Cloud, featured, IT

IT can’t say No anymore, Learn how to say Yes

11 Aug , 2012  

[REPOST] If you are still from the traditional “IT Land of No”, your IT customers are already going over, under and around you. And they have been for some time. Every No is yet another shovel of dirt thrown on your own effectiveness within the organization. IT customers are bringing their own iPhone and Android smartphones and even computers to work, using file sync services like Dropbox on their company computers, using their credit cards to set up their own shadow IT environments in Amazon or other public cloud services, and more… all to avoid dealing with the IT Land of No.

As engineers, our problem solving training taught us to eliminate all the obstacles, and if your proposed solution still stands once all the possible no’s are eliminated, you likely have a workable solution. The problem with our training? It’s slow, leads to analysis paralysis, and most importantly causes you to automatically say No to your IT customers. At least that’s how they will see it.

While at the Cloud Leadership Forum a few weeks ago, I sat directly across from an IT manager who was a good example of an IT curmudgeon. We were discussing using cloud services to deliver IT as a Service and he kept saying things like, “they’re going to ask for their own virtual machines…No, they can’t have that.” Oh my. We need to undo this programmed behavior and learn how to say Yes.

How do you learn how to say Yes? The simplest approach is often holds the best approach. Start by just saying Yes upfront when an IT customer asks you for something. Literally, say it out loud to them; “Yes.” Don’t drag them through all the No’s to get to the Yes. Alternatively, say something like, “I’ll bet we can find a way to do that”, even if you don’t quite know yet how you’d solve their need or achieve what they’re asking. Next, ask yourself “how can I say yes to their request?” and start down the solution path without verbalizing all the No’s. What wasn’t possible a year ago might just be possible today or maybe you discarded their request out of hand in the past by habitually saying No. It’s simple but taking this approach really does work.

Once you’ve started to break the No habit, get out of the defensive IT position. Start by thinking about and learning how to do what your IT customers want… before they start asking. We’re tech people and there are things we’d like to do at work but haven’t figured out how to do yet. Threatened by BYOD? IT customers are already coming to IT with “how can I…” questions. So start figuring out the uses, apps to use, and requirements like security, remote access and data protection, before they ask you. Be ready with Yes answers because you’ve anticipated the need and gained enough insight how to support it. This is just one example.

Envision the future and start trying it now. And learn to embrace change… even better yet, how to enable and help make change happen. And when the next IT customer comes with their request, start your response with; “Yes, we can figure out how to do that.”

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Apple, featured, Microsoft, Mobility

Thank You Steve

6 Oct , 2011  

Steve Jobs has been a part of my career in computer and networking since it began in the 1980’s. My first computer and business were based on the Apple II Plus, creating medical office software and consulting to the State of Nebraska Education Department while attending college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (then Kearney State). I also worked in the college computer department supporting other students in our computer lab using Apple II’s and our timesharing mainframe computers. As a computer science student, I practically lived on my Apple II, writing software, playing games and experimenting with everything I could do with my Apple II. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were two of my first heros in the computer industry.

My Apple II followed me to my first post-college job building banking software. While others thought I was crazy, I brought my Apple II into work to write software requirements and designs while others turned in handwritten pages for the word processing pool to type up. While living in NY, I saw the introduction of the Macinotsh and the Lisa, neither of which I could afford at the time. My first Macintosh was actually purchased by my employer EDS, and a few months later I was able to buy my own Macintosh.

During that time I was working on a lot of projects using Apple technology and working on EDS’s Apple account in Cupertino. For a while I even toyed with the idea of moving to Silicon Valley and signing on to work at Apple. I was able to attend a couple of Apple events, MacWorld conferences and a TED conference where I saw Jobs in his element, pitching Apple and its products. I also had the privilege of presenting a Mac-based product I was a part of creating to then Apple CEO, John Sculley. Those projects also gave me a chance to meet Apple Fellow, Alan Kay, and Hypercard creator Bill Atkinson.

Macs were my primary computers at work and home until the mid-90’s, when I made the switch to Windows. The Mac operating system had become too unstable, slow, and lacked the software options available on Windows. Windows was catching up and the Mac no longer held the advantages over Microsoft it once had. Jobs was no longer at Apple and Apple as a company was a mess. I felt Apple had let me down on so many fronts and it was time to move on.

courtesy of wikimedia commons

It wasn’t until Jobs returned to Apple and made the decision to abandon the proprietary Mac operating system and Motorola processor dependency by switching to the Linux Unix-based Mach OS kernel that I felt there was hope for Apple. I wasn’t enamored by the iMac, the cube Mac or other plexiglass generations of Macs, but today Macs are provided as an end user computing option where I work right along with Windows. Despite my dire (and insanely stupid) predictions the iPhone would succomb to other smartphone devices, it was developing software for the iPhone that brought Apple products back into my professional and personal world. For me, the iPhone and iPad were the revolutionary equivalent to the Apple II and Mac products of their day.

Apple’s launching of the personal computer (Apple II), their approach to ease of use and user interface design, the 1987 “Knowledge Navigator” concept video (link) and the ground breaking iPhone and iPad products have all had profound impacts on me. All of these innovations helped shape my own deeply held beliefs about designing for the user experience, creating usable software, innovation and customer service. And Jobs was at the heart of these and so many other innovations.

The loss of Steve Jobs on Oct 5, 2011, didn’t come as a surprise. When Jobs announced he was stepping down as Apple CEO, I knew the end was near. For Jobs to step down, I sadly knew he had to be living out his last weeks or maybe even days.

I heard of Jobs death while driving on my way to meet my wife for dinner and a movie. I told Jodi I was surprised how strongly his passing struck and saddened me. And then I realized that Jobs has been with me since the time in college when I discovered computers and creating software were my passion, hobby and vocation. Steve, his philosophies about products and customers, and many of the products he helped create have been a part of my journey, and while I’ve had my serious disagreements with and disappointments in Apple and Jobs, there are so many more things I love, appreciate and admire about them both.

Three of the things I appreciate most about Steve Jobs were his infectious passion, his visionary product innovation and his fundamental belief in the customer experience.

Thank you for everything, Steve.

Thanks.

Apple, featured, IT, Microsoft, Product Mgmt

Dear vendor, no more “only IE supported”

22 Jun , 2011  

Thou shalt only use Internet Explorer. Gone are the days of the “one official browser” corporate IT standard. At least that’s the principle I operate under. I’ve vowed not to purchase or select a product, application or SaaS service that restricts itself to Internet Explorer, or any other single web browser.

The world of web browsers is just simply too diverse for most organizations to truly operate under a one web browser only policy, which has traditionally been Internet Explorer in most IT shops.

Why?

Users demand choice. Users have very strong preferences. Whether it’s Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer or whatever… many (most?) end users want to use the web browser of their choosing, not the browser dictated by the company or by IT.

Web access from multiple devices. If I’m on my phone, my laptop, my computer, it doesn’t matter – I want to get to all applications, sites, etc. from whatever device is in use when the need occurs.That means it could be an iPad or iPhone one moment, a Windows 7 device another, or a MacBook at another time.

More and more users aren’t running Windows (or don’t want to.) What about Linux or Mac users? Why should they have to use a remote desktop, run a virtual Windows machine locally, or use or borrow another Windows computer to access an application or site that only supports IE?

Why don’t all vendors products support the most commonly used web browsers?

Supporting multiple browsers means adding code specific to browsers, supporting multiple versions of each browser, dealing with the myriad of browser idiosyncrasies, exponential testing variations, and ultimately added cost to create and support products. Having designed and built commercial web based software products, I know it’s hard and complex. While I sympathize with vendors, users don’t. If they prefer to use Chrome, Safari or Firefox, well… they expect your site, application or service to support their browser of choice.

It used to be acceptable for a product to start out only supporting a single browser, most often IE, and then add support for additional browsers further down the product roadmap. Not any more. Users expect products to at least support IE, Firefox and Safari, on Windows (IE), Mac and Linux platforms with product version 1.0. Chrome also has a loyal following.

My recommendation is bite the bullet and design for multi-browser support right up front. It’s much easier to do as you incrementally add features, versus retrofitting an entire product 2, 3 or more years down the road. And you won’t be facing the negative cost-benefit dilemma of retrofitting multi-browser support vs. adding features needed to make sales or customers happy. By the time you get to that point, you’ll be so proficient at cross-browser support, you’ll be rockin-and-rollin at creating new features that also work across browsers.

Apple, featured, Hardware

MacBook Air refresh coming soon? Will MacBook Air dominate? With Mac OS X Lion?

16 Jun , 2011  

Speculation around the MacBook Air refresh is at a fevered pitch. It seems the speculation around every move by Apple has become a constant. I’m waiting on the expected MacBook Airs as part of a company computer refresh.

I’m guessing the specs around the new MacBook Air will receive a respectable bump up with the move to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge CPU. Performance improvements are anticipated to be up to a 17% gain over Nehalem generation CPUs and embedded Intel graphic performance is said to double. Thunderbolt high speed I/O support is assumed but it’s rumored the Airs won’t ship until they can include the Mac OS X Lion release.

What I find most interesting is speculation by Chris Whitmore (via an AppleInsider article) that MacBook Airs could be as much as 50% of Apple’s laptop sales at 1.5 million MacBook Airs sold per quarter. I actually think this might not be that far off of a prediction. Here’s why.

In helping users determine what Mac would best suit their work, a surprising number lean towards a MacBook Air (especially the anticipated new models.) Not just travel-heavy users, but even the more technical population. I also hear some users choose the MacBook Air instead of an iPad, given the 11″ Air is fairly close in size and weight — why not opt for a full computer and keyboard for the modest size and weight increase.

Apple, featured, IT, Microsoft, Product Mgmt

My Story of the Ribbon Menu

19 Dec , 2010  

If you're upgrading to Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010, or recently upgraded, then you're in the thick of relearning all of the Office products. It's a bit daunting at first. I remember when the first Office 2007 and 2010 public betas came out. I hated the new ribbon menu and all that entailed learning how to perform the same tasks I already knew using the old dropdown menu metaphor. I thought things were perfectly fine and Microsoft was making a huge mistake, and I didn't have any plans on changing my views about it… mostly because I was not happy about the significant drop in productivity when switching to Office 2007 ribbon menus.

Fast forward to about a year ago plus. It wasn't until I began using Office on my Mac (Office Mac 2008) more frequently that I really appreciated, and dare I say "miss" the Office 2007/2010 ribbon menus. Once you find the functions you commonly use, the ribbon menu is much quicker to perform everyday tasks, and faster finding those features you used to have to hunt down hidden inside one of the old Office menus.

Note: Here's a fantastic video about the history of the ribbon menu and how Microsoft UI designers came to develop this new user interface paradigm… http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX08/UX09. It's a bit long but worth it if you into this sort of thing.

Do I "love" the Office ribbon menus? No, can't say I'm sold to that degree but now that I've become accustom to them I find I prefer the ribbon menu to the old Office 2003 (and older) interface. Office Mac 2011 brings ribbon menus to the Mac, and with them, much more consistency between Office on these two OS platforms.

If you're knee deep trying in the middle of learning the new Office 2007/2010 ribbon menu interface, hang in there. It will start to become familiar. You may have a love-hate relationship with them for a while but they'll eventually grow on you.

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featured, Mobility

Android Nexus S is Here

19 Dec , 2010  

How will Google’s Android Nexus S smartphone fair? Phones bearing Google’s Android OS continue to gain steam in the marketplace. I see lots of users who probably would have liked an iPhone but have Android phones instead, and seem just as happy with them. A Best Buy email ad just popped into my inbox promoting Google’s own smartphone, the Android Nexus S on T-Mobile. Sales began last Thursday, December 16, and the phone is selling for $199 with a 2 year plan (or $529 with no plan) and is running the latest Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread version. Sales in the UK begin tomorrow.

I don’t own any Android devices…yet…and I haven’t really spent much time on an Android device to really know how well it stacks up to Apple’s IOS 4. But I do have a Samsung Galaxy table coming soon which will close my Android OS experience gap rather quickly. I don’t have plans to move off my iPad anytime soon but if Android proves to be more effective in a business and IT setting, that would be pretty compelling.

Time will tell whether the Nexus S is a better phone than HTC, Motorola and others make. If there’s one potential advantage it’s that the Nexus S may have less (or next to none) bloatware vs. what other manufactures load on. We’ll see on all counts.

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featured, Microsoft, Mobility, Network, Podcasts

Podcast: Windows Azure, Windows 7 zero day and 2nd iPhone worm

24 Nov , 2009  

Welcome again to the Alan and Mitchell Podcast. We're still working on a new podcast name so hang in there until we have something better.

During the podcast, Alan and I talk about:

1. New security features in Windows Azure
2. The first zero day for Windows 7
3. 2nd iPhone worm
4. HP/3Com
5. Why is security so hard
6. Fortinet's IPO
7. Cloud Computing becoming part of the pop culture

Thanks for joining us and enjoy the podcast!

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featured, General

Police Bullets Converge On Bank Robbers and Getway Car

19 Nov , 2009  

Scene 3 I was driving back from a meeting downtown today and needed to stop by my house to pick up the zip pouch with my bank stuff in it. I needed to make a deposit at the 1st Bank I use down the street.

Driving west on 120th on the border dividing Westminster and Broomfield (Colorado), I came up on two police cars blocking the street in both directions right where I turn into my subdivision. 

It was odd because I had seen the exact same thing a week ago, only it was nighttime, when 120th was blocked off at Huron (about 4 blocks the other direction) because some 26 year old idiot decided to commit road rage and shoot and kill another motorist. Though I made the connection that both sights looked eerily similar, I saw a silver car and a black car that looked like they had been in an accident together. So I figured that's what it was.

I got to my house on the northwest side of our subdivision, grabbed my bank pouch, and drove the long way around our subdivision to 1st Bank which is just three lights from my house. It was strange when I pulled into the bank parking lot because the first two rows of customer parking spots in front of the bank were completely empty. The first cars I could see were where the bank employees park. "Good," I thought, "I'll get in and out with no wait."

When I went in the only people that were in the bank were employees. No customers in sight. I think even the window blinds hand been closed, but I'm not sure about that. All the bank employees were calm, very friendly, and seemed extra nice. I filled out my deposit slip, visited the teller, grabbed two complimentary dog cookies for my dogs and headed out the door.

Scene close up 2 After taking the same detour and arriving home, my wife said the TV news said something about a bank robbery. They'd shown a picture of a 1st Bank that "looked a lot like ours." A few moments later I see a crawl across the bottom of the TV screen describing a bank robbery, a chase and two bank robbers were killed at the intersection 300 yards from my house.

The phone rang. It was my next door neighbor. I was stunned as she described how she was working in her home office, heard a car crash, and stood up to look out the window to see what happened. What she described was amazing.

"I stood there, saw the cops jump out of 5 or 6 cop cars and pump what must have been 50 rounds into the car. They just started shooting, no 'come out with your hands up.' It sounded like fireworks going off. I saw a neighbor kid hit the ground when he heard the shots." Then she asked, "Would you like to walk down and see it?"

You kidding? Heck yah.

Tv ant My neighbor, my wife and I walked down to the scene. 30 yellow evidence markers we splayed out along the road just next to the car. The car looked like the vehicle in the Godfather movie that was riddled with bullets when it stopped at a toll booth. There were bullet holes all over the side of the car, and the back window was shot out. 5 TV trucks had the cherry picker antennas extended to broadcast next to the nearby restaurant. And there were more cops standing around than the inside of a Crispy Creme donut shop.

I took some pictures with my iPhone, checked out the scene for 20 minutes or so, talked to other neighbors there to see the scene for themselves, and then headed back home.

I checked the TV and Internet to see what details they had. Turns out three hours earlier a man and a women robbed the 1st Bank where I bank (the one I'd just visited) and drove off in a silver Subaru Impreza. I'm guessing they drove south on Sheridan and then east on 104th to the Federal intersection.

The bank robbers had stopped at a Safeway discount gas station at 104th and Federal to get some gas. (Ah… note to self… remember to fill up with gas before pulling a heist if I ever decided to rob a bank.) These 2 moron's had stopped to fill up with gas AFTER robbing the bank. That's where the police spotted them.

An unmarked police car spotted the silver car matching the description and started to pursue the robbers leaving the gas station. The woman fired at the police car through the Impreza's back window. Bystanders said the police car was hit.

Scene close up 2 The cops chased the robbers north on Federal where the Subaru turned east on 120th… directly towards my house (we live on the north west most corner of our subdivision on 120th.) The lead cop attempted a pit maneuver on the now gassed up getaway car but ended up ramming it, causing the car to spin and stop facing the opposite direction from traffic, pointing right at the now multiple cop cars chasing them. That's the wreck my neighbor had heard when she stood to look and see what was going on.

The news verified much of her account. A woman jumped out of the car and started firing at the now stopped police cars. The cops literally opened fire spewing a gauntlet of bullets at the woman standing there and the man still remaining in the car. The cops pumped a barrage of 30 lead rounds into the two robbers and their car.

Patrons eating outside the Bakers Street Brew Pub 100 yards behind the robbers wrecked car hit the deck when they heard the shots. One person's account said the shots went on continuously for about 10 seconds.

 The male bank robber died sitting in the getaway car, still wearing his seatbelt. (I guess seatbelts  don't save lives after all.) The female robber was taken away in an ambulance and pronounced dead when they arrived at the hospital. A police officer had non-life threatening injuries (from the auto accident maybe?) and was taken to the same hospital.

After visiting the scene I came back to the house, turned on the news, checked the Internet and started writing this blog post. That's what we know at this point and time.

Next time I'm checking the newsbefore I head out to the bank.

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Blog, featured, General, Social

How to get started at blogging

19 Nov , 2009  

Write a one sentence blog post per week.

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featured, Microsoft, Podcasts, Security

Reintroducing The Alan and Mitchell Podcast

12 Nov , 2009  

New_podcast_big_2_sm Well, we're back at it again. Alan and I are doing the podcast again and we are enjoying it even more. 

During this episode, Alan and I talk about:

  • Is the CISO role really just a consulting gig?
  • Microsoft Security Essentials free malware software
  • Microsoft Forefront 2010 for Exchange
  • and Alan's leaving StillSecure

The podcast is full of the usually banter and tomfoolery so join us for thirty-five minutes of fun and good security information. 

And don't forget to send us your podcast name ideas. The winner will receive a free t-shirt (the valuable part of the prize) and get to appear on our podcast. Email me at <mitchell at mitchellashley dot com>.