Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book review: Empowered: Unleash your Employees

Dux Raymond (@meetdux) recently tweeted that FREE copies of “Empowered” were available for the Kindle via Amazon. My favorite “F” word is free so I downloaded it.


 I was a little concerned about spending time reading it knowing that there are hundreds of social media books out there and many of them are outdated the day they are printed. Luckily it was a great book and will be a benchmark social media book for at least the next year (why does technology move so fast?).  


In "Empowered" the authors Josh Bernoff and Ted Shadler not only discuss using social media in an effective manner for your business, but expand upon this premise:

"Your company is not and cannot be nimble enough to serve them. With your established processes and departmental boundaries, you move too slowly. Only your employees can help. And only if you unleash them." Further: "To succeed with empowered clients you must empower your employees to solve customer problems."

They also have many case studies (Dell, Ford, Best Buy, NHL, Quickbooks, E-trade, UPS, Black and Decker, Eagles Stadium and others) to show a bottom up flow of ideas from people they call HEROes (Highly Empowered Resourceful Operatives) who are key to making these ideas work. The HEROes are driven by a desire to create improvements on their own initiative rather than to live with the status quo.

Many of the examples in the book revolve around customer service. You know, those clients that can blog or tweet and bring you thousands of negative impressions over-night.

There is also an excellent section in the book on selection criteria for selecting HERO projects and tips for creating governance boards and teams for internal monitoring and gaining buy-in from senior management.

They also touch on things like SharePoint (it could be a HERO idea to have a document repository or workflows). Did you install it and send out the company wide email and saying, “please use it” only to find out that no one is using it? As with any new application people hate change. If you won’t put the effort in training and re-training and keeping it in their faces they will never use your new HERO application.

Overall I thought the book was easy to read and understand (with the real world examples mixed in) and it has a nice flow on how the process works. So if you are looking to add a little social media to your organization, this is a great book to start with.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Where did the term “software bug” come from?

Recently one of my co-workers gave a presentation on software bugs.  Typically “bugs” are a negative thing but here is story that will help you to keep it simple during your bug search.

So where did the term software “bug” come from?

Back in the 1940’s the first computer was built for the military to calculate ballistic trajectories.
It weighed 30 tons, took up 15,000 sqf, had 19,000 vacuum tubes, 100’s of mechanical relays, and cost $500,000 to build.  To put this into perspective, a common calculator you use today is more powerful than this machine.

When the machine started to have errors an inspection was done and Admiral Grace Hopper team found a moth in relay #70 as she noted in her lab notebook (and she even tapped the moth to the notebook page!). 

“From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.”   - Admiral Grace Hopper

So the next time you stumble upon a bug think of Grace and that moth!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Are you looking to obtain your PMP?

When I made the decision to move forward with obtaining PMP status I put together a game plan.

First I needed 35 contact hours worth of class time. Check! I had already completed my master certificate in Project Management offered at UW Madison at the Fluno Center. I had plenty of project time already under my belt. Check! So then I was ready to apply and study a bit before taking the big test.

My study materials included the PMBOK (yes it is a hard read but it is full of information), Rita Mulcahy PMP prep book, and various websites that offered practice exams. After a couple of months studying I took the test and passed!

Now we fast-forward to today … what would I have done differently? If I needed the 35 contact hours I would have liked to have purchased some webcast or video webcast that I could view, take notes and then review whenever I wanted. There are so many classes out there that cost $700-$2000 that give you 35 hours but when you walk out the door you are on your own!

Welcome to the new age!
I was recently contacted by the folks at PM Prepcast (created by Cornelius Fichtner, PMP) about reviewing their Prepcast videos. They have it set up with videos you can view on your PC or your ipod. There are 120 videos to download and you can go back to them anytime to review them. I have viewed several of them and have also slipped my ipod into my pocket and have gone jogging with them (I know … I’m a Project Management Geek).

The PM Prepcast is just one more tool you can use to help study for the PMP exam. If you are more of a visual type of learner this is the product for you!

Also, the product comes with a practice exam. Some of my best learning was done taking practice exams.
Cost? $99.97! That is a bargain! And it includes your 35 contact hours and you can review the videos again and again.

So if you are a visual learner and/or you need 35 contact hours the PM Prepcast may be one more tool to help you obtain your PMP status!