Thursday, November 15, 2012

Would you fly with Airplane Guy?

You are at a dinner party and overhear a conversation. It goes something like this:

Stranger 1:  Hi, I'm Alice
Stranger 2:  Hi, I'm Bob. Don't I know you from the encryption examples?

Alice:      No idea what you mean, sorry. So what do you do for work Bob?
Bob:        I'm an Airplane Guy.

Alice:      Cool, what does that mean exactly? Are you a pilot?
Bob:        Yeah, on some days I fly the plane. Not much lately though.

Alice:      I'm sorry, have you been out of work?
Bob:        Oh no, far form that. I've just been focusing more on engine design lately.

Alice:      Wow, so you are a pilot and an engineer! That's quite an accomplishment.
Bob:        I'm not really an engineer, but I sometimes do that type of work. It's all part of being an airplane guy. I'm not exactly an expert, but someone's got to do it.

Alice:      I'm impressed nonetheless.
Bob:        Yeah, I really got into engine design when I ran out of property to extend the runway.

Alice:      What do you mean?
Bob:        Well my manager wanted to add more cargo to each flight, so I needed a longer take off distance to get the plane in the air. So I poured some concrete at the end of the runway and all was well. That lasted for a while, but then my manager was back and wanted more cargo capacity again. I can't extend the runway cause it would go off the property, so I'm working on an engine design to get more power in the plane.

Alice:      Wait, you poured concrete? Isn't that a waste of your talent?
Bob:        Nah, I'm an airplane guy, I do whatever it takes. I do wish  I could have taken a class in concrete though cause it doesn't seem like the runway addition will make it through winter. Oh well, I'll re-do it next spring.

Alice:      But can't you hire an expert?
Bob:        Experts are too expensive. Like I said, this is just part of the job.

Alice:      Wow Bob, sounds like you do quite a lot in your job.
Bob:        Sure, I like it that way. I didn't even tell you the fun part. We've been talking about cargo, but I much more prefer passenger flights. I really like interacting with the people. It's just too bad I only have such a short time between takeoff and landing to get to know them.

Alice:      I'm not sure I understand....
Bob:        Well I can only start handing out refreshments once I've engaged the autopilot after takeoff, and I do need to be back in the captain's chair when we start the descent. The tower really gets upset if they can't raise me on the radio. I've been hacking away at an iPad app so that I can fly the plane from the refreshment cart, but I'm not a very good programmer I must admit, so there are still some bugs to work out......

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Would you fly with Bob the airplane guy? Would it make you feel safe? Probably not.

So why is this on a SharePoint blog? Well just replace 'airplane guy' with 'SharePoint guy', 'engine' with 'database', 'runway' with 'storage' and 'passengers' with 'users'. It starts to sound a lot like the reality of many SharePoint projects.

Unfortunately, many people in the project owner/manager position are not aware that just like an airplane guy, there is no SharePoint guy. It is up to us to explain to them that a complex system such as SharePoint requires many specialists to design and operate. Whatever your SharePoint specialty, a common responsibility that we all share is to make this clear to our managers and customers. They may not want to hear it at first, so feel free to borrow the story of bob the airplane-guy.

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