Saturday, 11 July 2009

Is there an antidote?

I feared I’d lost the ability to rant yesterday, but I saw a news item about a sweetshop owner who had been asked to remove his billboard outside his shop and exploded in incandescent and apoplectic rage, huffing and puffing with righteous indignation. It quite upset my chakras my chi hasn’t been best pleased since.

The owner in question displays humorous spoof headlines on a billboard outside his shop to entertain his customers – headlines such as “Crawley Girl Gives Birth to Pitbull" and "Local Youths Abduct UFO", which I find both inoffensive and acutely humorous.

A police spokesman said: "While passing on routine patrol last month an officer did have a friendly conversation with the shop owner. At no point did we suggest that he could be arrested - although if there was a law about having a dodgy sense of humour, there might well be a case.”

Dodgy sense of humour? DODGY SENSE OF HUMOUR? There’s nothing dodgy about the shop owner’s sense of humour – at least the bugger has one, unlike the killjoy bastard who complained.

A spokesman for Horsham District Council said: "We can confirm that the council has received recent complaints about what has been written on the A-board outside the shop. As a message posted there was considered to be potentially offensive, a street scene officer from the council asked for its removal."

Potentially offensive? I’ll tell you what is definitely offensive - self-appointed arbiters of the potentially offensive – that’s what’s offensive! If someone is offended, then let them complain and articulate (if they can) a valid reason for being offended – then, and only then is action justified by the guardians of the public morals.

Right-wing dictatorships send people to prison for what they may ‘potentially’ do, not democracies. Democratic rules should apply to potentially offensive material – let there be demonstrable and testable proof that offence is taken before a decision is made to restrict someone’s freedom.

Been bitterly pissed off at work this week. I’ve been crying out for some form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for a couple of years now – or even just a contact management system; a simple PC-based database system with a half decent front-end would do. What have the power that be decided? To apply the full might of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to the task, which is like using a JCB earth mover to cut your toenail. For the cognoscenti, it’s Efacs fronting Prophix, which gives you an idea of the complexity and unsuitability.

The problem is that we’re a large conglomerate with an Italian parent and the policy is that one-size-fits-all, so they’ve adapted what is essentially a front end to a financial reporting system to make it look like a CRM system, and it just doesn’t work. Like the earth mover analogy, it’s overly complicated, ponderously slow and doesn’t actually provide the functionality we people at the coalface need. We’re told that anything bought from outside (i.e. a dedicated, purpose designed, commonly available, off-the-shelf package for a few thousand quid) simply will not be supported by our IT department – who as far as I’m concerned has become the business prevention team.

Whereas I would have simply bought in something like the ACT contact management system, the company has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on an internal development that’s taken two years thus far and is effectively unfit for purpose. It’s utterly incomprehensible. The phrase ‘lions led by donkeys’ comes to mind.

For God’s sake – we’re still using Lotus Notes as our e-mail tool, which in a fast moving sales environment is plain stupid as there are no APIs to web-based sales aids (Plaxo, Linked-In, etc) because so few people actually use Lotus Notes anymore. It’s as friendly as a cornered rat. The problem stems from our parent being hush-hush, where security is paramount, and Lotus Notes is the best system for such environments – however, my part of the business is not involved in the hush-hush bit at all.

Rant over.

Had occasion to dispense some wisdom yesterday to a fellow blogger. It wasn’t my wisdom, I hasten to add, but that of Petronius Arbiter, one time governor of the Roman province of Bythynia. However, it goes to show how the same old problems keep coming up to plague us.

“We tried hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situations by reorganising –and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”

Sound wisdom, although it has to be said that there are occasions when reorganisation is a distinct necessity.

Hay and I went out for a Moroccan meal last night - I wanted to cheer her up as she's not at all well of late. On returning home we switched the TV on to be presented with an episode of Guitar Heroes. The Knack were on and unfortunately I caught a dose of 'My Sherona' and haven’t been able to shake it off since. It must be one of the most infectious songs ever written and I don’t think there’s an antidote to it. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.


  1. Good rant about the A board - what amazes me is that people go and complain to the Council about this - they don't even have the guts to go into the shop and tell the owner nicely (is this possible in England without pulling a knife?) that they are offended by his Thought for the Day. Although why they are offended I fail to see - unless perhaps it was the father of the girl who gave birth to the pitbull ... grrrrr

  2. Censorship has gone too far in this country.

    I saw an Australian comedian on TV the other week (I've forgotten his name, sorry) who devoted a large chunk of his routine to the matter of offending people. Part of his rant went along the lines of "What happens when you feel offended? Nothing. Nobody ever died from feeling offended."

    I'm often surprised at the things people will complain about. Who even has time to make these complaints? I'm just waiting for someone to complain about the latest bill boards advertising Tango. They claim that drinking Tango causes hair loss and casual sexism - how long before a bald man complains?

  3. Well what can I live in the bloody UK. (Hey that rhymed :) OK it wasn't a technically accurate iambic pentameter but jeez....

    As for My Sherona? Oh thanks for that...sooooo happy to have THAT running in my head. Antidote? Yeah, chant Hare Krishna :)))

  4. Dragon: You're not related to the pitbull are you? That grrr sounded a bit too authentic.

    Liz: Couldn't agree more.

    Braja: Happy to oblige. Just be lucky I didn't give you the "24 Hours From Tulsa" virus.

  5. Great. Now I have both "My Sherona" AND "24 Hours From Tulsa" running through my head. I feel about as angry as a pitbull with a Crawley girl for a mother.... or an abducted Alien..

  6. Glad that you are back in the saddle . . .

    And I always know who to come to for pithy words of wisdom on the business front.

  7. Nice rant Chairman, hope your chakras didn't get bruised. Sounds like the Great Pomgolian Sense of Humour is getting bludgeoned to death by the PC branch...Horsham Council Humour Police could take note of the Devonport, Auckland council's reaction to a centrally placed brass plaque clandestinely set in concrete some years ago. To the confusion of many foreign tourists, reads, "On this spot in 1857, nothing happened" To the council's credit it remains in place. Then again, maybe they don't get the joke either..
    As Buddy would say, Rave on.

  8. Kab: That's over doing it.

    Bee: I'm excellent on management fads too.

    George: Are you coming to Conway '09 next month? If so, we must share a libation to Poseidon.

  9. Oh bloody hell, now I've got 24 Hours from Tulsa in my head...holy crap....

  10. 'I was only one day away from your RANT' ;)

  11. Lotus Notes connects to LinkedIn. I think it was announced in January. Plenty of companies use Lotus Notes.

  12. Anon: I can guarantee that if there's an API, then we will not be allowed to use it. I've worked in 10 companies and consulted to about another 20, and I've never come across anyone using Lotus Notes, except defence contractors.

  13. Anon: Apart from the anouncement that there was going to be a link, it would seem nothing got off the ground. Can't find a single update on the news since January.