Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Third Golden Rule

Anyone who has ever been a member of my staff will tell you to get along with me you only need to adhere to my two golden rules.  These are very simple, straightforward and quite reasonable. Nothing too complicated to remember or follow, and they have served me well for many years.

First, when something, anything goes wrong I always want to be the first to know. Phone me, text me, send a telegram or message on a carrier pigeon. There is nothing worse for me than to hear about a systems related issue from someone outside of my department. I ask my staff to advise me as soon as they know something has gone awry. They have no fear or reprisal, even if they inadvertently did something to cause the problem. My focus is always on understanding what happened, fixing it and then devising a means of ensuring it can never happen again. The only fatal mistake you can make is trying to hide a problem from me.

Second, don't get in the way of the business. Often we can lose sight of the fact that while technology is important to the business, it should rarely be considered a higher priority. We can easily get caught up in the need to reboot a server or upgrade a piece of software and overlook the impact it will have on the business -- and its ability to generate the revenue that pays all of our salaries. So whatever we are doing, no matter how "critical" we think it may be, we should always be certain it will not somehow adversely affect the operations of the company. Usually this is just a matter of careful testing, coordination and scheduling.

Recently, I decided to add a third golden rule. Your opinion matters. It struck me that I embrace the concept that the entire department is a team working together towards common goals. No one works for me. Everyone works with me. I may be the senior manager and head of the department, but I don't want to be surrounded by lemmings who will follow me happily as I lead them over the cliff. As the saying goes, the buck stops here, and, yes, I will likely have the final say. But that should never inhibit anyone from expressing their view. Any sound, fact-based argument can and should be put forth respectfully, and I assure you I will listen.

These rules have always been key to my success as a manager. Follow them and we will be golden.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Who Are You Going To Call

Leveraging technology to make a company run more efficiently, reduce cost or improve quality is simply not enough. A resume in which you offer to replicate this for any new company is going to be passed over by most. Today the head of technology is expected to be a full member of the
management team contributing to the development of new product and services, expanding the customer base, and opening new markets of all kinds.  The good news is we are empowered to do this with the affordable computing power, connectivity and data available.  Moreover, the world is finally in a state of readiness to accept these new ideas. The classic examples include Airbnb, Uber and the new similar application where people share boats.  The new norm is technology turning an industry completely inside-out.

We are now an on demand, variable supply, value-based micro-company society where every individual can be an entrepreneur, running an entire business, often without having to leave home. Business opportunities exist on both sides of this model. Traditional companies  leverage just-in-time supply of expertise, consuming just enough to meet their needs without incurring additional overhead or associated costs. Individuals can apply their deep knowledge and experience to a wide variety of issues across many clients, constantly learning and improving while delivering efficient and effective solutions. Instead of one individual with a little experience in several areas being on staff, engage six experts as needed for portions of the project achieving superior results with lower long term cost.  

What I envision is different from the classic consulting model where companies engage teams from well know firms like Accenture, Oracle or Mercer, and instead turn to vehicle such as e-lance to solicit bids for specific resources or solutions from individuals.  As the boomers age out of the work force they become increasing rare and valuable resources with exactly the right knowledge and skills to meet these demands. Orchestrating the match of needs to resources represents, in my mind, one of the most interesting and potentially rewarding business opportunities today and the near future.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mind My Own Business

People often react to my use of social networks to "check in" at a location,  regularly posting my adventures in travel, food or special events. Those of you who may follow me on Facebook pretty much know where I am or where I am headed, what I am eating, drinking or cooking, and sometimes the people who are with me. "Why do you want everyone to know where you are and what you are doing?" I am asked, "Don't you want some privacy in your life?"

Allow me to explain.

First, I segregate my network activity into social and business, and while there may be occasional crossover, these social posts are purely for fun. My social posts are done using Swarm (successor to Foursquare), Facebook and a personal Twitter account. More recently I started posting via Instagram in an effort to keep up with current trends. The accounts are connected so, for example, a Swarm check-in automatically posts to Facebook and tweets. Similarly, my Instagrams also post to Facebook and Twitter.

My friends, family and I all derive a certain pleasure in sharing. I know this from the "likes" and comments garnered over the years. With people segregated in both time and space, this turns out to be a great way to keep everyone apprised of events, however important or mundane, in my life. Whether its a simply an extraordinary meal at a local restaurant or family wedding photos, what better way to 'broadcast' this small chapter of your life to those who care? Followers can choose to view, react or ignore each however they please.

So, what about privacy? Well the most effective means of keeping something truly private is to not tell anyone. So where I want privacy you are not likely to see any posts.  It's that simple.  Most of the time I have nothing to hide and no reason to be secretive. In fact, there have been a couple of instances where posting my whereabouts has lead to an unexpected and pleasant chance meeting with a friend or family member. Unless you are ducking bill collectors or the mob, why not let people know you are around?

Posting on LinkedIn, Google+ and my business Twitter persona are whole different kettle of fish. There the main purpose, as it says on this blog, is to educate, inform and sometimes entertain in a professional way. On these networks I share my blog posts, business knowledge, experience and even pieces of useful information gleaned at seminars, conferences, events and publications. It is important to remain informed, connected, active and visible in today's business world.

That's how I leverage social nets to keep friends and family informed, share life experiences and to remain ever present among my colleagues and peers in business.

How does that differ from what you routinely do?

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thoughts on Immortality

This morning I read yet another article declaring how some current piece of technology will soon be dead and gone. This time it was that conventional, spinning storage medium we call disk. Solid state devices are getting cheaper and faster and more efficient and so naturally all those floor space mongering, power hungry, heat generating mechanical antiques are going to simply vanish.

I disagree.

The truth is none of this stuff ever really dies. Of course you don't encounter many 3.5 inch floppy disks any more. But we can cite an almost endless list of technologies that the prognosticators have assured us are destined for the the grave, most of which are still around.

For instance there are still as many or more lines of COBOL code in production today as there are in any other computer programming language. Mainframe computers abound. Even the RIM Blackberry is still with us despite Apple and Android, and the company's own missteps. Pagers and PDAs still sell well years after the advent of the ubiquitous and all powerful mobile device. The list goes on and on.

In fact, outside the computer realm, people continue to read books and magazines, VCRs are still around and so are CDs. According to the CEA, digital cameras, e-readers and MP3 players are among the top gift holiday items. Even vinyl records have enjoyed renewed popularity and are staging a comeback. Heck, I own a hand cranked phonograph and a collection of 78s.

Okay, the phonograph is an antique and, though it works, I don't actually use it to listen to music. But the point is many of these things are very much in daily use many years after the prediction of their demise. If you expand your view outside of the US there are even more so-called obsolete devices very much alive and kicking.

Perhaps they aren't written about as much or advertised as heavily and so they slip quietly into the background of our minds. They are no longer the newest, hottest or sexiest thing on the market. But news of their death, as one famous author is reputed to have said, has been greatly exaggerated.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Danger Within

Security is surely on everyone's mind these days.  One merely has to pick up a newspaper, magazine or visit news sites on-line to read about the latest incident involving the release of personal data, confidential corporate files or government secrets. As a direct result of the rash of these high profile incidents, articles and presentations abound on the need for better means of protecting our information.

Some of the focus is on better educating the person at the keyboard, since they are most often the initial crack in the armor. I have even advocated for this in previous columns.

We are inundated with demands for better, more complex passwords, two-factor, three factor or biometric and other means of authentication. We must have improved edge security, faster intrusion detection, the latest anti-virus and web filtering systems. Network equipment vendors try to outdo one another with increasingly sophisticated methods of preventing unwanted visitors, while the security related software companies race to stay ahead of the nefarious individuals exploiting holes in the code by spotting the latest attack vectors.

What we do not hear enough about is an effort to ensure there are no holes in the code to exploit. In my recent work with the NAiC investor group I had an opportunity to learn about several companies with tools that automatically read and evaluate software code. These tools can be used to find logic flaws and identify opportunities to improve code efficiency. But importantly, they can also highlight potential security issues allowing these dangerous holes to be plugged before the code is ever released for use.

Major corporations, particularly software houses, routinely have a QA group perform reviews. But the priorities of the company and demands of the marketplace often push the code release ahead of a complete review. Moreover, the QA department is often the poor, red-headed step-child with little power to truly complete the mission. They are only there to make sure the code doesn't crash the system or fail to perform in line
with some option on the menu.

Until we make the quality and especially security of applications as important as meeting the date we promised our customers new features, we will always run the risk that some employee will unwittingly allow malware to evade all the perimeter defenses and take advantage of flaws, infecting systems, stealing data or taking control.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC