State Of Oregon vs Oracle: A Reminder To Software Practicioners That You Can’t Outsource Solution Design, Validation Or Accountability

Michael Keithley:

Excellent analysis and advice for any CIO.

Originally posted on Expert SaaS:

MalletI just finished reading the State of Oregon’s complaint against Oracle in it’s entirety.  I encourage every one of you to read it as well.  In the meantime, I’ll paraphrase:

“We the State of Oregon were not staffed properly to design an insurance exchange.  In 2011 we allocated $240 million toward a vendor who convinced us they could design and deliver it.  When they showed up 2-3 years later with the solution, it did not work and all that money was wasted.  We provided 450 requirements to their presales team on which basis they promised that their combination of products would cover 95% of our needs without modification.  We found out things were going poorly 2+ years into the project and we collectively cut scope.  Then it failed anyway.  We found out through that failure that the promises the sales guys made weren’t true and that Oracle had a bunch of…

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CIOs continue to resist Bezos Law at their own peril

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference during the launch of Amazon's new tablets in New YorkI just returned from CIO Magazine’s CIO 100 Symposium and Awards where the “Top 100 CIO’s” were recognized for their achievements. I was shocked to find that even among this elite group of CIOs there were still a significant amount of CIOs who were resisting the cloud. They had a multitude of reasons or rationalizations as to why they were not embracing the cloud.

When asked what I was most proud of I said “getting out of the datacenter business” and returning the on-premise square footage to the business. Many heads nodded in agreement but there were also many CIOs who thought I was crazy. In discussing why they felt this way I came to the conclusion that many CIOs rose up thru the technical ranks and they derive their sense of self esteem and job security around their historical success of owning and understanding the technology. The cloud was perceived as just too risky for them to give up control.

Many CIOs rationalized they were in the cloud by stating they had a “private cloud” and when I pressed them on what they meant by that  they told me about how virtualized their datacenter was as if VMs somehow equaled cloud. I asked them what the attributes of a cloud was to them and they kept coming back to VMs. Virtual Machines are rapidly becoming yesterday’s news as Containers like Docker are becoming the most efficient way to run workloads. But even this misses the point entirely as I pointed out in a previous post “What does Bezos’ Law mean for CIOs?”

Then, today I read this article by Greg O’Connor, “Bezos’s law signals it’s time to ditch the data center” and it further laid out the case for embracing the public cloud and getting out of the datacenter business. In it Greg points out:

“Previously, I posited that the future of cloud computing is the availability of more computing power at a much lower cost. I termed this “Bezos’s law,” and defined it as the observation that, over the history of cloud, a unit of computing power price is reduced by 50 percent approximately every three years.”

“Now comes new cloud computing data based on Total Cost of Infrastructure (TCOI), proving cloud providers are innovating and reducing costs in areas beyond hardware. The result is a more compelling case for cloud as a far cheaper platform than a build-your-own data center. Further, the economic gap that favors the cloud provider platform will only widen over time.”

This seems so obvious to me but clearly many CIOs don’t get it. I stand by my statement that “Bezos Law is today’s version of Moore’s Law and CIOs who do not recognize this will be rapidly replaced.”

 

 

How to Leverage an Assistant to Manage Your Calendar

CalendarMy previous post was dedicated to effective calendar management and in this post I want to focus on leveraging an assistant or executive admin to manage your calendar. If you are a CIO or a senior executive who is fortunate enough to have an assistant, then you know how they can improve your effectiveness. I’ve am blessed to have an incredibly great assistant who makes me significantly more productive and frees me up to focus on higher-level tasks.

If you have an assistant, I strongly suggest you encourage them to take ownership of your calendar. Make sure he or she understands your priorities and who can — and should — be allowed to override your planned day. Then, let your assistant begin managing your appointments for you. He or she should have 100% control of your calendar and your staff should know they must go thru them to get time on your calendar.

This can be challenging as people will try to circumvent the assistant and go directly to you by popping their heads in your office, calling or texting your mobile phone directly, sending you an email or IM, etc. You must support your assistant by not allowing this to happen. Politely, remind the person who want to get on your calendar that they must go thru your assistant. Otherwise, you circumvent their authority as the arbiters of your calendar and will create confusion and have a sub-optimal situation.

Schedule time to meet with your assistant every morning to do a short “Daily Review” of the upcoming day and the rest of the week to see what is ahead. Look a few weeks out so you can both be on the same page as to what the immediate future holds. Review your current priorities and help them understand the relative importance of potential meetings, lunches, dinners or other requests for your time. Some are truly ASAP while others can be in the next couple of weeks or even in the next month or so.

Make sure your assistant gets enough information for you to make an informed decision as to wither a particular appointment is worth your time or not. What is the agenda? Does is have to be a meeting or can it be handled via email or a phone call? Is there travel involved? If so, how much travel time should be allocated to ensure you will be there on time? What preparation should you do prior to the meeting?

Finally, work together to determine when to say “no.”  There will never be enough time in the day for all the people who want time on your calendar and ultimately that means your assistant will have to figure out what appointments NOT to schedule.

How do you leverage you assistant to manage your calendar?

Effective Calendar Management

CalendarWe all know that in the big picture of things time is our most valuable asset and because your calendar is your trusted system for managing your time, it makes sense to optimize your calendar. Here are some strategies for effective calendar management.

Only use your calendar for date-specific appointments

David Allen explains in Getting Things Done, that the only things that should appear on your calendar are date-specific appointments. That means things like doctor appointments, meetings, and anything that can only be attended to during that time. I’ve actually started to refer to these more as “agreements” than “appointments” because agreements mean that much more to me. Rescheduling an appointment is something that can be done, but rescheduling an agreement seems more daunting and less viable. By using the term “agreement” (which acts as a trigger), I’m less likely to even think about altering what I’ve committed to with someone else…or even myself.

Schedule your personal time

During your weekly review it is important you make appointments in your calendar for things in your life that don’t relate to work. Is your partner out of town so you have to cover him/her on something? When do you need to drop the kids off at school? Do you have a doctor’s appointment? Does your daughter have a  recital? Are you traveling? All of these things are the “big rocks” that should be added to your calendar before anything else. You also need to make time for your own well-being, whether it is going to the gym, going for a run or simply reading a book. If you don’t block out time in your calendar for personal activities work will “eat up” all your time and you will end up with failed relationships, poor health and increased stress.

Align your schedule with your priorities

Most business professionals are extremely busy, but all too many spend their time doing the wrong things. We all have the same amount of time on our hands. What sets successful people apart is the way they prioritize what to do during that limited time. So, the most important thing you need to do is to schedule your priorities. If you don’t schedule your priorities, your calendar will get filled up with other stuff and you wont be spending your time on the highest value items. Schedule the things that really matter first. For me, this is my family time, my weekly review, priority projects, 1:1s with my direct reports and any major commitments I may have. You will never be able to do everything you set out to, so you need to make sure you don’t leave the high-impact things undone.

Schedule your priorities early in the day

Schedule these items in the morning and don’t make them more than 90 minutes. Why? Because if you schedule them in the morning and you get “overtaken by events” and have to do something else you can bump a lower priority item off later in the day. Also, there is ample evidence showing that people’s energy, concentration and effectiveness is greater in the morning than the afternoon. There is also lots of evidence that after an hour and a half people’s effectiveness drops off significantly so if you have a large project you are much better scheduling multiple 90 appointments than to try to slog thru a multiple-hour task.

Schedule multiple 30-minute appointments to process your “inboxes”

For most people this is email but if your honest with yourself you have multiple incoming queues of stuff. If you follow GTD then you have your “unprocessed” queue of stuff. You may have an “inbox” on your desk, you may have incoming calls, you may have RSS feeds, you may have the incoming stream of social media or other incoming queues of “stuff” that needs to be processed. Schedule time to process your stuff to zero. Once you have added these items to your calendar, then whatever free blocks of time are left can be filled with meetings and other lower priority items.

Be ruthless in assessing the value of recurring meetings

Another thing you need to do is to assess how you have allocated your time. Open your calendar and look back at your recurring meetings. Were they worth the time you invested in them? I’ll bet they started out with the best of intentions and actually provided value but over time, they decayed into less value. Take a critical look at your recurring meetings and ask yourself if they continue to be worth the time investment.  Ideally, you will delete these from your calendar. If you’re not comfortable with removing them, then maybe you can reduce their recurrence from daily to weekly or weekly to every other week.

How do you manager your calendar to ensure you are doing the most important things?

 

Why I still use RSS

Feedly Logo

A colleague of mine just got turned on to the power of Feedly and it got me thinking about RSS and it’s evolving role in my information diet.

I have always been a reader and voracious consumer of information. I subscribe to numerous magazines and newspapers via Apple’s Newstand on my iPad.  I love to read a good book via Kindle on either my iPad or my Kindle Paperwhite. I also listen to books on Audible on my commute and podcasts when I’m working out at the gym.

But, it has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the relevant breaking news in today’s fast-paced world. Surfing the web to try to keep up is not a viable option as it just takes too much time and it is easy to get trapped in a rabbit hole of non-productivity. I have found using RSS feeds is the best way to keep on top of all the news and developments in order to be successful in today’s business and technical world.

Many people have given up on RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and it is definitely on the decline since Google dropped Reader. However, I still use RSS because I can subscribe to a wide variety of sources and quickly scan what is going on in the world. I consider this a critical part of my overall continual learning experience. I treat my incoming RSS Feeds just like my email inbox and try to process all my feeds to zero every day.

I have tried many RSS readers and since the demise of Google Reader, and now I use Feedly on all of my devices to consume RSS content. I do not use any of the “pretty” feed aggregators that try to make a custom magazine because it is just too inefficient for the volume of feeds I process every day. With Feedly I can quickly scan the headlines to determine which ones I want to click on to get more information. Once I click on a particular item I get a short synopsis of the article or post and then if I want to actually read it I click on the link and it takes me to the web site where I can read the original article.  If I want to keep the article to read later or for some kind of follow up, I just select the “Send to Evernote” option to process later.  If the article is something I want to share with others I use the “Send to Buffer” option to tweet it and post it to LinkedIn. I usually process my feeds the first thing in the morning when I am at the gym on the Precor elliptical trainer.

I currently subscribe to 60 feeds which result in over 500 posts per day and I am able to process them in approximately 20 minutes.  This allows me to keep up on all the news and events from sources I consider relevant to my career and life.  I treat my feeds very Darwinian way in that if a particular feed is not providing relevant information I delete it.  This results in a very fluid OPML file (OPML files are the list of RSS feeds a reader program uses) that is constantly changing.  Frequently I subscribe to a feed to try it out only to decide it does not make the cut and is delete in a week or so.  I also remove feeds that have dedicated iOS apps like Techcrunch, CNet News, The Verge, Boy Genius Report, Engadget, etc. because I prefer to view that content in the native app due to its optimized formatting.

I pride myself on knowing information before others and daily processing of RSS feeds is the key to making this a reality. It gives me a competitive advantage in work and life. I am extremely impressed when someone on my staff tells me something relevant that I do not already know about.  If it happens once in a while then it is just luck or timing but if they consistently know relevant information before me it shows me they have an effective system for processing information and I try to learn how they do it.

How do you process information in today’s fast-paced world?

Do you ‘shine’ your inbox? The upside of nothing in your inbox – quick and easy deletion of junk

Originally posted on Getting Things Done accountant:

I don’t know if clearing your junk mail out of your inbox is a ‘sort’ or a ‘shine’ task in the Kaizen 5S list but it’s definitely in there. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and I keep at it all day.

Somehow I’m on a lot of mailing lists.  I get emails from people wanting to discuss my developer needs, how I can optimize my company’s cloud services et cetera, et cetera.  And I quickly file that all with the delete button because none of this has anything to do with my job.

One thing I’ve discovered is that by getting my inbox down to zero items (that’s not zero unread, that’s zero as in empty) it’s exceedingly easy to see and purge that junk mail.  Of course I could (and I do) use Outlook’s ‘Rules’ function and move mail automatically to Junk or delete it. …

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Is Inbox Zero Achievable?

EmailWhen Merlin Mann conceived the notion of Inbox Zero, he eloquently described a notion of how to finally gain control of our overflowing email inboxes with the simple concept of aiming for zero mail in our Inbox.

Recently, I was discussing Inbox Zero with someone who thought it was not possible to have a clean inbox at least once a day. They reasoned, that there was no way to be able “do email” for enough of the 24 hours in a day to be able to get to it all. So, why even try?

I know it sounds impossible but the fact of the matter is that there are people who are in complete control of their email. They do achieve Inbox Zero on a consistent basis. They look at email as a part of their personal productivity workflow, not as the bane of their existence.

Here are common traits these successful Inbox Zero’ers employ:
 

They only read an email once

Successful Inbox Zero’ers have a trusted system and a processing method in place to quickly turn those emails into tasks or projects. There is no thinking or procrastinating as to how to process those emails so they can focus on reading the email content, deciding what it is, and processing it.

Your goal when reading emails is not to complete everything, but rather to read the email once and make a decision.  People who have perfected achieving Inbox Zero do this religiously. Never read an email and keep it in your inbox – this forces you to read it again sometime later.

Many times, people read an email and decide to hold off on dealing with that one right now, and then move onto another email. This is BAD because it not only creates a backlog of emails and you will end up looking at that same email at least one more time. Most likely, if you leave an email in your inbox you will re-read it several times.

They employ the Two Minute Rule.

If you can deal with the email in less than two minutes then just do it! You would be surprised what you can do in two minutes! It’s called the “Two Minute Rule” because if you determine an action can be done in two minutes or less, then you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it. This applies to processing email.

They create clearly defined tasks

When reading an email, if it is actionable and will take more than 2 minutes to complete, then turn that email into a task (or a project if it is a multi-action item) in your trusted system. Then either delete the original email or move it to your Archive folder. For me, I just forward it to my Evernote email address, delete or archive the email and move to the next email.

When creating your task, remember the subject line of the email is what the sender thought was relevant but not necessarily what you want to e the title of your task to be. When turning the email into a task it is important you re-write the subject line to something that makes sense to you and is actionable. This way when you review your Next Action list, you can better gauge when and where what you want to get done will be done.

They don’t organize email in folders

Over the years, many people have developed elaborate folder structures to file their email. The unfortunate result of this is rather than cleaning your inbox, you are just creating several more inboxes. Now, you have to THINK about how you are going to file that email and you have to spend the time actually navigating to the folder you want to file it in. Even worse, now all those emails most likely will have to re-read.

Instead, you should just have just 4 emails folders: Inbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items and Archive in addition to the mandatory Junk Mail and Drafts for Outlook users. Once you have processed an email you should file it in one big archive folder and then use search if you ever need to reference the email in the future.

Less is more. Inbox Zero is the most efficient way to process email. Period.

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