I don’t run or manage projects!

Juggling ProjectsThis is a phrase I hear often; usually when talking to business owners, or even employees working for someone. They tell me they are not project managers, and wonder why I am telling them about Microsoft Project?

Well, let’s look at the definition of a project. It is described as a series of tasks that have a beginning and end date, and a deliverable at the very end. It is constrained by resources and timescales. Now, is this sounding familiar?

If not, it should be – as it sums up any task you may be trying to achieve at any given point in time. Let’s assume most of us have a manageable workload (stay with me here!), so let’s liken it to juggling – normally we are juggling one or two balls at a time. We can teach ourselves that, and if we drop a ball, we can react quickly to pick it up again. However, scale this up (as many of us do), and now let’s say that you are juggling six or eight balls, but don’t have time to teach yourself advanced juggling. I would guess that you are now dropping balls more often, and sometimes even more than one at a time. Suddenly it’s not as easy to react to, and the consequences of any ball falling are much worse. There is a term for this situation: we call this firefighting, and when the art of project management changes into simply firefighting things as they happen, we’re in trouble. Is any of this sounding familiar?

So what should we do?

At a risk of sounding glib – the solution is to work smarter. Take the skills you already have, and build on them to enable you to act rather than react. Rather than fight those fires on a regular basis, let’s snuff out the ember as soon as we see it – and using project management software allows you to do this.

I have a client who is managing over 71 projects of various sizes, so that would be 71 balls to juggle – all with a different weight. They said they would never be able to do it without the use of software, and so they had trained themselves to juggle, and have actually been on two of our courses.

So who manages projects?

The answer is simple: we all do. Every one of us. From simply getting dressed in the morning, doing DIY or decorating, right down to our actual business in our workplace, we are managing multiple projects. But are we teaching ourselves to juggle?

Next Steps?

Check out our testimonials and read the section on project management, see what our clients have to say. Then, if you have questions or want to know more, get in touch.

How do you manage projects just now? Are you coping OK? What would happen if you had double this amount?

In our experience it’s usually best to put a system in place now, than try and introduce one after years of self-taught juggling!

We look forward to hearing from you.

To have Wi-Fi or not to have Wi-Fi that is the question, whether it is nobler …?

free wifiYou get the picture! I write this after having a short break down in Shakespeare country. On my return, I heard a survey being conducted on the radio.

The presenter was telling us that he had recently encountered a survey that rated the most common criteria that young couples (aged 35 years old or less) used to buy or rent a house.

They were asked what the main reason for the choice was. Of course – listeners were thinking about school choice, local area, number of rooms, was it well priced. Considering the age group, I wondered if the need for high speed broadband might play a major part in the choice – it was revealed I wasn’t far off, it was the second top reason for making a choice. The first reason most of them quoted was availability of a good mobile signal. If the house did not have good mobile signal, most of the other factors didn’t matter – how things have changed over the years.

Now, that was a slight aside, as the main topic here is Wi-Fi (as you can tell from my Shakespearean reference in the title). I am slightly sad (as a geek) and when my wife suggested a cottage to hire, I said to make it remote, and that it MUST have Wi-Fi.

Being a small business owner, I often need the flexibility to deal with potential issues – even when away on holiday.

My wife trawled the net, and found a cottage that seemed to tick all the boxes. I checked it over, it all looked great, BUT it had not ticked the Wi-Fi box – so I told her it wouldn’t do. I should point out at this point that she loves looking for holiday cottages, so this isn’t as harsh as you might think. Off she went again, and soon came up with another solution and shortly after the cottage was booked.

We made it down without incident, and settled in. I gained the Wi-Fi key and connected my tablet, only to find that the Wi-Fi was atrocious – the connection slow and not stable. Mobile phone signal was non-existent in the house, and so you had to dance around outside to try and find a signal that worked. I was not a happy chappy. So it was that tearooms and coffee shops were the next best thing, and I was asking at every one: “Do you have Wi-Fi?”

Surprisingly in such a tourist filled area, there were quite a few owners that looked at me like I had asked for a space age technology they hadn’t yet heard of.

So that brings me back to the question, to have Wi-Fi or not to have Wi-Fi?

Operating in the mobile world now, where we are asked to trust all our data to the cloud and the great storage in the sky, I want to ask you if Wi-Fi should be more widely available than it is just now. Some Towns are even installing it in town centres (although sadly in my opinion, the setup is generally being chosen by politicians and not by specialists – so the Wi-Fi you get it substandard, and it would probably be better if it wasn’t there).

So, should tearooms and coffee shops see this as a must have for their clientele? Or is it something extra outside of the norm, and not their problem. I know I spend time in coffee shops, usually having meetings and catch-ups with clients and other business owners, and we use the Wi-Fi a lot. Being honest, if it wasn’t there, we would very likely go somewhere else.

What are you experiences of Wi-Fi availability? We’d love to your opinion on the above discussion!

 

Is Virus Protection enough anymore?

virus protectionI thought I would burp a little about the recent news broadcasts detailing the attacks that have happened, as well as the ones that are about to hit in around two weeks’ time.

Let’s start with the one that already happened, the Heart bleed exploit. This affected web servers and took advantage of a flaw in a commonly used library to gather random chunks of working memory. Unfortunately these random chunks often contained people’s login details or other personal information. And so we all had to go and change our passwords for many of the web services we use, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo and so on. Wait, you haven’t done that yet? Well you better get in about it today and make it so!

The attack due in a few weeks’ time was announced on the news feeds last week, and you need to make sure that all your computers are up to date and virus protected within the next two weeks. You have been warned!

So what’s new?

Well, in actuality, nothing is new. We have been plagued with hackers, attacks, and viruses for as long as I have been in IT.  And there is even a possibly they were around before then, I am not as old as you think you know! We have long been advised to keep our computers up to date, to install virus checking software and ensure we have the latest virus definitions. Yet we still succumb to the viruses as they hit the web. Is it because we just get lazy and don’t maintain our computers? Has the computer age made us feel that the software should maintain itself? Why do we have to do anything manually?

I have repaired machines in the past, and have asked the user if they had anti-virus software. The answer was often yes, as it came with the computer. Brilliant I said have you updated it recently … a long pause … no, was the reply, doesn’t it do that itself? I then checked the machine to find that the software was on it when bought, but had never been launched and never registered. In fact, it had simply been taking up some hard drive space and doing not a lot else! Given this was roughly three or four years after purchase, I will not tell you the number of infections I found on that machine.

Which hat are they wearing?

These days you can attend college or university and do an Ethical Hacking course, and come out with a matching qualification. Now if you use this the right way (known as white hat hacking) you will become an asset to any company wanting to protect their systems. Of course, used the wrong way (black hat hacking), you can cause mayhem and leave damage in your wake.

Help me Ian; what do I need to do?

Put simply, you need to do what you have been told to do for as long as I can remember. That is: keep your computer up to date, and keep anti-virus software on it and up to date. If you are on a network, then make sure your firewalls and other barriers are up and running. Oh, and just to let you know, it could all be changing again as the mobile usage increases and the cloud becomes our storage … watch this space, but be protected.

Further info on some of this can be gained by reading our previous blog on Windows XP cover, and on Passwords security.

Take care and be safe…

Let us know your thoughts on this issue and how you are coping in the battle for safe working.

Has the Cloud changed the business weather?

Old Car PhoneI have always promoted the ways in which technology can help us, and how its advancement is changing the game in many different areas – from remote surgery via a net connection, to the way we communicate and interact. Some would say that this is great, and these changes are for the better – at least better than the sluggish old ways we used to do things. Others are more sceptical, and suggest some of what is happening is taking away from human interaction, often to the degree that we just can’t interact effectively face to face anymore.

With the above in mind, I must confess that I do a lot more typing than writing, and as a result my writing skills are just not what they used to be. Saying that, some would say my typing skills also leave a lot to be desired.

Anyway, I digress; I titled this article, “Has the cloud changed the business weather?”

This was a direct hit at what the Internet (or as it’s often called, the cloud) is doing to the way we do business. Let’s look back at the history of how it was done; again I will speak from the experience I gained over my working life.

In times gone by

In past lives I have used written reports, sending them back to my direct line manager. Then we got the marvel that was carbon paper copies, which meant I could keep a copy myself.

A fax was installed in my home office and I could fax info straight to main HQ and get it actioned. No more waiting on the snail mail to deliver. This was a revolution.

I was then made the proud owner of a pager. It would bleep to signify that I had to go to a phone and call the office. The next version had a small LCD screen where I could read a streaming text message instead of phoning in. Where was technology taking us?

OK, you have probably guessed by now that I am not a newcomer to the work environment. In fact I have been through a good number of changes to the way things are done.

The next development was a phone mounted in my company car. This was a large brick like device in the cabin, connected to a larger box that was taking up most of my boot space. The aerial was attached to the roof of the car, and off I went. However, my sales area included the highlands of Scotland, and the signal at that time was really very poor, so generally I was uncontactable unless I found a landline.

The car phone I was given after that was the first that could be considered truly mobile, and could be removed from the car and taken, yes taken with you, anywhere. WOW! This was just amazing. I could text and phone from anywhere and no longer needed to be tethered to my car.

I was then simply given a mobile phone, and along with that my first mobile computer. It had details of all the products I used to sell on it, and had the ability to allow searches and pricing on the spot in front of a client…

How could this be I hear you cry? Well that was technology for you, and it was driving sweeping changes to what we were able to do in business.

Obviously things have moved on greatly since these bygone days, and companies have had to accept technology moves one. They also have to deal with the way it has influenced what they do, and landscape of their proposed market places.

Access to the Internet started very slow, I still remember connecting via a dial up modem (33.6k which by today’s standards is the slowest thing ever) but it was new and exciting at the time. Then ADSL has superseded that, and now ADSL is on the wane due to Fibre broadband being rolled out nationwide.

With this advancement, and mobile broadband reaching similar speeds, it finally means that the cloud has come of age. The idea of ‘Always there Internet’ has truly arrived.

What we can do now in the cloud, and through the cloud, is an order of magnitude more impressive than my first work experiences of technology.

Where will it all go?

The question now, I suppose, is where will it all go? But what I want to ask you is where will you take it?

Will you adopt the latest technology and keep pushing what you can do beyond what you do now? Beyond what others are doing? The cloud is truly changing the weather in the business world in ways that a younger me could only dream of.

We can collaborate worldwide as if we were in the same office. We can have instant access to real-time information that allows us to make informed decisions faster than ever before.

We can access information at any time and any place, which means we don’t have to be tied to an office desk. Mobile Internet usage (or cloud usage if you like) has increased year on year to around 68 to 70% of all Internet traffic. Technology has improved beyond a large bulky desktop computer or chunky laptop, the information is now actually in the palm of your hand.

Our mobiles (and remember I started with a brick in my car) have now turned into smart phones. We can do all sorts of tasks using them, and that includes good quality business work.

Conclusion

I am still excited about where technology can take us, and would like to think I’m still a people person. It will never make me a recluse, so that I do not interact, but it can make my life and business world  easier. It can change the weather on the business front, and for me this has meant more sunshine and less rain, even though there will still be clouds.

What are your thoughts on adopting new technology for you or your business?

I won’t bother training, it’s a waste of money!

trainingOur parent company is a training organisation and they are always astonished at companies and peoples response to training or lack of training.

During times or recession one of the first things that companies cut alongside staff is training. “How can we train staff when we are paying people off?”

Well to be honest that’s exactly when you should be training your remaining staff to keep up moral and make them more effective at what they do.

Here are 10 reasons you should train your staff.

Ten Important reasons why training and investing in your staff is more important at this time than ever:-

  1. Training boosts morale. Staff will feel better and more motivated about working with your company if you show belief that they can improve.
  2. Training highlights priorities. In financially difficult times, the needs of the current staff can be directed toward specific training.
  3. Training is not expensive – compared to recruiting and hiring new staff. Whatever the challenges your company is facing, reducing your training budget isn’t going to improve things.
  4. Training is a stimulant, while cancelling training can enforce mediocrity.
  5. Training helps keep pace with a changing business. You need to keep up to date with new developments in order to remain competitive.
  6. Training encourages teamwork. If you’ve got fewer admin staff than you’ve had before then a refresher course on office apps or Project can help the existing team focus on the essentials and work together more effectively.
  7. Training encourages the good habits of your staff and produces your best work.
  8. Training creates revenue. Focused training can pay for itself over and over again by raising morale, encouraging efficiency and working at high standards.
  9. Training treats your staff like professionals. Staff who believe they are valued enough for you to invest in developing their skills might stay with your company a little while longer.
  10. Training helps maintain and improve quality and productivity.

What are your thoughts on training and sharpenning up your employess skill base? Remember as much as your organisation may produce a product or service. without the employees you produce nothing!

Let us know what you think.

 

Do I use Protection?

passwords

Password protection of course.

In this post, we are looking at passwords – and what people do or don’t do with them. It was inspired by a recent report online about the most common passwords of 2013. It scares me when I see what is being used. Strong passwords are one of those things we know we need, and should be using, but tend to put little to no effort into. Then we tend to be the first to shout ‘my details were taken’ when things go wrong.

So what are the rules then? Different camps will give you different instructions, and some will claim a password is strong when in fact it isn’t.

Let’s look at the most common methods:

  1. Use Different passwords everywhere.
    Why should we have to do this when it is so easy to use our pets name at every password prompt? Well it’s simple really. If someone guesses your pets name, and believe me they will, then they have access to every site you use. A study by an online company, called BitDefender, showed that 75% of people will use the same password for their email and Facebook. If that is then also your PayPal password, and it’s discovered, say goodbye to some funds and your friends.
  2. Remember the Underwear Meme
    Seemingly the saying goes like this: Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often, maybe not every day of course. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see. (No Post Its). They should also be mysterious and a secret to others. So make them something that they can’t guess.
  3. Avoid Common Passwords
    If the word can be found in a dictionary, it is not a strong password. If you use numbers and letter as they appear on the keyboard, it’s not a strong password. Relatives names and pets names, NO. Even if you follow them with a number. Birthdays and anniversaries are just as bad sadly. Hackers will try all these things first. They actually run programs to check all these kinds of passwords, and for the love of all that’s techie, if you use “password” as your password, please just sign off the Internet right now. SplashData has been listing the 25 worst passwords for some years now, and “password” has always topped the list as the most common password. This year it was deposed by the long-time second worst password: “123456.” No, really!

So what are you tips I hear you cry!

Don’t cry, here is some advice.

Strong Password Solutions

How to Build Strength

To create a strong password, it is suggested you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, but preferably many more. A lot more. The characters should be random, and not include words, flow alphabetically, or be from your keyboard layout.

So how do you make such a password?

1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn “New York” into “kroywen.”)

2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n.”)

3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n.”)

4) Don’t forget the special character. (Example: Turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^.”)

You don’t have to go for the obvious and use “0” for “o,” or “@” for “a,” or “3” for “e,” either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that’s all that matters. A “^” for an “n” makes sense to me.

The suggested best form today seems to be creating a sentence and type it in, including spaces. It takes algorithms much longer to crack something like that than it does just for straight words – even if you have changed the letters for symbols and numbers. (Example: “I love yellow trousers”). This believe it or not is quite secure, and has the added advantage of being easier to remember. Of course, I could also swap numbers for letters and include symbols as well.

Well I hope you got the point and the Protection is definitely needed.

To finish, here is last year’s list of the 25 most commonly used passwords. I expect to hear the cries of despair as you recognise yours. It also shows their change in rank from the year before, and includes some newcomers for this year as well.

1. 123456 (Up 1)

2. password (Down 1)

3. 12345678 (Unchanged)

4. qwerty (Up 1)

5. abc123 (Down 1)

6. 123456789 (New)

7. 111111 ( Up 2)

8. 1234567 (Up 5)

9. iloveyou (Up 2)

10. adobe123 (New)

11. 123123 (Up 5)

12. admin (New)

13. 1234567890 (New)

14. letmein (Down 7)

15. photoshop (New)

16. 1234 (New)

17. monkey (Down 11)

18. shadow (Unchanged)

19. sunshine (Down 5)

20. 12345 (New)

21. password1 (up 4)

22. princess (New)

23. azerty (New)

24. trustno1 (Down12)

25. 000000 (New)

Let us know what you think, and how you cope with remembering all the various passwords you use.

That gut Feeling?

gut feeling, intuition

Should we ignore it?

I am always fascinated by the detective dramas on TV, as my wife would tell you, and the way they portray the detective trawling through the clues and the evidence to catch the culprit of the crime.

They also use a phrase quite often where they say, “I can’t prove anything, but I just have that gut feeling he did it.” We also hear about intuition, that feeling that you know it is right or going to happen but there is no evidence or scientific proof that it will.

I have been around this world now for around 51 years and over that time I have picked up info and facts as well as experiences that allow me to make decisions on various areas that I operate in. Generally called experience. Some people keep records and statistics to back up their experience so they can actually prove what they believe. I haven’t been as smart as that, but have I feel over the years gained a degree of Intuition if you like. That built in experience that allows for you to make a call on something before all the facts are in. Now granted sometimes you are wrong. But if I have learned one thing since I setup on my own in business, it is time sometimes is not on your side and you have to be able to turn on a sixpence to make decisions and fly by the seat of your pants.

The more I read about entrepreneurs that have been successful. The more I see that they had this type of approach, and they had the, “Gut feeling”, so to speak.

With 2014 approaching, are you evaluating what you have done in 2013 and looking at all the statistics and making a call just on them, or are you using all your senses and making a call using them as well.

Now, I am not advocating ignoring the obvious, but I am advocating that sometimes the obvious is not what lies around the corner for you and your business. Sometimes we just have to go with our gut feeling.

Have a great 2014 and step out of the statistical comfort box and do something based on just that gut feeling and see what happens.

Innovative Marketing

training and consultancy

Just a quick one my friends, but we were so tickled by this that we thought it is definately worth sharing.

How to target the Advertising agents with a new track by a dance artist using new technology and having a retro look? That was the question here and we think they have done a great job. Absolutely fantistic idea and the use of technology and old Vinyl just blows you away.

Enjoy the video my friends and admire the innovation.

Might go and rake out my vinyl records now and dust them down…………….

Ok, OK….we haven’t posted for a while!

nexus 7 2013

Sorry we haven’t potsed for a while holidays can do that to you. We have had a very busy spell and then a overdue holiday.

But what’s all the tech news, well things are always moving in the tech world and we are monotoring the new rumours of the latest Iphone to hit the shelves, later this year, the new Xbox One and the new Playstation. The transformation of the screens we use, we will be writing up a blog on that very soon.

But the most exciting news for us is that we are about to take proud ownership of the new Nexus 7 this weekend and will be doing a followup to the test drive we did on the previous one to report to you what the changes are and how we get on with it. It is one of these things that stirs the anticiaption and makes you excited and wonder if it will outstrip what we have experienced on the previous version and be as sturdy and have such a long battery life.

The specs have inproved considerably so the performance should be different, the screen will be the highest resolution on the market for a 7″ tablet. But will this come at the cost of the battery life being reduced? Our testing will tell and we will tell you.

Watch this space for the test drive blog.

Have you bought  tablet or new phone recently, what were your experiences?

Ian Thomson
Founder/Senior Trainer/Consultant
IT Turning Point

Bombardment …….

information overloadThis post is more of a rant, and a look at how things have changed over the last few years.

I have been in and around the wonderful and ever changing world of IT, and all things geek, for over 13 years now – and have seen and experienced many changes in how information is delivered and handled.

Recently, I suddenly realised that I was getting bombarded with information from all sides. Not only that, but pressures had increased almost in proportion to the information streams. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

It is not so long ago that I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to get my emails sent to my phone so that I can deal with them at any time”. Now of course I have what I wished for, and have three email accounts feeding to my smart phone. I also have social media messages rattling through my phone, as well as tweets, re-tweets, Facebook and Google+ updates that keep rolling in.

Of course, the physical number of hours in my day have proportionally increased to handle this new and exciting stream of constant interaction … wait a minute – no they haven’t! I simply find myself working outside what I would consider normal working hours in order to keep all these areas active.

What has all this meant? For starters, it has driven information delivery in such a way that you can know about something before you see it on the news or in a paper. It has also unfortunately increased peoples expectation of instant responses to emails, messages etc. – which only leads to a heightened stress factor.

As a result, prioritising then becomes even more of a necessity. This helps you or I cope when handling the huge volume of data, but often offends someone at the other end who feels we have not given a timely answer to their very social approach.

Hence, my title for this rant … sorry post … Bombardment.

How do you manage your interactions with today’s Technology and communication?

I am considering buying a pigeon coup and going back to pigeon post.

Let me know.