We Can’t Boil the Ocean

Allegedly when Will Rodgers was asked how to deal with the problem of German U–Boats during World War I he responded by saying that they should boil the ocean. When a reporter asked how this could be done, Rodgers replied, “I’m just the idea man”. And so the phrase was born, “Don’t try to boil the ocean”.


As I have visited multiple companies throughout Northern Ireland I have often heard this idiom in some form or another. Most often it comes in a phrase like, “What we are doing is too complicated to put into software”. Or alternatively some business owners come from the opposite angle and say, “If only I had a piece of software to do this one small thing, then…”.

I have a lot of sympathy to what both these types of people are saying. Sometimes the promise of software has been lofty and delivered little. Sometimes these very business owners have had their fingers burned with big promises and been left with a headache, a pocket hole and little advantage.

Our approach

So, what is our approach to discovery, specification and delivery in Nitec that makes things different? How do we achieve what we say we are going to achieve?

This process in Nitec typically follows four phases – discovery, a feedback loop, definition of a minimum acceptable delivery (MAD) system and agile delivery.


The discovery phase for us is really important. Ideally the business owner allows us to come into their business for a number of hours and exposes everything to us as to how they work. This can include a walkthrough of the current systems and processes, a tour of their premises, conversations with others outside of management and much more. Sometimes, depending on the business this is no more than an in–depth conversation. Always, it takes time and exposes the curious nature of our staff as we engage and get excited about the customers business.

Feedback loop

The feedback loop starts with feedback from this meeting. The Nitec consultant will attempt to paint a picture of data flow through the business. From lead to quote to order to service delivery to invoice and anything else in between. We will look at when data is created and how it increases and matures as it flows through the business. We work on three principles:

  • Data should be entered once only;
  • Data should be entered as close to the point of collection as possible;
  • Data should only be stored in one place;

With these principles and a data flow in mind we create the initial design for a system to manage this flow. This ‘living’ document is then emailed to the client and worked on to refine it into something that makes sense to the client and conforms to what the client actually does.

This process takes time from both the business and Nitec and is something that in and of itself can add value. Perhaps you know you are feeling pain, but you don’t know why or where. This process can help. Perhaps there is a friction between your sales and delivery departments. This process can help. Or perhaps you are dreaming of the future and of a company that leads the way in your sector and you want a system that can help get you there. This process can help.

I will talk about the rest of the process in my next post.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”  – W. Edwards Deming

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