Kjell Øystein Arisland – Consulting: If you need assistance in these areas, maybe I can help

After many years in the IT business, I believe I have acquired some useful knowledge that not everyone else has. I do at times share my painstakingly accumulated experience with others in return for reasonable fees for spending my time. Here are some areas in which I may be able to assist you in getting your IT company or project quickly and successfully off the ground.

The list above sums up the main areas in which I can deliver consulting assistance which you may require in your IT business. In these areas I feel I have the reasonably extensive experience needed to be useful.

The list is long, but then I have been in the IT business longer than most IT people. I am not saying that I am an expert in all of these fields, and I am sure that in every field listed there are lots of people out there who know more than I do, but I do believe my combined knowledge is rare, and that the combination is useful.

For each area listed, a short description is given below.

(Illustration: The image to the right shows the space shuttle Atlantis taking off, photograph courtesy of NASA)

Organization of IT companies

Much of my professional life has been centered around the subjects organization and management of IT companies, especially startups. Because I am a "system builder" type of person, analyzing system problems and contributing to building organizations is probably my most valued service.

The process of properly building an efficient organization to effectively handle all the different functions in a fast growing IT business is a complex challenge. For example, balancing the use of resources in sales and marketing against development and production is a key issue. This may sound like a self-evident rule from a basic management textbook, but in real life maintaining a proper balance is often left to chance. Business management is quite often unavoidably driven more by circumstance than by planning. However, development "according to plan" is usually better than "not as planned", and this implies both having a continuously updated plan and sticking to it.

Some other management issues that together can make or individually can break your company are e.g. communications, delegation and HRM, not to mention financing and board-management cooperation.

The problem is that when you are on the inside of a difficult management situation, it is harder to see how the available options fit your particular situation with your type of products, your mix of people, your access to resources, your markets etc.

This is where I can help. From my independent viewing point I see your organization from the outside, and I can apply my analytical methods and experience to help pinpoint and isolate problems and advise you on what to do.

Illustration: The image to the right is a photograph of Max Weber, an early researcher of organizational structures such as bureaucracies. From Wikipedia

Business startup issues

Business startup issues may include business plans, SWOT analyses, technological evaluation, IPR assessment and technology personnel HRM.

Entrepreneuring seems to be a hot topic these days, and lots of people want in on the action, both on TV and in the education industry. As usual when there is a hype, there is much nonsense.

In any business startup, doing things right is very important, but just as important is doing the right things and steering clear of wasted effort. I have wasted some effort over the years, and I see many of the traps still out there, and some of them are touted as good entrepreneuring. They can be very costly, and I know you want to avoid them.

I can also help secure the necessary quality of some of the most important processes, as described elsewhere on this page.

The illustration depicts the expansion of galaxies from the ""Big bang" that is believed to have started the universe. From Wikipedia

Software development projects

Developing software is a process that is notoriously difficult to manage. There are many examples of failed projects, much is written about the subject, and there is still a high measure of unpredictability in software development in general. Therefore, starting any SW development project should be done carefully.

I can probably contribute usefully in some capacity to any software development project of some minimum size. That doesn't mean I have any notion of being a renaissance man, I don't. However, software development is what I have done most for a living, and I am good at several aspects that are needed in any project. The subjects and tasks I am not good at, I leave to others.

So if you are starting out, I'm your huckleberry. Or, if you have a problem in an ongoing project, maybe I can help you find it and help get your project back on track.

Typical tasks that are close to my heart include feasibility evaluations of software development plans on different levels, project management, some key algorithms, complexity analysis and methodology considerations. See also descriptions below on modeling, information architecture, interaction design, IPR and documentation.

In most software development projects, close cooperation and good communication with subject matter experts is very important. Unless the people that know the business the software is for are closely involved, success is unlikely. When I'm in charge, I like to make this a high priority issue and be personally involved.

For other tasks, such as software architecture, e.g. for evaluations of the best suited current languages, tools and databases and for the coding (programming) itself, I employ other people or use sub-contractors. I have a good network of some very competent people.

Illustration: The image to the right is a picture of Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852), the world's first programmer. From Wikipedia

Modeling complex systems

Creating formal models of complex systems is my specialty. I have spent much time modelling processes and systems, and I really love doing it.

By "model" I don't mean complex and formal mathematical models. An ordinary printed map is a visualized model of something, just like a graphic computer flight simulator or a Monopoly game are models. Whether to think of light as waves or particles is a choice between two different models.

Models are very useful, especially when they are simplifications of complex processes and data but still behave similar to the real thing.

Most software projects should start with a clearly documented model of the processes, objects, relationships etc that the software has to relate to. This is easily forgotten, or just not done, at great expense later in the projects.

Such work is often best done by an external consultant. Internal personnel are commonly too "inside" their special fields of competence. When working with or within a system on a daily basis, everyone will gradually develop a personal conceptual model of the system based on their own viewing point, and seeing the system as a whole and its appearance from the outside becomes increasingly difficult.

Examples of models I have developed are a switch-level model to efficiently simulate the function of integrated circuit transistors (what computers, phones and most electronics are made of), an educational simulation model of cement mills for grinding clinker, a paper machine simulator model, and the Clickwalk model of geographically linked panaoramas for visual reality.

The illustration shows an overview of the structure of DNA. Created by Michael Ströck (mstroeck) on February 8, 2006. Released under the GFDL.

Information Architecture

This key subject is commonly ignored in software and web design projects, sometimes with disastrous results and nobody understanding what went wrong. This is partly because information architecture is a difficult subject to master, but more importantly because too few people know what information architecture is and how easily poor information architecture can ruin software applications and web-based services.

An analogy of information architecture is a comedian telling a joke. The content that you need to communicate with users about is the story line of the joke. The programming code is the acting skills and talent of the comedian, like e.g. the ability to keep a straight face when required. The interaction design (see below) is the voice and diction of the comedian i.e. the vehicle carrying the message. The graphics are the comedian's appearance, including dressup and physical look.

The information architecture is the sequencing of the joke's storyline, meaning what comes first, at the end, and some place in the middle. The sequencing implies prioritization, and on a web-page there are many aspects determining prioritization, such as placement on page, graphics use, menues, link sequencing and more. Authors know how important sequencing is. Software and web developers often don't, simply because it isn't their field.

If you suspect your team of developers of only being interested in programming code and nice graphics, maybe because that is what they know, you need an information architect.

The photo to the right shows the John Hancock building in Chicago, photographed by Cody Schrock, Wikipedia. It carries much of its supporting structure in the form of steel beams criss-crossing the facade on the outside instead of on the inside. This is remarkable both in terms of technical architecture efficiency and aesthetic effect. Rumor has it that the offices partly obscured by the diagonal beams are popular and more expensive to rent than the others.

Interaction design

By "interaction design" is meant designing user interfaces to optimize the usability of web-based services and software.

This is another difficult field that is commonly neglected despite its importance to the success of web and software projects.

However, there is much very useful best practice that is well documented and can be applied to most web-based services and software applications.

Like the subject information architecture, interaction design is not understood well by programmers and web designers, and it is the rule rather than the exception that this creates poor user interfaces and/or costly redesigns.

Having programmers or web designers in charge of development projects is quite often not a great idea. Many projects could benefit cost efficiently from assistance from a competent external consultant.

To the left is a photo of a blue Apple iPod Nano, from Wikipedia. The MacIntosh computers and the iPods are premier examples of good interaction design.

Internet business

Internet business is different from other business fields in some respects.

Continuously developing technology changes the very ground of the internet business playing field as the game unfolds, and new opportunities pop up at very short intervals.

During the .com-hype in 1999 and early 2000, it was claimed that a "new economy" had taken over and the sky was not even a limit. Then when the bubble created by the stock market collapsed, the "Internet industry" was ridiculed as a mere fantasy, and the Internet itself was reduced to the status of another technological commodity. In 2007, most people are starting to realize that the Internet is impacting their lives and changing the world of business profoundly. Naturally, hyping tendencies are back, but this time most investors are more wary. Apparently Wall Street has never got a real handle on the Internet, and this is one of the factors that make it interesting to develop Internet business.

As you can read about on these pages, I have extensive experience in both Internet and software business, as well as Internet technology and most other information technology. I have been in the business for a long time and have a background both in the underlying hardware and software technologies and both theoretical and real life limitations and possibilities. I am typically most useful in foreseeing long term development, and not what "everyone" in the business will be doing next month. However, on the Internet, long term only starts a year or two from now, and becomes quite unpredictable in a decade or so.

Illustration: NASDAQ in Times Square, New York City. From Wikipedia

IPR: Patenting, trademarks, copyrights, Internet domains, know-how management

If you are in the IT business and need help in any of these areas, it is dangerous to do nothing about it. This stuff can be expensive, both to acquire and to lose the race.

You need to know both how much you ideally should spend, what you can't afford not to spend, and how to do it without losing your shirt.

The option of losing a shirt or two is actually a tradition among many innovators and inventors who operate on their own and are convinced of the revolutionary uniqueness of their solutions. Their problem is usually that revolutionaries rarely understand business. The converse is also true in that lots of very competent business people have trouble understanding technological innovation.

Therefore, turning technological revolutions into profitable business is harder than one might think, and IPR is something you need to be on top of. There is a shortage of both IT people who understand IPR, and IPR people who understand IT. I was granted my first patent in 1972 :-), and wrote and filed my most recent application in 2007. Trademarks, copyrights, domain names and general know-how management are also subjects I have hands-on experience with, both for my own companies and for others.

Illustration: To the left is a figure from the patent granted to the Wright brothers for a flying machine.

New subjects research and analysis

Suffering from learning addiction is fun, and like most people I have the most fun when exploring and discovering on my own. However, like many other people, I learned a long time ago that spending considerable effort to discover something on my own and then afterwards finding out that somebody else did it earlier, is a downer. Therefore, I am always on the lookout for uncharted territory, and have spent much time learning how to find out where people have been before. Of course, the Internet is a fabulous tool.

Supposing you need help in systematically investigating a new subject area and in extracting core facts, concepts, objects, relations and interactivity. It could be that you have a totally new idea that you think will revolutionize your industry. What do you need to do to determine whether you should spend time on it?

You could ask me. I know how to do it efficiently and some places to go, like patent databases, scientific journals and lots of other resources. Of course, I am best at IT-related subjects, but I also have a scattering of knowledge of some other technologies.

The image to the right shows a 3D model of a C60 molecule. Created by Michael Ströck (mstroeck). Released under the GFDL, Wikipedia.


Do you have a documented technology strategy? Do you need one?

If you develop software or web-based services, you definitely need one, and if what you have is not well documented, it probably won't serve you well either.

Some questions you should have precise answers to are:

How dependent are you on technology owned by other companies, and how can this affect you over time?

How fast are you at adapting to developing technology, and how important is this to your customers?

If you sell technology you have or are developing, you also need strategies for intellectual property rights and competing technologies as well as contingency plans for relating to possible disruptive technologies.

The accelerating pace of technological development makes it necessary to think strategically and determine how your company should be positioned to survive unexpected changes in the technological basis of your industry.

I can help you prepare for the future. I don't have a crystal ball, but I have something useful and more reliable. After many years of studying and being part of developing both hardware and software and systems of many types, I can predict with a high degree of probability many future developments that will surprise most people. There is no magic to this, of course, and I am not clairvoyant, but information technology is fairly predictable, and so is human psychology. If you want to know more, contact me.

Illustration: The photo shows a small portion of a Go board. People who think chess is the premier strategy board game usually haven't played Go.

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web is a great invention, and I believe Tim Berners-Lee has contributed more to the world than Bill Gates has invoiced. The web, including its applications and technology is something I have been working with since 1993, and I am pretty sure we "ain't seen nuthin' yet".

Both using the web as a consumer and as a service provider can be deceptively simple, and there is much more than meets the eye. Both the technology and the applications are constantly evolving, but staying up-to-date on the bleeding edge technology is no longer important, if it ever was. However, if you are investing heavily in using the web for some purpose, you should choose your technology suppliers carefully. Your return on web investments may differ surprisingly depending on their knowledge of stuff that has been around for a long time.

If you are developing a new web-based service and don't feel absolutely sure you and your technologists know more than enough, you may consider contacting me. For starters, I can help you assess your situation relative to Web business and Web technology, and we can take it from there.

The photo to the right shows one of the most photographed objects in the sky, the Horsehead nebula. To me, it gives the term "world wide" a more humbling perspective. Photograph courtesy JPL/NASA, NOAO, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA).


Documentation in general is important for many reasons, and companies rarely have too much. Lack of documentation is usually much more costly than it would have been to produce it. Just the process of documenting properly will usually pay for itself by uncovering problems that can be corrected, increasing the quality of that which is documented. After that, the documentation itself is a free bonus that improves the company's products and its strategic position relative to adverse conditions, accidents and attacks.

If you suspect your business does not have all the documentation it should have, you are probably right. Documentation should cover all aspects of the company's business, including products, services, internal routines, general operations, customers, meetings and everything the company does. In the information age, you can document in detail everything that happens and be prepared for future developments. If you don't do it, sooner or later you will have competitors who do it right, leaving you in the dust.

I can help you pinpoint what documentation you should have, what it should contain and who should write it. I can also help get it done right.

To the left is an image of the Rosetta stone, a document that became famous and very useful for its languages. From Wikipedia

Call me or mail me to discuss what I can help you with at (+47)92825510 or kjell@clickwalk.no

More information about skills, interests, current work etc


Last update: 20090118