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Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30

The anniversary of Target Canada’s demise and my knowing head-nods to data problems behind it, the inspiration for the singular Disney villian Ursula in the Little Mermaid, and how J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech is still just as pointedly applicable in today’s culture of fear—it’s this week’s Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30

  • During my days at Accenture Canada, implementing SAP systems was the crux of what my colleagues and I did. Many of these same colleagues were staffed at the Target Canada SAP implementation project. Several of my own project experiences were in the area of data migration and data enhancement for the Loblaw SAP implementation, so it’s with great interest that I read this article from Canadian Business,  “The Last Days of Target Canada“. I found myself nodding my head knowingly as the story unspooled. Again this underlines the extreme importance of the quality of data, as the huge volumes of both master data and transactions combine with errors in said data to take down the retailer. I’m sure the folks at Loblaw are feeling pretty good about their own implementation in comparison after reading this.
  • There was always something thrilling and compelling about Ursula the sea witch in the Little Mermaid animated Disney movie. This was one of my favourite movies growing up, and it’s still enjoyable now but for completely different reasons. Much of it has to do with Ursula and her power to get what she wants by trading it for what others foolishly want. Plus that song “Poor unfortunate souls” is bonkers.  “Unearthing the Sea Witch” by Nicole Pasulka and Brian Ferree tell the story about the inspiration for the character, particularly a real life Baltimore drag queen named Divine.
  • While poking around Youtube looking at David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, I came across J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement. It is a remarkable address that again demonstrates she is a great writer in how she deftly uses humour and personal example to provide inspiriation to not fear failure, and the importance of imagination and empathy in our world of uncertainty, complexity and fear. It resonates just as clearly now, nearly 8 years later, and I have no doubt will stand the test of time to resonate truthfully into the future.
    (The transcript of her speech: bit.ly/1zeUPfA)
  • And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

    What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

~Jen

The bittersweet reunion with my former colleagues

In the world of IT consulting, the group of people that you work with generally change every 6 to 12 months, as a project and/or your role on that project has a finite start and end date. Often when a person’s role on the project ends, there is a roll-off party held for her as she “rolls-off” the project. It’s one small way to recognize and thank that person for their contributions to the project. Several weeks ago, I was invited to a roll-off party for a friend who was also leaving the company. I was excited to see some of my friends and colleagues who, uncharacteristically for IT consulting, I had worked with through many years. It ended up being a somewhat bittersweet reunion with my former colleagues.

The Bitter

There was laughter at the table as they shared another story about another crisis that occurred and how they managed to right the ship. It was the same type of stories we’ve been swapping for years, populated with a cast of the same colleague and client personalities. The issues, while different, are bound in their similarity by occurring in the same or similar complex landscape. Multiple business units coexisting with different business rules. The many different client team members in different functions working in these business units, often with competing interests. Vast amounts of operational data required to enable their business to function. A complex spaghetti of back end technical infrastructure as a result of mergers, history, and business growth. And the multi-year IT program we were part of to implement and integrate their IT systems. It was not unlike being on a Tolkien quest to deliver “the one ring to bind them all”.

In short: it’s hard work. You are placed in teams for a relatively short amount of time, and disbanded after the project is done. Continue reading The bittersweet reunion with my former colleagues