Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Beginning

Since taking a full time job, it has been difficult to find the time to devote to writing. As I look back over the year, it has been interesting, exciting and rewarding, but somehow lacking one crucial element. As much as I try to put the blogging and daily social interaction behind me and out of my head, it has left a small but persistent void in my life.

This has brought me to my 2013 New Year's resolution. I must return to writing.

It will be difficult and there is no way I can produce a daily column, but I will make every effort to post at least two or three original columns each month. Those of you who have been most loyal followers will understand the quality of any post depends on the amount of time one has to devote to it. I am determined to keep the quality as least as high as it has been in the past and so this means limiting the numbers.

Choosing topics may be difficult, too, as clearly I will not write anything about the company, the job or current projects.  I will continue to draw on my past experiences, or independent thoughts and ideas that wander to the surface from some deep, dark place in my brain.

Of course, I will also post guest columns as I have in the past few months providing ample reading material and filling in those weeks when I can't bang out one of my own.

So. my fondest hope and dream is that we continue our voyage together, cruising in new directions, and some old, familiar ports.

As always, I look forward to your feedback, comments and opinions, and I welcome suggestions for topics of interest to you.

Best wishes for smooth sailing in the coming year!

Captain Joe  

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Customer Experience Race Is Out of the Blocks

My good friend Andrew Spanyi has been a faithful and supportive reader and asked if he could share some of his "views" from the bridge. He permitted me to reprint the following column for your review and reaction. Andrew is a senior consultant at the Cutter Consortium.

The title of a recent article in The Economist reads, " Companies Hope That "Chief Customer Officers" Will Provide Better Service. Yeah, Right." The article reports not only that some firms have started appointing chief customer officers (CCOs) to serve the customer more attentively, but that some of these CCOs have many assistants, such as a "vice president of customers-for-life" (Salesforce.com), or a "vice president of customer advocacy"(NetApp), and even a "director of customer listening" (Cisco). Add this to the slate of "vice presidents, customer experience" at companies such as Fidelity, Intuit, Healthy Directions, and others. It's pretty clear that the race is on.

While such appointments of key executives to take charge of assessing customer experience are certainly a step in the right direction, there are grounds for a healthy dose of skepticism. Even though the idea that the primary purpose of business is to create and retain customers goes all the way back to Peter Drucker's 1954 book The Practice of Management , many organizations have struggled in shifting management attention from traditional financial metrics to the critical few measures that really matter to customers. And it's not just about metrics; fundamental changes in culture are also needed for optimum results. So, action has lagged rhetoric.

The first step in viewing the business from the customer's point of view involves measuring and monitoring the firm's performance in terms of delivering what customers really want. What customers really want are the following:
  1. On-time delivery (ideally when customers asked for it, or at least when it was promised to be delivered)
  2. Accuracy (the exact items/services they ordered)
  3. Completeness (no back orders or call backs)
  4. Responsiveness to inquiries (first time right)
  5. An accurate invoice
  6. Value for money
  7. Flawless service/support (both during and after product/service delivery)
A tight collaboration between business and IT is needed to make any progress in automating the collection of critical-to-customer metrics. That's easier said than done. A surprising number of companies continue to monitor metrics such as when orders are shipped as opposed to when these are received, the average time needed to respond to a customer inquiry as opposed to the frequency with which customer inquiries are resolved correctly the first time, and so on. Even when the right metrics are monitored, they often don't make it to the scoreboard that the senior leadership team (SLT) monitors and are buried deep in the bowels of an analytical group. Further, an end-to-end process-based view is needed to find the root cause when performance dips below a certain level and this view of business is frequently missing, or at least not transparent, at the SLT level.

While some progress has been made in the area of customer-centric measurement, largely due to an increasing emphasis on Big Data and process analytics, it is not yet clear whether this will have sufficient impact to shift management attention to a more customer-centric and systemic view of business. Organizational culture is sometimes tagged as the culprit. Yet, culture is dependent on what the organization measures, manages, and rewards. To shift culture requires not only attention to customer-focused metrics, but also on models, governance, and reward systems, as summarized below:
  • Model: The use of simple, visually compelling schematics of a high-level process-based view of the business and a one-page schematic for at least each customer-touching process is needed to maintain a focus on performing for customers and the need for cross-departmental collaboration.
  • Governance: Given the development of the right models and metrics, establishing a process-based governance framework to emphasize value creation is necessary to embed a new way of "how we do things around here."
  • Reward systems: This involves aligning reward and recognition systems to acknowledge the efforts of individuals and teams that enable performance for customers.
How is your organization doing in these areas? I welcome your comments about this Advisor and encourage you to send your insights to me at aspanyi@cutter.com



Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recruiters Not Calling? Five Reasons & How To Fix It

Here is another article contributed by my friend Deborah Walker, career coach. This is great advice and so I am delighted to be able to pass it along here on the bridge.

You’ve been hoping for a new job, but your phone is silent. No recruiters calling, no job offers;it’s so quiet you can almost hear the crickets outside. Maybe it’s time to reassess. Does this sound like your job search efforts?
  • You’ve sent out hundreds of resumes to countless job postings but received little or no response.
  • You’ve left dozens of voice mails to recruiters explaining why you are a perfect fit—and they never return your call.
  • You’ve tweaked your resume so many times you no longer recognize it.
If this describes your situation, you are not alone. Many talented, qualified job seekers get ignored by recruiters and hiring managers simply because their resume has one or more of the following problems.

1. Your resume highlights your lack of industry experience
Most recruiters are looking for a point-by-point candidate match when screening resumes. Industry background usually ranks high on the list of qualifying issues. If you don’t have experience in that industry, your resume is going straight to the circular file—unless you can give them a compelling reason to keep your resume in the stack. If you lack specific industry experience, but you know you have the basic skills for the job, try highlighting your transferable skills instead. Job seekers who lack industry experience can make it past the resume screener by proving their ability with skills they have that transfer from industry to industry. Examples of transferable skills include expertise gained in sales, customer service, finance, accounting, negotiation, cross-functional communications, and/or team building. Look at the skills they need, then figure out how your background is a match.

2. Your resume shouts “Overqualified!”
Nothing scares off a recruiter faster than a candidate who is obviously overqualified for the job. The two main concerns are (1) that the candidate would soon get bored and leave at his earliest convenience, and (2) that the candidate would be too expensive to hire. Even worse is the assumption that the over qualified candidate is on a downward career slope—a has-been with all his best years behind him. There are, however, many valid reasons job seekers wish to downsize to jobs with fewer responsibilities. Whatever your reasons, tailor your resume to fit your current career objective. This means you’ll want to play down your prior responsibilities, list only relevant education (don’t list a PhD if you are applying for a mid-level management position!), and emphasize tactical experience over strategic planning when appropriate.

3. Your resume is crammed with information, but not the right kind
Pity the poor recruiter who must get through 200 applicant resumes before lunchtime. If your resume is in the pile, it will get a quick scan and pass over if she can’t find what she is looking for in less than 30 seconds. If you have a resume that is disorganized or full of dense blocks of text, how will the recruiter learn anything about you? You’ll catch the recruiter’s attention if you have a clear, easy-to-read resume that highlights your skills and accomplishments, even at a glance. The first rule of resume effectiveness is relevancy, so edit out the past data and redundant facts that aren't relevant to your current career path. Fill your resume only with the skills needed for that particular job, and you’ll go a long way toward getting a recruiter’s attention.

4. Your resume has too little information
While the “strong, silent type” may be attractive in men, it just plain flops in a resume. A resume that looks more like an outline just doesn’t give the reader enough to work with. Recruiters don’t want to guess what you did at your last job. You need to include enough information to give prospective employers a vision of the possibilities if they choose to hire you. If you struggle with what to include in your resume, use job  descriptions to help you understand what recruiters will want to find in your resume. Then review your  previous jobs to determine what skills you have that will be a good match.

5. Your resume doesn’t include accomplishments
If you haven’t thought lately about how your employer has benefited from having you as an employee, it’s a sure bet that your resume is lacking in accomplishments. Remember, as a job seeker you are selling your talents, and you are competing with many others who have the same qualifications as you do.  Accomplishments give recruiters a reason to choose you over others for the interview short list. Give screeners ample reason to select you for interview. Highlight how you have saved time, increased efficiency, cut cost and increased client satisfaction. After all, if you don’t tell them, nobody else will!

If you use this five-point checklist to restructure your resume, you’ll soon hear back from recruiters who appreciate qualified, articulate and confident candidates. The time you spend enhancing your resume could shave off months of fruitless labor and frustrating effort in your job search.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, July 23, 2012

In Memory of Stephen Covey

This weekend we lost a great author and guide to better personal time management, Stephen Covey. His book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was one of the all time best and often cited works dealing with how to maximize the use of your time and talents.

This morning one of my alerts brought me a link to this article in the Business Insider magazine.  It is a wonderful summary of the book and I highly recommend you read it. If you have read the book it is still a timely and useful review. If not, you can learn a lot and it just might prompt you to buy the book. It is a worthwhile investment.

The catch-phrase, "Start with the end in mind" taken from Covey's  by me a very long time ago, is to this day a mantra that I frequently use both in the office and at home. Of all the advice contained in this text, this is the one which has been my guiding light to success.

After all, if you don't know where you want to go, any road will get you there.  But when you have a specific destination in mind it becomes easy to chart the most efficient and effective means of getting there. 

So my advice is stop spending so much time and energy on the how and why. Instead, first nail the answer to where and the rest will follow.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All that divides us….

My good friend David O'Malley has been a faithful and supportive reader and asked if he could share some of his "views" from the bridge. He submitted the following column for your consideration and enjoyment.  He writes well and makes a lot of sense. 

On the face of it, what would a Farmer living in rural Poland have in common with an IT Manager from Connecticut? I mean, I can’t think of two professions that are further apart - One is entirely physical, commodity based, less a profession than a way of life. The other is virtual, “thought” based, the work of desk jockey’s. Personally, I’m a city person - America is far away from Poland, not just geographically, but culturally, and on top of that, we don’t even speak the same language. The divisions appear insurmountable.

Well, let me introduce you to Andrew Szczur, my wife’s Uncle who is, indeed, that Farmer in rural Poland and as it turns out, we actually have a lot in common.

To start, Andrew and I are about the same age, are married and we both have two young daughters. You’ll be glad to know that the constant ferrying of kids to extra-curricular activities is just as prevalent in Central Europe as it is here in America!

Andrew is very active as a volunteer Fire Fighter in his town – a specialized position that requires regular training and, as in America, a constant fight for funds to maintain and upgrade equipment. Although retired for a few years now, I spent 7 years as a volunteer EMT in Connecticut, so we could understand our respective protocols easily enough.

Throw in a general love of sport and some good old-fashioned BBQ’s and once we took the time to understand each other we found that our interests, goals and motivations in life, were pretty similar.

When it came down to it, the only thing that really divides us, is Language.

So how is this story relevant to you? Joe dedicated this blog to the idea that we in the IT industry have to get out of the “engine room” of our industries, and get into the Captains Bridge. As Joe would point out, we’re perfectly placed to do so – I mean, all of our companies complex business rules come to IT professionals for formalization, right? We even have career paths dedicated to teasing out the intricacies and nuances of these rules.

Understanding processes is one thing, understanding people is a whole different kettle of fish. If we want to get out of the engine room, we have to find commonalities with those who populate the Bridge of the ship. The motivations, fears, hopes, goals.

It starts with speaking a common language.

Do you know what EBITDA is, and why it’s important? If your company is public, can you read and fully understand the 10k? Which parts of that document relate most heavily to your company’s current growth strategy? How does that strategy affect the various stakeholders in your company that currently occupy the Bridge? More importantly, where do you fit into that strategy?

At the company cocktail hour, when a Senior Stakeholder asks you that innocuous, but oft loaded, question “So, David, what are you working on these days?” Can you answer in a language that the Stakeholder will understand, or does someone need to translate your answer for you?

Now make no mistake, it’s not easy, you have to work hard at it. With Andrew and I, it was a two way street – finding different ways to say the same thing, using the vocabulary of a four-year-old, and neutralizing accents. But it usually takes one person to make the first jump, put themselves out there and get the conversation rolling. Yes, it’s difficult.

The payoff, however, is unity. Or, as we call it in Corporate America, “Alignment”. Maybe, even, an eventual seat at the helm?

Z jedności jest siła.

David

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When Worlds Collide (good stuff happens)

As everyone now knows, I have a new full time job as CIO of a company based in Manhattan. This has unfortunately taken me away from my beloved Google Plus community and severely limited the time I have to read and contribute to the content there. It also forced me to throttle back on my personal blog site and to miss, this week, for the first time my self imposed deadline for a column.

Yes, Wednesday came and went with no time to think about, let alone write a column for my loyal readers.

But something else happened this week which I wanted to share with all of you. My two worlds collided for the first time.

There I was faced with a deep technical challenge and limited access to the kind of resources I needed to address it. Our company website was not accessible from within the four walls.  Oh, I knew it was a DNS (domain name service)  issue but this particular environment was still foreign to me. This company network with its servers, routers and firewalls, was still a confusing pile of documentation, diagrams and notes to me. I lacked the history and familiarity that comes with building and operating a network from the start.

The senior manager who owned it for the last six years left during my first weeks on the job taking all that knowledge and experience with him. He would have gone straight to the source of the problem. Not me. I had to step back and try to look at this like a big puzzle and investigate one element at a time.

Worse, I have been in senior management for the last 15 years.. I'm still top of the heap when it comes to theory, strategy and planning but my hands on technical skill level has come down a few notches.

It was important to confirm that the web site was still up for the general public. Easy enough, I thought. I'll just "ping" someone and have them check.  But everyone on my corporate instant messaging system is inside the company.

Popping over to my Google Plus account, I saw that several of my good friends were on-line.  Using GTalk, I asked Eileen McAllister to please verify she could reach the web site.  She not only confirmed it but provided me with the correct external IP address which would play a key role in troubleshooting later on.

I had checked the obvious hosting and DNS service providers and now, armed with the correct address, I could see that all was in order.  That meant it was an internal DNS issue.

Next, I saw my friend Robert Redl, an IT professional in Austria and long time Google Hangout buddy. Opening a hangout, I was relieved to see that friendly face and we set about discussing my technical issue. Combining screen sharing with my cheat sheet of administrator accounts and passwords we managed to remote access various servers and check the configurations. Poking around we eventually found the "A" record which had an incorrect address.

The problem arose from the web site host changing servers. Some changes had been made but this one entry had been overlooked.  It meant people inside the network in a couple of offices would still be pointed to the old site. With active directory, making the change in the DC (main directory server) fixed it everywhere in a matter of seconds.

Having good and knowledgeable friends with the ability to leverage a tool like Google Plus positioned me to overcome a most difficult situation in less than an hour.  Some of  my old crew members had come to save me from perils encountered during my new voyage.

Thanks.

Captain Joe


Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Behavioral Interviews: Three Steps to Great Answers

Here is another article contributed by my friend Deborah Walker, career coach.  This is great advice and so I am delighted to be able to pass it along here on the bridge. 

Some of the most challenging interview questions are found in behavioral interviews which are designed to test your abilities in three ways:

  1.  Determine how well you work under pressure
  2.  Find out how well you work with others
  3.  Establish whether you can resolve conflicts

Sample Interview Questions

To test your stress-coping skills you may get a question like:
 "Tell me about the most stressful situation you’ve encountered in your current position.”
To find out how well you work with others you might be asked:
 "Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your team?”
 "Tell me about a time when you thought your boss was wrong?  How did you handle it?"

Finally, employers want staff members who can resolve conflicts to gain win-win results for all parties. To discover your conflict-resolution skills you might be asked:
 "Tell me about a time when you had difficulty resolving a customer conflict?”

There are three steps to preparing for a behavioral interview.

1. Behavioral questions ask you about specific events. Take inventory of the stressful or difficult situations you've encountered at work.  Think back to times when you didn't agree with your boss, or when your peers drove you crazy, or when customers made unrealistic demands.

2. If the workplace doesn't provide much to choose from, expand your thought process to include other circumstances where you work or must cooperate with others, like community activities, neighborhood associations, or church functions. For instance, planning a school fundraiser, participating on a neighborhood committee or participating on a professional association board.  Any of these situations are ripe with opportunities for conflict and cooperation, where something must be accomplished for the betterment of the group.

3. Once you've thought of several situations, plan how you will present them in a positive light. For situations you didn't handle well (like your boss yelled at you and you ran off crying) present them in terms of what you learned, like this:

   "Yes, I learned an important lesson about following directions and asking questions for clarification when ..."
For situations that did turn out well, present them based on what was accomplished, like this:

   "Yes, I had to deal with a really angry customer just last week. But when I calmly asked a few questions I was able to get to the heart of her issue.  I was able to fix the problem, and she was happy with us again."

With the right interview preparation, you can turn nightmare behavioral questions into opportunities to sell yourself.  You’ll be seen as an employee who is able to stay calm under pressure, work well with others to promote corporate goals, and retain key customers, contributing to revenue growth.  In other words, the type of person all employers would want to hire.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Practice Is Underrated by David O'Malley

My good friend David O'Malley has been a faithful and supportive reader and asked if he could share some of his "view" from the bridge. He submitted the following column for your consideration and enjoyment.  He writes well and makes a good point. Perhaps I better practice more ....

It dawned on me, a little while ago, that my daughter was really starting to pick up on the Cello. The tortured cat sound was gone, mostly, and she was playing with a timing, skill and grace that made me enjoy the performances. “When did that happen?”, I thought.

I should provide some back story – my daughter, Zosia, is five. She has been playing for almost two years, and man, has it been a struggle. Trying to get any child to sit still and concentrate on something is tough enough, let alone when that “something” is hard to do! Late last year, we faced a very real deadline for my daughter to get good enough to make graduation by the end of term, so we resolved to do something radical.

We practiced.

Every day.

Sometimes, twice a day.

The improvements were so significant it got me to thinking, “There could be something to this whole ‘practice’ thing”.

Shortly afterwards, I had the pleasure of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘Outliers’, and it turns out the whole “practice” thing isn’t as radical as I first thought. According to studies performed on the subject, and summarized in the “Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance”,  10,000 hours of dedicated, focused, practice is what it takes to become an expert at something.

Dancing, Chess, Music – turns out the Beatles put in thousands of hours performing in Hamburg, Germany, before they made it big in England, and then America.

Public Speaking, Project Management, Coding - Bill Gates did the same as a young computer programmer in high school, spending countless hours in the Computer Labs.

But less about the established Billionaires of the world – what about you? Do you strive to be recognized as an expert in your chosen field or profession? If so, what do you practice? Do you live by a strict regimen, set goals, seek feedback? How many hours have you put in? Across professions and industries, the pattern seems to be the same. Those at the top of their game have put the time in, diligently, with the expressed aim of getting better, one hour at a time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my daughter has a recital in two weeks, and we – the teacher and the student – need to practice.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Keep Up to Date on Tech Trends


Tech trends come and go. Some re-emerge at later dates, using improved technology and ideas to refine a product. Staying current with trends requires a bit of reading, attending conferences and subscribing to newsfeeds. If you have the passion for technology, you’ll turn into a loyal reader of certain blogs, magazines and social media outlets to gather the inside scoop.

For a student pursuing a computer science degree to the tech consultant wanting to keep track of new software and gear, some ways prove more effective at helping you stay tuned to what’s releasing soon. From print media to Web media, each serves its purpose in exposing you to new trends.

Social Media
Compared to print and Web media, social outlets serve as a great source for connecting fans with the creators of new technology. Simply add or subscribe to an electronic giant’s news feeds or tweets and get the inside scoop on the latest ideas engineers seem actuated to design. Pictures, clues and even snippets of information manage to leak onto social media websites that let you validate rumors and even get a glimpse of new software and hardware.

Many of the social outlets are run by CEOs while others become managed by marketing companies to discuss new technology and to gather feedback from community members. These insiders will give you the most recent statuses on new projects, show you beta builds of a piece of software and some may even include a video or two about a recently completed project.

Web Media
Social media works great for granting inside access to fans, but Web media, such as blogs, websites and videos, let the enthusiast read, see and interact with the latest tech trends arriving soon. Some websites aim to attract readerships interested in rumors, such as the case with MacRumors, a website dedicated solely to Apple products.

Other Web media outlets use their well-placed media sources to gather facts, quotes and news stories from heads of electronic companies to help readers stay informed. With RSS feeds and newsletters, individuals can subscribe to all the latest information in order to stay current with the technology trends.

One of the newer forms of Web media – podcasts – also work great at providing information from tech news giants or large electronic companies. As with RSS feeds and newsletters, individuals can use subscribe to podcasts to hear the latest on tech trends. With playback options, users can listen to a podcast anytime they wish from their MP3 device or computer.

Conferences
Large tech conferences aim to accomplish one goal: Bring together the biggest players in the industry to show off and discuss new products and software making its way to the market. Attending one of these conferences makes for a surefire method of staying on top of current trends arriving, but also, makes for a spectacle for playing with new devices.

For teachers managing computer classes, tech conferences will lend an inside scoop as to the latest trends in software and hardware, from newer specs on computers, new chip sets arriving and even the most current security patches being implemented into systems. Conferences also make for a great place to network and rub shoulders with executives and software engineers. Networking aside, you’ll be showered in pamphlets, vibrant gadgets and colorful displays.

The key to staying up to date on current tech trends is by reading, attending and having a passion for the industry. Staying in tune can help you better attend to customers, avoid excess spending and clue you in on new gear soon to be released.

Sources
Summa Technologies (2011)
Yahoo (2010)

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Start With The End In Mind

One should always start with the end in mind.

I borrowed this concept from Steven Covey who wrote the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book everyone should read at some point. This is also the basis for the ever popular "gap" analysis, a technique in which we determine where we are and where we need to be. Then we look at the delta, the difference or, in the parlance of the technique, the gap and figure out how to get from here to there.

It is important to have a clear vision of where you want to end up. Another old saying comes to mind. When you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. I sometimes sense this is the way systems evolve. The planning is incremental and the enhancements are a patchwork of little improvements or fixes done over time. At the end of the day, you wind up with a quilt-work instead of a smooth and uniform process flow.

If a business process is completely manual, partially automated or perhaps broken, and there is a desire to improve service or increase efficiency, it is often tempting to take a look at a small portion of the process and address it.  We look for the major flaws or the low hanging fruit. We shoot for a quick fix, a small and easy adjustment that may improve things a lot. We move slowly and carefully so as not to be too disruptive.

While I applaud the effort to avoid having a negative impact on the business, we sometimes draw out the pain and introduce more problems than we solve. Running parallel can be overly burdensome and when only part of a process is reinvented we force people to do double or triple the work for extended periods of time.

At some point this even becomes counter productive. It can lead to more mistakes and distrust of a new process. One has to look at the total picture and decide what the ideal process would be. If we are talking about order entry, for example, ultimately we want the order to be in a specific format and contain all of the data necessary to both execute the order and collect the proper payment.

All too often the focus will be on "streamlining" by locking down one field on a form or adding some calculations and pushing a snapshot of data to some interim holding file for analysis. Eventually the order process gets modified again and the data, after it has been pulled for analysis, are changed. Without a holistic view we wind up carrying multiple versions of the truth.

Take the time to develop the end state vision first. Then, work your way back to the beginning of each process and make sure you fully understand the flow of the data from start to finish. Change the entire process and find ways to phase it in that minimizes the need for parallel operations.

One more old proverb comes to mind. It seems there is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always time to do it over. Let's identify the ultimate destination up front, chart a safe and direct course from here to there.  Let's not wind up beached in a sand dune or dashed on the rocks.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Iron Rice Bowl

It is often said, the beauty of standards is that you have so many to choose from. The irony of this statement is, of course, there should only be one standard. But we often find, as I have in many prior situations, that standards are local and sometimes not known, understood or even followed.

Standards lead to efficiency. There are countless examples of equipment, software and business process where the variety in place lead to unnecessary complexity, difficult interactions and rework. But this applies to more than just IT. People will tend to develop their own "standard" process unless they are provided documentation or training. Even then, they are likely to add their own special twist and perpetuate its use by handing it down to the next person who will perform the same task or job function.

Once, while automating the "standard" process for starting a new project, we encountered Louie, the keeper of the job numbers. Louie's job was to maintain the book which listed the identifying number of every job the company performs. Louie has the privilege of assigning the job numbers and so every project eventually came across his desk so he could open the book and allocate the next number. Louie designed and owned this process.

Everybody along the way had a "standard" way of initiating the work that had to be done in their particular department for the new job to get underway. Whether it was the scheduling of manpower, purchasing of materials, preparation of documents or management approvals, there were a myriad of steps using various paper and electronic means to enter and process the same data.

The process was riddled with many forms in duplicate or triplicate which were physically passed around the office and often copied, annotated and then stored in multiple locations. As you can easily imagine, this was a cumbersome and inefficient way of alerting each department about a new project. Forms were misplaced, incomplete or contained old information. Time was lost as they moved around and often information was inaccurate, incomplete or inconsistent from one department to another.

We saw an opportunity to streamline this process and set about identifying the key steps, data elements and reasons behind each. If I had a nickle for every time I heard "because that's the way we've always done it" I could have retired years ago. A new, more rational process was designed and approved by management.

The process was then automated from start to finish using imaging and on-line forms with drop down menus limiting choices and having the intelligence to display those fields which were relevant to the different departments. One set of forms with one set of data living in one physical place meant everyone always had the latest and most accurate information and could get it at any time from any location.

The story has one twist. Perhaps you are familiar with the expression that someone has an iron rice bowl? This means they have their position or seat at the table forever. No one can take it away.

It seems Louie had an iron rice bowl and so the entire automated process still had to grind to a halt so Louie could open his (physical not metaphorical) book and allocate the next job number.

Perhaps the ultimate irony was that someone had to enter this job number as Louie was not technical enough to do it himself.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Change In Course

Beginning next week, View from the Bridge will only be published once per week. As an independent consultant, my schedule was pretty much my own. That allowed me the discretion to allocate the necessary time and energy needed to produce content every week day. My goal was to share my knowledge and experience in the hope that it would help others in their interaction with technology, in business or just every day life in general.

Next week I will take the helm of a new ship. I will be joining the management team of  a privately held company based in New York City. As their CIO, it will be my job to put all of the lessons I have shared with you here and the rest of what I know into practice. Together with the other members of the IT staff, we will take this company to the next level of success through the use of technology and sound business practices.

Most of my energy will now be focused on learning the business and identifying the opportunities to change, improve or introduce business process and technology in furtherance of the goals of the company. This will perhaps lead to more lessons and interesting war stories down the road. But in the near term it is going to necessarily limit the time I can devote to writing this column.

In July 2011 I set a personal goal to write something worth publishing Monday through Friday of every week. I am pleased that I was able to meet that commitment and, apart from the week between Christmas and New Years, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving, I am proud to say I never missed a day. The column may have been a little shorter and completed in the wee hours of the night, but there was one there for just about every date up to and including today.

It has been a wild and enjoyable ride for me, and I hope for you as well. Keep your eyes on this space as occasionally time may allow for more than one a week, and forgive me if once in a while I miss a week.

Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on my thoughts.

Engine room, hard to port. We're coming about.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Six Of One, Half Dozen Of The Other

There is this popular expression of unknown origin that I frequently use. "Six of one, half dozen of the other" is just a different way of saying something simply doesn't really matter. Faced with two equally good options, you are more or less indifferent and would be happy with either one. Any choice is a good one, as long as you pick one.

This is how I often feel about a selection of a technology or process standard. Today, much of the hardware and even common software systems are essentially commodities. There is often a heated debate around which is best and should therefore be designated as the standard across the company. It is easy to spot the ongoing rivalry among fans of particular operating systems or cell phone carriers. Debates extend to internet browsers and a variety of other basic tools. But at the end of the day, what's really important is to make a decision and stick to it.

I can recall the discussions, years ago, at a company that lacked any personal computer standards. At that time, the predominant choices for desktop and notebook computers were either HP, Dell or IBM. The choices obviously would be somewhat different today.

But at the time, among the IT professionals throughout the organization, each brand  had a number of strong supporters and a group of fairly vocal detractors. Certainly each of the brands offered a wide range of models with a variety of unique features people found very attractive. The differential in cost was minimal and each manufacturer would regularly introduce new, faster, cheaper models, often leap-frogging the others.

So the question became how do we choose. Well, for me, it was six of one, half dozen of another. The company happened to own more of one of these brands and after fairly brief negotiations this allowed us to put a volume purchase agreement in place and choose it as the standard.

In my view, it wasn't worth an extensive amount of research or debate. We chose one horse to ride and began to accrue the benefits almost immediately. There were far more pressing needs in the company.

Certainly there will be other, more critical evaluations where the technology or application is more complex and will have greater implications or major impact on the company and its operations. This is where you should spend your time and energy. Don't lose sight of the business.

Remember, the cash register has to work, but it is just a tool to facilitate a transaction. Actually selling your merchandise is what will make or break your company.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Finally Over - You Got The Job

Imagine that great feeling when the long weeks or months of search finally draw to a close. When all the scanning of job boards, networking, teleconferencing, writing, research, travel and interviews are behind you. You passed the rigorous HR screening and all the interviews went well. Happily, all your references check out and an offer is extended. It is a good one, the job you always wanted so you accept. You breath a huge sigh of relief and can finally relax. Right?

Well, this may be the end of one journey but it is only the beginning of another, hopefully even longer one.

Remember all those accomplishments you touted, and all that skill and knowledge you said you had? The interviews were easy because you only had to talk about them. Now you have to put them all into practice. Of course, you were honest and gave a fair and true accounting of your history. Still, as they say in financial reports, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. You may be faced with an even steeper hill to climb.

When my children were younger they complained, as children often do, about school, their teachers, homework and tests. They especially dislike tests and, in particular, midterms and finals. My advice to them was to relax because this part of life is easy. You study hard, learn the material, take the test and move on.

In real life, I told them, every day is a final exam. There are no study guides. No one tells you what will be on the test, and there are only two grades. You either pass or fail. Often, there is a lot more at stake than just having to take the test over or, heaven forbid, failing the class. In life, bad outcomes can lead to much more severe consequences.

So it is when you have a new job. You can only guess what new problems or opportunities each day will bring. You are confident and expect the knowledge and experience you have will be sufficient to address problems and lead to success. But you must maintain the same level of determination you had when you were trying to get the job.

Continuously probe and learn more about the company and its people. Build an organization chart and develop relationships with everyone below, above and at your level. Understand the business and apply your skills to make it a better place for the employees to work and to improve the experience for customers.

As Yogi Berra once famously said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Keep Your Back To The Wall

We've all attended lots of presentations. Some are more memorable than others. There are sometimes issues with the sound system. The speaker's position causes feedback or the battery dies and his voice fades out. We have seen speakers fumble when the slides don't work or the embedded video plays with no sound. I've even been in conferences where the power failed and we were left sitting in the dark.

Speakers can be good, even great under all of these circumstances. Speakers who know their material can be informative and engaging without all the electronic paraphernalia. Recently during a presentation a speaker was on item seven of ten when the AV staff fouled up the slides and couldn't get them back on the big screen. After a moment or two of stalling, the speaker simply talked us through the three remaining points.

Nothing disturbs me more during a presentation than staring at the speakers back while the speaker meticulously reads each and every word from the slides. These slides are sometimes so densely packed with text a smaller font size was needed to make them fit on one page. The speaker has to read them because no one else in the room can.

This bothers me on several levels. It suggests to me the speaker does not know the material but relies instead on reading to deliver their message. Everyone in the room could read what is on the screen if the speaker has printed and distributed hard copy. But what would be the point?  We didn't come here to read an article. We want you to tell us something we don't know or reinforce your major points with real life examples. Slides should be the outline, notes, key points or lists we can take away.

Often when the speaker presents to his slides you cannot even hear or understand what is being said. Presenters who read slides often mumble and trail off as they read. They give the audience the impression they can't wait to get this over and get off the stage. This is the complete opposite of engaging your audience and capturing their attention.

Finally, I am always baffled when the slides are sourced from a laptop which is in front of the speaker. If you must look at the slides, perhaps you could look at them on the screen in front of you instead of the big screen behind or off to the side. At least the audience would then see your face and might get the impression you are speaking to them. In larger venues, monitors are placed on the floor in front of the stage. Use them to view your slides instead of turning your back on the audience.

In my view, when you present, there are a few basic rules you should follow. Make sure your slides are both sparse and crisp. No more than three main points per page. Use font sizes for text and numbers on charts big enough to read from the back of the room. Know your script cold. Practice a run through the entire talk without the slides. If you can do that, you are ready to take the stage.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, April 2, 2012

Don't Party Like It's 1999

I went to a birthday party yesterday for Jens Graikowski. He is a fine fellow I met only recently, but with whom I have shared many thoughts and views. It was a small, intimate gathering of only a few close friends of the birthday boy. I was pleased and honored to have been included among them.

Jens organized a special gift for himself. He booked a private, personal concert performed by a singer, song writer, Ryan Van Sickle. Jens was good enough to extend this marvelous gift to just a handful of his friends, inviting them to attend and enjoy the concert and the company of each other.

Jens, of course, lives on Tenerife, the largest and most populous of the Canary Islands. A few guests were from Germany, Austria and other parts Europe. Several  others came from this side of the pond, including  Canada and the US. I was able to stay for the whole party while others casually dropped in and out.

I had some delicious food, laughed a lot and really enjoyed the music. In fact, I even sang a song or two for the group. One of the other guests had his young son play a short piece piano. It was just a wonderful time.

What does this have to do with technology? Well, none of the guests and the party boy himself had to travel to attend this party. We gathered in a Google Plus hangout. A hangout, you may recall, is a video chat with up to 10 simultaneous participants.

Ryan, our guest performer, joined in from his home in Canada. But we were all able to sit and enjoy his strumming and singing, and interact with him and with each other for the entire time. Whether only five minutes or for the entire two hours, attending this party and wishing Jens a happy birthday was as easy as click, click, click.



Hangouts have been around for a while and they have been used for news shows, concerts, training sessions, interviews and a variety of other purposes. But I believe this may have been the first global, virtual birthday party hangout.

With friendships increasingly spanning geography and time zones, and with the high cost of travel, I can see this novel approach to celebrations catching on. This could be a whole new segment in the party business.

Happy birthday, Jens. Thanks for having me.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mozart Mania

You have, no doubt, heard there was a new piece of classical music recently discovered. The Allegro Molto in C Major, allegedly written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was found stuffed in an old notebook. Though only a copy and not in his original hand, scholars attribute it to him and think he wrote it when he was 11 years old.

Music is one of the things I truly love. I can enjoy listening to performances from the modern artists of today to the classics of old including everything in between. I have an extremely eclectic collection of albums (yes, made of vinyl) and CDs. Of course the vinyl dates back to my earlier days while the CDs are more recent, although now I purchase everything on-line.

Growing up my house was always filled with music. My father played the saxophone and clarinet. He was an orchestra leader with a small group of regulars that played popular tunes from the 40's and 50's. My brother was a drummer in a rock band and my sister dabbled in piano. My son inherited the music genes, performing in musicals on stage in high school and later an a Capella group in college. Today he is managing editor for a popular indie rock web site. (That's where I get all my tips on who's going to be hot. )

My library contains music from original artists I've met in social networks and in person along with all the stars of today and yesteryear. Whether you prefer jazz, country, rock or opera, you can find something to suit your taste. I even have a rock-opera. When I tune in on services like Slacker or Spotify it's anybody's guess what you are going to hear. The same is true of my satellite radio presets in the car. You are just as likely to hear music from the top 40 as from 1840.

All other things being equal, when I am alone I tend to listen to classical music, including opera. In this genre, Mozart is my favorite hands down. A few years ago I bought the entire collection of his works. It is a box of well over 100 CDs that contain every piece of music the man wrote, except the Allegro Molto in C Major. So, you can imagine my delight when this new piece was posted all over the social networks. I've played it so many times I think I may wear out the bits.

But it also made me think what if this music genius had been born today? What if Mozart could write a piece of music, record it and immediately post it to iTunes or YouTube? This video of the first recording has been viewed over 54,000 times. In his day, there were no recordings, no radio or television. It would have taken months to reach an audience of this size.

I wonder if he would have been the Madonna, Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber of the day? Would his records have gone platinum and his videos gone viral? Would his concerts have been a sell-out and would be have gone into television or hit the big screen?

Of course, it's equally likely the school systems would have stifled his creativity, texting might have ruined his manual dexterity and television bored him to distraction.

Maybe that's why we don't have any musical geniuses today.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Am I Doing?

There is an age old management axiom that goes, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." Having more than just a feeling, subjective or anecdotal feedback is critical to knowing how performance is being perceived.

This is particularly important in places where you directly interface with your customers, internal or external. Of course when you are buying service you include in the provider agreement or contract certain performance guarantees. These service level agreements are targets your providers must achieve or suffer some financial penalty. For example, your data communications vendor must provide better than 99.5% availability or accrue credits equal to the cost of one day of service for every tenth of a point below.

If your business involves providing services to your customers, you may have SLAs that you must live up to or your customers will either penalize you or worse, vote with their feet. Satisfaction levels will be pretty evident and easy to detect. You are likely to invest in software monitors which will alarm when response times degrade or systems become unavailable.

The question is how to know if your internal customers are happy? They may be a captive audience and incur no direct costs for the infrastructure you provide. How do we tell if their level of satisfaction is increasing or falling out of bed.

One solution I would recommend is to periodically issue a survey. The absolute level of satisfaction at any one point is less important than knowing if things are improving or need attention. Continuous polling will provide the raw data you need for a proper analysis.

At one large company where I was in charge the help desk software was configured to automatically poll a person once their trouble ticket was closed. The survey would gather just a few facts such as whether the problem had been resolved in a timely manner or to their satisfaction. Were staff members helpful and courteous. Were multiple calls required or was it resolved on the first go around.

The surveys that were returned were aggregated and used to produce scores which were reviewed monthly. Ratings could be reviewed by type and frequency of problem. This allowed us to highlight areas where the software could be improved or training was needed. Surveys also provided a measure of productivity of the help desk staff. Consistently low scores and negative comments for usually researched and addressed accordingly.

The high level statistics were posted and shared with staff, management and the company. Everyone knew their feedback was important and that we were genuinely concerned with the level of service we provided to them.

Similar techniques may be used for business analysts, developers and training staff. If you take the time to ask people for feedback, collect and process this information, you will always know exactly where you stand.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Drinking From A Firehose

One of the most frequent questions I am asked by friends, colleagues and almost always during interviews is how do you keep up with all the changes and new developments in your industry.  There is no easy or short answer to this question.

Technology moves at the speed of light. New hardware, software and communication products are introduced every day. Products become services and services evolve into products. Software gets embedded in hardware while hardware becomes virtual. Just when you think you know everything about how data can move from here to there, someone introduces a faster, cheaper and more reliable method.

Certainly there is no shortage of information sources. Whether in print, audio or video format, there is a never-ending stream of news stories, opinions, vendor announcements and other content physically or electronically delivered to you. My preference is a healthy mix of tech and business publications. You have to scan a  Computerworld or Information Week, and read CIO Magazine. But you should also be reading Fortune or Forbes and top publications in your industry or vertical. For example, when I was in construction it was important to scan through ENR each week. If you are in finance you should be reading the Wall Street Journal.

The internet and aggregators make it relatively to assemble stories from multiple sources. Whether you employ your own rules using alerts, RSS or other tools to pull stories, or you rely on the judgement of others to highlight content of interest, you do not have to go to each original source. Web sites like Topsy show content that is trending while electronic newspapers collect links based on custom rules. Applications like Flipboard are very popular because they pull information from all your sources and present you with a personal magazine.

Additionally, social networks are a place where people know you and are happy to share links to content they think will be of interest to you. Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus all have streams of original content and links to published material. Twitter let's you choose the people or companies you consider interesting or well informed. By following your favorite thought leaders or industry pundits, you can have links to relevant content handed to you all day long. Companies now Tweet in addition to issuing a press release or other forms of announcement.

It does not end there. In fact, all of this is incidental and often random while other means of keeping up are more deliberate.

Attending conferences and seminars is important in order to hear and interact with presenters. But the real value at these events is the interaction with peers. This is where you hear what has been working and what to avoid from others who have had experience with various solutions. This is where you can run an idea up the flag pole and get the kind of open and honest feedback you need to avoid disaster.

These conferences, like the publications, should not be confined to technology. I will be the first to admit I hate to miss the annual Forrester meeting but I also want to attend general business or educational functions for my vertical as well.

Lastly, the people in your company are an invaluable source of information and you should be deeply immersed in frequent  information exchanges with people at all levels.

So, how can one possibly find the time for all of this, have a normal social life and also do your job? Well, I said right at the outset, there really is no easy answer.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Makes Something Go Viral

I happen to catch a post in my Google Plus stream by film and TV star Jeri Ryan. She was reminding everyone that her TV show Body of Proof had a two-part episode called "Going Viral" that would air tonight. It reminded me of the apparently unanswerable question; what makes something on the internet go viral?

Some months back, my friend Mike Downes happened to catch a video of an obnoxious person on the underground. For reasons neither of us could fathom, this video received millions of views within hours of it hitting YouTube.

We all know the hit song Friday Friday by Rebecca Black. This was a low budget video which somehow caught on and was shared and re-shared until it was viewed by over 10s of millions of people.

More recently the KONY 2012 video was smattered all over the internet and, in fact, was picked up by television, radio and print news media propelling it further into the public's eye.What made these videos stand out?

There are so many more examples of this phenomenon but few concrete explanations.

I had an uncanny experience as well. Beyond my column each day for months, I have posted a number of other interesting or amusing items. But none ever gained the kind of traction this post did the other day.

My son emailed me a graphic which I thought was worth sharing and so I posted it on Google Plus. Much to my surprise three days later people are still commenting or sharing it. It has been shared over 700 times, accumulated 1100 plus ones and almost 200 comments. Was this three by three matrix so novel or so controversial that it could stimulate this level of interaction?

This simple graphic somehow sparked an initial reaction that snowballed and drew more and more people into the fray. I don't know if we'll ever truly understand the underlying cause or if, in fact, it is just one of those random combinations of events that lead to this outcome.

I'll keep looking for content to evoke this kind of reaction again.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, March 26, 2012

How Do you Handle Stress

Whether you have a job or not, it is important to network with your peers to stay current,  informed and connected with your industry. People in the technology space often have to do double duty. By that I mean you have to be aware of trends in technology and also remain in tune with changes in your business vertical.

Health care, for example, is undergoing huge changes. New database technologies, imaging, video conferencing or tele-medicine, social networks and mobile computing have been driving development schedules for years. More recently, new legislation and even the pending Supreme Court decision will change all the rules and put even more pressure on the need to change. Later in the year, election results could change it all again.

Just keeping up can lead to high levels of stress on the job. But when you add the anxiety of seeking a new job it can become almost too much to bear.

At our last meeting , the Westport Group, one of the local network support organizations to which I belong, invited Frank Basler to conduct a workshop on managing stress. He introduced us to a short and simple exercise that allowed the participants to discover and share some of their own techniques. The members of this group are all senior managers currently between full time roles. In other words, unemployed.

We were each paired with another member and spent ten minutes or so listening to stories evoked by a carefully designed question. The goal was to talk about stressful situations you have been in and how they were overcome. The departure from the usual lecture or question and answer format was refreshing. It was genuinely nice to just chat with a colleague with whom, in my case, I have spent hours week after week in these meetings for months but never really got to know.

Apart from just discussing the findings of various stress management techniques, we were encouraged to seek other members and have more one on one sessions like this. It turns out leveraging relationships, such as the ones in this group, was high on the list.

Some of the other activities that surfaced included being well organized, taking long walks in the woods perhaps with a pet, working out, and just having patience and confidence in one's abilities. Using humor or doing volunteer work were also suggested. Frank added some other constructive outlets he encountered over the years. There is, of course, no right answer. It's best to do whatever works well for you.

One guy is apparently writing a daily blog. That sounds like a good approach to me.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, March 23, 2012

Get Out Of My Face-book

There has been a lot of discussion about some potential employers reportedly requesting Facebook credentials from prospective employees as a part of the interview process. I find this troubling if it's true or widespread.

I'm not a lawyer, nor am I a human resources professional. I am not in a position to cite court cases, precedents or decisions. We also will not wander into an explanation of protected classes or privacy concerns raised. We are not even going to mention the cautionary note Facebook themselves have now released to the public. It is a warning enumerating the liabilities a company might be exposed to by engaging in such a practice.

I am going to take a much more common sense approach.

As many of you may know, I have been looking for my next full time role for some months. During this time I have been on a number of interviews and have both studied and advised on the proper way to prepare yourself and how to behave. You also know (if you have been following me at all) that I am quite active on all of the most popular social networks.

Moreover, as a senior manager for the last twenty years or more I have frequently been on the other side of the desk conducting the interview and doing the candidate evaluations. My focus is always on how well one will fit the roll. The question is whether you have the necessary technical skills, the required interpersonal skills and are you sufficiently motivated. What you do evenings and weekends is your business. It is inconceivable to me that anyone would probe your behavior outside of the workplace.

Asking a candidate to surrender his or her password in my mind is akin to asking for the keys to their house so you can see how they live. Are there clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink or oil stains on the garage floor. This is like asking for their wallet so you can peruse the collection of credit cards, photos and check out their cash situation. In fact, let's take a walk to the parking lot so I can see what kind of car you drive. Does it have dents or rust, or is it clean and waxed? Let's open the glove box and pop the trunk so we can have a look around. Do you have unpaid parking tickets hidden in there?

Such requests are ludicrous. And so is asking an applicant for access to their social network account.

No HR professional or hiring manager would make requests like these. If they did most candidates would be outraged and flatly refuse. That is exactly how you should deal with this password request should it happen to you during an interview. The answer is more than a simple no. It should be, "How dare you."

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Simple Rule for Priorities - WIWFI

Occasionally I pull out an old axiom, dust it off and share it with colleagues or co-workers. This is one of those simple, yet very effective management techniques I wrote about in October of 1997. It worked then and it will work now. Here is the article exactly as it appeared back then.

I was surprised the other day by a phone call from a young man who was once on my staff. After the usual polite chit-chat we got down to business. He informed me that a year and a half after working for me, with no communication and a vast geographic distance between us, I still managed his time! Of course, I was mystified.

He went on to explain that while under my direction he had internalized my rule for establishing daily priorities. During the tune we worked together, there was always a variety of projects: boring, important, difficult and interesting ones. Like most people, we had the tendency to spend more time on the interesting or fun projects, while occasionally letting the more important items wait.

This is unfortunately a temptation in the fast-paced world of information technology, where new and exciting developments constantly capture our attention. Each day we are faced with a variety of golden opportunities. We could upgrade the network backbone to higher speeds, or trial a new videoconferencing system that supports the latest advancements. We could install the latest version of Microsoft Office on every desktop just to stay current.
       
In order to deal with this bombardment of different tasks, I suggest a technique I call WIWFI (pronounced “whiffy’”). As you look at each project on your schedule, ask yourself this simple question: “Who is waiting for it?” (i.e. WIWFI). You can also ask, “When it’s all done, who is going to notice?” and “Who is going to thank you?”
       
These are very easy questions that usually have very obvious answers. And based on those answers, you can generally set your own priorities.
       
Even after taking charge of his own shop, my former employee found himself applying the WIWFI test. At the beginning of each day, he looks over his “to-do” list and considers his options.
       
Envision the debate raging inside his head.
       
“I could fix that nagging payroll problem today. The whole company will notice. Paychecks and direct deposit receipts will contain the correct deduction for 401k, eliminating the need for the payroll department to calculate these by hand and providing accurate numbers to all participating employees.
       
“Or I could upgrade the e-mail system to the next release. Everyone will notice that as well. Only, in this case, it will be because the interface is a little different and some of the features no longer work the way they used to. But there are a number of very good reasons to move to the latest release. For example, it now supports a whole new protocol, POP3. Okay, hardly anyone knows what that is, but we really need to get to the next release.”
       
Using WIWFI, reason prevails, and the payroll system gets fixed. Lots of people were waiting for this and many individuals notice when it is made right.
       
On the other hand, if the WIWFI test had not been used, the decision may have been to upgrade e-mail. If everything went exactly according to plan and all users received instant, comprehensive training on changes in the new version, and all the “down time” occurred off-hours, then no one would notice the change. And I ask you, what are the odds on that happening?
       
One might argue there are changes which have to be made that no one will notice. I disagree. Think about it. If no one will ever notice, then how important could it have been?
       
Besides, it is far more likely that additional features in the new release will be overlooked, while the changes in the user interface will confuse people and generate lots of unexpected support calls. The system will become unavailable or unusable at times when it is really needed. When all the problems are finally sorted out, most people will use the new mail system exactly the same way as the old one. No one will thank you. Worse, people will still be waiting for the payroll system to be fixed!

It’s easy to ignore WIWFI and make judgments based purely on “professional expediency.” But think twice — for many IT executives faced with a choice between grumpy co-workers who don’t appreciate their work and an enterprise that gives IT a daily pat on the back, it’s a no-brainer.  

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC