Thursday, June 24, 2010

Plumbers Are Your Friend

In 1985 my wife and I bought the home of our dreams - if you define 'dreams' as an unending money pit of despair, toil, and loathing.  For 23 years I spent every Sunday at my local religious outlet, a.k.a. Our Lady of Home Depot.  I am now a Deacon of said house of worship having learned a wide variety of skills such as never trust a 1" x 1" color sample no matter how good it looks in the store, and that standard sizes for plumbing fixtures weren't really established until after my house was built.

Do you think your businesses (or customers) really care that you need to extract data from one database, transform it into a new scheme, and then load it into another database?  Stay with me - this all connects.

Funny thing about plumbing - half of your house is under constant pressure to leak, while the other half is the docile partner of gravity. Leak - what a plain and simple word that by its single-syllable phonetic seems to imply gently calming flows of relaxation and peace.  Trust me when I say, I never had a pipe leak in my house - they always exploded, and not in the acceptable big boom, mushroom cloud, dust settles kind of a way.  No, my pipes exploded and then kept right on exploding, sending laser controlled, skin piercing, eye stabbing, guided missiles of water spears towards freshly painted, newly dry-walled, recently carpeted rooms.  At night.

I became reasonably skilled at pipe hacking, and learned how to use a propane torch, the silly plumber's wax, and solder.  My joint repairs usually held, and if they didn't, they tended to weaken quickly so I could fix them right away.  At some point in the 23 year flip of the "house-of-while-you're-at-it," - time became more valuable to me than money or pride, and I actually hired a plumber.

Plumber - I just like the sound of that word.  'Plum', silent 'b', 'er.'  The fact is, no one visiting that house could have cared a lick if I soldered the pipes myself, or if a highly trained, dedicated, focused on one specialty professional technician did it.  So long as the water entered the appropriate receptacles in the manner, location, and intensity it should, and exited in an equally appropriate clockwise rotation within the confines of Newtonian mathematics - everybody's happy.

Like many enlightened citizens of the world, I do not feel a loss of control over my home merely because I delegated a highly specialized task to a specialty supplier.  I work for a large financial institution and we have a whole collection of specialty suppliers in our company providing business capabilities in the form of Common Technology Assets.  These CTAs range from long-time established Web Hosting solutions (now with .NET!), to brand spanking new Portal Platforms.

Leveraging these solutions does two things, and most definitively does not lead to a third.  Leveraging CTAs reduces costs for the corporation as a whole by avoiding duplicating efforts across lines of business.  Secondly, the less time I spend on plumbing - a task for which I am good, but honestly not great - the more time I can spend on things that really matter to the visitors of my home.  The more you can delegate to a CTA, the more time, energy, and costs you can dedicate to things which differentiate your business in the market place.

By offloading my pipe wrenching (pun) tasks to a professional plumber, I was able to spend more time understanding how various colors affect guests in my home, and how to make them feel more at ease, more willing to engage in conversation.  I now had time to slay the serpent of 1" paint squares.

What CTAs do not do in any way shape or form, is wrestle control away from you.  My plumber may have his building codes to follow, but I'm still his customer.  If he doesn't / can't / won't meet my needs, I can go back to doing it myself, i.e. there is always another plumber available.

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