If you’re like me, you are increasingly becoming reliant on online shopping to replace the more arduous task of physical in-store shopping. I find this is particularly true during the holiday season when the idea of fighting traffic and elbowing crowds to desperately search numerous shops in order to find just the right gift for Aunt Phillis (who’s just going to hate whatever she receives anyway) gives way to the more idyllic setting of web-surfing multiple stores simultaneously from the privacy of your home while the dulcet tones of Nat King Cole playing gently in the background lull you into the holiday spirit (a little spiced eggnog on the side doesn’t hurt either). But have you ever stopped to consider why you shop at some websites and not at others? Certainly item prices have something to do with it, as does the breadth of product selection. However, there is almost certainly a third element involved—one of which you may not even be consciously aware: The quality of the online store shopping experience directly impacts the likelihood that you (and other consumers) will purchase items on it. Websites that are friendly, professional, and easy to use are far more likely to produce sales than those that are confusing and difficult to navigate.
IT administration is a thankless job. Let’s face it—the only time admins gain any recognition is when something goes wrong. In fact, the most successful IT administrators proactively manage very stable environments where very few failures and performance degradations occur. Unfortunately, though, this is rarely the case, and it is far more common for admins to get stuck in the break/fix cycle of reactive “firefighting” where problems are never truly resolved and are destined to occur again. Making matters worse, increasing requirements for mobility, business agility, high performance, and high availability have substantially increased IT administrator workloads. With this kind of pressure, it’s no wonder IT professionals are frustrated.
When people think of IT mobility, the images most immediately conjured regard smartphones and tablets. In truth, however the mobile device landscape could be considered broader than this. The basic definition of a mobile device is simply “any computing device designed principally for portability.” By that definition, laptops should clearly be included in that scope. However, some definitions state that a mobile device must be “handheld” indicating size is a factor without actually specifying how small a device must be to achieve that designation. Regardless of size limitations, those definitions still favor inclusion of laptops since many are available with a form facture that is smaller than some of the larger tablets. Therefore, the defining descriptor for a mobile device must fall to its portability, which also happens to be the key differentiator between a laptop and a desktop PC. Logically, therefor, a laptop is, in fact, a mobile device.
IT administrators love to write scripts – at least, the most talented ones do. Scripting provides a powerful platform to automate simple and repeatable tasks. However, like with most powerful tools, there is an overwhelming temptation for scripting to be overused. When faced with a project deadline, a high-pressure failure event, or even just the need to simplify day-to-day events, administrators can unintentionally create scripts that are so complex they actually put the business at risk. I must confess that during my 2 decades-long tenure as an IT administrator and engineer, I’ve written a lot of scripts…a LOT of scripts…and learned a lot of important lessons. Scripting was never intended to replace application programming. Its purpose is to provide a quick and easy resource for performing simple and repeatable tasks. It is not uncommon, however, for scripts to start simple but balloon over time into complex code that is virtually unintelligible even to its author.
There is a reason orchestras have a single conductor. Can you imagine the cacophony that would result if a horn section performed out of sync with a string section? Or if the percussions played a faster beat then the woodwinds? But in IT management, it’s all too common for organizations to have separate automation platforms conducting individual software elements. In fact, this is often the cause of an increased IT complexity that results in degraded performance and reliability. For instance, SAP’s popular customer relationship management (CRM) software includes a built-in job scheduler – the Computing Center Management System (CCMS) – with some limited capabilities specifically designed to support its unique platform (such as to analyze and distribute client workloads). But this is an independent tool requiring administration and monitoring tasks separate from any other automated solutions. An average IT organization will need to manage dozens of similar management platforms, each with its own unique interface and operating parameters.
Chances are, in an average day, you are not accomplishing as many tasks as you would like … and neither are your colleagues or your employees. What is mystifying about that statement is that it seems today’s workforce is putting in more hours and more effort than ever before coinciding with an increased adoption of IT devices and applications designed to improve user productivity. In fact, this has been a key driver for organizations to enable workforce mobility – to provide flexibility in accessing business IT resources (applications, data, email, and other services) from any device at any location at any time in order to improve overall business performance. But even the most accomplished business professionals must admit there are days when little gets done despite herculean efforts.
It’s time to take a serious look at Office 365. The cloud edition of Microsoft’s broadly adopted business productivity suite – which bundles such popular packages as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft Outlook – has been both heavily praised and heavily criticized since its introduction in 2011. While the adoption rate of the traditional software edition of Microsoft Office is currently in no danger of being overtaken by its cloud-hosted cousin, recent adoption rates for Office 365 have substantially accelerated. Businesses, in particular, have shown increased interest in the cloud-based platform, and many are carefully considering whether to make the transition after existing Enterprise Agreement (EA) licenses expire.
Here we go again. New releases of Microsoft’s flagship operating system are typically greeted with a combination of angst, curiosity, confusion, and dread in equal measure. It seems just as folks have gotten used to a particular Microsoft version, a new one is released with a completely different interface and requiring a whole new set of operational practices. Even worse, upgrading large numbers of desktops to the new edition in a large enterprise environment is a daunting task often avoided by IT operations teams until and unless it is absolutely necessary to perform a mass migration. More often, new OS platform adoption occurs due to device attrition (i.e., replacing old devices hosting old OS versions with new devices hosting the new OS version). The upcoming, late-July release of Windows 10 will likely be no exception to this.
There seems to be a direct correlation between how successful business professionals are and their level of impatience. While I am not familiar with any studies on this particular subject, it is simple logic that the most productive employees are those who most frequently demand rapid response to service requests. From my past experience managing and providing IT administrative support, I can attest that these individuals are usually the most irritating—constantly requesting access to new applications, data, and other business resources with expectations of an immediate response. Begrudgingly, I must acknowledge that these are the folks who are also most likely to close deals, beat deadlines, increase revenues, and win awards. In the modern world of highly competitive markets and increased organizational requirements, impatience may actually be a virtue.
Business Process Management in the Real World — Why It’s Important to Govern Both Automated and Manual Processes
In a perfect world, all business processes would be automated and all work tasks would be accomplished with the click of a button. This idyllic work experience seems to be the realization of Plato’s utopia…or, if you prefer, the world of the Jetsons. Regrettably, however, we clearly do not live in a perfect world. Put simply, while any repeatable process can be automated, not every process is repeatable, so automation is not a practical solution in all cases. This is particularly a problem for enterprises since business productivity is almost entirely dependent on the rapid and accurate performance of business processes.