The Best Ideas Are Always The Crazy Ones…
Some ideas just come to you in a flash. Or rather, the decision to take action comes in a flash. Thoughts about it might have been brewing for months or years, but then suddenly you realise I am going to do this.
Way back in 2004, I decided to embark on a four year course of study for a degree in English law with the Open University, a distance learning institution. My wife and I were planning our wedding, after which we planned to have kids. It was a lesson in time management as much as the law.
The OU was one of the first ever distance learning universities, and was continuously innovating with new study methods, so I am pretty sure that they will have embraced today’s online learning and community building possibilities since I studied with them a decade ago.
Back in 2004 though, studying with the OU meant getting a massive box of books in January and spending nights and weekends with your head buried in the pages of those books until the end of the academic year in October. All summer!
The course was well presented and organised, and there was support if you needed it, but there was something missing.
Community in Facing Challenges
There were about a dozen law students in Western Europe, and once every six weeks we would spend a Saturday in a face-to-face workshop with our tutor to cover the material from course. At the end of one these sessions, the tutor asked what would improve the face-to-face sessions. Almost all of us said: “more time to socialise with each other”. The tutor, a high paid European lawyer, thought this was crazy. She just assumed that making the best use of the time meant cramming the day with exercises and tutoring.
We all had a yearning to hear what others were struggling with, to talk about how we hunched over our laptops all night to meet deadlines, to find summaries of the cases and study hacks rather than ploughing through lengthy judgements from long-dead, wig-wearing dudes. We wanted all of this, but what we wanted most was connection and community when faced with tough challenges.
I became good friends with another crazy guy. Like me, he was a father of young children, working a full-time job and studying evenings and weekends. We became “study buddies” for the duration of the four years of the course, and I don’t think I would have graduated with first class honours had it not been for our mutual support and camaraderie.
Community in Software Procurement
Faced with tough contract negotiations and “stretch” savings targets can be daunting. This is my main reason for creating SoftwareSpend. A software procurement membership forum – a place where you can ask questions and get advice from people struggling with the same issues. Or perhaps just express frustration without needing an answer. Or as the theme for the TV show Cheers would say “a place where everybody knows your name”.
My vision for SoftwareSpend is to have a community website which can only be accessed by those on the buying side of the table in enterprise software negotiations: procurement and sourcing people, software licensing people, contract negotiators, etc. This would be a haven of ideas, encouragement and community.
At the time of writing this (March 2015), having a community website is still a dream. But then, so was having a law degree once upon a time.
If this project would interest you, please comment below or drop me a note on christiaan@SoftwareSpend.com
Image credit: “Trips ’05 – Garibaldi – 31 – climbing Parapet” by McKay Savage, creative commons, Flickr.com