Of Teeth and Technology

Susan EllsworthSeveral years ago, I was visiting family members in Pittsburgh. One evening, my upper left jaw began to bother me–seriously. I took an over-the-counter pain killer and thought no more about it. But by the next morning, I was in horrible pain.

The trip home was a nightmare. At the time, I did not have a regular dentist, and had not seen one for many years. I arrived home late in the afternoon. As luck would have it, an ad for a dentist was in the stack of mail that had accumulated while I was out of town. I called the number on the ad. It was a wrong number. In desperation, I called the emergency number for a different dentist listed in the phone book and got an appointment for the next morning. Long story short, I lost a molar because I had not paid attention to my teeth. Not long thereafter, I went through more expensive dental surgery. Lesson learned: Take care of my teeth!

Recently, two different customers we had not heard from in over a year called us in a panic. Each had a serious problem with a server. One of them had not backed up user data in over a year and a half. Both of them had tuned out our repeated generous offers of remote monitoring of their systems. In each case, monitoring of systems had been sporadic and questionable at best.  In one case, the business owner had been raised on the philosophy that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He had applied that philosophy to the systems he had invested in and was ultimately responsible for. So now he had a downed server, which translated to downtime for himself and his staff.  Ultimately, he ended up purchasing a new server and new workstations. All of which could have been a lot less painful for everyone had he had regular checkups through regular remote monitoring of his systems.

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All of which, good friends, is why your teeth are like your technology: ignore them and they will go away.

Cheers, all!

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Who Really Needs Training? Part 3 of 3

Susan EllsworthSeveral years ago, I was on a Federal technical services contract which was managed on the Federal side by someone whose professional expertise appeared to be in an arena  outside of high technology.  Many of us on the contractor side had great difficulty in communicating why certain technical solutions were necessary to implement. The problem? We were using “Geek Speak” and had become so accustomed to using it among ourselves that we did not even realize that not everyone knows Geek Speak.

Fortunately, one of the techs on the contract realized quickly what the problem was and privately explained it to us. By general agreement, he became the translator—and often the spokesperson—for the group when we met with our customer. He often used ordinary, non-computer language and stories to illustrate quite nicely the issues we were working on.

One takeaway from that experience became my  favorite explanation of eMail as it moves from your desktop to my desktop. I have often had to explain to others how eMail moves from my computer to someone else’s computer and how eMail actually goes through several computers before arriving at its destination. The analogy I use is  how a letter or package moves from my hands to a post office or other vendor, where it is sorted and shipped to yet another facility which optionally put on an airplane. It is off-loaded from the plane, transferred to a truck and moved to another facility. Finally, a delivery person brings the letter or package to you. Or you pick it up at a local delivery point. These are events that many of us have seen, and the analogy works quite nicely, with no Geek Speak on my part.

So who really needs training? We do. Even today, with many different ways we communicate with each other and using many different devices, we will be far more effective when communicating with top management when we listen to ourselves and recognize the price that speaking only Geek Speak exacts.

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Who Really Needs Training? Part I of 3

Susan Ellsworth One of my friends in Toastmasters is a great listener, and consequently a Senior Account Executive of New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Washington, D.C. Recently, we were talking about one of our shared favorite topics, training in the computer field. And the cost of not training people to use the tools they are expected to use on the job. Here are some of Vann-Di Galloway’s thoughts.

Training your staff helps to keep them motivated and up-to-date with organizational skills and new technologies.  As fewer employees take on greater responsibilities within the workplace, training helps to increase their productivity.  Staff members benefit from learning new skills and becoming a valued asset within the organization. Training brings direct and immediate benefits and can be calculated as a high return on investment.

Regardless of the size or type of an industry or business, training can have a measurable impact on performance and the bottom line.  Research from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) shows that productivity increases after relevant training takes place. Employees that receive formal training can be 230 per cent more productive than untrained colleagues who are working in the same role. (1)

Businesses must continually change their work practices and infrastructure to stay competitive in a global market. Training staff to manage the implementation of new technologies, work practices and business strategies can also act as a lure for future recruitment.  Since training increases the retention of staff members, significant cost saving are accrued as the loss of one competent person can be the equivalent of one year’s pay and benefits.
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I could not agree with Vann-Di more. At the same time, I thought about  the training that technical services providers need and the training that CEOs might need.

Technical Services providers (yes, that’s me) need to speak three different languages: Geek Speak, End-User Speak and CEO Speak.

I learned “geek-speak” in technical training classes, both formal and informal. The words seemed straightforward and easy to learn. It was the language my buddies used, so it was comfortable. But Geek Speak is a disaster around most  end users.  I’m somewhat conversant in “end-user” speak. It often starts with “HELP! I can’t…” and when we’re lucky, it ends with “Whew! Thank you!” CEO-speak is the one that still eludes me most of the time, and I’m looking for courseware in how to communicate with the CEO who juggles too many issues, and works too many hours dealing with everything except the technology he or she authorizes payment for . CEO Speak comes in different accents and is generally spoken by people wearing a suit. It seems to echo the language of the Wall Street Journal, and in meetings with Geeks, it struggles to include pieces and parts of Geek Speak.

I can just see my arms-waving Toastmasters friends jumping up and down and yelling “THEY ALL NEED TOASTMASTERS!” Maybe…maybe not. The next blog will look more closely at End-User Speak. We’ll wrap up this three-part blog with more about CEO Speak.

(1) Smith A., 2001, Return on Investment in Training: Research Readings NCVER

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We are Moving on…a new Look and Feel

Effective now, you will find this blog at http://blog.pequodsystems.com. We believe this change will make us easier to find. We also decided to give ourselves a new look.  We also changed so that our friends using mobile devices such as an iPad can read this blog while you are on the road. Over the next month or so, you will also see some changes at our website.   Our vision, values and mission will remain the same. Our products and services are evolving. We are still enthusiastic Nimble partners.  As always, you will find us on FaceBook, in LinkedIn, Twitter and even in Google+ .

THIS AND THAT

Word for the Day: (An oldie but goodie) Mashup.
Music,  Slang . a recording that combines vocal and instrumental tracks from two or more recordings. a piece of recorded or live music in which a producer or DJ blends together two or more tracks, often of contrasting genres .
…a hybrid website that collates and displays information taken from various other online sources …

Not to be confused with enabling Nimble to talk with your Google Apps. 
Cheers!

//
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Google’s Rel = Author…where is the Return On Investment?

Susan Ellsworth

For anyone other than a professional webmaster, Google’s current “Rel=Author” implementation in G+ profiles for increasing trustworthy content has a long way to go before those of us in small business will find it easy to implement. And I am wondering exactly where is the return on investment for the time and sweat it now takes to make it work reliably.

Setting up a Google+ account is actually quite straightforward. So is pointing the G+ profile directly to my website and to the URL for this blog. Pointing this blog in the direction of my G+ profile, however, was not so much. The introductory  Matt Cutts/Othar Hansson video on authorship did not match my thee-hour effort to discover the appropriate way to point this blog in the direction of my G+ profile. Google’s online helpdesk documentation specific to WordPress, the Content Management System for this blog, told me why the video had tripped ever so lightly over commenting on its implementation by saying that the implementation is still “in the early days.” Make that “still in Beta.”

At the end of the day, I found myself ponding on two questions. First, where is the return on investment for small business website owners to spend time and effort in this way? If I don’t go through all this effort, will searches on terms on my website suddenly go into the toilet insofar as Google is concerned?

Second, I thought about the matter of trustworthiness as a whole. Frankly, in business dealings, I trust people more than I worry about website rankings. I thought about Jon Ferrera, the Nimble CEO. I have not met him in person, and yet I trust him as a person. Why is that? I have spent time on the phone with him and with his staff. What they say is what they do. My business partner knew him in his early GoldMine days, and I have watched as GoldMine partner after partner has come on board—including some who originally had hooted down the idea of integrating GoldMine with social networking, let alone turning it into a Social Business Platform. Jon has over 20 years of experience in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Force Automation (SFA). An entrepreneur at heart, Jon founded GoldMine CRM in 1989 with a college friend and turned it into a very successful venture that he eventually sold to FrontRange. In 2009, Jon founded Nimble LLC, and by February 2010, we were on board. We’re not looking back any time soon. See us at our Nimble site.
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To Skype and FaceBook Together…or Not

Recently I discovered a solid business reason for using Skype. A company from BanglaDesh and my company are collaborating on a project together, and Skype is a convenient, economical way we can stay in touch. As a FaceBook user, I was fascinated to see on my Skype page an option to “Connect your Facebook account to message your friends from Skype and see their News Feed.” And of course, the “Learn More” link only said “Enjoy the magic of video calls when you and your friends are logged in to Facebook. “

As a partner in a systems integration company, I love it when apps come together and play nicely with each other. However, just yesterday I had extolled the benefits of LinkNotify. I had proclaimed that LinkNotify is a fast read, that it sends me an eMail three times a week with current links posted by friends and/or organizations I had “LIKED.”  As an example, I pointed out that Nimble had posted a FaceBook link to the the July 6 LA Times piece “Facebook details Skype-powered video calling, group chats” and how I had received a report on July 7 from LinkNotify. I had immediately returned to FaceBook to see a comment about starting a group to enable chatting. Earlier in the day, a friend from the Philippines had posted a link to the FaceBook announcement, so that made me twice as interested. A 10-second scan of the LinkNotify report had just saved me a 30-minute check of links posted by all my FaceBook friends. It all looked like so much FUN!

However, I had also said that I had killed off all my time-wasting FaceBook games and apps. Considering that LinkNotify is a business-oriented app that allows me to skim through the links my FaceBook friends have posted without my being slowed down by the posts about what they’re eating or watching on TV, I asked myself the obvious question:  Would SKYPE also do that for me? Not that I could see. So for now, unless my Nimble buddies can show me a good reason to the contrary, I think I’ll pass on the Skype-FaceBook integration opportunity. 

 


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The High Cost of Ostrich Feathers and IIABDFI

 

Susan Ellsworth

 

Back on February 1, 2010, Dan Tynan at InfoWorld wrote about “The technology pro’s greatest enemies.” While that article and similar others provide catharsis for those of us who labor in the tech field, there is some wisdom for the rest of us in his “the six most nefarious adversaries of IT.”

In his article, Tynan talked about “bosses who bury their heads in the sand when it comes to technology, yet are still empowered to make critical IT decisions.” Here’s my classic example: the business owner, when told by an IT staff person that configuring a “souped up” workstation as a server is a bad idea. The business owner, motivated by short-term penny pinching, threatens to fire the IT tech who then caves in and installs server software on a workstation. The workstation, never intended to provide networking service to dozens of users at a time, is less efficient than a server. The result: an unhappy, less than fully-productive user community. Meanwhile, the Ostrich, who works 100% of his time on a smart phone, never experiences what everyone else does.  And never figures out why everyone is complaining.

Then there is my personal favorite:the If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It crowd.  The problem here is that just like human beings, technology wears down with time. And just like human beings who refuse to adapt to new realities (a gentleman I used to know, for example, who refused to learn how to use a bank ATM or a microwave oven), computing hardware which is not updated does not work well with newer software applications. Some applications simply will not install on older machines, but until beaten to a business pulp against the tide of technology, the IIABDFI manager refuses to update to current technology. And then pushes on the provider of technology to upgrade only to a level that is no longer supported by anyone earning an honest buck in the trade…but just might be found for pennies on eBay.

The sad thing is that both the Ostrich and IIABDFI fail to recognize that the longer they put off upgrading, the dramatically fewer resources from which they will be able to receive technical support. The Tech flavor of Murphy’s Law says that the need for technical support will arrive just at a critical business moment. And Ostrich/IIABDFI will discover not only the expense of upgrading to current technology just when funds had been committed elsewhere but also the cost of downtime. We favor front-end planning.

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Pequod Systems Announces Field Services Associates Program

Susan Ellsworth

We are pleased to announce our new Field Services Associates Program. As a Managed Services Provider (MSP) with an investment in and commitment to a major, well-known MSP platform, we are now offering an opportunity to experienced computer services technicians to take full advantage of our Pequod Proactive Managed Services with minimal additional expense by the Field Services Associate.

We ourselves remember the experience and organizational cost of far too many 3:30 am Break-Fix calls. Not any more. Our Field Services Associates Program is designed to overcome  that very scenario.

We remember friends in the business losing focus due to conflicting priorities arising from crisis after crisis. We used to be there ourselves. Not any more.

We remember being buried in break-fix work for six months at a clip and not seeing long-time friends.  Not any more.

So how does the Pequod Systems Field Services Associates Program work?

Your clients remain your clients. You and Pequod Systems negotiate a flexible, custom investment in specific services that will make you more efficient and effective while we deliver proactive monitoring of your customer’s network.

Results? You are even more professional than you were. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is replaced by rational, reasonable updates of software and hardware, based on information from the manufacturer. You reduce rush hour travel. You regain ability to focus on the major systems issues your customer really should know about before a small problem becomes a disaster. You reduce your carbon footprint—not to mention the dent in your wallet that unnecessary travel to customer sites takes. And you just might have an opportunity to get together with that best friend you have not seen for six months.

NOTE: Pequod Systems does not become your employer.

Send eMail with your questions and qualifications to FieldService@pequodsystems.com

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Our (almost) FREE Managed Services Offer

Susan Ellsworth

Here is an offer you can’t refuse. We are offering a two-month free trial of our bronze entry-level Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites.

This offer is good only through June 30.

We normally charge $199.00 per month for this service. However, if you act now, you will receive a free system inventory and  two free Monthly Reports.

The Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites are designed to identify, track and report issues affecting the security, performance and reliability of your IT investment. Our Suites inventory the software and hardware on your network.

Why should you care about this?

Is your company really ready for a natural disaster? Flood from a broken dam upstream? It happened to a landscaping firm I know about. Fire caused by a spark from a nearby building? It’s in the news. Vandalism ? An oops resulting in significant staff downtime and replacement of critical parts of your network? Think it can’t happen to you? Stuff happens! You can’t afford the service? When is the last time you calculated how much you earn in an hour? Now calculate how much each employee whose productive work can come to a halt in the case of a downed server. It just happened to a company we know well.

When you approach your insurance carrier for replacements, how current will your inventory be?

While it used to be a daunting, expensive task to collect documentation about every laptop, every workstation, printer, scanner and  hard drive, every version of—and patch for—each software solution, that is no longer the case. Our Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites do that for you.

The Fine Print

To deliver our service to you, we install a piece of software known as our onsite management reporting software. Therefore,

  • your company must have a true windows server operating system. This includes Windows Server 2003 (any edition), Windows Server 2008 (any edition), or Windows Home Server (not used in Domains).
  • you must have SQL Server 2005 (express, standard, or enterprise edition), or be willing to allow us to install SQL Express 2005 on your server as well as our onsite management reporting software.
  • your server must have a 2.5 Mhz or better processor, 1.8 Gigabytes of  RAM,   10 Gigabytes for our onsite manager software and SQL files
  • your Internet access must have  open outbound ports 9222, 443 and 80.
  • your LAN network requirement is for open ports on managed/monitored devices 22, 23, 80,  (3389 and/or 5900), and others, depending of devices

The only cost to you is one-half our usual setup fee.

NOTE: This offer is good only through June 30.

If any of the above Fine Print makes no sense to you whatsoever,  drop us a note on our contact page.

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More GoldMine Premium Edition Offers: Gotchas Not Included

Susan Ellsworth

It goes against our grain to lure customers or prospects in with an apparent low price for product or service, and then suddenly hit them up with hidden extra fees. There. I’ve said it.

Here are the latest GoldMine Premium offers from FrontRange, including additional charges that come directly from FrontRange.  Pequod Systems is a GoldMine (FrontRange) partner, so I am definitely not commenting about FrontRange or any other FR partner.

I am talking about Pequod Systems values. We have been told not to lead with price, but with benefits.  Our relationships with our customers have always been built on transparency right from the start.

Welcome Back To GoldMine is an offer for GoldMine Corproate Edition Customers who have been off of maintenance for more than 6 months and who now want to upgrade to GoldMine Pemium Edition with a minimum of 5 seats.  All existing seats of GoldMine must be upgraded. Please contact Pequod Systems before April 26 to take advantage of this offer.

The bottom line from FrontRange for such a customer with 5 seats of GoldMine is $2,940.  Below are figures showing a sample breakout.

Welcome Back to GoldMine

Upgrade from Corporate Edition to GoldMine Premium Edition is for customers  who are currently on maintenance, and who will upgrade with a minimum of  five  GMPE seats. All seats must be upgraded. This FrontRange offer for five seats at $449.00 each comes to $2,245.  The FrontRange requirement for $139 per seat annual maintenance upgrade multiplied by five seats comes to $695.00.  Total offer for an upgrade for customers currently on Corporate Edition with only five seats of CE: $2940.00.

Then there is the Director’s Special for Standard Edition users. Evidently there are still a few Standard Edition users out in the hustings. The FrontRange offering is an upgrade  is for $499.00 per seat. That price does not include the $139.00 for maintenance.  Also, there is a minimum of six (6) seats required. Thus, the software investment for six seats would be $3828. Standard Edition users please note:  GoldMine Premium Edition with multiple users requires a server and workstations around it.  Please do not try to use one person’s workstation as a server.

Bottom line for these offers? Don’t be fooled if you see announcements saying “Welcome Back To GoldMine! Flat fee of $500 ! Upgrade for $349 – includes SQL 2008 for WorkGroups !” Think again if you see announcements that say CE to PE $449 includes SQL 2008 for Workgroups.” Ask for the numbers behind the numbers.

Some other fine print
There is no return for any reason. Clients will be invoiced for renewal at the then current rates. The sale is final and non-returnable.  That includes the End User License Agreement.

Remember, you got your numbers and fine print here at Pequod Systems.

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