dinsdag 17 mei 2011

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating. The Proof of the Cake is in the Photo

I'm not one to brag about my superb cake decorating skills. Truth is that I can make a nice cake, but there are plenty of people that I know that can make better cakes than I can and probably spend much less time on it than I do. Just imagine how many people there are that I don't know of that make better cakes.
But I did brag about them (just a tad bit) and subsequently promised a number of people to post a picture of them. So without further due... Brag!!!!!!

maandag 14 maart 2011

Babel fish in business

In all fairness, I will be sorely disappointed if you do not know what a Babel fish is. Nonetheless, I would hate to see a good blog (ahum) go to waste because of a lack of proper education. So here it is:

Now that I've managed to set the mood, here's what I really wanted to blog about. Whether you know the Babel fish or not, you will most likely recognize what happened to me last week (not a unique moment in itself, mind you).

I am talking to a colleague at the office. It's a good discussion. At least I thought it was - I'm always in for a discussion in which people are open to each other's opinions. I always end up learning something. This discussion wasn't different in any way, other than that I was very surprised to hear my colleague argue a point of which I was convinced she would have a very different opinion.

I'm very analytical in my thinking. And although I am an admirer of people who dare to take a different view to life once in a while (especially an opposite view), this new opinion somehow didn't add up. I decided to do my analysis thing and approach the argument in small steps in which I would see where her opinion had changed. Confusion was just around the corner, because as I did my step by step and received the answers I would have expected in the first place. I also received a mild irritation in the way she responded, but that is not completely new and unexpected, especially where some of the steps I take are overly obvious.

So 1 and 1 is 2 in my book (synergetic 1 and 1 is 3 sounds great, but I've never actually encountered it that favorably), my obvious deduction was that she really should have the opinion I would have expected her to have, not the one she was voicing in the discussion. I'm never one to hold back on the punchline, so I gave her my 1 and 1 along with the conclusion that we should thus be agreeing. Wrong! Irritation levels were now reaching the level that we were drifting away from a discussion into an argument.

This wasn't what I intended! Something really didn't add up. It was at that point that I decided to let all logic go, ease away from the analysis mode and put the Babel fish in my ear.

"I think we're not talking about the same thing here:, I said. Irritation and frustration got the better of her and with an exasperated sigh, she started her story from scratch. I let her talk with only a few confirmative remarks such as "do you mean" and "so if I understand you correctly".

When she finished clarifying I could only say "I thought we were talking about...". In the end we were laughing about the confusion, but  it took us nearly 45 minutes to get to this point.

I started to wonder whether, if we had put the Babel fish in our ear from the very beginning of the discussion, we could have prevented wasting time on the discussion. But alas, the Babel fish is just a magnificent figment of the imagination, straight from the mind of the late Douglas Adams. I guess we'll just have to listen closely to one another for now.

dinsdag 22 februari 2011


So first there was Enron...
Well, actually it probably wasn't the first. But Enron did make quite an impression in the financial market! Don't know or don't remember? There's Wise Men out that that can give you a much better picture than I could hope to create here. Just Google "Enron" if you want the juicy details. You will probably find all the details on the demise of Arthur Anderson as well.

Then somewhere along the line there was 9/11...
I'm sure that one needs no introduction. But what needs to be said is that an interesting side effect was that the terrorists responsible were actually financed by legimitate companies through creative structures.

Then there were quite a few more financially interesting adventures by better and lesser known companies alike. Ultimately it was clear that something needed to be done about the control companies had on their clientele and own financial structures.

Ah yes, control! That's a revenue consuming cost generator, isn't it? So if we can avoid it, all the better for business right? I can assure you that there are different ways to argue the point.
Control ultimately translated into the American Sarbanes Oxley legislation, commonly known as SOx. In its wake a new compliance standard is introduced: SAS-70. A tool for auditors to audit companies to confirm the level of control in a company. All too soon SAS-70 becomes a standard in the financial world. Preferably a type II certification which not only indicates that the have the control mechanisms documented, but also that you live by them in day-to-day operations. Auditors love it. But governments must have thought that you can never have enough control, for, just as everyone in the financial world got used to the SAS-70 auditing and certification, the next level of control is introduced: the SSAE-16 and ISAE-3402. The intent of both: Force management to accept (and confirm) control, not just on specific activities and processes that they defined, but on a standard set of processes. Leniency is going out the door, it is time for management to step up!

And so we are at the stage where outsourcing is increasingly popular. Why? C.Y.A.! Figured it out? Cover Your Ass! By outsourcing especially the financial processes, companies can shift from expensive inhouse auditing to extensive questionnaires for the BPO. An easy sign-off by the stock-listed company and an extensive exercise for the BPO. The BPO in the meantime gets stuck with the challenge: respond to the extensive audit questionnaires for each of their clients or get certified for xxAE.

Ah, but I almost forgot: there is not supposed to be a certification path (it was never even intended for SAS-70, that was just born out of convenience and commercial benefit). And so the BPO is forced to go through extensive audits, excuse me, I meant attestations, numerous questionnaires, client reviews, and so on. It will surely be a cost intense (recurring) exercise which the BPO will need to charge to their clients.

Here's a thought: The BPO's could turn it into an additional service to sell to the clients. I even have a suggestion for the name of the service. That's right... C.Y.A.

Disagree with the above? What can I say. I'm no financial guru. I thrive on information and logic. Feel free to challenge my views. Do it right and tomorrow my story may be totally different.

vrijdag 18 februari 2011

Stay focused - I like it

Yesterday I spend the day on a refresher First Aid course. It was one of those courses of which you just cannot understand that it is not part of your basic education. That's the case in the Netherlands, at least. We went through the basic drill of what to do in case of fire, evacuations, etc.

An important part is medical first aid. This time around we all were pleasantly surprised to find that the course was led by a nurse who was very clear about her focus: As First Aider, you use medical first aid to save lives, period. So as opposed to getting instructions to the millimeter on how to put someone's foot to pull him into a stable side position (sorry, it's a literal translation from the Dutch term - hope you get the meaning). She focused on getting the victim into position. If he bumps his head as a result, well, the bump will go away; this as opposed to spending precious seconds making sure he doesn't bump his head and having him subsequently choke to death, lying on his back. The same went for the use of the defibrillator. You are only supposed to use them on victims ages 8 and older. But it is very unlikely in such a state that you have the time to check for ID and ensure that the victim is actually 8 years old. An even is he isn't: will you let the 6 year old die for certain because the package says you're not to use the defib on them or will you give it a chance? In the end, you're fighting for someone's live. If there is a chance to save it, use it. Now obviously if you have a worthy alternative, use that. I am sure there are a lot of people shocked by the idea and a number of countries that would ensure me getting sued if I would apply it against the instructions. But hey, I'm Dutch and if anything we can be mighty practical.

I'm a perfectionist. I like to have a clear goal and work towards it. But in general I sweep up behind me so that the road is as neat as the ultimate result will be.

The best lesson of the day, therefore had little to do with medical first aid. It was to be clear on your goal, stay focused on it and strive to achieve it. The road towards the goal doesn't always have to be pretty; it can be seen to have been used (though not destroyed!) as long as it helps you achieve your goal.

woensdag 16 februari 2011


Well, to be honest, it wasn't meant to be braindrains. I came up with at least 42 other blog names, ranging from thingamabobs to mattersofthemind. I was counting on being creative, but there are quite a few people out there that were creative a lot sooner than I was. That, at least, was in terms of naming their blogs...

It was amazing to see all these blogs - that's right: I didn't go for the simple "Check availability" option, I actually decided to visit all of these blogs. There is a worrisome conclusion out of these visits, which is that even though all these people have been very creative in naming their blogs, that's as far as the majority of them got. Apart from a simple introductory blog entry (if that) these textual deserts give a complete new meaning to the term writer's block.

So the question that you need to ask and I need to answer is whether I will follow suit or actually come up with new entries from time to time. I'll be completely honest: don't expect a new entry from me on a daily basis. Even if I were that creative, I simply will not have the time for it.

But I'll try. I'm aiming for an entry a week, which should give me around 42 entries by the end of the year. Now this is week 7, I know, and doing the math you may wonder about my analytical capacity. Feel free to do so. I just happen to think 42 is a very cool target.