One of Canada’s largest telco companies and ISP’s is our old Ma Bell, Bell Canada.

If you use Bell as your ISP, the default domain created for e-mail is email_address@bellnet.ca

In fact many smaller businesses simply have their e-mail address as; MyBusinesessName@BellNet.ca

(I don’t recommend doing that – but that is a different story)

E-Mail Failure For Non-Techies!

If you send me an e-mail, there are dozens of areas that can cause problems and that would cause your e-mail to fail.The issues can begin at your personal computer, through problems with your ISP, (Internet Service Provider) to problems with the routing from your ISP to my ISP, and down to problems at my email server.

So failure of e-mail can generate a few things that technologists need to check out!

The Story

Quite simply, a micro business that we deal with was not able to e-mail us. Every e-mail they tried to send just disappeared into the wild Internet. And as I mentioned above, this micro business has a simple e-mail address of Business_Name@BellNet.ca

As our technology support provider – I had to figure out; why was this e-mail failing?

My first step to was test and to check a few things at my end – all looked normal.

The next step?

As I mentioned above -there are a lot of places where e-mail can break.

So my next logical question was this;

Is this problem limited to this one email address? Or is the problem more general with all BellNet.ca addresses?

I did not have this answer, so I called BellNet support and asked them to send me an e-mail!

The logic is easy – if some Tech_Support_Name@BellNet.ca can successfully send me an e-mail, I know the problem is not in the deep technical server to server stuff,  the problem our business friend was having would be specific to some configuration problem at their end.

BellNet Support Would Not Send An E-Mail!

Seriously!

Twenty five minutes on the phone – trying to help one of their customers – and they would not send me one lousy e-mail???

They said it was because I am not a BellNet customer.

I asked if they cared that one of their customers could not send an e-mail – they told me no.

The 5 seconds it would take to send me a test e-mail, vs forcing that non-technical customer to contact them to go through the arcane DNS & MX testing required is absolutely a customer service failure.

Rant is now over.

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B2B And Technology Literacy

December 30, 2009

A great article discussing Technology Literacy and Change at IT In Canada

Sure, maybe your business is geared only towards the digerati, think friendfeed and foursquare.

But if your business is like mine, you are not just dealing with technology literacy at an advanced level. In fact, depending on your product or service you could be dealing with technology literacy levels that go from excellent, to slim, to none.

Over a decade ago, Forrester Research coined the term technographics to describe this concept.

On the technology side, when I hear technology staff make comments such as; Change the page file size, bounce it, the prob should go away

I want to strangle somebody.

And not the poor individual at the receiving end of that gobbledygook

But it is not just a tech issue, it is a business issue

If I had a dollar (or Euro, Pound, Yen, Peso, RMB etc) for each time that I have seen well meaning marketing information slapped on a Web Page that sounds just like that same gibberish, well, I could probably retire.

And multiply that by a thousand if you are in a service business that deals with technology in any way, shape or form

If the content you are publishing requires your readers to keep a thesaurus and dictionary near by, plus require they have a degree in engineering – then yer doin’ it wrong.

“Change management…. Those two words make about as much sense together as ‘holy war,’ ‘non-working mother,’ ‘mandatory option,’ and ‘political principles.’”  Jim Clemmer, author, “Growing @ the Speed of Change”

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ITIL,SaaS, And Blood Red

December 29, 2009

Confession, When I read the post I reference below, the title reminded me of a tune by a fave band of mine, the BoDeans, So I stole the title for this post from a song of theirs titled; Black, White and Blood Red.

Anyway, I have written before that ITIL is a framework of best practices, it is not a follow the dots prescription that every business can use to do things the same way.

As a rough analogy, a recipe presents you with each ingredient, their order of mixing and a required temperature that will provide a consistent result for everybody that uses it. Whereas the ITIL processes present a recommended end state, with some guidance on methods that can help achieve it, but like a football game, the individual plays can be different for each business.

In this post titled SaaS and ITSM – a Marriage Made in Acronym Heaven? Stephen Mann takes a fairly deep look at some research on the delivery of IT Service Management (ITSM) via Software as a Service (SaaS) rather than on premise tool sets.

Note that if you are just getting your feet wet improving ITSM, Mr. Mann’s post is pretty high level. However he presents one good lesson I never thought of, that lesson is that since every business may have a different ITIL path that they are following, care has to be taken when choosing tool sets that the tool can fit your internal processes. As Mr. Mann states;

In Butler Group’s opinion, a SaaS solution must be architected such that the customer is able to self-customise its ‘application instance’ (to reflect in-house processes)

This is a good thing to watch for as beginning a journey towards improving ITSM is hard enough working on improving your own processes, without adding the complexity of being forced into someone elses process models.

UPDATE: Christopher Dancy pointed to a much more in depth look at SaaS & ITIL here; http://www.servicesphere.com/blog/2009/6/4/saas-30-and-itsm-match-made-in-heaven.html

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How Complex Systems Fail

December 24, 2009

Rob England pointed out this phenomenal 1998 paper by R.I. Cook at the Cognitive Technology Laboratory with the same title as this post.

I have written before that IT systems are inherently complex.

And this complexity?

Well as Dr. Cook states;

This is where system performance tends to deteriorate, becomes difficult to predict, or cannot readily be recovered

The paper referenced above is not about IT – it is written about any complex system (ie power generation)

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Our business has a software development team that also works with graphics, and various other multi-media.

As their computers were getting old, we have plans to acquire newer workstation hardware that is a better fit for the graphical work that they do.

Of course – that forced me to look at the lowly computer monitor too.

Ahh the good old days!

When choosing among monitors was hard! – 14 inch? 15 inch? and later on, Wow! 17 inch monsters! Which do I choose??

How easy it was! – But now?

We have Acronym nightmares of TN, MVA, PVA & IPS

yee gads! then;

DVI, DVI-I, DVI-D , HDM –

Matte vs glossy – contrast 1000:1? or 50000:1?

The list seems to go on…..

Ahhh the old days!

Photo Credit Rubén Marcos via flickr

Denise Wakeman at Build A Better Blog

* 71% have greater visibility in their industry
* 63% said clients have purchased products and services
* 56% say their company is now regarded as a thought leader
* 40% asked to speak at conferences

‘Nuff said

The SMB Takeaway

Go read that link!

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A post on the Orangecoat blog titled; “COMING SOON”, THE NEW “UNDER CONSTRUCTION” reminded me of a serious pet peeve of mine.

Under ConstructionYes that.

When those images and words are sitting on your Web Site home page for years – you have a problem.

There may be a myriad of reasons that you have it there, ranging anywhere from laziness, stubbornness, denial, incompetence or forgetfulness. None of which are good.

True Story

The Orangecoat post reminded me of a business that I had seen with an Under Construction label on their Web Site over 18 months ago. So I did the logical thing, and decided that I wanted to see if the Web Site had actually been promoted to a real, working, 24 x 7 marketing Web Site, or if it was still Under Construction.

I have to side track for a minute!

Now this business has a fairly long name, and their Web Site domain is one of those where they took the first letter of each word to make up the name. Sure that can be a good solution if you are a household name like International Business Machines (IBM)

But for most of us – we aren’t going to be able remember where your Web Site is when it is a pretty random string of letters. We are probably going to have to search for it using a Search Engine.

Well, since I could not remember that businesses Web Address I used Google to search for it – And,,, Ummm – I could not find it.

Since I also used a city name to narrow the search results, what I did find was a local business directory that mentioned that business & had a link to their Web Site.

But, back to my story

I am sure you are getting the idea -when a direct search for your company name does not show up when I search for you???

And yes – 18 Months later the Web Site is still Under Construction!

That is a pure business failure.

Should Under Construction, or Coming Soon ever be used?

Very very rarely.

Sure – one example could be a new Web Site or Web Page for a new product or service that you are keeping hidden until the end of the month when the marketing push hits. But you have a very finite date on that.

The SMB Takeaway

There is no excuse for having Under Construction for 18 plus months on your Web Site.

In this digital day and age, your Web Site is a critical communication tool. Build it.

Maybe you won’t be happy with your  initial, Day 1 content. But do it. Iterate and improve as you have the time and money.

But don’t just leave it Under  Construction – or Coming Soon

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