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Antikythera Mechanism - An Update Thu 31 Jul 08

Antikythera_mechanism_drobnikmBack at the end of 2006 I wrote about the Antikythera Mechanism, a astronomical calculator from more than 2,000 years ago.  Recent reports indicate that this wasn't just an all purpose astronomical calculate but had a specific purpose.  It was used to keep track of when the next Olympics would take place as described in this Scientific American article.

It is rather interesting that this was the purpose.  When you think about the resources of time, effort and probably money needed to do this it is truly amazing.  Two thousand years ago doing something like this wasn't something you do lightly.  It really indicates the importance of the Olympics back then. 

"Antikythera Mechanism" photo by drobnikm

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An IT Question: What Do You Expect From The Project Sponsor? Mon 28 Jul 08

Help_cobber99Occasionally I turn the tables and ask you the readers for you input and since it has been awhile since I've done that this seems like a good time.  Here's the scenario--

A major IT project for the Sales department is about to kick-off.  You stop by to talk with the with the VP, Sales about it and the dialog goes something like this.

VP, Sales - My team has told me they are excited to finally get this project going.  We've been wanting it for a long time.  We really expect to see a lot of benefit from this.

You - I'm glad to hear that.  As you're the Project Sponsor we really appreciate your help in getting this done.

VP, Sales - I'm behind this a 1,000%!  You can count on me.  Make sure to let me know when it is done I'd like to host a congratulatory dinner for everyone on the team.

You - Well I truly appreciate your support but we need more than that.  Your active participation is required if we want this to be successful.

VP, Sales - Oh.  (significant pause)  What exactly is it you want me to do?

You - . . .

How do you respond?  What do you expect your executive project sponsors to do?  What is their responsibility?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

Got a question you'd like me to post for future discussion?  Email it to me using the "Email Mike" link in the left hand column.

If this topic was of interest, you might also like the other posts in the IT Question category.

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When IT's Success Is A Flop Mon 21 Jul 08

The_blinds_are_touching_the_elephan Have you ever worked on a project where the information technology department did everything right yet the project was considered a failure?

What IT may consider a triumph may be a disaster according to, say, human resources. It all depends on perspective.

The world constantly presents IT with opportunities--new technologies, problems to solve and different ways to look at things. Of course, talk to the folks in human resources, sales, manufacturing and accounting, and they'll tell you their world is constantly changing too.

Even when faced with the same opportunities and challenges, each department's experiences and needs nudge them toward different outcomes or solutions. For example:

  • IT sees the need for process and data.
  • HR sees the need for training and change management.
  • Accounting sees the "bottom line" and payback.
  • Manufacturing sees the need for a variety of tools to help manage operations.
  • Sales sees the need for analytics to provide information on customers, markets and sales trends.

Our different perspectives also influence how we judge a project's success. We in IT may think that the project was a success if we got the process and data right; HR may think the project is successful if the department had a good training program; and so on.

That means that a project in which IT does everything right--from IT's perspective--can nonetheless flop when measured along different axes. As with the five blind men in the old South Asian parable, we only get the true understanding of the elephant if we consider all perspectives.

Continue reading "When IT's Success Is A Flop" »

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Yesbutters and Whynotters Mon 14 Jul 08

Why_not_daryl_mitchellThe other day I ran across an interesting post at Management Quotes.  Apparently it has been around for a number of years and unfortunately the source is not known.

Yesbutters and Whynotters

Yesbutters don't just kill ideas.
They kill companies, even entire industries.
The yesbutters have all the answers. Yesbut we're different.
Yesbut we can't afford it.
Yesbut our business doesn't need it.
Yesbut we couldn't sell it to our workforce.
Yesbut we can't explain it to our shareholders.
Yesbut let's wait and see.
All the answers. All the wrong answers.

Whynotters move Companies.

The next time you're in a meeting, look around and identify
the yesbutters, the notnowers and the whynotters.
God bless the whynotters. They dare to dream. And to act.
By acting, they achieve what others see as unachievable.
Why not, indeed?
Before the yesbutters yesbut you right out of business.

I'm sure everyone in IT will grimace at the "Yesbut we're different." line as we've all heard it many times in many forms.  Before we get ourselved out of sorts about this keep in mind that IT may be just as guilty.  Ever heard the following from your IT group?

Continue reading "Yesbutters and Whynotters" »

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Quick Tip: How To Get Your Lost Laptop Back Thu 10 Jul 08

Luggage_tag Security expert Bruce Schneier recently had an interesting blog post referring to a study by the Ponemon Institute.  In a study sponsored by laptop maker, Dell, they concluded that approximately 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen every week in US airports and that two-thirds are never claimed.  While I view those figures with a healthy dose of skepticism, I do believe  that the number is no doubt quite large.

Although as Schneier points out some TSA employees do steal, there are dishonest people everywhere.  I believe that people are basically honest and will try to do the right thing and that includes TSA personnel taking extra effort to get lost property back to their owners including a system to track lost items.  I've personally had a pleasant experience with honest folks going the extra mile to help out a stranger.  A few years back I lost my BlackBerry in a cab on the way to O'Hare airport in Chicago and didn't realize it until I had gone through security and was at the boarding gate.  The cab driver found it after dropping me off, returned to the airport, and gave it to the TSA people at security.  The TSA personnel figured out who it belonged to by looking at the "owner" information and called my office.  About that time I discovered that I had lost my BlackBerry and called my office to report it and to have them disable it when they informed me that the TSA was on the other line and that I could pick it up at security.  What a relief!

Because of this I believe that if you accidentally leave your PC behind at airport security or some other place many people will try to get it back to you.  So let's make it easy for them to help us.  We routinely put luggage tags on all our luggage but put nothing on those laptops with all that valuable company information.

So for the tip: Make it easy for people to reunite you with your lost laptop by taping your business card to the PC. 

That's it, plain and simple, but effective.  Sometimes the best solutions are low-tech or even no-tech.   There is no guarantee that this will get your laptop back but without any identifying information on it the you know its not going to happen.  If you are in charge of PCs you may want to get someone's business card when you give them a new PC and tape it on for them.  Who know it may save you a lot of trouble recreating their data for them when it is lost.

Thanks to Vinnie Mirchandani for the link on screener's system to track lost items.

"Luggage Tag" photo - Microsoft clip art

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Why Companies Need Web 2.0 Mon 07 Jul 08

My youngest daughter is doing a study abroad and an internship in France this summer. Taking advantage of the situation, we decided to travel with her to her destination and have a long overdue family vacation, a week in Paris.

Since she was going to be there for a while, she naturally brought her PC along. After we checked into the hotel, I asked if she had brought her Ethernet cable with her. That's when I got "the look."

All of you fathers know the look I'm talking about. It's the one that tells you've said something incredibly stupid. Despite her look, she politely said, "Why do I need a cable? Don't they have wireless?'" Having spent the last two years in an academic environment, she simply could not comprehend wireless not being available.

Later that day, when we returned from our sightseeing, we asked the hotel desk clerk about wireless. He informed me that, yes, they had wireless, and gave us the login information. I then asked if there was a charge--and that's when I learned that, apparently, French hotel clerks and young American women learn non-verbal communication at the same place. The clerk also gave me "the look," and politely informed me, "It is free." Again, in their worlds, Internet access is always wireless and free.

The point in all this is that there is a new generation of potential employees and customers that are accustomed to a variety of technologies being available, and they expect to see and use them in the corporate world. Whether and how we deploy these technologies likely will have an impact on our ability to attract new talent to our companies and to find and retain customers. Here's a sampling of these technologies:

Continue reading "Why Companies Need Web 2.0" »

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