Sunday, May 11, 2014

User-defined processing wasn't so obvious to the establishment even in the Reagan years

I’ll be getting to some sensitive stuff on how people have seen me, in the workplace and personally, on my Wordpress blogs soon, so I thought I would review the facts behind one particular job sequence.

In January 1979 I left New York City (where I worked for Bradford National Corporation on New York MMIS) and moved to Dallas, to work for the Combined A&B Medicare Consortium, of several Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.  It tried to develop a system for all plans to compete with EDS. The project failed, and was closed down in early 1982, although I had left for Chilton in October 1981.

The project was divided into “phases” with a content management system called “Pride-Logik”.  I was to work on the back-end reporting systems, particularly surveillance and utilization review. The project methodology demanded coding of inputs and outputs of subsystems in a specific format.  The political problem was that the “information requirements” of the individual plans were quite different because of operation in different states.  The system methodology seemed to require the plans to agree to process things the same way, a funk we never got out of.

I tried to define user-input parameter files to allow individual plans to control processing themselves.  This was difficult to specify in the project methodology, and led to confusion and “fights”.  I guess I did not “sell” the idea interpersonally that this needed to be done.  But today, user-generated processing is everything.  Look at how Facebook and Google have to work.

In fact, back at NBC, we had used “parameter files” even on the old Spectra 70 to interface with the purchased “Infonational” General Ledger system.  There was a big “parameter file” for the Report Writer, conceptually like what I wanted to do for CABCO.  On the other hand, at Bradford and New York State MMIS, that had not been necessary, because the reporting requirements (for MARS and SURS) were limited to one state, even though we had worked with a prototype design for Arizona!

Second picture is 100 Church St in lower Manhattan (Nov. 2004), where Bradford lived in 1977-1981.  

Monday, May 05, 2014

Yes, customer service as part of a brand helps make money

While "on the road" today (Jack Kerouac style), I had to drive a long distance with no services, no businesses at all.  

So later in the day, I was glad to see a Sheetz store, a Pennsylvania-based (I think) chain of convenience stores.

Here's a case where "branding" joins the workplace.  I know I will find everything there, including some almost gourmet food, and full facilities.  At every single store.  You really make money with consistent customer service.

Of course, a brand also gives you the chance to sell to others a name to help them make money.  But with media and content, that concept doesn't sit nearly so well with me.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Odd job protectionisn: LA Fitness cancels membership for woman who helps son work out, because only employees should do it

This story really isn’t about IT, but it does address featherbedding and protectionism in the workplace. Yahoo! reports a story by Charlene Sakoda of “Odd News” about a woman at a Florida LA Fitness club who experienced having her membership cancelled without refund when she went to workout one day.  Why?  The day before, she had been instructing her 13-year-old son on how to do the exercises.  The Club claimed instruction could be done only by employees. The link for the story is here
I chuckle.  In gyms, customers spot for one another and help one another all the time.  I’ve belonged to them for decades.  I belong to LA Fitness now (from Bally’s, formerly Holiday).  In Dallas, I belonged to President’s, which has a palatial club on Turtle Creek.