Working for Others

IMG_1503

As part of studies in to my mission statement I recently listened to a sermon from Knox County Vineyard in which the Pastor references studies about happiness during retirement for people who volunteer.

It’s one of my objectives to “Devoting my time to the service of others and in so doing discover God’s purposes for the Cross of Jesus Christ”. I’ve not set myself this objective in order to get a happy retirement, I have set it because I believe that it is the call of the Christian to serve others. But it’s interesting to note that God honours those who connect with His purposes (even if they don’t know they are).

Is market consolidation a good thing…

Another mega deal is announced, this time between Adobe and Macromedia. Is that a good thing I wonder? The IT market likes these big mergers, but they never seem, from my perspective, to work out that well.

  • Compaq buy Digital – remember that, not the best story for Compaq so much so that:
  • HP buy Compaq – umm, and that wasn’t so great for HP.
  • IBM buy Lotus – where are their productivity tools now and even Notes is withering.
  • Novell buy WordPerfect – and a disaster ensues. Novell are fortunate to survive.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are loads of examples of large companies buying smaller companies that do work.

  • Microsoft buy Visio – Visio becomes the standard business diagramming tool.
  • Cisco buy all sorts of companies – and the small companies product becomes the standard.
  • CA keeps going by buying something – anything.

Recently we have the purchase of Veritas by Symatec – we’ll see, I reserve judgement on that one. And now Adobe and Macromedia. They may be in ‘similar’ fields and overlapping fields but are they in the same business, are they really the ones in a position to take on Microsoft. I’m not sure that the way to take on Microsoft is via one big company. I would take them on with lots of little companies. A bit more like gorilla warfare rather than power warfare. What is more likely to happen is that Adobe slow up Macromedia so that Microsoft will find it easier to catch up.

Office Efficiency

One of my ‘other’ jobs is to help a volunteer organisation in their use of IT. This organisation is only small and consists of six members of staff. My daytime job is to help large corporate to get the most out of their IT investments.

Both of these jobs give me an interesting insight into the ways that people interact with IT. One of them is all about detail, the other is all about high level big picture. On a personal level I tend to use one as a counter-balance to the other.

Large corporation try to increase office efficiency by investing huge amounts of money in large projects. These projects tend to focus on a radical change across a whole corporate base; new email system, desktop refresh, application upgrade, new application. In most instances the training for these changes focuses on the way that the change works; this is the way that you send email in this new system; this is the way that you schedule meetings; etc.

In my work with the volunteer organisation I have realised how diverse the use of IT is in the day to day things. There are now many different routes to achieve the same thing. In Windows (for instance) think of the different ways that you could open an existing Word document; you can use the folder views via something like ‘My Documents’; you can open up Word and do a File-Open command. Previously people would try to assess the efficiency of these types of operations by looking at the number of steps that needed to be undertaken; the one with the least steps being the most efficient. While in theory this is correct, I have come to the realisation that actually the one which is the most efficient is the one which works best for the individual. The biggest efficiency problem these days is not the time it takes for the computer to undertake an operation, it’s the time it take the individual to map out in their head the operations. And the pictures and maps that people use to do this are not linear ABC type maps, they are more like mind maps.

The only truly inefficient thing is the task map that someone has in their head which takes them on a route around the task, rather than getting straight to the task. So the challenge for corporate training is to find these inefficient tasks and routes and assist people in finding a new route. This type of education and learning is radically different to the way that we educate people today. Firstly, we need to make people realise that their productivity is their responsibility and not the responsibility of IT. But that is a difficult one to sell to some people. We then, also, need ways of understanding the ways that people are using their IT. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say “I notice from our logs of the system that you keep going to your “My Documents area by first opening My Computer” did you know that you can get there quicker by doing this.”

That type of logging is clearly not available today, all we get are ‘event logs’ which tells us about problems and issues, but tell us nothing of the way that people are working.

Someone just sent me this…

Someone just sent me this, it kind of fits with my current thoughts.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar…and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He asked the students if the jar was full.They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly, and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full; they agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things: your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favourite passions, things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter–like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else: The small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just filler.”

One of the students raised his hand and enquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Connecting with the Purposes of God in my Personal Life

IMG_1592

Having defined a bit of a mission statement for my time; how would do I assess my level of achievement? Well that’s quite an interesting thing to do. Because it would be completely wrong to try and assess the number of minutes spent doing each thing. Because I actually don’t want to measure myself on doing, I want to measure myself on connecting.

Connecting with God’s purposes is not something that you do, you have to be something to connect with God’s purposes. But, having said that, there is a doing element to it. You generally do not connect with God’s purposes by sitting around and waiting for them just to come along and hit you.

So in my personal life? Well in school terms I think it’s a C-, which in English schools would be a pass, but only just.

I mange to spend time on my own considering God’s purposes. Reading the Bible to see what God has done for others, trying to understand the eternal truths held within. But there is a sense that there is more to do and that my nature of ‘just enough’ is prevailing.

Anyway it’s late, so I’ll go away and ponder some more.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager

It’s always interesting when organisation try to move into a space which has been on the edge of their core competency.

For a long time now corporate have trusted Microsoft file servers, but not trusted (because it’ been too noddy) Microsoft to protect that data. So rather than Microsoft going after the traditional backup market, which would be a really tricky sell they have started to go after a side market, and arguable an emerging market.

And so is born Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager.

Will they succeed – probably.

Smaller Tablets

Mary Jo Foley is talking about the emergence of a new Tablet form factor:

First it was the slate. Then it was the PC-Tablet convertible. Now it’s a mini-Tablet that can do everything that a traditional Tablet PC can do, plus store electronic books, that could end up as the new gadget on which Microsoft is betting to further Tablet PC momentum.

Highlighting an ABC News Article which states

I am meeting with our tablet people about the idea of carrying text books around. They’ll have just a tablet device that they can call up the material on. That’s been a dream for a long time, we’re making progress there.

Personally I love the feel of an A5 notebook. There is something that it ‘just right’ about the size. The key thing though, would be weight and depth. If it’s too heavy it’s a problem and if it’s too think it’s a problem. I regularly carry such a thing around and I think I would be as happy with that as I was with the 12.1” screen on the HP I had for a while. But if I had that it wouldn’t fulfill my requirements in many of the areas where I found the tablet really useful, but then again the 12.1” screen wasn’t big enough either for those situation.

For personal note taking though, the A5 form factor would definitely be better than the A4 factor and it is big enough for viewing presentation and other such activities.

Would I use it as a primary device, I doubt it. It  would have to be truly powerful and come with an incredible docking option for that to happen. And by docking I’m not talking about cool hardware. I’m talking about software. Where the device immediately recognises that now I am connected to a larger monitor I can automatically rearrange the windows and the behaviour would change to utilise that kind of working. And as I am unlikely to use it as a primary device then the synchronisation technologies would have to go a lot further than they do today.