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Monday, May 26, 2008

Lessons for life from Benjamin Graham

4:51 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal No comments
I recently finished reading "The Intelligent Investor" from Benjamin Graham. For those who do not know Benjamin Graham, he is father of value investing and is more popularly known as the teacher of Warren Buffet (one of the richest persons in the world and the greatest investor till date). You can realize how good this book is from the fact that it was first published in 1949 and is still considered (after almost 6 decades) by many as the best book ever written on investment.
Though this book normally talks about investment [in stocks, bonds, etc.] I found some really valuable lessons that we can practice in other aspects of our lives, and thought of sharing those with everyone. These lessons are obviously no secret or different than the ones we have heard till date but what impressed me the most was the simplicity with which Graham conveyed these trying to show that waters are calm, even in the extremely unsettling environment as the stock market; we just need to train our eye to look for it. Here are some of the ones that impressed me the most (remember while reading these that Graham was not a philosopher but an investor)
  • Do not something just because everyone else is doing it. Though people generally consider "following the crowd" a safer option it is not always the correct one. This is where carving your own niche comes in.
  • The devil is in the details. This obviously does not mean that one should do micro management; what it means is that in order to carve your own niche you need to make sure that you are aware of the depths of the problem/situation (this is an especially important lesson to those people who make "I am a big picture guy" an excuse).
  • Have patience, your time will come. But do not just sit there and wait for it, do something else till that time and be prepared for the opportunity.
  • Performance cannot be carried over. Just because something (or someone) performed well in the past does not mean it will perform good in the future as well. One cannot sit on one’s laurels.
We may not become as successful as some of Graham's students (such as Warren Buffett, Irving Kahn and Charles Brandes) by following these lessons but these will surely help us achieve our goals in life.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Design Overkills

9:47 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal No comments

One of the things I never understand is why people use a canon to kill a mosquito when all you need is a repellent (GoodKnight works well enough). I guess, besides lack of knowledge, the answer lies in human psyche – ego, indifference and sheer oblivion seem to be the most relevant answers.

One of the clients I have worked with earlier had bought BE license and was looking for an ideal project to start using the product. It ended fitting BE in a design where a simple ADB adapter would have worked. Even though we (and other fellow designers) strongly suggested the client to not go ahead with it, the design was passed and implemented. Why, you may ask. I am guessing the answer lies in one of the above mentioned reasons. Another client I worked asked me use XML canon just because they paid for it (was part of some package). I had to explain them version conflicts and other problems, and had some long discussions with the stakeholders and finally was able to take their approval for dropping it.

I have seen people use BPM tools such as iProcess for straight-through processing (STP). Unless there is a good chance that you may need to add human intervention later I see no point in doing that (STP is obviously much more efficient and faster). People going for database tables when just global variables can be used is another good example of overkill. Here is one of my favorites and probably the most common one. I have seen people give presentations and talk about (and try to implement) SOA when they fail to understand some basic design principles (this is not an exaggeration). When a solution can be just a simple shell script why create an elaborate package of BW processes unless there is a really good reason.

The point I am trying to make here is – KISS (Keep it Short and Simple). You do not need big elaborate plans to solve problems. You may think that consultancy biggies such as Mckinsey must provide their clients with some great big ideas, which is why they charge so much. But the reality is that most of the time the solutions they provide are real simple. What makes Mckinsey Mckinsey is the thought process that goes behind that solution.