Retiring this blog – focusing on the work at hand

Friends and Followers,

I’m focusing on my work at CU Boulder’s Office of Information Technology and am acknowledging the obvious: I’m not going to keep this blog updated.

I do have many thoughts on the subject and hope to get to a place where I will be able to re-launch this blog with fresh content.

 

 

BPE and ITIL – More Information

I’ve been wanting to give an updated post on BPE and ITIL for weeks; I’ve been learning a lot. In fact right now before we go on let me point out a silly mistake I made in my last post:  BPE stands for Business  Performance Excellence (not Business Process Excellence as I called it in my last post).  BPE has its roots in TQM and Demming, but is an ever more deeply considered and fairly prescriptive approach to improving the way we do things.

As I was trying to get this post organized, Larry Levine, our Chief Operating Officer at the University of Colorado, sent a terrific letter to the entire Office of Information Technology staff that captured the relationship of ITIL and BPE.  I think it’s best to just include the letter verbatim and I do so here, with permission from Larry Levine.

(You’ll also see below that Larry says that we shouldn’t say “we will do BPE,” rather it’s the framework we’ll use to improve OIT. Well, I said in my last post “we will do BPE” [and I even put it in bold].  I’m certainly still learning here).

Enjoy:

As you all know, we are all engaging in BPE and increasingly applying IT Information Library (ITIL) best practices within OIT. This article articulates how BPE and ITIL complement each other as we manage our daily work as well as develop effective practices and continuously improve existing and future services.

Abstract: We use ITIL to help provide standard structures and to help with process improvement. BPE helps us to determine our services, their priorities and valuations, how empowered you are – and from all that, our strategic plans and projects. There is a bridge between BPE and ITIL. Similar to BPE, ITIL speaks to what it calls Continual Service Improvement (CSI). ITIL CSI recommends that in order to improve the quality of services and service lifecycle processes, an organization should adopt CSI strategies that are best suited for them. With BPE, we are turning to our clients to measure how they evaluate the quality of our services through reactive, transactional surveys and the relevancy of our services through proactive surveys. We turn to you to measure your degree of empowerment to fulfill our clients’ needs. From these BPE-based measurements, we develop quantified strategies and measure our progress toward them..

 Business Performance Excellence (BPE) experts Dr. Jeff Luftig, Lockheed Martin Professor of Management and Program Director, and Steven Ouellette, Lead Consultant, Center for Business Performance Improvement in the Engineering Management Program, have been working closely with OIT to implement BPE practices for the organization. To keep you apprised of this critical initiative, we have launched this periodic newsletter.The newsletter will provide updates about BPE and the resulting evolution of OIT’s strategy and service delivery. It will also offer resources to help you learn more about BPE, what it means and the value it provides. You are encouraged to submit questions, provide feedback and suggest article topics. See below for how to do so.Over time, you will see this newsletter evolve. Currently in development is a site that will contain searchable archives of all newsletter articles as well as prior BPE communications. Please stay tuned for this new functionality that will launch soon.

 

How BPE and ITIL Fit Together in Our Work

BPE is how we manage and improve OIT. When I’ve said to people, “We are doing BPE,” Dr. Luftig has exclaimed to me, “You are not ‘doing BPE,’ BPE is the framework you are using to manage and improve OIT!” That’s a noteworthy point. Unlike sending ourselves off to workshops on management, leadership and the like, reading books and articles about running an IT organization, or dabbling in a few BPE-like techniques such as surveying a few clients, BPE is about how we improve OIT 24x7x365.

Recall that BPE has two major thrusts. The first is empowering you, our employees, which we assess via an empowerment survey. The second is using quantifiable surveys to ask the clients we serve – faculty, students and staff – about their level of satisfaction with the services we offer and how we deliver them. We collect and analyze data from these surveys. We then discuss and interpret the analyses, which is where we apply our expertise, experience and wisdom about IT. The analyses do not blindly deliver rigid directives. We use the data to help us form objective, client-based, client-focused service delivery goals that we can measure. Such goals help us change what we do, and help illuminate how we can be organized to best hold ourselves accountable for the achievement of our goals.

Hoshin Kanri is the process that captures this. Hoshin Kanri holds that each of you is the best expert at doing your job, and that our strategic plans are derived both from objective and measured client feedback and from our IT expertise applied to fulfilling the needs we hear from clients. Remember that the senior team created Purpose, Vision, Mission and Value Proposition statements, from which we then derived Guiding/Operating Principles, which we then used to create the Employee Empowerment Survey and, finally, which we are using to create the Reactive/Transaction and Proactive surveys.I encourage everyone to review all of this in the BPE presentation you saw at the June 27, 2012, OIT All-Staff Meeting. 

 

OIT is currently in phase 1 of the BPE initiative.

 

ITIL is a set of practices, definitions and common vocabulary for IT support organizations that are not specific to any one IT organization, or any one type of supported setting (e.g., higher education, corporate sector, government, K-12, small-business, etc.). ITIL gives us a standard way to name and describe the elements of the IT environment that we create for CU Boulder and to define the actions we engage in, the services we deliver, and the events, planned and not-so-planned, that occur. ITIL brings coherence to how we handle and improve common processes such as change/release management, incident management, service design and service operation (e.g., our client-facing “consulting” groups).

 

Further questions are welcome. It’s a topic worth continuing to discuss.

 

That’s it for now.

ITIL and BPE – They Work Well Together

Intro:
Campus-wide Technical Support.Business Process Excellence and ITIL books
If we’re really trying to help people with their technology issues, nothing we “suits” do can beat a thoughtful, skilled technician meeting face-to-face with the person who needs help. We have it wrong if we focus too much on redrawing org charts and pondering from our silicon towers about what systems to put into place, what new models to draw or design.  On the other hand, such ponderings are still valuable. They help us get to a shared understanding and agreement on the bearing of the organization — something that is necessary for any team. And creating processes for efficiency at getting customers what they need just makes sense.

So, in running a pretty large support organization, I want to do it right. And where can I look for inspiration? Surely somebody is already doing a good job of providing support for their organization. I could travel around and visit the organizations that are doing it right and learn from them. Better yet, maybe I can find someone who will travel and do the research and report the results. Ah wait, that’s already in place:  the folks who documented the best way of doing things based on what everyone else is doing, are the folks who wrote the ITIL books. ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, offers the best we have when it comes to synthesizing the best practices of IT shops around the world.

Decided. We will take ITIL as the collected best practices of all things in IT, adjust them for my organization here at CU, and do it. Good. Planned. Ready.

Here at CU’s Office of Information Technology, we are pushing forward with ITIL and I’m involved in a number of pieces of this effort. At the same time, our CIO is getting interested in Business Process Excellence (BPE) as a guiding principle and methodology.  BPE is coming in as a top-down management mandate: We will do BPE in everything we do. Hey, I’m good with that. I believe in the stuff that BPE talks about: good processes, everyone facing in the same direction by understanding our goals, and paying attention to how we each are contributing to get us there. I like the focus on continual improvement as championed by Demming, who happens to be the mentor of our resident BPE expert.

So, does this mean that we should drop ITIL and replace it with BPE?
Nope.  We do both.

We do ITIL and BPE at the same time. (And while we’re doing both of them, I’m determined to keep in mind that the real need is for good people helping folks from a place of technical competence and human compassion.)  So, how do ITIL and BPE fit together? Here’s an initial take on this — acknowledging that I’m still at the beginning of understanding BPE and I’m still a beginner with ITIL too:

ITIL and BPE

ITIL serves as a very helpful framework showing what all IT shops need to do.  We do things like Incident Management with the goal of restoring service as soon as possible, Request Fulfillment where we are an organization that helps get people what they need, Problem Management where we investigate the root cause to determine a permanent solution or work-around for particular issues. And, we do a bunch of other things. ITIL defines 26 processes and functions. And at CU’s Office of Information Technology, we’re just getting serious about this ITIL effort.

ITIL talks about all the different things an IT shop should be paying attention to and then it gives pretty high-level view of how to accomplish each one. But, it leaves the details up to the individual organizations.  BPE, at least in the way we are experiencing it through the consulting arrangement here at CU Boulder’s OIT, is very prescriptive.

ITIL has a process called Continual Service Improvement, which is near-and-dear to my heart since I’m tasked with making it happen at CU’s OIT. Business Process Excellence offers a prescriptive method of practicing continual improvement. Both ITIL and BPE mention Demming. BPE tells us exactly how to do it. Excellent! Thank you BPE.

ITIL talks about Problem Management which is all about getting at the root cause of a problem.  BPE talks about root cause analysis and practicing the “5 why’s” approach.

ITIL has Portfolio Management. BPE talks about choosing and stating what your organization does and doesn’t don’t do. Same same. BPE says how to do get there.

Business Relationship Management in ITIL seems a lot like the customer relationship management practices BPE talks about.

Both ITIL and BPE talk about measuring things. BPE talks about gathering good data. Jeffrey Luftig likes to say “the plural of anecdote is not data.” His point is that we need real data to analyze.  ITIL talks about Key Performance Indicators per ITIL process.  And what do you do with Key Performance Indicators according to ITIL? You measure against them. Numbers. Measurement.

The similarities continue. The differences are also informative.
BPE pays attention to certain things that are in ITIL, but not everything. ITIL talks about Content Management Database and Configuration Items. BPE has no interest in them except that they help get us to a better operating organization.

BPE goes into great detail about how to improve those things we do (which ITIL calls Services).  ITIL doesn’t go into as much depth.

In essence, ITIL covers the wide spectrum of an IT shop’s role. BPE goes into depth and detail on those things that are common across business.

As I gain a better understanding of BPE and continue to expand on my knowledge of ITIL, I hope to give better explanations here in this blog. Until then, please leave comments below on whether I got it right.

People who helped with this:

Marin Stanek – has a good sense of BPE and ITIL and has helped frame the relationship between them during our many enjoyable meetings.

Jon Giltner – inspired me yesterday with his interpretation. This post is basically a transcription of his thoughts mixed in with some from Marin and others.

Jeffrey Luftig – is the BPE King at CU (and the world) and his presentation to the OIT team serves as a good foundation of my understanding.

Steve Oulette – is the BPE King #2 at CU. He is very helpful, easy to talk with, and I look forward to talking with him more.

 

 

ExemplarySupport – New Blog, New Focus

What’s Up?
My old (and infrequently updated) blog, TechAdviceAndInfo.com has now become ExemplarySupport.com.

A Shifted and Expanded Focus
This Blog will focus more on things involved in providing support to a large organization. Such support is often delivered one person at a time, but at a larger scale opportunities arise for efficiencies of scale. Spending a week to set up a management system for 5 or 15 computers to save 5-10 a machine might not make sense at those numbers, but doing so when looking at 150 or 500,  or perhaps 1500,  becomes a necessity. But when you do so, how do you keep service at red-carpet level? What are people doing to do this? What are the big ideas in this area? The big players? That’s what I think we’ll focus on here, and I hope to have guest bloggers along the way.

But this is still a personal effort, and so, even though some attention may be given to management, I will still also post on personal electronics, software settings, personal productivity, new software and hardware — those topics covered TechAdviceAndInfo.

Why?
I got a new job.  I’ve moved from the University of Colorado Law School to the central University of Colorado Office of Information Technology. At Colorado Law, I focused more on close-to-the-customer issues for the relatively small population there. In my new job, I have a more widely focused position serving the larger population of the whole university, a much larger staff and a much larger customer base. It’s an enormously entertaining job and I hope to share thoughts that come from it.

Blog stuff changes now and in the future
While I loved hosting the site at SquareSpace, I’m moving the hosting to Dreamhost, where I have a number of other sites – all of which I hope to revamp to some degree. My expenses at Dreamhost are fixed, and so, even though SquareSpace was quite reasonable for what it offered, I’ve moved from it to WordPress, like so many other blogs, and it’s enormous variety of plug-ins and add-ons.

The site is just a skeleton today, with the bare-minimum graphical design and feature set, but it will grow, and get set up again in this new environment in my spare time over the next few months.

Suggestions Welcome
Please share any suggestions you have for this blog. I want it to be useful.

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Why I like Lynda.Com for OnLine Training

We all learn differently. Some learn by doing. Some by reading. Some by hearing. I like having someone tell me how to do something and then going and trying it in the real world immediately after learning.*

I worked for more than 10 years in eLearning software development at Platte Canyon and Titan Client/Server Technologies. I wrote numerous software simulations that allowed learners to see, try, and do. I narrated hundreds and hundreds of pages of training. I wrote tools to help others write eLearning. All of that doesn’t matter now, though, because I think Lynda.Com finally got it right and they basically do nothing that I was doing. They just shoot videos:

The Good Way: Lynda.com

They skip most of the fancy simulations. They skip the ad nauseum quiz questions. The core of the training is down-to-earth video training on specific tasks in specific software. There are some sample files you can download and try on your own to follow along (sometimes helpful), or you can just watch the video and go do it on your own.

From a technical side, since the training is all just web videos, it’s very easy to get.

  1. Quick to learn Technical Training.
  2. Just like an in-person class.
  3. No distracting eLearning BS like quizzes and simulations
  4. I can use any browser.
  5. I can use any platform.

Lynda.com: Great content, easy to get to, taught in a way that I can quickly absorb and understand.

The Bad Way: SkillPort

I’m comparing my Lynda.Com experience to the University of Colorado’s standard offering from SkillPort which has the craziest multi-window login I’ve ever seen. Then, once you go through the 5 screens or so to get in, you then need to navigate the daunting tree of available courses.

Once you actually find your course, THEN, FINALLY, the actual course launches in yet another window. And it’s a read, click, read, click sort of thing, with some simulations that you are required to go through before you continue.

The simulations stink. Here’s one example of a simulation in SkillSoft: Say you need to save a document. To save a document, you just wnat to press Ctrl-S and the save is done, right? That’s what we do in MS Word, for instance. Not with SkillPort. That doesn’t work. Ctrl-S = Fail. The simulation blocks you from going on until you choose File, Save.  So it all feels just a little cumbersome and old fashioned.

End of Story: I Love Lynda.Com if for no other reason than it works the way it should. I learn from it. It’s easy to use. All good.

*Since I’m talking about how I learn, actually, from what I can tell, I’m an auditory learner in live classes. But I’m the annoying student who learns best hearing MYSELF say the content. I raise my hand and summarize the point: “Wait, are you saying (blah blah blah)?”  The teacher says, “yes, Chris, that’s what I’m saying,” and moves on thinking, “didn’t I just say that?” And when I’m really trying to learn something, I do interruption and restatement over and over. It’s a nightmare. (I’ll understand if you never want to take a class with me).

If this then that. Changing my life

Have you found this site yet?

ifttt.com

You set your own simple rules.

It’s revolutionizing the way I handle reading and filing rss feeds (just star an item in google reader and the whole post gets added to my Evernote folder).

It does great with me posting/tweeting or whatever and having that automatically posted on other social media sites.

Very exciting.

IT In Higher Ed: We’re Ahead of the Game in One Way

Stephanie Overby’s excellent September 9 article in Infoworld entitiled How to Handle Rogue IT is written with an eye to the corporate IT. She talks about the difficulty of a diverse technical environment with more and more participants bringing in their own devices and popping on to the enterprise network. She looks at a “new” situation with “rogue” departments buying equipment of their own choosing and setting it up outside the view of the main IT department.  Heck, that sounds like normal in my world.

Ask anyone in a higher education IT department if this sort of decentralized IT environment is a concern, and they’ll look at you like you’re from another dimension. Decentralization and “rogue” setups are the norm in higher education.  It’s as core to the university setting as academic freedom, papers, and faculty with strong opinions. It’s natural. I would argue that such an environment is the soul of the Internet. Diversity is good in IT just as it is in the human groups. The Internet’s birth, in fact, was all about joining together diverse networks from universities and military centers.

So, while IT shops from shiny Fortune 500 corporations may be scrambling to get their hands (and minds) around this new world, higher ed types know it. We’re ahead of the Fortune 500! Let’s just take a moment to bask in this rare situation.

<a moment. ahhhh.>

The article mentions some strategies for IT shops working with diverse IT environments. My favorite quote: “The New IT Mantra: Yes, We Can”

Her point with this newly needed can-do attitude of IT is that if the main IT department won’t meet the customers’ wishes, then the customers are just going to work around the IT department and do it themselves. And doing it themselves may or not be okay for them,  but it will surely not be implemented with an eye to the enterprise. Ane the IT department is sidelined and later, when the system is old or stops working, IT will be called in to fix it at that point anyway.

So, IT should say “Yes” to helping with small groups and individual projects. I’m happy to report that we’re onto this already as well: The small IT department at Colorado Law, where I work, has had an internal motto for the past 5 years: “CU Law IT, we never say ‘no.’”  This attitude was born from a strong customer service orientation and actually got the IT department a little 1-page spread in the Greentree Gazette a few years ago. (The Greentree Gazette was a magazine on the business of Higher Education, now sadly defunct.)  The large enterprise University of Colorado IT Department, OIT, under the leadership of Larry Levine, now also seems to be saying, “Yes” as much as it can, sometimes I think to the chagrin of the folks inside the department who are more used to the traditional approach of long lead times, careful steps, and detailed implementation plans. In a world where the orientation is “Yes, we can,” the folks in the department will feel scattered, have multiple and expanding points of responsibility.

There’s a lot more to do at Colorado Law and the larger U. of Colorado and a lot more to Overby’s article, but for me, the most important take-away was:

In working with a diverse IT landscape, IT in higher ed rocks.

Computer + Softdrinks = CocaCola Freestyle

There was a time in my life when I gave up softdrinks – focused on iced tea, and then gave that up too. Now is not that time of my life. So, when I came across the best soda fountain dispenser in the whole world, I used it. Oh how I used it.

Our local movie theatre just got the CocaCola Freestyle machine, and it is amazing. With an advertised set of possible 100+ fountain drinks, I had to check it out. Sure enough, I could make a combination of Diet Coke Vanilla with a bit of Diet Coke Lime if I wanted. But they also had Coke Zero Rasberry! Plus a whole selection of Caffeine-Free coke and other selections. And we haven’t even mentioned the various non-coke flavors or all the non-carbonated ones.

The machine is a wonderful combination of precision “microdosing” and computers. Throw in a touch screen, and you have a great set of possibilities.

After conducting as much field research as i could stomach, I later conducted extensive research using the “Google Decimal System.” I turned up such fascinating acts as these. It offers not just the advertised 100+ flavors, but actually 81,129,638,414,606,681,695,789,005,144,063 (over eighty-one nonillion) flavors if you’re willing to mix different soda types together according to WikiPedia‘s calculations. My goal, try them all. I can do it! I will get one drink a day, so it will only take me 222,272,981,957,826,000,000,000,000,000 years to do so.  I’ll keep you posted each billion years.

My hope: the next version will take this concept and combine it with the awsome jumping water fountains from Disney Imagineers. Could you imagine choosing your soda selection, entering your seat number, and then the soda just gets shot into your cup? Jetsons style baby!

I want to acknowledge that I’m late to this party. These dispensers have been out since 2010 or maybe even 2009. But they’re new to me! And I’m totally in love.

General Printer Installation Steps, Windows 7, USB Connection

I recently wrote up this set of instructions for a friend who was going to install a printer at home.

Assuming you have Windows 7 and the printer connects to your computer via USB cord.

Normal Steps

1. Look at the printer and determine the Make and Model.

2. Turn on the printer and plug it in to your computer’s USB port.

3. See if Windows 7 just automatically feels it and installs it. If so, great. If not, keep going.

4. Go to <Windows Start Button>, Devices and Printers

5. Click “Add a Printer” along the toolbar of your window

6. Click “Add a Local Printer”

7. Use an Existing Port, LPT1

                When you click Next, it might sense it and prompt you.

                If it doesn’t…

8. You’ll see a list of printers.

                Select Manufacturer on the left side.

                Select the printer model on the right side.

                                if you don’t see your printer model

                                                – Is there one that is close but a little older? For instance if you have a “model 2100″ is there a “model 2000″ listed? If so, you can try to use it.

                                if you don’t’ see it, it’s time to go to the internet, Skip to Alternate Step A below.

9. If you were able to select your printer, click next, follow the prompts, print a test page.  If it didn’t work, skip to Debugging Step i below.

 

————-

Alternate Steps if Your printer isn’t listed

Alternate Step A. Do a web search for your printer drivers.

                Google “<brand> <model> printer driver”

                Ideally, you want to get the files from an official site like HP, Brother, etc.

Download the driver.

If it’s a file you can run

                Run it.

                Follow the prompts of the software for the rest of the installation.

If it’s a zip of compressed files, unzip the file to a place you know, maybe your desktop.

                Look in the unzipped folder for a “setup.exe” file or something similar.

                If there is one, run it and follow the on-screen prompts.

                If there is not one, just note the location of the folder again (desktop maybe?)

                Repeat steps 1 through 7 above

                At step 8, click “Have Disk” and browse to the folder with your unzipped printer drivers (desktop?)

                                Select the file that seems to make the most sense. Maybe a file named the same as your printer?

                Keep going by clicking next.

 

————-

Debugging Steps

 

Debugging Step i: Check all connections. Unplug replug power, USB code on both ends.

Debugging Step ii: Power Off, and then On the printer, restart your computer with the printer still attached.

                Watch for something to happen with the printer. Anything? If not, question the connection. If so, good.

Debugging Step iii: Look at the list of printers on your computer and delete unnecessary ones.

                Go to <Windows Start Button>, Devices and Printers, right click on any listed printers that don’t need to be there. Uninstall.

Debugging Step iv: Delete your printer from the same list. Reboot the computer. Try again.

Debugging Step v: give up. Call someone for help.

Dropbox as Cloud-based Backup?

Someone recently asked me about the “cloud-based backup” tool I was raving about in a presentation. Here’s a follow up email where I clarify and explain:

The cloud-based backup you may have heard me raving about is DropBox. Here are a few quick thoughts on it (that I’m writing in a more generic way since I’ll probably repurpose it for my blog (techadviceandinfo.com):

It’s a little different than a pure cloud-based backup in a couple key ways.

  • Function:
    • The absolute beauty of Dropbox is that you just save to a folder called Dropbox on your computer and it syncs up to the cloud in the background automatically.
      • This really is cool because there’s no delay when you save or open. It’s just there.
      • It feels like you’re just saving to a normal file folder.
    • Whatever devices you have connected to that DropBox account all have access to the files.
    • Even your iPhone has access to the files.
    • So, while the cloud-based backup is there, it’s really a secondary to the “ubiquitous access” that it’s giving you.
  • Space:
    • The free version doesn’t have that much space – 2 Gigabytes
      • You can get a bit extra if you get referred. I’ll refer you. Here’s a link that if you use it to sign up, you and I both get extra space:  http://db.tt/lCLtSAU
      • You can also get another set of megs if you jump through a few more hoops.
    • You can pay $99 for 50 gigabytes for a year.
      • I’ve recently done this
      • I’ve set up folders inside the main account for my kids.
        • One kid uses this exclusively and loves it. She saves it locally and then retrieves her files at school.
        • One risk: she can also access her files AND my files.Luckily DropBox has a “previous versions” feature when lets you get back any deleted files for the past few days (weeks?).
      • If you start with a free account and then upgrade to a paid account, all the “free space” you got from referrals comes with you. So now that I’ve upgraded to the 50 gig version, I actually have 53 or so gigs from previous referrals.
  • Advice:
    • Get a free account
    • Use a referral from me or someone else to get more space. Here’s mine: http://db.tt/lCLtSAU
    • Try it out.
    • If you like it but need more space, then pay for it. The upgrade is instant.

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