By Stephen Putman, Senior Consultant
In my recent blog posting, "Metadata is Key," I talked about one way of changing the mindset of managers and implementers in support of the coming "semantic wave" of linked data management. Today, I give you another way to prepare for the coming revolution, and also become more disciplined and effective in your project management whether you're going down the semantic road or not...
rathole (n) - [from the English idiom ”down a rathole” for a waste of money or time] A technical subject that is known to be able to absorb infinite amounts of discussion time without more than an infinitesimal probability of arrival at a conclusion or consensus.
Anyone who has spent time implementing computer systems knows exactly what I'm talking about here. Meetings can sometimes devolve into lengthy discussions that have little to do with the subject at hand. Frequently, these meetings become quite emotional, which makes it difficult to refocus the discussion on the meeting's subject. The end result is frustration felt by the project team on "wasting time" on unrelated subjects, with the resulting lack of clarity and potential for schedule overruns.
One method for mitigating this issue is the presence of a "rathole monitor" in each meeting. I was introduced to this concept at a client several years ago, and I was impressed by the focus they had in meetings, much to the project’s benefit. A "rathole monitor" is a person who does not actively participate in the meeting, but understands the scope and breadth of the proposed solution very well and has enough standing in the organization that they are trusted. This person listens to the discussion in the meeting, and interrupts when he perceives that the conversion is veering off into an unrelated direction. It is important for this person to record this divergence and relay it to the project management team for later discussion - the discussion is usually useful to the project, and if these new ideas are not addressed later, people will keep these ideas to themselves, which could be detrimental to the project.
This method will pay dividends in current project management, but how does it relate to semantics and linked data? Semantic technology is all about context and relationships of data objects - in fact, without these objects and relationships being well defined, semantic processing is impossible. Therefore, developing a mindset of scope and context is essential to the successful implementation of any semantically enabled application. Training your staff to think in these terms makes your organization perform in a more efficient and focused manner, which will surely lead to increased profitability and more effective operations.
photo by xJasonRogersx via Flickr (Creative Commons License)
Stephen Putman has over 20 years experience supporting client/server and internet-based operations from small offices to major corporations. He has extensive experience in a variety of front-end development tools, as well as relational database design and administration, and is extremely effective in project management and leadership roles. He is the co-author of The Data Governance eBook, available at information-management.com.
Posted December 16, 2010 6:00 AM
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