An Evolution for My Eyes Triggers Some Thoughts

On Friday February 19, 2010, I underwent laser eye surgery (Intralase Sub-Bowman’s Keratomileusis) to correct my short sightedness. I have worn glasses since I was 6 years old and contact lenses since I was 16. Over the past 15 years, I developed an allergic reaction to the protein buildup on the contact lenses and had to restrict my use to sports only.  This is a quantum leap forward for me and I am floored by the results – no more glasses!  Thank you to my surgeon, Dr. Suren Sanmugasunderam, FRCS (C) and his team at London Eye Centre.

The evolution from squinting to see, to having thick, then thin lens glasses to contact lenses and now to laser eye surgery led me to think more about several topics:

Problem Management – as described by IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL):

A `problem’ is an unknown underlying cause of one or more incidents, and a `known error’ is a problem that is successfully diagnosed and for which either a work-around or a permanent resolution has been identified.

As a child, I squinted because I did not know that I needed vision correction (unknown underlying cause).  My opthamologist successfully diagnosed that I was short sighted with astigmatism.  The workaround he prescribed were prescription glasses.  Now glasses helped modify the root cause of my vision problem but did not fix it.  Contact lenses were the next evolution of glasses but still did not address the root cause.  Finally, my laser eye surgery procedure modified my eyes by vapourizing microns of cornea cells to correct the root cause providing a permanent resolution.

How often do we consider a work around good enough? Once the work around is in place do we just get used to the added complexity without attacking the root cause?  Do we take the time to really look for a root cause and think of ways to permanently resolve it.  Enterprise Architecture and ITIL together provide the framework and processes for us to travel this road. Making time to review what we have done in the past is important so that we can move our enterprises forward with a solid foundation.

Manage Complexity – Complexity as described by Roger Sessions (@RSessions):

I use the word “complex” to mean an entity that has more “complexity” than needed to do what it is intended to do. By “complexity” I mean the number of internal states.

I started by squinting and sitting at the front of the class to see the blackboard which is not complex but it did not allow me to achieve what I needed. Glasses helped immensely by adding complexity but also failed to meet my needs as an athlete (my excuse for not being good at heading a soccer ball) ;).  Once I became a teenager and contact lenses came on the market in the mid 1970s, I added them to the mix (more complexity).  Contact lenses allowed me to perform more effectively in many of my favourite sports with the exception of water sports. Now I had squinting, glasses (multiple versions) and contact lenses with all the perephenalia like lens cases, cleaning and storing solutions; a much more complex world to achieve what I needed to do.

I followed to progress of laser surgery and the results over a long period of time.  I did not feel comfortable with the procedure or the early results (side effects and cost) and choose to remain in my complex world.

In the summer of 2009, I decided to get more information because the contact lenses were letting me down – ok, it was me getting older and needing cheater glasses for reading when I had contacts in. After finding out I was an ideal candidate for the Intralase SBK surgery procedure, I still waited 5 more months before booking the procedure.  On Friday Feb 19th, I underwent the procedure and reduced the complexity of my seeing environment to zero.  No more prescription glasses and no more contacts.  Overtime, I will end up needing reading glasses but that is just age.

Sometimes we have no choice but to adopt complexity to address a problem – this is all well and good. What we can not do, is stop looking for new ways to resolve the problem. Dedicating time to watch research and development progress is critical so that when a new approach is proven, we can take advantage of it to manage the complex environments we created. Do you give your team license to spend work time to watch what is going on in their field? I strongly suggest you do because the majority of good ideas will always come from your team.

Requirements – Quality Metric Requirements as described by Nick Malik (@nickmalik):

The requirements that are drawn directly from business strategy or goals, including those that recognize customer expectations for software of a particular type, and those that establish or recognize a competitive position for the company in the marketplace.  This includes the software quality attributes like reliability, availability, usability, and flexibility.

Laser eye surgery is a costly procedure; with the one that I chose being the most expensive.  So if I tried to justify this investment purely on payback, I do not think I would be successful convincing anyone.  Now, you need to factor in that I am much closer to 50 years old than 40 so the time for me to realize savings is shorter than someone in their 30’s. If I changed prescription glasses and contact lenses every two years, the approximate cost would be about 1/5th of the total cost of the laser surgery. So we are talking about roughly a 10 year simple break even proposition, not a ringing endorsement to proceed.  But as I said, this is not a pure payback justification.  There are many requirements in play here as the customer:

  • I want to be able to see clearly day or night without vision aids like glasses or contact lenses = business ability requirement
  • I want to be able to I play sports without vision aids = functional interaction requirement
  • I want to wake up and be able to read the alarm clock without squinting = functional interaction requirement
  • I want to see underwater = functional interaction requirement
  • I want to be able to work on a computer and read the paper as well as see my golf ball land after teeing off (preferably in the fairway! 🙂 ) = functional interaction requirement
  • I want to avoid the hassle of losing my glasses or contact lenses = quality metric requirement
  • and yes I have a bit of vanity and like how I look without glasses better = quality metric requirement

Based on all the above (especially the quality metric requirements) and my ability to afford the laser eye treatment, I have a compelling case to proceed – and I did!

Taking time to properly gather requirements and then categorizing them so that the customer and the service provider are clear on what is expected is essential to success. I will focus more on how we find out what our customers want by taking Nick’s disciplined approach into more requirements discussions. Do you have any suggestions or other ideas to approach requirements gathering?

Looking forward to any comments and feedback as always!  This post brought to you vision aid free, thanks to Intralase SBK and London Eye Centre. 🙂

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