid both disparaging and complimentary remarks as they may offend someone. Just be matter-of-fact in the presentation and let the reviewers come to their own conclusions.

CORPORATE BLOG

If you are charged with maintaining a corporate blog, you must always be mindful the blog is a window to your corporate world. Extra care must be considered when stating policy or issuing a press release. Do not open the kimono unnecessarily. Review the wording carefully, but it is also wise to have another set of eyes carefully review the postings before releasing it, someone in authority or perhaps an attorney.

For all postings, be sure to include copyright notation to show the business is the owner of the work and it is not to be redistributed without permission. Sample notation:

“Copyright (c) 2015 by ABC Company. All rights reserved.”

EMPLOYEE REVIEWS

It has long been customary in business to periodically evaluate employee performance, such as 30 days after hiring, or at regular intervals, such as annually or bi-annually. The purpose is to have the manager assess the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations for improvement. The intent is to help the employee improve as a worker as opposed to assassinate his character. Reviewing an employee with malicious intent is just plain wrong, as is giving a rosy review, both are detrimental to communicating to the employee where they stand in the eyes of management and how they can improve themselves. Present your analysis, matter-of-factly, and provide suggestions for the employee to improve.

The use of standard forms for this task is strongly recommended.

PROCEDURES

Writing procedures for people is much more difficult than for computers. Computers will do whatever you ask, right or wrong, at great speed. In contrast, writing for the human being is more difficult as people are more emotional and can be lazy and uncooperative at times. Writing procedures for people, therefore, can be an arduous task. Instituting writing standards can materially help in bringing about consistency to this task and should be encouraged.

One technique we have found to be beneficial is “Playscript” developed by Les Matthias and ultimately based on scripts to a play. There are just three parts to a Playscript Procedure:

1. Purpose – a concise statement expressing the business purpose of the procedure and for whom it is intended to be used.

2. Setup – a listing of the inputs and outputs (forms and screens) the user will need access to, as well as other pertinent software and hardware.

3. Operational Steps – a numerically listed set of steps to execute the procedure, written with the following rules:

    (a) Begin each new Operation with a verb; samples include:
Accept Establish Perform
Analyze Estimate Place
Assign Evaluate Prepare
Assist Execute Print
Attach File Process
Authorize Finish Receive
Begin Forward Recommend
Check Gather Record
Change Get Report
Compare Give Retain
Complete Identify Return
Conduct Indicate Review
Correct Initial Schedule
Count Insert Select
Create Install Sign
Define Interview Sort
Delete List Start
Describe Locate Store
Design Log Submit
Determine Maintain Survey
Develop Mark Terminate
Direct Move Total
Discuss Notify Verify
Distribute Obtain Write
Enter Order

(b) DO NOT begin the first sentence of the operational step with a condition clause, such as “if,” “when” or “should.” Begin the sentence with “compare” or “evaluate” as a verb; for example:

“Compare the value of DD-1 to DD-2; if DD-1 is greater than DD-2, go to step 4; if DD-2 is greater than DD-1, go to step 27.”

If a single operational step is complicated, it may be divided into sub-sections; for example:

“Evaluate the value of DD-1:

a. If DD-1 equals 1, go to step 2.

b. If DD-2 equals 2, go to step 6.”

For additional info, see “The New Playscript Procedure” by Les Matthies.

GRAMMAR

There are some other simple rules to observe when writing for business:

1. Use present tense. Avoid future tense (using shall or will) unless you are actually referring to a future event, or you want to make a strong promise or threat.

    Incorrect: Systems Engineering will then prepare a cost/benefit analysis.

Correct: (a) Systems Engineering next prepares a cost/benefit analysis.
(b) Systems Engineering will prepare a cost/benefit analysis when requested by Systems Resource Management.

2. Use functional titles rather than personal pronouns. For example:

      Systems Engineering vs. Systems Engineer

 

      Data Resource Management vs. Data Resource Manager

 

    Project Management vs. Project Manager

3. Other considerations:

      (a) Begin a sentence with “When” rather than “Once.”

 

      (b) Say “help with” rather than “help in.”

 

      (c) Do not begin a sentence with “Because” or “Therefore.”

 

      (d) Replace LASTLY with FINALLY.

 

      (e) Do not begin sentences with words like FIRSTLY, SECONDLY, or THIRDLY.

 

      (f) Beware of the excessive use of the words. “that” and “which”, two words tending to be used excessively. For each occurrence of the word in your text, ask yourself if you can reconstruct the sentence without it.

 

    (g) Avoid the use of words with apostrophe (n’t), (‘v), (‘s) and (‘re) words, such as: can’t, haven’t, I’ve, isn’t, etc. This leads to sloppy writing habits. Spell them out instead.

And by all means, please learn to use spell and grammar checkers as found in word processing software.

Cultivating a professional image in business writing requires discipline and practice. Herein, I have covered the fundamentals for the sake of brevity. Obviously, there is much more to be discussed.

Again, remember, begin by telling the reader what you are going to tell them; tell them; at the end, tell them what you have told them.

When writing for business, it is perhaps best to remember the following quote from Michelangelo, “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE BUDGET BATTLE – Just how badly do we want to manage the budget?

LAST TIME:  NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX  – Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Business, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 17, 2015

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

A phenomenon I have run across on more than one occasion in my travels through the corporate world is what is commonly referred to as the “Not Invented Here” complex or simply “N.I.H.” I have encountered it in North America, Asia, Europe, and a little bit down-under in Australia. Basically, N.I.H. is a situation where an idea or invention is rebuffed simply because someone outside of the company thought of it first. The idea may be perfectly sound, but if it wasn’t invented internally, it is considered illegitimate.

The premise that something invented externally cannot be any good is a rather myopic and pigheaded point-of-view involving some rather large egos. Not surprising, larger companies are more inclined to adopt such an attitude as opposed to smaller ones. I don’t want to drop any corporate names here, but I have seen some rather large Fortune 500 companies say something to the effect, “Well, we’re the XYZ Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of widgets, and you’re just a small nobody; what makes you think you’re so smart?” Even after you carefully explain your idea and refute all of their objections, they still refuse to admit defeat. It is at this point when their superiority complex turns into a jealous rage. Now irritated, they reject the idea or invention and, instead, become hell-bent on reinventing it themselves. The only problem here is they have difficulty reproducing your invention and inevitably result in paying a lot more than you did. In other words, the people who believe in N.I.H. are the same people incurring exorbitant research and development costs. In all likelihood, they have as much of a chance of producing a better design of your invention, than you do of producing their widgets.

I find it interesting when pride clouds people’s minds in this regard. As for me, if someone has built a better mousetrap, I would much rather buy it than try to reinvent it myself at considerable expense. Basically, I want to just get on with the job.

Years ago we made a presentation to a large electronics company in California regarding our systems design methodology. The company politely listened to our pitch but afterwards made it clear they thought they could produce a better methodology themselves. After several months and a couple of million dollars trying to reinvent our wheel, they swallowed their pride and purchased our product. Costs had finally overtaken egos.

Plain and simply, N.I.H. is inflationary and a horrible price to pay for a pompous ego. I don’t care how big your company is, a good idea is a good idea, regardless of who invented it. Take the ego off the table and get the job done. I do not understand the compulsion by some people to reinvent the wheel.

Originally Published: 02/15/2010

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  BUSINESS WRITING – A crash course on writing for people in a business setting.

LAST TIME:  WARNING TO BLOGGERS: BEWARE OF YOUR COPYRIGHTS  – Before you start blogging, protect yourself.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Business | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

WARNING TO BLOGGERS: BEWARE OF YOUR COPYRIGHTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 15, 2015

BRYCE ON WRITING

– Before you start blogging, protect yourself.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I have had a blog for a number of years with hundreds of postings. I take my work rather seriously and in order to safeguard it, I learned a long time ago to copyright my material. Of course, copyright is a part of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) and is intended to safeguard the rights of authors. Obviously, this means nobody can re-use it unless you authorize them to do so. The Internet though makes it much too easy to “copy” and “paste” the written word without permission. In many cases, authors will allow you to copy articles, all you have to do is ask permission and observe their copyright notation on your re-posting. Anything else is just plain theft.

There are a lot of bloggers who do not take their work as serious as I do and use it to simply record frivolous comments. However, there are a lot more who expend considerable effort in their writings and should take steps to prevent misappropriation of their work. Unfortunately, they do not and their work may be spread across cyberspace with no credit for its source. This also means deadbeats can take your work and claim it as their own.

Fortunately, copyright law is designed to protect your rights and it goes into effect the moment you write something. The Internet though is a strange creature and I would admonish you to take additional steps to protect your work. The safest blogs are those you control yourself. Blogging tools such as WordPress and Blogger were specifically designed for independent blogging. For those who believe this is too technically challenging (they really are not), there are writer communities on the Internet who simplify the process of blogging your work. The danger here though, is some of these communities want to supersede your ownership of your work and post their own copyright notation. The author should carefully review the terms and conditions of use for the blog. If it says something to the effect, the work becomes their property or their copyright supersedes your own, run (do not walk) away from this community. Their intent is to steal your work. If you are not planning to post anything important, fine, use the facility, but if you want to claim ownership of your work, you would be wise to avoid it.

Keep one thing in mind, if you submit your blog posting with the proper notation, your copyright should preempt any other. Here is a sample of how copyright notation should be expressed:

“Copyright © 2015 by John Doe. All rights reserved.”

As an aside, the HTML code for the copyright symbol is: ©

If you really do not want people stealing your work, you might want to consider writing it to a PDF file format (Portable Document Format). PDF is an open standard created by Adobe. There are many tools available to create a PDF file which can be displayed on a web page or e-mailed to people. Interestingly, when creating a PDF file, there is an option to prevent copying or downloading text, which greatly deters thieves. You can even prevent people from printing the document if you are so inclined.

I write this article as a warning to bloggers; there are simply too many unscrupulous people who do not respect the ownership of your own hard work. If you want to blog frivolously, do not worry. If you value your work, take some preventative measures.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX – Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

LAST TIME:  MEDICAL RECORDS INTEROPERABILITY  – Law makers are just beginning to realize the problem the medical community has in sharing data between systems.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Intellectual Property, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

MEDICAL RECORDS INTEROPERABILITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 13, 2015

BRYCE ON MEDICINE

– Law makers are just beginning to realize the problem the medical community has in sharing data between systems.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Five years ago I wrote a column regarding patient records in medicine, “My Dinner with the Doctor.” At the time, the government mandated that all doctors and medical institutions were required to process all patient records electronically. This created an uproar in the medical community in that doctors and nurses were forced to expend an inordinate amount of time creating and updating records. As a result, doctors were spending more time updating records as opposed to caring for their patients; Nurses were also swamped by records, leaving it to orderlies to look after patients. In other words, they were spending more time on bureaucratic red tape as opposed to caring for the sick.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the concept of electronic patient records, but the government didn’t think this through carefully and provided no standards for the data to be captured, and how to exchange it with other systems. Consequently, a plethora of software packages popped up to record and manage medical records. Graphically, they all looked nice, but they did not work cooperatively (aka “Closed Systems”).

It has long been a Bryce’s Law that, “The only way that information systems communicate, both internally and externally to other systems, is through data.” In this day and age of computing, it is difficult to imagine a software product without some form of import/export facility, be it nothing more than “Save as” (another file format), or through use of the clipboard. Instead, most of these software products have their own proprietary file formats, thereby prohibiting the exchange of data and forcing a dependency on the product.

Recently, a report was brought to my attention from “MedicalMedicine,” one of a group of medical publications offered by UBM Advanstar. In the report, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation, had a recent epiphany whereby vendors have taken patient data “hostage,” meaning they prohibit interoperability. All I can say is, “No fooling!”

The report goes on to say the marketplace is now saturated, and the only way to make money is in data migration. For example, if a doctor wants to move from one package to another (which is quite common), it’s not simply a matter of exporting the data from the old package and importing it into the new package. Instead, he must pay a fee for someone to reconfigure the file format, thereby permitting its use in the new package. At the end of the article, readers added their comments which is where I discovered doctors were paying such fees as $3,500, $6,500, and as much as $12,000 to migrate their data. Again, had the government thought about this properly, there would be an import/export facility and standard file formats (such as Delimited ASCII or fixed length records), and this data migration ripoff would have been avoided and costs cut.

What is frustrating is this problem of data interoperability is just coming to light. The medical community has known about it for years, but the government had no clue about it. This is an instance of automating for the sake of automating, without any consideration for data exchange. The true purpose of patient electronic records is to allow the easy exchange of medical data. For example, if I were to happen to have a medical emergency in a distant town, such as Cincinnati, my records could easily be transmitted electronically by my Palm Harbor physician. However, this is not how it works. Because of the lack of standards by the government, my doctor would have to FAX my medical records instead, a much slower process.

What is happening in medical records management is simply barbaric. There is no other way to describe it. As a systems consultant, I just shake my head in disbelief. As Stengel would have observed, “Whodathunkit!”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  WARNING TO BLOGGERS: BEWARE OF YOUR COPYRIGHTS – Before you start blogging, protect yourself.

LAST TIME:  THE SIMPLE PLEASURE OF FRIDAY MORNINGS  – Rise and shine, and see what is going on in the world.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Doctors, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

THE SIMPLE PLEASURE OF FRIDAY MORNINGS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 10, 2015

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Rise and shine, and see what is going on in the world.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I’m an early riser, but then again, I think any responsible adult who has raised children develop this particular habit. Mornings are my favorite time as it is quiet and you begin to plan your day ahead. On our side of Florida (the Gulf Coast), our sunsets are much better than sunrises. Fortunately, there are other things to observe early in the day. I particularly enjoy driving at this twilight time (between 6-7 am) as there are few people on the road. There is a stillness to mornings and it’s interesting to observe people as they begin their day. Many people like to check their e-mail and tune in to social medial early on, but I don’t believe they know what they are missing outside.

As I drive through my neighborhood on my way out, I see a few people walking and jogging, but mostly walking. Some are out with their dogs for their morning walk, carrying the obligatory plastic bags to pick up the pet’s waste. As part of their ritual, the dogs sniff the morning dew on the lawns, and challenge squirrels and birds already foraging for food. Flowers and Azalea bushes are just beginning to open for the day, painting marvelous tapestries on lawns. Those who walk alone either seem to be on a mission as they march, or stroll slowly along gabbing on their smart phones. I often wonder who they are annoying at this early hour.

Children are yawning as they meander to the bus stop for the first wave of pickups for the day. All wear a backpack and look like they are off on a hike as opposed to going to school. Car pools and families are also beginning to make the rounds.

Lawn maintenance crews are setting up for the day and checking their equipment. Most are cautious not to create a raucous too early in the morning.

As I drive by our small downtown area, I see deliverymen quietly making deliveries in preparation for the upcoming weekend. The smell of breakfast is in the air as you pass local restaurants with the sweet aromas of coffee and bread. Automobile and tire stations are opening their bay doors around this time. Managers are moving promotional products and signs outside on to the sidewalk, and mechanics prepare their work stations. Some slip outside for their last cigarette or cup of coffee before beginning the day’s work.

At the local barber shop, senior citizens are quietly lined up waiting for the door to open. I learned a long time ago not to try and have my hair cut at an early hour as I possess a phobia for stampedes.

Fishermen are busy fueling their boats, checking their rigging, and stocking supplies. It pays to stop and chat with them to find out where they’re going, what is biting, and what bait they are using.

I sometimes use this opportunity to drop by the post office to check our p.o. box and drop off mail. Occasionally I run into other people there. When I say, “Good morning,” some are taken aback and look at me like I have three eyes. Maybe it’s how I say it, then again, people are still a little groggy at this hour.

The few drivers I see on the road early in the morning seem heavily sedated. They are not in as big of a rush as they do by 8:00 am and the rest of the day. You do not hear the honking of horns yet, and people seem rather courteous on the road at this hour.

When I visit my friend in North Carolina, who happens to live in a rural area, the silence is inevitably broken by roosters crowing in the distance. I guess it is their way of telling everyone who the boss is, particularly the hens. As you travel in such areas, you see farmers already up and going about their business, be it to feed the livestock or start their equipment in preparation for sunup.

Friday mornings are a favorite of mine, not because it represents the end of the work week, but because there is a quiet dignity to the day. It is the little nuances of life I appreciate and certainly do not take for granted.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  MEDICAL RECORDS INTEROPERABILITY – Law makers are just beginning to realize the problem the medical community has in sharing data between systems.

LAST TIME:  THE PROBLEM WITH DRUG NAMES  – They certainly do not give us a clue about their purpose or use.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE PROBLEM WITH DRUG NAMES

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 8, 2015

BRYCE ON LIFE

– They certainly do not give us a clue about their purpose or use.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I visited my doctor’s office recently. I find it interesting the posters on the walls describing the latest drugs. They all have strange names which makes you think they are Latin based, but few are. Most simply have a marketing spin which is to catch your ear and hopefully plant it in your memory. Personally, I have trouble with the drug names which border on quackery as far as I’m concerned. Of course, I’m of an older generation who is more familiar with simpler cures such as Aspirin, Laxatives, Castor Oil, Cod Liver Oil, and Man & Beast Salve. Quite often a good slug of Coca Cola and a deep belch can work miracles. Maybe this is what they mean by “The pause that refreshes.”

You also see several drugs on prime time television, particularly during the news hour, where they frequently mention both Over the Counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical firms literally spend billions of dollars on advertising their products, which is why drug names are so important to them. I must confess though, I haven’t a clue where they get their names from, but they certainly do not give you an inkling as to their purpose. For example, I recently saw an ad for “Eliquis” which I presumed was to improve your vocabulary. In reality, it is to reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots in people who have atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat,

I do not believe I am the only one confused by the names of the drugs. Consider the list of drugs below and try to determine their true purpose. You might get a couple right, but most people will flunk this quiz, I know I did, and I wrote it. (The answers are on the bottom.)

1. Aricept

A – To improve strength in hand grip due to arthritis.
B – Natural laxative.
C – To treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
D – To treat erratic breathing.

2. Astelin

A – To treat hemorrhoid inflammation.
B – To treat symptoms of hay fever.
C – To cleanse tongue and improve pallor.
D – To treat baldness due to chemotherapy.

3. Celebrex

A – Treats pain, including pain caused by arthritis.
B – Treats pain due to gun shot.
C – Stimulant for PMS mood swing.
D – Depressant for excessive alcohol.

4. Chantix

A – To treat throat and adenoids due to excessive use.
B – To treat alcohol addiction.
C – Nutritional supplement.
D – To treat nicotine addiction.

5. Cymbalta

A – Treats disorders of the inner ear.
B – Treats depression, anxiety.
C – A natural placebo.
D – Treats pain due to cataract surgery.

6. Detrol LA

A – To treat urinary incontinence (bladder control).
B – Plant food.
C – Treats depression in middle aged people.
D – Poisonous spray to control rodents.

7. Latuda

A – Treats the symptoms of motion sickness.
B – Natural laxative for people over 60.
C – Treats schizophrenia.
D – Non-addictive hallucinogenic to treat depression.

8. Levitra

A – A vegetable oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the Levit plant.
B – Common pill for the treatment of air sickness.
C – Treats arthritis in pet dogs and cats.
D – Treats erectile dysfunction.

9. Lipitor

A – Lowers high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
B – Treats the symptoms of Herpes.
C – Balm for the treatment of cold sores.
D – Regulates pace makers.

10. Lunesta

A – Treats depression.
B – Treats insomnia (sleep disorder).
C – Non-addictive drug used mainly as an entheogen and recreational drug.
D – Reduces pain caused by female menstruation.

11. Nexium

A – Cause pupil dilation, reduced appetite, and wakefulness.
B – Medicinal drug used as part of religious or spiritual rites.
C – Treats anxiety while waiting in line or in crowds.
D – Treats heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach ulcers, and a damaged esophagus.

12. Omnaris

A – To treat asthma and nasal allergies.
B – Used in the treatment of Syphilis.
C – Chewable resin to treat nicotine addiction.
D – The world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.

13. Plavix

A – To treat bladder control in seniors.
B – Used in the treatment of constipation.
C – A blood thinner used to help prevent stroke, heart attack, and other heart problems.
D – Treats memory loss due to Dimentia.

14. Prilosec OTC

A – Formerly known as Nicoret.
B – Treats hay fever and other allergies.
C – To treat heartburn.
D – Ointment used to treat scratches, cuts and other wounds.

15. Restasis

A – Treats insomnia (sleep disorder).
B – Stimulant used for circulation.
C – Used as a prelude to a frontal lobotomy.
D – To treats chronic dry eye disease.

16. Rozerem

A – Treats allergies due to flora and fauna.
B – Treats insomnia (sleep disorder).
C – An analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains.
D – An effervescent antacid and pain reliever.

17. Valtrex

A – Treats a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and seizures.
B – Treats herpes virus infections, including shingles.
C – Used to slow heart palpitations.
D – Treats gastro digestive ailments, such as diarrhea.

18. VeramystA – Treats excessive development of mucous.
B – Marital aid.
C – Breathalyzer used to relieve asthma suffering.
D – Treats nasal allergy symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, and runny nose.

19. Vytorin

A – Lowers high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
B – Dietary supplement, includes several vitamin complexes plus iron or multimineral products.
C – Stimulant for use during exercise.
D – Used in the treatment of ear wax.

20. Zyrtec

A – Used to clean water pipes.
B – Treats nail fungus, both hands and feet.
C – Treats hay fever and allergy symptoms, hives, and itching.
D – Pet nutritional additive.

The possible side effects from using these drugs can be extensive; vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, insomnia, cramping, anorexia, constipation, headache, heart attack, stroke, seizures, liver problems, skin reactions, abdominal pain, and, of course, Death! This certainly does not encourage me to run out and buy it. No wonder they want you to call your doctor before taking these drugs, they do not truly know whether it will help you or hurt you. Frankly, I do not know how doctors keep track of all these drugs. There are obviously a lot more, which is why pharmaceutical firms spend billions in marketing their products, to create general awareness. However, the more they spend on marketing, the greater the unit cost for the medication, which leads to our last drug: KOWABUNGATHOL – a stimulant that waves a red flag in front of people telling them to wake up and let the doctor order the medication, not the patient.

ANSWERS: 1-C, 2-B, 3-A, 4-D, 5-B, 6-A, 7-C, 8-D, 9-A, 10-B, 11-D, 12-A, 13-C, 14-C, 15-D, 16-B, 17-B, 18-D, 19-A, 20-C

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE SIMPLE PLEASURE OF FRIDAY MORNINGS – Rise and shine, and see what is going on in the world.

LAST TIME:  PROCESS TEMPLATES  – Five business process templates which accommodate most business processes.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Drugs, Life | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

PROCESS TEMPLATES

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 6, 2015

BRYCE ON SYSTEMS

– Five business process templates which accommodate most business processes.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

When we developed our Automated Systems Engineering (ASE) tool (originally called ADF – Automated Design Facility), it forced us to fine tune our concepts for system design. It was based on our concept of “Information Driven Design,” meaning it could deduce a complete system design based on the Information Requirements of the user. If the requirements were incorrect, the design was incorrect. However, in the hands of someone who understood requirements definition, it could save them considerable time in either designing a new system, or documenting an existing one.

Based on requirements, ASE decomposes a system into its sub-systems (business processes), the procedural work flow for each, and determine what programs are necessary to implement the computer procedures (software specs). To do this, we determined there were three basic types of sub-systems:

* File Maintenance (aka Data Collection).
* Information Retrieval (queries in the form of reports and screens).
* A combination of both Maintenance and Retrieval.

This implies there are primarily two functions we can apply to files: Read (query) or Write (update).

One of the key design parameters was the timing of the Information Requirements. For example, the need for specific information on a daily basis, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc., or Upon Request (aka “On Demand”).

To decompose sub-systems into procedural work flows, it is necessary to understand other properties, for example:

* All processing involves the use of transactions, either one at a time (such as to make a query), or volumes of transactions (such as “batch” processing).

* The workflow of a system involves the use of the processing constructs of sequence, iteration (repetition), and choice (branching). Further, the workflow has one or more “Starts” and continues uninterrupted until it reaches “End.”

Between the timing of the sub-system and transaction volume, we can make some assumptions in terms of procedural flow. For example, a sub-system needed “Upon Request” with a short response time (such as seconds) would inevitably result in an “interactive” sub-system; conversely, a daily or weekly process involving several transactions implies a “batch” process.

From these specifications, we can deduce standard business processes using templates. For example (Note: PROC = procedure):

TEMPLATE-1 – BATCH FILE MAINTENANCE

“Start”

PROC-1 – INPUT PREPARATION

PROC-2 – DATA CONVERSION – be it data entry, optical recognition, or some other form.

PROC-3 – UPDATE FILES – computer processing.

PROC-4 – REVIEW – to verify transactions were entered correctly (using a log) and implement necessary corrections.

“End”

Note: This is typically a sequential process.

TEMPLATE-2 – INTERACTIVE FILE MAINTENANCE

“Start”

PROC-1 – INPUT TRANSACTIONS, one at a time, through a screen. After reviewing data validation, either print, correct transaction, enter another transaction, or end.

PROC-2 – UPDATE FILES – computer processing producing data validation screen.

“End”

Note: This is typically an iterative process.

TEMPLATE-3 – INTERACTIVE QUERY

“Start”

PROC-1 – INPUT TRANSACTION representing a request, one at a time, through screen. After receiving information, either print, make another request, or end.

PROC-2 – READ FILES – computer processing to produce information on screen.

“End”

Note: This is typically an iterative process.

TEMPLATE 4 – BATCH REQUEST

“Start”

PROC-1 – INPUT TRANSACTION representing a request, either manually or scheduled.

PROC-2 – READ FILES – computer processing to produce reports.

PROC-3 – REVIEW AND DISTRIBUTE REPORTS

“End”

Note: This is typically used for such things as weekly/monthly payroll, weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual reports.

TEMPLATE-5 – INTERACTIVE READ/WRITE SELECTION

“Start”

PROC-1 – SELECT ACTION AND INPUT TRANSACTION through screen. If updating files, review data validation, either print, correct transaction, enter another transaction, return to menu to select another action, or end. If querying information, either print, make another request, return to menu to select another action, or end.

PROC-2 – READ/WRITE FILES – computer processing to either update files or produce information on screen.

“End”

Note: This is typically an iterative process.

When designing sub-systems, an application logical data base is created to service the data needs for all sub-systems, not just one. Then, as the sub-systems are designed into procedural flows, the application physical files can also be deduced, including working and primary files. Also, inputs and outputs are deduced and attached to the various processes.

These five templates represent the bulk of processing in companies. There may be other types of sub-systems to manage the overall system or to handle files, such as file initialization, backup, security, migration (import/export), but these five templates can be used by any business. Of course, such templates are modifiable to suit the nuances of a business, simply by adding or removing procedures.

Pictorially, we flowchart the sub-systems and procedures using standard ASCII flowcharting symbols which depict both the processing flow and data flow.

Information Driven Design

This is all made possible by defining our terminology and concepts. Information Driven Design concentrates on the proper definition of information requirements. Timing will ultimately dictate how data will be collected and stored (availability requirements) and how data will be accessed to produce information. From this, we can deduce both processing and data requirements, thereby providing for design correctness.

When decomposing the system into sub-systems, the emphasis is to design backwards:

Information Requirements >>> Data Requirements
Receiver of Information >>> Originator of Data
Outputs >>> Inputs

Later, as the sub-systems are decomposed into procedures, the process is reversed. Here, the design expresses how data will physically be processed in order to produce information.

Source of Data >>> Destination of Info
Inputs >>> Outputs
Start >>> End

This is also true in determining the programming of computer procedures, from “Start” to “End.”

The required data must be defined in such a way that we can easily understand what primary data must be supplied by a User and what generated data must be calculated internal to the system. Data relationships can be extensive. For example, take NET-PAY which may be based on a complicated computation:

NET-PAY = GROSS-PAY – FICA – CITY-TAX – UNION-DUES – (etc.)

The data elements used in the formula may also be calculated, such as:

GROSS-PAY = HOURS-WORKED X PAY-RATE

This means in order to arrive at the correct value for NET-PAY, we must be able to reach all of the primary values, such as HOURS-WORKED and PAY-RATE, in a TIMELY manner. If we cannot do this, NET-PAY will be incorrect.

Information Driven Design and the use of standard processing templates greatly simplifies the design of systems, thereby saving time on the critical up-front work that is normally overlooked. The result is a viable design of both the processes and the data. This approach is universally applicable and based on tried and proven approaches fundamental to sound system design.

The hitch though remains defining the information requirements properly. If they are correct, the design will be correct. However, if they are incorrect, no amount of elegant programming will correct a flawed design.

RELATED ARTICLE
“Automated System Design: Fact or Fiction?”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE PROBLEM WITH DRUG NAMES – They certainly do not give us a clue about their purpose or use.

LAST TIME:  DIVVYING UP THE CHECK  – Don’t turn a pleasant evening into an accounting nightmare.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Systems | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

DIVVYING UP THE CHECK

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 3, 2015

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Don’t turn a pleasant evening into an accounting nightmare.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
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One of the most embarrassing customs we have in this country is fighting over the bill at a restaurant. It’s one thing for someone to pick up the check in its entirety, quite another when we start to fight over who should pay what. When someone picks up the whole check, it’s usually done for business purposes, a date, a celebration, or as a term of endearment (meaning, “I enjoy your company and it would be an honor if you would allow me to pay the bill”). Under this scenario, the other party will inevitably reciprocate the next time you go out. If they do not, it’s time to find another friend.

Aside from this, the real problem comes when we try to split hairs over the check. The bill should, of course, be reviewed for accuracy, but I have been with people who like to put everything under a microscope and fight with the waiter or waitress over every nickel, thereby turning a pleasant evening into an uncomfortable inquisition. It’s one thing to be frugal, quite another to be cheap (Jack Benny preferred the word “penurious”).

I never understood the logic of having one bill for a large group of people who are going to pay separately. Inevitably, someone appoints him/herself as the head bookkeeper and instructs everyone what they owe, rather loudly I might add. Everybody at the table then knows who the big spenders are, as well as the tightwads. Why not have separate checks and save everyone the embarrassment? It might be a headache for the waiter or waitress, but no more than having someone run a P & L statement on you over the PA system.

Most of the time, people will simply split the bill evenly, which is easy for the waiter to do, and provides an equitable solution for all of the parties involved, unless one of the parties is keeping a scorecard on who ate and drank what, thereby feeling cheated by a 50/50 split. In this situation, have the waiter split the check accordingly and avoid creating any ill-will.

The last thing that could potentially turn ugly when multiple parties are involved is calculating the tip. Under a 50/50 split, both parties should theoretically give the same amount (assuming they are both satisfied with the service provided). If one person gives more than another, than the waiter will most likely think one person is cheaper than the other (or more generous than the other depending on your perspective).

When we share a meal with others, the general idea is to relax and have a good time. Consequently, paying the bill should be handled with finesse and grace, not embarrassment. Perhaps the best way to develop indigestion is to fight over a lousy bill which would certainly defeat the purpose of going out together.

Originally published: 02/08/2010

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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