Good morning, class.
Good morning, class. Class? Class!?
As you know your regular teacher Father Dick Carrión is on a small vacation. However he does send his love, at least fingerpaintings, and dust clothes he`s making. I am your substitute teacher, Sister Mary Elephant.
Class, attention. Attention, class! Class? SHUT UP!!!!!
Who knew, right? Who knew when I called bullshit, so many people were listening. A couple of days ago I commented upon a recent announcement by Banco Popular and got in return, my most poplar post. For everyone who has participated, thanks.
After the suffering the slings and arrows my post caused, I can't help but respond to some of the comments made. First let me clear up a few misconceptions:
- Several of you misunderstood the point I was making when I used a three person team to illustrate how an accounting department could over-inflate the "rates" for an employees. As I mentioned in one of my responses it certainly sounded as if I were debating something with senior management, because clearly those of you who made this comment did not read carefully, a notoriously bad habit of senior executives. I clearly state that based on my calculations, if would take a team of 15 people to rack-up personnel costs of $2M. Of course some of you mentioned that legal was involved, and that certainly explains a lot. Anything involving lawyers always takes 10 times as long. Want to know how I came up with that number? Well someone show me first where BPPR came up with theirs.
- Ok I cede your point that the sarcastic estimates I used of the number of forms was kind of a joke, so the app had more forms. Big deal, any development shop worth it's salt would create an initial template for a form and then essentially re-use that template for n+ number of forms. The first form takes the most time and then they decrease in time required with each completed.
Obviously there is no way I could know how many forms were involved, I choose to give my business to another bank, because I refuse to support the unhealthy monopoly that BPPR enjoys. So I've never seen, nor will never see this new masterpiece of Internet development. But why don't you tell us how many? Then we'll know.
- And while we are on misconceptions, I appreciate your comparison of DondeEs.com to, how was that? Oh yeah, "it's the second coming of Jesus Christ when it comes to Web 2.0 in Puerto Rico." You're much too kind to compare us to Jesus Christ, but we're not the Beatles, thank you very much.
But I ask you then. If we are NOT the leading Web 2.0 company in Puerto Rico, who is? ....coqui, coqui... What web site includes more aspects of Web2.0 then ours? Here's what I claim makes us Web2.0: 1. Consumption of multiple web services integrated into one application. (the Internet is the new application development environment, don;t you know?). 2. Inclusion of user generated content (events, ability to map locations, reviews). 3. Integration of data within other web properties (Facebook). 4. Production of a relevant business blog from the company). Oh yeah, in case you're confused about what Web2.0 definition is, here is Tim O'Reilly's post on Web2.0. Oh did I mention to you that I've met Tim, Nat, Alison, Chromatic, Steve Mallet, Doc Searls, Michelle Baker, shall I go on? But I digress...)
- Before I forget, I want to thank whoever said that this smells like a first year Comp. Sci student. I know I be 'chillin' and all that, but no, that's not the case. But I am flattered to know you think I sound young. You want to know what I smell, besides your smoldering egos? I smell a lot of mid-level programmers, stuck within their own little geeky worlds who really haven't challenged themselves to learn what business is always about (profit and pleasing shareholders) or what marketing and public relations is really about (spin).
Let us count the number of Facebook applications BPPR has produced? Counting this new enterprise application, that makes 0. Funny how a couple of guys can out innovate a company that can afford to invest $2 million in 1997 technology. Oh yeah and I like that whole glass house thing. Especially coming from a company which has most of their code base in Cobol and Java. I'd say you really shouldn't be talking about using cutting edge technology. In addition, if using the Google API is so simple why doesn't the BPPR corporate site use it? Microsoft MapPoint, teehee, really?
All righty then, let's start class. As I mentioned in one of my responses, I didn't really want to play the IT, Software Development, Business Strategy card, but
- Why did the public relations department put in the $2 Million amount in the article (press release)?
As a contrast, here is what one of your competitors, Citibank, released just yesterday. If you had left out the figure, think of the fun we'd be missing now, because I wouldn't have said boo.
I'll tell you why the number was included, because senior management thought it sounded impressive. (I agree Luis, saw your post after I wrtoe this) For 99.9% of the people reading the paper, it was like ohh, ahh, Banco Popular is awesome. It was driven by vanity, just like when the majority of people on the island care about the brand of car they drive because it means we are supposed to think they they are more important because they drive an x. This number was used to make the company feel good about itself. "Our customers should feel better because we are spending money on them." How about not announcing stupid shit like having to increase your ATM rates because the 'ATH brand' is in jeopardy.
- The $2 Million application is the best use of the money? Is BPPR in the banking business or the software business?
There are at least a couple of ways to dissect this issue. First of all before I forget, kudos to everyone involved, I know it was a lot of hard work and now you're defending that effort. You should! You had a job to do and you did it well and now it's almost finished. Seriously, as having been on many development projects, there is nothing like launch day. But let's take a step back, before the decision came down to invest in a new system. First, was there any way BPPR could have gotten the same result for less? The uncomfortable answer is yes, they could have outsourced to developers in India. You cry foul right? But isn't that what the executive leadership of the company needs to answer? Believe me, having studied the issue it is extremely sensitve, but as was mentioned many times in the comments. This is a free market society driven by capitalism. Tell me how paying $2 million for something you could have gotten for much less is in the interest of shareholders and profitability, because that my friends is the name of the game. Put your jingo-ism aside, this is about making money not keeping employees happy. Ask any CEO and he'll say they are both important, but they won't get canned if ex-emplyees are unhappy, they will if shareholders are unhappy.
What is BPPR's core business? Banking or software development? Since, and I really don't mean to offend, I'm merely observing, the best programmers in the word reside elsewhere wouldn't you, if you were in the banking business wouldn't you want them working for you? If you then factor in they can cost up to 80% less to complete the same tasks, the logic behind developing in house becomes muddy VERY quickly. Does it suck for those affected? Yes! Can it be the right business choice? Most probably, results vary.
- Then there is the question, what was the money used for? An excellent question, wait a minute, let me check the ENDI.com article to see what it said about the figure. I quote: "A partir del 21 agusot, los usuarios de banca por internet de Banco Popular realizarán sus transacciones en linea a tráves de una nueva y rediseñada páagina web, realizada a un cost de $2millones..." So let's agree that there was not enough detail for me to gauge my guess. So I chose to focus on what it takes to build a redesigned web page, typically development.
There were many comments about servers, maintenance, support, blah blah blah. I'm sorry, are you saying that this new app is so demanding that Evertec had to build a whole new control center? (BTW, including that other vanity addition to the control room, that little lead crystal windows that can be opaqued and then ta-daa look how awesome we are(. Build a whole new server room? Acquire 50 T-1's? Hire more techs to babysit the app. No, BULLSHIT, no! Come on. I've been there. As the article says, BPPR has been offering online banking for 8 years. Did they fire everyone associated with the old app and trash all of the existing back-end? Pleeeeaaaase!
Let's take a minute to talk about the cost of hardware and software development. I'm going to use two examples to prove my basic point, the cost to develop (and support) applications has been trending down for a long time. In a 2004 Wired Magazine article Bill Gates was quoted as saying:
"Ten years out, in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free -- I'm not saying it will be absolutely free -- but in terms of the power of the servers, the power of the network will not be a limiting factor."Sure you think little of Bill Gates, but let's compare his net worth to yours. Yeah, that's what I thought so. Let's also consider what Joe Kraus pointed out back in 2005, "It's a great time to be an entrepreneur". Joe was the founder of Excite, JotSpot, and DigitalConsumer.org, so I think he knows how to deliver on technology. All I'm trying to say about the hardware is, relative to what it used to cost and to manpower, it's dirt cheap.
- Starting from scratch and Standard n-tier application development
Several of the comments left claim the new web page was redesigned from scratch. First, the article DOES NOT say that, and even if it did I would again say BULLSHIT. Seriously, what is the business logic of starting from scratch? I'm so sure that 1) none of the back-end cobol systems were touched. You don't risk fucking up your core business for a minority of your customers. If BPPR owns 60% of banking business, and there only 1.3 million Internet users, divide that by half for families instead of individuals, and you get around 380K accounts. If BPPR has more than 2 million accounts, you're telling me that senior management is willing to risk it for less than 20% of it's customers?
Since we both know that your using a lot of Java to back-end this new web application, that means you are most definitely using many of the readily available libraries, frameworks, etc for Java to support the middle end of this system. Of course we both know it doesn't hit the big-iron directly. So you're saying that you decided to build all of that "in-house" instead of using the enterprise-level software available to do application development in Java? Or that middle-ware that already existed to support the existing application?
Seriously, you can try to feed that to the general public, but I know it's BULLSHIT. In fact, to support my previous point, it is the easy access to such enterprise level Java software that 1) made Java the choice of many shops, and 2) significantly reduces the cost and time to program n-tier applications in Java.
Finally, another of the hallmarks of a "world-class" software development shop is code re-use. So either the previous code-base sucked so badly it had to be scrapped or your code management repository is non existent, so you were not able to re-use the complex "insert transaction" code used in the previous Internet app. Neither possibility bodes well for any of the claims made.
- There are several comments applauding this investment as a shining example of innovation for the world to behold.
Really? Really, really? There are hundreds of banks that offer this service (yes, none in PR). Specifically what is the innovation? Internet banking has been around, like we all agree for 10 years. A newly re-designed web page is not innovation. I've gone to some effort to defend my comments with facts, personal knowledge of how this works. Of course I couldn't initially put more than 2,000 words to make my point, this is the web, no one would read it. Stuff was left out to make the post short, concise, and focus on my point, not the supporting evidence. I would appreciate that within any responses to this, which I openly invite, provide facts, not generalities and innuendos. So I ask, what exactly is the "world-class" innovation that this new work demonstrates?
- So BPPR is too good to consider building a Facebook application?
I think this is indicative of one thing. A lack of understanding of Internet Marketing, circa 2008, and there for the Internet. Or were you unaware of the "EL BANCO POPULAR NOS ESTA CLAVANDO" group on Facebook? There is a serious discussion there happening and BPPR HAS to be involved, if as many of the comments indicate they are sooo concerned about their customers. Over 440K Puerto Ricans are using Facebook, that's almost half of all Puerto Rico Internet Users. I think every company that wants to engage it's Puerto Rican customers needs to go where they are, and not demand they come to you. That's what monoploies do.
- Finally, as to what is holding back the Internet, and whether it is behind 10 years or not.
First, check out this post, where I tell you what is holding the Internet back, and I totally agree that Flash sucks and contributes to the problem. And is the Internet really 10 years behind, now in this case I have to speak in generalities, we are talking the entire market here (aggregated as a whole), you can check this post and this post.
Once again, I'll be the first to claim that BPPR and Evertec are the vanguard of technology on the island, however, I would not concur that that makes BPPR qualified to talk about the Internet industry or the IT industry in Puerto Rico. When we still have major companies running their business on FoxPro and MS-DOS, as was a company I was introduced to back in 2004, then as a whole, don't tell me we lag significantly behind. Puerto Rico is notoroisly late technology adopters. Check Geoffrey More's 'Crossing the Chasm' for more proof. Again if we are not 10 years behind are you claiming that we are on par? Wait for it, one last time, BULLSHIT.
I'll tell you what! I challenge anyone, well besides my good friend PJ Cabrera, to a debate to see who knows more about the Internet industry in Puerto Rico. And to convince me that we are not significantly behind in Internet technology and the reasons why.
Flickr Creative Commons Contributor: Foxtongue