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How to Better Measure Your Success in IT

Most IT departments are, by nature, results-driven. And because IT loves numbers and formulas, you’ll find myriad combinations of analytics and KPIs and data charts designed to measure success — usually in terms of output or dollars. But how good are these measurements in gauging the success of your career on a day-to-day basis?

If you’re an IT pro, and you want raises and promotions and accolades (and who doesn’t?), all those analytics won’t help you much in the way of personal advancement. There are better ways to track your progress that can alleviate the daily stresses of your job and help you become more satisfied, productive, and promotable.

Here are three of them, relating to the most common issues IT professionals face in the workplace: prioritizing, communicating, and building relationships.

Prioritize: Measuring where all your time really goes

For an IT pro, there are never enough hours in the day. Your workload always seems to exceed the amount of time you have to spend on it, and every week you feel further behind. But the good news is, you’re probably spending a lot of time on tasks you don’t need to worry about — and you can focus your efforts to increase productivity and decrease stress.

Take the time each day to write down your top three-to-five priorities. Then keep track of what you do all day, and how long you do it. Once you have these lists, figure out what percentage of time you’re spending on your priorities versus everything else, and prune out the clutter. If your workload is actually too heavy to accomplish your core tasks, you can show this data to your boss and ask to have non-essential activities reassigned.

Communicate: Measuring the effectiveness of what others are hearing

Good communication is essential in the workplace. As an IT pro, you need to communicate not only with the rest of your team, but also with your supervisors, management, people in other departments, or even customers. And the most common barrier to communication is that not everyone you need to convey information to speaks the same language.

When you’re communicating something, the tendency is to think only about what you have to say. But the key to effective communication is to understand how the other person needs to hear it. If you’re speaking to a non-tech person, you can’t use jargon or complex terms. If your style is straightforward and to the point, a less direct person may find you abrasive or intimidating — and therefore will only hear your tone, not the words you’re saying.

Consider the communication issues you’ve experienced in light of your audience. Is it possible they could have misunderstood you because of their listening style? To measure your effectiveness in communicating, pay attention to nonverbal cues that suggest they’re confused by the terms you’re using, or tuning out your words in favor of your tone. You can adjust the way you convey information to make sure everyone’s clear, resulting in smoother daily operations all around.

Relate: Measuring your workplace relationships

Relationships make the working world go ‘round. When you have strong relationships in the workplace, your career will flourish — but weak relationships can hamper or cripple your progress. You may get along great with like-minded people, but what about those from different generations, different cultures, or even different departments?

Improving your workplace relationships will help you get ahead, and make for a more harmonious environment for everyone. It only takes a few minutes at a time to build rapport — you can choose a day to sit with a different group at lunch, or invite a co-worker you don’t know well for a cup of coffee. Make it a point to offer authentic compliments on other people’s work, especially those in different departments, and send a quick thank-you when another person does something that positively affects your work.

Charts and analytics are great for measuring the technical ROI of your work, but these real-world measurements can help you achieve personal satisfaction and advancement. Speak to the experts at The Armada Group today to find out how to take a better measure of your IT success, and enjoy lowered stress and higher productivity.

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Why Your Developers Should be Focusing on Innovation

With the rise of easily accessible technologies like the cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), the digital landscape is more competitive than ever. Organizations looking for an edge need to focus on innovation — especially when it comes to apps.

App development is the new frontier for innovation and organizational change. The best way to achieve this is to give your developers room and encouragement to innovate, by making their lives easier and providing them with the tools they need to produce great apps and secure valuable intellectual property (IP) for your organization.

The following tips will help you help your developers, leading to increased innovation and driving competition in a fast-paced technical world.

Go all in with the public cloud

For most organizations, building an in-house infrastructure with enough servers, storage, and services to provide developers with sufficient resources for innovation just isn’t practical, or even feasible. The public cloud is a faster and more economical choice, both for developers and the organization as a whole.

Public clouds offer highly efficient, flexible infrastructures that can scale up as needed, and consume only those resources developers actually use. Embracing the public cloud reduces project completion times and product time-to-market, and saves you significant money.

Broaden access to tools and services

With the rise of SaaS and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), the many tools and resources employed by developers can be readily available. In the past, most organizations relied on long-term contracts for services and tools, often spending hundreds or thousands on legacy and enterprise software in the interests of cost efficiency over time — complete with drawn-out approval processes and lengthy installations and rollout.

This approach is detrimental to app developers, who may switch the tools and services they use from day to day and prefer to test out a tool before making a long-term commitment. You can encourage innovation by foregoing long-term contracts and letting developers self-select the tools they’ll use.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by giving them access to enterprise developer marketplaces, such as those from Windows Azure, Red Hat, and Heroku. These marketplaces allow developers to work with a wide variety of enterprise-ready tools and APIs, which help them build better applications, faster.

Encourage freedom from locks and controls

When your developers are locked down to a single platform or language, innovation is stifled. Allowing and encouraging them to design platform agnostic apps for the Web, mobile, and Internet of Things devices will save your developers a lot of time and grief.

What’s more, you can encourage innovation by limiting the controls placed on developer experimentation. Consider monitoring tools and API management solutions that take security measures into account, but still provide developers a window into network traffic.

Give developers time for pet projects

In general, developers are highly creative and love to make things. Regardless of what they’re working on for the organization, chances are high they’re also invested in a few personal side projects. They’ll work on these projects on their own — but your organization can benefit by allowing developers to pursue pet projects at work.

The ability to collaborate with co-workers on side projects and invest paid time in developing them often leads to positive, unanticipated developments, such as solving a business problem that was previously intractable. You may also end up with new products to add to your organization’s portfolio — AdSense, Gmail, and Google Hangouts all began as Google employees’ side projects.

If you provide your developers with tools and resources they can use without limits, and the time they need to pursue creative solutions, you’ll benefit from the innovative apps and products they turn out.

For more information on innovation – for your employees or your recruiting strategy – contact the innovative recruiting experts at The Armada Group. We know what it takes to stay at the forefront of our industry, and can help you with any staffing issue today. 

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The Pros and Cons of Allowing Personal Devices in the Workplace

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon is still under debate in many workplaces. Some employers have strict policies that prevent employees from using personal devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops at work. Others allow limited usage under guided policies — and some feel there’s no point trying to stop the flood of devices, and do nothing.

The use of personal devices is spreading faster than any new technology before, and there are already more smartphones than people in the United States. Should your company give in to the BYOD pressure? Here are the pros and cons of allowing personal devices in the workplace.

The Pros: BYOD and consumerization

Allowing employees to use personal devices at work can do more than satisfy their desire to check Facebook on their lunch breaks. BYOD has been linked to the consumerization of IT — an emerging process that’s helping to connect companies with customers, develop stronger consumer relations, and increase employee participation and job satisfaction.

The benefits of IT consumerization through BYOD for your company include:

  • Faster communication and more efficient mobile employees through the internal use of personal devices
  • Increased consumer relationship building and the ability to shape customer perceptions of your company with consumer tools, especially social networking
  • Mobile devices as an HR tool: Younger employees rely on their smartphones and other devices, so refusing to allow BYOD will make it difficult to attract and retain fresh talent
  • The self-supporting nature of consumer technologies allows BYOD policies to actually decrease the burden on your IT department and increase IT productivity

The Cons: Limited control and security risks

While there are many benefits to BYOD, there are also downsides — particularly for companies who manage sensitive information digitally that must be protected. Due to the lack of a unified device platform and the non-existence of regulated mobile security standards, a diverse range of devices in the workplace can be difficult to manage at best, and can sometimes pose a high risk for employers.

Some of the disadvantages of BYOD include:

  • Managing security: Security is one of the biggest and most significant challenges for BYOD. With multiple employees using multiple devices, it’s difficult to meet both compliance and security standards, particularly for companies in industries that must adhere to certain security measures. There is also the risk of employee devices containing sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.
  • Acceptable use control: In any workplace, especially larger organizations, there may be little control over the way employees use personal devices at work. Even with acceptable use policies in place, monitoring every device at all times to ensure that employees follow those policies is not a feasible or cost-effective strategy.
  • Performance and productivity: While some BYOD workplaces achieve increased productivity, others see a drop in productivity when personal devices are permitted. This may be due to several reasons. Larger workplaces are unable to monitor all employees and restrict the use of personal devices. What’s more, the addition of multiple personal devices to the business network can strain resources, affecting network performance and connectivity speeds — and ultimately productivity, as employees’ workstations are slowed.
  • Data retrieval: Finally, BYOD environments can pose a risk when employees leave the company, taking all of the data on their devices with them. This can be particularly problematic in sales environments, when employees often leave for competitors — but still have access to their previous company’s contacts and information.

When it comes to tech, employees are DIY

Today’s personal devices are engineered for simplicity on the user end. User-friendly interfaces mean that more employees are finding innovative ways to put personal devices to work for their companies — whether or not IT allows it. This can be either a positive or a negative aspect of BYOD environments.

In some cases, BYOD can improve productivity. With an endless list of business tools available on personal devices, from social media to Google Docs, Dropbox, Flipboard, productivity apps, CMS access and more, most employees need little to no guidance integrating their devices with their working lives. It makes things easier for employees — and for IT, who doesn’t have to babysit a network of personal devices and can focus on core responsibilities instead.

However, the perception of mobile devices as DIY technology can also pose risks in BYOD workplaces. Employees may not be as stringent with security measures for their own personal devices as is required for business-related applications, and can neglect to apply security features such as multi-factor authentication. They may also not change their passwords frequently enough, and fail to apply security updates as needed — leaving personal devices open for security breaches.

The decision to allow personal devices in a workplace rests on a number of factors. These policies can be effective in smaller businesses, or those without strict industry security regulations. But for large companies dealing with sensitive information, mobile device standards for security and platform unification may not be advanced enough to permit safe BYOD environments.

If you need help implementing a BYOD policy at your company, contact the experts at The Armada Group today. 

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Why Your Employees Should be Hands-Off Sometimes

Technology is irresistible to humans. We can’t help pressing buttons, flipping switches, or rearranging those tangled cords — and if we’re at work with no clue what we’re doing, it’s only a matter of time until disaster strikes and IT swears revenge while they spend hours fixing what took us seconds to break.

At InfoWorld’s Off the Record blog, IT professionals share anonymous stories of tinkerers, button-pushers, and clueless people who “know what they’re doing” — when it comes to bringing the office workflow to a crashing halt. Here are five of those stories illustrating why sometimes, your employees should really resist the temptation to fix things that aren’t broken.

Network admin disconnects the employees — all of them

A senior network administrator was showing off two relatively new servers in a data center to managers, boasting about uptime with claims that there was no need for an uninterruptible power supply. The admin touched the dedicated circuit breaker for the first server to prove the point — which promptly kicked 500 users off their server connection.

Apparently not satisfied with cutting office productivity in half, the admin then touched the second server’s circuit breaker and severed the connection for the remaining employees. Management decided to increase their investment in server infrastructure.

Operator powers down

A data center operator committed to easing workflows and expediting tasks noticed a loose ring on a piece of glass, and proceeded to improve efficiency by moving it. But the glass happened to be covering an emergency power-off button, which the operator managed to press — causing a blackout and a systems shutdown. The company experienced no long-term damage, but the operator decided to stick to a broader scale for improving efficiency, and leave the little details alone.

Newbie pushes the embarrassment button

A junior tech on a mission to turn off a non-critical server headed to the server room, located the machine, and pushed the button — only to instantly realize it was the wrong server, one housing files that were currently in use by more than 600 employees. Letting go of the button would wreak havoc, but there was no one around and his phone wasn’t getting service.

With a landline phone just 10 feet away, but out of his reach unless he released the critical button, the tech heroically took off his pants and used them to pull the phone over. Help soon arrived in the form of several eyewitnesses, who received the best office story ever in exchange for saving the day.

Paperclip panics the boss

It was a classic computer room — three mainframes with several attached tape drives, four printers (three line, one high-speed laser), dishwasher-sized disc packs, and a huge Halon fire suppression system to protect the investment. As the boss and the operators disagreed on handling shutdowns in case of fire, they met in the computer room for a test run that the boss insisted should include the main operators staying behind to take care of the mainframes.

Just before the test, a stray paperclip dropped into a control box, creating a short circuit that triggered the Halon. But the drill went as planned when the boss was the first one to speed out of the room.

VPs make executive decisions

Admins get a little worried when execs start poking around servers — with good cause, as this story proves. One day, in the middle of a difficult data center consolidation between two tech departments, employees suddenly found they couldn’t get email or connect to certain remote sites. IT traced the issue to server failures, which seemed to have happened all at once.

Amazing coincidence? Not exactly — a couple of VPs visiting the acquired company had ruled the critical servers “unused” with no impact on production systems, and had turned them off.

IT turns on itself

Non-tech professionals aren’t the only ones who make critical mistakes. A large, busy data center tasked an IT pro with deciding which servers were unnecessary and decommissioning them. The tech, perhaps having an off day, chose a critical management server to unplug and bring back to his desk, where he reformatted the hard drive. A flood of issues ensued with the loss of the database, extending to backups and firewalls. The tech was promptly transferred to a less disaster-making department.

While these stories are humorous, they all have a common theme – sometimes your employees need to be hands off. If you need assistance managing employees or finding better adept tech talent, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today.

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Micro-jobbing takes your data science strategy to the next level

An uncertain economy has given rise to a variety of non-traditional employment scenarios. The expanding popularity of contractors, temporary employees, and freelance workers has launched a new variation on independent contractor arrangements, called micro-jobbing — and there are many ways this freelance-style platform can benefit your business.

What is micro-jobbing?

Like contractors, micro-jobbers are independent employees who contract their services to companies or individuals. The primary difference between traditional contractors and micro-jobbers is the length of the job. While independent contractors typically work on projects for several months to a year, micro-jobbers take on smaller tasks that can be completed in days to weeks.

Therefore, the scope of micro-jobbing projects is smaller than that of contracting jobs. Where a contractor might design and implement a new software application for a company, a micro-jobber may offer services as an independent tester, or create a new feature for an existing application.

Micro-jobbing and data science

Many people perceive micro-jobbers as third-rate outsourcers who may be from a foreign company and probably offer low-quality work for equally low prices. However, micro-jobbing is a viable platform for a lot of top talent — creative and motivated individuals who prefer not to work in an office environment, and enjoy choosing their own jobs and setting their own hours.

Data science is a complex field, but many skilled micro-jobbers have recognized the market value of this skill set and acquired experience in fields like information management, data filtering, and predictive analytics. There are a number of data science micro-job tasks that can add value to any IT department.

The benefits of micro-jobbing

Micro-jobbing arrangements are mutually beneficial for both companies and talent. For IT professionals, micro-jobbing provides a way to earn extra income without the restrictions of a traditional employment setting. And for organizations, hiring micro-jobbers allows you to gain valuable resources and services without the need for a full-time financial commitment.

Enabling micro-jobbing in your organization

For most companies, building the capacity for micro-jobbing requires a bit of organizational development and restructuring. Here are three steps you can take to pave the way for micro-jobbers in your organization:

  • Understand the scope of micro-jobs. Be realistic when deciding on the tasks you want to assign to micro-jobbers. A full-time commitment of three to six months isn’t suitable for this platform — instead, choose tasks that can be completed in a few weeks or less.
  • Work with procurement to fast-track onboarding. Because micro-jobbers are very short term, you’ll need a way to bring them into the organization quickly and efficiently. Be sure to discuss your micro-jobbing program with procurement and emphasize the difference between micro-jobbers and independent contractors, so they know what to expect.
  • Recruit micro-jobbers with a custom platform. Most of the existing popular platforms for micro-jobbers, such as Elance and TaskRabbit, are focused primarily on low-skill, low-paying tasks. To recruit talented micro-jobbers, your company may be better off building a branded platform and marketing your site directly to the data science community.

Implementing a smart micro-jobbing strategy can help your organization take your data science to the next level. The available talent pool is huge, and bringing in micro-jobbers can not only strengthen your overall data science strategy, but also help to keep your in-house team sharp, focused, and challenged. Talk to our recruiting experts today to find out how The Armada Group can help your company implement its best staffing option. 

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Conduct Regular System Checks to Survive compliance and security audits

No one enjoys an audit. You know that compliance and security are vital areas for your IT department, but facing an audit in these areas is like heading to the dentist for a root canal. Audits always seem to come at the wrong time. And it doesn’t help that no matter how prepared you think you are, the compliance auditor is going to find something wrong — after all, they have to keep their job.

Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer with anxiety every time a security or compliance audit is announced. By proactively addressing compliance and security issues, and performing regular checks that make compliance a year-round focus instead of an annual scramble, your IT department can rest easy when the auditor shows up.

Here’s what you can do to handle compliance issues regularly and stay prepared for audits 365 days a year, while also handling your day-to-day IT project load.

Plan (and budget) compliance work for IT every year

Like most of the IT industry, compliance and regulations change continually. It’s essential for your IT department to work proactively on compliance every year, rather than simply catching up before (or after) an audit. The best solution here is to plan realistic budgets and implement new compliance measures as they come up, instead of waiting for an auditor to point out the fact that they’re missing.

Designate a compliance control point

Rather than spreading compliance tasks through your IT team on an as-needed basis, which often results in a last-minute rush before an audit, appoint one person as your compliance central command to plan and budget your needs. This ensures someone is always keeping an eye on compliance, and you’ll know about potential problems before they become major issues.

Some of the responsibilities for your control point should include:

  • Reading the latest compliance and security publications
  • Attending conferences on new or changing regulatory and security measures
  • Scheduling the IT work required to ensure consistent compliance

Perform regular self-audits

Waiting for your regulators to show up for an audit can throw your IT department into a minor panic. To help control audit fever, create a regular audit schedule and perform “dry runs” with either internal auditors, or a third party that is separate and distinct from your regulators. In addition to helping your department understand and experience audits, these practices also help to strengthen your company’s security and governance positioning.

Prep a single file for your documentation prior to an audit

When you have an upcoming audit, prepare a single binder or efile that contains all of your documentation for compliance, including procedures, policies, system flow diagrams, and anything relevant that pertains to governance or security. Presenting this file to an auditor not only makes their job easier, but also creates a favorable first impression of your preparedness — which can positively impact your overall assessment.

By taking proactive steps to address security and compliance issues before audits happen, you and your IT department can ease audit anxiety and come through the experience quickly and painlessly. Speak to the staffing experts at The Armada Group today, to ensure your company is compliant and to ensure all your staffing needs are met.

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