Enterprise Software

An IT consultant's three resolutions for 2011

Chip Camden discusses his IT consulting resolutions for the new year and reflects on how well he did on one of his resolutions for 2010. IT consultants, what are your resolutions for 2011?
We're already a week into 2011, and I haven't posted any resolutions for the new year. I suppose #1 should therefore be: Take timely action. When we miss the golden moment, our action not only loses its maximum impact, but it also crowds into the time for other actions that therefore miss their golden moments. That doesn't mean that I want to become more impulsive -- "look before you leap" still applies. But once I've looked and assessed the situation, I shouldn't let doubts or procrastination keep me from acting. #2: Eliminate the meaningless, and focus on what's essential. According to the Pareto principle, that which eats up 80% of our time provides only 20% of our impact. While that ratio is generally about right, it's always mutable. Unfortunately, if left to itself it will likely become even more skewed in the direction of increased useless activity. I need to apply the question "Does this matter?" more rigorously. I've already begun to apply this principle on a practical level: my own workstation. Gone are the icons and repetitive, mouse-bound operations. Pretty is out, replaced by efficient, practical, and powerful -- which each possess their own beauty. #3: Continue to improve skills. In this business, if you stay where you are, you fall behind. I'll try to expand my knowledge in many different directions, but I'm going to specifically focus on grokking functional programming (FP). I think I'm now at about the same point with FP where I was with OOP in the early 90s: I understand the theory and have successfully applied it on numerous occasions, but to some degree I still have to translate my initial conception of an algorithm from the object/imperative to the functional model. To help overcome that, I'll actively choose functional languages like Haskell when I have the option, and prefer functional principles in languages that offer multiple paradigms. "Why?" you ask. I believe we're still at the beginning of a new FP wave in our industry. Like all waves that have gone before it, FP won't solve everything, but it will solve a lot of things, and we can't afford to ignore it.

My resolutions from previous years still apply. None of them represent the kinds of goals that you can ever cross off the list as done, especially those regarding customer relationships.

My one new resolution for last year was to give myself a break, and I think I did pretty well on that one. But as a result, my gross revenue slid by about 5% from the previous year. Oh well, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, after all. Besides, money isn't the most important thing in life. Money bears almost the same relationship to life as blood does to the body: You can't survive without it, but you can have a lot of it and still be brain dead.

Jack Wallen offered 10 resolutions for consultants over on the 10 Things blog. In my opinion numbers 5, 9, and 10 might be a little passé, but the other seven are good advice.

What are your resolutions for 2011? If you made any for 2010, how did you do?

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

16 comments
cocoyue
cocoyue

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supersum
supersum

It been a challenging couple of years, 2011 looks promessing thus far

aharper
aharper

Our 10 goals for 2011: 1. Widen our service offerings We are strictly an on site service business with a strategic partnership with an exclusively in shop business. As we move into areas not covered by our partner, we must step up to the plate and provide stem to stern service. 2. Expand our service area In the annual review of our service plan we have discovered that much of our competition in the surrounding areas have closed or reduced their capabilities. Since we tend to be more profitable than the standard IT shop business model, this is a golden opportunity we cannot pass up. 3. Build our stellar reputation Our reputation is one which can only be dreamed of. 97% satisfaction and active recommendations. While we have yet to turn business away, we have been close a time or two. As we expand, we need to make sure to keep this as part of our cultural identity. 4. Remain debt free Sounds pretty basic, but it isn't easy. We do borrow money occasionally to make larger jobs possible, but never for general operation, and the funds are repaid as soon as the job that made the loan necessary is complete. The result is that we don't have matching office furniture, our vehicles are older, and the office computers are a mish-mash of models, but we never worry that an incoming call might be a creditor asking for his share. 5. Hire more techs Yep, we hit that point. As we expand the area, we must hire more to meet the same service levels. Again, this must be done without changing our culture. I must admit that the thought of hiring the wrong person and poisoning the almost family relationships we have here keeps me up at night. 6. Improve skillsets and certifications This goes along with the expansion plans. As we get more people, we can partially specialize some of them. All of our techs are required to pass an in house test within 90 days of employment and the A+ within a year, but we have put measures in place to make further certifications worth their while. 7. Improve visibility While our name and logo are known, we could do more to separate ourselves from the herd. For the first time last year we have a dress code. Nothing draconian, but this has helped a little in differentiating ourselves from the tech who wears sweats when dealing with customers and doesn't bathe regularly (no, I'm not kidding). This year we will go one step further by providing company jackets and logo shirts. 8. More networking In our area, not much happens on social networking sites beyond, well, social networking. It is not yet a good venue for us. There are several face to face networking opportunities in the area which should be taken advantage of. 9. Advertise Since we are heading into a new service area, it stands to reason that we should advertise. The truth is that we could stand to advertise in our old service area too. 10. A process of constant improvements We already periodically review the service level, customer satisfaction, and business plan, but more will be required. We must figure out what works, from tools to processes, and make these our SOP. We also need to identify what doesn't work and leave it behind.

timallard
timallard

I think recruiters pushing 3-6 month contracts that force the dev to relocate should be arrested and sent back to wherever they came from, and offering pay on a par with the wage I was earning in 1996, part of the other reason to arrest them & give them a choice of jail time or leaving the country.

reisen55
reisen55

1. More effective marketing of ME. My business grew last year and I am more price competitive when compared to a few other franchise firms I co-consult with. 2. Improve skills - always, and this is not a resolution for one year but a 365 day one. 3. Stay out of hospitals!!!!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That's arguably true, but there's an effort involved, both in improving the ratio, and in sustaining it above the normal. At least, that's how it is for me.

kevaburg
kevaburg

My greatest resolution is to have more "face time" with the people that pay my bills. I want to remove the stigma of remembering a voice on a phone but not being able to put a face to it. And whats more, I want my clients and customers to see they are worth more effort than picking up a phone or writing a short email!

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

is a key to good business. Both in selling all your strong points, and in not selling what you don't have. Yeah -- stay out of the hospitals, Bob! (Unless they have business for you).

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... although back in '97 I had three different clients drop off soon after I visited each of them. I'm sure it must have been a coincidence, right?

biancaluna
biancaluna

One of my resolutions for 2011 continues one I had, and achieved, in 2010. And that is to prepare for retirement, I have been putting much more in my superfund (Australian retirement scheme) last year and will continue to do so. Pay myself first. It is 2011, and I have a dream, a plan really. I want to semi retire by the time I am 55 and only work 2 days a week, or thereabouts and I am on the way. My finances are in tip top shape due to some additional discipline and consolidation effort last year. I didn't buy a new car, the old one still does fine and hauls the scuba tanks where I want them to go. Small sacrifice now, for long term result. I am planning on some further education this year, Six Sigma in particular, I have achieved a lot last year. I have vague plans to go back to University for some short term summer or winter courses, particularly to further hone my writing skills. However, I have a very busy consultancy at the moment so that might be later this year. One more resolution and that is to be even more discriminate in perfecting methods to say no, but no thanks. I am at a point where I can pick and choose and still I seem to fall for pound kittens. Rescue syndrome. The other resolution is that I want to renew my focus on mentoring and giving back. I was played roles in mentoring programs that fell by the wayside due to client commitments. However, I feel there is a sense of passing the flame to give back to the younger guard. Happy new year, Chip, may we have many blessings, none to do with work and all to do with balance.

kevaburg
kevaburg

Thats put the spanner in the New Year works! I'll try not to smile or make witty comments! Maybe that will help! :)

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