Posted by: peterhact | May 23, 2012

Above the cloud, looking down on the earth

There are so many articles about the cloud, talking about the long term benefits of cloud adoption and where the future lies with respect to business and government computing. I prefer to think that I am above the cloud, looking down on high through it to the earth, the physical layer at the bottom, where computing currently resides. My observations for the cloud and the physical layer below it are as follows:

1. The cloud will not be a going concern until there is stability in the offerings and connections to it: 

The cloud has an underlying assumption about its availability – if the internet or a VPN connection used to connect to a cloud service fails, there is no cloud access. There is no data, there will be no access and the users will be disadvantaged. Imagine if a Bank had all of its data in the cloud, the network had a problem and failed and it was payday across the country. How would the employees who used the bank’s services get paid? How would an employer be able to transmit information to the bank for processing? Until there is a stable environment for the cloud environment, a bulletproof, fail proof connection, the cloud will not be perceived as a reliable method for any service that is data reliant.

2. The cloud needs to be secured beyond web applications and connections – it needs to be a vault for data:

At the moment, users of cloud services like GMail need to regularly change their credentials – mostly after their passwords are compromised by attack. This is not an acceptable environment for data retention, certainly not for sensitive data like HR files, Identity files, personal banking details and medical records. The cloud needs to be a secure environment, but this creates a paradox – if the cloud is locked down, it must be connected to a regulatory mechanism that is most likely residing “off-cloud”, on a physical server. In order for a cloud environment to be secure, additional methods need to be employed to ensure that the data is safe, otherwise it will never be seen as a viable option.

The weakest point in the chain is the connection to the data from an external source. Imagine that you are a job seeker. The recruiter you have signed up with has put your job profile up into the cloud. Employers can see these profiles through a username and password. What happens if the employer is using GMail as their email and their account is compromised? Does this mean that your profile can also be compromised? could your identity be stolen? Cloud providers need to have specific mechanisms that identify users, be it from IP addresses, or another predefined method that prevents data being compromised. Only when a cloud environment is completely impervious from attack will it be seen as a viable alternative for data storage.

3. Devices to access the cloud still rely on physical connections: 

The cloud is a place where all data can reside. Humanity cannot access it without a device like a tablet, smartphone or computer. Whether or not access is via a physical server, the connection is still governed by the physical devices. With the invention of internet TV’s, fridges and other devices, we have broadened the methods of connection, but the connection still remains. If a change was made to thin clients, where no data resides locally and instead is purely cloud based, they would still need to connect to a provider that allowed access to the cloud, be it a wifi connection, 3G, 4G, ADSL, BDSL or Fibre. There is no escaping this connection requirement, unless there is a new method created in the future.

4. Cloud access still requires local support and management:

Even though you have moved all essential applications and data to the cloud, the requirement for a managed services provider will still remain. Thin clients still need to be repaired. Printers still need to be configured. Network hardware needs to be installed, configured and tested. Services won’t change, there will still be a need for the traditional providers and they won’t be put in a situation of “adopt the cloud or become obsolete”. This is one of the identified perceived fears that a provider has. If their clients move to the cloud, they will lose them as the client doesn’t need them anymore. Providers can survive post-cloud adoption. They just need to change their attitude towards what constitutes support of the client.

5. There are specific instances where a cloud solution will not be able to be adopted:

In an environment where data is sensitive, secret or of a type that cannot be put into a harmful situation, the cloud is not a viable option. The private enterprise cloud is not a true representation of the cloud, as it still resides within a boundary that is controlled, maintained and operated by the organisation who has created it. This situation is more like a common data repository, not a cloud solution. There are key components that have been deployed to ensure that data is not accessible from external sources, all data remains inside the organisation and it can exist in a datacentre that is virtualised or physically provided. I prefer to think of these instances as intranets, not clouds. Granted, the data is available to the entirety of the organisation, but it has no external access, thus is not a cloud concept.

6. Where is the data residing in the cloud:

One of the key concerns that I have heard being raised is where the data resides. Is the data in a cloud service on shore or offshore? is the data available to external users with access to the data via authentication methods? Can an organisation apply in a legal challenge to access another company’s data? With respect to data that is commercial in confidence, personal identity or legally required to be accessible only in the country of origin, Cloud providers need to provide accurate audit and storage facilities that ensure that this is the case. In the event of a failure, does the data still reside in the country of origin, or, based on the concept of the cloud, could it be replicated to another facility off-shore? This is one of the biggest hurdles for cloud takeup. if the data is offshore, can it be accessed by the government of the country the data now resides in? if a legal challenge is made by that foreign government, what safeguards does the cloud provider have to combat data leakage?

7. Physical computing is far safer than the cloud:

One of the current ways that managed providers are keeping their clients out of the cloud is to claim that physical computing is far safer than the cloud. This actually is not correct, if you have a physical environment that is not secure, a wifi connection that isn’t passkey protected, no endpoint management to prevent data loss via email or external device, then you can or will lose data. All data needs to be secured. Regardless of where it is stored, either a physical environment or the cloud, data needs to be accessible only by the owners of the data. Safer is also used for connectivity. If you have a physical server, or the applications installed on your device, you can save locally if the server fails. Cloud cannot do this. Unfortunately, local saves create an unhealthy and unsafe environment. if the notebook all of the data is saved locally to is stolen, your data is compromised, regardless of it being in the cloud or on a server as well.

8. Physical computing is actually cheaper than the cloud:

One of the things that many people are doing is calculating the cost to deploy a cloud solution and then compare it to their current physical environment. Most don’t take into account the original cost for the server, the software and the storage of their data. They take a now approach, which means that the figures are skewed towards physical computing. My advice to organisations looking closely at the viability of the cloud is to engage a consultant to analyze the information and provide a best practice recommendation as to whether the cloud is a viable option. If you feel that the data is not correct, get a second opinion. If the data from the second opinion matches the first results, they are probably correct.

9. The FUD Factor, the cloud and physical computing:

The Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt factor (FUD) is rife with respect to cloud and physical computing. Many companies argue that the cloud is dangerous. Others talk of the waste of money physical computing represents. There are components of truth within the ideals raised by providers. An accurate way to cut through to these truths is to employ an independent consultant, someone with no vested interest in the outcome. The answers you receive can arm you with the right information, allowing you to make informed decisions and gain a better insight into what is best for your organisation now and in the future. Remember, just because you didn’t adopt the cloud idea today, doesn’t mean you will never adopt it.

10. Summary:

Looking down on the cloud and the physical layer below it allows me to see that there are areas for improvement in both segments. The cloud is still in its infancy, whilst the physical computing environment has always been there. Security will play a major role in ensuring both environments are valid for organisations, connectivity will need to be available for the cloud to gain traction and ensure that organisations can use it to the best of its potential. Once the issues that have been touched on are sorted out, there is no reason that a cloud / physical hybrid could be the toe in the water to complete cloud adoption. At least by using a hybrid mix, an organisation can be weaned of the physical server dependence prior to adopting a total cloud solution.

One of the items that I have not really touched on is price, but the cost of cloud will become competitive as more organisations adopt it. There will be a moment in the future where cloud completely replaces the physical environment as the cost effective alternative. Until it does, the physical environment will still be the technology of choice. This does not mean that once the cloud is the new technology solution we will remove our physical environment – as i have already mentioned, there will still be services required for the items that cannot be cloud located and operated like printers, network components and thin clients.

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Posted by: peterhact | May 13, 2014

Technology in Education – where is the letdown?

Technology is being provided to children in schools – they have access to the latest computers, interactive systems and software packages. What happens when they enter the workforce? will the technology that they are being taught to treat as everyday be waiting for them?

Or will the harsh reality be that the technology that they are using is miles ahead of the employers that they will be working for? Why is it that the adoption of new technology is seen to be the future in education, but is not adopted in the corporate world?

The problem is that the children are being educated to use technology as this is seen as the future of their lives, their generation. The reality is that if they leave school and start a company, they will have the technology that they know and use daily. If they join a company that is open minded to change, they will be able to influence that change. If they join a company or department that is run by an older closed generation, they will not be able to use the skills that they have gained.

What can a company do to keep their new employees from getting listless and bored with the technology that they are presented with at the workplace, considering that they have been given the best of the best for many years of their young lives? Do they have to install the latest and greatest tech equipment? How about creating initiatives that capitalises on the new employee’s technology view? If a company implements a tenth of the technology that these young people have had access to, there will be benefits in many ways, not just from staff retention, but in productivity and cost savings – video conferencing, voice over IP, these were all things that were seen as new technology a few years ago. Many companies who have embraced these new forms of communication have already seen savings, no longer flying to meetings, reducing costs in calls, spending less on technology that was not meeting their needs.

If our talented youth are to be retained in business, make the tough calls. engage with these new members of staff and listen to them. The worst thing is to ignore these technology savvy people, who may one day be running companies that you can only dream of.

Posted by: peterhact | September 13, 2013

Thinking about employees

Some Employers seem to have forgotten that they have a duty of care to their employees. When you hire a new employee, the company is taking a risk. The employee might not work out, they might not be a suitable fit for the environment or team. This can lead to friction and stress for all concerned.

What some employers seem to forget is that an employee takes a risk too. They are staking their future on your reputation and that what you say is actually the truth. So there are two elements of risk.

If the employer is unable to support multiple staff, they may retrench the surplus. This is, by far, the best method to exit a staff member who has been loyal and actively contributing to the company.

Sacking needs grounds for the termination and they must be valid – if you use a reason that is detrimental to an employee’s future, make sure you are prepared for the consequences.

The single most nasty way to deal with employees harshly is to decide that it is all too hard and that administration is the best solution. If an employer reaches this situation, they need to know exactly what they are doing, as whilst it is a way to deal with the outstanding debts, closing a company down is still an emotive issue.

For a business, it is a position that should not be taken lightly. If the company has the ability to pay out employee entitlements, it should do so.
If the company cannot, making an attempt to provide as much as possible to the employees may lessen stress and financial strain on the employee.

Imagine if you had not been paid for a month and then were told that claims may take up to 8 weeks for entitlements. As long as you have some savings, you should be fine, but if these funds have already been depleted by a lack of salary for a month, the stress will be very difficult to ignore.

Lets say that the entitlements are quite large. This may also impact the amount of money that can be made available to you via government assistance, regardless of the availability of the funds.

In actuality, the amount if stress this process can create can lead to breakdowns and withdrawal, which cannot assist the employee in finding a new job. It can also lead to bitterness and resentment about the employer, and destroy long term friendships if they exist.

If you are an employer, consider that you are a member of your employee’s life. You may not be over for dinner, you may not go to their children’s parties, but every decision you make, good or bad, impacts them as well as you.

If you look after them, they are loyal. If you don’t, you may lose an advocate about your business.

Posted by: peterhact | September 5, 2013

“X” As a Service

Many different things have come about over the years “as a service”. We have had software, infrastructure, software, security, storage, cloud…. all provided as a service to a client. The newer versions of the “As a Service” seem to be limited by imagination only, there are Sales offerings, Managed services, Business development, in fact, anything that a person wants to get for a business, there is probably an “As a Service” offering that will meet their needs.

This got me thinking. What if the breadth of my knowledge in my industry could benefit an organisation who is looking to buy equipment, but just doesn’t have the time to research it? What if there is a company that is looking to utilize social media but just doesn’t know where to start? What if there are people with websites that feel that the money they spent doesn’t seem to be returning on their investment? I can help these companies and people out.

I was talking with a person on the telephone the other day that told me that they signed up to several social media services, but they really think that they haven’t scraped the surface on what these services could do for them. They were at a loss as to how to approach social media, and had started using a site that fed their blog posts directly into a twitter feed – apparently, this will increase their presence.  It will, true. It may also result in many twitter followers moving away from them as they are bombarded by lots of ad-like tweets. I could help this company write a social media engagement plan. I could also assist them in seeing value in all of the applications that they are using.

I have written policy for social media. I have written sales plans, business plans and marketing plans, responded to tenders, proposals and expressions of interest. I have done all these things for other employers, and felt that I was contributing to the overall success of a company. What if these skills I have could be encapsulated into a program for a business that needs them on an ad-hoc basis? Couldn’t I be providing them with these skills as a service?

I called this post “X” as a service. “X” stands for every single thing that you can think of that I could help you with. It could be analysing data about your business, your sales processes, it could be researching a new technology for adoption, I could be explaining social media, websites and methods of attracting new clients to you.

Why limit what “X” is?

I was talking to a colleague a little while ago that told me he made the move to canberra to start a new life, but he was finding it hard going as the industry he came from has little or no presence here. I took it upon myself to help him understand the ICT industry here, the technology that we were selling and different gadgets that clients are interested in. I enjoyed helping him and answering his questions. I enjoyed it so much that I had a lightbulb moment. I could be helping people like him to understand technology.

So that is where I am now. I have an ABN, I can create invoices and I can absolutely help out anyone who needs help. I am not charging like a wounded bull, I have calculated my fees carefully and I am able (and willing) to come and give people a hand. The only difference is now I am going to be paid for what I used to do for free, as a part of the customer service I provided for other employers. I am my own employer, and my overheads include a mortgage, electricity and other bills and my photography – I would like to be able to run a site with my photos on it for purchase, but this is a long term goal.

If I were holding up a placard, it would read: “Will work for money”.

If this doesn’t work, I will be content in knowing that the idea is still there. I am not relying on this as my only source of income – I have to crawl before I can walk, but the first step is always better than never taking a step at all.

Posted by: peterhact | July 21, 2013

Community…

Canberra seems to have lost the community spirit that it had a while ago. Often, community ideas were events that brought everyone together. Whether an industry event or a group of like minded businesses, there were attempts to build interaction and collaboration between people in groups, but the success was based on the value that was seen for the event.

Why is it that an event that you pay for seems to attract more participation than one that is free? is it due to the feeling that if it is free, there are no constraints on attending or that you aren’t really expected to turn up, whereas if you paid for the ability to attend, this will drive you to make time to attend?

The only event that I am aware of that is free for certain components of the event and gains momentum is a specific industry event, but the attendees are usually competitors, so there is no main networking benefit.

There was an event that had a great concept, but the organisers have put it on hiatus. The numbers of participants did not warrant the effort the hosts had to put in.

How can canberra regain a sense of community? how can we build events, attendances or interaction in the old style of physical face to face engagement and avoid giving in to electronic communication?

Maybe, it is due to the time of year. Perhaps an event in summer or spring would be better as the temperatures are warmer and the doldrums of winter have been shaken off.

The first place that we can start to build a community is by our modifying our own actions. If we criticize others for their lack of perceived engagement in a community, be it a club, a group or a gathering event, but don’t welcome the idea of a community, how can we be judging the behavior when we are a culprit?

I learned a valuable lesson today. I witnessed a discussion where the person looked out to others for the spirit, the community spark and gave more than he got in return. This is the way a family acts. They forgive, they support and they seen no gain from their actions for monetary benefit, they see it as an act that allows the overall community to grow and prosper.

Perhaps this is where the event with a great concept failed. The perception was that the event was a drop in if you can approach, which would only lead to participation by dedication. To gain dedication, you first need to set routines and diversity in the event.

So it is a clean slate for me. I can see where the community spirit can be provided by me to allow others to feel the same way. I can see where I can provide support and allow this support to allow others to learn and grow with me in a bigger aspect of a group – a community is, after all, a group of people that work, support and strive to the same goals.

Posted by: peterhact | June 14, 2013

Leaders, Managers, Coaches

Through a discussion I attended yesterday, I found that a lot of my ideas about coaches, counselors and psychologists were being challenged. There were a couple of points that I felt needed to be addressed, but the conversation flow was a bit one sided, so I did not get a chance to voice my opinion. Good job I have a blog.

I was told that Counselors deal in the past. I was also told that psychologists do the same. My psychologist would probably jump up and down as they disagreed. True, Psychologists do delve into our past to find out what is the reason for the messed up way we are today. They also provide ideas and allow us to find insight for the future. It is not a long “on the couch” session into a dim, dark past. They try and work out whether there is a trigger for the behavior and how to overcome it.

Counselors deal in the now and the future. They really don’t want to know what happened before, in your history, they are more concerned in the now and how to change the future as your current situation requires it. In all of my experiences with assisting people to recognise that they have a problem that needs to be addressed, have I ever said “tell me about your childhood”. I really want to see how to fix the issues at hand, the debt, the alcohol, the gambling, the relationship breakdown.

I am not a counselor. I am someone who can listen and provide advice. funnily enough, that is not what a counselor does. (according to yesterday’s conversation, at least)

Nobody comes to me and says “my life is just perfect, but I have this niggling childhood memory…” I get discussions about family, jobs, addictions and other common enough things in life. I listen carefully and ask questions. I don’t judge others, I have been in a nasty situation recently and I understand that they could be going through something similar.

Back in my youth, I wanted to be a manager when I grew up. As to what sort of industry, not a clue. I started attending the YMCA Leadership program, and became a leader. I went on camps, I helped with small people who had a myriad of issues, mainly homesickness, and I learned how to listen to them and help them and celebrate their achievements, commiserate their failures. I did not yell at them when they failed, I did not put them on a pedestal when they achieved, All of the kids in my care were treated equally. This was, I thought, what a leader does.

I was told that a leader of 12 small boys in a holiday camp is not management training.  I beg to differ. When a leader can look after bedwetting, homesickness, night terrors, and help children deal with these problems, as well as assist them to learn new skills like computer use, be prepared to get up at 3am and take a small boy to the toilet on a frosty morning because he has a morbid fear of wetting the bed and being punished, or helping a 12yo learn how to use the washing machine and dryer to be able to deal with a wet bed accident – these are managment / leadership skills. My team, my cabin of kids were a close knit group, a formidable collection of people to go up against in sport or agility, and one that helped each other out. These kids (I hope) went on to great things with their lives and took away something from the experiences that they had as kids.

Putting me in charge of a team of professionals might not have me deal with bedwetting, homesickness, night terrors or any other childhood surprises, but it may mean that I am there to listen, support and assist each member to be a part of the team, reach their full potential, and, if not suitable for the role, explore other options prior to being cast aside by the company. As I have experienced first hand, many people that are let go from a company may have required additional training, a re-visit from their original path or course of action, a re-invigoration of the passion that had died inside them. Every single employee that hasn’t engaged in unlawful behavior can be recycled, reclaimed and re-used, it just means that the company takes the time to find out the why, the how and the when, before attempting this course. Unfortunately, it seems that the “easy” option, sacking and starting with a new member of staff is the best option. I completely disagree.

The money used to recruit a new person, pay out entitlements of an old person, train and support a new person means that the ROI is never going to be on par. The old employee was the first investment. Dumping that initial investment, that employee’s cost, now has to be recouped in the form of a new and potentially risky employment agreement, which may or may not pay out. It is far better to train and retain an old employee that to start again.

With respect to a business leader, they are the people who are at the front of the coal face, they work out how best to gain growth from the employees by immersing themselves in the requirements of the company or client – I have never heard of a leader that leads from the back.

A manager looks after the other components of a business as well as provides leadership. If a manager is only interested in the company or the profits, they quickly find that their “team” diminishes as their staff are being pushed, not led into specific goals.

Coaching should be about helping anyone achieve their goals, not only the inspirational, the talented and the ones on the way to greatness. It should also be about assisting the people who haven’t worked out their direction, need assistance in learning and growing from their own limitations.

In sport, Coaching is about teaching, leading and supporting an athlete to be able to allow them to achieve greatness in their field. If the coach is not prepared to help the people who need to learn, how can they be called a coach? We don’t hear of Sport Managers, we do hear about sport leaders.

A coach can be both a leader and a manager. having the ability to provide tools necessary to enable a person to grow in a role in a team, provide instruction and manage perceived goals and attributes that are specific to that particular sport is what a coach does.

Every company employs a Leader, a Manager and a Coach. Whether that person is the same one through and through is up to the company. Do they provide resources that allow the person to grow into these roles, or do they let the person pick a path?

 

Posted by: peterhact | April 6, 2013

The Online world and the common person

I read a blog post recently – don’t ask me to remember the author, I read so many different blog posts every day that to pick one out of the pack is a tad hard, but one of the things that resonated in me was the fact that the author got it slightly wrong. The Online world is not the be all and end all of every person, in fact some people have never seen it. The fundamentals of business have not changed, the medium has in some instances.

If you look at census data in Australia, not every household has the internet. There is also a disproportionate number of people who don’t own their own homes and then, there are the off the grid people, who never appear in the stats – who don’t care about what is trending on social media, mainly because they have no concept of it. Many people wake up in the morning, watch a bit of TV, go to work and come home at the end of the day with absolutely no contact whatsoever with computers. They don’t miss the interaction, in fact, they are far better at social engagement than many people who are “connected”. They are the doers, the people who spend their days keeping everything running, so that the others can spend their days online.

If you said that the basic requirements of life should include food, water and a roof over the heads of your children, or yourself, the internet seems less important.

I have tried to see what it would be like without technology and do you know what? I cannot do it. I need to keep in contact with people I will never meet. Sad. I have far more engagement with people on the other side of the world than I do in my own city. I know a few people here, but I rarely see them. Imagine if there was a way where every day had you in contact with your friends and you met with them every single day, but never, ever spoke to them online. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Welcome to the world of the common person who really doesn’t watch TV, who couldn’t care less about what was trending online and gets up every morning, goes to work, comes home and raises their kids as best they can.

Then there is the NBN. When it arrives, suddenly every single person will have fast, cheap internet and they will be able to join the online world? right? wrong. Ask yourself how many low income people have a computer. How many save so that their kids can have a computer and be on an equal footing with their peers at school? when did having a computer become a part of being a school child?  why are we educating our kids in year two on how to create a powerpoint presentation?

I was learning to read, do sums and learn social skills in year 2, computers filled rooms, so we weren’t able to have those skills back “when dinosaurs roamed the earth”, as my son seems to think my childhood was. When computers became more accessible, there seems to have been an explosion in their use – the child that doesn’t have a color printer for their assignments seems to be punished if they produce great work on handwritten assignments, as their peers can type it up, set the font and make it very pretty. Whatever happened to the substance and the content being greater than the presentation?

One thing that education seems to produce now is socially inept young adults that have greater connections online, who can be bullied through social media, where the bully can hide behind a username and be disconnected to the impact of their comments and threats because it isn’t real life, that seem to have no remorse or conscience when a person they have bullied leaves the school they are at – in fact, I have heard of instances where the bully still continues even though the person is no longer in their circle, as they can and do reach out to a much wider audience and can torment from afar.

is this what we wanted for our kids? I do not want my children to disconnect with nature, to miss the beauty of a sunset if they can’t see a picture of it online, to miss the smell of rain because they are too busy playing games on a handheld device.

Am I common person? why, yes, yes I am. So are you. we are all the common people in this wonderful world. Being common isn’t being average, rich or poor, it isn’t like that anymore. it is being able to balance your life so that bills are paid, charities can assist those less fortunate and you can at least feel that you have contributed to society. If you have read this in the public library, at your desk at work or at home, wonder if you could disconnect from the internet, experience a sunset first hand, teach your children about a garden, allow the world to pass you by – this is the action of a common person, and it is just wonderful. We can experience so much on the internet, but it will never replace our own experiences. Nor should it.

I have lost wonderful moments in my life being tied to this keyboard and seeing a sunset in its dying stages – realising that if I had stopped typing an hour ago, I could have been watching it in person, not browsing the images others had loaded onto the internet for those of us who missed it.

Should we try and connect every single person to the internet, or should we be looking at ways to leave it and be able to appreciate the moments that the internet cannot give, the tactile connection of holding hands, walking in the twilight glow of the setting sun, climbing mountains and seeing sights that will be far more important to our memories than just seeing someone else’s photos online?

I sometimes wish that I could disconnect and ignore the internet. The people who don’t miss it because they don’t have it are richer in many ways – they see far more life than I, they can connect socially with their peers – who has the better deal?

I am not saying that the internet isn’t important – I use it for work and home, after all, I write blogs on it. I just wonder what my kids will be doing as technology advances, will they be using it in new and far more interesting ways? or will the adults of the future ignore technology and reconnect with nature, becoming balanced and able to see beauty for themselves, teaching their kids that there are far better experiences in real life than you could find in the internet…

Posted by: peterhact | January 2, 2013

Ethics and the ICT industry

There is a new article today on IT News – it is already attracting comments, in fact I made one but it hasn’t yet showed up, so I thought I would just bring my followers and readers to a couple of interesting things:

1. here is the article, if you haven’t seen it yet:

IT, corruption and ethics

2. Here is my take on the article.

The article talks about ethics in ICT and the apparent lack thereof. I dispute this. There are codes of ethics already established in the ICT sector, both from Industry associations and the Australian Government. The pity is, it seems that many organisations don’t know about either sources. If you are a member of an industry association, you may already have agreed to the by-laws that provide you with a code of conduct. All industry associations have these agreements already in place, so that their members know where they stand when it comes to dealing with all types of clients.

As for Government, Federal Government specifically, regardless of my employer, I have agreed to moral and ethical requirements as a sales person in this industry, I see it as a requirement to be able to deal with all clients and I urge you to read, sign and join the ICT companies who have already signed this particular document – it is an initiative that enables all of us to say to whoever raises the issue, we have agreed to stringent requirements that are an agreement between the ICT industry and Federal Government to treat and be treated with respect. It isn’t a big ask.

The Government and Industry Principles of Engagement on ICT

The reason that you have to agree to industry association codes of conduct and the federal government’s version is that when media outlets run headlines about how all ICT companies are corrupt, some end users are going to believe them. These codes are for your protection, they will ensure that you can dispute any claims that all companies are corrupt – which is a pretty long stretch to reach a conclusion about every single company. By the way, did you know that the APS has a code of conduct? so if the client has one, why is it so surprising to find that the ICT Industry has one too?

One suggestion is that more companies should join the Australian Computer Society. This would be far easier if not for the fact that the perception of the ACS is an elitist, expensive group, that most small businesses cannot afford to join. If they aren’t, maybe they need to advertise that factor a bit better to the industry. If there was an industry association that welcomed members – individuals, companies and all, at a set flat fee, there might be more take-up in membership numbers.

Perhaps the media highlighting this issue will be a driver for change. I personally feel that the issue will have end users thinking that we all are “dodgy”. The damage that this could cause is immense, particularly when the industry is suffering under an economy that is not in any way profitable for anyone right now.

Posted by: peterhact | December 19, 2012

brave new world

Another year has nearly ended and the new year is about to bring a new crop of ICT professionals, new, young and probably wet behind the ears into the fold. There seems to be less takers of this industry than prior years showed us – You have to ask why? Why is the ICT industry not seen as a great direction for a career? What is creating a negative aspect for a vibrant, ever changing, innovative, diverse industry?

1. staff layoffs / retrenchments / cutbacks – call it what you will, but any industry that seems to have a large number of these types of events is never going to attract the new blood that the industry needs. Firstly, kids entering university are usually guided by their parent’s advice – if their parents are mixed up in the industry and have seen or been effected by these events, they will be far less willing to allow their children to go through the same pain. They will advise their kids to take safer options, often leading to someone becoming an architect, even though they have exemplary animation skills, can strip a server to nothing and then rebuild it, design and implement a complex solution from a basic drawing. The kids entering university don’t often seem to think about becoming a sysadmin, a developer, designer or system integrator – we have conditioned them into believing that ICT is a very tough gig, one that advancement may take years, and that you may find that you are in the same job for many years until the opportunities improve.

2. Technology adoption – Technology that is being released is cutting edge, potentially prone to bugs in its first release, which means that there are many businesses, departments and schools that notice it, but don’t act on it. If you have adopted the new technology, and it is working fine, great. The FUD factor (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt) seems to be rife – there are many organisations that cannot see the benefits in new technology, ranging from VoIP, through to social media, and they will do their best to discredit these new forms of communication, primarily as they themselves don’t understand it. It is far easier to say that a specific technology is the devil than to invest time and money in coming to grips with it. If you are a new uni degree graduate, entering the current work environment, skilled in new technologies and eager to learn, it may be a huge slap in the face.

3. Landscape change – Back in the olden days, there was a beast that roamed the Australian Government landscape that effectively and efficiently killed off innovation. It was called the Panel Contract, or PExx. These contracts were supported by a piece of innovation that enabled businesses to identify their skills in the ICT environment, called the Endorsed Supplier Agreement (ESA). The ESA wasn’t a case of filling in a form and gaining access to government, it was a semi Tender response that had many people up late at night to ensure that they got in. It enabled the ICT industry to be regulated in a manner that ensured that organisations that had skills or products of value could be approached by departments, for all forms of RFx business. When the ALP lost power, the PE contracts were disbanded. This created a time of plenty, as ESA providers were able to be approached for business, without the restriction of the panel agreements. The ESA became the MUL (multi-use list) under the Liberals, which opened the floodgates to all resellers of ICT (Communications became recognised as a part of the IT landscape) and there still was a land of plenty for opportunities and companies. This ended after the Gershon report was commissioned.  The biggest killer for opportunity occurred when Technology was commoditised. This was directly caused by organisations entering the market that had more or less traditionally worked in the consumable space, not the systems, server, storage or peripheral patch. Where before, margins could be as high as double digits, these new players had lower overheads and could gut their price. Others needed to do the same to retain the business, which led to the paradigm shift from Technology products to Services, and ultimately, solutions.

4.   Women don’t seem to be interested in ICT – This is, in fact, incorrect. Many women are working in the ICT industry, some of which are in high power jobs, in design capacities or solutions providers. They are in the industry, but we seem to throw platitudes at the feet of men, whilst the women seem to be less recognised, even though in some instances they have had to fight much harder to get where they are today.  One of the standout examples of a success story is Diana Ryall. When  I was selling Apple products, she was the Apple Australia Managing Director. She had a reputation of being tough, probably started by people who really did not recognise how hard she had worked to get there. I know of several other women in the ICT industry that have clawed their way through hard work into senior positions, but how many young women know about these shining examples of success? How many young women go to uni for a degree in computing, or project management, in comparison to men?  Why?

5. opportunities in other fields are far more lucrative – as long as retail isn’t a part of that equation, probably true. Retail is the most amazing example of getting it wrong. Retailers are blamed for bad customer service on a regular basis, but who has stopped to see how much the staff actually earn? Would you be interested in giving your all if you were on $30K per year, as a middle manager, who lost weekends to two days off during the week, and maybe 1 weekend a month to spend with your friends and family? Private industry usually pays better. Government roles pay better. Real estate agents receive high commissions and low retainers, but they are geared to being able to be supported by partners. How many roles are advertised for one specified job, yet turn out to be more than was mentioned? At least in the Government, a job description is as it states, not filled with ambiguous terms like “other duties as required”. working in ICT may be lucrative, but there is a lot of sacrifice that goes into the roles, from designers to executives, there are some instances that require extra hours work for no pay,  as the end result is the completion of a project, a job or a response.

in order for the ICT industry to reach a level of Research and Development that was once held in Australia to ensure the rest of the world would watch us closely, we need to change a few mindsets. Embrace diversity. Embrace change and have no truck with the notion that a person’s sex, religion, age or race has anything whatsoever to do with their creativity, their innovative approaches, their ability to get the job done.  We need to see investment in youth, investment in technology ideas and start developing the thinkers and the dreamers to a point that they will be creating the new future for us tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Create a reason for people to join the ICT industry with Passion, drive and commitment, not see it as a male only industry, but one that will accept the ideas of all for the common goal – To increase the  efficiency and usability of the technology that we create, meet the needs of all and have a reason for business to remain in our country towns and cities, creating employment, creating community and creating a future that has ICT firmly in its sights.

Posted by: peterhact | December 14, 2012

Recruiters tell me my resume is wrong…

Over the course of my career, my resume has gone through many changes. There was the era of bullet point, clipped style resumes, when I was first looking for a job, in the late ’80s. I remember that, back then, my resume was only a page long. Recruiters told me to flesh it out, as it was too small. I did.

Fast forward to the mid ’90s. Again, my resume had to be changed, it was just too small. I added my expertise, my hobbies, personal goals and a short description of where I had worked and what I had done. My original one page resume was now a five page resume. Better, I was told by the recruiters.

Around 2010, I was informed that my resume needed to be a story that told a prospective employer about who I was and what I could do. The resume shouldn’t mention my earlier roles, I should cut out the older jobs. So I changed my format again, making it a larger document with bullet points, descriptions and a short essay for each employer, with achievements etc. Better, the recruiters told me.

This year, I had to drag out and update my resume. I had just completed the complete overhaul when a trusted friend told me to dump my achievements, skills and plans and expand on each of my roles. The recruiters were strangely silent. I like to think that they were busy reading it.

Recently, a recruiter told me to shorten down my resume.  People don’t want an essay, they prefer bullet point, clipped styles, I was told. This last piece of advice I ignored. I mean, there is only so many things I can do to make myself sound good, and the resume is a track of where I worked and what I did. The interview is the actual mechanism to gain a job.

I asked whether I should mention the retrenchments I have had during my career. No, I was told. We (the recruiters) will explain where you have been and why you had to go.

My first week of unemployment saw every single application knocked back. I mean it, every single one never made it to an interview. I was applying for every single job I could do, even to the point where I was applying for grasscutting jobs, labouring, night fill in supermarkets. All had the same response, “although you have exceptional skills, you just aren’t what we are looking for.” Eventually, I asked one of the agencies what was my failing in the application. The response was that I have had several short term roles. Longevity was not apparent. This is not a positive for a potential employer.

What if I change my resume to include the retrenchments? Well, I could, but it seems that it has no bearing on today’s market. I just have to keep looking, selling myself to a potential employer and eventually, someone will look past my short term roles, see that I can be of benefit to their organisation and I can go back to work, receiving the odd call about a “role that I would be perfect for”. Seems to be that the recruiters remember me when I have a job, but they don’t remember me when I don’t.

Is my resume wrong? have I missed the mark?

I think it is fine. Only time will tell.

 

Posted by: peterhact | December 9, 2012

My 5-Year Plan is just like hiking up a mountain…

There aren’t many mountains around Canberra suburbs that I haven’t hiked to the top of. There are a couple that you can drive up, but I have always planned to hike up two, One being Mount Taylor and the other, although incorrectly named, is Tuggeranong Hill.

Hiking up mountains seems to be like creating a 5-year plan. I have a 5-year plan. it isn’t on my resume, but it is there in my head. It has the usual things in the plan, one day I will write it down, but I like to think that while it is in my head, it is an always changing draft – edited, changed and improved over the years.

Yes, there is a reference to money in my 5-year plan. Yes, there is a new car, a new house, (or improvements to my current one – that changes too) and a steady job that makes me happy to go to work. I have my kids in my plan, working for the day when I spend more time with them, I have more money to buy them things and I am well off, just in case something comes up that they need.

Today, I completed one of my goals. Not a business goal, but a personal one that makes me think I can do anything at all – for today, I hiked up Tuggeranong hill, with a camera, and I took photos. Not bad for someone that was told only a few weeks ago that I am fat. (they also mentioned balding, but what can I do about the unchangeable?) I took the hike at one series of steps at a time. Ten steps up. Ten steps up, again and again until I was standing at the summit, enjoying the view. This is what I mean about my 5-year plan. Today, although I am very unfit, I took a challenge head on and I won. I didn’t get a stitch. I didn’t give up. I just walked and walked till I was where I wanted to be. I was Positive, filled with purpose and determination.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was positive, I probably would have given up without meeting my objective.

This is how I approach my life. If I get knocked down, I get up and take a ten more steps. What is this just like? Cold Calling. For every ten calls I make, I get one that is a yes, I focus on that yes and I grow from there.

I have been accused recently of not having any direction. I have a direction, but I have set myself boundaries. I have a strategy that I apply. I have procedures that I adhere to. I take ten steps up a mountain and then I take another ten. I apply the same thinking to my work – I make ten calls, I make another ten calls, I don’t think that I will fail, I know that if I remain positive, I will win.

If I am working, I will give ten steps. Then another ten steps. And another. I will give my ten steps till I am standing on the summit, looking down, and then I will find another big mountain, another challenge, and off I go again. I am not saying to anyone that I will set the world on fire overnight. I am saying that if I walk up the mountain, ten steps at a time, I will reach my goals, I will complete my 5-year plan, and then I will make a new one.

 

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