Archive for Guides

Remaining Analytical: Avoiding the pitfalls of feature-driven decisions

Information Technology is Science, a very practical science at that.  We are bombarded everyday with “Hey, look at what this does!”.  The coolness factor can be a blessing and a curse in technology.  We want to constantly push forward what our colleagues are capable of.  How do we recommend products and peak the interest of our customers and clients without bombarding them with features?

Results oriented methodology is taking over our small little world.  Users and managers are no longer amazed by bells and whistles. They need technology, but not in the feature-driven approach that worked ten years ago.  Potential of a product is not as important as fullfilling immediate needs.  The features have to take care of everyday issues, not something they will experience when they are the big dog on the block.  Reporting is very important.  Success of products from salesforce.com, Siebel, Remedy, and Oracle have paved the way for a great deal of accountability with regards to the employee-employer relationship and the Information Technology department is no longer immune.  Utilization is a strong requirement with limited budgets.

What can be done to adjust to the cycle we are currently in?  There are many ways to thrive.

  • Remain focused on your client’s needs. The sharper the image you have in your mind the better.  Don’t make guesses regarding what will help day to day. Learn about problems, document them and focus on solutions that will address immediate needs.
  • Document everything:  Keep personal records of what you accomplish and notice in your day to day interactions.  This is not to share with others, but to research and revisit as discussions arise.
  • Do NOT under any circumstances suggest products that do not meet the needs of a project and proceed to belittle the problems management is concerned about.  The problem with saying “My way or the highway!” is there are so many choices of highway right now.
  • Know that like any other economic cycle, this will eventually give way to brighter days.  This is very important with regards to attitude.  The last thing any organization wants or needs right now is a grumpy technologist.
  • Focus on sustainability and making things run to their full potential.

With these thoughts in mind, remaining analytical will be a lot easier.  After all, we are more scientist than salesperson.

Lantronix Offering Solid Tutorials for Beginners

If you are new to the industry, terminology is key to your success. It helps you convey your problems to vendors and co-workers accurately and can increase your response time dramatically. Lantronix is currently offering some basic network tutorials that I highly recommend to anyone without a formal education in the IT industry:

http://www.lantronix.com/learning/networking.html

Don’t Drink Your Vendor’s Instant Liquid Beverage

I had a specific beverage name in mind for the title of this entry, but I don’t think it’s fair to associate it with what I’m about to talk about.

Recently, a software vendor has told me that it is impossible to export records from their database (written in MS SQL, btw) and transfer them to another database elsewhere. It is completely obvious that they don’t want to do it for fear of messing something up. It is also obvious that they don’t have DBA’s anymore.
There has been one other thing about this vendor that has driven me nuts for a really long time. When I went to a training session in their office a couple years ago, they tried really hard to make me see things their way: Just lay down, don’t get involved in what our product should be able to do and we’ll feed your users a bunch of garbage about us being more than a vendor. Think of us more as a partner. I was invited to join user groups (for a fee) to help “ensure the features you want to see are included in the next version”.

I didn’t join. I just want their crappy software to work right out of the box. Maybe I’m old school, but that’s what I expect with all my vendors. If someone gives me poor service, I write them out of my plans, I don’t try to negotiate for better service. Some of these vendors have forgotten who the customer is.
Just a tip for all the other admins out there, the second you drink the Instant Liquid Beverage of a company like that, their hooks are in. The next feature you want will be another lump sum payment. Want more users? Here’s the upfront cost and here is the cost for annual support.

Here’s what I would like to see happen: Hear me out before you completely dismiss this idea. Microsoft needs to regulate vendors that sell bolt-ons (aka front ends) to their products.

When I worked in the wireless industry, this was common practice. It still is today. The carriers chose which vendors work with their cellular service and instill a certain level of quality into the customer experience by filtering out things that work and things that run like trash.

I want to be abundantly clear: this does not give Microsoft a monopoly nor would it be monopolistic for Microsoft to take complaints from third-party clients. In my case, if I don’t like the decisions Microsoft made, I could find a front end for MySQL, DB2, or even Oracle.

What a little more difficulty from Microsoft would do is make these little development places that are too lazy to write their own backend from messing up businesses by writing things that they can’t even figure out a couple years later.

I highly recommend that anyone who makes technology decisions make sure they are not seeing too much value in a specific vendor. At all costs, don’t drink if they offer it!