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Realizing the Impact of Technology Thu 31 May 07

Pict2227mrw_robenalt The other day I had one of those moments where you suddenly are struck by how technology has changed your life.  It's not anything new, it is just a sudden appreciation of how things have changed.

I've been in my new job for 2 months and had just completed my expense report online.  After doing this you have to mail the hard copy receipts to Accounts Payable.  And that's when it struck me.  I'd been in this job for 2 months and this was the first time I had to actually mail something out.  Up to this point the phone, email, and online systems had met all my communications needs allowing me to sign up for company benefits, schedule meeting and exchange information.  Two months and never needing to mail something, now that is a change from the way business used to work.

Interestingly enough when I asked someone who at been working in the building for over a year where the mailroom was - they didn't know.  Things really have changed!  But this wasn't the first time I had this kind of experience.

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Dinner with Orville Mon 28 May 07

Orville_pierson My good friend Gerry Fusco contacted me last week to let me know that Orville Pierson would be back in town.  Orville is Senior Vice President, Corporate Director of Program Design and Service Delivery at Career Transition / Outplacement firm of Lee Hecht Harrison and the author of The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search.  He was in town to talk to the folks at Between Jobs Ministry (BJM) about Job Search Work Teams (JSWTs).  Orville was kind enough to help get JSWTs started back in 2006 and came in to see how they were doing and help kick off additional training from more team leaders.

Since I've now landed a position I wasn't able to attend the BJM sessions.  Gerry reports that they were standing room only and very well received.  Fortunately I was able to join Orville and the original group of JSWT leader for dinner that night.  It was great to see Orville and the team again.  My landing a new position is due in large part to the effectiveness of JSWTs and I highly recommend Orville's book (and website) and the JSWT process.

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You want fries with that? Thu 24 May 07

French_fries_udonoLet's talk about the "O-word", outsourcing.  I recently ran across 2 news stories with a new (at least for me) twist on outsourcing.  The first was in regard to the fast food industry outsourcing the drive-thru order taking.  A USA Today article describes how Wendy's, a hamburger restaurant chain, has outsourced the drive-thru order taking to an outside firm.  They use phone lines and Internet technologies to take your orders remotely. Seems like even a high-school, minimum-wage job isn't safe from the possibility of being outsourced.

The second story was a radio report on NPR describing a California web site outsourcing local news coverage to reporters in India.  The reporters have the city council "beat" and can watch the council meetings via streaming video on the web and prepare their stories from that with follow-up information obtained over the phone.

Both of these tend to dispel a couple of common misconceptions about outsourcing.

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So You Want To Be A Writer? Mon 21 May 07

Notes_on_wood_5_christgr2_2A friend of mine, Bruce Kingwell, emailed me a couple of stories the other day which I thought were pretty good especially since they made me reflect back on some previous posts I made.  I'll relate one today and the other in a future post.  So on with the story.

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed a desire to become a "great" writer.

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VOIP at Home? Thu 17 May 07

Old_bakelit_phone_aussiegall_3VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has gotten a lot of attention.  This is where your telephone service is digital and transmitted via the Internet.  Cisco, Avaya and others have major business groups providing this for the corporate world.  It can be a big money saver for many businesses but it does require having trained support people either on staff or through a third-party service.

But what about the home user?  Vonage was one of the big providers but is currently in financial difficulty.  All of the cable companies such as Time-Warner and Charter tout its advantage (they refer to it as digital phone service). There are also services such as Skype that will provide this service. Technically Skype uses peer-to-peer technology rather than VOIP but for purpose of this discussion it is the same, namely phone over the Internet to put it simply. VOIP for the home user has had its issues such as lack of 911 coverage but it appears that they have now addressed that issue.

However, there is one dirty little secret that none of these providers want to talk about.

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Thinking of Working From Home? Mon 14 May 07

Working_virtually_can_be_a_rough_liI ran across a post "My flexible friend the office" by Tomas Mcinernery over at IT@Intel Blog.  Mcinernery does a good job of talking about some of the issues dealing with telecommuting.  He talks about the need to have a policy and working with Human Resources and the Legal departments to determine to what extent can people work from home with out breaching regulations or local work rules and laws.  He also mentions looking at the technical issues to make sure your employees come in via a secure connection.

While Mcinernery does discuss the issues such as employees feeling isolated, the complications of mentoring and developing junior staff I think a lot more needs to be said about the human factor in telecommuting.

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Lead Well and Prosper Fri 11 May 07

I just completed reading Lead Well and Prosper (93 pages Be Good Publishing) by Nick McCormick.  This is a fast read book that outlines 15 strategies for becoming a good manager.  McCormick lays this out in a very simple straightforward manner.  He illustrates each strategy with a real world example and then follows this up with a brief discussion.  You can quickly read the whole book or just a chapter here or there as an occasional refresher or reminder.

As an IT guy it was encouraging to learn that in his other life Nick is an IT manager for an information services company.

I especially like that at the end of each chapter he list a couple of quick bullet points on  "Do's", "Don'ts" and "Actions".  One that caught my attention was at the end of the Chapter 1, "Adopt a Serving Attitude".  One of the Don't items was "Constantly refer to the team as 'my team' or 'my group'.  Rather, use the team name (e.g. the accounts payable team) or simply 'our group'."  Some very practical and actionable advise that says a lot about how you think of the team you are managing.

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Using Grandma's Quilt to Explain Your Systems Environment Wed 09 May 07

Movado_andreaweckerle I love the way that graphic elements can often convey information and concepts with a minimum of words.  In fact they often do it more completely and clearly than even well written explanations.  A couple of simple well-known examples include the Movado watch.  A quick glance and you know what time it is without any numbers.

The other example is one you typically see on the televised baseball games.  It the scoring banner that you see at the top of the screen.

A quick glance keeps you up-to-date and you know that you now is not the time to go raid the fridge.  Using graphic can also be a very effective way to describe your systems environment. 

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Letting Users Set the Business Tech Agenda Mon 07 May 07

A couple of items in a  recent article at Information Week called "IT Departments Will Set Less Of The Business Tech Agenda, Survey Suggests" caught my attention. 

"Business users want more innovative software faster and will bypass the IT department if necessary to get it."

"In some cases, the research also shows IT organizations turning a blind eye when business units take risks with smaller, more innovative approaches to software."

No doubt this is a worrisome trend for many in IT.  We sit back and say sure the centralized, integrated approach may take a little longer but if we do it we can have better information, we can have a more complete insight to our customers, we can . . ., we can. . ., we can . . .

Frogs_mstresbabett_2 What this brings to mind is the old riddle about 4 frogs sitting on a log. 

Q. Four frogs are sitting on a log.  Three frogs decide to jump off.  How many frogs are left on the log?

A. Four frogs.  Deciding to do something and actually doing it are not the same thing.

Likewise, software that can provide what is needed is not the same as software that does provide what is needed.

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Put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today Fri 04 May 07

Andrew_and_coach_edstuartmoulder This past week my friend and career coach Kent Blumberg was in town and we had the opportunity for a quick ad hoc coaching session.  As luck would have it on the drive home that night I heard John Fogerty's classic song, Centerfield, with the refrain:

Oh, put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Put me in, coach - I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be center field

This got me thinking.  I'm fortunate to have a coach from outside the company that can provide some independent, objective suggestions.  Our employees usually are not as lucky.  They typically have to dependent on their managers and supervisors (gasp, gulp) -- us!

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