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Going To "The Show" at Forbes.com Tue 27 May 08

When baseball players move up from the minor leagues to the majors they refer to it as "going to the Bigs" or "going to The Show".  It's pretty exciting stuff.  And now in blogging terms I know the feeling.  I've been asked to be a regular contributor on technology issues to Forbes.com.  This is the online extension of Forbes business magazine, a leading business journal and is as they say the "HOME PAGE FOR THE WORLD'S BUSINESS LEADERS".  Right now it looks like I'll be contributing posts every other week although this may change. My first one is scheduled for Monday, June 2nd.  With over 20 million (yes, I said million) unique visit per month to their site this is fantastic exposure.  If just a tiny fraction of this read my posts it should make for some lively and interesting discussion.  I'm really excited about this opportunity.

The posts I write for Forbes. com will also be posted on this site.  As always, I encourage you to participate in the discussion either at Beyond Blinking Lights & Acronyms or at Forbes. com.  I'll include a statement at the end of the posts along with the Forbes.com logo on the posts that appear in both locations.

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Competency Based Performance Reviews Mon 26 May 08

Competency_perf_reviewMy good friend, Robin Kessler, has just completed her third book, Competency-based Performance Reviews: How to Perform Employee Evaluations the Fortune 500 WayIt completes the cycle of writing your resume (Competency-Based Resumes: How To Bring Your Resume To The Top Of The Pile ) and getting the interview (Competency-Based Interviews: Master the Tough New Interview Style And Give Them the Answers That Will Win You the Job).  As you can tell from the similarity in titles they all have the common theme of knowing how to express your competencies to succeed in each phase.

Performance review are not very popular with anyone, neither the managers who give them nor the employees who receive them.  There are even some suggestions that we abandon the process as it exists today such as:

I suspect this is because they are rarely done well.  Fortunately Kessler's book can help in this area.  She lays out the process as most companies do it and shows through numerous example how to prepare for the review and how to do one properly.  A major theme is "Don't attack the person, attack the problem".  She shows how properly structuring competency reviews can do this.

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Interviewed On Dice.com About Business Analysts Raising Their Profile Tue 20 May 08

Dice_com_2Back in April, Sonia Lelii from Dice.com, a recruiting and career development website for technology and engineering professionals, interviewed me as part of her story, Business Analysts Raise Their Profile in their Technology Today section.  Lelii also interviewed recruiter Christa Baker for her perspective.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten about this until Monday's post on hiring business analysts reminded me.

The article talks in detail about the need for people who can communicate between IT and business groups and what types of background and  skills they need.  Take a look, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

If this topic was of interest, you might also like these:

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Hiring the Right / Wrong IT People to Achieve Alignment Mon 19 May 08

Need_a_job_saffanna_2_3Dr. George E. Strouse had a great article recently on CIO.com entitled "Are You Hiring the Wrong IT Staff to Achieve Your Alignment Goals?"  Strouse contends that the major cause of business and IT mis-alignment is that IT is not hiring the right kind of people.   He states "The right people need strong backgrounds in both business and technology. Most IT hiring managers place too much emphasis on strong technology backgrounds."  Although I cannot comment on whether or not this is the major reason for the misalignment I wholeheartedly agree with his comment on the needed background nonetheless.

The most popular post I've made (accounting for about 20+% of site visits) is one that contains what I thought was a good business analyst job description.  While this job description does contains some technical requirements as you might expect it also contains skills that are not often found in traditionally trained IT folks.  These are the types of skills that are needed for an business analyst to understand business.

Dr. Strouse contends that the reason business can not get the right people is that we are asking for people with a Computer Science degree rather than an Information Systems degree.  As a professor of information systems at York College in Pennsylvania he is eminently qualified to layout the distinction and makes a strong case.  Now before anyone with a Computer Science degree gets upset please read his article carefully.  As he points out there is a need for both types of degrees but each is better suited for different functions.

Continue reading "Hiring the Right / Wrong IT People to Achieve Alignment" »

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Agile Programming - A Poor Choice of Words? Mon 12 May 08

_20070925_1320_acrobat_williewonk_2Agile Programming is a popular programming methodology.  But it's not alone. There are other methodologies such as the Rational Unified Process, Spiral, and the traditional Waterfall methodology in common use.  Each has it advantages and disadvantages and each is named in a way that describes the process.  However with Agile its very name can tend to cause confusion.  "Agile" gets confused with "agile".  Wait a minute.  Other than the capitalization aren't they the same things?  Well not exactly.  Agile with capitals does mean something different than lower case agile and that's where the confusion comes in.

Agile (upper-case) programming in overly simple terms is a method of developing programs using closely knit teams to quickly produce releasable code in short time frames.  Based on the Agile manifesto principles it has some certain processes.  Wikipedia provides a good overview and a simple Google search will provide a mass of references. 

agile (lower-case "a") programming simply denotes being flexible in our design and adjusting as we go.

The term Agile was no doubt derived from its lower-case counterparts and that's where the difficulty comes in.  When we speak of Agile others often hear agile.  And after all who wouldn't want some flexibility in programming?  So very often you quickly get buy-in to employ this methodology when you use this term.  That is until the realization sinks in that what your user thinks they bought is not what you thought you were selling. 

Continue reading "Agile Programming - A Poor Choice of Words?" »

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Should We Make Customers Pay For The Convenience of Doing Business With Us Over The Internet? Mon 05 May 08

Astros_tickets_3Yesterday, I took the family down to Minute Maid park to watch the Houston Astros play the Milwaukee Brewers.  It was a  great day.  The weather was beautiful, I got to spend some quality time with my family and enjoyed a great ball game.  The Astros won!  My daughter's favorite player, #9 Hunter Spence, hit a 2-run walk-off homer in the 12th the win it 8 to 6.  Oh Baby!

Like a lot of other things I buy, I bought the tickets over the Internet.  Buying over the Internet is nice.  I could buy them when I wanted, not just when the box office was open.  It was easy and fast and I could print my own tickets.  Without question buying tickets over the Internet was very convenient.

At the same time it is a good thing for the Astros too.  Making it easer for customers to do business with you is always a good way to promote increased sales.  It also reduces costs.  When customers print their own own tickets the Astros' printing expense is reduced.  Likewise the staffing costs for the will call and tickets sales windows are reduced.  The more people that buy over the Internet the lower the Astros' costs.

So although this would seem like the classic win-win situation there is one little catch.

Continue reading "Should We Make Customers Pay For The Convenience of Doing Business With Us Over The Internet?" »

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