Andre Durand

Discovering life, one mistake at a time.
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Archive for October, 2008

No Shortage of Advice

October 20, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life

For at least the past few weeks, I’ve been copied on an article at least once a day dispensing all sorts of advice on how to run my company in lean times. It’s funny that all this advice comes out of the wood works in a down cycle.

I’ve learned a few things these past few years, and one of those is that the test of a good management team happens as much in good times as it does in bad.

It takes a tight management team to do things that are hard when things are going well. However, if you deal with things before they become a real issue, you pay a lot less interest (metaphorically speaking). And paying less interest is what most of America could do a lot more of right about now.

The Joker

October 20, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life

We had a great Halloween Party with over 20 kids last Friday here at Ping. After the kids got their faces done, I had a chance to go a bit crazy myself. I may getting older, but I won’t lose my child.

True Test of Character

October 11, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

A true test of America’s character will be to see how the average citizen reacts to the reality of paying for all our accumulated debt. Do we put our heads down and simply get to work, or do we coward from reality? Paralysis under pressure.

An overly optimistic nature (“things will always get better”) is what I believe psychologically enabled us to pursue the future without a plan B. And it could just be that an optimistic bias will pull us through. But I think the big question is, will optimism prevail while under true duress? With 3 generations who have never faced real adversity, I just don’t know.

I for one will put my head down and my back into the problem even harder.

September 10th. The Day of Panic.

October 10, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings, Ping Identity

This is the day that VC’s panicked.

It’s a good time to be a quality company which adds value by reducing cost within the enterprise.

Life Isn’t Fair

October 06, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

Life isn’t fair. I know this, and yet I struggle with it. Within my very small sphere of control, I try to make things fair, and I now plenty of others do the same, but it’s not always easy, or necessarily the right thing to do. It’s harder to do the more people you put in the ‘bubble’. Try to put a whole society in that bubble and well, it’s impossible to keep everything fair.

It’s not fair that some people are born beautiful, talented and in good families that can provide while others aren’t. However, this is our reality.

As a society, there is a certain balance that we try to maintain between this reality of unfairness, and our sense of responsibility to balance the equation for those that are less fortunate, or simply less capable. But this is a delicate, delicate balance, and if you push it too far, you can break it.

I just watched a video that expresses an angle of the causes of the recent financial crash. The video is mired in politics, (I’m sorry) and clearly has an agenda. Personally, I think both parties had their hand in the cookie jar on the current debacle, and I’m not so interested in the politics of it as I am in the underlying concept of capitalism.

So, back to my point. Most of us live the life we do because we’re educated, we work hard, we work smart, we innovate, we sacrifice, we attract talent to work with us and we work within a capitalistic framework which allows us to improve our lot in life. Not everyone has an equal chance to achieve fame or fortune in this framework (that’s the unfair reality), but the possibility for improvement is there nonetheless.

Given an inherent unfairness, as a society, we are faced with a question of what to do about it. How do we balance inequality? My personal bias has been to try to balance inequality as best I can but within limits. Those limits are to ensure that I somehow don’t break the underlying formula of capitalism altogether.

I don’t know enough about the underlying details in the above video to know what’s actually true versus things taken out of context. But with regards the video’s claim that regulation, in particular, the Community Reinvestment Act, was one of the foundations of things gone wrong, I do agree that forcing banks (or anyone for that matter), through regulation, to make what amounts to risky loans is simply a bad policy. It fundamentally breaks the formula while pushing to create an artificial balance that’s simply not sustainable. As harsh and cold as capitalism actually is, it reflects a framework that rewards those that work hard and have talent that is valued. That’s not always fair, but it reflects reality.

Go Honest Early

October 02, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life

I’ve spoken to a number of people lately about the importance of quality from the outset. How quality is more than just a bias, and how seemingly harmless compromises to quality come back to haunt you and your enterprise in unsuspecting ways — often with interest.

Truth is it takes backbone to say “no”, yet that little word, spoken at the right time, is often times all that stands between a smooth running company, and one that seems to struggle with the consequences of their decisions. Do this wrong, and it’s inevitable you’ll be getting the ‘CEO’ call from an unhappy customer. I’ve been fortunate here at Ping, in six years and 260 customers, I’ve not received that call. I think it’s inevitable that someday I’ll get it, and when I do, I’ll blame myself, because it will likely be something I did, or allowed to happen, that triggered the call, even if it’s now 50 steps removed.

I can talk about this, because I’ve made this exact mistake before. I’ve bowed to the pressure of a prospect asking for a feature that I wasn’t sure I could deliver, only to have to deal with the issue later. These things can be a death spiral if you’re not careful. While you might not realize it, or want to realize it, there’s a very direct cause and effect beginning with your commitment to quality and how you set expectations. I’ve been fortunate here at Ping to have people that know how to say no. Who know when to call out the fact that we are promising more than we can guarantee, and people who care about our reputation at ALL the times. These people have allowed Ping to enjoy tremendous success, with very little disruption to our growth. Not all my experiences have been this delightful.

Take this scenario as case in point:

  • It’s a tight quarter, and you’re not sure you’re going to make your numbers
  • You’ve got a potential deal which could save you (on paper) in the near term, but you’ve got to promise a delivery schedule that you haven’t thoroughly vetted, and you know you most likely won’t make
  • Some companies would sign the deal, save the near-term embarrassment, and deal with the ramifications later. Others wouldn’t take the deal, and would instead take the medicine early. Which company are you?
  • If you take the deal, and deliver a product that’s either late, lacking a promised feature, or lacking in quality, the impact to your organization will be significantly higher than if you had just not done the deal to begin with.
  • First, your support lines light up, and your support engineers get hammered. This impacts their morale, the morale of those around them, and spills over into engineering, as support seeks answers.
  • Now your engineering team, taken off point for the current release, must change their schedule to accommodate the fire-drill. This is not only bad for them, and bad for your current release, but it’s bad for your prospects, who are now being made promises around your next release — see how the cycle perpetuates and gets worse?
  • Your sales team’s integrity now is hit, because they are the ones that put their word on the line, promising something that wasn’t ultimately delivered, so now they feel guilty. How do you think they are going to approach that same customer later at renewal time? Do you think they are going to discount perhaps, trying to make up for broken promises? Costing the company even more money down the road?
  • And what about the executive team? Have they been pulled into the conversation too, taking them off of execution of the current objectives?
  • In the end, there is always a much higher price to pay for a lack of integrity up-front, and it’s very hard to build a quality organization if you are unable to make tough decisions along the way. My VP of Engineering has a statement which captures this, “Go honest early.”