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Coaching

We’ve just posted an update on training and have an example of how we use some software to make easy to follow video user guides. You can find the new page here – or watch the sample system[read more]

For the last few months, I’ve been working with a brilliant coffee vending business near Gatwick. In terms of culture and atmosphere, it’s quite a contrast to BOTH other venture capital[read more]

The results of Google’s “Project Oxygen” have been reported all over the place in the last week. The London Evening Standard and the New York Times both carried this, follow the[read more]

Anyone for PIM’s?

Digital is here and it’s hard to think of a business that can ignore the changes that flow from it? But for product driven companies, great, accessible and up to data product data fundamental to winning (or keeping) market share. So how do you manage the huge volume of product and product marketing information that your organisation has buried in storage silos?

More critically, how do you leverage that information to maximise its commercial value? A relatively small distribution company I was working at recently sold around 6,000 active products but had a total catalogue of over 30,000. Products ranged from high end seasonal items to low value, high volume “basics”. In their B2B environment, the target purchasers (high street retailers in the main) were generally well known.

Yet even though there were many market segments who might buy quite different ranges, there was no viable way to create the kind of product literature or micro sites that would get the right products in front of the right buyers efficiently and well positioned. The B2B e-commerce platform performed well but did little to meet the needs of the real  end-customers – sophisticated buyers who could choose to purchase through retailers, e-tailors or hybrid businesses -or of course buy competitors product ranges instead. Nor did it help the management of the product life cycle – getting a product and its marketing and technical information ready for launch or making it end of life and ensuring old stock was efficiently and pro-actively handled.

A PIM (Product Information Management) software is a great way to organise and structure product data and automate the acquisition of media and product data and then channel it to the right distribution channel. They massively simplify the deployment and management of multiple web sites each presenting an appropriate view of the product. And of course, enabling a distributor to provide value added marketing material to the channels they sell to.

A well integrated PIM can allow the product data to be collated, QA’d and organised once and then manages the distribution of that data to all its target audiences. Multi-market, multi-language, multi-currency can all be managed away from specific e-commerce platforms and from core ERP Systems.  The PIM can provide data to each of these or accept it from them. For example, suppose you want to manage the promotion of a long-lead time product range dependent on it arriving into stock, the ERP system can be set to update the PIM when stock is sufficient for a launch and automatically trigger the release of that product data into a high profile part of the web site. You can also pull the page when stock get’s low and promote something else that IS in stock. And as many distributors sell through giant’s such as Amazon, it’s much easier to meet their rigorous requirements when all the required data is available and QA’d long before the first time its shipped.

When it comes to product data. being digital, is about more than a sales portal, or just an effective media management system – it requires a step change in the way product data is acquired, managed and then leveraged to increase sales, market share and profit.

Visualising Big Data

Some years ago, I found myself responsible for some of the biggest compute farms in the world and the software platforms that drove them. Their purpose was to make sense of the vast quantities of data emerging from the Human Genome projects. Each quarter we had to calculate a huge number of relationships between the sequence and structure of every protein known to man. That data was then combined into an Oracle database that we licensed to other biotech’s and global pharmaceutical organisations along with the tools to analyse it. 25% compound growth in data each run (that’s 140% growth per annum) created all sorts of architectural and technical challenges that impacted software and database design, and hardware performance. We migrated most of our infrastructure to hosted cloud type services as the most effective way to manage the scale of infrastructure growth. But some of the bigger challenges were around how to present the resulting data to a wide variety of research scientists around the globe.

Bespoke visualisation tools, database design and tuning and web design that could perform when delivering analysis of database tables of 25 billion rows – all had to work. The power of that data was its potential to identify new drug targets and the compounds that might act on them – but  without visualisation and analysis tools, finding the patterns that could lead to the discovery of a new drug or drug target (a protein that a drug just might do something to) was highly unlikely.

Ten years later, Forbes forecast of 2017 Technology Trends highlights Big Data – or more accurately “Humanized Big Data. (visual, empathetic, qualitative)” as an area that will see major advances.  During 2017, if  Forbes is correct, it won’t just be scientists that need to innovate around integrating human friendly tools – like Spotfire and Qlik that accurately bring disparate complex large volume data into focus.  So the question for all of us responsible for IT, is what are we doing this year to organise and manage our enterprise data better AND to innovate around how to make the data truly useful and accessible?

Change and transformation

Change isn’t difficult of itself, the main challenges are fear and inertia. It’s often said “it’s not change people are frightened off but uncertainity”.

In my experience, fear comes from:

  • uncertainty – uncertainty of outcome – i.e. “will this change work?”
    and fear of what the outcome will be like -“I may not like the way the outcome affects me”.
  • Intertia arises from the legacy of existing infrastructure (systems and processes) and the people and functions that surround it So, creating a clear vision or image of what successful change will be like, is an important step towards reducing the fear of uncertainty.There’s more on structural and cultural strategies elsewhere in this blog.

Delivering some successful change so that people can start to visualise what that feels like, demonstrates that success is possible. Unfortunately inertia makes delivering the first examples of successful change more difficult. So bypassing Inertia and creating the motivation for successful change are both powerful tools to get change moving.

So, what can organisations do, to do get past Fear and overcome Intertia?

Read more here.

Interim IT Directors – achieving change

Interim IT Directors are quickly available and can bring a completely fresh perspective. They can help the board and heads of function make quicker and more informed decisions on what, when and why different projects and IT services should be invested in.

Having delivered Interim IT leadership over the last 10 years and worked for Interim IT Directors I can see the benefits they bring whether capitalising on an unintended gap or opportunity, or as a strategic decision at a time of change. The new Interim may be part of a changing Executive team, or be joining a stable and confident group, in either case including them in the weekly Executive team meetings will increase their effectiveness and the speed at which the benefits they can drive will be realised.

See how recent blog for more about this topic…….

Taking on Interim roles quite often comes out of other projects – the most common is IT reviews, due diligence (during investment, re-investment or acquisition.  These can be driven by external demands – an investor asking for an independent review or preparation for such an event. Increasingly boards and management teams planning management buy outs (MBO’s) or management by in’s want to be ahead of the game.   The needs for a few days of a senior consultant’s time to asses the current status and capability or perhaps to prepare an IT Roadmap can be invaluable.

The result of these short, sharp projects may stand alone, or lead to the appointment of an Interim to push things forward at a time or to support and extend the capability of a capable Head of IT already in place. Wih our capability to evaluate the current team and situation, and to employ strategies such as Management Coaching, we believe we’re well placed to support these needs.

For more information, please use our Enquiry Page.

Agile Working, Space Planning, Parking and Travel

Workplace solutions

We have significant experience in workplace solutions including agile working and associated travel planning, requirements gathering etc. We partner with other organisations where specific specialisations are needed.

Our work has included:

  • Gathering requirements,
  • Managing change and communication- including work-shops, project team meetings etc
  • implementing specialised IT systems to support these needs
  • customised training and system configuration

We’ve developed and delivered agile working training to many staff to help them adapt to their new working environment and be effective in using the systems. We’ve trained Super Users and Administrators, Managers, Consultants and PA’s in a variety of specialisations.

So if you’d like to find out more about we and our partners could help you in moving to a more agile working environment, please use our contact us page.

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Retained IT Director and Consultant

A retained IT Director for a few days each year?

You outsource IT, but wouldn’t it be great to have access to independent advice for you and your board on value and best practice when it comes to IT?

Managing IT for SME’s takes more than just outsourcing your infrastructure and daily IT support.

  • How do you check you’re still getting good value?
  • review your IT needs as your business changes and grows?
  • Or start up a new project or programme?
  • And what if you have your own small IT support team, how do you know if they’re doing the best job possible?
  • And what about keeping pace as IT changes and your competition uses it to try to get ahead of you?

From as little as £500 per month, we can provide access to the specialist IT management experience and knowledge that you may want but didn’t think you could afford.

We can provide advice and guidance on a regular or occasional basis, can help manage projects or serious incidents – outages, security problems.

We can also do due diligence on new investments or mergers as well as set up and give advice on Programmes, Projects and Infrastructure management. Managing and negotiating with suppliers, repairing supplier relationships that are breaking down are all things that save you time and money and allow you to focus your energy on your business.

Because we understand how smaller business works as well as large scale enterprises, we can help you apply the relevant best practices without overloading the business.

To find out more, please use our enquiry form – or if you’d like to talk to someone now call us on 01732 808391.

 

 

Making email work for your organisation instead of it blocking communications

Productivity – email steals your days

e-mail is a poor form of communication – so what can your organisation do to make it work better?

Staff spend too much time at their PC’s and use e-mail to drive their daily agenda, control communication and share information. Everyone works longer hours but the company achieves less.

Symptoms

  • staff communicate inefficiently, most time is spent being reactive (waiting for the next e-mail) instead of being proactive.
  • Conversation and discussion become less important than defending a position  or commenting on earlier e-mails in long and dispersed e-mail chains.
  • Lots of time is spent using e-mail to do things that could be dealt with quickly by phone or in person.
  • E-mail is misguidedly used to try and communicate on sensitive issues with the result that bigger problems ensue.
  • Productivity falls whilst working hours go-up.
  • Collaboration becomes slower and less frequent

 

Solutions

  1. Establish healthy e-mail usage rules which encourage good habits where e-mail is useful.
  2. Encourage the use of other forms of communications where these do the job better.
  3. Teach how to deal well with some of the areas that e-mail is being used as a substitute for (e.g. staff management problems, communication failure, team problem solving, inter-group working).
  4. Review success of programme and continue to tailor it to suit.

How Peopleware can help: we can define best practice, run courses or a broader programme to change the whole way in which e-mail is used within the organisation and by individuals. The result is more productive time and happier staff.

Teams are more important than technology

What is Peopleware?

by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, the authors describe their experience of software development projects. They highlight just how key people are to the whole IT equation. Through well presented ideas and tales of their experience they demonstrate the nassive cost of NOT investing in the management of IT teams and on the positive side, the effect of doing so. Just look at all those stories of failed big projects.

Nowadays, if you search the web for the term “Peopleware“, you’ll find various views such as this one at techterms.com. In this definition there is a fairly vague proposal that Peopleware refers to the people aspects of IT. Complementing Hardware and Software. And in one sense, they’re right. When we develop systems using hardware and software, we need to invest a great deal of time thinking about the people who use them.

  • Do these people (users) want a system like this?
  • How will it work?
  • What should the User Interface (UI) be like.

Since Lister and DeMarco, the whole setting has changed. The significance of what they proposed is MUCH greater.

In 2008 it was estimated that 5% of the UK workforce held jobs in IT (http://www.prospects.ac.uk/industries_it_overview.htm) some 900,000 people whose jobs may be more or less effective depending on how they work and what they deliver.

The problem is that leveraging this vast cost (probably some £40 billion annully) is rarely effective. Investment goes on technology and tools and rarely on managing them well.

At Peopleware our proposition is that we ALL need to find a much more complete set of tolls and techniques to manage our share of that £40,000,000,000 well.

What we aim to do is to help organisations to recognise that: The Team matters more than the Technology. We offer a track record of sorting out IT performance problems in Development, Infrastructure and Support teams – the ability to bring the skills and people to bear that can fix the problem.

Specifically, when senior management wants more from IT: i.e they want IT to be more effective, more efficient, more productive and more in-tune – then its much more effective to work on softer skills: Coaching, mentoring, communication, people modelling etc. The key capability for performance improvement comes by growing IT Management that knows how to consistently get the best out of their teams. The result should be:
1. Better recognition of what works well and untapped potential
2. Better understanding of the bits that really don’t work well
3. A more realistic set of solutions – e.g. appropriate right-sourcing with a good partner rather wholesale outsourcing that attempts to transfer the problem elsewhere.

IT Consulting - technology, teams and infrastructure

IT Consulting services

As well as people specific coaching and consulting Peopleware can provide more traditional and where appropriate technical IT Management consulting:

This could include some of the IT consulting and advisory services – with the extra of coaching and people and team advisory stuff.

Examples of the IT Management Consulting assignments include:

  • IT Strategy – to review/update or write. This might be an overall strategy or supporting components or plans e.g.
    • Technology
    • Sourcing
    • Software development
    • Programmes or Portfolios
    • Infrastructure
  • specific IT change work e.g. options for sourcing, outsourcing, cost cutting/down-sizing,
  • Introduction of different or better IT processes such as Service Centres, Service Level Agreements.
  • Technology based change -e g. technology upgrade plans, application requirements reviews, software selection
  • Programme Management – e.g. introduce or establish a programme of change – ideally business driven IT change
  • Interim IT Management (part time by preference)
  • Supplier management or review

For more information on specific requirements, why not call us or use the contact form below?