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The World Hidden Before Us.

Sunday night I swung by for Chinese takeout. I love chicken lo mein… Part of the joy of eating Chinese food has always been the fortune cookie. It’s not only the lightly sweetened taste of the cookie, but the hidden fortune inside.

I have begun to judge restaurants based upon the quality of these little treats – even shunning some while choosing others. The fortunes always give me a time to reflect upon the thought and ask questions.

Hokey, probably – but fun, most certainly!

When I opened the fortune cookie inside was a wonderful quote that really gave me some food for thought,

Technology is the art of arranging the world so we do not notice it.

At first glance, I was amazed at how succinct and wonderful this fortune was. In a previous post, The Heart of a Technologist, I said,

I see so many who seem to be on a quest for self-glory or the latest discovery, much like Ponce de Leon’s search for the infamous Fountain of Youth. Some may serve through discovery or creation, while some offer their service in the form of repair or maintenance. When at our best, we operate behind the scenes, unnoticed and under cover of dark, weaving our magic webs of security and five-nine’s availability.

In essence, I had thought the script read that when technology was working as it should, it was invisible.

However, as I rolled this around in my mind, much like tasting a great glass of wine, I began to wonder if it instead meant that technology got in the way of seeing the world for what it is. With communication coming at us in all directions and everything from coworkers to advertisers vying for our attention, are we too connected? Does the noise distract us from seeing the beauty?

These are all great questions for technologist and lay-person alike to ponder. Are you sure you walk your critical path in life? What gets in the way of you seeing life as you should?

Image credit: zzzack

The Heart Of A Technologist

The heart of a technologist is in serving – service without need of reciprocation.

Do you subscribe to this belief? After all, that is a tough, thankless life to live. I see so many who seem to be on a quest for self-glory or the latest discovery, much like Ponce de Leon’s search for the infamous Fountain of Youth.

Some may serve through discovery or creation, while some offer their service in the form of repair or maintenance. When at our best, we operate behind the scenes, unnoticed and under cover of dark, weaving our magic webs of security and five-nine’s availability.

All too often, the insecure turn to scoff at those less intellectual or computer-savvy as themselves lording their minutia of power in order to over-compensate for a failed childhood social life  like Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor.

Or perhaps it is something less sinister; perhaps we have forgotten how it feels not to be the domain admin or root level admin?

Do we seek to minimize another’s anguish over loosing that spreadsheet they worked all weekend on? Do we so quickly seek to belittle someone’s lack of understanding at just why they cannot login to the corporate VPN?

Micah (Learn to Duck), offers this advice:

Every day, I try to do something where I give something (time, money, expertise, humor, whatever) with no expectation of something in return. The reactions are interesting. Some people don’t believe it. Others don’t trust it. Most people appreciate what I have to give. But, for me, its somewhat of a selfish act. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel good.

Did we check this at the door somewhere along our career path, or did Corporate America’s bylaws drill this fanciful notion out of our brain like some Chinese water torture?

In either case, we stand in the shadows on this one, folks. Empathy is at the heart of success and maintaining a heart of service is the call to which we should rally.

Image credit to Vincent van Wylick

KnowtheNetwork.com Launches a New Look!

A friend of mine just launched a new, clean look to his website, KnowTheNetwork.com. Tsudohnimh, has been working on the new look and feel for a good while now, and I am floored by the new layout.

KnowTheNetwork.com launches a new website!

 Here’s a little about KnowTheNetwork:

This change has been a long time in coming and I’m thrilled to have you. I hope that you find the site more readable and inviting. There are more features on the way and you can expect new posts 3 times a week. Whether you are an old friend or just finding this site for the first time allow me to give you an overview of the best content…

Stop by and say hi, or just enjoy the great reading. It’s an odd mix of technology tricks and political opinions, but somehow it works. I trust you will enjoy the opinions as much as the facts.


Ken Stewart’s blog, ChangeForge.com, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. Ken is also the Director of Technology at Kearns Business Solutions.


Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy

When you think of IT, MIS, or any other acronymn used to describe the technology department of a company, what is the image that comes to mind? Does it resemble a Saturday Night Live skit Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy?

Many IT-types have bemoaned the fact that technologists have gotten a bad wrap. I wonder why that is?

Simply put, the stereotypical computer tech was always long on computer wisdom but terribly short on the softer skills in life, such as tact and social grace. I am not totally sure whether most computer guys had watched too much Gordon Gekko and fancied themselves all powerful, or if they just didn’t notice they were alienating their customers. Either way, the end result was the creation of our famous stereotype, Nick Burns…

As a manager, culture is one of the most delicate things to balance. Do you choose the talented player that can put points on the board and overlook some ‘minor’ team-fit issues? Do you sacrifice and choose a mediocre player that can get along with everyone and take direction?

That’s a trick question, to a certain extent. You choose neither. It is possible to choose talented players, but you can’t forsake the overall team concept. Combined, individuals can accomplish wonderful and extraordinary things. So don’t sell yourself short and let your ‘IT rooster” rule the roost. It won’t be as easy as pounding your fist, and you have to decide for yourself if your IT guy is your go-to-guy.

If you are an IT guy or gal, make sure you put yourself in a position to be the go-to-guy (or gal). By keeping customer service in the forefront of your mind and engaging in your culture you may not win employee of the year, but you could get a reputation for solving problems rather than being one.

Are the blurring of technology lines making your head spin?

Today we discuss the blurring of technology lines. In a recent article in ImageSource titled Top 10 Industry Trends, authored by John Mancini, the President of AIIM, outlines what he believes to be the top 10 drivers within the DMS space… Let’s continue our discussion with the number 8 influencer in the DMS space this year:

8. The blurring of technology lines.  What does your business need? Copiers? Scanners? Records management? Content management?  Document management? Business process management?  E-mail management?  Most likely, all of the above in some configuration. And the solution providers who can help end users figure out the appropriate configuration – they won’t all be the same – will find end users racing to their door.

John strikes a cord with this article. It resonates a simple truth, “Add value to your customers’ business and make them clients for life.” More than ever, companies are looking for answers. They hire analysts and accounts to give them a clue about what’s going on in this rat race. They hire consultants to spin a web and show them a future where they are rich and wise. They hire marketing and public relations firms to package all of this up and put a nice bow on top…

What happened to common sense?

To some extent, people are a little scared about all of this technology being thrown at them. In reality, it’s a lot of F.U.D. Combine this with the intent of some opportunistic individuals who are looking to capitalize on a little ‘man behind the curtain’ (so to speak). So what’s this common sense nonsense all about, anyway?

 For those of you who haven’t read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, get it, read it, and sleep with it! I can’t tell you one book that a business should live by… It’s not a bible by any means, but it has some good ole fashion common sense advise. Collins goes on to say that you have to have the right people in the right seats on the bus and get the wrong people off.

With all of this waving of fists and frothing of mouths going on about the ‘document industry’ people keep missing the one truth that a business is not four walls and a roof, it is a group of like minded and passionate individuals working as a team. File that!

What is the Sexy Enterprise?

Well, it looks like Scoble did it again. In his article ‘Why enterprise software isn’t sexy‘, Scoble sends a shot across the bow at Bill Gates, calling him out on whining about the lack of enterprise software coverage in the blogosphere. Albeit an older article, I found it compelling, so here are some thoughts…

Scoble asks:

Well, how many people in the world actually buy business software? … Instead, let’s look at the business of journalism or even of blogging. We’re paid to deliver page views. Advertisers call it “CPM” (cost per thousand viewers). Now, what’s going to get more of you interested? Consumer software that you actually have a role in adopting or purchasing or enterprise software where some CIO somewhere else in your organization decides on?

Scoble bemoans having to use SAP because some CIO in his ivory tower made a business decision and forced him to use it. Why not look at end user adoption as a key metric? Can you live by the subjective metric of customer satisfaction? Embrace this simple fact, when you really meet the needs AND wants of your customers, it becomes a game changer… it’s ultimately the greatest metric for true success (see my previous posting Are You Focused on What Your Customers Need, or What They Want?)

Scoble also asks:

Any of you have any ideas on how to make business software sexy?

Sexy? Some of the pundits are asking why make enterprise software sexy? That’s not the point… well not exactly. Maybe I’m sick in the head, but I think it’s uber-sexy to get paid well to help a business run well and keep customers (internal and external) happy!

My contention is business software doesn’t necessarily need to be sexy, but it definitely needs a PR make-over!

Are You Getting Schooled on SharePoint?

For those of you in the “copier dealer” channel (although I’m loath to use this term) you are probably wrestling with the realities of Document Management Systems (DMS). In a recent article in ImageSource titled Top 10 Industry Trends, authored by John Mancini, the President of AIIM.

In this article John outlines what he believes to be the top 10 drivers within the DMS space… Being in the business of documents, I found the article compelling.  Not surprisingly, taking the number 1 spot was the momentum SharePoint is garnering. John goes on to say:

1. The entry of Microsoft SharePoint as a serious player in the document and records infrastructure marketplace.  This is one of the most important developments in evangelizing these technologies that we have ever seen. Suppliers and consultants will debate what MOSS can do and what it can’t.  But it won’t matter; it will spread like kudzu through the end user community.

John could not be more dead on with this. With the advent of SharePoint 3.0, whether it be the enterprise or SMB offering, Microsoft has taken root in the document space. We use it daily for both an Intranet solution as well as for dashboarding and workflow. Microsoft has once again bundled a core offering into the OS; since it is free to get started, meets some entry needs for the SMB, and is extremely compatible with the predominant desktop OS and Office suites it is indeed “spread[ing] like kudzu” (John must’ve been to South Carolina recently)!

While this solution is great for “evangelizing” the DMS/CMS market, I have quickly discovered it is not a very good DMS solution. Don’t mistake the fact that it has some wonderful collaborative tools and is extremely solid in ad hoc workflow solutions. However, SharePoint offerings are not true DMS’s in and of themselves.

Education is a tough thing here because many people don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to store a document within a database, as part of the SQL table record. It took me seeing what happens when you hit your first 20,000 documents stored – or worse have a client hit 3,000,000 pages 3 years early!

The performance takes a huge hit, and backups are a nightmare simply because you are handling 1 huge file instead of incrementally dealing with each file as needed. Think about your entire customer base calling you on Monday morning demanding a service call! You’re service team would crumble.

In closing, SharePoint will give your dealership the opportunity to talk to more customers about DMS, but if you don’t get there first and have an education strategy for them – you are the one that will get schooled.

My suggestion is to partner or acquire talent that can bring SharePoint knowledge into your company. It’s a technology that has its place – so you can either learn to use it to your advantage or see how much longer selling copiers with Paperport will last…

Tomorrow we discuss the entry of “alternative” delivery systems… what does that even mean?

Are You a Farmer or a Pioneer?

A colleague of mine once told me that people in the IT field were classified as one of two personality types: a farmer or a pioneer. He went on to explain that a farmer is one who patiently plows the land reaping small rewards and taking what nature gives him or her. The pioneer, however, is out exploring the vast and undiscovered wilderness, setting trails where no one has dared travel before.

I have worked with many people over my short career in technology, and what I have found staggering is the amount of individuals in IT that are just that – individuals. Let me explain… First, they do not participate as part of the larger team – and most certainly do not ‘get’ the grander business needs. Second, their customer service focus is wholly lacking so they often resemble the computer guy off of SNL. Third, they view themselves as guard dogs, taking care of the corporate computers – which is not an dishonorable position in and of itself; but they settle for the scraps of meat thrown from the corporate table…

With all this said, a bit tongue-in-cheek, many IT professionals still do not seek out ways to decrease costs, increase revenues, and improve employee job satisfaction through advances in USABLE business technology applications and initiatives. To some extent, I can understand the mentality of protecting your little corner in the maze of corporate cubicles, but what I cannot stomach are those that have no vision or inkling of corporate strategy and how to positively impact this. Instead, they plod along picking the land dry instead of blazing a trail looking for new paths that others may follow one day.

If you are a manager, director, or C-level individual – and are not a pioneer, you may want to stand up and peek outside your door to make sure there isn’t someone younger and hungrier coming your way! Get a clue people… align yourself to your customer and add-value to what you are offering; if not you may be put out to pasture like an old mule…

Regards,

Ken