Archive for December, 2010

An Open Letter to Technology Partners

Dear Technology Partners,

Thank you for calling me to inquire as to how my systems are running.  I do tend to chuckle when you ask this because there is a joke about a refrigerator that goes something like that. 

While I appreciate your interest in how our business is going, it would be great if you were a little more direct.  I have very little time at my desk in between meetings and when I do have time, I am usually deep into the middle of a task that I need to finish.  Here’s a thought – first, ask me if it’s a good time to chat.  Don’t get your feelings hurt if I say that it’s not.  If you a really trying to be my partner, then you must understand that I may have to get work done.  

Rather than call me and reference a common contact that we have (or so you think we have, as I’ve never heard of the guy), explain to me the value proposition you are presenting.  How can you help me make money, save money or reduce risk?  If you are presenting a technology, do you know how it would fit in with what my architecture or industry needs?  Will it make our Customers love us more?  Will it make my business units more productive?  Will it help get my resource forecast that is 2 weeks past due completed so my boss will let me off the hook? 

If you are presenting me with staffing alternatives, tell me why yours are quality.  How do you keep your staff up to date on new technologies?  Surely you don’t expect me to train them….  Surely you have educated them on my industry…..  You would not expect me to do all of this on my dime, right?  And you will want feedback regularly on their performance because they are an asset to you – not just a warm-body in one of my seat’s earning you money. 

It was great talking to you and I look forward to working with you in 2011.  The next time you call, I hope we can set up a time to talk face-to-face about the projects we can tackle together.  Maybe you are aware of some training opportunities that we could jointly undertake or a user group in the area that would benefit my staff.  Sharing ideas is a great way to build a relationship with me!

With Warmest Regards,
Jenni Doyle

PS – please do not ask who else I can introduce you to – it’s tacky.  Once we are great partners, I will be excited to introduce you to my friends.  And not through Facebook.

December 21, 2010 at 7:53 pm 3 comments

Making a List – Checking it Twice

‘Tis the season…. to cross holiday themes with blog posts about IT!  Well, I can’t help it really as I’m enjoying Christmas classics with my family while working on this post.  But it is the time of year when my thoughts turn to the value of a list.  The paper industry must love all of the piles of list we have at the end of the year.  Christmas card lists, lists of gifts for loved ones, lists of events we hope to attend if the weather cooperates, and I could go on & on.

But what about at work – what lists are good to keep around?  Here are a few suggestions.  I hope one of them inspires you to grab a piece of paper & pen and jot down a few thoughts.

If you keep a list or two handy through the year – what is it?  What value does it bring to you?  Share with us by posting a comment!

  1. A list of feedback – don’t wait until HR comes knocking on your door for performance reviews, take some time to keep a running list of accomplishments and constructive feedback for your employees.  I keep two folders  for each team member.  One on my PC and one in my filing cabinet.  When an email comes across my desk that is praising something a team member has done, I store it in the email folder I created for them.  When I see an email that compels me to offer them some constructive feedback, those get printed out & brought to a 1:1.  I keep those print-outs in their paper file along with a few notes about the guidance I offered them.  I keep the same files for myself – helps when I’m having a review with my boss or if I’m applying for a new position.  I keep a few other tidbits in that folder – that’s a good topic for another post.  Back to the subject of lists….
  2. To Do List – I’m an avid note taker.  I go through notebooks like crazy and mostly because I love To Do lists.  Nothing makes me happier than to accomplish something & dramatically scratch it off my list.  Whether you keep this list on your Blackberry, Outlook Tasks, or a note pad, it’s always good to keep a list – written down.  I know some folks are amazing at keeping their To Do’s straight in their head but that seems a bit risky to me.  After all, when “it” hits the fan at work and I get distracted, having my handy To Do list nearby helps me to re-focus on what’s important.  I start each morning with my To Do list.  I scrutinize what goes on my list – is it Tactical or Strategic?  Can it be delegated to a team member?  Do I need input from someone to finish a task – if so, do they have clear expectations as to what I need and do I have a target date for getting it?  Might seem like a lot of thought but it really does go quickly.  And it’s 15 minutes well spent as it gets my head in the game for a full day (and a few hours of night) at work.  It also helps me make sure that the things I’m doing through the day are value-add and aligned to my objectives – if not, they don’t make it on the list.
  3. Folks I’d like to work with – I believe in a greater plan but I also believe in taking initiative.  I keep a list of people who I’ve met that I would like to work with some day.  I think through this list from time to time to see if there is a project that I’m starting that they might compliment.
  4. My Objectives in Life – I don’t believe in making separate lists for personal & professional objectives.  In reality, we all only have 24 hours in a day – it’s got to be my choice on how I spend it so I should prioritize my individual objectives – whether personal or professional – against each other.  Whether the objective is about the relationship I want to have with my children, the career goal that I have to own my own company one day or to learn to speak another language, it all takes time (sometimes money) and it’s good to have them written down in one place.
  5. IT Roadmap – as an Application Development Manager, I’m responsible for not only keeping our applications up & running but for having a roadmap (fancy word for a list) that tells what enhancements are needed to support changing business needs or reductions in expense and/or risk.  I keep the list simple – if something doesn’t align to business needs, reducing expenses or reducing risk – it doesn’t make the list.  Each item is classified as a 1, 3, or 5 year objective.  It takes a village so this is a list that I build with my team members, share with other teams in my organization, walk-through with my business clients – and this stays in front of us year round with an emphasis right before budget season.
  6. The things that I’m thankful for – the most important list!  Even though this list may seem personal – it’s a good one to keep around for motivation.  Mine includes – my husband who supports me in everything that I do and is my creative muse, our children who are happy & healthy and bring joy 365 days per year (24×7 – like their mother, they don’t sleep much), my friends who are like family to me, my mother who taught me common sense (took a while but I did learn) and a strong work ethic, the talented people who I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from, my passion for helping people find solutions to their problems.

Regardless of how many lists you have this year, I hope you all have a list of things that bring you joy through the holiday season!  With warm wishes for you all through the holidays – and hope that Santa brings extra notepads for list-making this year!

December 17, 2010 at 8:30 pm 2 comments

Building Your Professional Network

I hear so many people tell me that they don’t know where to start when building a professional network.  They say that they don’t like “selling themselves” to people or spending time rubbing elbows.  I think there is a misperception as to why a person needs a professional network and how to go about it.  Sure, some people just make friends easily.  Good for them!  For others, it’s a good idea to have a few tried & try ways to build your list of contacts.

First, why even have a professional network?  A professional network can be helpful when working towards finding a new position but there are other benefits:

  • When trying to fill a position – it’s a great place to turn to see if anyone knows a strong candidate.  That does not mean hire your friends!  My point is that you should get some leads through your network.
  • When you are working on a problem at work and need some expert help, turn to your network for ideas.  If they don’t have the answer, they might know someone who does!
  • Use your network to find other opportunities to share costs for training or books.  Talk to your contacts about who might be interested in jointly attending a training session to split the cost.

Now that we have some ideas of why you need a professional network – how to build one. 

I would suggest getting a LinkedIn profile setup (www.linkedin.com).  One of the great gifts of social media, in my opinion.  And do not confuse LinkedIn with Facebook or Twitter.  While Twitter can be used for professional development, Facebook should be used exclusively for your friends.  There are just some things that your professional contacts don’t need to know about – that includes hearing about how your kids are sick again, the great party over the weekend, or your favorite cartoon character from your childhood.

Once you have LinkedIn or another method identified, start thinking about your past.  Pull out a copy of your resume and write down 5 names of people from each job that you have had in the past.  And if you had more than one role at each company – include those too.  These shouldn’t just be people who you sat in a meeting with – these should be people who you respected in the workplace for their professionalism, skill or knowledge.  Look up those people and then look at who they are connected to.  That will help you remember other people who you may have forgotten.

Once you have made your list, send a note to each person.  Please do not use the standard template email from LinkedIn.  Customize it – tell the person why you are reaching out, recall a story from the past, maybe share something about what you are currently doing.

Once you have built a connection to a group of people, you need to maintain it.  It is not good enough to just “connect” to them via a tool.  You need to maintain it.  A rule of thumb – reach out to 5 people per week from your past.  Ask them how they are doing, send them an article that you read that you think they might enjoy, ask if they would like to go to lunch some time (eating alone does not build professional networks).

If you are in a leadership role within your organization, I would suggest that you help your teams build their networks.  You may worry that this could lead to job-hopping, but if your people are interested in leaving, it’s not likely something that was caused by networking as much as job dissatisfaction.  Having a team with a well-developed professional network can be an asset as it will give them a channel to learn and solve problems.

Building your professional network has a bad reputation.  It does not take as much effort as you suspect and it can be put to use for a good reason.

December 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Considering the Cost

When gathering requirements for a software project, you hear a lot of wishes and dreams.  In IT, you need it, we build it.  But here’s the thing that I hope everyone is considering – Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Total Cost of Ownership is the analysis and resulting calculation of the total costs involved in acquiring and maintaining something.  For purposes of this post, I’m talking about IT systems but this process really applies to everything.

It’s like a car.  (yes, I use a LOT of analogies – bear with me).

It feels good to drive off the lot in that shiny new red minivan (hey, I’m a mom).  And it costs money every year to maintain that shiny new red minivan.  Oil changes, car wax, windshield wipers, fluid flush, and more.

Building an IT system is the same.  3rd party software upgrades, data archiving, user profile maintenance, hardware maintenance, increased user or transaction volumes, etc.  You get the idea.  The more complex the system, the more maintenance.  It is also true that the poorer the design, the higher the maintenance.

So what can you do?  As a Business Analyst, it is important to talk to your project sponsor and requirement owners (IT & Business) about the recurring costs.  Now I would hope that the Application Development Owner would be asking these questions but there’s no guarantee.  A strong BA should make sure that these cost are considered before finalizing the requirements.  Not that the BA is accountable for the answers – but they are in a key position to make sure everyone involved is considering these expenses.

As part of the process to determine project feasibility based off of requirements and estimates, TCO should also be considered.  As your business project sponsor is developing their business case, costs associated to recurring expenses for the IT system functionality being delivered should be included.

In a mature organization, it would be ideal to track the cost of IT project implementations and the associated maintenance required for the years following the deployment.  It would be fascinating to track this trend and utilize the data for fiscal budget and resource management.  If you work in an organization that operates at this level – let me know as I would love to hear about your experiences.

If this sparked your interest, here are a few articles that I found that give some additional insights. Read up and apply this to your list of topics when gathering requirements on your next project.

Total Cost of Ownership: The Driver for IT Infrastructure Management by Michael W. Hawkins

Driving Down the Total Cost of Ownership in CRM Systems by Sam Barclay

In a future post, I’ll talk a little bit about processes you can use or systems that you can purchase to track these expenses for your organization.  This is a little outside the requirements processes that I usually post about yet it is important information for a well-rounded IT leader.

 

 

December 4, 2010 at 9:19 pm 3 comments


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