Unsecured Wireless

September 8, 2010

Like most office buildings, ours has a small custodial office located in a mechanical room off of the ground floor.

A few days ago I was having a brief chat with a building heating / ventilation contractor and commented that I have been seeing him here a lot – and that I hoped that there was nothing major that was wrong with the building!

His response?

He told me that the unsecured wireless network that someone in this building has was great for him to check his email.

The SMB Takeaway

If you have any wireless access points in your facility, and they are unsecured, it may not just be the HVAC repair guy that is accessing your network

Unsecured Wireless

Photo Credit verdammtescheissenochma via flickr

How Can I Plan?

August 24, 2010

If you aren’t telling me what your plans are?

My research, and my recommendations have to be based on what your strategic goals and tactical plans are.

If you are the CFO / CEO of a small to medium business and you are responsible for IT, yet in my IT leadership role I have no clue what your thinking?

Then I can’t support those tactics or plans can I?

Would I research and recommend an IT infrastructure upgrade if you have already decided that you have outgrown our facility and are planning to move?

Would I recommend deferring a particular expense if your strategic plan contains a new revenue generation activity where that cost would actually be an investment to get you there?

A simplistic example

If your primary revenue strategy is moving boxes by the truckload off a loading dock, fancy IT tools may be just an expense.

But if your strategy is changing to become the go-to business that gets every box off of that dock and into the right customers hands in the least amount of time – those fancy IT tools may become a critical investment.

The SMB Takeaway

IT investment needs to support your business goals and your operational strategies.

If your IT team has no clue what these are – you are not going to get the IT support you should be receiving.

If you disagree? tell me why!

Book Review: ReWork

August 5, 2010

I recently read ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals.ReWork

(published by Crown Books ISBN 9781407062853)

Let me say it; A must read for every entrepreneur and SME business manager! I say that because to effectively cover this book – I would have to rewrite it all here word for word!

Rather than being written as a lecture or treatise, each chapter is a loose federation of points, with each point dedicated to one thought, and each thought is a only a couple of pages.

Some of these lessons you have heard before, for example, on Competitors; Who cares what they are doing?

But under Promotion; Out teach your competition is one example of brilliance. Or on Progress; Throw less at the problem

You may not agree with every point. But if you have to defend your argument – you win both ways.

Tell you what – I am going to build you a new house!

Now, we are all human, when I say that phrase I am confident that one of the following visions crossed your mind;

a) You saw your current place, the one you have,  it is already perfect – just the way it is now.

b) the dream house you would love to have, that perfect idea of the future

c) or possibly, that worst one you ever had – the place you don’t want to go back to.

With no further information than;  I am going to build you a new house! we fill in our own desires, we fill in our own perceptions and expectations.

Now the twist

I am not going to tell you where this house is, I am not going to tell you what it will look like, and I most definitely will not tell you what it will cost you!

(But I promise to let you see it when I finish!)

Does that sound just a little strange to you?

Unless this is a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, I don’t think most of us would be to keen on that idea.

Think about it!

No idea what the end result will be.

No idea what it will cost you.

And no idea if it even meets your needs!

Yet in business IT we do this all the time!

Michael Krigsman writing at ZDNet has this article titled; IT failure and collaboration: Ten big symptoms
Now look at this quote;

More simply, many projects fail because participants and stakeholders are not on the same page regarding shared goals and expectations.

Now Mr. Krigsman writes for the larger enterprise, but let me tell you bluntly, in the small to mid-market business we are often worse at building our IT houses than larger enterprises.

Most larger enterprises do have methodologies, processes and various governance procedures that try to remove this mismatch in communications and expectations.

And I fully grant that these methodologies may be broken, they may need improvements, and they may need better execution, but they exist.

In the SME, we often do not even have the basics. These methodologies and processes and governance structures don’t exist.In fact in many small to mid-market businesses, there is not even a formalized project management structure.

An Example

I spoke to the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of a SME who was implementing a particular enterprise software package (ERP)

That was it!

No questions or answers on whether this IT house was a 6 bedroom McMansion, when all they needed was a 3 bedroom bungalow

No questions or answers on whether this IT house was rural, urban or inner city.

You get the idea.

From this point forward, the IT leadership will be carrying the ball to implement something that I will bet you a paycheck that no one will be happy with.

I say no one, because each officer in that company is going to have an their own internal perception and expectations;

a) that this is going to work for them, their way, (their dream house) or

b) that it won’t work at all – my house is fine the way it is (yes expectations can be negative)

When there is no discussion on the requirements and expectations, the only data that we as humans can mentally process is what fits our experience and knowledge.

If you have not set the requirements and expectations, and set those expectations clearly – any technology investment is little better than a crap shoot.

Because with no further frame of reference, we all will fill in the blanks with our own perceptions, with our own expectations.

Just like my house example, if 100 people see this post, there will probably be close to 100 different internal perceptions and expectations on what that house would be.

So what do you think my odds of meeting those 100 different expectations?

Your IT won’t be any different.

Oh yes, here is your house – did it match your expectations?

Manage Expectations

Photo Credit Aaron Landry via flickr

In many businesses, the importance of IT, just like that of your plumbing, can only be truly appreciated when it stops working.

However, in most cases there were signs that failure is just around the corner.

You miss these warnings when you do not take a holistic view of your IT services.

All the time.

Not just when something has broken and people’s work grinds to a halt.

Broken Plumbing

Photo Credit TumbleCow_old via flickr

This article at CIOZone titled; The Enemy Is Complexity is geared at larger enterprises, but complexity is too frequent in the small to mid market as well.

The almost certain culprit is complexity,” says Sessions. “Complexity seems to track nicely to system failure. The more complex a system is, the harder and more costly it is to work on that system.

The SMB Takeaway

In the small to medium enterprise, IT assets such as servers and software seem to multiply like rabbits. They are often purchased for one particular job or solution, and no one checks to see if the new purchase is either necessary, or possibly even duplicating existing IT assets.

Either way – things cost more operationally, and are more likely to break.

OK, it does not need to be a bar, it could also be a grocer, hardware store or gasoline station.

But whatever the location, you hear somebody viciously complain about shitty service,  lousy support or useless sales reps in your business.

You are completely shocked.

What do you do?

One obvious option is to make sure your security badge is off, and to turn the marketing brochure you are carrying upside down so they can’t see that you work for that firm and then sneak out.

If that is your choice, thanks for visiting, I wish you all the best.

If your choice was to immediately state; I couldn’t help overhearing you, my sincerest apologies about your incident, can you tell me what happened so we can resolve your issue?

Then you can look at this next stage.

As an executive in a small to medium business, you may not have consciously thought about it, but what you are doing is a person to person, one to one conversation about something that happened with your business.

You also know that if you can rectify the situation, that disgruntled person will tell at least two  friends how great it was – a word of mouth recommendation has started.

So where am I going with this?

I challenge you to turn on the television, read a paper, or flip through a magazine; And then tell me that you did not hear or read the terms social media, or social marketing. You have heard about them; Twitter, Facebook, blogs, you name it.

It seems to be the biggest buzzwords of our business generation.

As an executive, you are rightly wondering what benefit can be had, or maybe wondering if you should you bother, or perhaps just what the hell all the hype is about.

There are many people smarter that me that can tell you about actively working with these new tools, since I am not an expert, I will leave that to  them.

But consider passively listening to them.

Why?

For the same reason you spoke up in that situation I mentioned above.

In my example, you heard that conversation because you happened to be standing there. But I guarantee that those types of conversations are happening in other places too, you just aren’t standing there to hear them.

Did you know that a popular figure in your region wrote your company sucks! on his blog, his face book page and twitter?

The effect could be like Consumer Reports trumpeting don’t buy this product, or the popular restaurant guide saying don’t eat here.

Before you think those are to unlikely to happen, lets look at this little blog of mine. I don’t get the millions of people visiting that some of the big name writers do. But I do write for one particular niche, as it says in the header, about tech for non-tech manager in the small to medium business.

Even though this is no A list blog, It still gets a little less than 2000 people per month visiting its virtual digital doorway.

So what if I bitch about your product?

And what if only one of those 2000 people per month were negatively influenced about your product or service?

The SMB Takeaway

There are a myriad of tools from freebies like Google alerts to monitoring services.

Before you write off these new social tools, consider at least listening to what people are saying about you

Think about it.

Monitor The Conversation

Photo Credit leafar via flickr