Friday, January 20, 2012

God's Marketing Plan

So what business lesson can we learn from this week's Parsha or section which is read this week? Veira starts the process of Moshe (Moses) being told to take the children of Yaakov (Jacob) that had become a huge nation of slaves, estimated at over 2.5 million people, back to the land of Israel and freedom. And Moshe and Aaron his brother start a sales process that would last through next weeks reading as well.

Everyone knows about the 10 plagues but did you ever stop to think about what a great Marketing plan this was? It went viral BIG TIME! God decided not just to follow up on his promise to Abraham but to do it in a way that would be remembered throughout history. God didn't just send out spam messages ("Tired of slavery yet?", call people ("I'm calling on behalf of the Supreme Being..") or invite them to the "Largest Webinar Ever" no, God asked one man. Sure he used the Burning Bush but how else would you get someone to believe you were God. Moshe then asks natural questions and God provides some answers and proofs for the slaves to believe in him.

Now what is your marketing plan? Or in term's Michael J. Fox used at Lotusphere 2012 this week, "A Lady gave birth in a tree, what have you got?"

Does your marketing plan really blow people away? Do they ask "are you for real"? Or do they shrug and go back to Googling odd RFC numbers?

You need that 1st person, your Moshe to convince and once you have done that they tell their friends and soon millions of people are on the go. Think of it this way. Moshe grew up in the palace of Pharoah and knew everyone and then got run out by the next successor who was a paranoid Pharoah and he went to the desert. The desert is about thinking, change, sometimes isolation and loneliness but he is out there and then BOOM! God talks to him and tries to convince him to go back to Egypt and fight a "relative" to save his proper family and nation.That is a lot of persuading.if you ask me. God asks Moshe to go back to the person who wants to kill him in Egypt, ask him to let all the workers/slaves leave the country because God and not the Egyption ones, asked him to and expects Pharoah to comply.

Freewill or not, the plan had to work because otherwise God would not have had his fun with the 10 plagues which he told Moshe he was going to do anyway. But God wanted to be seen, known and heard, at this time...but why?

It had been a long time, 430 years the Jews were slaves, since God had been doing anything out of the ordinary like flood the world or destroy the first skyscraper building in Babel among his earlier well known efforts. Maybe God had other planets to work on, maybe he was behind in writing his  "New World Administration for Dummies" book. God needed a new Marketing plan and this one really took off and continues to today.

Not every Marketing plan will go as well, but think about what you could do to present yourself to a new generation who either forgot or never heard about you..No one will beat God at his game but Coca Cola is still going strong because they want a Coke in everyone's hands. That lasts forever as a marketing message.

Hope you find your greatness as well.
Parsha Vaeira in the book of Shemot (Exodus 6:3-9:35)

It is said that the Torah or Bible could be interpreted in over 70 ways. More likely these days 100's of ways. In light of this idea, I am writing some posts that bring a business sense to what we can learn on a weekly basis. Enjoy, Shabbat Shalom

Thoughts on the IBMConnect Conference

I didn't see much posted aside from the obvious people in the social areas, probably because many were focused on client needs, as was I, but I did manage to get to some IBMConnect sessions.

I had looked forward to them and got to meet some great speakers and people. Unfortunately the rooms were not filled and in some cases rather sparse which leaves some questions as to its return next year.

Dr. Burns should come back next year and provide updates on what they have done in 2012. His story from the OGS and in his session his feeling is open and honest and something we all should think about. Are you in this for the money or to help people. The answer is not simple but if you want to play in the greater Social Sphere you need to be straight with people or you lose fast and we are seeing this in the marketplace lately.

While my thought was IBM may change the name of the Sphere to Connect, that was changed when I realized I was on a short list of committed people to the event. Naming being such a difficult thing in this day and age. A great idea but perhaps better to have done it not during and thus conflict with Lotusphere itself. Maybe append it before or after in the future? Also keep it to one day if it is just theorists/customers. And I would prefer not to have any IBMers speak at it, they have Lotusphere, this was expected to be about customers experiences and social leaders.

Guy Kawasaki should have been part of the OGS on one day but to run his session in parallel to so many others deprived many of the chance to hear him.

As a Business Partner I realize the IBMConnect event was not aimed at me per se. However as a BP I represent our interests which also include our clients needs and if the choice is between a technical session because of a client request and a good theory or customer reference session, theory, and unless it is in our clients vertical, will always lose to the money

Should IBM do it again, I would still attend because they did make the effort to get speakers we would want to hear and although I can't promise to be in all of them, they at least were the ones I clipped to my calendar to not miss. They were thought provoking and led to great discussions over the conference but maybe the audience that attends Lotusphere has immediate and production needs that push these sessions lower on the "must see" list.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Becoming and Training Troubleshooters

To  many of us at Lotusphere, solving problems is what we do.

Having always enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together again or fixing them is part of an innate curiosity that many of us share. The ability to learn from each other and share the information we find so the next person can benefit is part of the Lotus way.

What about the next generation of techies or Business Partners? Do they have this ability? Has Google made it too easy for people? What about your kids? Do your kids wait for you to come home to fix something or do they go out and get it done? What are we doing to not only help them but encourage them to do this?

Over the last few days here at Lotusphere a number of conversations have been about how we got started. Back in the old days, 1980's for me, there were no great books or Google on some topics and training was not really there so when I started out on networks they gave me some servers and said here are the diskettes and go build it. Also screenshot it and document the process for others to follow. Good luck.

Well, I did it, and like most of us blew up the motherboard on the first server I touched when I plugged in the wrong RJ45 line or patch cable. Along the way learned, first hand, about networks, topologies, routers, hubs, drivers, creating network protocols and memory management. These were the days when 640K was still a barrier and QEMM would eventually come along to help with this bit, but I digress.

File servers, access, modems, Digiboards, security, standards, diagrams and other pieces of the puzzle were always new and interesting.

Now much of that need to know information is no longer required. TCP/IP and Ethernet became the standards as did SMTP and so many other things which back then we had to learn and understand to get our work done. Now your average cell phone does so much, yet many understand so little about them and what they do. Maybe this is how everything works. Commerce started out as a barter before a standard method of payment existed and now credit cards are our money. Digital transfers no one thinks about, except for those of us building the infrastructure. Your average person on the street has no idea why their cell phone works or not or how it works and blames the carrier when it drops calls even if the reality may be you just lost coverage in between towers.

The students GBS brought to Lotusphere, kudos to GBS for doing it again this year, I hope, learned from all of us some pieces of the ideas mentioned above because it seemed like they do not grasp, as one example, the concept that security is a multi layer function or how or why it is important in business. No doubt many of them are or will be great developers, but I hope their professors and teachers also explain the ecosystems which are needed, not just to run the code, but how it interacts with other pieces.

I have been walking around with one of my Moo Cards on my badge that says "I Troubleshoot Anything". It has brought me questions about kids, spouses, cars and more. I am not an expert on every topic or product of IBM's but that innate ability to look at the problem from many angles and narrow down the issue is something I have been noticing in the workplace is missing from many IT personnel. On the flip side it is why ISSL and other Business Partners, Vendors and organizations seek me and you out for work. Because when something needs to get done and there are problems, they need someone who truly believes there is an answer to the problem and will just get to work.

"I don't know that product" or "it's not my scope" or "I only work on product X" or "I never got trained on it" are some of what I hear and see and this will lead to many issues in your organization if you are not careful. It's okay to not know something. Really. Ask, learn, Google it or sit in font of a box and play with it till you get it. Instead of training on a new product's usage and some error messages, provide broken installations, down servers, screwed up Firewalls, reverse proxies and other real life scenarios to help the trainees enjoy training again and feel better about themselves.

No, I am not recommending you start performing neurosurgery or say you can do it. I am advocating that to advance yourself you need to look into the unknown and encourage yourself or your teams to do the same. Do not let them get away with being lazy Microsoft paper engineers. Don't kill them either although you may want to do so at times.

To everyone at Lotusphere or around the world keep up the good work, keep learning and solving the little and the big problems. And don't forget to write a wiki, document, white paper, book, blog post or do a video so others can learn and benefit as well.

Uploading Files to Quickr from a Mac Notes Client

This post comes from a discussion I had with someone around a lack of MAC Quickr connectors.

Mac Guidera has responsibility for the Connectors and last year at Lotusphere the question was asked about MAC connectors among others. The answer is we don't have any as far as I know.

SNAPPS has a product called Panda Bear which helps this problem. But what if you wanted something inside your MAC Notes client?

After the excellent session today by Mat Newman the idea came to me and while it may not work, I had a theory which I will explain how to bring some hope to the MAC people.

Sidebar. Yes that thing so many people never use or think about has some excellent options inside it. One is to provide a feed, link, notes db, view, URL etc.. as a Sidebar application.

I don't have a MAC so I will describe the idea and maybe someone can try it and let me know if it works.

Take the URL of the Quickr place, say the file area of a Place and make that a Sidebar app. There is a java section on the page and I wondered if you could then drag and drop your files into the place.

Sounds simple enough but some problems could exist.
1) Maybe drag and drop on a MAC is not enough to add the file. Perhaps it would prompt you with the save dialog?
2) If drag and drop doesn't work. If the main Files page was in the Sidebar, is it asking a user too much to click on the add a file option? Could it be this easy?
3) Maybe there is code preventing this from happenning in some way?
4) How would you do this if you had dozens of Places? There is no good way to import/export the places like there is for the Windows Connector. So this may not be perfectly practical in all situations.

There it is, not a great option, but possibly one that has merit in some cases.

Lotusphere inspires ideas and if this works, maybe for some people it would mean a lot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

HUGE Thank You to the Developers Lab

Rarely have I leveraged the Developers lab, mostly because I am not a developer.

This year, client issues in tow, I spent about 3 hours with the TDI/Connections team of Joseph and Jackie that gave a great Jump Start on Sunday around TDI.

While I still have an open PMR, possibly, we resolved, and I learned, quite a bit from these two people and this is my token form of thanks for all their help.

Collaboration comes in many forms, but you first have to be open to working with others and knowing that others know more than you and can help you and it is not a strike of your knowledge or pride to ask for help.

So I encourage everyone at Lotusphere to leverage the lab if you never have because if you can't find the answer at Lotusphere...where on Earth will you?

Rachel Happe's Session at IBM Connect

Admittedly I have not got to too many sessions Monday, client needs take precedent.But one session which I wanted to be at, I missed, Guy Kawasaki's. The other which i made was  Rachel Happe's.

In her session she discussed people as an asset. Communities as a benefit and in some way an ROI for those who seek it out for "getting social".

As an Accountant by degree, it was interesting to pose the question, why are employees a liability? They are not listed as an asset on the financial pages but as an expense and thus a liability.

What if the people stop being a liability and earn their keep? What if they start making money for the business? In the end they will still be a liability. Legal and financial. Their monetary gains or benefits get put into another space in the finanicals.

I posited that there are many personalities within companies, the usual, leaders, followers, early adopters, etc.. and how can a company expect to change those personalities? Just because their employer sets a new course doesn't mean people will change because at this point companies have beat people down enough that the will to do better is not always found. We agreed that a new direction will encourage some to come out of the middle and grow but others will still not do it.

This is the problem companies face today and for the future. Does this make these employees expendable? Does this mean there are budding entrepreneurial people within your organization? Yes and no.

Companies have always thrived because of people who wanted to do more, be more or help more. Those people become managers and eventually leaders. But my questions are around what can a company do to encourage their employees to take these risks? Fail fast is one thing but large companies do not move quickly enough.

IBM through Lotus Notes and Domino and the IBM Connections software has been helping and encouraging companies to do this through various ways. It started with a simple discussion databases (version 1.0 still runs on version 8.5 for those who like a solid long term solution going on 20+ years) that has evolved through email, instant messaging, mobility, workflow to today where Connections brings about a more 360 degree view of your organization via blogs, wikis, knowledge profiles, Ideation and analytics that can help you find the nuggets you seek and more importantly let everyone weigh in on the items or agendas.

But companies need to see this and feel it. It's not enough to say you are social or open, many are not despite these assurances, but to truly embrace it. Encourage the openness, seek out the differences and the crowd will let you know which will work for you. But the road to this nirvana is one few travel. If you want employees to believe in your product or company and help it grow, they must have a say and they must also not be hurt by stating their opinions.

It will take time and we are seeing in the business world executives from the old school of thought being pushed aside for newer executives that see the benefits. It will take time and the world will be a better place because of it.

The end result is a compound interest return once everyone is engaged, compared to a static return when there is a team effort that is not all encompassing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Will be Signing Quickr Books after the OGS

Anyone who wants to pick up the Quikr Admin book I co-wrote and have it signed by at least 2 of the authors come down to the IBM Book Store.

Or if just want to say hi, chat about writing a book or whatever you want, I will be there after the OGS from 10-10:30 this morning.

See you there.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oh The People you See at Lotusphere and the Help They Provide

Sunday, Business Partner Day and also Jump Starts going on. Saw the usual cast of characters plus IBMers. The great thing about the show is walking around you run into people like Luis Suarez who get Social very well. Louis Richardson does too but he was busy at the time I passed him.

When you are trying to figure out a way to help clients, no better way to do so than to talk to others in the space and ask for help.

During BP day we, the partners, were asked to do more. Stop being IT shops and installing, start discussing more broader topics and not just with IT. I think the problem with this still is historically many partners have contacts at the IT level, not always at the business line, HR or marketing level. Which is who some of this is truly aimed.

The show is still young and the impression is there is MUCH to come this week. No wonder given there are many layers of activities, for attendees, business people, partners aside from the developers and admins.

Questions I have this week are around IBM's Cloud offerings, including LotusLive, and naturally Connections and the latter is the focus for sure so you better be up for it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

And There Rose a New King

It is said that the Torah or Bible could be interpreted in over 70 ways. More likely these days 100's of ways. In light of this idea, I want to start some posts that bring a business sense to what we can learn on a weekly basis.

So what business lesson can we learn from this week's Parsha or section which is read this week?

Chapter 1, verse 8 says "And there rose a New King (Pharoah) for Egypt that did not know Joseph".

Many times in business we face this situation, sometimes at a client, sometimes as an employee. In either case it leads to many questions and worries for everyone involved.

The need of the new leader to show their might or change of direction from previous management or regimes is filled with opportunities. The problem is how to deal with these changes. People on the whole dislike change. Employees are sometimes immune to it, especially when you are lower in the hierarchy. But what can you do to make the transition smoother for you and the new leader?

If you are in management, how do you want present your best foot forward? If the new leader is unknown you may only get one chance to get the discussion to go your way. If you are in sales, you face the same dilemma.

Naturally you want to present your projects or solutions to the new leader...but hold on a second.

Have you thought about what the new leader wants to accomplish? You know your projects or offerings but is that what they want to hear?

Since new leaders seek out quick wins and accomplishments, in addition to setting their own pace and personality on the business, think about how you can help.

Your projects may be nebulous but find that quick win! If you rely on the same old attitude or discuss how the project is a year long initiative or is a company wide effort you will not make them happy. Even long term company wide projects have short term goals and little things which will bring some benefit, put them in play.

If you are selling to the new leader, don't bring anything to the meeting except your ears and something to take notes. Your first meeting will set the future. Don't blow the opportunity by pushing what you are comped on or thinking the previous discussions will be continued. You can still steer the conversation your way but you need to first listen to the leader.

Many times when I am called upon to meet with clients for the first time or under new regimes, I ask the most basic questions around what the leader wants to accomplish, what are the limitations and what would make their daily life easier. You want to encourage them to lay out their mind and plans and understand them and show you understand them.

The next time you end up in this situation remember that the Pharoah in Egypt did not listen to his advisers and it led to his downfall so don't end up being the ignored adviser.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TDI Troubleshooting Access Rights

Been working on a TDI project for the last few weeks and it looked to be almost done, then everything stopped working.

So, what to do? Asked around but did not find any great answers, just vague ideas or theories but nothing to point at and go AHA! So I did what I advocate and called in a PMR to IBM when nothing or no one else could help efficiently. Seems everyone is busy trying to finish work before Lotusphere.

Brian H. from support was helpful in pointing me in the right direction although there is a lack of info surrounding the problem experienced.

What we found was we suddenly had messages similar to this:
Log4J: Error Either File or DatePattern options are not set for appender [null]
Descriptive. I know.

Checking under the logs directory under my TDISOL directory the ibmdi.log showed some errors but nothing that pointed to anything directly.

So off we went to find how to get more logging details. Knowing there is a log4J reference meant finding out how and where to set logging and what levels it has.

The directory also under TDISOL called etc is where you can find the file. In it you will find a line that says:
Edit the WARN to ALL if you are having problems to get a very detailed log, save and run your scripts. More details on the options can be found in this Wiki

In our case it showed some jar files and other pieces could not be read, from the directory one ABOVE TDISOL which is called V70A on our box and in the jars directory, and it's sub directories(V70a/jars/connectors and V70A/jars/3rdparty) among them.. We asked for more access to cover the whole directory and all ran properly.

So it was an access issue and not a code problem, unlike my NULL post which is still testing before I post the conclusions.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Null Users? But They Are Real People but not in TDI

Happy New Year!

So what's wrong with TDI? (This affects 6.0 and 7.0 so far which is the versions running) It seems there is an ominous line that states:

"The population wizard populates only those entries where the value for surname is not null."
And this can be found in 2.5 and 3.0 IBM Lotus Connections documentation and wikis here, here and here.

That's fine but what do you do for the Null family? Poor James, Sara, Amy, Fred, John Boy, Scarlett and whomever else with Null as a last name? They can't get in? No Connections for them? So what is going on?

There were some vague TDI references in fix packs to attributes with NULL in them. We are waiting on IBM for some direction because those fix packs are not compatible, per documentation, with Connections 3.0.1.

We also worry what this will do inside Connections when it hits the Null fields on logins or searches or links or whatever. So working around TDI is one thing, Connections is another.

We do know this much, new people never get added to the profiles database. People already added, never get deleted if they left the company and anyone else is there because when you do the first load off a CSV file evidently TDI could care less and accepts what you submit. BUT if TDI is to run and get updates programmatically it checks for any Last Name field which is empty/Null and stops processing that person.

When we have an update from IBM will post it, until then if anyone has some insight please let me know your experience.

PS - My apologies to the IBM QA team for TDI and Connections, you have one more thing to add to your lists.

Sad Day for Girl Scout Cookie LS Fans

Sad to report that Girl Scout cookies will not be available at Lotusphere this year.

The sales dates for the State of Florida do not allow sales until after the conference.

Although I tried to get pre orders and allowances they will not be delivered in time to make the trek.

Should this change I will let you know. As a number of people have been asking, I had been waiting for an answer and sadly it is not to be.

Perhaps if Lotusphere 2013 or rather Connect 2013, as it may be called, is a week or so later next year we can try again.