Tuesday, January 24, 2006

But do the fast really want to eat the slow?

I'm a "consulting engineer" at my job, which means that I do the same things that any general-purpose computer guy does, but I do them for lots of different companies, all in the same day. I get to work within lots of different companies' work environments.
There's a book out, about which I know nothing except the title: It's Not the Big that Eat the Small...It's the Fast that Eat the Slow. I recently learned what "slow" means.

We got a gig to spend a lot of time helping a Big Stinking Telephone company. This company was recently called one of Corporate America's most-evil in slashdot postings.

Succesful V0IP carriers have some things in common: a small, smart staff (two or three, at least at first) with a strong need for their system to work. They use the SIP phones on their desks as soon as the system barely works. They're involved in the business decisions. Technical control tends to be centralized to people who actually use the enable password. Meetings are hard work. Regular upgrades are a part of life, so they learn to deal with it. V0IP is treated like real lifeline telephone service. They accept responsibility for making the system work.

Big slow companies lack these features. (At least this one did.) Yes, the staff was smart. But as an organiztion they were practically neurotic -- every risk had to be controlled, every server had to be redundant, every action planned with multiple people, everything scheduled with a pseudo-deadline. Every meeting took a while to schedule, so everything moved slowly.

Frustratingly slowly. Discouragingly slowly.

Do the fast really want any of that?

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