Work and Self-Respect

In the book “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices,” Peter Drucker talked about work being an extension of ourselves.

For many of us, work is probably a major way we use to define ourselves and to measure our worth.

We human beings have a strong a desire for being productive. I do not believe we, as species, could have progressed this far on this planet without wanting to work and to be productive in producing advancement.

When we are out of work (unemployment or some other circumstances), our self-worth and self-respect get undermined.

In the book “Linchpin” and several others, Seth Godin talked about being an artist and do the work that matter, whether with a firm or on your own.

More and more we are given the freedom to draw our own maps and to chart our own courses. Work and self-respect should no longer be defined by just whom happened to hire you right now.

When Customers Are Not the Customers

In IT, we love to talk about our internal customers, the people we are trying to help so they succeed.

IT does this because we really believe what we are doing is a service to others. To the end-users in so-and-so department, to the various management and project teams, and to the larger organization.

I believe this “internal customer” metaphor is broken. It puts IT in a no-win situation by trying to satisfy the “internal customers.”

How do the internal customers compare to the external customers?

For the external customers, they pay for the products/services and get what they pay for.

For the internal customers, they often do not pay for the services they get from IT. Someone else in the organization approves the IT budget and pay for what the end-users will get from IT.

External customers communicate what they want from their funds, and organizations can choose to tailor their products/services in exchange for the funds.

Internal customers rarely influence the direction of their technology wants or needs. Someone or a committee within the organization decides what IT will provide for the organization. In fact, IT is often required to uphold the technology standard and consistency for the organization, regardless what the internal customers really want or need.

When working with the internal customers, is it even meaningful to talk about customer satisfaction or even exceeding expectation?

Perhaps IT should find another term for the “internal customers.” Maybe just the terms “peer departments” or “company teams” to keep things simple and focus on the collaboration.

After all, “internal customer” or not, we are still in this organization together to help each other succeed.

Competency as Defined by Customer

Many IT organizations think they are pretty competent at what they do.

They keep the servers up. They keep the networks up. They staff the service desk, so X% or better of calls get answered with 30 seconds.

Yet, they find it difficult to have the strategic conversations with their customers. They cannot seem to get the seat at the table to discuss and contribute to the bigger picture.

Perhaps one problem is to recognize who defines the word “competency.”

Competency is subjective.

Being competent at what you do or (even better) the best is determined, not by you but, by your customer.

If you are not “competent” at the very things that your customers care about, your customers will not likely consider you competent.

If you do well at the things your customers truly care about, you will appear to be competent and start accruing trust and creditability. On those rare occasions where we stink at something, our customers will tell themselves the story that stuff happens and quickly move on.

It is a harsh truth, but we as human beings are all biased in one way or another.

Service Desk in the IT Competency Equation

One visible way to score big on the IT competency front is to have a capable service desk.

Being competent in running a service desk means getting the basics taken care of.

Fulfill service requests with courteous professionals and helpful communications.

Assign tickets to the proper support group who can resolve the incidents and without undue delay.

Maintain solid records and history on tickets, so the customers will get timely and accurate updates about their request for help at any time.

Tightly monitor the tickets and work closely with the field and data center teams to ensure things do not fall through the cracks.

Doing well in all these areas are no trivial efforts. It takes a disciplined and well-trained team of professionals who are committed to providing the best experience possible every time they answer the phone.

Many organizations often do not see service desk as an asset for the IT team. Rather, they treat it as a commodity and the first cost line item to outsource or eliminate whenever possible.

Getting the service desk in shape will not cure all ills in an under-performing IT organization. The service desk is the most visible part of an IT organization. Paying the proper attention and get things right with service desk will help the IT organization by buying the time to fix everything else.

Mission and Competency

Many organization I have worked for or with touted the critical importance of being strategically aligned. Certainly, many doctrines and frameworks in IT also emphasize the importance of strategy.

People would say it is critical for IT to be strategically and tactically aligned to the business. To succeed an organization must take care of both tracks simultaneously.

Instead of thinking strategy and tactic as parallel, I am a believer of that they are sequential for the most part.

Another word, you need to be tactically competent before you can meaningfully discuss mission alignment.

Competency means getting the basics taken care of. Fulfill service requests with helpful communications and without undue delay. Meet the availability and capacity service levels. Deliver the project on-time, within budget, and with the planned deliverables.

Delivering the basic competencies above will help accumulate trust from the customer and build permission for future alignment discussions.

To consistently deliver the basics but without the mission alignment, not optimal but at least the customer received some value. To discuss strategic alignment without the pre-requisite trust and permission, it presents no value to the customer.

Mastering the competency means at least the business and operations will continue. For many organizations that are too politically fragment and siloed, they just want to focus on keeping the joint operating. For those organization, discussing anything about strategy alignment for IT probably is just a luxury anyway.

Before you can achieve mission-alignment, you need to achieve tactical-competency.

New Meetup to Connect Coding Learners

Started a new Meetup to try to connect learners and level up everyone’s game at the same time.

The purpose of “MOOC Coding Learners Support Community” to provide a support structure for those who are interested in enhancing their programming/coding skills via MOOC (Coursera, edX, etc.) course offering. If you are planning to learn coding skills with MOOC courses but don’t wish to do it all by yourself, this study group is for you. The study group participants get together regularly and answer questions you might have on a lab/assignment/project. Everyone is welcome to join the study group, and getting certified formally via the MOOC is NOT a requirement for this study group. The meetup sessions will strictly observe all MOOC honor codes. We are here to help and to support one another in our efforts to level up our coding skills.

The first study group will cover Coursera’s Applied Data Science with Python specialization on Thursday, June 20 at 6 pm. Hope to see you there and plan how we can capitalize on this learning opportunity together.

Ideas and Opportunities

Just picked up Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch, and there is one thought I like a lot.

Jiwa defines ideas as solutions in search of problems.

The world has no shortage of ideas, good ones and bad. The New Coke, McDonald Arch Deluxe, Ben-Gay Aspirin, just to name a few in the second category.

She also defines opportunities as problems begging for a solution.

What separates good ideas from the bad ones often comes down to context and relevance. Opportunities can supply the context and relevance an idea needs.

By matching ideas to opportunities with execution, the combination often separates the extraordinary innovations from the average.