Inspiring Rare Birds Guest Blog: How do you do it all?

For all guest blogs on Inspiring Rare Birds go here. #ifshecanican

Yesterday I was stopped in the elevator on my way down from the Brisbane Book launch by a lady who asked me “Do you have a child, and if so… how do you do it all?”

Wow – can you believe that this is something I never really thought about?

To answer her questions:

1) Yes – I have a 14 year old son Frank whom I adore. I just love watching him grow up and being a part of his life every step along the way. Being an entrepreneur supports me in being a mum. I can go to school recitals, performances etc. as I simply plan around them when I can. (doesn’t always work out that way though, especially with interstate and overseas client obligations).

2) How do I do it all? The honest answer is: I don’t.

I don’t do it all.. I have an amazing husband who is my partner in many ways. We are a great team in running our companies together and we are a great team at home. His role in the business has been designed in such a way that he can work from home, so he can pick up the kids from the bus in the afternoon. He loves to cook so that’s what he does as well. Grocery shopping is either done online with home delivery or Gerard does it when he’s doing a school run. I look after the animals and I love to bake. A lot of the other stuff we do together.

Frank has been making his school lunches independently since he was 8 and he is responsible for his own school bag, laptop etc. We don’t have time to run after him all the time to do his jobs for him and he know that. His morning ritual happens without us having to manage his time which makes life so much easier!

We outsource or automate as much as possible: our iRobot Roomba is a fabulous little vaccuum cleaner for the daily top up floor clean for example. We also have fantastic gardeners who look after our property, making sure it doesn’t turn into a jungle.

Underpinning all this is the fact that both Gerard and I have a very clear understanding of our priorities. For example: Our windows don’t get cleaned every day or every week, probably more likely once a year, and we’re OK with that.

Why do IT professionals attend conferences?

IT Professionals are an interesting breed – and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to study the ‘species’ last week at the FUSION11 conference in Washington.

Of the 2000 attendees there was a group of people who clearly enjoyed the personal interaction and social aspects of attending a conference, but there was another group (probably even larger!) who appeared to be very single focused: attend the sessions, take notes and go back to the hotelroom to work a bit more. You didn’t see them at the social events, they didn’t attend the networking sessions. You didn’t even see them at the motivational keynote events… they showed up at the breakout sessions which were specific to their current job role.

It made me wonder… if attending a conference is only to gain more knowledge aren’t there better options for you? There are some really great webinars around, many of which are free to attend. And most vendors that have a booth at the conference have all the information available at their websites or corporate information portals. Or you can enrol in online learning classes to quickly increase your knowledge and skill level for a specific subject. You can even do this outside of work hours so your peers don’t know how you got to this new level of knowledge and understanding.

Direct learning is not the main reason for attending a conference, that is not where the value add lies…

So what is the value add of attending a conference? And where is the Return on Investment?

  • Is it the schedule of industry specific learning interlaced with motivational keynote speakers?
  • Is it the fact that you can distance yourself from the daily ‘grind’ in the office?
  • Is the value more at a personal level to build trust between people, a relationship that can’t easily be forged through email, blogs and tweets?

Or is it simply that you don’t have to think about who to approach for new information and knowledge around your subject matter of choice? To get close to the thought leaders of your industry even when you are too shy to contact people directly or speak with them face to face.

Personally, I think the main value for attending conference is the connections you make. Not just the personal connections (although they are very important), but the links between various items discussed that are specific to your industry. You attend three to four breakout sessions during a day and each speaker has a slightly different point of view to the same or similar topic. You ask questions to speaker nr. 2 based on the information you received from speaker nr. 1. This way you are able to assemble your own viewpoints and approaches to various issues and topics you run into in your role at the company.

The magic of a conference is that after you attend these breakout sessions you can test your theories and hypotheses by discussing it with other attendees! Do they feel the same way? Do they support your theories, and if not – why not? That is the value you get from attending conferences. Instant feedback from other people in your industry in a non-threatening way. Yes, it does mean you’ll have to attend the networking sessions and get social during the week… but you get so much back in return: a guilt free and consequence free way to solidify your thoughts and ideas. (let’s cal this INDIRECT learning, as apposed to the direct learning mentioned before) You’ll get back to your place of work a lot stronger and wiser and people will notice!

And if all else fails, at least you’ve had a nice break from work… and you get to see Doug Tedder do a Hoola Hoop demonstration at 9 o’clock in the morning 😉

Originally posted 2011-10-03 14:26:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The benefits of Cloud Computing in relation to Climate change…

The title is a little ‘tongue in cheek’ but the message is still true: Yesterday we got hit by a massive storm and due to this we have not had any power in our house since 5pm yesterday afternoon (it is now 12pm). So almost 20 hours and counting… When I just spoke to our security lady she mentioned that the ‘blackout’ could take up to 48 hours!!

Branches ripped off trees by the storm
Branches ripped off trees by the storm

After my initial shock – and some quick calculations of the value of the content in our freezers that is now slowly defrosting, I started thinking about the effects this has on our service delivery:

  1. My husband’s laptop and Internet connection runs of the main power and can’t be used at the moment
  2. My laptop has internal mobile internet access so in theory should be able to work for at least 4 hours or so on the battery.
  3. Our exchange server and file server in the office shut down during the storm as well so nobody in the office could get to their emails and server directories.

Not a good scenario really – and with the current climate change the experts are forecasting more of these storms to hit in the coming summer season… they are even speculating of a possible hurricane / cyclone to hit South East Queensland!

What can we do to improve our Service delivery capability:

  • Purchase backup generators to ensure ongoing power during these blackouts
  • Purchase backup batteries to go into the laptops as a fail over system
  • Purchase another mobile Internet connection for the other laptop

And then it hit me:

OR… we can use cloud computing as our solution! With cloud computing you don’t need to worry about your laptop or desktop… you can go to any Internet cafe that still has power and access all your data from there! All your emails are stored offsite so your exchange server is not affected by this power outage at all because it is in a different area! 

OK, OK – you still need power to run a computer or laptop but you are not restricted by location. When the power is out in one location, you simply move to another one where this is power. It’s very simple really…

If only there was an easy solution to my defrosting meat issue… Barbecue anyone?!

PS: when we follow ITIL Service Continuity Management processes we should have thought of all of this beforehand, I know that… but let’s say we decided NOT to put any countermeasures in place for a ‘once in 2 decade’ chance.

Originally posted 2008-11-17 12:11:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

How can we create a winning team? or: What we can learn from a failing soccer club in Mexico

What is it that Atlas – the soccer club from Guadalajara in Mexico – does so wrong that causes them to NOT play for the champions title for the past 50 years.

Yup you read that correctly… this soccer club has not even been a serious contender for the championship for over 50 year… And yet – a lot of their players have gone on to impressive careers with other soccer clubs.

The story of the soccer club is interesting, especially when you compare it to the other club in the same town ‘Guadalajara’. This club arguably has less quality players but manages to excel in their game and seems to outrank Atlas on a regular basis in the leader board.

The big difference between the 2 clubs is in the leadership. Guadalajara has 1 owner, a visionary person who knows exactly what he wants to achieve with his club: he wants to win. And this owner hired a strong coach to ensure his vision is achieved.

Atlas on the other hand is owned by many people, and is managed by committee. The executive management team appear to try to have an active role in the operational decisions on the field and their main goal is to make money of up-and-coming players.

Both clubs succeed at what the upper management want to achieve – so from a performance point of view both clubs do extremely well. Guadalajara wins championships and Atlas sells their top players.

A strong vision combined with the right coach seems to be the recipe for winning the battles on the field. A chaotic approach to management only hinders that goal.

What can we learn from that as business owners?

I guess we work with star players in our organisation as well. We can organise them by strong leadership and a clear vision. With those 2 qualities we can win any battle and achieve champion status.

But not all is lost when we as business owners can’t achieve this.. even when we fight with our management team and stakeholders we can still make a bit of money out of the business. The question is: is this enough?

So does it really matter that Atlas never wins? It does to their fans. They are still loyal to their brand, but the question is: for how much longer. Nobody wants to support the losing team, year after year after year. Or do they… ?!

Originally posted 2010-09-20 22:29:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Is this the end of an era? Will Cloud Computing separate the "boys from the men"?

Had an interesting discussion today at lunch with the owner of an IT support company in Brisbane and the owner of a niche specialist IT provider for the retail industry about the effect Cloud Computing has and will have on this part of the IT industry.

The discussion really started when somebody asked about our experience with migrating from Exchange based email services to Google apps based services. And Scott made a valid point: the small IT support shop around the corner that services the Small Business segment will really feel the change in the market.

Ask yourself the question… seriously… if you had to start all over again, and set up IT systems for your business, would you purchase proprietary software or would you start off with Google Apps for your email, word processing, basic spreadsheets, intranet pages, etc?

I know what I would do.. we did it a few months ago: we no longer use Microsoft Exchange Server. We no longer need the IT support that goes with managing email ID’s etc. That could amount up to a massive cost saving for the small business owner, but what will it mean for the small IT shop?!?!

The only way to succeed in this industry (imho) is to be amazing with your services. Your clients will want to stay with you – not for the money, but for the unparalleled service which they can NOT get anywhere else!

Technology is replaceable for something with the exact same features and benefits – service is not.

Originally posted 2009-09-19 04:10:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What is the the foolproof one and only secret to success in business?

After 20 years of being ‘out of touch’,  an old friend connected with me again via skype (don’t you love the power of google searches??) and this morning we started chatting about the secrets of success. This seemed very appropriate as I just returned from a trip to the US where I spent 3 days with 700 very successful CEO’s, so the discussion was a great follow up from that experience.

In the past 10 years, my friend has grown his business both in revenue and profitability in an industry and geographical area that is quite challenging; he owns and manages dairy farms in Europe. His answer to my question “what makes you so successful” was:

A great family, sense of humor and the iron will to turn your dream into a reality. And of course good old fashioned hard work!

Isn’t that fantastic? Yes, it takes an iron will and the ability to work really hard and keep doing this even when everything seems to be stacked against you. Which is probably where that sense of humor comes in handy 😉 But before even that he mentioned  ‘a great family’.

He didn’t think long about that answer, and it took me by surprise as I expected something like : genetically manipulated dairy cows or a tricky & complicated breeding program!

His first response was “a great family” – and how guilty are we entrepreneurs and business owners of taking our spouses and family for granted. We sometimes feel that we create everything ourself and our egos keep getting bigger and bigger. (yup – confession time, my ego is up there with the rest of the boys! doesn’t matter if you’re male or female… we all suffer from it).

And to link it back to something I heard in Houston last week – Gene Kranz mentioned that the secret to mission control success was teamwork and ‘the ability to check your ego at the door’. Never let ego get into the way; if you want to be successful you need to focus on your goals and be humble in serving the rest of your team in achieving the absolute best.

He actually said…

There is no achievement without risk and to be successful we need to have the following:

  • Discipline and focus
  • Understand the value of high morale
  • Leave your ego at the door

Who best to help you to step away from your ego, but your spouse and family?! They keep you grounded, they keep you real. So ultimately they help you become the successful business  person that you want to be.

Maybe it’s time to spend a bit more time with your family, and a bit less time with your spreadsheets and cheque book?!…. what do you think?

Originally posted 2011-04-15 00:47:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

ITIL Capacity Management and Financial Management working together to block business processes

I just checked into my hotel in Rio de Janeiro – great location: close to the beach and not too close to the busy streets. As I have to deliver a presentation tonight I wanted to do some work in preparation, so I asked the girl at reception about the internet connection. (normally I have to ask for a cable as I don’t carry one with me)

No problem with the cable as it is wireless internet so she gives me the userid and password for the connection. I am happy as my business processes can continue from my mobile/virtual office. But that happiness quickly vanished when she shouted at me – just before I stepped into the lift on my way to my room – “oh, and internet is charged at $0.20 per minute” 

WHAT?!

Wow – that’s a bit steep!! In most hotels it is either free, or you pay anywhere between $18 and $25 per day for connectivity. But  20 cents per minute? Most of my business processes rely in some shape or form on internet connectivity! So that will cost me $12 per hour?! I had to swallow really hard to accept that. But there was no option – it’s this or no internet at all…

So while I walked on the beach it got me thinking: we talk within the ITIL processes of Capacity Management, Demand Management and Financial Management about financial constraints to channel business usage of IT services. But never should it lead to our business people taking walks on the beach because they get really nervous everytime another minute passes and they know they have to pay for it.

Remember – charging models have to be simple, realistic and FAIR. I fail to see how these principles are applied in this particular hotel.

Over and out – I’m turning off the internet now.. this blog has cost me $2.00 already!

Originally posted 2008-12-05 02:32:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Why do training organisations pay mega $$ for ITIL accreditation?

Caveat and pre-warning. This might turn into a little bit of a rant…

Today I was notified that we didn’t win a large training opportunity. This doesn’t happen often, but still.. not happy with the results. And as always I try to figure out where I could have assisted the client better in their purchasing process.  Good thing is that this time I know who I lost the opportunity to, so I decided to check out what the differences are in our approach.

Now here’s the deal: The Art of Service is accredited with EXIN for all ITIL V2 and ITIL V3 certification courses, both for our classroom delivery and our eLearning delivery methods.  And yes, the full list is:

  1. ITIL V2 Foundation
  2. ITIL V2 Practitioner IPAD, IPPI, IPSR, IPRC
  3. ITIL V2 Service Manager
  4. ITIL V2-V3 Foundation Bridge
  5. ITIL V2-V3 Manager Bridge
  6. ITIL V3 Foundation
  7. ITIL V3 Intermediate Capability SOA, PPO, OSA, RCV
  8. ITIL V3 Interemediate Lifecycle SS, SD, ST, SO, CSI
  9. ITIL V3 Managing Across the Lifecycle

This is important to us, as we want to do the right thing AND have that independent validation of our course materials.

(and I must admit – I am very critical of the fact that we have to be accredited for ITIL Foundation programs, when people can do self study or no study and sit the exam anyway… but we want to cover all bases hence the full suite of programs.)

This is what the friendly lady on customer service told me when I quizzed ‘the other company’ on their accreditation status:

you: hi there XXXX
you: Who is your ITIL Foundation course accredited with?
XXX: we don’t offer credits
you: ?
you: You offer ITIL V3 Foundation
XXX: yes
you: I only want to know if your ITIL course is ACCREDITED
you: who are you accredited with
you: ?
XXX: the training is a self study course
you: yes – I understand that
you: but who is the accrediting body who approved the courseware
you: or are you using somebody else’s materials?
XXX: We use the book from OCG which is the Official Guide to ITIL v3
you: that is great – but that’s only a book
you: who authorized the coursematerials?
XXX: and the training is instructor lead training delivered thru streaming video
XXX: the training is guaranteed
XXX: its not authorized by anyone
you: yes – who is the course approved / accredited / authorized by?
XXX:and noone has ever failed the exam after doing the training withus
XXX: with us
you: are you sure? (as this is compulsory for all providers due to copyright restrictions)
XXX: yes I am sure
you: ok – thank you
you: hi there XXXX

you: Who is your ITIL Foundation course accredited with?

XXX: we don’t offer credits

you: ?

you: You offer ITIL V3 Foundation

XXX: yes

you: I only want to know if your ITIL course is ACCREDITED

you: who are you accredited with

you: ?

XXX: the training is a self study course

you: yes – I understand that

you: but who is the accrediting body who approved the courseware

you: or are you using somebody else’s materials?

XXX: We use the book from OCG which is the Official Guide to ITIL v3

you: that is great – but that’s only a book

you: who authorized the coursematerials?

XXX: and the training is instructor lead training delivered thru streaming video

XXX: the training is guaranteed

XXX: its not authorized by anyone

you: yes – who is the course approved / accredited / authorized by?

XXX:and noone has ever failed the exam after doing the training withus

XXX: with us

you: are you sure? (as this is compulsory for all providers due to copyright restrictions)

XXX: yes I am sure

you: ok – thank you

Isn’t that interesting? I mean – it will be a HUGE cost saving not to have to worry about the accreditation, audits, paperwork, renewals etc.

I might need to rethink our business model … what do you think?

Originally posted 2009-10-21 03:51:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mixed emotions… be careful what you wish for!

For months and months we have been asking for a lower US$ … The reason is because we sell a lot of our products online and most of those sales are in US$. When we started this online sales the US Dollar was approx. 60 cent so this made us really happy! However in the last few months (years really) it has steadily increased to 99 cents! This means that the same product now yields 30% less in revenue!! Mind you – this is with the exact same cost base and activities on our side so it really cuts into the profits. You can understand how this didn’t really made us very happy.

So for the last few months we kept saying to each other: wouldn’t it be great when the US$ dropped again? Even if it is to 75 cents.. what would be a major gain!

Do you know that saying ” Be careful what you wish for?”… Well…. maybe there is some truth in the saying after all. I mean: by no means am I saying or even inferring that we had anything to do with the credit crunch or the stock market crash in the US of today… but the dollar DID drop!! Today the dollar was 79 cents.

And this is where the mixed emotions come into play – the dollar has dropped but NOBODY IS BUYING!! How ironic… 

I need a new wish: keep the dollar at a low level but make corporations in the United States and elsewhere in the world realise that they need a more systematic approach to their IT organisations and that by purchasing our eLearning, toolkits and publications they can improve productivity at a relative low cost! 

Can I go wrong with this wish?? I don’t think so… let’s go for this one… In the mean time we’ll keep building products and services that can help companies to manage their finances and IT investments even in times of crisis.. as this is what we’ve been offering in the past 8 years and I’m sure that somebody will understand the value of these products in the midst of this all…

75 cents….. 

happy clients….

75 cents…..

happy clients…

 

Yep – I like this! It will make everybody happy… 

Ivanka

Originally posted 2008-09-16 10:42:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter