19 January 2010

…And thus the plan was fulfilled

A little over a year ago I wrote about being in "search of Friends, Advocates and Colleagues" at our sister company. At the same time I was also searching Work. I had already established all friends, advocates and colleagues and they were quite solid. Instead I was looking to drive technological progression throughout the company. It has been easy to apply technology in areas that had a pressing need, but it was much harder gain acceptance of systems that didn't have a perceived problem but could still benefit from technology backings. This past Friday I heard the magic words, "Daniel, I think you've opened Pandora's Box. Now that we have seen what can be done we have all sorts of ideas." And thus the plan was fulfilled, years of work has been solidified into a single breaking point that has finally burst.

You may think it a little selfish of me to propagate my department into every venue possible. It is only mildly selfish though. When done correctly, technological progression helps the company to run more efficiently and thus saves money while improving performance. In my mind, paper forms are generally one of the more ineffective ways to handle business. For example, we have a form for resolving customer issues. Sometimes the resolutions require multiple managers to approve the resolution and then other people to complete the resolution. Let us follow the paper form through its life. It starts out as a PDF on our intranet site. A salesperson locates, prints and completes the form before giving it to the manager. The manager works with the form until an acceptable resolution has been reached. They then approve the form then and send it to the appropriate party who then process the resolution. In this system there are at least four places where the paper form can be lost and no one would know about it (with the salesperson, the manager, in the mail and with the processor). Converting the form to digital avoids the problem of the form getting lost. The form also travels quicker, especially by avoiding the mail. What used to take days to move can now be done in hours.

Selfish or not, I feel that propagating technological progress throughout the company is a benefit not only to my department, but to the company as a whole.

16 January 2010

The Secret Tenets of IT/IS

Through time I have developed a triplet of tenets to guide my projects and efforts at work. These tenets are in fact the rock solid foundation that my IT/IS Department has been based upon. Thus far they have worked really well. As they have been so vital to me I thought I would share them.

The Three Secret Tenets of IT/IS

Secret One:
Imagine for a moment that you are traveling down the highway. You're going a good 90 miles per hour, which wouldn't be a problem except you are on a highway, not a freeway, and the speed limit is 65 miles per hour. You're not really in a hurry, you're just excited for the lunch date you're on your way to.

You hear the siren first. It is a blaring siren, yet it seems distant and remote. You tap the brakes and look in the rear-view mirror hoping that you will see a police car racing down the other side of the highway. The lights are close enough you don't need the mirror. Your dashboard lights up in brilliant but short bursts of red and blue, the police car is behind you.

That tap on the brakes turns into a full push, the car decelerates and you pull to the side. You don't even hope he passes you by, you know he is out for you. He gets out of his car and walks to your windows which you roll down. Your heart is racing, your blood boiling, your pants soiled (not really but you wonder if it would be easier if they were). You're not just in trouble, you are practically dead.

"Why are you in such a hurry son?" the Officer asks.

You consider all the good excuses you can think of but you find your mouth speaking before any of the excuses can be loaded. "Just a lunch date, sir."

"Must be a big date," he replies sternly, "to not care if you arrive there or not."

"No sir." Again you speak without the proper language module loaded, "just a couple of friends."

"Why were you going so fast then?" the sternness still strong in his voice.

"Just got excited and lost track of the speed," you have given up on the whole good reasoning thing, obviously your mouth doesn't think you need it.

The Officer walks back to his car to check your credentials. An eternity passes before he returns.

"Son," he starts, "I just want to make sure you stay alive. If you promise you won't go speeding around again I won't ticket you."

"Honestly, sir, I was so scared when I saw your lights that I committed to never speed again," you say.

It wasn't a lie, though it would turn out to not be the truth. But for now, you believed it and that is what matters. Later you will find the statement an error, but you cannot expect a man to change his whole life in a moment that will be remembered well for some time before time passes and the memory becomes distant and then not a memory at all but a legend until finally it dies as a faint myth. It has been said that 'almost dying changes nothing. Dying changes everything' (Dr. Gregory House) and it is true here as well.


Secret Two:
Have you seen a phone recently? They're not phones anymore, they are Phones. Sure there are still some that just perform the basic calling functions, but most phones today do a whole lot more. In addition to calling they send and receive text messages, take relatively high quality pictures and video, surf the internet, come loaded with all sorts of applications and tell you where you are (though they are still lacking on to help me figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm sure an app is coming to do that too). What we had once prided ourselves on being the thinnest fit possible we now pride on being able to do anything.

"Being able to get my email anywhere, at any time," Devin said, "I couldn't live without be able to get my email anywhere."

I thought about that comment and concluded that on my personal email account I don't get any messages that are so important they can't wait until I can get home. I get those on my work email account, but let's face it: I don't want to be answering work email when I'm hiking a mountain, out riding a bike or even curled up reading a book. But then I thought that about my cell phone and how I feel naked and bare when I leave home without it. I can only imagine that the sensation of needing my phone, and all the features that come with it, every moment of every day would get stronger the more useful my phone was.


Secret Three:
In you were to go swimming in more tropical waters than what we get in Oregon and were to go exploring a coral reef, you may perchance encounter a glorious Manta Ray. Unlike the common rays and skates, manta ray is huge, measuring in at about 25 feet from wing tip to wing tip. As awesome and impressive as the Manta is, it has little to do with IT or IS. Rather, I would draw your attention to the much, much smaller remora (they are one to three feet long). The remoras attach themselves to the manta (and whales, sharks and other large oceanic bodies) with a small suction cup. As the large manta swims the little remoras go along too. When it is eating time all the remora has to do is reach its lower lip up past its upper lip (which nature designed it to do) and gently scrap all manner of goodness off the manta ray. This coexistence is welcomed by the manta ray because though the remora's ride hitching means a little more effort to swim, the remora's eating keeps it clean and parasite free. Both parties win.

There they are, the Three Secret Tenets of IT/IS. I know it isn't fair that they are encased within heavily coded analogies, but it wasn't fair to make those who know the real secrets follow me around for weeks on end doing relatively menial tasks either. I figure equal unfairness balances out into total fairness. Besides, you didn't honestly expect me to fully disclose one of my most closely guarded secrets, did you?

As a side note, each point is as true as I can find, so at least you learned something. If you want to know the real tenets you'll have to become part of my posterity.

Oh, I currently have no openings in my posterity. I'll keep you apprised though.

09 January 2010