Thursday, December 26, 2013

When it comes to your job, LOCK it in

As we start a new year, I thought I'd share a tip whether you are looking for a new job, or wanting to be the best at what you do know. I know New Years is not for a few days, I'm early. Here are my 4 tips to LOCK it in.

Likable. We all spend a lot of time at work, don't we want to like the people we are with? It's a safe bet they your co-workers would rather work with someone they like, rather than an arrogant jack ass. Probably the same with your boss. While you may never have a beer with him, or spend a weekend fishing he or she probably wants employees that are easy to get along with. As a manager I can tell you, a team that gets along well is much easier to manage.

Open: Throughout the years I've made my share of mistakes, in fact some have said probably more than my share. One thing I've always tried to do was t be open about them and learn from them. By being open, others can learn from my mistakes, and on the occasions that it caused downtime or other issues, by being open and honest about what I had done, the entire team could help me fix it, reducing what could be a catastrophe to an inconvenience.

Collaborative: When you share information and techniques and work as a team, the entire team works better. Many times people try to hoard information thinking if no one else knows how to do their job, they can't get fired. If that's your approach to job security, I hate to break it to you, but that rarely works.If instead you work well with others, cross train so others can cover for you, you are more likely to get promoted and learn new skills.

Knowledgeable: Look even if everyone likes you and you are honest and hardworking, you do still have to know something. I mean a good bedside manner and a shiny stethoscope is nice, but I still want the surgeon working on me to have a degree from a credible medical school. I also expect him to keep up to date on the latest techniques. It's the same thing with IT people. I mean it's cool that you took Fortran back in the 70's, but if you haven't learned anything new since then, you are probably due for a refresher...

Well those are my tips for job security. I think they are even in the right order, Likable, Open, Collaborative and Knowledgeable. You can't get away without all 4 and there are no guarantees, but I think these are a good start.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What gets measured gets improved

We recently started tracking "missed SLA's" in our IT service desk and, well we weren't that good at it. Many times we would go days or weeks with a case without contacting the users to let them know we were actually working on the case. Because of this the perception was, not surprisingly that we weren't taking the case seriously.

Now with a very few exceptions we were actively working the case but we just weren't communicating well. Our SLA required updates every 4 hours to every 2 weeks depending on the case. It was one of those things we knew we needed to improve on but it never seemed to make it high enough to get more than a passing comment in a meeting.

Last month we decided to fix it. We implemented a dashboard that tracked who had the most missed SLA's and a daily email went out to alert people that they needed to update their cases. 

We even went so far as requiring a 4-5 daily onsite meeting for anyone that had cases that were not meeting our stated SLA's. We are pretty "work life balanced" any many people would leave a bot early to avoid traffic and then work later in the night when their children were asleep. 

When people said that they could not make the meeting,  I replied with, "Well if your tickets are up to date you won't have to be there.". 

Someone went so far as to call the meetings "detention". They were not wrong. That was not an accident either.

We went from over 160 missed SLA's, down to 0 in less than a week. If you want to improve in an area measure it, and make it so that people want to meet it. Just be careful to measure and track what is important.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Want to be an innovative CIO? My tips.

I've been thinking lately and it is apparent that there are two sides of IT. The Innovation side and the traditional Information side. Innovation is the "fun stuff". It's new technology. It's new processes and culture and the stuff that gets called "Value add".

The Information, or some call in the Infrastructure side is the more traditional side of IT. Things like keeping the infrastructure running, updating reports and to some extent integrating existing systems or automating existing processes.

Most CIO's really want to spend more time on innovation but keep getting dragged back into the traditional side. I thought I'd share my thoughts on how you can fix that. At the end of the day it comes down to the usual, "if you want to be a great CIO, you need a great team".

But more specifically I think you need to be good at the following areas.

1. Remember the basics. At the end of the day if every conversation with the other executives turns into "Why is this slow or broken" you will never get to be innovative. You simply can't move forward when you are watching your back.

2. Social. Your team needs to be social and likable. While it is possible to fix many issues with remote support tools, there is a huge benefit to simply walking to someone's desk and helping them. You will become a "person" rather than a department and it's much harder to dislike a person than a title.

3. Visionary. Your entire team needs to be able to see the bigger picture. We once had a ticket for a broken fax machine that uncovered a completely broken process involving multiple faxing, printing and saving of documents. While the technician could have fixed the fax and closed the ticket, but understanding the bigger picture we were able to streamline and entire process. And yes we did fix the fax too..

4. Don't say no. Now this doesn't mean saying yes, but rather listening to the problem and coming up with a way to solve the users issues. If you say no, then it's going to happen anyway and the next time they are likely to just not bother asking you at all. If you come up with a solution and implement it well, you become a real partner. Saying no makes you a roadblock, solving a problem makes you a partner.

5. Be the expert. As an IT leader you need to know what is going on. The last thing you want is your CEO learning about the latest social network application from his 12 year old daughter. Or reading about this great new CRM from a magazine on the plane. You may not always be a step ahead, but you should never be a mile behind either.

6. Embrace our differences. Not everyone is in IT or even likes technology. Just because it seems easy to you, doesn't mean all your users will immediately understand it. Training and evangelizing why is important

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When you go cloud, remember Perception is Reality

I had the chance to present on a pane on cloud last week at the local 7x24 Exchange conference in Framingham. It was a great event and my fellow panelists, Brad Loomis and Frank DeGilio, were excellent and had a wealth of knowledge. As importantly they kept the conversation flowing and the audience enagaged. I've been on other panels where I'm having all I can do to stay awake and feel bad for the people in the audience doing the same.

But this post actually isn't about that.. well not directly. One of the items we discussed was the changing role of IT in a cloud world, which got me thinking on the ride home. A previous manager used to say "Perception is Reality" and I think it is worth repeating that.

Perception is Reality...

Why is this so important to cloud? Well imagine if you are using a cloud based system to run your company. It could be Google Apps, Microsoft 360, Salesforce, Sugar CRM, or any other application.  Now imagine it is down. Not working. The entire company can't do their jobs....

What would you do? Now the reality is you can't do much. I mean it's not your issue to fix really. You can't go reboot a server. You can't reconfigure a network switch. You can't even tell if it is a database server issue, network or hardware.

You may be tempted to sit in your office with your feet on the desk. The reality is that would be as useful as anything else you can do. Don't do that.

Instead do something useful. Walk around and talk to all the affected people and let them know you and you team are working on it. If you have an operations center bring up the "health dashboard" of the cloud application, or the vendors twitter stream for updates. Get someone on the phone with their support getting updates and communicate them to everyone at your company.

The technical difference is minimal but the perception of IT during this time will be drastically different.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Never give up!

The Ironman is arguably one of the most grueling races imaginable. For those that haven't hear of it, the Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by an 112 mile bicycle race then topped with a 26.2 mile marathon. Commonly referred to as a 140.6 which represents the total amount of miles you race.

In the US in 2009, 1.2M people competed in Triathhlon's, of those only 17% even attempt an Ironman. So doing that math (disclaimer my sister is the math teacher, not me) that means less than 0.4% of the US can do a triathlon and only .0006% attempt an Ironman. Clearly this is an elite group....

I'm proud to say my sister is competing in her second Ironman in a few weeks. For practice she did a half marathon this weekend. That by the way, is 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run. Below is her race recap post.

Not only is Diane competing in her second ironman but she is raising money for my cousins wife who was just diagnosed with ALS. The money Diane is raising will hopefully be enough to pay for an elevator to be installed in the house since insurance does not cover that. More info is available and if you want to donate, you cna do so at here

Before you read it though a few things about Diane. Diane was not a track star in high school. Growing up sh could swim, mostly. I remember her riding a bike but no further than I ever did. She didn't grow up as a super jock. In fact when she took up running, she had a hard time catching her breath and went to the Dr. 

The Dr. ran some tests and said "You have the lungs of a 60 year old sedentary woman". She was not yet 30. "Your body is just not made to run".

Diane was determined though and in spite of her reduced lungs completed her first ironman 140.6. 

Whenever I hear someone say "It's can't be done, I smile and say, let me tell you a story..." Never give up. If it's important to you, you can find a way....

In August of 2007, after having my second tumultuous swim at Ellacoya, I vowed never to return again. I can’t even drive by that place without having a panic attack! But after what happened at IMLP last year, I knew I had to go back, and defeat this demon. This time, I upped my game, and signed up for the half iron distance. This course has a reputation for being very difficult, not only because Lake Winni is known for being quite choppy, but because of the 2200 feet of vertical climb in the bike, another huge weakness of mine.

Fast forward to August 18, 2013. I got up at 3 am and rode up with the Toracintas. Chanel has been my training partner and huge inspiration, as we are both doing Ironman triathlons a day apart. Having her there calmed me down, and seeing the serene water, was priceless! Then I realized I had forgotten a few very important items: my prescription sunglasses (without these, I can clearly see for about 5 feet), my chip, and my Garmin. Oops! Luckily Kelly lent me a pair of sunglasses, which protected my eyes. I was able to get a replacement chip, and the Garmin, well, more on that later…

They set up the swim waves so that the slowest groups would start first, after the pros. Sounds like a great idea, right? Except when you’re a slow swimmer like me. I had 8 minutes of pure bliss, then WHAM! The next group of swimmers come on me like a shark stalking its prey. The water starts getting rough. Do I go left or right? It doesn’t matter, there are people all around. I try desperately to get out of the way, then another group comes up. I’m in the middle of a mosh pit, being kicked and poked, and scared to death. Finally I manage to swim out of this mess and grab a kayak to get myself together. I quickly compose myself and devise a plan, to swim far left, avoiding other swimmers at all costs. I get into a groove, then come to the first turn. WTF was that! I got pummeled by a giant tidal wave! I kept hearing Chanel’s voice “Whatever we swim in cannot be as bad as Wallis Sands.” She was right. It wasn’t pretty, but I got through the swim at Ellacoya in 56 minutes.

Time to bike, and it starts off with a nice size hill right out of the gate. My plan was to use this race as a training day and to take it easy because I only have 5 weeks until Chessie. Then several hundred cyclists passed me, I got caught up in the moment, and once I saw the Crayola pack of body condoms, it was time to MOVE IT! After the first 12 miles, it was relatively flat, so I was averaging close to 19 mph. Felt strong, perfect temp, and went with it. I made a quick pit stop and continued the second part of the course. Time on the bike was about 3:30, which was a 16 mph average. I was very happy with this since I had biked part of the course before (the hilly part), and averaged like 13.3 mph, though it might have had something to do with it being the day after a 90 mile ride in extreme temps.

When I hit the run, it was cloudy and getting cooler, which was ideal! The first 3 miles took FOREVER! But without my Garmin, I had no idea how to gage it. The course is a double loop out and back, so you get to see everyone, several times. About half through, I was nicknamed “the porn star” due to my heavy breathing. True story, you can hear me coming from a mile away! At about mile 10 my ITB started acting up. There was a severe camber on the road, and not being able to switch sides of the road, I had to do some power walking. But no worries, I still finished under a 12-minute mile and was able to “chick” a few guys.

Overall, happy with my time, and looking to bike about the same pace at Chessie next month, but that will be a flat course. Best part of my day, hmm, either Chanel’s daughter Fran giving me a big hug before the start and saying “Good luck other mom!” Or Andy Potts putting the medal around my neck.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So you want to meet with me?

A long time ago I wrote a blog post called "So you want to sell me stuff?"  Even though I'm in IT, not Sales it has been one of the most popular posts I've done on this site...

Today though I want to vent a bit and also share some tips you can use when you are trying to setup an appointment with me. On average I get, let me see, 7+ 14 and carry the one, well a lot of cold calls. So many that I stopped answering my phone. It's not that I'm too dumb to understand what value you can bring to me, or that I hate people, it's just that I get a lot of calls and most of them are a complete waste of time.

So in the spirit of helping my fellow man here are 10 tips to make you more likely to get an appointment...

1. Check to see if I'm already working with someone. I hate when someone calls me on a cold call and I've been actively working on a deal. If your sales process is so completely broken that you can't tell an active account from a potential lead, I doubt you can help me with directions to Domino's, let alone a complicated IT process..

2. "My Director really wants to meet you" (or network with you, or partner with you). This one really shouldn't bother me because I know why people do it, I mean the director is busy and trying to line up appointments and time slots. Don't make it seem like meeting me is his or her lifelong dream. If they have time and think my company may get some value out of the discussion, cool. Say that. This one paired with #9 sets me off every time.

3. When you call me, be knowledgeable about what it is you are actually selling so if I ask a question you can at least speak intelligently about it. I know that you may need to bring in a technical resource for a followup call but if you don't have any clue what it is you are selling, don't bug me. Please.

4. If you call me and I can't hit redial to call you back, I'm probably not going to call you back. OK I know this is mostly simple laziness on my part, but it is in your best interest to make it easy for me to get to you, not the other way around. Besides I rarely have a pen and paper in front of me to write down your number, my writing is horrible and my eyes aren't much better so even if I want to take the time to do all of this I probably can't read the number anyway.

5. If I agree to a call, send me a calendar invite. I forget meetings I'm required to be at because its not in my calendar. If you expect me to remember a meeting from a cold call 2 weeks ago that probably isn't going to happen without an invite. I might not accept it (and I do know that's annoying, sorry) but at least it will be in my daily agenda when I look at it.

5b. If I agree to a call, setup a conference bridge, or web conference etc. I won't answer my phone, if you call and we'll just have to reschedule anyway... Save both of us some time.

6. If the call is not with you, let me know that up front. This sort of goes along with #2. It also falls under something that shouldn't annoy me but does. I know it's probably a character flaw. I'll try to work on it.

7. If you are reaching out on linkedin and I've never met you, it isn't likely that I will accept your request if it is just the default "I'd like to add you to my network on linkedin" I figured that, hence the invite. If I just met with you, or we met a few days ago and I remember you, that's fine. I do that too when I really want to connect with someone before I forget and am in a hurry. If I have no idea who you are or why we should connect I'll delete the message.

8. Don't name drop unless you really know someone and actually had the conversation. "Hi I was talking to Zuck and he said I should call". Sure Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, who I've never met, just happened to suggest you call? Come on...

PS Mark, if you are reading this and want to chat, hit me up on FB and we can connect.....

9. Please don't cold call me and the run through a qualification process that is so obvious I have to wonder why you wanted to call me without knowing any of this stuff. I understand you want to focus your resources on people that are likely to buy but do that BEFORE you call me, or at least weave it into the conversation so it doesn't feel like an interrogation.  Any chance you had of me wanting to have another call with your company probably went out the window.

10. Be respectful of my time, and I'll do the same. If you tell me your call is going to take 2 minutes at 125 seconds I'm already getting annoyed. On the flip side if there is no chance of me needing what you are selling, I'll let you know as soon as I can so you can make another call.

Sales is hard and I understand. I do want to buy things, not everything. Follow this advice and my other post  on selling and you will have a good chance of at least getting me to listen to you. I won't promise that I'll buy anything but at least we can have a good discussion...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Almost 10 lessons I wish I knew sooner

I just filled out a survey and when I got to the "age range" part of the survey, you know when you choose which bucket you fit in 18-25, 25-34 etc. I realized I wasn't at the low end of the scale any more. I was still on the scale just not in one of the first few options. I mean I'm even considered to be in the "protected age bracket" which I know is supposed to make me feel better, but it doesn't.

I was feeling a little bad about it, then realized I had some knowledge I could share to those younger than me. Most of it is stuff that someone told me when I was 18, or 20. But some of it is stuff that now looking back I wish someone had told me, though I probably wouldn't have listened....

Rich's lessons for the younger generation
1. Document. This is one of those lessons people tried to teach me. "Rich make sure you label that server", "Rich you should document how you fixed that" and of course my response was usually "I don't need to because I know it and won't forget". Why I thought that was a valid response I don't remember. Which is part of the reason I should have documented it. The other reason is then someone else could have done it when I was out. 

2. Train. If I wasn't going to document than I should have at least trained other people how to do things. This would have freed me up to do new things instead of me being the guy that always had to fix the printer. It sort of seems obvious now, and clearly should have been obvious then but wasn't. I mean I remember complaining about always having to fix the printer so it's not like I enjoyed doing it....

3. Relationships matter. Now in my defense we didn't have things like, facebook, or even commerical use of the Intenet back then so keeping up with relationships was harder, but still I wish someone had gotten through to me how important this is. While I do much better than I used to, I keep connections on linkedin, I try to stay in touch at least via email with people and even make sure to spend time out of my day talking to my work peers. Above all else do this one....

4. Save early. My company has done matching 401k for a long time and I was too dumb to take advantage of it for like 5 years. Dumb, dumb, dumb I should have at least done enough to max out the company match. It's like turning down a raise that would give interest. As soon as you can start saving for retirement do it. Let's be honest, counting on someone else like the government, to takre care of you is not the safe bet. Be dependent, start saving now..

5. Everyone can teach you something. I had the chance to ask a CEO once what he thought was the secret to turning around a company. His answer was listen to the employees. Everyone knows something you don't. In some cases it can be as critical as "Hey that guy from Friday the 13th, in the hockey mask is behind you with an ax" to "Don't press the red button", or as mundane as "The pizza place down the street is $3 cheaper for the same size" Listen and you will learn something.

6. If we all have the same information the answer is obvious. This took me a while to figure out. When people do something "stupid" often times, like 99% of the time, it's because they had, or didn't have some information you did. We once didn't buy a company tha built a key piece of technology that I thought we should have and it seemed dumb to me that our execs didn't see that. I had the chance to talk to our CTO about it and he explained why "We estimated about 2M a year in additional revenue, but the company wouldn't sell for less then 25-30M and we just didn't think that made enough sense". Hmm OK they actually had a well reasoned thought process on it. The next time you assume someone is being stupid, recognize that they just may not be able to share all the details of why...

7. Don't cover up mistakes, explain why you learned from them. My first real boss, at a local McDonald's taught me this. It was one of the few lessons I learned and remembered. The first time you do something wrong it isn't a mistake, it's a learning experience. Don't try to cover it up, but learn from it and avoid doing the same thing again. (Then it IS a mistake). Besides if sitcom's have taught us anything, it's that you always get caught and it just makes it worse...

8. Experience matters. When I graduated I knew that I knew everything.I mean I just got done learning so clearly that meant I must know more than the people that had been doing the same thing for years. They didn't get the new way of doing things. What never actually occurred to me then was that the people that had been doing it for 5, 10 or 15 years, already knew what I knew, plus everything that happened before, including why somethings were tried and dropped. 

9 just because you know doesn't mean you have to share, or to quote "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon's mother - "
Now listen here, Sheldon, I've been telling you since you were five years old, it's okay to be smarter than everyone else, but you can't go around pointing it out!"
I remember when i was very young my mother and father only had one car, so my mother would walk me and my sister to Kindergarten. I was too young, but it wasn't like she could leave me home, so she brought me too. Until I got kicked out for answering all the questions. Just because you know doesn't mean you need to interrupt people with the answer, it is sometimes OK to let them figure it out on their own.

10. Yeah I know there should be ten, but hell I'm old and didn't feel like thinking up another one. Deal with it :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not all vendors claims are false

In hindsight I guess I'm becoming pessimistic. I didn't think so but I realized when somebody tells me something, like "These tires will get 10% better fuel mileage" my first thought is "Bull crap".

I actually though was proven wrong, well at least it looks that way (See? pessimism....).

I bought new tires for my VW Jetta TDI and was going to go with the stock ones. The sales guy at the tire place though recommended these other tires called "Ecopia" because they have better low rolling resistance. They were about $70 more than I planned to pay, which was probably $50 less than I really needed to pay.

At first I wasn't going to but they come with a 30 day return if you don't like them. (I'm sure there's a catch though). I happened to read a review and a user claimed 1-2 MPG better and with the 50k miles a year I drive that was enough to sell me.

I put them on and this morning when I drove to work I actually got 53.4 mpg over the 58 miles. I actually have done better than that on a very rare occasion (once in 3 years) but I also hit a number of red lights, and stopped at the bank ATM so was very happy with that. My average was 45.9 and usually on the ride to work if I hit 49-50 I'm pretty happy.

The one thing I did notice, that I need to get used to, they coast longer, so I need to let off of the gas sooner than I'm used to. This means I should get even better mileage as I tune my driving to the new tires.

The morale of the story though is try it before you buy it (or need to keep it). This isn't just for tires, but for everything. Many vendors claim a lot of things, but before that PO goes through. make sure they show you or at least make sure you have it in writing that you can return it for free if it doesn't meet your needs....

So after a week my average MPG has been 52.2MPG. TO be fair I haven't been anywhere but back and forth to work (no downtown Boston driving or highway) but this used to be around 49.5 or so and is now over 52 so I'm pretty happy. Also I looked at their calculator and think it is pretty accurate (for me anyway) if you want to try it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Some people think they can't impact revenue because they aren't in sales, but every department has an impact on revenue albeit indirectly at times. I've seen stats say the cost to get a new customer is 6-7 times more than keeping one. I agree, in fact in my case it's even more, but I digress...

I recently broke my lawn mower. It was 8 years old and i had gotten my money out of it. It was the cheapest one they sold and the rope finally broke. I tried to fix it but needed to get the lawn mowed since i had company coming over and wanted the place to look good. So after spending an hour trying to repair it I decided to replace it.

I ran to the local walmart and bought the next model up. I had always used Briggs and Stratton engines and this one was another one. I wanted something with adjustable wheels, so i splurged. I got it home, read the directions which were super simple, filled the oil, put it some fresh gas and pulled the handle. And pulled, and pulled and pulled. Then swore for a bit and pulled, pulled and pulled some more. 

After 45  minutes i realized it wasn't going to start so i spent a few minutes trying to get my old one working and finally gave up and realized my friends would just have to see my month long uncut grass.

The next weekend I brought it back, which was another whole story, but one for another day.

I went to Home Depot which was right next door since the walmart folks had me so mad and bought a different brand but still Briggs and Stratton engine. This one got home, got assembled and I pulled and pulled and pulled. After about 20 times it sputtered and I figured that it was the first time it probably just needed to get the fuel to the engine. It finally started and died after 5 seconds. 

I pulled, and pulled and pulled and it started and ran for 5 seconds. Pull, pull, pull, and die...

After having the second Briggs and stratton engine not work even once, i returned this too. This time i bought a Honda. Got it home first pull it started and mowed the entire lawn. I never plan to buy another Briggs and Stratton engine anything again. 

Let's look at this though. I'm no mechanic, but i I had to guess the first one had a broke wire or something electrical. The cost of the broken part was probably under $5. The second was definitely carburetor. Those go for probably $8. So for $13 Briggs lost a customer. 

Now if anyone from Briggs and Stratton is reading this and wondering how they can win me back I'll tell you.

1. Explain what went wrong with the quality process, and the steps you have gone through to ensure this is improved. 
2. Deliver me one and show me it working. The 2 stores I bought them from don't have any working, just boxed. Show me the one I want to buy working
3. Pay me back for the aggravation. I spent 1.5 hours, unboxing, assembling, testing, repacking the bad mowers. I spent 3 hours driving them around the lovely state of Maine. I  drove 90 miles at .51 cents a mile that's around $45, plus another 3 hours. I'll be nice and only charge minimum wage, though i make more than that . So 4.5 hours at $7.5 is $33.75 for a total of $78.75

So to lose a customer cost $8, to gain one back will cost $80..

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yahoos new rule is a test of "Engagelement"

Engagelement is the theory that  company culture and employee engagement is like quantum entanglement. When employees work closely and become used to working well together they retain this state even when separated by many miles.

OK it's not a real theory, well more accurately I just made it up, so its not a well known theory...

If you missed the big debate, the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, sent out a memo saying all working from home will stop in June. Not completely unexpectedly the world blew up and everyone has been talking about this for the last 2 weeks.

Sanity is starting to come back and most people realize that this was not a publicity stunt done to get Yahoo's name in the press. Though it did get a lot of press out of it.

It was not done because Marissa wants people to quit, though it sounds like at least some of the people that worked form home, did half of that. They were home, but not always working. I'm sure the will decide now is a good time to quit, they will step it up and become good employees again, or they will get fired once someone figures out they aren't valuable.

It was not done because telecommuting doesn't work. Clearly  for many functions an office at corporate us not a requirement and most of us work remotely at least part of the time. Who hasn't checked their email at night before going to bed or on a weekend when watching a game?

It was done because Yahoo is in turnaround mode and that means quite simply they have a lot of hard work to do and need everyone engaged.

Which of course is what got me thinking about engaglement. If you just don't believe in Quantum Physics you can also think of this as a UPS that occasionally needs to get recharged. Employees are kind of like that.

Employees that never come into the office become dis-engaged. They just tend to lose energy or excitement. Not all the time before you all jump on and call me an idiot, it's just hard to stay excited about the company and to fully understand what's going on if you aren't there on a regular basis. That's why most companies have regular company meetings.

Now I'm not saying that I think it is bad for people to work from home if they are sick, or have an appointment in the morning, or there is a blizzard, but when you are trying to turn around a company that is struggling you need people that want to work hard and do what is right for the company.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More tips for CIO's

A few years ago I wrote a piece for InfoWorld called "The 30 skills every IT person should know". Well it's been a while and I thought I'd update it and make it tips for CIO's. Frankly having been to a lot of CIO events, we all seem to have the same problems, so here is what I think we need to do to get better.

1. Over communicate. I can't think of any exceptions, as an industry IT stinks at communicating. Our previous CEO used to say you need to tell people 150 times before they remember. I think he was exaggerating, but too many times we assume since we emailed out an announcement for a new system to the company, that suddenly everyone is aware of and fully using it. They aren't. Let's not kid ourselves, maybe 25% of the people even read the emails. If you announce it at an all hands event, you might get 30% that remember. We need to get a lot better at this. All of us....

2. Live the real experience. I know as the CIO it's real easy to get the latest toys. Heck as an IT Director I get a lot of cool toys too. Unfortunately we also need to realize what our users are actually using. I used to make a point of always having one of the slowest laptops in the company. Any time someone would complain about an application being too slow on their machine, they would look at mine, and apologize. It's really easy to get so wrapped up in the latest and greatest gadget that we lose touch with our users. Once we do, we become targets.

3. "Undercover CIO" for a day. The CIO, to those that have never been a CIO, seems to have the best job in the world. Nothing gives you an appreciation for the other guy as actually seeing what it is like. Take a day and work the helpdesk, or test code, or fix a PC, or troubleshoot the network. Unless you are a big IT shop, the employees will probably recognize you and that's OK. You can try to wear a fake mustache, but those never fool anyone. The goal is to really see what it is like. If it's reasonable, bring one of your developers, administrators or help desk staff along with you on one of your days. If spending 4 hours in a budget review meeting doesn't get you some sympathy, nothing will.

4. Walk a mile in another C-levels shoes. It's real easy to point out all the things the other executives are doing wrong, especially if you don't really understand what it is they do. Spend enough time with them to really understand what it is they do and what problems them have in their area. Not only will you get kudo's for listening, you very likely will find ways to help them and gain a supporter as well.

5. Solicit feedback. One of the hardest things in the world is to ask people what you are doing well and not doing well, and then listen to them tell you all the things you're doing wrong. I've learned my tolerance for constructive feedback is ten negative comments. After that I have to really concentrate on biting my tongue and not getting defensive. But, once you get all of that out on the table, you can then work together as a team to resolve, or at least understand why things are the way they are. Generally though we try to hide our flaws behind metrics and spin the number to make us look better, but let's cut to the chase, if you stink, people know it, no matter what the chart says.

Now I can't say if you do these ten things (the other five are here ) you will be a rockstar CIO or that you will never get fired but I can say it will probably make you a better CIO if you do follow these steps.

If not feel free to let me know and I'll gladly refund any money you paid to read this.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pre-data center move tips

We are getting ready to move our data enter yet again. This will be the fourth time we move this particular one so we are getting pretty good at it. It's funny how much goes into one of these that people just don't realize.

A few examples...

1. Every connection needs to be documented. If not you will not know where to plug it in once you arrive at the new data center.

2. Every server location must be documented both where it is currently and where it is going. By location I mean the cabinet and "U location". A typical cabinet has 42 U locations, some servers take 1U some can take 20U. There is a big difference...

3. Then you need to have a server move document that shows where the server came from and goes to, so that it goes on the right pallet. The right pallet is the one that matches the "go to" cabinet. It makes it quicker putting them back in.

4. All the cables at the new location need to be labelled and ideally color coded. It's much easier to find the one cable out of 300 that you need, if only ten of them are red...

5. Print out the labels ahead of time but don't put them on the cables. Otherwise you will spend too much time trying to find the next cable...

6. Unbag and untie all of the cables ahead of time too. It may not sound like much but when you have 1000 cables, even that 30 seconds per cable adds up. In this case to around 6 hours of time...

7. You can't have more than three people working in a cabinet, one in the front and one in the back, maybe one handing the cables. You also need to leave a space in the cabinets you are working on or people will just be in the way....

8. Have a separate test team and troubleshoot team, if possible. After working until Midnight on Friday taking stuff out, and then working 16 hours on Saturday putting them back in, you will be too tired to actually be that effective...

9. Have a priority list, just in cast you don't get to finish everything on time you can at least make sure the most important systems are available as quickly as you can.

10. After you are done, celebrate then figure out what you could have done better. Number 5 is a great example of learning from something that didn't quite go as good as we expected. Everyone likes to think they will only do this once, but never say never.

I'm sure once we are done I'll have some post move tips too, so stay tuned.

Some timing numbers we use...
Setting up a new cabinet (moving it in place, securing it etc) takes 30 minutes.
Racking (or unracking) a server takes 10 minutes
Plugging in one network cable is 5 minutes
Power cables are 2 minutes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The right tool for the job - netflow

It's been a few weeks since I last posted. With the holidays, moving our corporate headquarters (and 500 people) it's been busy. Plus I didn't have anything insightful to add and I don't want to be one of those folks that feels the need to blog just to blog.

Then as Ray Barone, on "Everybody Loves Raymond" said, "sometimes material presents itself" This past week material presented itself...

In Maine having a "plow truck" is pretty much a requirement. For those not from the area a plow truck is usually an old truck, mostly rusted out that isn't safe to drive on the road with a plow on the front, brakes are optional My plow truck's power steering stopped working along with the heater so I spent a few days working on it.

I hate working on vehicles because, well, I have no idea what I'm doing.... But with the help of the internet I searched around and found out my power steering was leaking at a fitting going to the power steering gear box. It looked like an easy fix to change it so I disconnected the hose and broke the fitting in the process.

Unfortunately I couldn;t get the now broken fitting out. It was too rusted and the wrenches and sockets I had just kept trying to strip the head off and ruin the fitting. I spent all of day 1 trying to heat the fitting, and spraying it with "Liquid Wrench" to try and get it out. Finally when it got too dark and cold to work I went back online and searched for "rusted fitting removal"

Sure enough there were a lot of people with the same problem and it turns out something called an impact wrench seems to be the tool of choice. It turns out I have an impact wrench and after 30 minutes of dragging out the hoses, compressors and fittings I used that to remove the fitting in about 45 seconds. It took about 2 more minutes to put the new fitting in, connect the hose and that problem was fixed.

Having the right tool, and knowing it is the right tool is key. Clearly I had the right tool but didn't know it because I had never used it. I could tell because it was still in the plastic.

Many IT administrators have plenty of tools that they have forgotten about. One of the most powerful ones is netflow. Netflow lets you see every conversation on the network, but is very rarely used. It takes a high end switch to be able to do "full netflow" without impacting performance. I think Enterasys switches are one of the few, if not the only ones, that can do this.If you have it though it becomes one of the tools you use very frequently.

If you aren't familiar with it, check out some of the posts and uses for it here.