August 18, 2012 1:09 PM
Posted by: James Murray
In the last blog post I shared a brief description and order of operations for the various Lync layers that I share with my Seattle IT Consulting clients. In this article I wanted to discuss at a high level the various systems that might be loaded in each layer. Continued »
August 18, 2012 1:04 PM
Posted by: James Murray
, Network Architecture
There are a lot of difficulties building the latest multi-tenant version of Lync. Continued »
August 7, 2012 10:57 PM
Posted by: James Murray
The cool thing about online marketing strategy, is that once you build the first layer, there’s always a new layer of complexity we can add. Once the first strategy is working we can turbo charge the strategy by adding a social networking strategy, an online community strategy and SEO strategy. I walked into a potential partners office. I was very intrigued because everyone in the office (about 20 or more representatives) took my business card but never followed up. That makes me suspect that there is not a strong social strategy in the company…yet. So I proposed a plan to turbo-charge their online marketing.
First By leveraging their skills we can have them writing 2 blog articles a week and develop a backlink strategy that could leverage the knowledge and expertise of each client employee.
Second Blog articles can were designed to feature various clients.
Often clients are so moved by seeing an online article about themselves that they are more open to a meeting. If we leverage the power of the group, we can feature clients across the internet.
Third Becoming active in the online communities. Each of my clients employees were experts so rather than spending their time focused on cold calls, they went into the online communities. This is where potential clients are involved in newsgroups and social media communities researching the subjects the staff are experts in. It’s amazing there are communities in every subject. Yet only the most savvy understand.
By becoming involve in online communities each staff members becomes better and better known. Potential customers in the community say, hmmm… who is this person and flow back to a website. Now the full vision of the organizations message is shared. If it syncs, the business has a sale.
Really it’s about networking. Yet it’s not about going to meetings and exchanging business cards… then throwing away all those business cards. This is probably a little different than the typical networking strategy discussion. Instead this is a virtual networking strategy. You don’t have to dress up, spend money on gas… only to meet dozens of other salespeople looking for clients to sell.
In today’s information rich environment it’s easy to disappear. If we consider how online users would naturally find you. I’m not talking about through a search engine. Users first are looking for communities of people that have been through what they are going through. Like a cocktail party, these social communities share locations for non-branded information. This information is about what you need to know before talking to a branded sales site. Once the user understands what they are buying, now they go to the branded sites their new online friends pointed. In turbocharging your online strategy you want to be everywhere helping point the way to your branded site. Not like a sales person with an agenda, but rather by becoming a trusted advisor.
August 7, 2012 10:56 PM
Posted by: James Murray
I’ve found that with most IT experts social networking and other online marketing strategies are un-interesting. Most Seattle IT consultants focus on network infrastructure or software development. Social networking is a bit of a mystery for most of my peers. I wonder if that’s because most of my peers (including myself) are more comfortable with ideas and machines rather than people. Yet if you want to avoid lots of cold calling there does seem to be something there. I find thought that most C-Level managers have a hard time strategizing around social networking. I was speaking with a client and this was an attempt on my part. This is part of an email I wrote summarizing some of the concepts and strategies around the various online social marketing strategies…
“…I would not be a valuable resource in this area. There are other ways though that I can help you and Andy. In just the last few weeks I’ve been able to give referrals to business loan brokers, business brokers; language translation, Strategic marketing experts, Tactical Marketing experts, management consultants, as well as developing 7 technical projects that I brought five technical partners with formalize alliance partnership agreements.
Donna. What I’m doing for her is what I call “Value Add”. I am not a huge connector of people, but most business owners are looking for the information and advice that I can share. So she will sponsor my presentation, (the cost is free) and I give an educational seminar. Donna looks good to her clients. They know it’s not all about the sale, but rather the relationship. By being at my presentation, they receive an education “Value Add” that they could have gotten no other way. They also know that there will be no sales pitch.
I’ll capture customer information, by having attendees register on a “landing page”. (Landing Page – A website where customer information is captured for follow-up.) During the registration process potential customers indicate their interest by checking boxes on the form. The result is that the sponsor will get a list of business owners who have indicated their interest in the sponsor’s product. I’ll also offer a follow-up offering during the presentation. This free offer will be available afterwards, again by registering on the landing page.
So what I was talking about was a lead generation strategy where I (or someone) provides educational content to the same types of target customers a sponsor is interested in meeting. The customer registers on a landing page and self-filters based on their interest in your product and/or services. The educational event could be me one new expert each month This gives the sponsor a regular excuse to contact and re-contact target customers.
We know that only 15% of customers contacted are ready to buy the sponsors product at any moment. 25% could be convince and another 35% don’t realize they need the sponsor’s product, but actually do. By maintaining the relationship through a digital tickler system ( CRM) the sponsor is top of mind when the customer is finally ready to buy. Instead of constantly closing on customers, you are busily connecting businesses to each other until they actually begin asking you for your services.”
Each year modern networks and information changes and grows. The more it grows, the more difficult it is to know everything. Understanding this area of online marketing is becoming a whole specialty. I notice that the best experts have much stronger people skills. So if you are an IT expert with a client who needs an online marketing strategy… have them read this article for a little more understanding.
August 3, 2012 7:08 PM
Posted by: James Murray
The Problem: how to lead technology when you know nothing about technology.
The Solution: is the same solution when leading any other department. When you are the CEO, how do you lead accounting, marketing, sales or any other group without being an expert in each business system. If you can lead the other departments in the organization you can lead an IT group as well.
I wrote a thesis for me bachelor’s degree. In that thesis I asked the question, “What are the characteristics of a good CIO?”
Should the CIO be 100% technical or 100% business or something in between? I researched and confirmed my research through interviews with technical leaders in several large organizations. The consensus was that a good strategic leader needs to be no more than 10% technical and at least 90% business. What I learned was that managing an IT department is the same as managing any other department.
Leadership starts with
- The business Vision
- The business Strategy
- The organizational Goals
Tactics can only be successful planned after the strategic pieces of the plan are created.
Technology is not a strategic department.
A successful IT department manages the day to day technical functions that keep the technology running. With few exceptions in very large organizations, IT department staffs are not focused on strategic initiatives. When surveyed most IT staff don’t even know the products the company provides to its customers. Yet in both small and medium size businesses it’s not uncommon for an owner to ask a vendor for strategic advice about the organization.
One of the first mistakes a business owner can make is building the technology first. Then based on the technology design a strategy.
The first lesson for any organization to learn is that Technology departments and Technology service providers are providing tactical solutions, not strategic. Even when described as a Strategic solution, most of the time, the solution is tactical. Why does this matter?
When you are listening to any person in any department and they begin talking gibberish, you know they are faking it. True professionals don’t need technical jargon to explain the strategy of what they are doing. We don’t put up with it in other departments, don’t put up with it in the IT department either. Always ask, “…how does this support the business vision, strategy and/or goals?” If this can’t be explained… don’t do it. If you are the one doing it, stop. Technical jargon takes away your credibility as an IT professional. If you see a Seattle IT Consultant like me walking around know that it’s because you don’t have enough credibility of your own. Someone feels they need to consultant to translate what you are saying.
August 3, 2012 7:00 PM
Posted by: James Murray
If you’ve been reading my blogs you know that I am a big proponent of IT Leadership culture. I was with a client who was surprised to learn that there was an IT Leadership culture. As a Seattle IT Consultant I find that even in Microsoft’s backyard, most business owners. We all hear stories about internet billionaires and assume that the technology was enough. If you meet one of these billionaires what you find is that there’s more than just an understanding of technology. There is an even greater understanding of how to delegate.
One of the first pitfalls a business owner faces is delegation. Many business owners become stuck over the concept of delegation. Every successful business grows to it’s maximum capacity. Every business owner has a limited capacity. We each only have 24 hours in a day. The entrepreneur’s day is spent wearing many hats. Once the business has grown, the entrepreneur has to learn to step away and hand of almost every hat to someone else.
The entrepreneur goes through what I call a feast or famine business cycle. Either the owner is selling the business or the owner is serving clients. Often one activity is done at the expense of the other. Some entrepreneurs never leave this feast or famine business cycle. What stops most entrepreneurs is not a control issue. It makes sense when we say to the entrepreneur delegate your problems to someone else. The problem for the entrepreneur is how does the entrepreneur know make sure that the business is run as the entrepreneur expects?
Only 5% of businesses break a million dollars in sales. The trick to breaking a million dollars in sales isn’t the sales. The trick is stepping away from being an entrepreneur and wearing every hat and stepping into the role of being the leader of the organization. In order to become the leader, the entrepreneur must build a leadership culture. The leadership culture are the leadership rules that the align people within the organization on a single focused goal.
The entrepreneur teaches the leadership of the organization the leadership culture. In the process each leader learns how to think like the entrepreneur. In thinking like the entrepreneur the decisions made by any leader in the organization are the same decisions the entrepreneur would have made themself. The leader’s job changes from entrepreneur and gradually the entrepreneurial role morphs into the owner of the organizations leadership culture.
When leaders look to the owner for leadership, they are trying to understand how to align their thinking with the owners. By the way if you want to explore this some more, I’ll be presenting a workshop on the subject for the Puget Sound business Journal. Sign up here
August 3, 2012 6:51 PM
Posted by: James Murray
Once again I walked into a future Seattle IT Consulting client and found myself in a difficult situation. Why is it that management is all about plans? Marketing plans, financial plans, strategic plans, tactical plans. There seems to be plans for every department. Yet, how often does management even think about the technology. The extent of the planning is the question,
“Can you do this? If you can, can you do it for free?”
As IT experts we say yes and shoot ourselves in the foot. Not because we lose out on income, but because the company ends up being stuck running down a technology dead end. Managing IT or any other business system is about planning for failure. Nobody walks across town, across the country or up the highest mountain without a plan. Strong managerial planning anticipates failure. Knowing that there will be failures in the system, let’s take a look at IT failure causes.
Statistically we find that,
- · 30% of IT failure is caused by hardware or software
- · 70% of IT failure is cause by human error
One of the reasons Human error is such a factor is because the failure warnings occur months before a catastrophic failure. When I walk onsite, I check the log files on the systems to identify the failures that have been going on. Then I address the failures long before they become noticeable to the users on the network.
It turns out that on any server there are errors. Some errors are known and others are unknown. Most of these errors are very minor. By themselves the errors have very little effect on how the system runs. Many errors can run for years without showing any noticeable effects on workplace.
I have found 7 errors in the magic number
I’ve been working on servers for 21 years and I’ve found that 7 errors that by themselves would have no effect on the system, can take down a server. System Administrators who ignore these errors are the human error that make up 70% (or more) of network errors. Ignoring errors is the first step that leads to becoming an IT hostage.
When the system finally does fail, that’s when you look to the IT Department for leadership to solve the problem. Unless the leadership within the IT department is aligned with the leadership culture of the organization, the strategic direction of the company becomes redirected. Over the years this re-direction affects whether the company ends up where the CEO and the board are expecting the company to end up.
It’s our job as IT experts to build in accountability. That accountability shouldn’t be to just ourselves, but to management as well. IT is the most easily monitored business system. Yet most IT departments are run with no tools as if technology was magic. If we think it is magic, what will our customers think? We should be providing the documentation and reporting that is understandable and useful to our users and to management. Most IT Experts are afraid to show their reports to management. Why? Could it be that we are worried about the errors and don’t want management to know? Information on the internet is free. By providing free information, marketers build value in their products and sell more. We should take a lesson from these marketers and share our information with management. There may be some repercussions, but in the long run it will just make your job easier when you manager can support you.
August 3, 2012 6:37 PM
Posted by: James Murray
I’ve worked as a Seattle IT consultant for years. But I wasn’t the first in my family to be in cutting edge technologies. When I was 8 years old, my father was an engineer working for a NASA contractor. His specialty was acoustical engineering. My father designed a speaker that created the same sound and physical modulation as an Apollo rocket engine. He would then use this speaker to shake apart rocket sections as a test. This was a new science that has never been used in this manner until the 1960’s. I mention this because I used to listen to my father talk about the difficulties between engineering and management. I can’t help notice the problems when IT communicates with management as well.
I find that this miscommunication is between IT and Management ends up poorly. Technology begins following a different path. With management following a different path from the CEO and other C-level managers, business growth can be stifled. The question I have is how do we align IT with the organizational vision and strategy of the organization?
After thinking about my father’s stories with NASA I began to realize. We just do the same thing that NASA and other firms, that require strong Engineering teams, do. Those companies made the engineers legitimate leaders within the organization. By integrating the Engineers into the leadership culture of the organization, the vision of the organization filtered into the engineering teams. Instead of being technology focused, the engineers became corporate focused. The result for organizations like NASA was technology that aligned with the vision of the NASA organization. Now the technical discussion could remain inside the technical groups in tactical conversations. By training and including engineers in the strategy of the organization, these leaders went back to their technical groups. Then reinforced the business directives with technical language and supporting solutions.
Make them leaders in the organization
“If you can’t beat them Join them” … or rather have “them” join you. If management wants technology that integrates with the business objectives of the organization, management must do the same thing. IT leaders must be brought into the business leadership culture. Then sent back to the IT culture as “Evangelists” (Evangelist is the term technical teams use to spread the message outside the IT culture) to convert the IT group.
It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened eventually. Now it’s a new century and Information technology is not rocket science. Yet in order to integrate, we should be following the paths of our engineering forefathers. Instead of waiting to be indoctrinated into the organizations leadership culture we need to press the point. We need to leverage our way into the culture. If you are introverted like I am that may seem like stepping out of your comfort zone. Yet if you like working on new projects and new technologies, you need to become and evangelist in the business organization. By understanding the vision and needs of the business, it’s much easier to sell technology projects and change to the organization.
August 3, 2012 6:27 PM
Posted by: James Murray
I’ve written several times about the idea of the IT hostage. As a Seattle IT Consultant I walk into many situations where the IT vendor or team has taken organizational control through IT Control. I began observing this phenomenon early in my career. I didn’t have a name for it yet though. I saw it so many times that I didn’t really think too much about it. I found so many examples I stopped thinking about it as abnormal. Many people ask me what I mean by the term, yet I think most business owners can relate.
“Many business owners find themselves hostages to the technical direction of their IT Team…”
Seattle IT consultingcompanies are often at the cutting edge of the technical curve when it comes to technology. Yet Many CEOs feel Like “IT Hostages” continually pouring time and resources on IT fires! Resources spent that never improve the bottom line of the organization. I think this is because eventually it happens to most businesses. Statistically,
“80% of businesses experience consistent IT failure”
As technicians its easy to do. Sometimes our mentors teach us. I think the problem isn’t one of intent, but ignorance. Think about how often you’ve made a mistake and didn’t admit it. It seems like a simple innocent white lie. Usually you fix the problem without anyone knowing. Eventually though it comes back to bite you. So have you’re clients ever experienced these symptoms in their technology?
- Failed or lost money?
- Have you ever been confused by your Seattle IT support technician?
- Has your Seattle IT services company ever blamed you for a mistake?
- Has your IT vendor confused you by asking you to invest in new hardware to fix a problem?
- Do you have a failed Cloud Computing implementation?
- Do you worry what would happen if you hired someone else?
The result for the business is…
- · Reduction in capital expense earmarked for core business expansion,
- · Decreases workplace productivity
- · Lost control of IT direction
What makes owners IT hostages is the IT group is leading their company in the wrong direction. It happens more often than most people realize. Ultimately IT hostage takers choke the growth of the organization. We are offering an interactive discussion for business owners looking for freedom.
If you are in Seattle, I speak on this subject. If you’d like to hear or learn more about this, and how to leverage your offering to your clients. Sign up here