It is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the widespread adoption of the framework by development teams around the world that there seems to be almost as many variations of practices as there are teams working under the auspices of Scrum. Over the years since Scrum burst onto the development scene as a new way of organising to deliver complex work, a host of techniques, customs, and habits have found their way into how teams implement Scrum in the real world. Anyone who has worked with different teams in different organisations can tell you how these customs can vary and of the delight that can come with introducing to a team a practice that you saw work somewhere else.Continue reading “Considering The Scrum Guide”
Earlier today I was fortunate to be able to participate in a webinar for Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board on the subject of psychological safety in teams, which is a topic I care deeply about as it’s so essential for cross-functional agile teams to be able to operate well, but beyond that, ensuring psychological safety at work is in my mind simply the right thing to do!
Check out the video and slides below.
A lot has already been written about the year 2020 and I’m confident that an awful lot more will be written about the impact on society this particular year has had. As the events of the year unfolded and various aspects of life were forced to adapt to the different challenges that were thrown up, it seemed like more and more material for academic papers, theses, policy documents, training materials, and even half decent fiction was being presented on an almost daily basis. From the technology leadership perspective I think 2020 showed that there’s work to be done around how to adapt Agile processes to remote work, but while interesting this isn’t the only area where there’s something to be learned, so in the best traditions of the internet here’s a list of things I consider among the lessons 2020 taught.Continue reading “Lessons Learned in 2020”
As someone who has spent their career working with systems I have come to love a good framework. Taking a systematic approach to how things should operate enables me to conceptualize the tasks at hand and to identify gaps and weak spots so that they can be managed successfully. Identifying the component parts of my new role as Director of Software Innovation with ACETECH and weaving them together into a framework of sorts has helped me in these early stages to approach some difficult topics with confidence as well as quickly establishing where I can add value.Continue reading “My Role”
There’s always a lot going on in work and it can be easy to sacrifice essential, foundational activities in order to progress the “real work”, but doing so eventually takes a heavy toll. Just like spending enough time contemplating what’s being done and why and if that’s the right thing to be doing, there is a need to be prepared and thus avoid going into every situation trying desperately to figure out what’s going on and determine your position on the fly, a position that you may regret taking and finding you later need to defend out of not wanting to loose face.
I flip-flop on the subject of whether to use a paper notebook or to use a laptop for everything including note taking in meetings and capturing stray thoughts. My indecision comes from appreciating both sides of the argument for either tool with laptops claiming the higher ground in terms of efficiency but loosing out to things like noise levels, having the opened screen imposing a barrier between you and other people, the issues around battery life, and the distractions that come with the installed apps all clamouring for your attention, usually when you need to be more focused. Continue reading “Notebooks”
If you ever thought that keeping up with the Joneses was tough, you should try keeping your skills up to date in Information Technology!
When not everything in the data centre is your responsibility it can can be easy to loose track of what’s actually in there. If that happens what can you do to get back control? Continue reading “Admins Don’t Know Their Own Systems? Really?”
My diary today is blank. Of course, the fact that I’ve nothing scheduled to do doesn’t mean that I’ve nothing to do. In the life of a consultant an empty day in the diary can be a Godsend allowing for the all important admin to be done, leading to a day filled with expense claim submission, outstanding paperwork being filed, laptops getting some much needed systems administration attention, personal projects being followed up on (like the in-house test servers I manage), and clients who haven’t been in touch for a while getting a courtesy call to ensure that everything is OK with them. These days are much needed and welcome. But not too often.
It can be easy as a consultant, who lives and dies by the contents of the diary, to look at their full calendar for the next few weeks and despair at how busy they’re going to be, overwhelmed by the volume of work coming their way and longing for empty days like today. I like to take a different, more entrepreneurial view of the diary and try not to think of it as merely a calendar of upcoming activities but rather as my order book, as a promise of future work, and that puts the whole thing into a more favourable light.
Regardless of how you look at your busy schedule, the fact is that managing the diaries of multiple people can be a complex task and should be handled with some care as mismanaging it can lead to disaster. With this in mind, here are some of my considerations for managing the diaries and therefore the time of consultants. Continue reading “5 Considerations for Brilliant Diary Management”
I was at the doctor’s office the other day as I’d fallen foul of the Man-Flu and needed serious help. While I was in the waiting room a mother came in with her two young children, a boy about 3 or 4 years old and a little girl of about 18 months. It was pretty obvious, even to the untrained eye, that there was a significant problem of sibling rivalry growing between the two kids, with the boy especially in need of that careful balance of attention and discipline. He was climbing over furniture, pulling things from his mothers bag, and picking up his sister in unsafe ways, all in all being the kind of child you don’t want sitting behind you on a long flight!
I mentioned what I’d saw when I got home as I wasn’t impressed with the mother’s lacklustre attempts to deal with her son and I was surprised at the response I received: “Supernanny has ruined a lot of parents out there”
Supernanny, with her naughty spots and rules about never raising a hand to child, has made a lot of parents believe they’re child psychologists, so they go around trying to reason with three year olds in the same way that they’d try to talk to a thirty year old and then simply give up in frustration when they inevitably get nowhere. In reality, I don’t think Supernanny herself is actually to blame for this as I think what has happened is that parents have misinterpreted the message the TV show was trying to convey.
A video on the Lifehacker website caught my interest recently, so much so that I found myself repeating some of the content to a friend who was going for a job interview. In the video, author Ramit Sethi outlines what he calls the Briefcase Technique for use during negotiations for things like increases in salary or contract rates and so on. The technique is brilliantly simple, though perhaps more than a little gimmicky. The basic gist is you go into such negotiations totally prepared, so much so that you would be in a position to produce a document that outlines the benefits you could bring to a potential employer or client having developed an understanding of the issues facing the business and genuinely preparing a plan for how you would personally deal with those issues. The real heart of the Briefcase Technique is that you’re supposed to pull out this document (from your briefcase, hence the name) just when you get to the money negotiation section of the interview.
While the video is entertaining in an infomercial sort of way, I’m not sure how well the technique would work outside of the U.S., or outside any situation where money isn’t explicitly discussed (especially as many employers tend to make salary offers when later offering the job and don’t negotiate it during the interview – if you’re contracting that can be slightly different). However, in the video Sethi does make an interesting point about the difficulties around starting something, particularly a document that requires any form of serious creative thought. Continue reading “Overcoming Initial Resistance: A Guide for the Gun-Shy”
I’m a big fan of Starship Troopers. Before you run away screaming please note that I mean I’m a big fan of the 1959 book by Robert A. Heinlein and only a regular level fan of the 1997 Paul Verhoeven movie. Heinlein wrote science fiction about the nature of government and the role of the people in society. In a later novel he stipulated the things that a human should be able to do and one part of the quote always interested me, to paraphrase Heinlein: a person should be able to “…take orders, give orders, cooperate, and act alone” when necessary. Sound advice, especially the giving and taking orders part, and doubly so when it comes to project management.
Project Management, on the scale that business managers are really considering when they talk about it, is radically different from IT Support as the nature of the projects under consideration moves to a different level.
Ask a senior manager in an Irish SME about project management as it relates to IT and they are unlikely to think about server upgrades or even moving from one version of an email system to another. What this term is more likely to conjure up is images of a suit-wearing professional organising large-scale projects; for the SME this would mean projects like Finance, ERP, and CRM system implementations.
Project Manager: A suit-wearing professional who organises large projects, drinks coffee, updates Facebook
Have you ever read your horoscope? Horoscopes are bunkum, a bit of fun that’s included in the newspaper to fill up white space and maybe make a few quid from the associated phone lines that you can ring for a more up to date version. The way horoscopes work is by laying down a very general little story for you to read and associate with by virtue of your date of birth. Horoscopes are so general that they have to resonate with someone somewhere. I think that whoever wrote the original templates for the daily horoscopes were also the people responsible for the majority of job specifications that you regularly see advertised.
Excluding technical skills, like a certain operating system or other piece of software, the characteristics that get listed on job specs are normally very generic. Everyone is looking for people who are efficient, work well in teams, have a “can-do” attitude, and have good communication skills. Being a good problem solver is a trait that always comes in handy, as does being methodical and having a good eye for detail, and when was the last time you read a job specification for a role where being punctual and honest were frowned upon? Continue reading “The Nature of Technical Support”
In Ireland, as in most countries, there are more small and medium-sized businesses then there are large enterprises. These smaller firms are competing at home and abroad in a wide variety of industries spanning traditional manufacturing, sales & distribution, and a host of diverse services, but they all tend to follow a similar development path particularly when it comes to Information Technology. Companies with less than 250 employees tend to have smaller IT departments (if they have any permanent IT staff at all that is) excluding of course those that are directly engaged in the IT industry, or those that have a strong knowledge worker focus. Even some larger businesses often have fewer IT resources if they just don’t think they need them (on two different occasions in the past I’ve been employed as the sole permanent IT resource in businesses that each had over 500 employees, both engaged in high-volume manufacturing).
Large Enterprises like Reynholm Industries often have small IT departments
It has been said that one man’s meat is another man’s poison and this is most evident in the way people order steak. Some like it well done, others like it medium, I like it rare, while some don’t like steak at all. This is all a matter of taste. Some people like one thing while others like something different. These differences make life interesting.
In the world of work people like different things too. Some like accounts, others engineering. Some people love to sell, others prefer to paint houses; the choices and options are infinite. Even within a specific profession, like Information Technology, there must be millions of career options available in millions of combinations. When faced with such a wide variety of choice we must remember that we are not all suited to all the options available to us, that’s how we narrow down our choices to what’s best for each of us, no matter what profession or trade we pursue.
I’ve recently had the good fortune to be in the position of interviewing people for a job. I consider myself to be extremely lucky in these dark economic times to be able to be offering work and I’m doubly fortunate to actually enjoy the process of recruitment as I find it to be deeply interesting, as is any area of life that exclusively deals with people and the infinite differences that we all manifest. Writing a job spec, contacting appropriate recruiters, and reading the CV’s that come in though is only the warm-up act for the main event: the interviews!
As a serious fan of movies I love it when I watch something very familiar and gleen something new from the viewing, like some obscure detail in a scene that adds a new dimension to the story. Recently I caught an airing of Robocop on the TV – which is a classic example of once again watching a film I have on DVD just because it’s that good.
As I watched this classic piece of 80’s sci-fi my mind drifted to the different things that films can teach us. Some movies are pure entertainment, some tell a story that needs to be told and some, like horror films (I’m a huge fan of horror movies) are actually modern day morality plays designed to teach the audience serious lessons (teen slasher flicks usually preach about the dangers of drink, drugs, and promiscuity – check out Scream for an overview of this and Halloween to see it in action).
My current contract has come to an end and I am facing into a new role starting on Monday. So, my next assignment beckons but, as House of Pain famously asked, “How d’ya know where ya’re goin if ya don’t look back?” So, with the last contract just over, and in the best traditions of PRINCE 2, what were the lessons learned from the past seven months?