A Business Technology Place

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!

Reshape your delivery

Part 2 of 2 – Reshape

Audience has context.Hitchcock

I like to watch film content that shows suspense, paranormal activity, and mystery. So I was very pleased to find that Netflix has the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (39 episodes!) available for streaming subscribers. Each episode is roughly 20 minutes, displayed in black-and-white, and oh so 1950s. I’m fascinated how Hitchcock twists a usually suspenseful plot for a surprise ending. Most of all, I like how his stories usually leave me thinking deeper about the subject matter.

I recently watch episode 5, “Into Thin Air”. The script follows the daughter of a woman who disappears from a hotel in Paris. After the woman’s daughter discovers the disappearance, she searches for her mother by questioning the hotel staff. None of the staff remembers ever meeting the woman or her daughter even though it’s been less than 24 hours since they checked in the hotel. Despite my love for Hitchcock films, I didn’t like this episode at all. It wasn’t the content of the story. It was the acting of the woman’s daughter.  I felt like her reaction to the situation wasn’t at all realistic from how a daughter would react if her mother went missing from a hotel. The actress played a character that was dumb-struck and confused. There was no anger or strong emotion. No hysterics or fits of rage. She didn’t call anyone names.  I get the thought that we might start to doubt our own memories when told by multiple people that our memories are wrong. But typically, anger, outrage, or some other emotional outburst would come first. I kept thinking to myself while watching this isn’t a good portrayal of character.

Then in the Hitchcock closing he remarks, “I thought the little leading lady did rather well, didn’t you?” I think my face went completely blank. But then it occurred to me, that the actress was playing a character that the audience of that time expected. Maybe it was closer in character to a wealthy traveling woman of the time than what I know. The part was played to connect with and appeal to the audience of that day and age. The success of the Hitchcock short’s show that he definitely connected with the audience.

(As an aside, I found after a little research that in this particular episode, the actress was played by Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter Pat Hitchcock. No wonder he made that remark!)

We too are taught to know our audience. It’s part of the basic block and tackling taught in school. It’s important when preparing content of any kind whether in business or for personal interactions.

Reshape my delivery.

Why am I rambling about all this? That Alfred Hitchcock episode was the inspiration for my two blog posts on ‘reshape’….(pause for effect)…..I know…….. Yes, this is the point when you realize your suspicions were true that I’m a rather odd fella.

But after watching the episode and thinking about audience within context of time and medium, I saw a parallel to how I wrestle to produce content for speeches, documents, and emails each week in business. Those that work with me see that I constantly tweak the format of some recurring meetings and presentations. I like to tinker with the flow of staff meetings as well. It’s a constant cycle of produce content, deliver content, and measure by how well I think it connected with the audience. Reshaping my delivery is about trying to connect with other people on an idea, a thought, or a task.

Onward and upward!

 

Reshape yourself

Part 1 of 2 – Reshape

Understanding my mistakes.pottery-166797_1280

I’ve worked for four different organizations since I graduated from college. Going through the transition and onboarding at each new organization was an opportunity to correct mistakes from my past. I’m referring to mistakes in attitudes and actions where I let my feelings cloud my judgment. In some cases I became defensive rather than acknowledging my mistake or weakness. In other cases I was outwardly critical of management decisions because of personal preferences. The new job and new relationships became a chance to get rid of the organizational baggage that I carried. My actions were my personal public record. That record included the good, bad, and ugly. I had left my mark.

Seize the opportunity.

Changing employers is not a goal of mine. But when it happened, it was an opportunity to reshape and transform myself.  The key for me was to reflect on my experiences. What actions and attitudes did I wish I could change and coarse correct? How would I behave differently given the chance? What was the root cause for my past behaviors? Was I behaving in the best interest of myself or the organization for which I worked?

There’s a classic interview question from candidate to employer, “what does it takes for a person to be successful in this position?” There are specific skills of course. But what about how the position fits in the organization and who does the position need to interact with to be successful. This is the opportunity to learn and shape actions for the new job.

The whole is more important than the pieces.  

Reshaping myself has been about seeing the betterment of the whole organization as the goal. It has meant that I want my actions to be less about what’s most important to me and more about what’s most important to the organization. Reshaping myself has been about seeking common ground with others. It’s been about finding win-win outcomes to better everyone. It’s been about being a better employee, colleague and manager.

Reshape yourself.

Onward and upward!