Enterprise Software

An IT consultant's three resolutions for 2011

Chip Camden discusses his IT consulting resolutions for the new year and reflects on how well he did on one of his resolutions for 2010. IT consultants, what are your resolutions for 2011?

We're already a week into 2011, and I haven't posted any resolutions for the new year. I suppose #1 should therefore be: Take timely action. When we miss the golden moment, our action not only loses its maximum impact, but it also crowds into the time for other actions that therefore miss their golden moments. That doesn't mean that I want to become more impulsive — "look before you leap" still applies. But once I've looked and assessed the situation, I shouldn't let doubts or procrastination keep me from acting. #2: Eliminate the meaningless, and focus on what's essential. According to the Pareto principle, that which eats up 80% of our time provides only 20% of our impact. While that ratio is generally about right, it's always mutable. Unfortunately, if left to itself it will likely become even more skewed in the direction of increased useless activity. I need to apply the question "Does this matter?" more rigorously. I've already begun to apply this principle on a practical level: my own workstation. Gone are the icons and repetitive, mouse-bound operations. Pretty is out, replaced by efficient, practical, and powerful — which each possess their own beauty. #3: Continue to improve skills. In this business, if you stay where you are, you fall behind. I'll try to expand my knowledge in many different directions, but I'm going to specifically focus on grokking functional programming (FP). I think I'm now at about the same point with FP where I was with OOP in the early 90s: I understand the theory and have successfully applied it on numerous occasions, but to some degree I still have to translate my initial conception of an algorithm from the object/imperative to the functional model. To help overcome that, I'll actively choose functional languages like Haskell when I have the option, and prefer functional principles in languages that offer multiple paradigms. "Why?" you ask. I believe we're still at the beginning of a new FP wave in our industry. Like all waves that have gone before it, FP won't solve everything, but it will solve a lot of things, and we can't afford to ignore it.

My resolutions from previous years still apply. None of them represent the kinds of goals that you can ever cross off the list as done, especially those regarding customer relationships.

My one new resolution for last year was to give myself a break, and I think I did pretty well on that one. But as a result, my gross revenue slid by about 5% from the previous year. Oh well, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, after all. Besides, money isn't the most important thing in life. Money bears almost the same relationship to life as blood does to the body: You can't survive without it, but you can have a lot of it and still be brain dead.

Jack Wallen offered 10 resolutions for consultants over on the 10 Things blog. In my opinion numbers 5, 9, and 10 might be a little passé, but the other seven are good advice.

What are your resolutions for 2011? If you made any for 2010, how did you do?

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

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