Archive for the ‘Current Role’ Category

Understanding the Technologies   Leave a comment

As you go along, you come across (and have to manage) “new” and different technologies. It may be data deplication and virtualisation. Or even stuff you haven’t managed before like ISA, VLAN’s and so on.

The thing with IT is that there’ll always be something new (even if its new from the perspective of something you haven’t managed, installed or advised on before). So as long as you have an open mind, a willingness to learn & a grasp on some fundamentals – it all should go well.

And so, there’s a new section in this blog – “Research and Understanding”. It covers some of the Information Technology infrastructure that I’ve had personal experience with.

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Posted March 1, 2013 by terop in Career, Current Role, Research and Understanding

Books Read: “The Technology Management Handbook”, Dorf.   Leave a comment

In short, this is a major piece of work. It runs to around a thousand pages. It is quite comprehensive as it comprises essays by authors from a range of specialties.

The Sections are:
– The Technology Manager & The Modern Context
– Knowledge for The Technology Manager
– Tools for The Technology Manager
– Managing The Business Function
– Strategy of The Firm
– Core Relationships for The Technology Manager
– Global Business Management

What is of interest to me is the HR aspect of work. That is, the motivations we have and the design of our jobs.

The questions that must be asked concerning the motivation of technical professionals are:
– what energizes particular behaviours
– what directs or channels these behaviours
– how the behaviours are sustained/altered

Two things of note:
– we must create the kinds of job assignments, careers & work-related conditions that allow professionals to satisfy their individual needs
– the organization designer’s job is to select the least-managerially demanding organization that best fits the “design criteria” appropriate to the situation & strategy

Now, the theories behind all this are:
– cognitive models of motivation:
  – Maslow’s hierachy
  – Herzberg’s 2 factor
  – McClelland’s Theory of Needs
– motivation through design of work
  – equity theory
  – expectancy theory
– Hackman & Oldman suggest 3 task dimensions:
  – skill variety
  – task identity
  – task significance (important)
  – also: autonomy, feedback (weak in IT)
– socio-technical model of job design means that team covers breadth/depth/height of the work rather than individuals:
  – depth of expertise
  – breadth of functional tasks
  – height of leadership activities
– importantly in all of this, the trust & confidence in manager is crucial

This tome certainly covers the full gamut of technology management issues. Issues such as:
– economics & finance
– marketing
– decision and simulation methods
– and so on.

In all quite comprehensive. For me, its almost a must to have as a ready reference

Books Read: “The Leaders Guide to Radical Management”, Denning   Leave a comment

Or as the sub-title succintly puts it: reinventing the workplace for the 21st Century.

This book is an easy read, and full of straightfoward principles.

The primary thesis here is that radical management is about generating in-demand output that involves people with a common passion and who are good at what they do.

And at the outset he quotes the American philosopher to lay a foundation for the aim of the book:
  “If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.

Its about continuous innovation, and whilst the principles he puts forth have been separately “discovered” before he states that its through the interlocking nature of them as a whole that will have great impact.

These principles are:
1. focus work on delighting the client
2. do work through self-organising teams
3. do work in client-driven iterations
4. deliver value to clients each iteration
5. be totally open about impediments to improvement
6. create a context for continuous self-improvement by the team itself
7. communicate through interactive conversations

For me, it is about the client. And although not every client would welcome it, incremental innovation does indeed have benefits to both the provider and the client.

Books Read: “The Frontiers of Management”, Drucker   Leave a comment

Drucker, in this series of wide ranging essays, postulates two things:
1. the future is being made by totally anonymous people
2. change is opportunity

His aim for this book is to provide knowledge, insight, foresight and competence. Plus create vision.

One of his chapters is on white-collar productivity. He posits three measurements for this class of productivity:
1. length of time taken to bring product out of development into the market
2. the number of new products and services introduced to the market in a given period
3. number of supporting staff, including levels of management, for a given output

The comparison is with blue-collar organisations. Blue-collar output is roughly proportional to the number of staff, whereas white-collar output can/should be inversely proportional.

Other thoughts sprinkled throughout the book are:
– information-based organisations rest on responsibility
– modern leadership is one that respects performance, but requires self-discipline & upward responsibility
– innovation requires backing people, rather than the projects (especially early in the life of the innovation)

For me, this collection of Drucker’s thoughts is mostly of informational value. However, the insights into white-collar productivity (ie, IT) are most relevant. The basic implication is that as time goes on, IT staff should be able to handle more systems (with the assumption that existing systems become more efficient & effective).

More Than Mere Maintenance   Leave a comment

So, what have I accomplished? What have I left behind? How have I improved the company’s infrastructure?

–       Designed, developed and deployed a national remote access standards (national, 35 sites, 1997)

–       Designed and deployed multiple Outlook-based workflow improvements (single office, 2000)

–       Designed and deployed a cascaded star topology for infrastructure services [AD, AV, Patch Management]   (national, 70 sites, 2,500 users, 2004)

–       Designed and deployed global AD architecture (international: 14 child domains across 3 continents, 2005)

–       Design and deploy infrastructure monitoring services including SNMP, Netflow, server service & availability monitoring (data centre & national WAN, 2005)

–       Designed and deployed gateway application security services (firewall, email filtering, web-proxy) (national, 2,500 users, 70 sites, 2006)

–       Together with vendor offerings and specialists, designed and deployed an MPLS-based national WAN as part of a migration to the new vendor. (2006)

–       Together with specialist vendors and suppliers, design  and build a data centre, including power, a/c and environmental monitoring (serving 70 sites, 2007)

–       Together with specialist vendor, designed & deployed a multi-site Cisco VoIP solution including call-centre, reception, call recording technologies (2008)

–       Designed & deployed LUN architecture, storage tiering, and relevant EMC & VMWare replication technology to achieve effective computing infrastructure (2 sites, ESX farm, 2009)

–       Designed & currently deploying a storage-based email archival and a business continuity and disaster recovery solution based on EMC (Avamar, SourceOne) and VMWare technology (2 sites, ESX farm, 2011)

And, how have I taken hold of industry solutions and applied them to the business that I work for in order to improve efficiency and costs?

–       RSA-based token for remote access to head office email and data

–       Designed and deployed a cascaded star topology for infrastructure services (including Active Directory domain consolidation) that improved network infrastructure management, improved support experience, reduced user computer problems and improved overall security

–       VoIP system implementation & expansion that included off-site call-centre capabilities, and future Territorial telephony consolidation and extension requirements

–       Designed & deployed multi-site wireless solutions with different security contexts based on the user’s profile

Finally, what about innovation?

–       Web-based co-ordination services (1997). The innovation was in deploying an extranet, and obtaining buy-in to facilitate the inter-agency service delivery co-ordination

–       Video-conferencing deployment (1998). The innovation was in the desktop-based solutions that interfaced with established external vendor technology

–       Multi-lingual Kiosk (1998). The innovation was in the ability of the kiosk to deliver service information, on customer premises and outreach events, in multiple local languages

–       A 3×3 server matrix for EDI exchange (2003). The innovation was in the application of deployment processes across presentation, business-logic and database layers for development, staging, and production servers

–       Equitrac-based print management solution (2011). The innovation is in the use of existing security cards to manage printer usage, and is in the use of the programs feature set to manage non-standard user conditions

Current Role – Manage the IT Component of the 2008 Head Office Relocation   Leave a comment

This was a significant project, with a specific timeline. Our head office was moving, and I was the IT lead.

Not only did it encompass co-ordinating the moving of computers for 220 staff, the re-commissioning of business applications involving teams across the nation, and the relocation of 60+ servers. But it also involved co-ordination with the three data communication providers that we had at the time, and leading discussions with senior executives about the move and the risk mitigation procedures we would have in place.

I had at my disposal about 40 people and four days. I split them into three teams. One team managed the desktop computing, the second the server relocation, whilst the third managed the computing services re-commissioning. The desktop computing team was tasked to re-connect and test the PC’s on each of the desks, it included replacing CRT with flat-screen and checking that the new Cisco VoIP system worked.

And that was an added complication, we moved from a standard PABX in the old building to a Cisco VoIP system in the new. I was also the technical lead for that project – co-ordinating user training, making system design choices, liaising with the third-party supplier.

The second team, to a set schedule and order, removed the servers, switches, etc (after I had shut the server room down in graceful manner – applications first, backend second, infrastructure third, switching last) and relocated them to the new building. The order and schedule was important as I wanted to give some sense of redundancy (ie, AD servers spread across separate racks), and I wanted to bring things back up in the reverse order from which I shut them down.

I had scheduled the computing-services recommissioning team to be available after the servers were relocated and computers rebuilt. This team of application owners and testers was spread out across the nation (I needed to make sure that the WAN was still working and the internet-facing services were still available). As a result of the server relocate order decisions that I made, we were able to perform some perfunctory tests of each of the applications before the application testing team did their work. Their testing proved that the move was successful by the Saturday afternoon.

The final part was having IT helpdesk and VoiP trainer “floor walkers” on the first day of work. They were tasked to troubleshoot minor problems with computers, printers and phones on the spot and refer up the chain anything else. Their work was larger done by lunchtime.

So, from a move leadership perspective, I was across each of the many details and had several meetings with each of the teams leading up to the weekend, but once the design and choices were set delegation to section leaders was the modus operandi.

And, from a timing perspective, although we had four days to get the new head office up and going, we completed it within 48 hours. Thus, when people came to work in the office on the Tuesday (we started the Thursday night), and when people interstate started to work on the Monday morning – it was as if it was just another business day.

And so, that adage “prior planning prevents poor performance” was truly proven during that long weekend in March, 2008.

ICT Strategy Development   Leave a comment

As a company director, and within the paid day-job roles, I am called upon to develop all or part of the organisation’s IT strategy.

And so, what does “IT Strategy” mean, what is the scope and how does it play out?

At one level it means explaining to, lobbying if you will, key decision makers of the various technologies and industry trends. It means informing internal clients on how to best save money, or how to perform some business processes more efficiently. It means bringing to bear my experience of IT together with my understanding of what the business requires to either enlighten or influence key decision makers.

In another context it requires developing the ICT Strategy. My preferred method is the Boar method. That is analaysing the situation from a number of angles, developing strategy statements, and finally putting in place projects to execute the vision painted by the strategy statements. These inputs could cover situational analysis, position statements and what directives & assumptions they are working under. The statements and related information talk about objectives & goals and what strategic moves need to be made.

And yet a third meaning of ICT Strategy Development is developing the architecture. It means what technological jigsaw pieces need to be in place. If its DR and Business Continuity, what procedures are required, where is the storage going and what network insfrastructure is needed. If its security, what are the layers, the devices, and what vendor support is available.

But all this requires understandable communication & integrity. Those turning to me for advice must understand that I will offer business sensible solutions and that the advice is birthed in the practical. They are assured that what I propose will be a good fit for the organisation in terms of where their capabilities lie, and the direction that they are heading. And they know they’ll be able to understand the technology and any implications.

Posted March 14, 2011 by terop in Architecture, Current Role, Directorship, ICT Strategy