Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Contract to hire works

I have seen and been hired by both methods. Contract to hire, as well as a very rigorous, analystic recruiting/hiring process, and for the vast majority of tactical/execution roles, I tend to lean towards contract to hire as the best option for both parties. For the company, you save the expense of an expensive hiring process, you are able to bring in candidates to begin working almost immediately that you needed somebody working on last week, and you have almost zero risk if you make a mistake since you can cut them lose at any time. On the other side of the fence, for the candidate, you get the chance to 'try the company out' before committing, you get to show the company that you are worth more than what is printed on your paper resume, and you get to ensure that there is an appropriate cultural fit between you and your potential employer. In fact I would go as to say that contract to hire can even give the candidate the upper hand in negotiations for hiring positions. Being through both methods I have seen the rigorous method work, however I feel that one of the biggest negatives to this is that we tended to hire people that fit a mold the company was looking for, which produced good results, however having a bunch of clones (a bit of an exageration) does not allow for diversity of thought, and it is this diversity of thought that can often move a company from good to great. Being a little less structured through a contract to hire, might just allow you to bring in some new blood that might have been screened out through the standard filter technique.

Friday, March 24, 2006

'Entreprendre' Alive and kicking in Idaho

Entreprendre - to undertake. The origins of the word entrepreneur, as Bo Peabody, General Partner of Village Ventures, 6 time entrepreneur and author of 'Lucky or Smart', explains to a crowd in Boise Idaho at the Keynote for what our Governor has deemed Entrepreneur week in Idaho. Bo goes on to jest about the ironic parallels between entreprendre and the job of an Undertaker, where most entrepreneurial ventures are usually at some point close to death. All in all, a short but inspiring talk from one of the great, yet humble entrepreneurs of our time. This keynote is part of the second annual 'Kickstart' Entrepreneur event, with topical seminars as well as the Northwest Venture Championship which draws teams from around the world. This spirit is one of the great things about Boise - the area exudes a creative energetic feel. Its hard to explain, but ask others from the area, and they will tell you as well. Maybe its the wide open west that draws creative people to it, maybe the clean air and lifestyle that allows ideas to grow and flourish, but whatever it is, it seems to be working. The town is also small enough to get to know lots of people in the industry. You are likely no more than one degree of separation away from anyone else in the technology space. A group of us get together informally for coffee every Tuesday morning to discuss industry trends, business ideas, leadership tips, books, etc. It started with 3 and grew from there. I also have a number of close colleagues that I feel completely comfortable sharing and vetting business ideas with after only being here for 2 years now. This is what you want in a business community. Big enough, yet small enough at the same time. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, make your way to Boise Idaho and join a community of like minded individuals and let your ideas take shape.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Never Standing Still

In a leadership course I took in 05 one of the comments that always stuck in my head was: With your personal development you are either moving forward or moving back - there is no standing still. I try to keep this in mind at all times whether it be work or home life. At work it helps me decide which job to take, projects to work on, self study areas etc.

With the current pace of business and technology though, it seems like the more accurate statement would be running forward and barely catching up, or falling back too fast to change momentum. It never seems like you have enough time to digest all the information out there just in your interest areas alone. Not just magazines and books but websites, RSS feeds, your favorite blogs, podcasts etc. My email box alone fills with business articles of the month, and no matter how much I read, scan, flag and prioritize, I never seem to be able to get caught up. For example, In an effort to organize, I delete articles that haven't been opened after about 3 months - my reasoning - its likely old news. Talk about the age of information overload. Even this blog is not mere bandwagon attempt - its a way for me to capture fleeting ideas as I filter information - even if just for my own recollection. Luckily, there are a few tools that are part of the Web 2.0 generation that are starting to pop up that give us some ability to organize this information. Check out Del.icio.us. Even this concept will likely evolve into something more - some type of personal (yet sharable) information warehouse, that helps you organize, connect, relate, filter do advanced query/analytics on, and have the application help find/refine new incoming information.

I don't see this overload as bad - I look at the positives - I have fostered a culture within myself of continual learning, and by coming to grips that the pace of things will never let up and likely get worse, I am working on sustainable continual learning without getting burnt out, which is much harder to achieve.

Continual learning even has a good physical affect on your brain. I read a recently in the Wall Street Journal about a medical study that showed brains stay more nimble as they age if they are kept in shape by continuous learning. The study proposed that age is less of a factor with declining mental capacity - it is more likely due to the routine and relaxation of retirement.

Another thing to watch out for is getting lulled into standing still without knowing it. Recently I have been doing some consulting work, and I am convince that this even keeps you sharper on what's current. You are always looking for trends, what's coming next - what skills you need to build, what type of project/work experience you should be driving towards for career progression, because you know there is finality to your assignments. However I would go as far to say that even having a job within a company - you need to stay sharp, because in this age of change, no position is forever so be ready with knowledge, and look forward to the challenge.

Water, Water....

For all the old school software developers out there (whether you know it or not...) who are now unfortunately driving IT strategy Sign up today!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Renewable Energy

A couple of bright spots in the movement towards renewable energy sources.

Although wind turbines wind farms have been around, I thought it was a great step recently when I read that John Deere, who has helped farmers for 150 years to work the land is now offering investment stakes to farmers for wind turbines. Farmers earn cash by leasing the wind rights to their land, or investing and selling power to utilities. Seems like a good fit - farmers have trusted them with tractors and other machinery - why not wind turbines. Plus - what a great way to boost financing revenue.

Stirling Energy Systems has come up with a revolutionary solar collection system that is twice as efficient as photovoltaic cells that uses an old idea of a sterling engine. Their solar setup will be able to generate electricity on a similar scale to coal, gas, or nuclear with no emissions by using solar dishes nearly 1000 sq feet. Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric have also signed up to buy solar power from Stirling. Recently Bruce Osborn, their CEO was named 1 of the 50 people that will most likely change how we live and work over the next ten years in Fast Company.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The New Digital Marketing Channel: Microchunking

We all know about podcasts as the current trend in getting your information out to the masses, and the uses that this has around marketing products services etc, but here is another soon to be hit in the marketing space to think about.

Microchunking: the concept of breaking something down into its smallest usable parts. Content companies breaking down digital media into bite sized pieces so that they can be shared, posted and linked to. This could be a skit from SNL, news clips, a clip of an amazing goal from the NHL. It is the new era of video distribution. It also means a new medium to advertise and marketing. The content is free, so what if you have to sit through an add before it starts. Plus who is viewing, posting it on their blogs, sharing these different media clips could provide valuable customer profiling. Popular clips released the morning after airing could be viewed hundreds of thousands of times in just a few days. The term isn't even in Wikipedia at this point, but here is a brand new article on it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

E-Paper Finally coming?

Although the promise of e-paper, e-books etc is not materializing, and catching on as fast as expected, companies such as Hitachi, Xerox, Sony and others are finally making good progress in the space. After Hitachi released a prototype the dimensions of a normal sheet of paper, weighing in at one pound, very soon e-paper will be a reality - flexible, lower power consumption, and cheaper to make. I don't think e-newspapers are in store in the near future, but there are many other applications that could provide significant possibilities to company who take advantage of it. Store signage for example. Today most store still get new adds mailed, or they download and print themselves for smaller ones. Flat panel displays exist, but are expensive and offer limited use. E-paper allows for store signage to be posted anywhere, with content from HQ or even B2B partners, just like real paper. New content will be loaded wirelessly to the signs. E-Paper brings a new dimension to in-store marketing. Competition for in-store space takes on a new twist, if signs could be changes throughout the day or week. Analytics could even drive this. Real time sales data could adjust signage based on products that are selling well or not selling well. Buyer profiles at different times of the day or week, could allow e-signage to adjust, or eventually if the e-signage knows who the customer is, can generate targeted ads. It is also likely that companies such as Google will get into this game pushing advertising or other content to e-paper if predictions of their media dominance come to fruition.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Open source changing how we think

Product Development Other Than Software
How does collaboration and the open source mentality shift our thinking about other 'products' outside of software? The open source model suggest that by releasing an idea or prototype to the outside world (including your competitors) will allow for more input to produce a superior product, and potentially identify critical flaws before taking it to market, ultimately creating a better product at a lower cost. What if we took a media/marketing campaign and released it via an open source model prior to the actual launch? Not only could it help ensure that the campaign is communicating with its intended audience, but it could help identify different audiences and audience experiences with the campaign.

Improving Quality On Non Strategic Software
See this blog article (feb 22 - Can Vendors Control Open Source) on how the open source model could be used to develop non strategic software at lower costs, while having higher quality through collaboration and well maintained code. Win-win for the CIO, customer and development community.

How We Manage
Distributed Management - Employees leading themselves. If an orchestra can win a Grammy without a conductor, can a business succeed without (or with less) management? Another spin on this topic is described in The Marine Corp Way - A book about using Maneuver Warefare to lead an organization. Their is an entire chapter based on decentralized decision making.

The 'Pole Position' in Marketing

I like this visual of racing and the 'Pole Position' for thinking about marketing strategy.

IT on Target?

Using stories is one of the current 'tools' for leadership presense and communication. Although personal stories are best if you have one, I found this historical story with a good message about the true focus and direction for an IT group. Although it seems obvious, I think this is one of the biggest issues faced by IT shops today. In the new world where IT is being asked to not only deliver systems but truely prove their value, it would be best if everyone kept this concept in mind.