How Technology Enhances Collaboration Wed 20 Jan 10

The unheralded benefit of tech collaboration: resolving disagreement.

Disagreement_tanakawhoPadmasree Warrior, Cisco's chief technology officer, wrote a thought- provoking blog post recently entitled "The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise". While the NGCE label sounds like just another marketing package (Cisco is a hardware vendor, after all), Warrior's article is definitely worth reading.

One comment she makes almost as an aside is particularly noteworthy. "It is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity," Warrior writes. So true, and so very well stated.

I would take this a step further and say that a prime role of technology in collaboration is to highlight and even foster disagreement. Rephrasing Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, I'll go as far as making the seemingly incongruous statement, "disagreement is good."

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Avoiding The IT Death Spiral Wed 02 Sep 09

Four Tips For Better IT Budgeting

Many pundits are indicating the economy has hit bottom and we are starting to come out of the recession. I don't know if this is true, but I certainly hope so. At the same time, no one seems to expect a rapid climb back, which means controlling costs will remain an important factor in our operations.

Death_spiral_glovsky225As you prepare your budgets for next year, you'll no doubt go through many iterations. You may start out with plans for new systems only to be told to come back with a budget that stays flat. Top management doesn't like what it's getting for their money--or believes it is out of sync with what the company is trying to do. Or management may simply not understand IT, and so demand you lower your costs. To appease top management, you produce a number of different plans that include more and more cost reductions.

Budgeting this way, however, can easily lead to a classic death spiral. We dutifully reduce our costs by cutting services where we think prudent; this leads to more dissatisfaction and more demands for reduced costs--and so on and so on, until the cost that is ultimately reduced is you.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this.

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Twitter Overload Mon 12 Jan 09

Too many tweets I've got a problem with Twitter overload in a couple of different ways.  I recently started using Twitter but because of these various overload issues  I'm still undecided about how much (or if at all) I want to use it.

The first issue is with Twitter itself.  They've been growing at a very rapid pace, reportedly up 752% in 2008.  It shows.  Along with this they are having scalability and performance issues.  This past Thursday the system was so bogged down that when I replied to a tweet it did not appear to "take" and I restarted Twitter and tried again only to later find out that I ended up sending the same reply 3 times.  That night performance was so bad that it was for all intents and purposes unusable.

In addition, in the 2 weeks I've been using Twitter I've received the "Too Many Tweets" screen about a half dozen times.  Fortunately, the system came back quickly but disturbing nonetheless.

The other overload issue has to do with the number of Tweets.  This is not an issue with Twitter performance but in what I'm using it.  I'm only following a couple of dozen or so people right now and a couple of them are big names in the IT field and get a lot of tweets directed to them and about them and they use Twitter extensively.

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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.

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Outsourcing Your Reputation Mon 09 Jun 08

Raffles_singapore_sling_2I just returned from circumnavigating the globe with stops in India, Singapore and Malaysia.  It was a fantastic trip as I got to see many interesting things and meet some great people.  Although the purpose of the trip was business I did have some spare time for sightseeing.  Most of my time was in Singapore which is an especially nice place to visit.  In addition to seeing some of the sights I made the de rigueur visit to the Long Bar at the historic Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling.  The recipe for this drink from this turn-of-the-century colonial Singapore drink is in the graphic for this post if you're interested.  Raffles and the Long Bar is great way to figuratively go back in time.  I just wish I could afford to stay there.

On my last night in Singapore before returning to Houston I returned from dinner around 10:00 PM and since my shuttle to the airport was to pick me up at 3:30 AM I thought I would stay up all night and sleep later on the plane to start my adjustment to a new time zone.   During this time I got on the Internet to catch up on emails and other work.  Unfortunately around 11:30 the Internet stopped working.  I waited about 15 minutes thinking it might be a temporary problem.  When it didn't come back I called the front desk.  They indicated that they would have the Internet company call back which they did a few minutes later.  The Internet company indicated he network was down for maintenance and that it would be available in about an hour.  The service came back as promised and worked fine although this unannounced outage was frustrating.

Obviously since providing Internet service is not a core competency of the hotel they logically outsourced it to another company.  This apparently planned but unannounced maintenance period provides two learning opportunities; one for the Internet provider and one for the hotel, i.e. the company doing the outsourcing.

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The Importance of Integrating Acquisitions Quickly Wed 02 Jan 08

Huchas_damianvila A close friend from Chicago knowing my IT connection sent me the following story thinking I might find it interesting.  I certainly did!  Enough so that with the permission I am posting as something of a guest post (anonymously at their request).

My daughter and I had an interesting  experience yesterday, which you might find amusing in your IT world.  She had two checks that she wanted to deposit in her Bank of America account.  Since October 1, when BofA formally acquired LaSalle Bank, they have been advertising that they are one bank and retail customers (the reason BofA wanted to buy LaSalle) could do their business at either bank, regardless of where their accounts were.  The closest BofA facility is about 10 miles away which as you recall can be a long drive in Chicago traffic.  So my daughter goes into the local branch of the LaSalle (a stand-alone bank building, with a parking lot for at least 30 cars) with her BofA card and her be told that the 'infrastructure' is not set up for them to take any deposits for BofA accounts. (Mind you, she can, with her deposit slip from the checking account, deposit those checks in ANY ATM sponsored by any bank.)  The LaSalle people also mentioned in response to her surprise that the BofA/LaSalle 'infrastructure' was not working smoothly enough for the employees to get their checks in a timely manner, either. (I guess, treating employees badly is a good reason for customers to overlook bad customer service?)  And this is happening in Chicago, the home base of the LaSalle operations--I wonder what happens elsewhere?)

So we go off to Dominick's [a Chicago area supermarket chain] with the checks in her purse.  At Dominick's there is a Chase "office" of about 120 square feet--barely room for a desk, three chairs. the bank officer's computer,  and an ATM. I say to my daughter, "let's try something..."  We tell the bank officer that we have a Chase checking account, but we do not have any Chase cards with us, don't know any account numbers, don't have a deposit slip, but would like to deposit two checks...can she help?  No daughter entered her SS number into the hand-held device that brought up our accounts on the bank officer's screen, she asked for a photo id to verify that she was the same person as listed on her screen, took the checks, and two minutes after we walked in on the way to the produce counter, the checks were deposited.

I do realize that mergers are a lot more complicated than running off-site locations, but BofA won the LaSalle bank in early summer/late spring 2007 even if it did not get closed until 9/30/07.  That was enough time to get their ad campaign out about it being "one bank" but insufficient time to  merge the IT systems that are the lifeline of their business.

Oh well,..........

I find this interesting for a number of reasons:

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Are Your Execution and Delivery Processes Ready for the Internet? Wed 02 May 07

Autobahnkainet The Internet is a wondrous thing and has significantly changed the way we live and work.  It has also changed our perception of time.   We can send an email around the world in the blink of an eye and expect a response just as quickly.  We can shop online, check the status and for some product download our purchase instantly.  As a result anything we do on the Internet comes with an expectation of speed.

In the rush to meet or beat our competition and to better serve our customers it tempting to add a customer interface via the Internet.  However, this mean more than just putting up a website and slapping an "e- "  or "i- " label on something.  Because of the speed expectation that comes with the Internet you also need to take a careful look at your execution and delivery processes.

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Update: Customer Service - A Real Life Example Wed 04 Apr 07

Sitemeterlogo Last Wednesday I wrote about a problem with Sitemeter the service I use to report visitor statistics that occurred the previous weekend.  In this post I reported on the problems I had and suggested a number of simple ways they could improve their service.  As indicated in the article I did forward a link to the article to the folks at Sitemeter.

"Sitemeter Support" responded,

Thanks for writing. We are constantly improving our service and appreciate your suggestions. I have forwarded your comments to the appropriate department for further review. Please let me know if I can assist you further.

Although this sounds like the standard form letter I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best.

Wanna bet on what happened this weekend?

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Are Your Projects "LAME"? Fri 30 Mar 07

LameI'm a big advocate of Lean methodologies as a way to improve a company's operations and therefore I follow a number of Lean related blogs.  Jon Miller in a recent posting, Here are 4.5 Signs that Your Lean May be L.A.M.E. at Gemba Panta Rei talks about Lean is getting a unjust reputation due to poor implementations.  Miller refers to Mark Graban at the Lean Blog who coined the term L.A.M.E as "Lean As Misguidedly Executed".  In essence, the problem isn't with the concept of Lean but rather how it is implemented.

The same holds true for many of the IT related projects we work on.  Our projects start out with a lot of hope and great expectations and as time goes on people become disillusioned and disappointed with the outcome.

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Customer Service - A Real Life Example Wed 28 Mar 07

Sitemeterlogo I use Sitemeter to collect statistics on visitors to my blog.  It is an excellent product that provides me information on how many visits and pageviews I've had, geographic location (don't worry, it is just to the city level - it doesn't give me your home address), length of visit, how they were referred to me and what search terms they used if it was the result of using a search engine among other items.  I also use Statcounter, IceRocket and Google Analytics.  They all give similar information although each has its own way of presenting and summarizing the data.  I do use all 4 products but use Sitemeter the most.  I do a quick scan of Sitemeter every day to get a feel of how people are finding me and what articles are of most interest.

Because I use Sitemeter extensively and really like it, it has been disappointing to recently suffer 2 problems with their service.  Unfortunately, this type of situation is not unusual with IT service providers.  However it is important because as I will show later in this post it does have customer (revenue generation) impact.  I bring this up not to complain (well OK maybe a little) but to use this as an example of how these situations could have been mitigated and customer service improved with very little effort and little or no cost.  Perhaps we can all learn from this.

OK, so by now you may be saying what happened and what, Mr. IT Hotshot, should they have done about it?

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