Friday, March 16, 2007

Pushing the Wrong End of the Performance Pineapple

In case you're wondering why you, as a performance analyst or product manager, don't get much traction in your shop when you try to proselytize the otherwise highly rational notion of designing performance into the product (as opposed to patching it in after it has been released), contemplate this:

The performance of the production process trumps the performance of the product it produces.

If you don't read and heed this concept, you are going to find yourself perpetually frustrated. What I mean by this is, that we (performance weenies) are focused on the speeds and feeds of the bits and bytes associated with the technology being produced, whereas most companies these days are forced by Wall Street to be more focused on the performance and cost of their internal management processes.

I said the same thing on page XX of the Preface to my 1998 book, The Practical Performance Analysts:

"Management no longer focuses on the speed of the product as much as the speed of producing the product. Nowadays, production performance matters more than product performance."

I believe this is truer today than it was 10 years ago. Here are some reasons why:

  • Many hi-tech companies have offshored their engineering while keeping middle and upper management local. Latest example: Google goes to Poland

  • There are substantial tax incentives for USA companies to go offshore, and then ask Congress for more H-1B visas

  • There is a financial incentive to charge the customer (possibly you) for performance upgrades

  • The Dilbertization of the IT workplace

Is it any wonder then, that you don't get a warm reception from upper management? The odds are stacked against you, and the stack goes all the way back to Wall St. Don't even think about fighting that war. The only battles worth fighting, in my view, are the ones that employ guerrilla-style tactics.

Ironically, as I explain in my classes, this is where performance analysis really started, viz., with Frederic Winslow Taylor, the original performance analyst (anal-ist?) who introduced "time and motion" studies on human production in assembly lines and office environments of the early 1920s.

Oh, in case you're wondering about the title, it's an Aussie-ism. There is no good or smooth end of a pineapple.

1 comment:

Greg Dawe said...

Your phrase "performance of production process trumps the performance of the product it produces" is accurate, and from some aspects, well known. Execs are Revenue and Schedule driven. Performance is rarely in their zone of interest unless performance affects Revenue or Schedule. In the absence of a compelling reason created by, say, a public failure, the performance professionals inside the enterprise must influence leaders in the development and/or deployment process, rather than the execs. From an organizational perspective they have to approach the challenge from the 'other side of the pineapple'... ;-)