A Business Technology Place

Work for something bigger

“Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed just make your absence felt.” – Unknown

I pinned these words on my board at work because they describe a work ethic I see in some people. I admire colleagues that create work as an extension of themselves rather than an object that is simply sold for purchase. These are workers who approach their craft thinking about relationships, processes, and flow. They understand and realize they are a single player in a team sport. They recognize the value that all team members bring to the effort and they don’t value their own work higher than what others contribute.

Technical skills such as programming and configuration are important. But technical skills are replaceable. There is always another programmer for-hire to write code. But real value is added when we create work with the customer in-mind more than our individual gain. Real value is added when we step out of our own box to help others be successful because we genuinely want to see them succeed.  This is what it means to live for a cause and to express an ideal bigger than ourselves.
Onward and upward!

My Labor Day Reflection

Labor Day is a tribute to the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The US Congress designated the first Monday in September as a holiday in June of 1894. On this Labor Day, after completing a do-it-yourself home fix-up project, I reflected on my day-off from work.LaborDay

A look behind me.

I appreciate past relationships with co-workers and managers because the experiences with them shaped and molded my professional career. When I think about my past teams, I am reminded about interactions, coachable moments, managerial decisions, and putting laborers in the right job to contribute to team results.

I appreciate my first manager who hired me after college graduation. He gave me a chance. He extended trust and let me establish a work routine. I appreciate the manager that removed me from an assignment when I was failing and repositioned me to an assignment where I could both succeed and mature. I appreciate the co-worker that approached work with zeal and creativity. Her example opened my mind to see new possibilities for work assignments and inspired me to reach higher.

A look ahead of me.

Can I help others achieve more by using my experience as a guide? Can I improve team output by examining job assignments and organizational layouts to make sure that laborers are in the proper assignments and working on the most important tasks? Am I building team unity?

To contribute to my portion of the team load I need to make sure I’m still learning and continuously improving through self-inspection. One of the reasons I write each week is to reflect on events and ideas that shape my life journey. I believe that my achievement come as the result of the collective effort of those on my team. I must carry my weight on the team by being prepared.

So happy Labor Day to you and me. The fruits of our labor are sweet tasting. But the journey of our labor is not yet complete.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: LPHR Group via Creative Commons

The view from here. Amazing things I see in IT.

15753367794_7a21f5af6a_zWhen I chose to pursue a career in information technology it wasn’t because I knew what the view would look like from the inside. I was, and still am, enamored with creating and building things. I’ve learned over time that the connection I feel with a new solution is just a piece of the IT view from the inside. The ability to create and build things turns into experiences and stories of connecting people with systems and solutions. That means the view is filled with challenges, successes, and failures. But the complete view includes the user and the solution. In other words the view is bigger than me. The view is bigger than the creation. The view is a complete environment in which me, the creation, and user are all participants.

Here are a few of my favorites views from inside IT:

  1. IT professionals making systems made by different manufacturers talk to each other in a meaningful way.

I stress “meaningful way” because during a translation activity it’s usually fairly simple to map data fields between two systems. The more difficult part is getting the two disparate systems to interpret the same data equally. That involves business logic and rules which are set by the two users.

Years ago I participated in building the first bank site extension that allowed a checking account holder to connect through online banking to a site that allowed them order checks.  The check ordering site was completely different than online banking. Behind the scenes we built a bridge of information about the account holder and their checking account plan. This governed what check catalog they viewed, how much the checks cost, and imprint that was placed on the checks. When it all worked it was like view with different landscapes meeting together to form a new transition in the scenery.

  1. IT professionals mapping a manual workflow to an electronic workflow so that it runs faster and more reliably.

In recent weeks some of my team members automated the ability to send coupon redemption data electronically to NCH. This ability removes days of manual processing of redemption data and coupon codes. Another example was creating the ability send a purchase order to vendor, receive their acknowledgement and shipping notification, and then send the corresponding billing electronically to the customer. Before this happened each step was done by hand via email, match-up process, and mailing.

What’s the view look like when things like this happen? I see savings in labor dollars and a reduction in time to complete a task. That means competitive services in the marketplace and meaningful solutions to customers. It’s like a body of water that’s blue and a reflection of the creation around it.

  1. IT professionals developing a technology based solution but learning more about the underlying business process than when they started.

To me, it’s magical when an IT programmer converses with a finance manager about the rules of a lock box transfer to the bank, accounts receivable balances, and cash flow. It’s amazing when an IT database administrator discusses sales entered, shipped sales, and billed sales with a Sales manager to help determine the right filters and views to show on reports. The point is that being in IT is more than programming 1s and 0s on a screen. It’s about understanding the subject matter of the business. That means learning and connecting with business owners to deliver solutions they will use. .

I still love what I do. I love the views it gives me of work and life. What about you? What do you see in your view?

 

Onward and upward!

 

Photo Credit. https://flic.kr/p/q158py – By Douglas Scortegagna via Creative Commons.

 

The greenest grass.

Finding valuable takeaways through everyday work experiences is something I started thinking about a few years ago. I attribute this behavior to my writing hobby. Since I try to blog on a regular cadence, I examine events during the work week as potential subject matter for writing.

How would you answer this?

Do you think about opportunities for strengthening individual relationships or for improving business workflows through the course of everyday experiences and interactions with others?

Admittedly this isn’t easy and not really natural. During a typical day I’m very task focused. How do I solve the problem in front of me? How do I complete a service request? How do I follow a process? How do I get as much done as possible? How can I complete more tasks?

I find that it’s easier to think about deeper meanings and opportunities after the day is over or when I carve out time for reflection. I don’t do it nearly enough. But the value in the exercise is that it helps me enjoy my job more and appreciate the efforts of my coworkers.

This week I saw a quote, “you may think the grass is greener on the other side. But if you take the time to water your own grass it would be just as green.” Maybe that’s not always true. But the intent of the words is clear and it agrees with the mindset of looking for opportunity and positive meanings in our current situations.

To help put some practical examples to my ideas this week I thought of a few common tasks in Information Technology that could have much deeper meaning or opportunity:

Common experience: Fixing a printer that won’t print.

Immediate need: Enable a co-worker to print invoices so that the company can pay suppliers.

Opportunity: A chance to discuss with the co-worker alternatives to printing by using an electronic method.

——

Common experience: Rerunning a report that didn’t generate.

Immediate need: Showing daily order totals for a product category.

Opportunity: A chance to deliver the reporting data real-time or improve the scheduled process flow that generates reports to make it more reliable.

——

Common experience: Setup computer and email for new employee.

Immediate need: Putting a fresh image on a computer so that it can be placed in service.

Opportunity: A chance to be one of the first smiling faces the new employee sees when you deliver the equipment and show them where things are located.

——

Common experience: A web form is susceptible to a hacker attack and reported on a penetration scan.

Immediate need: Fix the problem so the scanner passes the test.

Opportunity: A chance to see how hackers are breaking and entering. Play the role of cyber-cop by resolving the issue but learn from the experience and program to tougher standards with the next software release.

What’s great about this is that searching for the deeper meaning and opportunity in our everyday experiences can happen with any job at any level. It’s like watering the grass on your side of the fence. Do that and you might just find that the grass is greener in your current yard.

Onward and upward!

The truth about IT developers.

CSStoHTMLPart 1 of 3 – The Truth is …. I’ll share some truths about developers, managers, and processes in IT.

I almost became an IT developer.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. The curriculum was heavily weighted towards programming to teach computer science concepts and initially I thought I would become a developer. While I made As and Bs throughout college I realized my senior year that I wasn’t a gifted developer and couldn’t see myself doing that 40 hours each week.  I could write code. But for many assignments, the code didn’t flow naturally for me.  I saw myself an average-joe developer.

Fast forward to today.

My development skills have served me well in my 20+ years in a technology profession. I’ve been able to do light coding for some work tasks and productivity routines. I know enough to speak intelligently with developers and ask probing questions. Today, I work with development teams to provide solutions for our internal business partners and customers. The importance of IT developers in an organization is immense. Some of them excel at not only knowing how to write code, but they become a repository of knowledge for business rules that govern the day-to-day operations of their business. You probably know a few people like this. They are intertwined with the system, the rules, and the output of work in your organization. I think of them as an organizational czar. They are experts in their area and hold a large amount of influence in how work is produced.

Some truths about IT developers.

Working with developers for so many years I’ve come to realize a few things about them. These are characterizations and not criticisms in any way. I love my development teams. For better or worse this much I know to be true:

  • IT developers want to please you so they will tell you what you want to hear. They don’t like to commit to dates but sometimes they’ll give you a date that you want to hear. I often say developers are some of the most optimistic people I know.
  • IT developers really prefer to be single threaded and not be assigned multiple things at once. The trick is to figure out how to keep the development backlog full without letting the developer get stressed about having too much to do.  Don’t interrupt a developer during the middle of a sprint and ask them to do something different!
  • IT developers don’t like to fill out status reports, track time, or write documentation. I’ve not been able to convince most developers that if they use the proper tools to update their status then they’ll see the project manager less.

If you haven’t told your development team how much you appreciate them lately then use this as a reminder to do so.  When they give you an optimistic estimate, just smile and thank them. Add a little buffer and make sure to not interrupt them once they get started. 😉

Onward and upward!