Showing posts with label Risk Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Risk Management. Show all posts

June 21, 2019

UNDERpromise + OVERdeliver

Every manager is rightly taught to underpromise and overdeliver. 

It's sound planning and good risk management to plan for contingencies--and certainly these do happen. 

Build in some buffer time and resources into your estimates, because reality bites and you need to have the ammunition to respond. 

My father used to tell me:
"A word is a word!"

When you say something, promise something, commit to something then that is it!"

To do otherwise is to have no honor, no character, and no fear of G-d. 

Similarly, when you overpromise and underdeliver, you fail yourself and your customers.

People commit time, resources, and faith in you, so you owe it to them to set realistic goals and plans to accomplish them.

To do otherwise, you risk damage to the longterm relationship, you hurt your credibility, and maybe most importantly, you hurt the chances of genuine progress. 

The philosophy that I believe works best is:  Be thoughtful. Be strategic. Be direct. Be honest.  

That's what I would want from others and that's also what I strive to be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 3, 2019

What Are The Chances for IT Project Success?

So I was teaching a class in Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance this week. 

In one of the class exercises, one of the students presented something like this bell-shaped distribution curve in explaining a business case for an IT Project. 

The student took a nice business approach and utilized a bell-shaped curve distribution to explain to his executives the pros and cons of a project. 

Basically, depending on the projects success, the middle (1-2 standard deviations, between 68-95% chance), the project will yield a moderate level of efficiencies and cost-savings or not. 

Beyond that:

- To the left are the downside risks for significant losses--project failure, creating dysfunction, increased costs, and operational risks to the mission/business. 

- To the right is the upside potential for big gains--innovations, major process reengineering, automation gains, and competitive advantages. 

This curve is probably a fairly accurate representation based on the high IT project failure rate in most organizations (whether they want to admit it or not). 

I believe that with:
- More user-centric enterprise architecture planning on the front-end
- Better IT governance throughout
- Agile development and scrum management in execution 
that we can achieve ever higher project success rates along the big upside potential that comes with it!  

We still have a way to go to improve, but the bell-curve helps explains what organizations are most of the time getting from their investments. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Adapted by Andy Blumenthal from here)
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April 27, 2019

Top Secret Tinseltown

So this is a city with a lot of secrets. 

I'm not talking about just the run-of-the-mill, non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

This is Top Secret Tinseltown!

And even the stuff that comes out in the news--whether it's clandestine transfers of $1.7 billion to the Ayatollahs in Iran or the Uranium One deal with the Russians, there is plenty of dirty little games going on. 

What was hilarious is when when saw this huge industrial shredding truck in the parking lot:


Paper Shredding * Electronic Destruction * Medical Waste Disposal

And there were a line of cars waiting to get rid of their little secrets.

I kid you not when I say that on a Saturday morning, there were at least 25 cars in line to dispose of their "stuff."

Now who do you know in what city that waits 25 cars deep in line for an industrial shredder on a Saturday morning.

And the cars are pulling up, the trunks are popping open, and boxes and boxes of paper and electronic files are being handed over. 

Gee, I hope the Russians or Chinese aren't getting into the shredding business...and inside the truck isn't a large shredder but a bunch of analysts waiting for you to hand it all over. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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January 18, 2019

Struggling With Some Decisions

So I've been helping some family members with some really big decisions lately. 

As we all know, there are pros and cons to every alternative. 

I remember how you can diagram decisions out like the branches of a tree with probabilities for each branch to try and get to the highest value decision. 

The problem is we don't know everything that may happen down the road or even know the probabilities for each possibility--or as they say:
We don't know what we don't know.  

So it's hard to make a great decision and not second guess yourself.
Well, what if...

You can "what if" yourself to sleepless nights and death and never decide or do anything meaningful. 

We have to make the best decisions we can usually with limited information. 

Using gut or intuition is not a solution either--those can end up being very wrong especially when we let our raw emotions dictate. 

So I do not take decision-making for myself or helping others lightly, especially my family. 

I want to protect them and help them make good decisions that will bear fruit and joy down the road. 

I definitely don't want to waste everyones time and efforts and lead them or myself down a dead end or worse off of a cliff.

In the end, we have to turn to G-d and whisper:
Oh G-d, please help us to make the right decisions, because only you know what the results will be from it. 

And so, I am definitely whispering!

At the same time, we need to move forward and not let fear and doubt get in our way of living. 

Yes, we have to be prudent and take calculated risks (everything worthwhile is a risk), but also, we have to look at the potential rewards and the costs for these (every decision is an investment of time and resources) and then just try our best. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 11, 2018

You Can't Eat The Elephant

So there is a popular saying:

"You can't eat the elephant in one bite."

The idea is that you need to break things down in little pieces to get them down. 

If you try to eat the elephant in one bite, I assume that your mouth would easily split in half and your face would literally explode. 

Similarly with projects, if you try to get to the nirvana end state in one fell swoop , the project explodes with complexity and risk, and you will fail miserably.

Thus, managing requirements and phasing them in chunks is critical to projects' succeeding. 

Sure, customers want to get the Promised Land immediately--where the projects have all the "bells and whistles"--but you don't want to sacrifice getting the train on the tracks for the accouterments either. 

Think big, but act small--little by little, one step at a time, you can actually eat an elephant. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 20, 2018

How Does It feel At The Top

A colleague told me something interesting about what it feels like at the top.

He said:
The 360 degree view is good, but it get's windy at times!

I thought this was pretty smart, and one reason that many people opt out of moving into senior and executive positions in their organizations. 

Yes, it's great to be able to lead and have more visibility, influence, and impact. 

But at the same time, this does not come for free or without risks. 

At the top of the pyramid or corporate offices or whatever, there is opportunity. 

Yet, your dealing with other top honchos with strong personalities, egos, and often harsh ways of dealing with others and conflict can be perilous for many. 

My father used to tell me his philosophy:
Better a little less, but you know what you have. 

There is definitely wisdom in those words. 

Maybe as with most things in life, there is a time and place for everything. 

It is great to have the opportunity to lead.

It's also not bad to have a time to follow and contribute in that way. 

What's important is that whatever role your in at the time, that you do it with integrity and passion to do good. 

So how does it feel at the top--sure, it's a nice view, but it can get very windy too. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 14, 2018

Winding Path Of Life

Thought this was an interesting commentary on life. 

Perhaps, we seek a straight line--with no bumps or bruises--to go from where we are to where we want to be. 

But life has others plans for us. 

The road ahead is often winding and where we truly end up is often unknown. 

Certainly, staying frozen in place and doing nothing with our lives is not an option. 

So we move forward, one step at a time, and occasionally taking a leap forward. 

Also, sometimes, we have to take a few steps backward before we can advance again. 

Other times, we may even stumble and fall. 

Whatever happens, we continue to work our way towards the landing at the top to see what we shall see. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 7, 2018

Nimbyism By All

So I learned a new word this week:

Nimby, which stands for:

Not 
I
M
Back
Yard

It refers to people who object to and don't want something unpleasant or dangerous in their neighborhood. 

Prisons
Homeless Shelters
Garbage Dumps
Radioactive Waste Sites
Oil and Gas Pipelines
Noisy Railroads
Polluting Factories
Adult Entertainment
etc. 

Yes, society as a whole apparently wants or needs these things, but the individuals just want to see it someplace (anyplace) else. 

People want the benefits, but don't want the costs and risks associated with these things near them. 

The problem is when everyone feels this way then you are left either choosing somewhere despite the nimbyism protests or you have to locate them in remote places that are not always functional, fair or efficient for society. 

Perhaps this is where incentives or compensation comes in for people to get in order to "put up" with the placement of things in their backyard that they rather not have there. 

Is that what it means that nimbyism aside, "everyone has their price"?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to creative2/usa)
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March 2, 2018

Project Manager - The DIRECT(or)

So I learned this cool acronym for the roles of a project manager:

DIRECT

The project manager directs the project (similar to a director who is the project manager of a movie).

Here is how the project manager DIRECTs the project:

Define - Identify the opportunity or issue that the project will address including, the vision, scope, resources, and measures of success. (i.e. the "Charter").

Investigate - Explore options and pros/cons for each (i.e. an "Analysis of Alternatives").

Resolve - Solve and resolve (i.e. commit to) the course of action that will be pursued (i.e. "Project Plan").

Execute -Do the project and track/manage cost, schedule, scope, quality, risks, and actions items (i.e. "Scorecard").

Change - Identify process and technology techniology changes, test these, fix outstanding items, and make the cutover (i.e. "User Acceptance Testing," "Punch List," and "Go Live Plan").

Transition - Migrate people to the new solution, communicate the changes, overcome resistance, and conclude the project (i.e. "Communications Plan" and "Lessons Learned").

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 13, 2018

Cyber Attacks Typology

Saw this acronym to describe the types of cyber threats and thought it was useful.

STRIDE

Spoofing - Falsifying identity to gain systems access

Tampering - Making unauthorized changes to data or systems

Repudiation - Forging identify of actions to data or system to deny responsibility or even blame a 3rd party

Information Disclosure - Stealing (exfiltrating) information and disclosing it to unauthorized individuals

Denial of Service - Depriving legitimate users access to data or systems

Elevation of Privilege - Transforming user account to allow it to exceed legitimate user privileges (e.g. admin account or superuser)

Funny-sad enough, these six types of cyber attacks can cause any information security officer to lose their stride. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal 
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November 14, 2017

Wrapped In Bubble Wrap

So I thought this was an interesting risk management strategy...

One colleague joked with me that:
"Everyone should just wrap themselves in bubble wrap!"

Reminded me of that game where people put on big wearable inflatable bumpers and then smash into each other for fun.

The problem though is that sometimes we put on the bubble wrap, bulletproof vest, or seat belt, but then we get stupidly overconfident. 

We think we are protected, but nothing human in impenetrable. 

So the person with the seat belt and air bag drives too fast and off a cliff and still gets him/herself killed. 

Or the person with the bulletproof vest gets shot with a high caliber armor piercing shell or in the back of the head.

Like on many cars, where the mirror says, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear," we need not over rely on safety, protective, and risk measures and still do stupid things.

One guy told me, he backed up into the wall in the garage, because he thought there was more room and that's not how things looked in the mirror. 

Let's face it, there is no bubble wrap that can fully protect us from life. 

Everyday we face risks out there, and we need to manage them with common sense or else... ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 11, 2017

Always Be Prepared

It was nice going to a local festival yesterday and seeing a table set up with brochures for the kids and families on Emergency Preparedness. 

Even when we're having a good time, we need to have in mind the possibility that things can go very wrong.

These last couples of weeks with Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we saw again the destructive forces that Mother Nature can bring. 

And today being the 16th Anniversary since the terror attacks on 9/11 and the almost 3,000 murdered at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we are reminded of the necessity to always be ready for man-made/inflicted disasters as well. 

Now with Axis of Evil nations, North Korea and Iran, continuing to pose alarming threats to the West, the need for preparation and readiness to dangerous WMD--whether from an ICBM or a suitcase bomb--is ever present

Let's just say until the final redemption when peace will reign on earth, we can never just rest securely on our laurels. 

Even on a sunny day, the clouds may be gathering to threaten us.  

So have a plan.  Be prepared.  You and your families lives across our beautiful and free nation depend on it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 9, 2017

Nuke Fear Turning To Action?

What sane person would not be afraid of the incredibly destructive power of nukes (and other weapons of mass destruction)?

Currently, there are about 15,000 nukes either stockpiled or poised to strike around the world. 

Enough deadly weapons to kill the entire planet!

After a frightening series of 5 nukes tests since 2006 plus 18 technologically progressive ballistic missiles tests over the last 6 months, things are escalating after new sanctions imposed to try to contain the threat--with North Korea rattling it's nuclear arsenal with a shrill threat of attack moving to "physical action" and the U.S. shooting back "fire and fury,


As to further North Korean mad progress, it was reported that they are developing a powerful new H-bomb with immense destructive power, especially towards our density killing fields:

- If such a weapon would strike, G-d forbid, Washington D.C., it could mean 500,000 dead and another 900,000 injured--let alone what this would mean in terms of a destructive decapitation to the very functioning and continuity of our government and country. 

- Even worse fatalities would occur should it strike our financial capital, New York City, with estimates of 1.7 million dead. 

Hence, the news that this is no joking matter anymore (as if it really ever was). 

Fears typically first get expressed in rhetoric, but then with greater and ever potent means for them to become reality, the risks increase for them to actually make the horrific leap. 

What happens next with the ever menacing dangers from rogue Axis of Evil nations, North Korea and Iran--and will we ever feel and be safe again, absent any meaningful social progress while they continue to absolutely and speedily advance their ever more deadly weapons programs and the means to deliver them, first class. ;-0

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 28, 2017

At The Doorstep...WMD

With a new threat again of a chemical weapons attack in Syria...

The U.S. is sending clear warnings to the Assad regime--Don't do it!

Generally, the threat of using weapons of mass destruction--chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear--have become all too blase!

- Syria uses chemical weapons on its own people. 

- Iraq used chemical weapons on Iran and the Kurds

- Terrorists used chemical weapons in Japan and have threatened similar in UK

- Russia threatens use of nukes over Crimea or in a conflict with NATO.

- North Korea threatens preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. 

- Iran has threatened attacks on Israel over nukes.

- Biological weapons such as Anthrax have been used against the U.S. and bioterror has been threatened in India

This list is far from comprehensive--and how very commonplace this is becoming is exactly the problem!

It is one thing (already scary bad) to have weapons that can do the unthinkable, and it is quite another to actually use or threaten to use them in such blase fashion like taking out the garbage or something!

I would add that these days, we also need to add cyber attacks and EMPs to the threats of mass casualty and destructive events. 

If we don't ensure that cooler and more stable heads prevail at the notorious red buttons around the world, then the risk of someone eventually doing something very stupid and dangerous to millions--or even billions--of lives is no longer just in the realm of science fiction anymore, but becomes so very ominous and real a disastrous possibility. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 7, 2017

Managing for Humpty Dumpty Risk

So this was interesting...

I was in a meeting and someone was discussing the risks involved in a project.

And they mentioned the Humpty Dumpty Effect.

A bunch of people looked at them like what's that. 

Then they explained that it's the risk of breaking something during the project. 

Sort of like the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take to, "first, do no harm."

When we are planning, designing, building or implementing a project--be it information technology or something else--we don't want to break something in the process. 

That's the Humpty Dumpty Risk to beware of and it's an egg-celent point! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 20, 2017

Budget Cuts Conundrum

So I'm hearing two opposing themes about the proposed federal budget cuts:

1) It's horrible because we are cutting into the bone and this is going to really hurt a lot of important government programs.

2) It's great because we have been spending money that we don't really have, and we need to finally reign it in. 

Let's face it, we'll never get such drastic cuts across the civilian government unless this country goes into severe crisis mode--which never happens until it's too late and something terrible has happened. 

If we even got half the cuts being proposed--which most people don't seem to believe will even happen--that would be significant and painful itself. 

The truth of the matter is that we are facing enormous danger on both the national security and financial fronts!

- Militarily--Russia, China, Iran, North Korea pose huge threats including those involving weapons of mass destruction. 

- Financially--We have a serious national debt to the tune of $20 trillion, an annual trade deficit of half a trillion dollars, and social security and medicare trust funds that are going bankrupt. 

If we let these threats run their course, we will eventually have a crisis that will be truly nationally catastrophic. 

So what's it gonna be--guns or butter--or national bankruptcy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 10, 2016

{Saving Us From DC Ground Zero}

One well-placed nuclear suitcase bomb or nuclear ballistic missile strike on DC and say goodbye to virtually the entire hub of the Federal government. 

As of 2014, there are over 4.2 million federal employees (2.7M in the civilian agencies and 1.5M in the military). 

Over 500K are located in the DC, MD, VA tristate area. 

But it's not just the numbers, it's that the headquarters of all the major government agencies are located here. 

While, of course, there are backup sites, and emergency doomsday sites like Mount Weather (48 miles from DC), there is no telling how much advance notice, if any we would have, and who would escape and survive a deadly blow to our capital region. 

And it could be a radiological, chemical, biological, or nuclear (RCBN) attack that does us in...whether from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or other diabolical enemy out there. 

The point is that by concentrating all our federal headquarters and senior leadership and key resources here we are in fact, giving the enemy an easy shot to decapitate the entire country?

While others (like Paul Kupiec in the WSJ) have questioned whether some of the federal agencies can be moved out to other needy cities and communities across the country for economic reasons (to bring jobs and investment) especially those agencies that are actively looking to build new HQS buildings already (e.g. FBI and Department of Labor), to me the far more potent question is one of national security. 

The main advantage of having the crux of the federal government in the DC area is surely one of coordination--the President wants his Cabinet near him and the Cabinet Secretaries want their senior staff near them, and so on and so on. 

So, you get this mass concentration of a who's who of the federal government in and around Washington, DC. 

But what about the advances of technology? 

Surely, through networks and telecommunications and teleworking, we can support a geographically diverse workforce and do no significant harm to our operating as one.

We're talking a very big cultural change here!

It's one thing to have nuclear missiles roaming the seas on attack submarines waiting for orders from Washington, DC and it's quite another to move the actual government intelligentsia and leadership out from the central hub. 

Let's face it, in a real crisis situation, with the chaos and panic and transportation overflow and perhaps simultaneous cyberattacks, no one is really going to be going anywhere--especially in a surprise attack. 

If Pearl Harbor (of which we just celebrated the 75th anniversary) and 9/11 teach us anything is that when the sh*t hits the fan, it hits hard and sticks solid. 

Working in the Metro DC area, selfishly, I'd like to say keep the investment, jobs, and great opportunities here.

For the good of the nation and our survival against true existential threats, we'd be much smarter to spread the federal wealth as far and wide across this great nation that we can. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 6, 2016

The Planetary Colonization Imperative

I read something so simple yet profound from theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (The Guardian).

First, he enunciated many of the threats we face these days, including:

- Accelerating technological change [I would elaborate that these include more advanced weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them]

- Automation, [robotics,] and rise of artificial intelligence

- Economic inequality, mass migration, job destruction, [and divisiveness] augmented by immersive social media that accentuates "Instagram [and Facebook] Nirvana" versus the real poverty and struggling of the masses, 

- "Environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, and acidification of the oceans."

In one sentence then, Hawking says it all about the high level of risk we face:
"We now have the technology to destroy the planet, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it."

His call to action:
"Perhaps in a few hundred years,  we will have established human colonies amid the stars. but right now we have only one planet. and we need to work together to protect it [and develop the means to eventually be able to escape it for the survival of humanity.]"

In short, we must get to and colonize other planets as quickly as possible, because it the realm of history, it's only a matter of time and our collective lives are depending on it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal Via National Geographic)
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November 22, 2016

Good IT Gone Bad

So over and over again, good IT goes bad in a flawed decision-making process. 

Even with the best laid plans and governance processes in place, somehow decisions get politicized, go bad, and projects fail. 

Here are some of the popular reasons why this happens:

1) Someone has something to prove - Often their is a person incoming to power who wants to show off what they can do. Instead of focusing on what is best for the organization's mission and people, they put themselves first. IT becomes not a tool for efficiency and effectiveness, but rather as some project rushed through for someone's resume and narcissist career progression. Time to add another notch on your IT belt!

2) Someone used it, saw it, or heard of it someplace else - So why follow a structured decision-making and vetting process for new technology, when Joe Schmoe already has the answer of what we can use and what we should do. Perhaps, Joe Schmoe used the technology in another place and for another reason, but that's what he knows and instantaneously, he's the maven, subject matter expert. Or maybe, Joe Schmoe attended a vendor conference or read a trade mag on the airplane and now he is guess what, the all-knowing on the topic. Get ready to pull out your wallets to pay for the wrong thing for your needs and organization, but it's okay becuase Joe Schmoe assured you it's great!

3) Someone wants to use technology like a Swiss army utility knife - Let's just buy this amazing tool; it can slice, dice, chop, mince, or Julienne; actually there is nothing this IT tool can't do. Buy it and use it for all your technology projects and needs. Why buy specialized tools, when you can have one that does everything--it will be your data warehouse, cloud provider, handle all your transactions, and be your artificial intelligence all in one.  Don't worry about the complexity, integration, training, support or how good it does any specific thing--just trust us!

In general, it shouldn't be so easy for leadership to get sold and fooled by the wrong people with the wrong agendas. Yet, these things seem to take off like a speeding locomotive, and if anyone tries to step in front of it, career splat for some unfortunate well-meaning character!

Some leaders and organizations only seem to learn by making the same IT mistakes again and again--it's costly to their mission and to their stakeholders, but someone is making out like a bandit and it's on their dime. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 16, 2016

To MARS and Beyond

So excited about the new show called MARS (and yeah, it's on National Geographic). 

I watched the season premier and it was awesome!

They did this cool combination flipping between the non-fiction of the here and now on Earth in 2016 with all the plans and advances being made to go to settle Mars someday, and the fictionalized future 2033 actual voyage and colonization there. 

The spaceship, rovers, colony are all pretty amazing and it seems so real like we're practically there!

Elon Musk (SpaceX) does a nice job explaining the vision and the reusable rockets they are focused on to get us cost-effectively to the Red Planet and beyond. 

The imperative is clear for us becoming a true multi-planetary species, so that we drastically reduce (hopefully to zero) the risk of an extinction level event to humanity.

There was a good quote that I remember, something like:

"We go into the dark, so others can follow the light."

The leap forward of us actually making it to and colonizing Mars is so mid-boggling great that just about everything else literally pales in comparison. 

Mars is just the first real step...after that the possibilities are truly endless. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab)

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