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karma

<begin rant>

  • When not a single team member of the infrastructure team has any training of any nature on the platform they’re supporting, you might have a problem.
  • When the SI’s solutions architect pulls you to the side your first day on the project and tells you quietly “don’t put your heart into this one,” you might have a problem.
  • When said same solutions architect tells you “We’ve told them the same things you’re saying, they haven’t and won’t listen. It will eventually fail,” concurrent with “We don’t care, we’re not here as the SI, we’re here as SMEs,” you definitely have a problem.
  • When the newly minted Scrum Master is also the Release Train Engineer (after one class) and is a 1099 contractor from a nearby manpower agency, AND is way more interested in the contents of the team area’s mini-fridges and what will be provided during planning session breaks, you have a problem.
  • When the client-designated product owner is also a 1099 contractor who is actually a business analyst by trade, you have a problem.
  • When the portfolio manager is more interested in showing everyone they’re the HNIC rather than the project’s success, you have a problem. (Yeah, I said it)
  • When the same portfolio manager won’t spring $10K for a critical piece of software from one of the platform vendors on a project that’s seven figures because they’re irked with the vendor, despite the SI’s people repeatedly stating the criticality/necessity of the software, you have a problem.
  • When the portfolio manager demands ‘a, b, c, d and e’ prior to even discoursing with the vendor who has the critical piece of software, ‘a, b, c, d and e’ are provided and the portfolio manager still refuses to procure the software even just for a POC, it’s time to leave. Do not check your rear-view mirror. It’s like Vivica A. Fox in “Independence Day” fleeing the city and seeing the on-coming conflagration. Just run. Fast.
  • When you hear about the project falling down and going <splat> later from afar, you just go “That’s a shame” and smile.

</end rant>

So what’s the moral of your story Mr. Peabody?

  • Assuming that all sponsors and stakeholders want a project to succeed is just that, an assumption. This one was yet another where an LOB foisted an initiative onto IT and beyond the normal heartburn, resent IT has when this happens IT went out of their way to sabotage it.
  • Occasionally it’s applying the wrong methodology to the task at hand, far more often it’s a simple case of talent and execution, and this is where methodologies get a bad name.
  • Assholery is a human condition, has nothing to do with skin color, religion or anything else. Some people just… are.

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antique roll top desk“Call me Bob.” – Mr. P

The interesting thing about being an entrepreneur – road warrioring war stories and engagements aside – is the relationships and friendships you establish along the way. Enter Mr. ‘P.’ We first met after the great implosion (coming soon) and I was downsizing from multiple thousands of square feet of office space to a few hundred. The ‘P’ being the first initial of his last name, it’s been almost two decades since I first leased that small suite on the garden level of the office building he and his fellow law firm partners own.

We occupied that suite from them twice through the late nineties and early oughts, leaving the second time to take advantage of depressed rental rates courtesy of the Great Recession. Not only was he our landlord and property manager (they fresh paint and clean all the suites prior to occupancy by new tenants themselves), he’s been our corporate counsel through dozens of contracts over the years and he’s my hero. Sure, I look(ed) up to my father and grandfather both, but for who and what I am “Mr. P” is the guy. He’s a machine.

Mr. P is one of three partners in his law firm, formed by three friends fresh out of law school sixty years ago. Yes, you read that number right. Asked him about that a couple of years back and he replied “What else would I do?” One of those three partners died in his youth not long after they formed the law firm; they still carry his name as the first of the three on the firm’s name. Mr. P’s son and daughter are both lawyers in his firm with him. His son does real estate law, his daughter’s the litigator. Suffice to say she’s “handy.”

For all of those years, from my vantage out the floor to ceiling windows of that suite, I watched him roll into the parking lot every morning at 7:55 a.m. on the spot. Walking out into the parking lot at lunch to go to the sports bar across the street and have my daily blackened chicken sleazer salad, Arnie Palmer, sports page and “quiet time,” I’d always look up to the third floor corner office window and see him eating his lunch at his desk at 12:00 on the spot. Same thing with watching his car pull out of the parking lot at 5:00 every day. On the spot. If anytime I didn’t see him doing that I knew he was in court or at a meeting somewhere. To this day, pulling into the parking lot to meet him to discuss an engagement, this contract or that, nothing in that regard has changed. Except maybe his knees walking up those three flights are a little crunchier. I know mine are.

To my employees over the years, including my eldest son who interned for me a couple of summers, he always intones “Call me Bob” after initial introductions. To this day I, they, my son still address him on the phone or in person as “Mr. <full last name>.” Mr ‘P.’ We, he and I, have executed dozens of contracts for engagements over the years and though I’ll never get an agreement past him completely unscathed – that would be no billable hours, that’s crazy talk – I do know the things he (and I as well) are going to need to see in a contract and apprise potential partners, clients accordingly when we near that point. And he always sees, finds, points something out in a contract and its implications that I miss, then we adjust accordingly.

What’s the moral of your story Mr. Peabody?

  • He’s a machine, and a good guy, and my lawyer. And he’s my entrepreneurial hero. Smart-ass tweets on Twitter aside about “Are you the guy?,” he’s “the guy.” Not the multi-billionaire schmucks out in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, particularly in today’s new “social” world. This guy.

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Start8

This isn’t an exhaustive review by any means, there are TONS of those everywhere. It’s my my experience, my opinion.

I like(d) Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 both. Looking back at the past three years’ usage I can see and empathize with the fact that Metro did not do a very good job of transitioning back and forth between MUI (“Metro UI”) apps and traditional desktop ones. The disconnect was more pronounced on touch enabled machines like the Microsoft Surface, but for me it was a minor inconvenience as I spend most of my time in desktop mode.

Flash forward a couple of years and Microsquish is making a big hubbub about the pending OS and how it will fix that and more besides. At the same time, I have made the deliberate move to a Surface Pro 3 as I try to lighten my load. I love(d) the little beast with the one exclusion that I can’t run multiple monitors at different scales (not resolutions) between the SP3 when it’s in its port replicator and my external ultra-wide, large screen monitor. This drives me, and many others, nuts. It’s actually pretty important.SP3 Win10 Start

Enter Windows 10 Technical Preview build 9926 back in February, the point in time at which I chose to jump in. Windows 10 could do it and that, singularly, was enough for me to take the plunge and tag along with the rest of the motley crue over on @Surfaceforums as successive fbl_impressive (“feature branch level”) builds were released, including the occasional leaked build for those more adventurous (did it twice).

The interesting thing as I tagged along through all three hundred and thirty-some (so far) pages of that thread was the wide disparity in people’s problems with the builds in terms of stability. Some people had tons of problems, some people had very little to none. A lot of people pissed and moaned continuously about the new U/I and still are. Nothing new there when it comes to Windoze. As for myself, I was fortunate to be among the more stable and will only say the following – “The registry is a complex and mercurial thing.” Some day I’ll do a write-up of all the tools and toys I’ve accumulated, and use, to keep your machine running lean and clean.

So as of last night, courtesy of being on the “fast ring” for #WindowsInsiders I’ve upgraded to build 10240, the RTM (“Release to Manufacturing”) build that the world’s going to see at the end of this month on July 29th. Over the last five fbl’s in particular the OS’ “fit and finish” has come together very nicely and a couple of niggling hardware problems I’ve experienced intermittently have been fixed (bluetooth mostly, keyboard and mouse – it takes them a couple of minutes to “wake up” after a clean boot).

Moving on, with most of the corporate world having just upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 in the last couple of years (because they had to), the question becomes “should I upgrade to Windows 10?” You can go read up about Cortana (Siri for Apple people), Edge (the new browser formerly known as “Project Spartan” which replaces Internet Exploder) and Continuum (moving from device to device) to your heart’s content, but I offer up the following:

  1. It’s free to anybody on Windows 7 or higher.
  2. If you have a touch enabled device, particularly a Microsoft Surface, it’s waaay better than Windows 7 or 8/8.1, particularly transitioning back and forth between MUI apps and standard desktop ones. I myself still run Start8 when in desktop mode and use, run a fairly sparse Windows 10 Start when in touch, MUI mode as I go back and forth. Works for me and my purposes.
  3. Continuum is still in its early, initial stages, but for uniformity of experience and functionality moving between devices it holds great promise.
  4. If Cortana delivers the future is nigh.

A final advisory on the good and the bad of Windows 10 complexity – you can configure from here to sundown, particularly on the U/I, its appearance and functionality. Just remember this – there’s way more stuff in the new Settings app than there ever was in Control Panel, go there first when you can’t get what you want.

So what’s the moral of your story Mr. Peabody?

  1. You’re either going to love the new Start menu or you’re going to hate it.
  2. Ibid Cortana.
  3. It’s all about the apps. That will make or break it.

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BPMCM15_Panel

Going back through the agenda and thinking of the sessions I attended, revisiting the conversations in the rooms and sidebars both in my head.

Thoughts

  • If you’re going to hold a conference with some terms – ‘BPM,’ ‘Case Management’ – in the title, you should probably spell their definitions out at the very beginning and (probably) repeatedly throughout. – Can’t count how many times in those two days I heard some variation of “I don’t even know what case management is,” including coming from an enterprise architect at my table Tuesday morning during the day’s opening keynotes. We – insiders – take what we know for granted a little bit too much methinks. Not everyone has our lens.

For case management, for now, I’m going to go with this –

Gagne

It’s a bottom-up view, but the top-down right now is all vendors and their definitions are platform specific at this time.

  • Other’s opinions aside, people love Big Blue. The “Case Management – What are the Components” session on Tuesday before lunch had by far the biggest attendance of any session across the days’ sessions. People stacked up on the back wall. – Big Blue makes people feel warm and fuzzy. I’ll refrain from entering my own opinion on the matter for a bit yet.
  • Newbies are deer in the headlights. – The thought speaks for itself.

Myths

  • There is still a great divide between (traditional) IT and the business; IT is an inhibitor. – I don’t know why this old saw keeps getting dredged up, nor where those who are doing it come from, but the world I hang out in – the real world – this has not been a true statement for a long time. Political fiefdoms and ambitious machinations, from any quarter, on the other hand…
  • “Documenting as-is is good.” “Documenting as-is is bad.” – Another one that keeps getting thrashed about repeatedly. Here I will go Agile and say “to the necessary degree of understanding.” If it accomplishes some productive, tangible purpose do it.
  • Case management is better than traditional BPM. – No, it is not. Substantially more subtle and nuanced than the very wide net that opinion (and it IS an opinion), statement makes. Just wait, watch and see. <hee-hee>

Half-Truths

  • Agile is new and can solve a lot (all? depends upon how much Kool-Aid you drink) of your problems. – Well, “no,” it’s not really new, but the people who are still espousing it as a panacea and those who don’t know better still seem to keep coming back ’round year after year. Kind’a like the “BPM 101” crowd you see at conferences every year with a significant contingent still there wondering what it is and how it can help them, but I digress. Bottom line – methodology is good, execution is better. Way better.
  • Data scientists exist. – “Half-truths,” remember? Think about it.

So what’s the moral of your story Mr. Peabody?

  • A lot of people fly along at 20,000′ feet, but far more are in the trenches, on the ground. Few “traverse the cloud” between the two, fewer still do it well. We’re going to work on that.

What’s next? Stay tuned, that’s what’s next.

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#BPM Semantics

Moderator: We begin our classroom with the questionnaire of Bernard Pivot Table, what’s your favorite BPM word?

Me: “Work object.”

Moderator: That’s two words.

Me: DKDN.

Moderator: What is your least favorite BPM word?

Me: “Outcomes.” It’s a horse-sh^t new word for an old concept. There’s too many of those.

Moderator: What in BPM turns you on?

Me: Clients with a clue.

Moderator: What in BPM turns you off?

Me: Stupid, rude ones who don’t have one.

Moderator: Have one what?

Me: A clue.

Moderator: What BPM sound or noise do you love?

Me: Machine room HVAC units.

Moderator: Pardon?

Me: Think about it.

Moderator: What BPM sound or noise do you hate?

Me: Post-Its falling from a JAD wall. Little BPM kittens die when that happens.

Moderator: Can you actually hear that?

Me: I can.

Moderator: What is your favorite BPM curse word?

Me: One won’t do, I have a litany. You’d have to ply me with barley pops to get it out of me, but it ends with “piece of pig sh^t.” It’s usually referring to a process definition.

Moderator: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

Me: Billionaire recluse.

Moderator: What profession would you not like to attempt?

Me: BPM industry analyst. Remember the Millerites? No one goes up the hill a third time.

Moderator: If process improvement exists what would you like to hear when you arrive at the grail?

Me: Congratulations, you’re a bill.

Is there a moral to our story Mr. Peabody?

  • Nah, just try the above for yourself and have some fun with it.

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“Higher highs and lower lows”

Of all the bosses out thereIt’s very different when you have employees and you’re not in the trenches with them. You can only do so many things, you certainly can’t be in two places at the same time, so you delegate, you monitor, you advise. You pick the best people, you EMPOWER them and hopefully they don’t stick their foot in your mouth. BTDT, still paying for it on one particular instance. More later in the ‘Consulting 1nn’ series. It’s one of the critical differentiators between a technical person and a consultant.

Back in the day I had a closet full of O’Sullivan 36″ x 72″ oak executive desks I’d picked up for cheap from AFW and the first thing you did on your first day, male or female, was you assembled your own desk. Previous interviews and hiring decision already made aside, it was a good test to see how well an individual could read and follow instructions and execute on those instructions. Those desks were a bear. I remember one individual doing it in about two hours and another taking most of the day, most everyone else somewhere in between. All persevered through and completed the task solo as instructed, myself included the day we moved into our first office and the original “Fantastic Four” were spinning up.

Long before we heard of (or were annoyed by) a “daily standup” I was pulling everyone back into the office on Friday mornings for a “full house meet-up” in the big conference room, asking “Where you at? How are things going? Do you need anything from me?” Making sure all the teams across all the engagements were aware of where everyone else was at, occasionally slotting bodies back and forth as the need arose, keeping a mindful eye on those who could run with it, those who needed more supervision with an eye towards the future. I’d learned to do this from a prior mentor of my own who truly taught me the art of systems analysis and who, later, I hired to go do the same for me.

It was fun to watch (still is, even the grousing), fun to hear stories out on the floor, be regaled with war stories by my own crew as team members talked about this gig or that on Friday afternoons when those with an inclination want to hang and break beer.

No particular story or tale here about this or that gig for this post. It is, after all, just a stream of consciousness. Just noting that it’s important to do these kinds of things, formally and informally both. Take the time to have everyone knock off early on a Friday afternoon and go catch a movie, have some brews afterwards and let your people know they’re doing a good job.

It’s important to have that unity, that fun and enjoyment of each other’s company because there will be days where the cloud linings are dark and you need to know who’s willing to pop their head(s) up out of the foxhole with you and who’s not.

So what’s the moral of your story Mr. Peabody?

  • My biggest entrepreneurial lesson learned over the years certainly hasn’t been a technological one, nor has it been finance or marketing or operations. It’s been HR. It’s been people. A lot of people pay lip service to that, espouse and proselytize it, but you truly are only as good as your people. Choose wisely.

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Male_Pheromone_Perfume_Cologne_Pheromones_Parfum_for_Men_Attract_Women_Dopamine_Pheremone_Phermone_Fragrance_Parfums_Perfumes_VIIN_MB_03“The harder I work, the luckier I get”.

Before I move on to talk about mobile infrastructure I want to elaborate a little bit more on the 106 post and intermediaries because there are some people who stay in that mode, at that rung on the ladder, indefinitely and they do quite well by it.

I’ve met and known individuals who went W2 with a large broker and went from gig to gig under that umbrella. As a me, myself and me independent I’ve also met a person at a large insurer in Manhattan who’d been there for twenty-five years as a consultant. Story was, exchanges, that they’d offered to hire him many times over the years and he’d always declined and they couldn’t, wouldn’t get rid of him because the app he’d written for them was so important, so mission critical and he, of course knew it better than anyone else and his skills were that critical. I met another guy at a different site down the street in NYC who’d been there for five years and who ran a very important app for the org from a Linux server underneath the counter in his cubicle. Saw him last year at IOD, he’s still there. You dream about those kind of gigs, particularly when they’re in your own back yard.

My point is that you’re only of interest to any client as long as you’re of value. And for intermediaries – brokers, partners, SIs, end-clients – that means money, as in someone paying for your services. Further, these intermediaries’ responsiveness is driven directly by that value. Again per the 106 post you can have your CV out there, be corresponding with some gatekeeper somewhere, exchanges and events are proceeding nicely and then, for whatever reason, interest wanes, but nobody bothers to keep you in the  loop. This can be a pain particularly when others can (and do) inquire “Have you been presented anywhere else? Do you have any potential offers pending?” How do you answer that honestly when you don’t know because no one’s responding to your e-mail or phone inquiries leaving voice mails? Brokers in particular are notorious for this.

So let me tell you what you do about that. As a quick aside, whenever I did get the above inquiry I had a standard piece of verbiage about “whoever signs on the dotted line first,” but I’d temper it with “but I’m really interested in, want this one.” Truth is though, everywhere I’ve ever thought I’d go, wanted to is usually not where I, we end up. Everywhere I hadn’t thought of or anticipated is where I, we did. Thus the “dotted line” refrain. I’ve had calls as I’m boarding a plane asking “If we offered today even though we can’t guarantee it and aren’t ready, would you accept?” And in that instance my response was “No. They offered first and I won’t back out on them any more than I’d renege on you had you been the first to offer.” There’s an interesting story there about Jersey, a literal one, that I may come back to later.

The other thing is, as much as some of these people will “ping” you while the interest is hot and as cold as they may go if  interest wains, “ping” them back. Not repeatedly, continuously like the off-shore people do (they’re very “focused”), but semi-regularly until you get a solid yea or nay answer. If you have multiple opportunities in flight you don’t want to turn one down because you think another is imminent. Murphy’s Law will intrude here.

Truth is, oftentimes the end-client beyond the gatekeeper is the one who peters out and they also don’t have the professional courtesy to say “not interested, sorry” for whatever reason. It’s a rare individual with any broker, partner or SI who, of their own diligence, comes back regularly and says “still no word” or “we’re trying to hunt them down and get an answer,” etc. Appreciate those who do and give them props.

The other thing I recommend is if you don’t get an offer on a particular opportunity circle back ’round with the intermediary and inquire:

  1. Did they find a better candidate?
  2. Was it my rate? (Always clear this up front, try not to let it go past interview time)
  3. My skill set?
  4. My availability?
  5. Something from the interview?

That way you can maybe adjust or address accordingly on the next go ’round. The other thing I recommend, once you do get on site, is one month in ask the intermediary to ping the client and inquire “How am I doing?” and get feedback, and do so on a quarterly basis thereafter as well.

So what’s the moral of your story Mr. Peabody?

  • In this model the intermediary and the end-client both are your client, deal with each accordingly.
  • Don’t let people off the hook and just peter away without an adequate response to where you’re at at any given point in time on a pending opportunity. Hypocrisy is, sometimes someone may circle back ’round later, several weeks, months or years down the road with “I have an opportunity” after they’ve left you hanging previously with no word. My response to those individuals is usually “Are you kidding me?”
  • Keep all opportunities in-flight until a definitive offer is made, then shut the others down, bow out. If anyone asks be honest, be direct, but be tactful. They know how the game works too.
  • Don’t be desperate, they can smell it on you. Conversely they can smell success and it’s alluring.

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