Next Week – NOLA

By Daniel Antion posted 03-12-2013 15:04


Next week I will be giving a presentation at the AIIM Conference titled “Four Fried Chickens and a Coke.” If you are too young to get the reference, find a way to watch The Blues Brothers and think about the mission. Not the music, the jokes, the slapstick comedy done with cars and buildings, but the fact that these guys were passionate, if not deranged, in their pursuit of something good. My presentation has been written for over a month, my notes have been drafted, practiced and fine-tuned, but yesterday, I was treated to two more examples that tell me that I’m right.

Unrealized – One of the systems we are starting to work on is a new system to record and report on the foreign reinsurance that we provide other pools. We have been having a series of initial discussions, just to plant everyone on the project at or near the same place. Yesterday’s discussion touched on two of my favorite topics: Unearned Premium and Unrealized Gains and Losses on Foreign Exchange. This is when you come face-to-face with the fact that the company you work for doesn’t make widgets. I’m not going to try to explain these topics again, once a week is enough, but there are several important lessons that we have to remember as we work with information.

  • It’s not about technology– The two topics discussed yesterday are not sexy, it’s highly unlikely that there will be an app for them, and I doubt very much that I’ll ever see #unearned trending on Twitter. On the other hand, calculating and reporting these things – accurately and consistently, is a requirement of the world in which we work.
  • It’s not about you – As we crawled through this discussion, we had help from one of our accountants. She walked us through examples, regulations, reports and went into the weeds just far enough to explain how this information is used and why it’s important. Everything can’t be figured out mechanically or from a distance. Sometimes, you have to bring others into the design process early on and you have to listen to them.
  • Day jobs – I’ve written about this before, but every time we have one of these discussions, I am reminded of the fact that these people (accountants for example) have a day job that doesn’t revolve around our system, our database or the things we wish they understood better. They understand  their own things better, and that’s enough. We chose this career, and our job requires us to understand what they do, well enough to automate it or support it with an automated system.

Passion – Before leaving yesterday, I received an email from the woman on my team who does most of our SharePoint work. She was concerned that limitations on the selection capability meant that she would be returning too many documents to choose from in a solution she is building. She is passionate about how that solution will look on day one, and how it will look a year from day one when there are a lot more documents to choose from. We have to approach our jobs with that kind of outlook.

When Jake and Elwood first entered the café owned by Matt Guitar Murphy, they asked his wife (played by Aretha Franklin),if they served fried chicken. Her reply was “best damn fried chicken in the state!” That’s when I settled on the title for my presentation – that’s how we have to work.

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