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Focus on the Main Body

By radobson ·
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The "better" technology trap

by radobson In reply to Focus on the Main Body

<p>In my current work environment we have very stringent requirements on ceritifcation of new technologies. These requirements are driven by the customer and non-negotiable. Its like humidity. Its just there.</p>
<p>Frequently technologists here, given a problem, look to vendors for ideas on how to solve the problem. All well and good, except that the vendors INVARIABLY drive our technologists to newer versions, which are frequently not certified for our network. The certification lag is routinely 18 months. Again we have no ability to effect that.</p>
<p>The problem we enoucnter is that developers generally want to use the newest technologies, generally for excellent technical reasons. The fact that these technologies are not available in our environment generally doesn't faze them.</p>
<p>This year we encountered a cost reduction project which was designed to shave $1 million a month off of our costs. The development team chose to use Windows 2003 for IIS 6.0, even though nothing in the technical solution required it and the proof of concept was done on W2K / IIS 5.0. After four months of development the customer has rejected the request to release to production because W2003 has not yet been certified. That process has 6 months or more to run. The net cost of the decision to IIS to my employer will probably be $10 million in 2005.</p>
<p>The technical recommendation was correct and accurate, but the business decision was wrong. </p>

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Motivating IT employees: On being a product bigot

by radobson In reply to Focus on the Main Body

<p>With dwindling IT budgets, stiff and increasingly skilled off shore competition, what is an IT professional to do to maintain the illusion of job security?</p>
<p>The answers seems to be similiar to investment advice. If you don't know an insider who will whisper the 21st Century equivalent of "Plastics" then you should consider diversification.</p>
<p>The team that I work on has about 8 people. 5 of these are "Oracle DBAs" or "Oracle Engineers". For the most part they are technically competent and able to contribute to solving Oracle problems. The other three are uber-Geek wonk-heads who treat each new request to work in a new product/environment/area a wonderful opportunity to learn. Intrestingly enough, both groups will consult the same books, websites and vendor resources to solve Oracle problems. </p>
<p>The uber-Geeks will apply the enthusiasm and desire to SQL Server, MySQL, Sybase, or flat file conversions for that matter. In the inevitable contractions in the workforce it appears clear that those folks with</p>
<p>1. A diverse skillset.</p>
<p>2. A yearning for new knowledge.</p>
<p>3 A passion for IT technologies in general</p>
<p>will thrive. The one-trick ponies (no matter the pony) will be eventually left standing when some music stops. And no, product upgrades DO NOT represent diversity.</p>
<p>So, just like your 401k, diversify your skill set. LEARN that new product. In all likelihood that will be ticket to keeping a good job or finding a better one.</p>

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Motivating IT employees: On being a product bigot

by DC Guy In reply to Motivating IT employees: ...

<p>Most people, even computer/network/software engineers, do not have the aptitude, the energy, or in many cases even the interest, to put so much of themselves into their jobs. After all, people also have other commitments, including the increasingly neglected areas of family, relaxation, exercise, hobbies, and entertainment, all of which contribute to our health and longevity. According to the anecdotal evidence on TR, the average work week for IT people has stretched far beyond the current national average of 50 hours and we all know how difficult it is to get one's boss to allocate time and money for professional advancement. People are working this long and this hard just to keep up with their top priorities and avoid being fired. Where is the time supposed to come from for these career-advancing tactics?</p>
<p>What you're saying is that IT jobs are increasingly being awarded only to the exceptional people who require less sleep than the rest of us, or to the one-percenters who are willing to forgo marriage, children, slow food, physical activity, and non-business related reading.</p>
<p>In other words, IT jobs will soon be available only to a small fraction of the number of Americans who now have them.</p>

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Motivating IT employees: On being a product bigot

by duckdive In reply to Motivating IT employees: ...

<p>I agree.  A good employee, consultant or vendor, whether in IT or any other field, approaches their job with passion.  I have come across some people in the IT field that really don't seem to enjoy it nor do they attempt to advance their knowledge.  Having worked in IT for 10 years, I'm constantly challenged and have to adapt to new technology, environments, and problems.  I thrive under pressure and look forward to change.  The best IT people I know do not work the hardest or longest hours.  Instead they are good at what they do.  As an owner of an IT support firm, my biggest challenge is finding employees that have the same outlook and passion.</p>
<p>John Olinger<br />DELTYME - http://www.deltyme.com</p>

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Motivating IT employees: On being a product bigot

by Jennifer.Thomas In reply to Motivating IT employees: ...

<p>I just so happen to be one of those "uber-Geeks". I must admit my husband cooks and cleans and my children do not get as much time as they should but somehow I stay above the curve and remain super passionate about my job and IT technologies.  I multi-task as much as possible - such as bike riding with my kids to soccer practice, running while I listen to an mp3 of a recent webcast, or taking my SMS 2003 book with me to baseball practice.  Still I have to admit it is getting increasingly hard to keep the "uber-Geek" title and the pay-off is starting to dwindle. </p>

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Motivating IT employees: On being a product bigot

by jimmie.kepler In reply to Motivating IT employees: ...

Fear certainly motives many to learn new skill sets. Fear of loss of
lifestyle, position, home. etc. does play a role, but for many the love
of being on the cutting edge of technology seems to be the driving
force. If you do not keep up your skill set by staying up to date
and adding new items you will find yourself greeting at Wal-Mart
instead of staying or being employed in IT.

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Motivating IT employees: On being a product bigot

by tekwallah In reply to Motivating IT employees: ...

<p class="MsoNormal"><span><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">When the layoffs started in earnest after Y2K, the common wisdom was that keeping your technical skills up to date was the secret to long employment. The Java programmers were smirking. And it?s true that early layoffs targeted people who had been coasting for years.<?xml:namespace prefix =" o" ns =" "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"" /></font></font></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><o><font face="Times new roman" size="3"> </font></o></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">Then we laid off all the Java programmers.</font></font></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><o><font face="Times new roman" size="3"> </font></o></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">If no-one has more than months? experience in a field, because it?s so new, then you have no advantage over the cheapest worker out there. At best, you?ll never see another pay raise. Skills such as SMS 2003 fit into that category.</font></font></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><o><font face="Times new roman" size="3"> </font></o></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">The people who have a modicum of job security not only have a breadth and depth of knowledge that can only be acquired by a long history of learning, but are also intelligent and hard-working. Most importantly, they also have ancillary skills such as an understanding of the market, complete native fluency in written and spoken English, and/or the ability to quickly develop rapport with internal and external customers (the executives who authorize purchases). </font></font></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span><o><font face="Times new roman" size="3"> </font></o></span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman"><span>Like dinosaurs, once the current generation of </span><span lang="DE">?b</span><span>ergeeks has disappeared, their like will not be seen again. There is no longer anything in the field of IT to attract such people with such potential.</span></font></font></p>

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Team Transformations: Common Vision

by radobson In reply to Focus on the Main Body

<p>Scenario: You have just been given the opportunity to lead a team of technical professionals who have designed, built and operated a critical support system which, by all accounts, is under performing everyone's expectations. The team is located in three geographical areas. One does engineering (think new products, patches, upgrades) and the other two do operations.</p>
<p>90% of the team has been on the project for 4 years. Last year the engineers spent 1.5 man years "engineering" a product (version) upgrade for 12 instances. All of the instances failed to upgrade during the scheduled maintenance windows. The failures were related to things like missing installers, low disk space and missing patches.</p>
<p>Your mission: Transform the team from "the gang that couldn't shoot straight" to "database delta force"</p>
<p>The constraints: You have 8 people on the team. You can only grow to 10. It takes 6 weeks to get a new hire into the environment and work (the job requires a security clearance). The corporate culture will only allow raises of about 5% a year. </p>
<p>What we did was get everyone together. Let them vent for a day and then explained the new vision. We didn't dwell on the mistakes of the past, but rather looked forward to the future. We explained the standards that we need to be met and gave everyone ample opportunities to meet them. In fact, the standards weren't all that high. The engineers had to engineer for the production environment and the production operators had to document all changes in the enterprise Change Management system (Remedy).</p>
<p>At six months into the exercise here's where we are</p>
<p>Team strength - 7: We lost two senior operators who didn't want to adapt. We let go one sub contractor who couldn't meet dealines. We gained an internal transfer and 1 outside new hire. </p>
<p>Performance - Overall the teams' performance is about like it was before, but at almost 20% less cost. And with the new hires we are poised to make some improvements.</p>
<p>The basic methodology has been to document (primarily in focused emails) the work standards, and the follow up, follow up, follow up.</p>
<p>I would rate our success at about a B for the first 6 months.</p>

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Team Transformations: Common Vision

Despite the cost-cutting issue, I hardly call that a success, because:<br />
- Sometimes 20% can be little money as a matter of fact; so, for a company, that 20% is really nothing.<br />
- Just "fishing" for hiring some appropriate guys usually fails to lead to a solid result.<br />
- All the people I know got used with any work-conditions or payments within 3-4 month (both rewards and penalties).<br />
- There is no consistent plan for emproving the team-work; just hiring and firing ballance is not doing the job - trust me.<br />
<br />
Perhaps you should try a team-building specialised training - ask the
Human Resources Department about that. I know that there are
specialised firms that deal with team-building and the effort pays off
eventually. Remember that solid results comes in due time (no patience
is no result)<br />
<br />
I suggest you try the team-building training!<br />

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Team Transformations: Common Vision

by hellums In reply to Team Transformations: Com ...

<p>First of all, it's not an "exercise."  You said specifically it was a "critical support system."  How you look at it is as critical.</p>
<p>Losing two senior operators because they wouldn't adapt.  Could be true, I don't know.  But what's their side of the story?  They were senior for a reason--they've got the job done, and have a lot of corporate knowledge (presumably).  Are you 100% sure you're not leading them in the wrong direction?  Did you listen to their complaints and give credence to them, look for solutions, work to help them, etc.?  How did the rest of the team feel about their loss (devastated, relieved, worried, angry)?  If they left because you (or company management) were wrong in approaching the problem and solution, then they'll get the last laugh, and you may be next on the chopping block.  Be objective.</p>
<p>Likewise with the contractor.  I'd like to hear their version.  Did they just suck and not meet deadlines, or were they given unrealistic deadlines and do their best to achieve them, unsuccessfully (as should have been expected)?  Were they given good requirements and the necessary level of project support and coordination?</p>
<p>It's maybe telling that you said you let them vent and then "explained the new vision."  Eureka!  In these instances you have to realize they were a team under someone else before you lit up the scene, and they'll still be together after you're gone, under some new manager.  I know I wouldn't like a new guy that accepted an "opportunity" to lead the team just stepping in and with less than a day's discussion told us how it's going to be done now.  Personally, I'd like to see my new manager come in and talk to us individually first, then in small teams (operators, engineers), then as a total group, preferably with a facilitator and note-taker.  Once I know the manager has a good appreciation of the TEAM's operational perspective (rather than just senior management's) of the project, then I can accept that they're making good decisions and giving good direction.  Lacking that, I'm distrustful from the start.  No buy-in, no motivation, no teamwork, etc.</p>
<p>What was the motivation of the transfer?  Was there a promotion in it for him/her?  Adding some extra experience to the resume?  Why would they jump on a failed project with senior engineers jumping ship?  Determining their motivation will let you know how valuable their addition will be (or hindrance) to the project.  Out with the old and in with the new may not poise you for improvements as much as you'd think.</p>
<p>A raise shouldn't be based on longevity and the cost of living--it should be based on performance and results.</p>
<p>12 instances and they all failed on installation of the production environment.  This indicates poor project management and adherence to even the most elementary systems engineering process to me.  There should be a good test environment and a sufficient testing process and phase to know for a fact these upgardes will work long before you actually walk into a "critical" system and VERIFY that stuff doesn't work.  If they didn't know it didn't work before thise "window" then shame on them.  If they knew it didn't work and didn't get the operational test pushed back, shame on them.  And quite honestly, 12 out of 12 instances failed?  Not even 1 passed?  Shame on them.  The problems are obviously bigger than any solution posed by throwing people and raises at them.  I suspect several of them lack some of the necessary skills to get the job done.  Get them some training.  They are probably also lacking adequate tools.  Get them the tools they need, and training to go with it.  They may be lacking support--show them support as well as direction.</p>

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