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Comments by Bigapple: Most of them are old friends like PM, Security, Network, DBA, etc. The only truly new skills are Virtualization/Cloud and BPM (Business Process Management), which are relatively new. Looks like Virtualization and Cloud Computing already gained their steam.

Top 10 Skills in Demand in 2010

By Linda Leung

In the Global Knowledge/TechRepublic 2010 Salary Survey, conducted at that end of last year, one of the questions put to respondents was "What skill set will your company be looking to add in 2010?" The skills listed by respondents include the perennial favorites: security, network administration, and Windows administration. Also included are virtualization/cloud computing and Web development. Meanwhile, an old favorite, business analysis, makes a come back. Here’s the complete list, with the No. 1 skill listed being in the highest demand.

As we emerge from the recession, organizations aren’t likely to go back to the go-go days of throwing money at IT initiatives or taking risks and deploying without careful thought and planning. Organizations are putting pressure on IT to only implement projects that can show real return-on-investment. The first step to achieving a good ROI is professional project planning and implementation.

Project management skills often appear in top 10 skills lists, perhaps because some organizations got their fingers burned in the 1990s through the poor implementation of IT projects such as enterprise resource planning initiatives. But even though the profession is mature (in IT terms), project managers still have work to do to advance their status within organizations. According to an article on the Project Management Institute Web site, project managers still have to develop their people skills, organizational leadership, and individual professionalism.

It’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse for security professionals and 2009 proved to be another fun filled year. According to Symantec’s Security and Storage Trends to Watch report, the number of spam messages containing malware increased nine-fold to represent more than 2% of e-mails, while other criminals manipulated people’s love of social networking sites to launch attacks. Twitter, for example, spent much of 2009 battling DDoS and other attacks. Meanwhile, top headlines, such as the H1N1 flu and the death of Michael Jackson were used by criminals to lure people to download malware.

Symantec predicts more of the same in 2010, warning that attackers will continue to use social engineering to get to consumers’ sensitive data, and criminals will take Windows 7 as a challenge for seeking and exploiting vulnerabilities in the new platform. Mac and smartphones will also be targeted more by malware authors, Symantec says.

Despite the economic challenges of ’09, organizations continued to hire security pros. The most sought-after security skills were information risk management, operations security, certification and accreditation, security management practices, and security architecture and models, according to a survey last year of 1,500 U.S.-based security pros by security certification provider ISC2. 2010 is expected to be another busy year from security professionals.

Networking administration skills never lose their luster. It’s the second most sought after skill in the Global Knowledge survey and it will be the top skill sought by CIOs in the first quarter of 2010, according to a survey of IT chiefs by Robert Half Technology. In 2010, organizations are expected to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 and the Windows 7 client, and perhaps install Exchange Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010. Enterprises are going to need network administrators to ensure network traffic continues to move without a hitch.

Meanwhile, Cisco hopes to push more data-intensive traffic onto corporate networks. Video is a key focus for Cisco in 2010 as it works to finalize its control of video conferencing maker Tandberg and through its 2009 purchase of Pure Digital, developer of the Flip video camera. At the end of last year, Cisco introduced two TelePresence certifications: the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist for midcareer voice or networking engineers seeking to specialize in the planning, design and implementation of Cisco TelePresence; and TelePresence Installation Specialist aimed at installation technicians.

The projected cost savings and efficiencies are no-brainers for organizations seeking to implement virtualization and cloud computing. With the cloud computing space now taking shape it’s difficult for enterprises to find pros with substantial relevant experience. Instead companies are drawing expertise from a range of IT skill sets, including storage, networks and desktop, according to a Network World article. Initially companies will set up cross-functional teams to buy and implement virtualization, but eventually cloud computing will be an expected skill set of systems administrators. In a few years, it could even be a standard skill set of all IT pros because it touches different aspects of IT.

For details about virtualization certifications from leading virtualization software vendors VMware, Citrix and Microsoft, see Global Knowledge’s Top IT Certifications in Demand Today newsletter of June 2009.

Business analysis roles were commonplace in many organizations in the 1990s when big projects, such as enterprise resource planning initiatives, required the critical thinking that business analysts could provide. But as businesses began moving at a faster pace, business analysis fell by the wayside. Factors such as the economic downturn and regulatory compliance have forced companies to take a step back and to think through business problems and their solutions, and business analysis is making a comeback, as a result. Kathleen Barret, president of the International Institute of Business Analysis says the discipline is a phoenix rising.

The IIBA describes the job of a BA as a "liaison among stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate, and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies, and information systems." IT pros are good candidates for BA jobs because they have a broad perspective of a company’s business, says Barret. There are three types of BAs: enterprise BAs who identify opportunities for business change and defines the work to be done; transition BAs who fine-tunes the plans; and project BAs who work on project teams that implement the changes. Annual salaries average around $75,000 with enterprise and transition analysts earning more, Barret says.

For more about business analysis, see the IIBA’s Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge.

With project management and business analysis skills appearing in this skills list, it’s no surprise that business process improvement skill is also here. Business process improvement and business analysis go hand-in-hand. Business analysts identify areas for improvements to business processes, while business process improvement or management pros use BPM techniques and technologies to help companies optimize their business processes.

A recent BPM survey by IT researchers, the Aberdeen Group says the top reasons business are driving BPM activity are the need to reduce operating costs and to improve cash flow. However, the top barrier to adoption was the lack of knowledge about BPM. According to Gartner, among the competencies required for successful BPM initiatives include process skills, tools and process assets, and transformation skills.

To learn more about BPM, go to the Web site of the Business Process Management Initiative (, which promotes the standardization of common business processes; and the, which describes itself as a peer-to-peer exchange for business process management professionals.

If you are — or you know friends who are — addicted to the FarmVille game on Facebook you’ll know the power of Web development. In just a few short months, FarmVille’s popularity has spread across the globe as Facebook fans tend to their farms and purchase virtual goods. The game, including others by FarmVille developer Zynga, has netted the start-up more than 200 million monthly unique users for its online apps. One financial analyst reckons Zynga could be valued at $1 billion if it were to go IPO in mid-2010.

Developing Facebook games is just one extreme of the vast Web development spectrum. Building iPhone apps could also be very profitable, writes Web developer and blogger Glen Stansberry. As moderator of the Freelance Switch job board, Stansberry listed other popular Web development skills including Framework knowledge, widget development, content management system customizations (for small businesses looking to create a unique look to their standard WordPress and Drupal blogs), and Javascript Plugin creation.

Databases are the hearts of key business systems that drive payroll, manufacturing, sales, transaction processing, and more. Programmers must be able to build programs that quickly and efficiently interface with the database management system (DBMS), while database administrators "must be able to bring the full power of database features to bear on business problems", writes Oracle- and IBM-certified DBA Howard Fosdick in his whitepaper Database Skills Availability: Critical to Your Selection of Database. "DBA expertise can be the Achilles’ heel of database projects – many IT projects have failed due to the inability to secure DBA talent or successfully address DBA issues," he adds.

The major database vendors are Oracle, IBM and Sybase. Oracle runs three main certification programs for database professionals. Oracle Certified Associate is the first rung of the Oracle certification ladder. Next is the flagship Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) credential, which certifies an individual’s ability to manage, develop, or implement enterprise-wide databases and other software. Oracle Certified Master (OCM) is Oracle most advanced accreditation. IBM offers a dizzying array of certifications surrounding its DB2 product series. The main credentials are IBM Certified Database Associate, Database Administrator, Application Developer, and Advanced Database Administrator. Sybase has two sets of certifications for its Adaptive Server Enterprise product: ASE Administrator Associate and ASE Administrator Professional; and ASE Developer Associate and ASE Developer Professional.

As previously mentioned, Microsoft shops are expected in 2010 to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 and the Windows 7 client, and perhaps install Exchange Server 2010 and SharePoint 2010 as well. Windows administration skills is going to be key for many enterprises implementing and maintaining existing and upgraded systems.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 certifications at the MCTS level cover configurations for Active Directory, networking, and applications. Certifications available for the MCITP level are Server 2008 Server Administration, Enterprise Administration. In a November blog posting in Microsoft’s Born to Learn blog, the company wrote that the first of its Windows Server 2008 virtualization exams would be entering beta soon. The exams will cover server virtualization, desktop virtualization, and virtualization administration. Windows 7 pros can certify as MCTS: Windows 7 – Configuration, and MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7.

Our recent article "Top Certifications in Demand Today" listed desktop support as a hot skill. In Global Knowledge’s 2010 salary survey, it was named as the 10th most sought-after skill this year. In the June article, we quoted Robert Half Technology Executive Director Dave Willmer as saying that businesses will need desktop support personnel to support new workers as organizations begin hiring as the economy improves. The introduction of Microsoft Windows 7 is also expected to generate additional interest.

Microsoft currently provides the MCITP: Consumer Support Technician, and MCITP: Enterprise Support Technician certifications, but they are based on Windows Vista. Microsoft, in its Born to Learn blog, in November said that it is working on a MCITP: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technican certification. Prospective candidates are advised to prepare for 680: Win 7, Configuring and 685: Win 7, EDST.



Ever since project management was introduced to IT field, our lives as software development professionals have been scheduled around Projects. We literately are living with Projects. After we are done with one project, the next one comes. Or even better, the next one comes before the previous one finishes. If we are not doing a project, we must be busy planning for the next project. While we are so buried in the coming and going projects, it’s a good chance that we have missed the whole picture.


So, what’s a Project any way?

The official definition by Project Management Institution: A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

A project has the following characteristics:

  • Temporary
  • Have definite beginning and end
  • Create unique product or service
  • Have objective that indicate completion
  • Progressive Elaboration

By nature, a project is a temporary endeavor. Ultimately, it’s just the “means” not the goal. It takes us from one place to another. But, it’s the journey, not the destiny.


What’s the destiny, then? What’s the core? What’s the not-so-temporary thing in our work?

That’s the Product or more specifically, the Software Application, in software/IT industry.

A Product Development Team is responsible to create and continuously improve a software application that serves some meaningful business purposes.

A product/software application has its own life cycle:

  • Initial creation: from non-exist to the first Production release
  • Continuous improvements: as long as a product has users, it requires continuously maintenance (bug fixes) and improvements (new features)
  • Termination: just as anything concrete, a product may die, meaning users cease to use it. It maybe because the company goes out of business or simply because it’s replaced with another better Product.

The Projects happen in between a Product’s life cycle. We may have projects to initially design the database and the architecture. There maybe other maintenance projects to adding new features or doing refactory for the existing architecture. A formal termination/transition project may exist just to transfer the data out the phrasing out application to the new application.

Next time, when we think of the projects we are doing now, we can also think about the Product behinds it and where in the lifecycle of that Production this project fits in. That will help us better understand the goals of the current project.


Matter of fact, when we think deeper, handing out the application to the users is hardly the only thing we do. We also spend a lot of our time doing the following:

  • Deploy, Configure and Host the application
  • Technical Support
  • Document/Training
  • Manage the capacity
  • Manage the availability
  • Manage the service level
  • Manage the security
  • Manage the business continuity (disaster recovery)

In short, we provide a full spectrum of IT services to our users. And users actually evaluate us by all the services we provide not just by the Product (software application) we deliver.

So, it’s time to think what kind of Services we would like to provide to our business users. Then determine what kind of Products we need to deliver. Eventually, we will get to the Projects we need to accomplish to deliver the Product and/or the Service.

After all, it’s the IT Services we delivered that matters to our users, not the projects we are working on. Projects are just the tool we use to organize our work in order to provide better Services.

Jumping out of the boxes of the Projects, we will eventually find a wild wide world of Services, waiting for us to explore!

An opportunity to manage an existing software development team opened up in another city. Due to personal reasons, I cannot make the move. However, it triggered me to think what I should do if I am asked to take a lead on a new development team.

Leading an existing team is absolutely harder than building a new team up from scratch. The big difference is the trust between you and your teammates basically doesn’t exist at all. Nor does the trust between you and your partners from sales, service, technical support and other IT teams like analysts, testing and deployment.

All you can build upon is the chemistry between you and your hiring manager. He/she must have some deep confidence in you otherwise he/she won’t hire you to do the job. However, if that trust is built upon the first impression established through reading your resume and briefly talking to you in the interview, it can turn sour pretty quickly if things are not going on well. You are also facing the risk of losing your hiring manager suddenly and completely due to some reorganization, which is common in big enterprises.

I have witnessed a dozen or so new managers come and go leaving no trace. This is definitely dangerous water even for experienced navigators. Don’t imagine you will quickly shine as much as you did in the old familiar post. We all have to realize that our current success is built upon years of hard works and good relationships we established over a long period of time.

So, what will I do if I have to take the hat as the manager of a new team? How to secure the success of the new team? I will do it in three phrases.

Phrase 1: Learn and Understand

The important thing to keep in mind is that things are different! All dev teams are different in three perspectives: People, Process and Technologies.

People is the most important factor in the equation. There are three groups of people critical to get my job done. My boss/manager, my peers and my team mates. They are EQUALLY important. Yes, my boss can hire and fire me. No doubt, he/she is important. But, my peers, the managers of the analysts team, the QA team, the deployment team, the sales, marketing, service, technical support, hosting center, network engineering, other applications teams we need to integrate with, can also determine if my day will end up with smooth humming or frustrating yelling. And my team mates, they are the key performers. There is not much one people can achieve but for a team, there is no limits. By the way, my team mates are more familiar with the product, the process and the technologies than I do. They are the residents and I am the new comer.

There are many things to be understood about people. I will start with understanding their motives (what makes them come to work everyday) and their priorities (career, family, or self-realization, etc.) first. Then, how do them prefer to communicate, verbally (face to face/phone) or written (email, messaging, etc.) and what’s their communication style, casual or formal. For my team mates, I will go deeper. I would like to understand their strengths. One of my former bosses asked me to take a test of StrengthFinder 2.0 to discover the 5 strengths I have. I found that useful both to me and him. It won’t hurt to get up close and personal like knowing the educational background, the families, kids’ names and birthday, favorite sports team, etc. All those will set the great foundation of strong future relationships.

To understand the Process, I will follow through the application life cycles, from requirement, development, test to deployment, operation and optimize. Along this cycle, I will understand which team is involved, who is the head of that team, what tool is used, who maintain that tool, where are the documents, how products (new build) goes from one step to the next. There may be some vertical processes like budgeting, security, availability, capacity, service continuity (disaster recovery) to be understood.

One thing worth taking note is the current stage of the product. Managing a product that has never been released to Production and a well established Product in maintenance mode is fundamentally different.

As a development manager, the technologies details are not as important as the people and the process. So, I won’t drill down into all the nuts and bolts of the application. But, I must know all the business functions of the product, all the internal modules, their relationship, who the domain expert for each module is and all the external touch points.

Those above are all basic homework for a new development manager. Besides that, I will specifically understand the following:

  • Goals/Expectations: What to achieve in what time frame?
  • Challenges/Problems: What are the problematic areas? What are people constantly complaining about? What make the developers’ life miserable? Where are the mines and traps?
  • Image: How do my boss and partners see my team? If negatively, why?

This phrase may take several weeks to several months depending on how big the team and how complicate the process and organizational structure is. I will definitely have a talk with my new boss to get his/her agreement first. I will refrain from making any big changes in this period. Maintaining the “business as usual” status will be the best.

If the team or the product is in bad shape before I take the lead, this period may post a challenge. I may feel a lot of pressures to make quick moves to show some improvements. Then, this phrase must be shorten or may be combined with the second phrase.

Phrase 2: Build Trust

I strongly believe that productive works can only be produced by good team work. Good team work comes out of Trust. Lacking of trust will end up with all the internal barriers, unnecessary power struggles, finger pointing and inefficient communications.

But, as I realized already, a new development manager doesn’t enjoy the luxury of trust in the new poison. So, the next logical thing to work on is to build up trust.

First thing to do is to show people I really care. Reaching out to everybody in Phrase 1 and trying to understand them is a positive message to demonstrate I care. I will take one step further to show people I care by communicating back to them about my understandings of their expectations, their priorities, and maybe their frustrations too. Along with that, I will show my intentions to work with them in finding the solutions.

Next step, I will demonstrate that I am trustworthy. I can deliver what I promise.

To do that, I will pick the lowest hanging fruit with the highest priority. There is a simple formula to identify that specific area, Visibility = Business Value X Impact / Previous Performance. That means this area delivers enormous value to our customer, has significant impact not only to our customer’s experience but also to our partners’ performance, but previously the team either neglected or did a lousy job. Improvement in this area will have the biggest visibility and can help turning around the negative image of my team.

Once this area is identified, I will do the following:

  • Define the goal

Based on the understanding of the expectations, I will set the short term and the long term goal for this area. This goal must be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). More details about goal-setting can be found in a previous blog of mine.

  • Establish the measurements

Measurement is always the first step to achieve a goal, which must be measurable. Without the measurement, I cannot prove to anybody that our team makes some progress in this area towards the predefined goal.

The measurement should be Key Performance Indicators for this area. For example, for availability, it should be percentage of system availability, for development efficiency, it should be number of features/bug fixes in each release, for problem management, it should be number of production issues, etc.

The measurements must be published periodically, every month, every three months or every release. It should be distributed to all the concerned parties, not limited to IT department. The more external pressure, the more motivations to improve the measurements towards the goal.

All the measurements come with some management costs. So, I will prefer automatic measurements coming out of some tools or software programs. That will guarantee the objectiveness of the measurement and also cut the management costs.

  • Find the path

Goals set. Measurements published. Baseline established. Expectations sky-high. Pressures piled up. How to deliver?

I can drill upon my previous experiences and my technology know-how. But, that won’t be enough and won’t be efficient.

The key here is to release the creative talents of my teammates. It’s not about myself. It’s always about the team. It’s about establishing the new image of the team.

They know the system better than I do. They know the processes better than I do. They already know how to fix the problems! From my years of experience in IT industry, I can safely bet my money on it that somebody in the team already knows where the problem is and how to fix it. They are either not willing to bring up their ideas or they haven’t been giving the opportunity to express themselves.

I will setup several brainstorm sessions and a lot of one-on-one conversations with all my teammates to find out the right path to achieve the goal.

It’s very important that the entire team will feel he/she is involved in defining the path, the solution. It will be their personal success too if we succeed as a team. Any bright solution will fall apart badly without the whole-hearted support from the team. There will be different ideas and maybe fierce debates. People with lower voice volume may feel left out or rejected. It’s my responsibility to make sure everybody feel their voice is heard and seriously considered. To broker such a consensus is a true challenge of my leadership.

Eventually, we will have a plan, a roadmap to achieve the goal. I will have one or two backup plans in case the first one didn’t work out. I will communicate the plan(s) out to all the stakeholders to get their buy-in.

  • Improve iteratively

I am not a believer of luck. All the achievements are results of continuous hard works. So, I will never expect to achieve the high-shooting goal in short period of time. That’s cheating. I will break down the long term goal into small achievable steps. Each is just a hand’s reach from the previous one.

I will work with my teammates to carry out the plan we determined. Things may go wrong. We may have to put in some long hours. So be it.

But, I won’t stick to the plan without flexibility. A plan is just a plan, a reference and a guide. I will periodically measure our progress to see if we are on the right track towards the goal or we are heading the wrong direction. As a team, we will constantly revisit the plan according to our progresses and modify the plan if necessary.

If we fail to achieve intermediate goal, we will admit honestly to the stakeholders. Give them our honest understandings of the reasons for the failure and the remedy plans. I will always remember building trust is more important than actually achieving the goal. I won’t risk losing the trust to cover up a mistake.

I believe we as a team can make significant difference by focusing on one specific area and by go through goal and measurement setting, path finding and iterative improvements.

Delivering what we promise to our partners constantly will build up the trust level. In the process of delivering, I will also build up the trust among the team. As a team, we can work together to deliver some outstanding results. That positive feedback is essential to the team-building effort.

Phrase 3: Continuous Improvement

After the initial success and the sense of establishment, I will move forward to make some adjustments that have long lasting results.

I believe the impressive Productivity come from good Practices. Good Practices come from good Processes. Good Processes come from the good Cultures.

If I would like to get some short term achievements, I will focus on Practices. If I would like to establish some long-lasting results, I will focus on changing the Cultures and Processes.

I have written some blogs about the ideal cultures for a development organization including goal-oriented, innovation and humanism. I will add continuous improvement to the equation. Continuously improvement means never being satisfied at the current status and always thinking of how to make further improvements to get better results. Time goes by. Change is constant. Any good design or smart policies will soon be obsolete. Contemplating on the previous successes leads to future failures for certain. Only team seeking for continuous improvement can continuously stay current and relevant.

The ideal cultures can only be cultivated by establishing the aligning processes and policies. For a development team, the processes determine our everyday activities e.g. coding, source control, deployment, testing, production support, performance tuning, capacity planning, etc. In my experience, the ineffective and inefficient processes attribute to most of the problems of the development teams.

There is no one recipe for all the development teams. The industry standards, such as ITIL, PMP, RUP or Agile, can be used as references. But each development manager must determine the right processes for the development team according to the size of the team, the mix of the team members, the available skill sets, the external requirements, the available toolsets, etc. Establishing the right processes is another delivery iteration requiring goal setting, path finding and continuous improvements.

Besides achieving the external goals for the business, I will put people development at the same importance. The output of the team is the sum of the output of the individuals in the team. Developing my team members is the most efficient way to improve the productivity of the team. But, more importantly, helping other people achieving their life goals is the most rewarding thing I can think of.

In a team I worked before, all the team members were required to attend an educational course of “The 7 habits”. The course was based on Steven Covey’s best seller book, “The 7 habits of the most effective people”. I personally benefit tremendously from that book. I will encourage my team member to either read the book or attend that course.

I will start with understanding the career goals of my team mates and help them achieve their goals. I will help each of my team members to build a career development plan and assist them to achieve their career goals with their every day works. The best way to achieve that is by empowering them. They should gradually cultivate the capabilities to make independent decisions in the areas they are responsible for and I will make sure those areas expand as their capabilities grow. Eventually, I would like to see one or more of my teammates can fully take over my job with the same effectiveness and efficiency. That will be the celebration time for me and the time for me to move on to new challenges.

Leading an unfamiliar team is no doubt a challenge for anybody. But, it can also be rewarding. The uncertainty and the new challenges are the things that make the experience exciting and worth expecting. I am confident that I can make a difference by going through steps of understanding, building trust and continuous improvements. I am looking forward for future opportunities to put through those ideas into actions. And opportunity only favors prepared minds.

As the “father of management” Peter Drucker pointed out, 21 century is the century of knowledge economy. For a business to thrive in such economy, the most important capital is not physical nor fiscal but human. Who can recruit and retain the best minds in town will be the winner of the game.

Even in an economical downturn like now, while the unemployment rate in United States has gone over 10%, talented people still have plenty of opportunities awaiting them and they ARE making the move. They are not scared of the weak job market. They don’t care about the job security. Because they have a totally different needs than people who are worrying about keeping their jobs in the hard time.

The great psychologist, Abraham Maslow, published a famous theory called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” more than 50 years ago in 1943. That theory reveals to us the fundamental and universal human needs.

This theory organizes human needs into five categories, physical, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion

Safety: security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, of property

Love/Belonging: friendship, family, sexual intimacy

Esteem: respect of others, respect by others

Self-actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts

These needs are predetermined in that order of importance, often depicted as a pyramid. “The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.”

In another words, if we would like to engage and motivate talented people, we have to satisfy ALL their needs, from low level to high level.

Here are some examples what tips we can use to satisfy various levels of needs of the talented employees:

  • Physiological:
    • No sex harassment
    • Comfortable work environment
    • Pay fairly with a good compensation strategy
  • Safety:
    • Play by rule, set the clear boundary at the first place
    • No finger pointing, don’t blame good will
    • Award creativity,
  • Love/Belonging:
    • Treat people nicely – Equally, Flexibility of work time, Respect, Intimacy (friendship, family), Fairly
    • Team atmosphere: Create the team (physical tokens, like flags, songs, rituals e.g. weekly meeting), Inclusive, Sharing, Help each other, Protection from outside blames
  • Esteem
    • Establish ownership: Specialist, Owner of an functional area, responsibilities, Expertise
    • Contribution: being listened, participated in decision making
  • Self-actualization
    • Challenge: Throw challenging works
    • Vision: Clear vision of the future, whole picture
    • Progress: Career path, growth planning, achievements, honors, awards
    • Honor: External feedbacks, Marketing, Ads.

Most importantly, a good manager should assess the right level of needs of his individual team mates. Some people may not be paid fairly. Some are paid well but may be worried about his/her job security. Some may feel safe but may feel isolated and doesn’t belong to the team. Others feel loved but not respected. He/she would like to participant in the decision making process. More senior people may feel stagnant in career and would like to move upwards.

An important aspect of the Maslow’s theory is that satisfied need won’t motivate people any more. Only the unsatisfied needs motivate. That’s why understanding people’s level of needs is the key. Continuing to tend to the low level needs after they are satisfied, e.g. raising the salaries after they are already above market level, won’t help. In the meanwhile, neglecting the lower level needs is also dangerous. Putting a lot of responsibilities to an under-paid employee is a fool-proof recipe to get a resignation letter on your desk.

The talented people are the most valuable assets to our organization. Retaining them requires open conversation with them to find out their needs and thoughtful efforts to satisfy their needs. Maslow’s theory is there to help.

I was listening to the Berlin Philharmonic playing Brahms Symphony No. 3 & No. 4 in Carnegie Hall last Friday night. While I was indulged completely in the beautiful harmony of the music, suddenly I thought about the frustrations I encountered day after day dealing with the Integration of the different IT applications for our company. How I wish those IT systems and the IT teams support them can work flawlessly and in total harmony just like this piece of music! And right at that moment, I realized the key problem here. It’s not because we don’t have the world’s greatest players. It’s because we don’t have a conductor who understand not only all the instruments but also the overall music!

We have a Portal team that develops and maintains our company Portal. We have another team in charge of the application that handles single sign one, authentication and authorization. We have multiple teams who maintains IT applications that specialize in some business functions. We are talking about dozens of IT applications and hundreds of servers. But, that’s the least complicate part.

The most daunting factor is the organization structure. Each application team at least has an analyst team, a develop team, a testing/QA team, and a deployment/configuration management team. On top of that, we have multiple hosting centers, some centralized and some decentralized system engineer, network engineer and DBA teams, various types of technical support teams, performance testing team, capacity planning team, etc. And they are located all over the world in various time zones.

Our goal is to glue everything together, hide all the complexities and give our customer a single entry point for all the business functions they need. This task is certainly no less complicate than the Berlin Philharmonic’s job of delivering Brahms to New York audience.

I can feel that each team is doing their best to make their parts of the system working. Everybody want to do a good job in their own scope. But, nobody really knows how the whole system is glued together, especially the nitty-gritty details. So, whenever an issue happened, people started with saying “It’s not my fault so it’s not my problem” and continued with finger pointing. After several rounds of finger pointing, the right person who know the right details will be dug out. He or she will simply fix the problem in 5 minutes. But it’s never his or her problem since he or she doesn’t even know that integration scenario is possible to come to his/her part of the world!

In my opinion, nobody is in charge is the key reason the integration process functions so inefficiently. We need a conductor who knows how to play violins, what the oboes sound like, how to use to drums. No only that, he/she knows exactly what kinds of music the Orchestra would like to deliver. He/she knows exactly the time when the strings should enter and when the woods should fade out.  He/she will pick the right players into the game and rehearsal the Orchestra time and time again until the end result is satisfactory to his high standard. He/she will be the one who receives the applauds or the blames. Actually, a good conductor will take the blame himself but attribute the success to his/her players.

We have conductors in each application team but we lack such conductor in Integration level. Without this central control person/team, the Integration process is doomed to perform in disarray, like a Orchestra without a conductor, only yielding inharmonic melodies.


Serving in an IT department of a non-IT company, I learned over the years one or two things about our business partners, who are our best friend and patrons, at the same time our ultimate source of headaches.

Bittersweet Partnership

After all, my job is to help them to be successful in their fields, in Sales, Marketing, Finance or Service. In a sense, IT department exists only because our business partners need us. And we need them too, to define the requirements and specs, to decide about the business logics, to promote the products we developed, to sponsor our projects, to give us feedbacks for improvements, etc. So, it’s truly a partnership.

However, we constantly fight with our business partners. They want too much from us within unrealistic short time. We insist on an absolutely necessary infrastructure change they don’t understand and consider too risky. We are furious that they keep changing their mind about the requirements in the last minute. They are bitter about the delay of the new release. This list can go on and on.

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Happy New Year!

I guess a lot of people are very happy to see the year 2008 passed by, just like myself. What a dramatic year! First we witnessed the house value dropping and foreclosures in the neighborhood, then the crisis of the subprime mortgage. Soon, the bad news crawled all over the financial sector. Investment banks, insurance companies, commercial banks, even big names like Bear Stearns and Leman Brothers burned down into ashes overnight. The darkness, like cancer, continued to spread into other industries, such as automobile and even high-tech. The stock market crashed. The unemployment rate soared. The words we heard most in the past several months are “great depression” and “bail-out”, not what we usually heard even in a bear market.

And the worst part, it’s not over yet. Although debating among each other, the economists agreed the economy won’t recover until the later half of 2009. And that’s from the most optimistic point of view.

With all the negative news, it’s very easy to feel depressed or stressed out in this unpleasant time.

Kind of like feeling depressed in the winter in the northeastern United States (where I am living), chilly, heavy wind blow, cloudy sky, crooked tree branches and yellow grass, no sign of life.

But, wait! We still got Christmas in winter time! Even the darkest nights were lightened up by the holiday lights!

Where can we find hopes and opportunities in the depressing days like now? Here are four directions to look:

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I talked about the two most important cultures for a development organization, Goal Oriented and Innovation in my previous two posts. For a development organization to survive, it must satisfy the goals of the business it belongs to. It must align all its activities with the business goals and strive to achieve those goals. If the development organization would like to play a more important role in the business than just providing “commodity” technical services, it must continuously innovate in technologies and processes, in development process as well as the business processes.

But how can a development organization achieves its preset goals and how can it innovate? What’s the ultimate strength of a development organization? Not the thousands of computers it possessed and managed, not the technologies it embraced, not products or services it delivered, or the intellectual properties it possessed. I can be one hundred percent sure to say that the core competitive advantage a development organization has is its people. People are the most important resource that a development organization can draw upon to meet any ambitious goals it may have. Innovations are like springs, flowing freely to all directions. But, if we seek its origin, we will always find one or several highly educated, talented and engaged persons. Thus comes our third ideal culture:

Ideal Culture Number Three: Humanism

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In my previous post, I mentioned the reasons why I would like to write down the ideal culture in my opinion and explained the most important culture for a development organization, “Goal-Oriented”. It’s deeply embedded with the purpose of the existence of the development organizations.

If the purpose of a development organization is to help the business serve the customers, to grow the revenue and to improve the margin by cutting cost, how can it achieve that goal? The answer is sound and clear, through innovation. Thus the second ideal culture:

Ideal Culture Number Two: Innovation

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I thought a lot about the ideal culture for a research and development organization recently. Since I graduated from school, I have been in different development organizations. In each organization, there was something I like and others I dislike. Well, life is always like that. You almost have to swallow the sweetness along with the bitterness because they come together.

Although any organization has its pros and cons, there is nothing preventing me from imagining a perfect organization which has the ideal culture, with my own standards. It can serve two purposes for myself.

First of all, it can serve as a benchmark for me to evaluate any organization I am part of or will be part of. Since, in my opinion, the culture is the most important factor that affects one’s effectiveness in an organization, everyone should seriously consider the culture if he or she considers job satisfaction and career achievements important in his or her life.

And even better, I can carry the culture with me. No organization is perfect. But, at least I can change myself to follow the principles that I deeply believe. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the World”. By practicing the culture I desire, I am able to create a environment/atmosphere around myself anywhere I go. After all, it should be we change the environment, not the environment changes us.

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