Browsing articles from "December, 2012"

Ha Ha Ho Ho Ho–at North Pole, Inc.

Dec 20, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Governance, Fun, NoSQL, Snark  //  1 Comment

Doug Laney, of Gartner, has penned a real piece of candy humour on his blog at http://blogs.gartner.com/doug-laney/gartner-shares-findings-from-north-pole-inc-big-data-assessment/.  In this report on North Pole, Inc, he assesses their current technology environment, their leadership styles and some of their data weaknesses. I chuckled all the way through it. 

Analytic Opportunities Beyond Just “Naughty or Nice”

From a business intelligence perspective, Gartner found that NPI is lagging others in the shipping and distribution industry. Its enterprise data warehouse , called “Chimneys”, is really a collection of stovepipe query and reporting systems, some still relying on first-generation BI tools like Red Brick. Gartner recommended evolving to a logical data warehouse architecture for most low-frequency queries to enable more insightful cross-functional, federated analytics.

Some predictive analytics is done to select appropriate toys based on NITS behavior modeling, demographics and prior-year presents. Gartner recommended that this system be enhanced to account for factors such as sibling response, damage/loss propensity, and social content analysis. NPI however is working on mobile-enabling Santa in the field during mall appearances so he can advise on toy availability and alternatives (as necessary) in real-time while a child is on his lap. This system is expected to be in place for the 2013 holiday season. Gartner analysts pointed out that this new capability would also require enhancing its “Tommy” toy order management system to capture full catalog and supply chain information from its suppliers. Today NPI only maintains this tracking data on actual orders.

Grab your candy cane mocha cinnamon double wet latte and read up.  Your boss is online shopping for his wife on LastMinuteNotTooExpensiveGifts.com anyway.  Read up.

It’s Reorg Season…

Dec 18, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Careers, Professional Development, Reviews, Snark  //  9 Comments

If you work in a large organization, you probably have been through a number of reorganizations. You know how this works: your management chain changes, people get new titles, and maybe, if you are lucky a few people get laid off. A good example are DBAs–they are a regular choice for reorganization, as they are frequently moved from Infrastructure to Applications groups or vice versa.

So how does this happen? It’s usually a several phase process, which starts with a new high level executive (usually the CIO or perhaps in larger organizations a Senior Vice President). He or she brings in a team of overpaid consultants (no, not consultants that fix problems—these tend to be big 5 organizational consultants who haven’t actually worked in IT). And the new CIO, if your karma is really dented, will bring along a new team of direct reports to help him get his quarterly bonuses.

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Then, the project gets a really cool, exciting sounding name.

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So The Parabola Project usually starts in late summer, just after vacation season. You may notice strange requests for information from your manager, also you may hear undercurrents about the latest hot methodologies (Agile, ITIL, Scrum). Around Thanksgiving, the rumors will really kick into overdrive. “The whole IT org is getting outsourced to Moldovia”, or “The reason why Senior Director X left for BjgReallyCoolNewTech, Inc. is that he was going to lose his job in the reorg”, are some examples of the types of rumors you will hear. Then eventually in early December, just before everyone leaves for Christmas, a new organization will be announced, there will be grumblings, and your IT organization will continue to have the same problems it had before. Only now the problems will be even more complex due to the recent organizational changes and for two months people will be way less productive because they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing.

So why do we do this? Companies lose a ton of productivity and pay consulting firms into the millions of dollars for what amounts to rotating the tires on your car. I feel like it’s a twofold process that relates to poor management.

  1. Managers/Directors/VPs get bored in their day to day roles and want to make change happen
  2. The same group of middle managers doesn’t want to address people problems, so they try to solve them using process
  3. Calling something new (Special Knowledge Efficiency Workgroup will somehow make ineffective people, processes or technologies work better.
  4. Reorg activity can take the focus of poorly performing projects as well as provide a great project slippage justification

Technology, Process and People

IT is a three-legged stool consist technology, process and people. You can mitigate some technology problems with people, and technology can be used to replace people (computers are more consistent than humans). Where it gets challenging is when companies try to fix people problems with process. Once in a while a reorg can help foster collaboration within an organization. I’ve been through one such reorg where functions were split into a global/regional/local model, which was really effective in fostering process standardization and opening communication channels. However, when people who or can’t do their jobs, changing the reporting structure won’t turn them into superstars. Instead, the constant cycle of reorgs annoys and drives away your good employees. The mediocre employees who are happy just to have jobs, will stay since they have fewer options. So what can you do when the inevitable reorg happens?

  • Have a really solid internal network—it will let you know if you are being impacted well ahead of the reorg, which leads to…
  • Always have your resume/CV up to date, if the reorg puts you in a less favorable position, it may be time to move
  • Having a strong external network is also critical in helping plan your next moves

As long as there are companies there will be reorgs—middle managers need to keep themselves occupied. The best way to deal with this as an employee is to keep yourself extremely employable—keep your skills and network up to date, and you will always have a lot of employment options. If you have career options, you won’t need to sweat a reorg, and if the reorg really sucks, vote with your feet.

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