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Blog Milestone – 5 years and counting April 16, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Miscellaneous, Social Media.
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So the other day, I saw a note from the fine folks at WordPress concerning my blog. The note reminded me that I have been blogging now for five (5) years. Woot! A good run and I have no plans to stop.

5 years bloggingWell, to be accurate, it said I registered 5 years ago. No mention of how active I have been on the blog. A quick check of my blog archive shows I have had at least one post every month since I started with one exception. That distinction belongs to December 2010. That is the only month I did not post. So that makes 59 out of 60 months with a post. My style has evolved and is different now than when I started. Hopefully, it is improved and continues to get better. Writers always say the best thing to do is keep writing.  I refer to this as Hemingway did as fighting the white bull. The archive shows there is a wide variety of blog topics – personal interests, professional concepts, business practices and social media changes. 

There a few posts I am most proud of. In no particular order, they include :

  1. Diversity and Potatoes
  2. Puzzle and Mystery
  3. Positive Change
  4. 2nd Day of Infamy
  5. Re-entry

The all-time traffic leader by far is my ramblings on diversity (#1 above). More about that in a future post. I am in a much different place personally and professionally from when I started. I plan to continue on this journey and post further ruminations going forward. I hope you enjoy my observations and invite your comments. Which post is your favorite?

Here’s to another five years!

Making Decisions with Data March 25, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Miscellaneous, Project Management.
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How familiar is this phrase “We are going to be data driven”? I have heard this a few times in my career. Great concept and useful to manage a business if you are serious and use it consistently. However, when crunch time comes, and everyone’s nerves are worn thin, how many managers stick with the data vs. using their instinct to make a decision?

No one intends to make a poor or bad decision. Assumptions can be wrong; risks occur that are not foreseen. It happens.

The concept is obvious of course, but, one of the most effective ways to make a decision is to use solid data. What is not obvious is the process to define, collect and evaluate data to make an informed choice. Other real world considerations like time, money and deadlines may circumvent staying true to a data driven process.

Decision Matrix

Decision Matrix

All things being equal and when there is adequate time, the process I most prefer uses selected weighting on a set of criteria. The process is commonly known as root cause analysis as a decision making  method. Most refer to this process as Kepner-Tregoe analysis. It is named after the two people who invented the concept and today, their company is a multi-national consulting company. This method is one widget in the Six Sigma toolkit and is considered part of ITIL practices for problem management.

An overview of process includes :

  1. State the issue, problem, and decision to be made.
  2. Explain the use of the decision matrix technique to participants.
  3. Draft a matrix … with candidate choices positioned as rows and criteria as columns.
  4. Weigh the criteria, if required (e.g., 1-5 weight).
  5. Rate each choice within each decision/selection criteria (e.g, 1-5 score – do not rank here).
  6. Multiply the rating by its relative weight to determine weighted score.
  7. Total the scores.
  8. Review results and evaluate, using common sense and good judgment.
  9. Reach consensus.

Once complete, you have criteria and weighting configured in the decision matrix. When evaluating choices, the score helps narrow the discussion to the best choice(s). The discussions on reviewing the results can lead to animated discussions. Ultimately, the best choice comes down confidence in what the numbers tell you. I like to include a tie-breaker or ‘other’ category in the matrix and give it a small weighting of 5 to 10%. That allows a way to include intangibles discovered during the evaluation. Depending on the score for that facet, it can illuminate the best choice and help the team decide between two otherwise equal choices.

This evaluation process can be used for a range of  situations where decisions must be made. I have used this for vendor selection, candidate interviews and for strategy roadmaps. In the end, having data can confirm your choice and give confidence. Using this framework also minimizes biases and leads to an improved appreciation of choices you would not have considered otherwise. Having data is always good; having a process to make a choice with that data is even better.

What process do you use to decide?

 

Impact of Project Communications February 25, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Project Management.
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One of the most important skills I find in project management is being able to communicate. It may sound simple and a bit obvious and yet can be a hard lesson learned for project managers.  My experience has shown that having the ability to hear and,  just as important, be heard, can make or break a project. The format and style used in those communications can be formal or informal, relative to the culture and management style of the organization. Regardless, that ability to indicate progress or raise issues quickly and get feedback keeps a project on track and moving forward.

Feedback-LoopIn fact, I prefer having a closed loop in communicating. I have found that the feedback loop is key to keeping everyone on the same page about a project. This works not only during execution but also for change management. Without feedback, you may not meet the needs of the client and/or stakeholders. That is a waste of both time and money for them and you. That can easily be avoided working in a closed loop with feedback.

The Project Management Institute lists 5 skills each project manager should have to be successful. The list includes the following traits:

  1. Listen to both what is said and what is not said.
  2. Build relationships with everyone involved in the project and across, up and down the organization.
  3. Set clear priorities with the team and obtain that list from the stakeholders.
  4. Collaborate with everyone as none of us is as smart as all of us.
  5. Convey the mission and project impact to it.

I agree with this list and also expect that stakeholders have similar skills. Their ability to listen and provide clear direction is a key success factor on every project.

Without feedback, how would you know you when you successfully deliver a project?

Email Ramblings January 20, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, User Experience.
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One of the oldest online applications that we still use on a daily basis is email. Short for electronic mail. You may have seen e-mail as a variation also.

PROFS email imageIn the old days, email was the primary tool to connect with another person after the phone. I look at email as an evolution on the hard copy office memo. Compared to the phone, email had the advantage in that you send a note whenever time works for you and the recipient reads it some time later. Checking your in-box for new email is a bit like opening Christmas presents or a box of chocolate as you never know what you are going to get. That may help explain why we check for new email so often.

I won’t segue about faxes. Never was a fan – too error prone, not always legible and non-secure. Focus and back to email.

Outlook email imageFast forward to present day and almost everyone uses Outlook for their work based email application. There are free email tools also (gmail, yahoo, etc.). Email as a tool has come a long way since the old days. For the average office worker, there are many features that go unused. Checking email is very easy from a laptop or mobile phone. In fact, so easy, it is expected that you are always current on reading your email.

Here is the point I want to get to: email is easy to use but not always an effective way to communicate. Over time, the impact has diminished. It is too easy for someone to say ‘I sent you an email’ when they see you in the hallway/cafeteria/bathroom or by office cooler/coffee pot/water fountain.

Great. You sent me a note. That explains everything. Now, it is my responsibility to read it. And, I may have to respond. So, I need to find time to catch up and read your note. Yours and 40 others since this morning. What I read it not always helpful. In fact, it may raise more questions than it answers. Worse, it confuses me and is not helpful at all. There are times when I take the note and walk to the sender’s office and say “I don’t understand your note, can you explain?” Not helpful.

Soon after email became ubiquitous, the behavior seen with memos was transferred online and also heard in reference to email. ‘Did you not read the email I sent?’ was a common refrain. Ditto the aforementioned ‘I sent you a note about that’. Or, the condescending ‘It’s all laid out in the email I sent’.

Here are a few suggestions when creating email:

1) Think about what you want to say. Be clear and don’t make me think about what you are asking for – say it and stop.

2) Use some structure. Email is free form text mostly. However, outline your thoughts. Also,  insert images or links to illustrate your point(s).

3) Be complete. If there is background, refer to it from a past note or meeting. Include a link to a site with more information.

4) Use the Subject wisely. Include something meaningful not whatever is top of mind.

5) Do NOT send me a note asking if I got your note. Assume I got it and chances are high that i did. Those days are long gone when notes are not delivered. If they are, you are using the wrong email address for me.

Email has come a long way but going forward, its’ usage will decline and we will interact using social media platforms instead. There are so many other choices available – blogs, wikis, portals the list goes on.  Some time in the not distant future, email will be done and surpassed by a tool with more features and ways to send and receive information. I hope our habits will change to advantage of what is available.

When that happens, send me a note about that, would you ?

2013 review of my ramblings January 1, 2014

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Miscellaneous.
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A nice feature provided by WordPress and an easy way to share this summary. Their stats helper monkeys prepared this 2013 annual report for my blog. How was your traffic? What goals did you meet?

Happy New Year!!!

Looking ahead, what expectations do you have for your blog in 2014?

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013 Year End Ramblings December 29, 2013

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Miscellaneous.
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A quick post to indicate that I, like so many others at this time, am reflecting on the year past. In this rambling, I want to mention up front that I end the year in a good place. I have work and am surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

This year saw several transitions. The first deals with my goal to transition from a contract to a full time employee.  Instead, that contract ended abruptly in April. Good people, solid products and a vision for future growth with an established industry leader. Score that as an opportunity missed due to mis-management by the client.

Another transition was going back into job search. Having a solid network of contacts and a great reputation, I felt my chances were good to land quickly. As usual, things outside of my control dictated otherwise. So, I worked on refreshing my coding skills. A bit like bike riding and fell back into the developing mind set easily. It also improves my value add and increases my expertise in working with software developers.

The final transition occurred after landing another contract gig as a project manager. I began commuting long distance as part of that change. Having tremendous family support made this transition easier. Could not have done this without them.

That’s the highlights. Much more detail in between these transitions of course.

Goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014. I hope you had a good year and wish you success in the new year.  Let me know how I can help and I will do the same.

Happy New Year!

Google Ejects Android ROM-Maker Cyanogen’s Installer App From Play — Citing Developer T&C Violations November 28, 2013

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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Edwin Ritter:

Caveat emptor. Fore-warned is fore-armed. Whatever cliche you chose, do the research and check the reviews before you install this on your smartphone. Then decide.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Well that didn’t take long. Google has asked Cyanogen Inc. to remove its alternative Android ROM installer app from the Play store.

Cyanogen raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital back in September to turn its geek-beloved aftermarket version of Android into a mainstream flavour of the platform — with the ultimate aim of using an Android variant to compete with standard Android (and iOS) for consumers’ attention.

To kick off its mainstream market targeting effort, Cyanogen released an installer app for its CyanogenMod earlier this month — to make it easier for less tech savvy Android users to flash the ROM on their devices.

But, writing in a blog yesterday, Cyanogen said Google’s Play support team had contacted it to ask it to remove the app, citing violations of Play’s developer terms — warning that if the app wasn’t voluntarily removed it would be forcibly ejected.

So Cyanogen’s attempt to boost the popularity of its…

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Ramblings on web design process October 26, 2013

Posted by Edwin Ritter in E-Commerce, Project Management.
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You know the phrase “It’s great when a plan comes together”? It strikes me as odd that we are surprised when the results of planning using a consistent process yields what we expect. That’s the purpose of a plan. Perhaps from experience we know that a plan and process don’t always match reality.

I found this infographic a while ago and posted it to Slideshare (shameless unintended plug). It is a useful visual to show the end to end process in plan, design and build phases of a website. From project to project, the actual timing can vary widely from what is shown. Factors such as scope and complexity, cost and resources will drive the actual durations. This graphic is useful in guiding the conversation with teams and clients alike. During status updates, it’s useful to ensure everyone understand which phase we are in. It helps set expectations and also show what’s next.

However, I’ve found that some phases are not optimized, like reviews and approvals. Reviews and approvals tend to take much more time than we expect. That makes project management interesting. How do you account for extended review cycles without impacting the delivery date? What makes it more fun is some client adding new features during the reviews. Call it scope creep. I’m sure they realize it will change the end date.  Simple math, really. More features = more time.

Following the plan takes rigor and discipline. Flexibility also helps when reality hits. Keep your plan together. Sorting out the impact to the plan and getting everyone to agree can be a daily task for project managers. I always preface updates to clients with the phrase “I don’t make the news, just report it.”  So, don’t be surprised. Expect the results you plan on.

It is great when a plan comes together. That’s why you use a process to make it happen.

Ramblings on positive change September 22, 2013

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Behavior, career.
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Since my last post, I have gone through some changes. Changes in employment and changes in location. It came about fairly quickly, now that I have some time to reflect on it. I recently found a position as a project manager and am part of a web development group once again.

Life-Change

I am fortunate to have so many good people in my life. My family has been 100% supportive. I have great friends who wished me well and their help is only a phone call or email away. I have but to ask. That support makes the transition much easier.

Taking this new job required relocating out of state. Not something I had intended initially. For many reasons outside of my control, the job I wanted was not available locally. I have been solicited to work in many areas around the country but held out for an opportunity that was in my home town. Keep the other aspects of my life the same. Did not work out that way this time around. Over the last 5 years, I have had several career changes. Most of those were outside my control in terms of duration.

change_exitAs for the work, it feels good to be back in many ways. Good to be working again. Good to be with an IT team that works closely with Marketing.  Like any new job, it takes some time to get settled. Get up to speed. Learn the ropes. More shop worn cliches. There are some interesting challenges ahead. I firmly expect to have an impact and be able to help my new team. I already know they will listen. That makes things so much easier. In my first week, I have already established my skills and experience. Here the biggest change is people are willing to accept it. That has not always been true in the past.

Going forward, more changes will be dealt with. In both the personal and professional facets, I will have good people to work through any and all changes that come my way.

I am most grateful for that and hope that never changes!

Ruminations on another LinkedIn milestone August 7, 2013

Posted by Edwin Ritter in career, Social Media, Trends.
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Earlier this year, I was surprised by an email that indicated my LinkedIn profile was in the Top 5 % of accounts viewed.   Recently, I achieved another LI milestone as my network  is now 500 strong and growing.  LI_500 Connections

To my network – Many thanks to all who have connected with me. I appreciate the interactions and look forward to continued knowledge share. I must admit that these connections are largely organic and the result of networking. I had not intended to reach this number. While reviewing my connections, many of them also have networks of 500 or more so I am in good company. Glad to be here with you.

Initially, I would connect with any and all on LI. My focus then was on growing the network in the wilderness that once was LI. That changed over time as it increased in popularity. The selection criteria was also a recent discussion topic in another network group I belong to. The most basic way to manage connect requests is to show the value provided in the connection. Don’t assume it is obvious and that I will accept. If I don’t see the value, I won’t accept. As part of the request, where possible, customize the invite message.

I have always been, and continue to be, active with my status and ‘check in’ multiple times each day. One of the features I like best about LI is the status updates. It is very easy to share what your are interested in and a great way to observe what is top of mind within the network  Other useful features include :

  1. potential new connections via the ‘People you may know’  pod,
  2. joining groups of interest,
  3. checking the ‘Who’s viewed your profile’ (c’mon, we are all a bit vain, aren’t we?),
  4. viewing company profiles to research/learn about and
  5. sending/receiving messages.

One change I did not enjoy was getting removed from groups. The message here is if you belong to a group, you should actively participate. If not, LI will remove you due to inactivity. Also, I noticed there is a limit to the number of groups you can belong to. Note – I use the basic ‘free’ account. It may be different with upgraded accounts.

LI_Account_ProfileI have a fairly robust profile that detail my career changes with recommendations from many people I have worked with the past. I  certainly appreciate endorsements (a fairly recent feature) on my skills and expertise and enjoy reciprocating with my connections. I find the profile is better at conveying who a person is and their career achievements and skills. In my opinion, the LI profile is an improvement over the traditional resume. At the risk of repeat, I submit that this profile will have more impact than a traditional career resume. This implies many changes in recruiting need to occur before that is commonplace. It is a direction I encourage as we improve how to digitally communicate.

That’s been my journey on LI so far. Do you have a goal for network connections? What are your favorite features on LI?

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