Displaying articles for: 01-01-2012 - 01-07-2012
When it comes to productivity, a lot of people think a lot of crazy things. Some of these crazy people are managers in big companies. Others are, well, you and me. In many cases these foolish ideas have been comprehensively debunked by research.
Anyhow, here are a few of the most pervasive myths. I think I still half-believe some of them myself:
- Adding more people will help. Adding more people to a late project will make it later. This is the fundamental lesson from Fred Brooks’s book The Mythical Man-Month. Why? The more people, the more communication. The more communication, the less work. One of the things he advises is that if you can buy software ‘off the shelf’ rather than develop it, do so. It’s usually cheaper to adapt the organisation to the software than vice versa.
- Measuring inputs is the same as achieving outputs. Managers love metrics and it’s a lot easier to quantify the number of hours someone works than to measure the quantity, quality and value of their output. This is why most people get paid by the hour or by the day. What gets measured gets done. So if you pay for inputs, you’ll get lots of inputs.
- A kick in the ass will help. Fredrik Herzberg nailed this myth decades ago in his Harvard Business Review classic, One more time, how do you motivate employees. This is really a must-read article. The point is that what pisses employees off is not the same as the stuff that motivates them. So focus on that: self-direction, responsibility, recognition, development, progress, respect. It’s self-evident, really. Would you work harder for a boss who just berated you all the time and told you to work harder or a boss who understood your abilities and helped you be your best?
- Incentives help. Will people work harder if you promise them a bonus for timely deliver? Probably not. Or at least, it needs to be a big enough number (>25% of salary, typically) to incentivise people to work longer hours which (see above) is not the same as being more productive. The flip side is that once someone realises that they’re not going to make the deadline and get the bonus, you’ve effectively disincentivised that person to the value of the bonus they won’t get any more.
- Meetings are the same as work. Sometimes you need to get consensus, coordinate action, reach collective decisions and share information. So meetings look like a good way to do this. But in truth they’re usually not. Actually, because of phenomena like risky shift, you can end up with worse results from a meeting than otherwise. Or you end up doing what the boss says anyway. Or you do your email and don’t listen to what other people are saying.
- Busy is the same as productive. I could spend the whole day reading Twitter and blog posts. I’m definitely busy but I’m not productive. The same understanding extends to all kinds of office activities. It’s about doing the right thing and not just doing things right.
- Buzzy is busy. Noisy, open-plan offices undermine productivity. It’s very hard to concentrate with too much background noise. Interruptions destroy focus. Buzzy is great in a restaurant or bar but there’s a reason they don’t let people talk in libraries. Peopleware has great data about the value of quiet rooms, noise reduction and eliminating interruptions.
- Buying a book will help. There are some interesting books on productivity, including Getting Things Done and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for individuals and Peopleware for businesses. However, just buying and reading the books isn’t enough. You have to test the ideas to see if they work for you. Don’t take a self-proclaimed guru’s’ word for it. Or mine.
- You can run a business in four hours a week. I can’t even run my blogs in four hours a week. Tim Ferriss popularised some useful ideas like personal outsourcing and an idiosyncratic version of the Lean Startup (which I found much more useful). But at the end of the day, you’re kidding yourself if you think you can run a successful business in four hours. 40 perhaps. Like many ‘gurus’, I’m sure he makes more money preaching than practising and I’m not envious of his publishing success. At all. No. Not me.
This is an (edited) guest post from my other blog at Turbine. Cut your paperwork, free your mind!
Just like it did with multimedia and CD ROM in 1995 and with Centrino mobile technology and Wi-Fi in 2003, Intel is setting its sights on transforming the PC industry again. This time the vehicle is Ultrabook. In his IDF keynote today, Intel vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group Mooly Eden outlined how Ultrabook devices will transform both consumer and business computing.
Eden introduced one of the new breed of psychologists and anthropologists at Intel who are trying to understand what users want from a PC by close observation of how people really interact with technology in their lives. Eden explained that user experience is driving the processor design and joked that he’d had a few battles with the social scientists who are doing the research. But gone are the days when electrical engineers (EEs) designed a system without input from these social scientists.
Their research has shown users want six things from personal computers: mobility, peace of mind, reasonable price, power to create, design that reflects the individual’s taste, and an immersive and responsive experience.
Not to be outdone, Eden explained how his EEs and software engineers had tackled these challenges.
- Mobility. Intel has trademarked the Ultrabook name so that it can require OEMs to meet certain design targets that include driving the thickness of an Ultrabook to less than his forefinger – and he assured us that he didn’t have fat forefinger!
- Peace of Mind. Mooly demonstrated new Intel Identity Theft protection and hinted at upcoming announcements from credit companies that will help make on-line transactions more secure. He also demo’d anti-theft technology that Intel is working on with McAfee that will be the first to take advantage of unique, Intel chip-level technologies and will provide device and data protection for consumers such as device lock, data wipe and location tracking.
- Reasonable price. If the OEMs can hit the below $1000 price, this one looks pretty good.
- Power to create. 2nd generation Intel Core processors should give it the power it needs.
- Design. This is another one that is up to the OEMs. But the initial designs they showed at IDF looked pretty cool. Eden had disguised an Ultrabook by sandwiching it in a three-year old notebook to show how thin it was and pulled it out to ooohs and aaahs from the audience.
- Immersive and responsive. Intel Rapid Start means it wakes up quickly. And Intel Smart Connect means it downloads your email and software updates while it’s sleeping so that it’s ready to go.
Showing off what will make this even more attractive to enterprise, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 8 working and running several applications on the Ultrabook devices and pointed to the future opportunities that the new OS will present across multiple compute devices such as tablets, hybrids and new form factors like Ultrabook.
I'm sure you will hear a lot more on Ultrabooks as Intel laid out plans for three generations of devices. Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect to see:
- 2011: In time for this holiday season, you’ll see systems—some under $1000—from Toshiba, Lenova, Asus, Acer, Samsung and LG. These will include features such as Intel Rapid Start, always-on always-connected, Intel Smart Connect, and built-in security.
- 2012: Several ODMs, including Compal, Foxconn, Inventec, Pegatron and Quanta were already showing working systems based upon the 3rd generation Intel Core family processor that will deliver technologies such as a touch user interface, context aware sensors, and Thunderbolt (the new, high-speed, dual-protocol I/O technology that Apple is already offering on some of its systems).
- 2013: Based on the processor code-named Haswell, this generation of Ultrabooks will include world class battery life, sensor-based synch and media sharing, and near-field communication.
This is a guest post from our friends at Intel.
A technology refresh can be a great opportunity to increase efficiency, reduce security risks and give your business a competitive boost. So what’s the best strategy to maximize your current resources while deciding if the time is right for new IT investments? Here are eight things to consider before moving forward:
- Age: How old are each of your current IT assets (computers, printers, networking equipment, etc.)? Identifying a resource that is useful as-is (or with minimal upgrades) is the first step to determining and prioritizing replacement needs.
- Capacity: Does your business have assets that are at or near maximum capacity? Determine the risks and business limitations of using resources that will soon be maxed out.
- Complexity: Is your current IT environment unnecessarily complex? How might investments in new resources simplify it and increase productivity?
- Cost: Is your technology too costly to maintain? Is this cost pulling resources from other business priorities? Consider how new investments might reduce costs in the long term.
- Risk: Do you have technology that presents a continued risk to use? How would a failure impact your business? Beyond simple capacity limits, reliability and security are important factors to consider.
- Resources: Do you have the necessary time and personnel to support a new asset or larger infrastructure upgrade? Besides the initial monetary investment, consider training, support and ramp-up time.
- Availability: Do you have an IT asset that’s inconsistent or unreliable? How much is downtime costing you?
- Functionality: If you’re planning on upgrading an application, will your current infrastructure support it? Will you lose functionality of existing systems with an upgrade?
Once you’ve asked and answered the right questions, you can decide if it’s best to sit tight, phase in a targeted refresh or plan for more sweeping infrastructure upgrades. For companies that decide to move forward with a tech refresh, it’s important to understand these potential benefits:
- Risk reduction: As technology ages, the law of diminishing returns begins to apply. Though it may seem more cost-effective to keep a current asset, the trade-off might be increased liability through inefficiencies or potential security risks. A tech refresh can offer the chance to save money, boost your business’ competitive advantage, meet new compliance mandates, reassure your clients and better prepare your business for growth opportunities.
- Increased productivity: No technology works in isolation. An upgrade may mean the chance to re-engage with your workforce and leverage office-bound employees in the field through mobile tools like the ProBook Notebook PCs and ePrint-enabled printers.
- Scalability: The new advancements in cloud computing might surprise you. Leverage virtual servers for your computing and storage needs. Scale up or scale back to respond to changing customer demand without huge expenditures for onsite hardware.
The best tech refresh strategy starts with taking a step back -- understanding what your current IT needs are, anticipating future needs, researching the host of solutions available and then determining how to move forward in the most cost-effective way.
Whether you choose to put off your tech refresh for the time-being, invest in a simpler upgrade like purchasing new monitors, or dive in and explore the full range of asset upgrade options, the decision is a highly individual one. No single solution fits every business.
This is a guest post from our US sister blog, 367 Addison Avenue
Kinect is coming to the PC, not as a hack but as a commercial product with dedicated PC hardware, in early 2012, according to the Kinect for Windows Blog. Some of the changes for the PC version include: a shorter USB cable and new firmware for ‘close up’ applications. You can download the SDK now.
Kinect offers PC users some unique capabilities that change the way people interact with their computers, including:
- Skeletal tracking
- Motion sensing
- Voice recognition
- Facial recognition
For example, Calum Cawley, a fourth-year engineering student at IT Sligo and part of the Microsoft Imagine Cup winning team, is using Kinect in his final year project. He’s tracking the movement of actors on the stage and projecting virtual costumes onto them. See different ways people are using Kinect.
This is a guest post from our friends at Microsoft MSDN.
A record 480,000 new businesses were created over the past year but let’s see if theUK can beat this record in 2012. If you’ve been thinking about becoming your own boss, now is the time to take a step closer to that ambition as this will be a top year for starting and growing a business. Here are five steps you can take today.
1. Come up with an idea
You may already have your business idea; in which case you can move straight to step 2! If you’re still considering, ask yourself 3 questions:
- What is your passion/hobby/skill and can this be turned into a way of making a living?
- Have you spotted a gap in the market? If so, fill it!
- Have you seen someone do something that you think you can improve upon?
The answers will provide you with the basis of a business idea. Aim to come up with an idea that focuses on a niche; ie creating a particular product or service for a well-defined audience such as payroll services for childcare professionals or a virtual PA for businesses in the food sector. That way, you’ll keep marketing costs low and customer loyalty high.
2. Write a business plan
This is not onerous to do and a business plan will act as your route map; guiding you towards business objectives. It’s easy to remember what to include as it spells I’M OFF:
I – what’s your Idea
M – who is the Market you will serve; include information on where your customers are/their key influences/buying habits etc
O – what Operations will you need to create your service or product; if you’re starting as a graphic designer, this may be just a laptop and some business cards, for a fashion designer, possibly a sewing machine and space
F – is for Financials; make a projection of sales you expect to make in the first 12 months, calculate costs (stock/equipment/marketing etc) and calculate the profit you expect to make. In the Financials section, you can also work out if you need funds to get started in business; that’s unlikely as most businesses can now be started on a shoestring of a budget. If you do need money, turn to friends and family/the bank/ Fund101
F – the final F is for Friends. Find yourself a mentor and/or technical experts to whom you can turn for help. At the outset, this may be someone in your family. It’s important to have a sound support network and that’s covered in the final point below.
3. Make a sale
With an idea and business plan in place, it’s time to make a sale. Do so from your own site or blog (if you have one) by plugging in an e-commerce tool or make the most of powerful sales platforms that attract customers on your behalf so you focus on production and promotion. Whether you’re selling handmade cushions or legal services, sites such as Alibaba.com, Elance.com, eBay.com, Etsy.com and Folksy.com can help you make sales. Consider attending markets and shows, having goods displayed in local shops and individual approaches to friends and family who could become customers .. and tell their friends and family to do the same!
4. Promote yourself
With a successful sale, you’ll want to tell the world about it! Make the most of free social media tools and set yourself up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Write a press release announcing your company and customers and make friends with journalists from the local and/or trade press as well as influential bloggers and small business sites such as ours who will be interested in profiling your story. Start to build yourself as the expert in your field and soon the media will be coming to you!
Surround yourself with support
One of the reasons this is such a promising year to start a business is because there’s never been so much support on offer to help you succeed. The StartUp Britain campaign shines a spotlight on useful events/resources/Awards, sites such as Enterprise Nation, BusinessZone.co.uk and StartUp Donut offer content and friendly forums, and events such as StartUp Saturday provide you with all the practical advice you need to get started and introductions to others treading the same path.
Make the most of this year; take that idea, talent, hobby or skill and start a business. You know you want to!
Desktop or laptop? Consumer or business model? Buy from reseller, online or retail? What is the best way to choose and buy a computer for your business?
When you buy a car, you want to get a good price but you also think about the long term. How much will it depreciate? How much will it cost to service? What about fuel economy and CO2 emissions? The purchase price, however attractive, doesn’t tell you the whole story about the lifetime cost of owning a car. It’s the same with IT. PCs look similar but differences in design, durability and features can make a dramatic difference to how much you end up paying in the long run.