By Jonathan Merrill on
12/11/2013 10:55 PM
There are few events during the year I go and one I look forward to is Dell World. Although, I’ve not gone to every single one, I do go. To me, the event represents much more than a “sales” event, although that venue does exist. I spend time there to keep in tune with what is happening in the Dell trenches that surprise me. An opportunity to see what’s happening in the education and energy verticals, how Dell technologies are being used in those spaces and, of course, the new tech for 2014.
Today, Dell World launched today to a rocking concert kickoff featuring Camp Freddy and featured performers such as Slash from Guns and Roses, Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, and others.
Everything sounded fantastic, but unfortunately, here was my vantage point of the action:
Well… Beggars can’t be too picky…
Nevertheless, very appreciative of Santander Consumer USA allowing me to attend and I’m planning to attend some fairly strategic sessions this go, which I feel have particular relevance to our organization’s goals. My agenda is:
- Accelerating your business results with rapid deployment of SaaS and on-premise enterprise applications (using Dell tools)
- Efficiency, effectiveness, productivity: Dell Connected Security in action
- Supporting the new experience demands in the enterprise with the latest business clients (BYOD & COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled))
- It’s all about protecting the data (identity and access management)
- Dell on Dell IT best practice sharing: Redefining client management in the enterprise
- Building security, manageability, and reliability into the endpoint
Quite a bit of focus on the client-space. Frankly, the last 10 years of my career has been focused solely on servers and enterprise architecture from a hosting and servicing perspective. This year, I am focusing on a greater challenge which many organizations suffer through, an issue that still exists in healthcare as I left, and one that banking seems to be realizing is also equally difficult to maintain and control: the client end point.
Something my peers are learning quickly is you can have the best server environment, fastest servers, most robust applications, if your client experience is crap, you’ve built the proverbial house of cards.
More to come.
By Jonathan Merrill on
10/7/2013 8:11 PM
My experience with service management platforms has been wide and varied. Everything from CA’s Paradine, Remedy, SupportMagic SQL to Manage Engine’s Service Desk and even Liberum.
Ever heard of ServiceNow? Well, I must have been under a rock as this has been my first exposure to this ITSM platform. To learn more about the history, click here. The short story is if you have any experience with Remedy, this solution’s look and feel have many similarities and remind you constantly of that interface.
The last time I used Remedy was during my Citibank days and my opinion hasn’t changed much since using that solution. If you liked Remedy, you’ll certainly like ServiceNow. The biggest change is the menu’s UI, the deeper customization abilities, and the solution seemed custom tailored towards the cloud.
It’s a full service ITSM solution and the solution is deeply featured. We use the cloud based offering and am surprised to see how the solution works connected to the cloud.
Check out the demo. More to come…
By Jonathan Merrill on
9/30/2013 8:30 PM
On September 20th, I am proud to report the shooting has ceased outside our apartment complex. I am proud to see clear heads prevail with these posted signs. My faith in the City of McKinney and private land owners have been restored. \\ JMM
By Jonathan Merrill on
9/29/2013 11:11 PM
Driving home, I was flipping radio stations and came across a news story about NBC and Esquire magazine conducting a political poll. Basically, conventional theory was 40% on the right, 40% on the left, and 20% was in the middle, which constituted the battle for these centrists hearts and minds. Well, according to this new poll, it’s more 25% on the right, 25% on the left, and 50% in the middle, which doesn’t surprise me.
I take internet polls all the time and find them quite humorous as some are enlightening, some fairly accurate, and some slanted. For giggles, I took the esquire poll and although I’ve always considered myself a moderate, leaning Libertarian, but here are the results:
Wow! Baffling. I suspect this quiz has some bias in the math. Go take the quiz here. What’s your score?
“American Center” poll results can be found here. \\ JMM
By Jonathan Merrill on
9/23/2013 8:57 PM
Ah, the annual performance review. Nothing is quite like the time and effort spent. There are particular philosophies around how reviews should be done and every organization is different in some way. The most successfully, in my opinion, were the “Promise Values” review system implemented by Texas Health Resources. The worst? The 360. Probably the greatest failure from HR is the insistence of the 360 performance review system and the unanticipated consequences from the “people and culture” people implementing it. Having been through the 360 system multiple times in my career, I can’t honestly say it professionally developed anything. In fact, it hurt people more than helped. And this blog is about those experiences and how I’ve drawn that conclusion.
My exposures to the 360 Degree Performance Review was at:
- Southwestern Bell Telephone. IT was a service delivery organization and our 360 review was peer driven, but also customer driven.
- WebMD. That too was peer driven and customer driven.
- Telsource Corporation. Peer driven, but more manager of your peers. Thoughtfully, it is more like 720, as it’s the 360 of your 360.
- Texas Health Partners. Peer and customer driven. They dipped the toe in the water of 360 for two years and changed gears as HR cited lack of tangible results, instead adopting Texas Health Resources’ review system, which I lean to.
Not naming names, two of the four had implemented 360 when I arrived and still employed it’s use after I left. I can only comment that during my time there, the 360 was a perfunctory task and little was actually gained from it. I keep all my reviews and upon reflection, not much was gleaned nor did I really grow through the use of 360 during those employments. Again, just going through the motions. And is that a good thing?
Do No Harm
The other two organizations use of the 360 is the meat of my argument. One more worse than the other. Instead of going into details, I’d like to cite an article from Kris Dunn, an HR blogger, who summed it up best on his post on October 8, 2012:
The bottom line, which you know, is this: If the 360 process drives performance ratings, etc., it can quickly turn into a cloak and dagger type process where everyone knows what is at stake, which can make a couple of things happen:
--People can come out with the daggers and hurt people they don't like personally, or
--People will avoid giving real feedback to those with developmental opportunities that they like personally because they don't want to hurt them.
Either way, by using 360 data in performance reviews, the process is DOA in my eyes. Same goes for using it for input into salary increases.
To expand on Kris’ argument, people came out with daggers they not only didn’t like personally, but didn’t get the service they feel they should have gotten professionally, then subsequently slam you on the 360. One particular company’s use of the 360 was weaponized when politics entered the process during the review. And that mess took a life of it’s own where people were routinely thrown under the bus in 360 for the most minor infractions. HR unintentionally gave weapons to children, tried to fix it the following year, but inevitably changed a culture for the worse causing people to leave, dis-incentivizing people, and massively grew distrust in the leadership.
My colleagues and peers would share their 360 pain and suffering, all while HR tried to put a positive spin on it at several junctions: “It’s feedback folks, please take it that way!” “Instead of being mad, work on your service delivery… focus on your customer!”, or the best one, “Don’t complain to HR, do your job and you’ll not have these negative marks!”. Wow.
According to Wikipedia, “2001 study found that 360-degree feedback was associated with a 10.6 percent decrease in market value, and concludes that "there is no data showing that [360-degree feedback] actually improves productivity, increases retention, decreases grievances, or is superior to forced ranking and standard performance appraisal systems." (Pfau & Kay, 2002)
If not 360, then what?
I read quite a few HR blogs, especially on performance evaluation, employee engagement, managing people effectively, and motivation tactics.
The concept I find that hold most merit is the reviews that are success determined job description based with goal success/fail review, performed quarterly, with an annual summarization, tied to bonus compensation. In my opinion, the most successful. Two tips here:
- Job Descriptions based on performance duties, responsibilities, and education requirements. Non-quantifiable.
- Goals based on measurements and benchmarks. Meets or exceeds. Showing growth. Quantifiable.
The other concept that is growing merit is no review at all. Let me cite another quote:
My opinion: annual performance reviews are hammers looking for nails to pound, and hurting employee engagement, productivity and health in the process. If you have any say in the matter, please throw out your performance review process. - Kent Blumberg
“Critics argue that performance reviews not only don't accomplish what they're supposed to do - that is, improve performance, enhance employee skills and achieve planned outcomes - they have unintended negative consequences. In many cases, unfortunately, that's true. But it doesn't have to be that way. What companies need to abolish is not performance review itself, but the idea that it's a “management tool.” - Milan Moravec, August 19, 2010 at 05:39 PM
“We need to get away from "measuring performance" and move toward “judging effectiveness”. Judging effectiveness is an essential part of managerial leadership. It's when we try to attach numbers and measures in an well-intentioned but misguided attempt to make things "objective" that we run into a mess. We cannot calculate effectiveness. It often is a judgment call. That is part of what managers are paid to do.” - Michelle Malay Carter, February 20, 2008 at 11:27 AM
Let me end by underlining the criticality of a excellent relationship between IT and HR. I was most successful with an HR partnership. Working closely with HR has given me an amazing appreciation of these folks and, as important, exposed me to the HR concepts and practices that give perspective organizationally. I evangelize the things that work and tend to pan those that don’t. This is not an HR pan, but a cautionary tale.
By Jonathan Merrill on
9/16/2013 9:35 PM
One of the many issues Information Technology faces and often forgets is the intangible yet equally important is customer experience. As an IT professional, ask yourself these questions:
- How easy is it to get things done? Routine tasks? Internal process?
- How difficult is it to perform simple tasks? Repetitive tasks?
- How easy is it to find things? Reference information?
- Is technology enabling or just frustrating?
Most organizations focus on functional requirements and cost. Get the most bang for your buck, right? But then, how often does your user community embrace these decisions once the solution lands? I suspect you would be surprised at the answer more often than not.
Consider these points:
- A dissatisfied consumer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience. About 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC)
- Happy customers who get their issue resolved only tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience. (Source: Lee Resource Inc.)
- It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for one negative experience (Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)
- For every customer complaint, there are 26 other customers who have remained silent (Source: Lee Resource Inc )
Doesn’t apply to IT? Think about these points in the context of SharePoint, Email, Project Management, and your intranet. Are you winning hearts and minds or just treading water?
- 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% 4 years ago (Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report)
- 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with your organization again (Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report)
Many IT departments run their show like a managed services organization, especially if using ITIL practices. Are you benchmarking customer experience or just customer satisfaction? You can have a unsatisfied customer have a good customer experience and it will be a win. However, it is guaranteed that a bad customer experience never equals a satisfied customer.
Customer experience is what it should be all about. Everything from how employees log into remote access, access data, and do their day to day… if it is a poor customer experience, IT will be viewed upon as a failure.
Are you seeing more and more people push internal data to the cloud? Circumventing your IT?
- Attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an existing one (Source: Lee Resource Inc.)
Running IT is very much winning the hearts of minds of our customers as it is enabling them. Business value and automation are crucial components, but if the customer experience is not good, how much effort will it take to correct the course? Five times is typical…
This information came from an email I received a long time ago and the context was around Online Banking. However, the information is strikingly true and easily has meaning as the customer relationship central to everything we do. Other than the relationship and measuring satisfaction, how much effort goes into the customer experience? How much effort do you put into your end users experience?
By Jonathan Merrill on
9/9/2013 10:43 PM
When I took the system engineer job at Texas Health Partners 8 years ago, that was my first “healthcare” IT gig. Before then, my career was mostly telecommunications and banking. So, I always wondered how I got that job and I asked that leadership years later as I reflected on moving into management, what my positives and negatives were. The response was deep technical understanding, able to bridge technology with business problems, and track record on getting things done. They liked my enthusiasm. Most importantly, they liked people who take responsibility for everything IT and owning it. Smiles.
What they didn’t like and was on many of my initial performance improvement feedback was inflexibility. I never understood that and it took some serious mentoring from people like John Clark and Joey Sudomir to get me out of that mindset. Now I am back in banking, I am able to see where this came from and how banking sows inflexibility into the hearts and minds of IT people.
During my employment at Citibank in the mid 90s, IT focused strictly on security posture and data protection. Backup and recovery, business continuity, desktop security, network security, and auditing everything in between. Many days were spent figuring out how to lock things down, denying access, arcane and complex access permissions, and absolute control. Mark Devine was San Antonio CEO for Citibank and routinely told people that if IT visited your desk, you got up! He doesn’t pay IT to stand around. And if the answer is no, then it’s no. Get over it. IT engineers really liked Mark Devine.
I saw this attitude again when I moved on to Southwestern Bell Telephone, which became SBC Communications (pre-AT&T). An entire team dedicated to workstation security and control. In hindsight, they actually did some amazing automation with scripting that puts Microsoft’s roaming profiles to shame, but nothing on SBC’s network was easily accessible and employees were often frustrated. One sales manager came up to me and complained, “You people in IT intentionally make it awful just to protect your jobs. We can’t do anything! Shame on you!”
There was an article written I HISTALK on May 3, 2013 about the differences between Corporate IT and Healthcare IT that also apply. Although the author complains about the inadequacies of healthcare IT and the politics involved between physicians and IT, I can attest those same issues apply no matter where you really go. But I do agree with the author there are some stark differences. Here is my opinion based on my experience (miles may vary):
|- Deep network security paranoia. Multiple layers of firewalls, multiple ACLs, IDS, IPS, tight control of VPN access. Routine logging and reporting. Routine auditing. Paranoia exists equally on the inside of the network as outside. Ease of access nonexistent. ||- Reactive network security posture. Edge firewalls, Edge IDS/IPS on the edge, broad VPN access for employees, physicians, and vendors, Logging and reporting. Routine auditing. Less paranoia inside than outside. Ease of access a major emphasis. |
|- Deep end user device security paranoia. Locked down workstations, USB turned off, uninstalling unapproved applications, restricting rights, loading software discouraged, even prohibited. All apps must go through testing before pushed to users. ||- Growing end user device paranoia. Most clinical workstations are locked down, but most clinical software doesn’t work in lock down states. USB turned on and used by physicians. Clinical staff and physicians install apps sometimes at vendors behest. |
|- IT Security groups watch and reporting everything, cultivating a paranoia culture. Try but struggle with partnerships with other IT groups. Governance complicate matters instead of promoting quality. Very short windows often imposed. Complexities implemented because InfoSec or an auditor said so… ||- IT Security groups watch and report, but work with groups on access requirements. Work towards hitting security goals instead of unrealistic deadlines. Often recommend security postures, not enforce CIA or NSA postures. HIPPA and High Tech Act is usually understood by all in IT leadership. Emphasis on recommend. |
|- Paranoia around NPPI. A culture of identification and accountability so actions touching the data are audit able. No exceptions. All banks know the deal and comply. ||- Heightened awareness around EMR and patient information. Especially printing patient information. Audit and accountability are new to HIS systems. The smaller and rural the healthcare entity is, the less concerned about HIPPA and patient privacy exists. |
I paint a broad brush on some of these, but I hope you get the point. Although not all healthcare is this way, a good number is. But, in my experience, all banking is that way and flexibility is not a word you often hear in people’s vocabulary. Banking could absolutely learn from healthcare about being flexible. IT spends way too much time focusing on security posture and making the business work around the lock downs than implementing some security best practices with emphasis on the human firewall elements.
For example, Healthcare is pushing BYOD because physicians want it. Healthcare IT is pushing BYOD forward. Banking looking at BYOD? Not on your life. And you can bet if banking ever does see BYOD, it won’t be new employees bringing their laptops in from home because the corporate standard doesn’t work for them.
Is NPPI more important than EMR? I say no. But I can say banks have had it much harder than hospitals have. But that is for another blog… \\ JMM
By Jonathan Merrill on
9/2/2013 5:45 PM
My kids were staying the night and we woke to gunfire outside our apartment complex. Not a single shot, but multiple shots reminiscent of a gun battle. I thought I was in Afghanistan. Alarmed, I looked outside and saw men with guns shooting at the local bird game. Shockingly enough, right outside the apartment complex, tucked in a section of McKinney surrounded by residential neighborhoods.
This can’t be right, so a phone call to McKinney police department yielded a more shocking result: City law allows hunters to hunt on land minimum 10 acres, no matter what’s around it. Doesn’t matter if the gunfire wakes you up at 6:30am in the morning. Doesn’t matter that they are firing weapons in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Doesn’t matter the potential safety risk to children and adults as they walk their dogs within yards of the gunfire. Police acknowledge the concern but report there is nothing can be done. It’s legal.
I’ve been a proud Texan for most of my adult life and am pro-gun, pro-hunters rights, anti-law sprawl, and anti-gun control. Sunday morning, September 1st, I was embarrassed that something like this could happen in our country and ashamed to be a Texan. This brazen lack of common sense demonstrates a negligence of monumental proportion on behalf of the City of McKinney leadership. Clearly, only when someone gets hurt will the city be compelled into action.
There are so many places to hunt in Texas. Does it have to be right outside my window?
UPDATE: Monday, Sept 2 @ 6:45PM - CBS news is running a story tonight about this specific incident. You can watch it here: Homeowners Vs. Hunters In McKinney « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
By Jonathan Merrill on
7/26/2013 5:01 PM
This tool simplifies keeping up-to-date with vulnerabilities in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD, formerly ICAT) or Secunia databases. Instead of going to these sites every day and repeating your searches, Cassandra does the work for you (even twice a day for Secunia). It works by saving lists of products, vendors and keywords into "profiles". Whenever new information is available, Cassandra can notify you by email. You can create as many profiles as you want, for networks, typical installs, important hosts, or simply areas of interest to you. The important thing is that you should get emails only for things that are relevant to you, so you don't have to scan every message on various mailing lists.
Wow! Check it out!
By Jonathan Merrill on
7/19/2013 9:29 AM
My story with TechNet started when I joined Citibank, one of my first “real” IT jobs. My time on the help desk answering technical support calls and participating in a brotherhood of knowledge sharing, technical discovery, and the goal of Microsoft certification.
Everyone started on the help desk and sharing books, setting up labs, and learning software was always the prevalent topic of discussion. Getting resources was tough and usually involved snagging books or OEM software licenses after sever or application installs. The need for training reached an apex and Citibank IT leadership responded by generously giving IT staff many opportunities for grow. Access to CBT (Computer Based Training), allowing IT staff to expense technical and certification books, and bringing in vendors to train on various technologies specific to the bank.
But, TechNet came into view when Citibank contracted a Microsoft trainer by the name of Scott Terry. A youthful black gentlemen who spoke eloquently and genuinely excited us about Microsoft products. Scott was brought in to try to train up the mainframe people on Microsoft server technologies but ended up sitting on the help desk working with us. Not to let any opportunity pass, we grilled Scott on everything from NT 3.51, Exchange, SQL Server, to desktop and application deployment.
The conversation started out fairly typical. Complaining of some sort about getting equipment or software. And then just like that, Scott told us, “You guys don’t have TechNet?” Uh, TechNet? What’s that? And that was it. You mean I can get all that software for $250 bucks? Sign me up!
TechNet has been a part of my standard IT library since entering into information technology. I still have Windows 3.1, NT 3.51, through Windows XP and all the various back office applications. I’ve used that software for labs, for my home network, and even testing proof of concepts before going out on consulting gigs.
TechNet has always been for IT technicians. I’ve evangelized the merits of TechNet, publicized TechNet magazine, asked IT professionals to show appreciation by pushing organizations towards legitimate Microsoft licensing, like Select or Enterprise, and attain certifications which demonstrate mastery of these products. IT teams that actively use TechNet and consistently pursue certifications typically perform higher than not.
I am disturbed by Microsoft’s elimination of a very successful program that brings IT technical people closer to mastering these products. MSDN is not designed for that purpose, it’s cost counter-productive, and I seriously doubt it has financial or fraud roots. Microsoft is seriously hurting the very people that has helped them rise to prominence. In today’s climate where Microsoft market and technology leadership share is diminishing, the war for hearts and minds is more important than ever.
Shame on you, Microsoft!
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