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We Go Together

January 8, 2016

We go together

Your company culture can form the solid foundation from which your company can reach for its goals, or it can be an unstable mass of shifting sand, constantly undermining your efforts.  There’s so much data about culture these days, it can be overwhelming – not to mention contradictory!

Here’s a different approach to the discussion:  with all due credit to Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of What Not To Wear , the components you build your culture from don’t have to match, but they do need to go together.  Since culture is driven by the people in the team (or department or organization), we’re really talking about personalities and value systems.

No one wants a company filled with pod people or clones – groupthink can be hideously destructive, and a lack of innovation has left many failed companies in its wake.  That said, the opposite extreme can be just as bad, resulting in failed communication, opposing goals, and a lot of strife and stress.  A great culture is built from individuals with common ground or value system, which provides a space to meet and work through the differences that will occur.  Complimentary personalities and skills result in a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.  So the next time you look at your team, instead of worrying whether everyone matches, ask yourself this:  do we go together?*

 

*And now I have We Go Together from Grease for an earworm…

Will Apple Force the Market to Evolve Again?

January 6, 2016

In 2008, Apple released the Macbook Air, the first major computer without an optical drive. This was a revolutionary idea, perhaps too revolutionary. No one I spoke with at the time thought this was a good idea. After all, the floppy disk was replaced by the optical drive. But what would we replace the optical drive with?

Year after year, Apple continued to remove optical drives from their computers, and others followed suit. This forced consumers to adapt to a new reality. With the fall in price of flash storage, USB and flash drives came into popularity. Services like Dropbox and App Stores filled the void. Today it’s rare to see optical drives in laptops.

Rumors of the new iPhone 7 have begun to swirl, the loudest among them is the removal of the 3.5mm Headphone Jack. This has sparked some debate in our office. The consensus here is that people are simply not ready to give up their antiquated hardwired headphones and earbuds in favor of wireless versions.

Personally, I think this move will lead to positive change in the headphone/earbud industry. There are few companies that exist that can force us to rethink an entire marketplace. Apple has that power, and it will be difficult for hardware manufacturers to ignore the spendy Apple user market.

What are your thoughts?

3 Lessons from 4 Months of Project Management

December 30, 2015

As the first of January heralds in 2016, I’ll be hitting my 4-month mark here at Status Not Quo. While I’ve worked in team environments before and I’ve been responsible for bringing projects to completion, this is the first time I’ve officially donned the title of Project Manager. I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that the last 4 months have been much like an accelerated learning program—and today, I’ll share 3 of the biggest takeaways thus far.

1. Don’t Get Comfortable
If you’ve ever talked to someone about what it’s like to work on a small development team, chances are they’ve talked to you about how many hats they wear. This expression is much more about function than fashion, as the hats they’re talking about represent the different roles a team member must fulfill to carry a project to completion while drawing from limited personnel. Chances are, if you ask this hat-happy person what their title is, they’ll respond with, ‘producer,’ ‘project manager,’ or something else along those lines.

manyhats

In my 4 months here at SNQ, there’s rarely a day I don’t take on a task that requires a new set of skills. Yes, it takes some extra effort, but it’s also what makes my role appealing to me and what makes me appealing to the role. Adaptability and willingness are two exceptionally important pieces of project management.

2. Accountability is Paramount
So far, I’ve noticed a very simple, important theme: When individuals take clear ownership over tasks, good things happen. That being said, it’s equally important to recognize that accountability isn’t about knowing where to put blame, it’s about knowing who to go to for solving specific problems.

This concept doesn’t just apply to the developers who are actually building things. Every member of the team, from top to bottom, needs to be responsible for whatever they’re working on, whether this is scheduling, programming, QA, or anything else. When issues overlap or dependencies arise, there’s nothing better than knowing exactly who to go to for answers.

3. Eyes Up, Solider.
This last lesson is applicable to everyone, but it’s doubly important for project management. The end of each day should involve looking at what’s in store for, at the very least, tomorrow. While switching off at the end of a shift and enjoying some downtime is undeniably important, being aware of what’s in your immediate future allows you to passively plan.

Surprises are best reserved for birthday parties—look as far down the road as you can without losing focus on the here and now. Iron out kinks before they crop up and be ready to create detours that you know will ultimately reconnect with the freeway to the finish line.

 

These three lessons are just the broad strokes of project management; there’s a veritable ton of expertise left to gain and skills to sharpen. As we move into 2016, I’m excited for the lessons I’m sure to pick up along the pathway of completing great projects.

A Summer Internship at Oddly Even

September 29, 2015

I spent my summer as an intern working on mobile development which is making phones apps, in sunny California, for Status Not Quo. The feelings I had when I had left to move to California were that of excitement and also terror since I had not traveled far from home in Illinois on my own. Although, being out in California was scary and I missed my family back home. I wouldn’t be the same person I am at this time without it. When I say I would not be the same person I mean that figuratively because working has expanded my knowledge and has grown me as a person.

I got to experience a wide spectrum of so many parts of mobile development and programming. I know, you mean what did you get to experience and I will tell you I got to learn about parts of programming I did not know even exist. Such as, a RESTful Web Service. Yes, I know I was like “What is that? Let me go Google that real quick. Could you explain it?” the simple answer is yes I can explain it. But well no. Also, I got to work with mobile devices sensors so I can create an accurate location tracking. I had no interest in do anything with location based technology before but now I want to work more with it. Then, I work with storing information on phones which to be honest isn’t that interesting but it is important because if you can hold on to something how can you expect something to run again and again. How could a phone hold onto what people had previously select if you did not store information and data, it can’t. I mean these are some interesting thing especially to someone starting out who might not have seen them until later on after joining the workforce with a degree, but I got to make them work together.

Now, that was just one project. Also, I am kept busy because I always have something to do. There is a project and each project is different. I have gotten the chance to update and modify apps with my work. Other times I get to test other people’s work which is something I enjoy. There is feeling that things are going to work out because before I get a chance the apps are tested by their maker. However, nothing is perfect and it takes many revisions to get an app to an acceptable state. That has ended up being true while building an app.

There was a project was to verify that X was a problem and was it easy to fix. Well that project turned into terror; however, I learned several things from another’s mistake. Like the importance of naming and not having every part of a project call the rest of the project. That project was like a Russian nesting doll that never ended. Currently, that is still being worked on and I am not for which I am happy for because that project gave me a headache.

Now, all good things have to an end and I am grateful for the chance and opportunity to learn and grow with Status Not Quo and Oddly Even. Now, I am excited by joining their ranks to continue to grow, learn, and enjoy the wonderful California weather.

Collaborative Consumtion – Sharing Economies – What’s the big deal?

September 24, 2015

The phrase, “There’s an app for that”, has never been more true than in today’s market .  This is not surprising given the adoption rate of mobile devices and the fact that mobile exceeds PC internet usage(1) and drives nearly half of e-commerce traffic (2).  But did you know that there’s an app to find someone who will come clean out your garage (Task Rabbit) , do your laundry (Washio) or shop and deliver your groceries (Instacart)?  This emerging trend is not because these companies have created an awesome app or have a great understanding of technology.  No, it is because they had an idea, saw there was a specific need that could be filled in a better way than the current market offering, and most importantly, they excel at providing the consumer with a great streamlined customer experience and that in turn translates into customer happiness and loyalty.  When customers are happy, they also tend to share their experiences with others and this then leads to more customers.

This “new phenomenon” is referred to as Collaborative Consumption, Sharing Economies, or Collaborative Economies.  It’s not just a new way of buying and selling, it’s actually a departure back to the way things were done in the past – people are gettiing goods and services from other people who have the skills or time to do something you can’t or don’t prefer to do rather than going through a middle man (or company).  The difference is the technologies of the collaborative economy makes finding these other people possible.

People have shifted from merely “consumers” and are now acting as lenders, producers, sellers, etc.  This has opened up a myriad of opportunity.  Now a family traveling to a resort for vacation doesn’t have to book 2 or 3 rooms at the resort hotel for $300 per room per night, they can rent someone’s home for $300 for the entire weekend.  Instead of having to ask your parents (again) if you can borrow money, you can now take out a loan from strangers and not have to pay 100% interest (or more).  And the list goes on…

The difference from the past is that instead of having one handymen in your community who can fix your roof, there are many, many more people offering these services and accessible using the apps to help you find them.  But how do you know that the goods or services you are getting are of good quality?  Opponents would argue that because there is no regulation to these collaborative economies, the quality of service can’t be known.  However, these goods and services are being judged by previous users “rating” their experience.  Success in this collaborative economy is all about convenience and customer service.

So how can business compete in this new emerging market?  One of the advantages that established companies have over a new start up is that if they have a trusted brand that consumers are likely to continue to use as long as the companies are able to provide these products and services in a way that is as convenient, cost effective, and provides a comparable customer experience as their collaborative economy counterpart.  If business embrace the model of on-demand sharing and collaboration, they can build on the consumer loyalty they have worked so hard to gain.  However, as this new collaborative economy trend continues to grow, established companies have a short time frame to modify their business model to provide this ease of access and excellent customer experience to ensure they have won the loyalty of their customers.  Otherwise, they will be left behind.

For more information on how you can streamline your business, contact us at Status Not Quo.

  1. http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/opinion/2353616/mobile-now-exceeds-pc-the-biggest-shift-since-the-internet-began#
  2. http://marketingland.com/mobile-drives-nearly-half-e-commerce-traffic-pc-still-rules-sales-report-118629

Using Comma Delimited Lists in SQL Server

September 1, 2015

Have you ever wanted to take a list of values that are delimited by a comma (or any other character) and find records that match the individual items in your list? It doesn’t work very well at all. I have a quick and easy way to do it using a user defined function.

It is fairly easy to deal with XML in SQL Server these days so if we can convert the delimited list into XML we can easily insert the XML into a table and then join on it.

So all our function needs to do is accept a list, a delimiter (we will make it default to a comma). Then it can convert the list into XML, insert it into the table that the function returns and we have our solution:

create function [dbo].[fnIterativeListToTable] (
@list nvarchar(max),
@delimiter nchar(1) = N’,’)
returns @tbl table (listpos int identity(1, 1) NOT NULL,
str varchar(4000),
nstr nvarchar(2000))
as

begin
declare @xml xml

select @xml = CAST(‘<Item>’+ REPLACE(@list,@delimiter,'</Item><Item>’)+ ‘</Item>’ as xml)
insert into @tbl
select t.value(‘.’, ‘varchar(4000)’) as str,
t.value(‘.’, ‘nvarchar(2000)’) as nstr
from @xml.nodes(‘/Item’) as x(t)
return
end

Now, let’s see how we can use this function. First, let’s create a new table and insert some data into it so we can use it test our new function (I randomly generated a few names for us to use):

create table SampleData(Id int identity(1,1),Value varchar(50))

insert into SampleData(Value) values
(‘Mel’),
(‘Jeannine’),
(‘Francie’),
(‘Melisa’),
(‘Terry’),
(‘Wendi’),
(‘Angelic’),
(‘Natividad’),
(‘Loma’),
(‘Tajuana’),
(‘Dana’),
(‘Ellena’),
(‘Mercy’),
(‘Luke’),
(‘Errol’),
(‘Alejandrina’),
(‘Verdie’),
(‘Melissia’),
(‘Cythia’),
(‘Kemberly’)

Now lets build a comma delimited list that includes a few names in the table:

declare @list varchar(100)
set @list = ‘Wendi,Luke,Mel,Cythia’

Finally, all we need to do is join our new table to our function and pass in the list:

select s.*
from SampleData s
inner join dbo.fnIterativeListToTableXml(@list, default) l
on s.Value = l.str

If we run our query we will get the records for only the names that are in our list. Alternatively, you could also write the same query using a where statement:

select *
from SampleData s
where Value in (select str from dbo.fnIterativeListToTableXml(@list, default))

There you have it. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions about this process. Especially let me know if you have a better way to handle delimited lists in SQL server.

Jeff

statusnotquo.com

Communication and the email black hole

September 1, 2015

We’ve all had those days, or sometimes weeks, where your inbox starts backing up because you just don’t have any time to even check it, let alone respond.  Your inbox becomes a black hole – emails come in, but nothing gets out.  But that unread email lurks at the back of your mind, increasing your stress level in the midst of a push to meet a deadline or complete a project.  It pokes at you when you least expect it – what if there’s an email about the project you missed?  Or a request from an exec?  Or… fill in your nightmare du jour.  And when you do start going through the backlog, it actually can get worse.  Progressively more irate emails requesting the same info.  Missed opportunities to work on a cool new project, or win a new business deal.  But when you’re maxed out and have to focus on the immediate project, how can you handle that inbox as well?

Have a plan – and execute it.

  • Create a few follow-up folders that begin with an underscore so they stay at the top of your folder list. You’ll use these to triage your inbox, so keep that in mind as you name them.  Here are some examples:
    1. Urgent – needs immediate response
    2. Respond by date ##/##/####, usually 3-5 business days out
    3. Response needed but not date sensitive
    4. Read when you have spare time
  • Set aside 10 – 15 minutes once or twice a day, and schedule it with a reminder set. Then schedule an hour once a week in addition to those sessions.  This is the only time you’re going to open your email each day, and no cheating and looking at your phone!
  • During your daily scheduled time, quickly skim each new email, and assign it to one of the folders as appropriate. Use the hour block to address the follow-ups needed from items 4 and 5 below.
  • For each email in the urgent folder, send a reply (standardize this and copy and paste it as needed!) stating that you’re in the midst of a critical project and ask if a response by ##/##/#### (insert your desired date) would be acceptable. If not, ask them to provide the latest acceptable date, and end with your thanks. Most people will work with you as long as you’re communicating with them. It’s the lack of response that results in frustration – that info sucking email black hole L
  • For quick requests filed to the respond by date folder, again use a standardized reply, but let them you know you’ve received their request and will respond appropriate within 3 business days/5 business days/# business days. And extend your thanks for their patience. Keep that social machinery running smoothly!
  • For the non-date-sensitive requests, a quick response that you’ve received the email and will follow up with them after a given date (two days after your project is due?)
  • Everything else goes to the read when convenient folder, is filed as informational, or deleted if irrelevant.

It’s amazing what a simple acknowledgement of receipt, with a stated plan to address the request does for the sender’s attitude.  Especially when you follow up per your stated plan. You’re not so stressed, the email senders aren’t frustrated, and the critical items get addressed. It’s no fun being on either side of that email black hole event horizon – so let’s avoid having it even come into existence!  Good luck!

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