Business

When to Say No

On my drive in today I was thinking about some recent events and rationalizing them with past experiences in management positions. Employees should always be asking their managers for something. That “something” changes over time and could range from “Can we get different coffee in the break room” to “Can I attend such-and-such training.” If you’re a manager, and you aren’t getting requests from your employees, you’re doing something wrong. But that’s a topic for another day. Smile

When I get these inquiries, I choose one of the following responses based on the situation:

  1. Yes
  2. Let me check on that for you
  3. Can we talk more about that so I can understand the need

No is never the first answer. I always do what I can to support folks I work with and no is only the answer after all options are exhausted. Does that mean I’m too soft? Perhaps. But it lets me sleep well at night.

.NET, BizTalk, Business, InfoPath, Mobile, Personal, Photography, Politics, SharePoint, SQL Server, Technical, Windows Workflow

First WordPress Post

I finally moved off of Community Server as my blog engine and migrated to this site using WordPress.  It’s all new to me so I’m still figuring out the settings, but with the help of my hosting company (WebHost4Life.com) and Vincent (support guy), I was able to get all the content over (I think.)

I decided to move off CS for a couple reasons.  First, I was on an older version of the software and to upgrade would’ve been a pain in the ass.  Second, I initially created the site thinking it would be used to host blogs for other coworkers and friends, and post pictures.  It seemed like folks I ran into that were interested in blogging already had a blog, so it became my personal site.  As for pictures, I’m still trying to figure that solution out, but I know CS isn’t part of it.  Perhaps a newer version would’ve been useful, but see previous first point.  Lastly, although the CS setting for allowing comments was set, no one could comment on my posts.  Not what I wanted.  I realize I don’t have a lot of readers, but I’d like to have the option for communication with anyone that stops by.

Hopefully WordPress will last a while for me.  I’d, of course, like to get on a SharePoint platform some day, but that will have to wait.  If anyone has any WordPress tips, feel free to leave them in the comments (because you can do that now!)

Business, SharePoint, Technical

Selling and Delivering SharePoint Governance

Look up the word “governance” in wikipedia and you’ll find sentences such as “It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists either of a separate process or of a specific part of management or leadership processes. Sometimes people set up a government to administer these processes and systems.”  Ok, that’s not terribly vague.  Now, trying to put that into SharePoint terms the following come to mind:

  • Authentication
  • Authorization
  • Business Continuity
  • Customization Policy
  • Deployment Model
  • Governance Model and Policy
  • Governance Board or Committee
  • Testing
  • Training

And on and on.  If you take some time browsing through the SharePoint Governance site on TechNet, you’ll find a wide range of topics as well as multiple sample governance plans in the content and links therein.  Point being, the single word of “governance” quickly expands to cover a wide range of topics.  If we’re not too careful when selling or delivering  governance, we can easily get caught up in trying to cover every angle and aspect and can end up creating a true Government bureaucracy that rivals Washington D.C.  Not a good thing for SharePoint to be successful.

Because SharePoint Governance covers such a wide range of topics and companies have varying priorities and strengths/weaknesses, governance is defined differently for any given company.  There is no “one size fits all”.  This makes it quite difficult, if not impossible, to provide an accurate list of topics that must be defined in order for the governance check box to be marked as complete.  Another complexity is that if governance is done right, it never is complete.  It’s living and grows with the organization.
Whether you are in consulting or are a driving force for SharePoint within a company, this makes selling the concept of governance difficult.  Maybe to clarify a bit, it’s difficult to sell governance to leadership and have a clear definition of what will be delivered.

To give an example, I recently completed a governance project (the inspiration for this post) where the definition of what was to be delivered was defined up front down to the governance topic level.  That was great for both estimating level of effort and defining expectations with management up front, but due to the variations mentioned above, that plan needed to be flexible.  It wasn’t.  It was near impossible for a PM to track actuals back to specific tasks listed in the governance definition because as the process of discovering the governance needs of the organization progressed, those tasks needed to change. 

How to be successful then?  First and foremost, get executive commitment.  This is one SharePoint topic where I think it must come from the top to be successful.  If the executives show support and dedication, and back up that statement with funds and a project to ensure its success, the entire company will see that commitment and organization and be driven to meet expectations. Second, define scope by listing areas of focus instead of specific policies to include in the governance plan.  For example, operations, user training and experience, and the definition of the governance process are all items that must be touched on and the detailed definition of which comes through the process of defining governance.  List them in the scope, and deliver by holding stakeholder meetings and make recommendations based on the needs and capabilities of the organization. Finally, there is the discussion of time and cost.  As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend three to six weeks.  At least three to get to the point where governance has been defined enough to be able to kick off a governance process, and up to six to make that process more refined and solid to eliminate some of the vague areas that will exist if only a three week effort.  Following the initial effort is where the executive commitment really pays off as the process involves the right people at the right frequency to ensure the governance process and policies grow and change to meet the organizational needs.

.NET, BizTalk, Business, Mobile, Personal, Photography, Politics, SharePoint, SQL Server, Technical, Windows Workflow

Test Twitter Notifier from Live Writer

Business

Agile in a Waterfall World

I’ve had some time recently to do some training that has been on the shelf due to my client responsibilities.  One of the items on that shelf was learning more about Agile and Scrum and seeing how to use some of the practices from those processes with future clients. 


I sat in on a webinar today put on by Rally Software that was focusing on how to run an Agile project in a Waterfall enterprise.  A lot of it was fluff as it was covering what Agile was, which I already knew, but the speaker covered 10 keys that I thought were good points:



  1. Find an executive champion.

  2. Socialize, don’t evangelize.

  3. Use the power of the backlog.

  4. Jump right in.  Don’t try to fix/adjust everything in preparation for Agile…just do it and fix/adjust as you move.

  5. Use the “Barely Sufficient” guideline.  Meaning you first ask “Is this something we must do?” and then “If so, what’s the simplest way to satisfy the request?”.  I’m still not 100% sold on this one, though.  Putting on an architecture hat, sometimes the simple answer now makes things a lot more difficult later.  But I’ll keep an open mind.

  6. Include Waterfall reps in all Agile planning meetings.  If you have to pick just one meeting to be mandatory, it’s the Release meeting.

  7. Inspect and Adapt.

  8. Send Agility up the change to expose other areas of the company.

  9. Pay attention to behaviors.  Make sure folks don’t revert back to their old ways.

  10. Include everyone in the Project Retrospective.

Business, Personal

The Art of The Finish

I came across The Art of The Finish post by D. Keith Robinson through my Lifehacker feed.  Very good advice on things to keep in mind when tackling a project, software or otherwise.  It seems directed towards more of an IT group, but there are points in there that got me to thinking about my basement finishing project.  One worth repeating for me is titled “Don’t Get Hung Up On Mistakes.”  A tidbit:


“You’re going to screw up somewhere along the way. Acknowledge your mistakes, do what you can to fix them and move on. Do not get caught up in the blame game or spend any time on excuses.”


This one was hard for me when working on my basement.  I wanted everything to be perfect, which had two side-effects.  One, I took more time than normal to do things I expected to be perfect.  Two, I was reluctant to let others help since I didn’t think they would do as good of a job as me.  Although it may be true that by letting others do some tasks the quality was a bit less than what I would’ve done, if those people wouldn’t have helped me the project would still be going on.  (Ok, technically, it’s still going on since I have a few things to finish up, but it’s more or less done.)


A link found in The Art of The Finish post points to another good idea:  The Fuck Off Flag (F.O.F.).  A very good idea, if you can get others in your office to accept the rule.  Probably easier in a small company, unless you’re in a position to dictate rules such as these.

Business

Corporate Blogging Take 1

A little while back I was in a meeting at work discussing different ways to reach out to employees.  We currently use a monthly meeting that has a set topic, but attendance was going down.  I forget who, but at some point someone mentioned the possibility of doing a corporate blog.  We discussed how we would want it to work and who would contribute, and then I “volunteered” to run the effort to get it set up.


“No problem”, I thought.  I’ve had a blog for a while, read them regularly, and have good technical knowledge on setting up or writing software to support the blog.  I figured the hardest part would be figuring out if we were going to host it ourselves or put it on an existing blogging site.  Then I’d probably end up being one of the folks to review content before it was published.


Problem.  Getting a company set up to communicate openly with the outside world requires a bit more than technical knowledge and blogging experience.  I first had a meeting with our VP of marketing concerning where we wanted to host this thing and the discussion quickly turned into a “how do I control this to not ruin our corporate image” discussion.  Which is fine, that’s her job to worry about that.  It brought up quite a few interesting questions I hadn’t thought of and we didn’t have the answer for.  Such as (theoretically speaking) “When Ryan McIntyre posts an entry on our corporate blog what do we do when we figure out Ryan McIntyre linked to a porn site through an online forum?”  My knee-jerk answer is “Nothing.”  What’s personal is personal and what’s business is business.  Well, it’s not quite that simple.  If someone is able to put two and two together and figure out that the Ryan McIntyre linking to porn is the same Ryan McIntyre working at Statera, Statera then gets a tarnished public image.  You can see how these types of questions and hypotheticals can quickly snowball into a 500 page corporate policy that has to be reviewed by a team of 10 lawyers.


(Note to self:  Remove links to porn sites)


I told Jess (Marketing VP) that I would do some research to see what other companies have put in place and how they’ve handled the situation and get back to her.  My first stop was Microsoft for two reasons.  One, we’re a Gold Partner with Microsoft and if we were to implement a policy similar to theirs I think we’d get something rolling pretty quickly.  Second, their most popular blogger, Robert Scoble (or x-blogger as he’s since left Microsoft) is one of the most popular bloggers in the blogging community and highly respected.  He just finished co-authoring a book on blogging as well.  After a couple emails I finally got him on the phone and asked him some questions on our dilemma and tried to understand how Microsoft was addressing the same issues.


I can sum up his answers very briefly.  Be Smart.  Basically, any written policy just covers what’s important to a company.  If a corporation doesn’t want it’s employees bad-mouthing their partners and it will terminate employees that break that rule, that should be in the written policy.  If a corp doesn’t care about that and won’t automatically fire someone, leave it out.  Either way, the Smart employee would not do it.  The analogy Robert used was to compare blogging to public speaking, and it’s very accurate.  Anything and everything you put on the internet can be related back to your company, even if it’s a public forum that you’re using to view porn on your own time (theoretically.)  The three main concerns coporations have when addressing blogging are (1) Eliminating embarassing situations, (2) Limiting the leak of intellectual property, and (3) Limiting airing of dirty laundry.  I’m sure his book expands on this a bit, but it’s pretty self explanatory and really just makes sense.  If your Smart.


Scoble just did an exit interview with Channel 9 in which they discuss some of these topics as well, so if you have an extra 45 minutes or so, check it out.  Two notes I took were related to two questions that bloggers need to be able to answer.  The first is that they need to know when they post they are taking a risk.  The risk is variable depending on the topic and contents, but a risk nonetheless.  The second is that they need to be able to answer what they want to accomplish by posting.  If they can’t address those two questions they’re in risk themselves of being surprised by a negative response, either from an employer or an individual.


So my task to set up a corporate blog now involves working on setting up a policy.  Either a new policy or enhancing existing policies, or just saying our current policies already are sufficient and just re-publish them so folks read them with a blogging perspective.  Since my research began with Scoble, I thought I should start my internet search on his site to see what he’s posted on the subject.  He has a couple on the subject, but this one on just being yourself was the one I bookmarked.  It shows the impact a blog can have, plus he has a link to the Marketing Sherpa’s article on corporate blogging.  I haven’t splurged for the $5 to download that article, but looks like it might be worth the money.


My continued searching led to quite a fiew corporate blogging policies for companies like Sun, IBM and Yahoo!.  I’m not going to link to them individually since I found a post comparing all of the policies and links to them on corporateblogging.info.  Doesn’t look like this site is updated anymore, but the content that’s there is helpful.


I’ll need to take a look at all I’ve found and figure out what makes sense for Statera, as things relate to our existing policies.  So much for technical knowledge being the only tool to accomplish this task, but I sure am learning quite a bit about corporate America and what makes it tick.

Business

Free IT Subject Webcasts


Through Steve
Lamb’s blog
, I found IT
Conversations
.  Just briefly reviewing what they have, looks like a
great place to go to learn some things through the old headset.  Steve
mentions security, but they have topics ranging from conference
presentations/interviews to law to blogging.



 

Business

Company Holiday Party(ies)

Ok, let’s try this again.  I’ll try not to lose this post before it makes it to the warm and cozy Home away from Home, otherwise known as SQL Server.


So I had two parties to go to in one night.  One is for my company, Statera, and the other is for my current client.  This was unfortunate as I pretty much had an obligation to attend both, which means that at best I could accomplish only half of each main goal I had for a given party.  For my company party my goal was to mingle with folks that I hadn’t met yet, as well as build on some existing relationships.  For my clients party my goal was to build on some existing relationships…with cute girls. 


Yeah, I’m a professional. 


Let’s face it, when a client wants you out of their company there comes a point when there’s nothing you can do about it and you need to start falling back on the primal instincts that got the human race to where it is today.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m sure they would love to keep me around.  It just comes down to a budget game.  In this particular budget game, the Consultant is one of the first to lose.  I’m actually pretty happy about that as a change is welcome.  I’ve been there since February working on pretty much the same application and it will be nice to move on to something new.


Oh yeah, the parties.  So at the Statera party things were a bit different than what I had imagined.  The company had invited a bunch of their clients.  This meant two things to me (as I would realize later):  First, there would be a lot of people there that I didn’t know.  Second, most of the people I did know would be hob-nobbing with the clients.  This pretty much eliminated any opportunity I had to accomplish my main goal as most of the folks I wanted to talk to I would either never see or would see but only be able to discuss things relating to whichever client they were standing next to at the time.  I suppose this is an ideal situation for the company as they get to build relationships with our clients, and that’s great.  I just don’t think a company party is where you try to do that.  A company party should be used to celebrate the holiday’s with folks you go to battle with and reward the employees in the company.


Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad.  The food was excellent, the drinks plentiful, the music entertaining, and the service terrific.  I would have been more than happy to stay there all night and just mingle, but I did have another engagement.


After a 15 minute walk and 5 minute drive, I arrived at party number 2 for my client.  This one was being held at Ocean Journey, a local aquarium that has had some financial issues.  They were actually recently bought by Landry’s, which is a seafood restaurant chain.  Kind of ironic (or convenient?).  Anyway, this party was more of what my idea of a company party should be.  All employees socializing with other employees that they don’t normally hang out with and with the opportunity to brown nose with the higher-ups.  The company has quite a few attractive young ladies working in various positions, some of which I get to interact with on a daily basis and others I don’t.  I was hoping this would be an opportunity to mingle with those that fall in the later category.  Especially since my “Little Red-Haired Girl” is in this category. 


If you’re not familiar with the “Little Red-Haired Girl” from Charlie Brown, she’s essentially his dream girl.  He always shy’s away and never really gets a chance to talk to her.  Oh, and she has red hair.  Well, my version doesn’t have red hair and I don’t really have a hard time talking to her (does that essentially destroy the analogy?), but she is never the less my dream girl.


As luck would have it, I did get the opportunity to talk with her.  I guess I’ll make a long story short here and just say that it didn’t get much past that.  I was hoping to meet up with her at the after-party-party, but that didn’t happen.  She went her separate way.  I’m sure I could be a bit more direct with her, but in the whole co-worker situation it can get a bit hairy so I’m not going to force the issue.


That’s about it.  A few drinks at a bar afterwards with a couple of the co-workers and off to bed I went.  All in all it was an entertaining evening, and well worth the time spent.