Beware of Vendors Bearing Solutions
03.10.03
 

Hello Readers,

A management position in IT means that you have to make frequent decisions that permanently alter the direction of your company’s IT structure. These decisions often involve large sums of money – and the vendors know this, too. Dave Stein offers advice on separating fact from fiction when evaluating vendors and products. Check out the first article for some valuable tips that will save you time, money, and regrets.


Next up is an illuminating piece about geeks. IT departments simply wouldn’t run without them, but they’re not like other employees. Geeks are often a source of frustration for managers. Paul Glen offers tips for understanding their quirks, and helps you discover what motivates them.

Disaster recovery – is your company ready yet? If not, check out today’s final article. Last but not least, disaster recovery specialist Angela Devlen outlines a twelve-point list of items that your enterprise-wide recovery program must include.

Enjoy the issue!


Beware of Vendors Bearing Solutions

by Dave Stein

Hype. Years ago we called it "leaning into the wind." It was a philosophy-maybe even an art-that enabled software companies to be competitive, to build market share, and to sell sufficient product in a timely enough fashion to fund ongoing development. If you leaned too far into the wind, you fell on your face. If you didn't lean far enough, you would watch their backs as your competition took the market share upon which you built your dreams.

Leaning into the wind is a metaphor that used to mean announcing, marketing, demonstrating-even selling-something that you calculate will be ready by the time the customer is prepared to actually use it. It was a complicated calculation back then. Not quite the "square root of development effectiveness times the standard deviation of sales aggressiveness divided by the total number of competitors in your market minus the pressure from the venture capitalists," but close.

Ten years ago business was done aggressively, but ethically. The intent with most vendors was to deliver to the customer what they needed when they needed it, however close to the deadline it was. Once in a while you were late, but you always made it up to the customer. Always.


During the last five years, leaning into the wind has transmogrified itself into a level of hype in the enterprise solutions marketplace that would make the aluminum siding salesmen of the 1950's hide their wallets and run for cover. That hype has been a major factor in the recent downfall of some of the enterprise application industry's most illustrious players.

Were lie detector tests available to IT management today, fewer of them would have to leave their former jobs in embarrassment, fewer companies would be at the brink of survival due to new system implementation "snafus" and far fewer vendors would be out there PowerPointing their way to the next quarter's sales goal or the big IPO.
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11 Ways to Motivate Geeks
By Paul Glen of C2 Consulting

Every leader wants a motivated group, but many find that motivating technology workers is quite different from motivating other employees. Here are a few tips from my new book "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology" (www.leadinggeeks.com).

1. Select Wisely. The most important thing a leader can do to encourage intrinsic motivation is to assign work to geeks who have an interest in the work.

2. Manage Meaning. The second most important thing a leader can do is to give a geek some sense of the larger significance of their work. Without a sense of meaning, motivation suffers and day-to-day decisions become difficult. It is easy for geeks to become mired in the ambiguous world of questions, assumptions, and provisional facts characteristic of technical work.

3. Communicate Significance. It is very important for managers to be explicit about the role a new technology plays in a business otherwise some will misunderstand the centrality of their work and others may develop delusions of grandeur.

4. Show Career Path. Many geeks have only a vague sense that there’s more to advancing their careers than just acquiring new technical knowledge. Be specific about what competencies a geek must demonstrate in order to advance their career.

5. Projectize. Projects help turn work into a game and geeks love games with objectives that delineate both goals and success criteria.
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12 Key Elements of an Enterprise-Wide Disaster Recovery Program
By Angela Devlen

In today’s business environment, organizations of all sizes should be establishing a disaster recovery program. Due to increasing dependencies on information technology for critical business functions, it is important to understand the true scope of what a disaster recovery program entails. Long gone are the days of a disaster recovery plan, which simply exercises data back-up and offsite tape vaulting. Today that is only one small component. It is important to understand that disaster recovery planning in today’s environment, is a business process to be integrated into the lifecycle of every IT project. Once the key elements of a comprehensive program are understood, it becomes clear that disaster recovery planning is an ongoing process and no longer a function that is performed for the benefit of auditors.

1. Regulatory Requirements
To define the disaster recovery requirements of an organization, mandates set by regulatory agencies must be documented and understood. While the finance industry is recognized as one of the most highly regulated industries it is by no means the only one. Although regulatory agencies for many industries require disaster recovery plans, little guidance is provided on how precisely to accomplish this goal. The responsibility falls on organizations to establish a strategy to achieve regulatory compliance.

2. Strategy and Policy
Every organization needs a disaster recovery policy. Whether a disaster recovery policy is currently in place or one needs to be created, an organization should consider several things. First, it should reflect the objectives of the business continuity program. The creator of the policy must understand the expectations and limitations of the organization and it’s leadership. Also, the same considerations should be taken when defining the disaster recovery strategy. The strategies should drive the policy, and the policy if endorsed and enforced will be effective and will serve as a guide to the program overall. When looking for endorsement and enforcement, look no further than the senior management of the organization. From a financial standpoint alone, management should understand both the tangible and intangible losses of downtime. A policy that is enforced will drive the development of disaster recovery plans, which minimize downtime and support continuity of the most critical business functions, thus minimizing financial losses and an organizations liability.


3. Asset Management

When establishing a disaster recovery program, the first step is maintaining an accurate database of data center assets. It is extremely difficult to know what to recover if an organization does not know what assets exist. An asset management database will often include a great deal of information that does not apply to disaster recovery. If such a database exists, a review of the fields of data captured will provide a starting point. Fundamental information required will include server names and configurations, as well as the platforms and applications on each server.

4. Application Analysis
Gathering an inventory of applications and knowing what servers house them is not enough. It is imperative that it is understood the interdependencies of each application. Larger organizations will find it overwhelming trying to understand the interdependencies of the hundreds of applications that support all of their business functions. However, it is important to point out this is necessary information for the continuity or recovery of an organization’s most critical applications. Knowing who maintains this data and ensuring they are part of the recovery team in the disaster recovery plan is imperative.
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