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.

The ITIL pyramid scheme

One of the entries in our ITIL Experience Book talks about the “Pyramid Scheme” for the ITIL V3 Certifications.

He probably referred to the way the certification scheme is illustrated

the official qualification scheme
the official qualification scheme

APMG probably didn’t mean to have people talk about this qualification scheme as a ‘pyramid scheme’ but a lot of discussion is happening in offices around the world about the investment required to do the certification Programs.

This has been one of the drivers for The Art of Service to develop the entire qualification pathway as eLearning Programs. You go through fully accredited course materials, supported by ITIL Expert Trainers, at a fraction of the classroom price.

You can achieve your entire ITIL Expert qualification through our eLearning programs, which are accredited by EXIN.

Originally posted 2009-09-20 08:05:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Too busy for doom and gloom

No – I am not sticking my head in the sand. I know that there is a change in the global economy and that this is changing the way businesses do business.

But to be honest: we have never been so busy as we are today! So in the office we regularly say to each other: “too busy for doom and gloom”. No matter what the economy does, we still have clients who have needs demands and wishes. They still would like to attend our educational programs. 

Now that I think of it… our clients are really smart! Now is THE time to attend our educational programs. The education we offer is to create and manage processes, procedures and workinstructions to streamline business processes in the IT groups. To create visibility of IT activities, the value that IT brings to the business and the return on investment.

Now more than ever our clients need help achieving these goals…

So: no time for doom and gloom – we have people to educate. And the education starts internally. As the leader of our team I am very aware of what is happening outside and how this may impact our activities, our sales and ultimately our financial results. But I don’t accept the freeze approach – we are NOT like the deer stuck in the headlights of the oncoming truck. We continue to motivate each other with all the fantastic results we achieve. The fan-mail we receive daily from our clients (we stuck them up on our wall of fame) and to continue to push ourself to the next limit…

So there you have it: no time to linger on negative things… we are too busy for doom and gloom!



Originally posted 2008-08-14 09:57:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

My top 4 mistakes of Self Publishing

The top 4 mistakes of self publishing

In the past 14 years I’ve personally been involved with the publishing of hundreds of books and publications. Some of these books I wrote and others were a team effort. Looking back I can see now that I’ve made the mistakes many self publishing authors have made – and will continue to make -:

Not recognising the work involved

As a consultant and trainer I write for a living. I write course materials, textbooks, exercises, white-papers, proposals etc. Turning this information in a book should be easy right? Oh, how wrong I was!

Writing a book may not be difficult, but to turn this into a published book that looks professional and  that people actually want to purchase is a complete different experience. I have since learnt that publishing involves proofing, editing, correcting and improving the text, as well as the creation of a cover page with back page and the marketing text that goes with it.

And what about all the technical specifications? Each distribution platform requires slightly different file types, technical specifications and file setup. It takes quite a bit of work to figure out the different settings for each channel.

2. Trying to do everything alone (and re-inventing the wheel)

Although I had many years of experience in IT consultancy and the delivery of training courses, I am no professional editor and proofreading your own work is next to impossible. You are too close to the text to see the issues with punctuation, grammar or general flow of the overall story.

Initially I also tried to create my own cover designs but luckily soon discovered that I really don’t have a good creative eye for book covers. I recognise a good one when I see it, but I find it extremely difficult to design one from scratch.

Rather than doing everything alone, I started looking for professionals who can help me in the process. This took a very long time and a lot of money, weeding through many mediocre employees and freelancers until I found somebody with a style that suited my books.

3. Using the wrong software and tools

My first “book” I wrote in MS word, and MS Publisher. This mistake took me days (if not weeks) to fix up. There is not ONE professional publishing platform that accepts documents created in MS Publisher.

Most professional books are created in Quark or Adobe inDesign. Eventually we chose to work with Adobe inDesign and although the constant updates to the software are frustrating and expensive, the end result is so much better than anything I could make with a simple wordprocessor like MS Word.

4. Only focusing on

Amazon has been ground breaking in the book industry. First as a book seller, and later as a publishing platform. Although expensive, amazon offers a fantastic publishing platform with their Createspace services.

However we all know that it is never a solid business decision to put all your eggs in one basket, so rather than just focusing on it is a good practice to have your book available at different sales channels.

I spent many hours researching online trying to find the other self publishing platforms, and setting up author pages everywhere to be able to upload my book(-s) in the various websites.

This process meant duplication of efforts and also a piecemeal approach to trying to find sales data.

How to avoid these mistakes?

If I had to do it again, I would use a service like Complete Publishing offers. It is called ‘Guided Self Publishing’ and it helps authors to self publish their books without making these costly mistakes.

As a professional and entrepreneur I don’t have time to re-invent the wheel and now I don’t have to. Complete Publishing helps busy professionals to create and publish their book.

(Full disclosure: I am invested in this company to help authors speed up their journey to a successful publishing experience)

Guided Self publishing means that the author retains control over their book but the process of self publishing is outsourced to Complete Publishing. The book is created professionally in inDesign and turned into an ePub after it has been checked and edited by professionals. The author can choose from multiple cover designs. The added bonus of this service is that the book is generated with an ISBN and marketing text and is distributed both as print publication and ebook to 38,000 retailers and 220,000 libraries. All sales data is collated in a central place and you will receive a single monthly overview of the sales of your book globally in all these different sales channels.

For more information:

Originally posted 2014-09-16 11:51:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

In times of recession – how does ITIL Service Management help to keep your good employees?

Today I was interviewed by somebody from the itSMF about trends in the ITSM education and training industry. Inevitably the questions go the the current economic climate and the position of education in all this.

To me this is really easy – but then again: I run an education company so I am slightly biased –  ITSM education really helps organisations to make a difference. Note that I don’t say ‘training’ as I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about organisations who only focus on the training aspect.. teaching monkeys tricks…  Of course there is a training aspect in each educational program but there is so much more to it! Being an educator means that you know your subject as well as have the ability to make people understand what this new theory means for them – in their working environment. You need to understand that it is NOT about you but about the students. Educating is more than presenting, it is about focusing on the needs and requirements of the students… constantly.

Anyway, stepping down from my soap box for a second here, I strongly feel that ITSM education can make the difference between an IT organisation that is subject to outsourcing or an IT group that adds value to the overall corporate goals. ITSM education make the difference to the individual wanting to get that new job, and helps to get passed by when the redundancies are handed out.

Like I said to the interviewer today; I am constantly looking for new staff. We filled 2 vacancies in March and are currently advertising for 2 additional vacancies. So I see my fair share of applications and resumes across my desk. In comparison to 12 months ago, we receive about 10x the amount of applicants but I can’t say that the overall quality of the applicants has risen. Mind you, there are still gems out there – and they stand out! But what I expected to see as a result of all these job cuts and redundancies was that a lot of highly skilled people with fantastic experience and backgrounds would be applying for jobs.. and I don’t see that at the moment. Not in Australia that is…

Why do I say this? Well, for highly competent – qualified and experienced ITSM staff members the jobs are still out there and it is easy to stand out among the other candidates. So adding ITSM certification to your resume could be a good thing for individual IT professionals.

On the other side – IT organisations can use ITSM education as a differentiator to maintain their high performing employees. Offering educational opportunities to them will make them highly productive in the work place – making sure the IT group can cope with the new requirements and added work pressures – but also happier employees as they know they are valued and continue to improve their skills and qualifications. This seems to be a way to retain your good employees. High performers want to be challenged, and constantly learning new things or improving current processes. ITSM education gives them the opportunity to do this. This ultimately saves you money through retention of your high performers and not having to look for new staff as well as an improved IT Service delivery mechanism.

Benefits no matter where you look! So, what’s keeping you from educating your staff?!

Originally posted 2009-04-14 21:27:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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