Going Over the Fence

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make sure advertising syncs up with availability. Certainly “build management” matters when customers are expecting consistent product across the stores. Issue and defect tracking have their place too.

Given the proclivity of this society to ensure each person gets their “fair” share, I venture to say that it may become feasible for businesses to learn the lessons so painfully gathered in our own journeys. As a consumer I demand that the 400 page user manual for my cell phone contain the pictures relevant to my model variant when I toss it in the back of the drawer.

Instead of several CMs working for a single organization, we’ll potentially find individuals supporting multiple organizations. A little version control with a law firm here, some release management for that architectural firm there. And what have we created? We’ve become our own mutual fund. Instead of all our eggs being in one employer’s basket where we have no control, we now have a number of eggs scattered in baskets of our choosing. We’ve increased our stability, supporting businesses that won’t be outsourced, and changed the dynamic of our own lives. If we can set it up right, we need only do the initial training and then be available for support and periodic update. Ideally, this is something we can start now while we’re still employed. We can allow the business to pick up at our own pace and use evenings and vacation to get the ball rolling.

But wait, isn’t that just business consulting? Sure, in some ways. I’m not suggesting we rewrite their whole business plan. That would get into all sorts of things we usually don’t have the training or inclination to prosecute. I submit that we could sell our skill set for just what it is, change control. Large and small, all businesses need change control. While business managers are busy chasing the latest management fad, the simple functions of change control are the core elements every company needs. Not only can we provide the process consulting, we can also provide the process support. We can manage the version control system in that law firm or the issue tracking system for a modest customer support group.

So what would it take to set ourselves up? There are thousands of books available for starting a business. Many of them are free at the local library. I won’t go into that level of detail but in giving this some thought, a number of items occur to me.

For starters, we would need to identify what skills we have for both process and tools. Then we would need to identify how those skills and tools could be cost effective for other businesses. That’s going to include a fair amount of trial and error. We may not know other businesses that well so we’re dependent on gaining access to the high and low levels where we can make a difference. But that doesn’t get us in the door yet.

We still need to give the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) to the prospective client. Why should they buy our processes or the tools we recommend? In short, we need to sell them. Some of us are in IT because we’re limited on the people-savvy side of things. But for many, those are crucial skills we already employ as contractors and consultants. As many communications and management gurus have taught, people generally operate out of self-interest. If we can keep our focus on the way our skills and tools benefit the customer, then we’ll do just fine. But we’re not going to be able

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