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I.T Managers – assess the needs of the company September 16, 2009

Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Business Management.
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All too often I.T Managers develop an agenda, an I.T agenda. It may very well be intentioned such as increasing server availability, business continuity, network intrusion prevention, software upgrades, etc… and not that they shouldn’t be done, but it needs to be top down driven.

This means that you need to assess the needs of the company, and then translate that to your technology goals. And this assessment needs to be periodically reassessed as the business is in a state of constant change – what is a priority now might not be a priority 3 months from now.

Periodic reassessment of corporate needs, the real needs, help ensure you’re working on the right things. Your I.T goals need to be directly aligned to corporate goals and initiatives.

Successful I.T managers are those that have a strong ability to quickly assess the needs and tangible issues of the business, and how the current technology platform serves (or doesn’t serve) those needs. And for those that are weak, they create initiatives that miss the ball and end up costing the company huge sums of money.

As an I.T manager, make a point to develop this skill, and make it a recurring task to re-evaluate (and publish) an assessment of where the company is and how close the technology is to supporting that. Career wise, this will open the doors to more responsibilities.

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Crisis – it might be what’s needed for change March 26, 2009

Posted by Darth Sidious in Business Management.
7 comments

It’s easy to campaign for improving how things are done, and you’ll get a lot of lip service with people who say they like and support the idea.

But what usually ends up happening is that it’s business as usual. Habits are hard to kill, and it takes a concious effort to do something different than what you normally do (especially if what you normally do kinda works ok).

What can happen though is the lack of making these changes can eventually lead to a crisis, but you know what? Maybe that’s exactly what you need.

Bad things aren’t always bad…

Of course something bad happening (lost revenue, customer escalation, mission critical system outage, etc…) is bad. However as managers and leaders, part of your responsibilities is to use these bad events as opportunities for positive change.

And an outright crisis is a big opportunity for that change as you’ve gotten people’s eyes wide open. So if getting to that right spot isn’t happening – don’t view a crisis as totally bad, some good may become of it.

Darth Sidious

Ultimus Releases BPM Prioritization Tool February 15, 2009

Posted by Darth Sidious in Business Management, Project Management.
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Ultimus announced an interesting tool aimed at helping organizations prioritize what processes to automate, based on the value it presents to the business.

Ultimus, a maker of business-process management (BPM) and workflow-automation software, announced the released of a Microsoft Excel-based application designed to help organizations select and prioritize which business processes to automate.

The tool guides the process owner through a systematic approach to automation goals, ranks the suitability of choices, and determines which are most likely to provide the greatest benefit to the organization, said the company.

For more information, read on…

Crusader or Pragmatist… January 21, 2009

Posted by Darth Sidious in Business Management.
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When it comes to selling an idea, concept, technology, etc… especially one that you are emotionally driven by, it’s easy for your passion to over do it.

Initially it may work as people are drawn to those who can paint a powerful positive vision of the future. But overtime what’ll happen is you’ve positioned yourself as someone who is on one end of an extreme, and upper management in particular doesn’t like that.

They won’t like it because they view you as an unbalanced crusader not able or willing to constantly re-evaluate business conditions and realities. Nor can your words have weight as you’re not (from their perspective) giving that balanced view of what you’re crusading for (i.e. the pros AND the cons).

It gets more tricky when you’re campaigning for something that’s negative by nature (e.g. layoffs, getting rid of Galactic Empire stock options, feeding high ranking officers to the Panna Monster for doubting the power of the Force, etc…).

In any case, you want to present a balanced fact based angle that doesn’t exaggerate  the pros or the cons. It’s the less exciting route to take (because you’re restricting the amount of passion that’s emoted), but it’s the path that will work in the long run.

Exaggeration is a technique that works for a short term buy in, but the problem is you’ll quickly lose creditability when the real results come in.

You don’t need to win with fireworks, guns blazing, or landslides… You just need to win.

Darth Sidious

Quit whining about the problem and move on… September 18, 2008

Posted by Darth Sidious in Business Management, Project Management.
6 comments

You humans suffer from this disorder of pepetual complaining about the problem. Yes, projects, initiatives, or whatever do encounter hurdles and it’s part of the process to identify problems that come up.

Though what tends to happen is a constant restating of hte problem in various differnt forms, and this part is more of a psychological/emotional process of getting it out of your system.

  • Flip: “Had Jeff done more analysis, we wouldn’t have gone the AJAX route and instead used VaderSoft Silverlight for our RIA applciation.
  • Flop: “Ya, the application is dirt slow… it takes forever to do a search and pull up all the rebel bases where Jedi’s might be hanging out…”
  • Flip: “That’s the problem with AJAX… all that XML over the wire…”
  • Flop: “And Jeff, he can’t see two steps ahead…”

That can go on forever. Ok, Jeff didn’t do enough analysis, and the wrong technology was used. Problem identified, now it’s time to move on and start talking about solutions.

Create a Skills Inventory to measure overall strengths & weaknesses April 22, 2008

Posted by Darth Sidious in Business Management, Managing Employees.
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Say you’re in a team that specializes in using the Force to electrocute captured rebels, or run a Network Engineering team. When it comes to hiring your instinct is to focus on the obvious and primary skill of the team.

Need to fill in an electrocutioner position? Then you’re probably looking for someone who’s learned how to channel the powers of the Force into electricty. Need to fill in a Network engineer position? You probably are looking for a hardcore networking/router/firewall guy.

But look beyond the obvious and evaluate the skill sets that the team has as a whole, and identify where you are weak, and where you’re strong at. Sure it’s great to add even more firepower to what you’re already strong at, but don’t let that lead you into becoming unbalanced skills wise.

What skills you need depends on your long term staffing plan, which is related to your long term department/company/empire goals. If you want to grow, what skills will you need in the future? Growth is only possible if you have people will the right skills and personalities to achieve it.

Hiring ONLY for your needs of today is great if you never want to progress beyond today. We’re not saying ignore the needs of today, there are short term needs and they’re important, but keep the future in mind.

To assist you in this, put together a skills inventory list. It’s just a simple table of all skills needed by today and in the future, along with your staff and how strong they are in those skills. It will help you highlight where you’re really strong at, and where the weaknesses lie. So, you’re hiring strategy should try to fill in for those areas where you are vulnerable. E.g:


Category

Skill

Importance

Darth Sidious

Darth Vader

Darth Maul

The Force

Electrocuting

High

10

4

0

The Force

Psychokenetic

Med

10

10

4

Management

Empire Planning

High

10

7

3

Six Sigma

Impeding Innovation February 27, 2008

Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Business Management.
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When a department is in charge of creative or analytical activities, imagination and innovation is vital for their success.  Over time employees get to know their manager, and what their manger likes and dislikes.  Employees know that their manager dislikes X, Y, Z and since their ideas will be nixed, they will stop proposing innovative solutions and simply provide what their manager expects.  This leads to all ideas being limited to 1 managers’ belief system and does not allow innovative ideas to surface.

Only the manager themselves can combat this issue.  When a manager chooses a solution, they should explain clearly to their staff why that solution is being chosen.  They should recognize and encourage innovative solutions, regardless if they are used or not.

If upper management thinks a department isn’t innovative, they should interview the department individually, presenting problems and see what solutions employees will offer on their own, w/o their manager being present.  Even this may not lead to much, as employees are well aware of the retribution that will occur if they suggest concepts their manager has already killed internally.  Another method is requiring 3 different solutions for a problem, which will force the manager to present other concepts, and not just their own narrow view.

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Top Reasons why small businesses fail January 8, 2008

Posted by Darth Sidious in Business Management.
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50% of new businesses fail in the first 5 years, here’s the top reasons why:

  • They lack the power of the Force
  • They  chose the  Jedi side (if they did have the power)
  • Lack of experience
  • Ran out of funds
  • Bad Location
  • Lack of inventory management skills
  • Spent too much money on assets
  • Inadequate credit arrangements (not enough, interest too high, etc…)
  • Using business funds for personal reasons
  • Growth was too fast
  • Competition
  • Low sales volume

The Ivory Tower Syndrome December 25, 2007

Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Business Management.
4 comments

This syndrome occurs when top management becomes disconnected from the reality of the business.  Organization size, complexity and information filtering all contribute to the problem.

In order to avoid the Ivory Tower syndrome, the Sith recommend that all top management, including the CEO should spend 1 hour a month, observing desk-side, in rotation with every position in the company.  From the janitors to marketing, no position is too menial for this task. If the position uses a body, then that body is a cost to the company and needs to be performing their duties in an efficient and purposeful manner.

The purpose of this task is to observe front-line employees in the organization and directly observe problems, inefficiencies and procedures that the employee is using in their daily activities.  Information filtering is a constant threat to top management, and sometimes the only way to really know what’s going on, is to get your hands dirty.

Out-sourced workers and contractors should also be observed as the company ultimately pays for their services and everything above applies to them.

Once management is on board for the program, someone should have the responsibility of scheduling the desk-side observations in a random, unannounced fashion and ensure everyone participates in their sessions.

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ROI – Labor efficiency December 18, 2007

Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Business Management.
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To follow up on “Making an ROI Worksheet”, let’s discuss projects that promise labor ROI by automating a manual process.

Every position has many manual processes that if automated, would make the employee more efficient. Identifying the manual process is half the battle.

Who will identify a manual process that should be automated via technology?
If employees are performing a position and 25% of their time is spent on a manual process, do they want to volunteer automation which could cut their hours, or # of employees in their department? Does their manager want to volunteer that their 10-man kingdom be reduced to 5? In both cases, the answer is no. Employees fear efficiency could cut their numbers and managers fear if their department is reduced, it may become a target to merge with another and threaten their position (along with budget, power, etc.)

If the employees themselves and their management won’t identify the process, then it falls to higher management or business analysts. If necessary, use outside consults who don’t have to deal with company politics.

The 2nd half of the battle is actualizing the labor ROI.

Presuming a manual process is somehow brought up for automation, the manager will claim the ROI will be a generic gain in “efficiency” or “speed”. As a manager or analyst, you must push the manager into providing a baseline. E.g. with 10 employees and the current process, we build 100 blasters per week. With the automation of X process, the results will be?

  • Increased production of 150 blasters per week
  • The department will take on additional duties from another department
  • Head count will be reduced from 10 to 7
  • We’ll be more efficient and…

If the department can actually produce more blasters and that helps the company, then that’s a fine and measurable ROI. The affected department may claim that they will take on additional work, which is taking work away from someone else, and so on until the efficiency is completely lost. The worse case scenario is the department continues to produce the same 100 blasters and works ‘slower’ than before.

If head-count reduction is the ROI of the project, try to get managerial sign-off before starting the project. Make sure the manager buys into the ROI and the next level of management is also on board. It also helps to discuss exactly how the head-count will be reduced?

Attrition (over what time period?)
A hiring freeze
Employee transfers to other positions (which employees, to what position and when?)
Layoffs
Etc.

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