Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Sound Of Silver

A funny thing happened to me at a meeting the other day. It was at a pretty large Microsoft Gold partner, they had the lumps of plastic and the several of the flags to prove it. I used to have a filing cabinet with all my MS plastic on it, a few flags filling up the bottom draw too. You know, with those serial cables and spare mice.

Conversation moved to upgrades to ‘standard’ Microsoft products and in particular how bespoke changes around the edges may cause issues. While in the past, this was pretty much ‘always’ a problem. These days any customer or supplier should be looking to use available technology to form an extraction layer from the core stuff under the bonnet.

Workflow is my preferred choice if it is available and particularly if it is main stream. Don’t get me wrong, ABAP and the like is a rich environment, but not many people are coming straight out of college with experience of it. So its skills and that of other very bespoke languages (such as the old Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains Dexterity) can be hard to find and then may have come at a premium.

The discussion moved to Sharepoint and Silverlight in particular. A product released like many others from Redmond with much fanfare and touted as the future of the web. One very much now with a future in doubt. Interestingly the Gold Partner had done a lot of development in Silverlight for a big part of their internal systems. Very disappointing as it was very nearly finished and it was only really recently that effectively quietly they were informed the plug had really been pulled.

Having been director at a Microsoft Gold Partner I felt for the company. So much effort potentially wasted, or at best they had developed into a cul-de-sac, that would need a re-visit in the future. Even worse though is the amount of effort many end users will have put in to Silverlight development, and will have to reconsider if that is still the best technology for them going forward.

A small number of IT people in housing will be aware of the new Civica housing management system just in development. Rumour has it that it will be names Cx (Customer Xperience - geddit?), is being based on Silverlight. That is one decision that surely will have to be re-visited, together with if the coding of the system continues in India. What this space, if I was a betting man, I would guess a move to HTML5 would be best and a look for a different off-shore partner. Vietnam looks likely.

Other popular housing solutions do have some Silverlight content, Keystone asset Management and the 1st Touch forms designer and several portals for residents and contractors, both spring to mind. 

Sadly, Microsoft and others are always very good at the big product announcements, the futuristic roadmaps and when those products die or are to be retired prematurely, it’s via a whimper rather than a bang. Being in this industry, change is a constant. You get used to it. Still, it never makes life easy as so many tools you rely on today, might often be easily bought up and killed off, or just retired for the next new and shiny idea, coming down the line.

A risk register of applications and connections can be very useful in quantifying exposure to this type of issue. You never know when a quiet obituary may be posted (from Redmond or other places...).

LCD Soundsystem, now I am sure they went through some software tools.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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Saturday, 11 August 2012

Pleased To Meet You

Meetings, I am sure you get dragged in to a few. I do.

The worst are those with no or a shallow agenda. Time is soaked up and the thing that suffers is output. Yes, what we actually produce. That bug fix, that improvement to a report, that time saving in the customer service team that might squeeze one more home visit a week, to manage arrears or monitor ASB.

We do get hung up on keeping on top of email, keeping and looking busy. This week I was in a very unstructured meeting that wasted a good four hours of my time. Also cost the customer half a day when nothing really useful was generated.
Some meetings are important, but should always be called for a reason. While a regular 20 minute meeting to check and co-ordinate schedules might be quite valid, a meeting every fortnight to chew the fat in my opinion isn’t.

When will people realise it’s not about how many hours you put in it’s what you produce that really matters.

Threes and thirds feature a lot in my life. For photographic composition, the rule of thirds is a fundamental way to make images more interesting. Nature likes thirds and threes, so does the human brain. Famously, Steve Jobs always structured his presentations around just three big messages. That's all that most human brains can get their selves around. We are wired like that. No wonder we all bought an ipod, iphone and ipad.

I find it useful to just pick three things from my to do list each day that I aim to achieve. Always hardest first. That one provides maximum reward and output.
Email can also wait. It’s tempting to reply to everything as soon as it comes in. Resist that temptation, particularly if it was not sent just to you. In my book if you are only in the CC: or BCC: box, you are only important enough to know about it, not need to reply to it. So let it wait, read it later, (or maybe not at all in some cases).

Now, what to do with meetings? I would prefer to conduct them all on moving bicycles or at the very least standing up. Chairs make you too relaxed and extend the whole affair. Have a strict agenda and keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes. Another tick is to hold them before or after normal working hours. You stretch a little more out of your staff and they will be less inclined to stretch a meeting if it’s eating into their own home time.
There you go, rant over!

Related Post: Is re-badged software the bane of your life in #ukHousing ? 


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

St Jude, it would be great to meet you.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk

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