What if the local Talent is really the better talent?
Strategy and the ability to create quality systems and software is not location specific!
Ten years ago, one of my projects that I was working on was to developer a knowledge-base at work. Now I live in the midwest area of the country, and so the area isn’t exactly know as a technological powerhouse for talent, or so that’s the common believe.
While juggling projects, I came up with the idea at work of developing an online website that would serve as a knowledge-base and command console for the computer applications and the various systems at where I worked. My passion was to create a documenting and tool site especially for not commonly updated applications that can be hard to remember how to work with, and a reminder piece to keep the documents up to date! So I started the project, and to my surprise took it to a level that I’ve never seen before. It was a system that made even the canned software version that were fat client based (installed on your workstation instead of an online website) look lame in comparison. I’m not going to get to technical here, but it had features that later would be seen in products like Microsoft Sharepoint (but my application was 5 years earlier) and it even had other features that I still haven’t seen on the market. Needless to say, it was very powerful and all the local users of the knowledge-base loved it.
Sometimes Corporate Politics Kill a Great Product
The application/website had some internal mechanism like a checking mechanism that would email document owner if the document hasn’t been updated within the past 6 months. This ensured that the documents in the system were both relevant and up to date. It had an intuitive and quick interface that was easy to add/edit and delete entries, and it was integrated with the Microsoft Active Directory so no logon page was associated with it. It would just allow the users to see stuff based on their AD logon and groups that they were in. It was so easy. And another nice “advanced” feature of the site was that it was automated or self maintained by the users of the system. Changes were archived so they could be reviews via a reporting element for managers too. So there wasn’t any operations cost of the product, so it cost less to own since it was automated and end-user maintained.
Then a VP (that didn’t use my knowledge-base website or know of the functional or cost benefits) heard that there was a version in corporate headquarters that existed and axed the knowledge-base that I designed and created, without even reviewing my site or asking others opinions about the move. This made the users of my site and me disappointed, but we figured as long as a knowledge-base existed it would be good.
That didn’t turn out to be the case! The “official” knowledge base sucked, it had a separate login, and the functionality and interface was horrible! Those that used my version found the “official” knowledge base a pain and stopped using the “official corporate” knowledge base site all together.
I recently reviewed the “official” site again, and although it a bit prettier (thanks to CSS), it’s still missing the logic to make it a great product. Sharepoint has stolen some of its thunder though too, although I find Sharepoint a pain to work with to because of the way it’s structured (at least where I use to work), its much better than the corporate knowledge-base. I would have brought the site to the market place to sell, but my employer made us all sign a form that states anything that we develop on company time, is the companies. So even though the product wasn’t use by the company, I couldn’t sell it. Needless to say, it was a somewhat frustrating experience!
So in conclusion, sometimes your local talent may be as good or perhaps a lot better than the talent located in the big cities or state know for technology. I think it shows poor leadership skill when a VP doesn’t even review a product or asked the users of the product if it has value. Hopefully your employer’s VPs are more clever than the VPs of the company that I use to work at.
Thanks for reading my rant,