Sunday, August 21, 2005





Career Advice








Information Technology

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Career Advice

Author: Richard Lowe

I often get asked questions about careers in IT (Information Technology).
After all, I've been a Vice President of Consulting (twice for two different
companies), Vice President of Development, Senior Technical specialist many
times and now I am a Director Of Technical Services. I've been working with
computers for 23 years as of 2001 and plan on continuing my education and
career in a positive direction until the day that I die.

So what would I recommend to anyone seeking or currently holding a career in
IT? What are the qualities that make an IT person invaluable to a company?

I think one of the most valuable traits that anyone in any career can foster
is simple communication. This is especially true of IT people, as many of us
tended to get into the field in the first place because we are introverts. I
don't know about you, but when I started with computers over 23 years ago, I
didn't want to talk with anyone. Computers I could understand, but people?
That was a different question.

In college I had a professor named Fredrick. He taught a class in assembly
language - which was very advanced for the school. I excelled in this class
and spent a great deal of time talking to the teacher. When Fredrick started
a new consulting company he needed to get someone on board who could program
but was also very inexpensive. Because I had been communicating with the man
during his class, he offered me a job as a programmer in his new company. I
stayed there for six years, and by the time the company was purchased by a
British conglomerate I was the Vice President of Development.

As I matured I began to open up to people, and after a few years I found
that the more I communicated, the better my career progressed. Don't get me
wrong, communication is not always fun and definitely isn't easy sometimes,
but it is absolutely vital to any kind of career movement.

To advance in your career it is necessary to make sure people understand
your intentions. More importantly, it is critical that they understand that
you understand. You want people (those you supervise as well as your
supervisors) to know your capabilities and how those can aid them and the
company that you all work for.

What you do is talk to your boss regularly. Ensure that he or she fully
understands what you can do and what you want to do (thus greasing the skids
for additional training and promotions). Discuss how your talents can help
the company achieve it's goals and how you can help your boss achieve those
goals. Do the same with people who work for you, customers, vendors, and
other co-workers.

Use email to your advantage. Email is just another form of communication,
and it's best used to ensure that others are on the same page as you. For
example, it's usually a good idea to send an email after a meeting to those
who were in attendance, briefly explaining what was discussed and what
you've committed to produce. As you meet those commitments, you can also use
email to make it known.

If you are a supervisor, you need to let the people who work for you know
not only exactly what is expected of them, but also other details such as
how they fit into the organization, how their efforts contribute to the
bottom line and the goals and objectives of the company, department,
sub-department and group. This allows your people to be more effective,
which in turn allows you to be more effective.

Use performance reviews as a method of letting your people know where they
are doing well and where they need to improve. This is a very legal, highly
controlled method of communicating with your people (or your boss) and must
be done correctly to be effective. One golden rule of reviews is nothing
should ever be a surprise to the employee. If a person is not doing well, he
must know about it long before the review so he has a chance to correct his
mistakes.

Another rule of mine is that all critical comments must be done in private,
one on one (unless there are legal reasons, such as a reprimand for sexual
harassment, for witnesses). Never give reprimands, no matter how minor, in a
public location. Conversely, it's great to give positive remarks and
reinforcement in public - in fact, generally the more public the better.

Remember that communication is very powerful, and used properly it, combined
with your knowledge, talents and abilities, can propel you up the corporate
ladder.

On the other hand, when used improperly you will certainly succeed in
stalling your career. Use communication very poorly and you may find
yourself jobless in short order.

If you use your emails to cover your behind, you will soon find it is
exposed and ready to be kicked. If you try and sling mud at others around
you, it's very possible you will find yourself not only covered in mud, but
even tarred and feathered.

For example, I had a boss a number of years ago who thought the main purpose
of email was to ensure that everyone understood whatever had gone wrong was
someone else's fault. I remember on several occasions our department had
failed to provide service to the users, and our boss had us write emails
that went on for pages, patiently explaining how these failures were the
fault of someone else. My god, we all got so tired of protecting our bosses
behind. In fact, when he finally left the company, we felt such a feeling of
relief that it was amusing.

This same man is a great example at how a lack of communication can doom a
person. He tried to build a wall between our department and the rest of the
company. All communications between our group and the outside world had to
be approved by him, and he often insisted on performing the communication
himself. Thus, it became impossible for any of us to do our job - and it
became very difficult for anyone in the department to understand how they
fit into the overall company business.

So to sum it all up, what's my advice? Use communication to your advantage.
Ensure your boss knows that you want to contribute to the success of the
group and, more importantly, that he completely understands how valuable you
can be. Use communication to give positive feedback and to let everyone know
your commitments and understandings, as well as other areas in which you
could be helpful.

Equally important, don't abuse communications. This is a very powerful tool,
and if you've ever been on the wrong end of a public reprimand or the
subject of water-cooler gossip you understand exactly what I mean.

The managers who excel in their career have learned these lessons and apply
daily to their jobs without even thinking. That's the main tool of the
trade. Simple communication.

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at
http://www.internet-tips.net - Visit our website any time to read
over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.

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Breaking the Growth Barriers in the Information Technology and Software Sector








Information Technology

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Breaking the Growth Barriers in the Information Technology and Software Sector

Author: Ash Seha

There's nothing automatic about corporate growth, particularly in the information technology industry; build it and they will come is a myth. In the real world there is either a structured, process-driven growth cycle, or stagnation�and stagnation is automatic. Inherent to growth cycles are barriers, real-world business challenges that put some software companies out of business and spur others on to break through those barriers to higher levels of success. Overcoming those barriers is the very definition of growth; when you break through a barrier, you've achieved growth.

You're a software or information technology company, prosperous in 2005, which means that you have a good product, you've made some smart decisions and you've already broken through some growth barriers. You're successful. Now what?

Any company, regardless of age or size can experience barriers to growth: if you find it hard to develop and maintain market momentum; are tied to your entrepreneurial management style and unable to scale; have reached a level of revenue or income and stagnation is settling in; or if your revenue is generated from one product, service, client, or industry, then you're at the next growth barrier, you need to be able recognize it, and you need to prepare to cross it. This overview discusses the typical growth barriers that confront many IT and software companies, and how external consultants can be used effectively to break through those barriers.

Strategy Constrained

At this point your company or product is in the early stages of its evolution. You've landed a handful of key accounts, and you're encouraged by your early success. Now you need a plan, a strategy, a concrete agenda that will move your information technology company from being a collection of talented people with a common goal, to being a team with a common goal and a battle-tested strategy for achieving that goal.

This stage is characterized by:

    � Perpetual realignment of company strategy

By delivering guidance on corporate strategy, a marketing strategy consultant may be able to help a company like yours to:

    � Define untapped solution areas
    � Make technological platform decisions
    � Select appropriate geographic markets
    � Write actionable business plans

Capital Constrained

You've taken your software company or product as far as you can on your savings. Or perhaps you've made a few key sales that have kept you afloat. In order to move your company on to the next phase of development you need an infusion of capital to hire skilled employees, make key acquisitions and fuel your growth. Technology is your specialty, not prospectus writing for venture capitalists.

This stage is characterized by:

    � Inability to fund business strategies
    � Decision-making based upon short-term cash-flow issues rather than long-term strategy

Through road-show ready business plan development and introduction to network of VCs and angel investors, a strategy consultant may be able to help a company like yours to:

    � Author compelling investment prospectuses
    � Define immediate and long-term financial requirements
    � Execute successful finance road shows

Skills Constrained

Typically a company finds themselves at this stage of development with a great product built on sound technology aimed at a particular industry, and their first round of financing secured. They also find themselves with a weak or non-existent positioning statement, a reactive product management process, exhausted or ineffective sales skills, and a strictly opportunistic business development strategy. Company growth is limited in part by the notion that the product will sell itself because it is superior to any other on the market�indeed, it may be the only offering. Revenue growth is limited because the product is defined in terms of its functionality, not its value to the customer.

The offering, and by extension the company, is still being defined by technologists; it has yet to be married with a solid business development plan, marketing or sales acumen. More worrisome is that the very success of your company has brought you to the attention of major players who do have personnel and strategies dedicated to driving you out of the market; they view you as a threat. Your days of flying under the radar are over.

This stage is characterized by:

    � An attractive market
    � A compelling product
    � Adequate financial resources
    � An inability to develop market momentum

Through sales, marketing, product management and business development acumen, a sales and marketing strategy consultant may be able to help a company like yours to:

    � Recruit and manage skilled personnel
    � Craft compelling product and company positioning
    � Create effective sales vehicles and sales strategy
    � Recruit and manage appropriate and motivated alliance partners

Process Constrained

A company at this stage of development is typically successful, no longer a start-up, is being run by a management team, has been accepted in the market, and is competitive. However, fundamental product development and sales and marketing management processes have not yet been accepted within the foundation of the corporate culture. This means that the solution to most situations are human-based, usually hand-crafted by the management team; the foundation of proven processes is absent.

This stage is characterized by:

    � Market acceptance
    � Ability to compete with established players
    � All actions are hand-crafted, typically by the senior management team

By introducing repeatable, best-of-breed processes for sales, marketing and product management, a sales and marketing strategy consultant may help a company like yours to:

    � Introduce effective and repeatable product management, marketing and sales processes
    � Reduce day-to-day reliance on senior management resources

Innovation Constrained

Organizations at this stage of development have achieved a great deal of success; processes are ingrained, product development is streamlined, and sales and marketing systems are in place. But by definition the market keeps shifting: your product is being eclipsed by younger companies with products that perhaps even capitalize on your R&D and experience; your market may be saturated to the point that the double-digit growth rates your investors have come to take for granted are a thing of the past. You need a new product or a new market or both.

This stage is characterized by:

    � The management team no longer involved in all decisions
    � Stagnation beginning to creep in with respect to products and markets

By introducing fresh thinking about new markets, products, and channels, a business strategy consultant may be able to help a company like yours to:

    � Author innovative channel strategies
    � Leverage existing products into new vertical and geographic markets
    � Capture requirements for nascent product lines
    � Embrace change as the source of competitive advantage

Ash Seha is a partner at The Launch Factory LLP, a consultancy specializing in marketing, sales, and product management strategy for software and IT companies. Their expertise, garnered from such IT highflyers as i2, webMethods, SAP, and Baan, is focused on breaking the growth bariers that stand between high-growth software and IT companies and their revenue and marketshare goals.

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