Be a winner. Don’t recruit, build an employment system

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One of my favourite quotes is from Scott Adams:

Losers have goals. Winners have systems.

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip, which many would say provides perceptive insight into how many businesses are run today and the personalities inside them.

This systems based approach lines up with some recent articles I’ve written:

Every business today is a software business

and

We all need to automate more

because, probably the place where I see the least use of systems is when it comes to employing and training staff. Most businesses cast a random net looking for people with unique skills and experience, but when they employee people they find, they largely don’t develop them further in any structured way. They hope that they will ‘accumulate’ knowledge throughout their time and apply to the business adding value along the way. That is a pretty haphazard approach to probably the most important resource in a business.

I think a far better model to emulate is brought to us from the military. They take recruits, from all walks of life and experience, then put them through standardised training to get people with the skills they need. They have done this successfully for thousands of years. It is a proven model for results. Why don’t more commercial businesses take this approach?

I had a recent conversation with a technology provider who was having trouble finding a high level cloud technician for a role. Given the the constantly changing cloud technology field, how would you ever expect to find someone like that I asked? To attract such a candidate the business is going to have a huge salary package, well above what the small business could afford. But he insisted that this is exactly ‘what his business needed to succeed’. No it doesn’t! That approach to me is completely bonkers because you are putting all your eggs in a single basket with someone would could choose to leave at any point in time, including immediately after starting.

I suggest that a far better approach would be to build a ‘training system’ to produce the candidates you require. You can take people with much lower skills sets and put them through a largely continuous automated training process to give them the skills needed. If the candidate resigns or ‘drops out’ of the system at any point, you simply feed the next candidate into the start from which, again, out will pop exactly the person with the skills that you need.

The other advantage with an ‘employment system’ like this is that the business owns it, manages it and controls it. It isn’t reliant on someone who could leave a the business at any stage.

When you speak with most managers they say they employ on attitude and develop skills but that is definitely not what I see executed, especially in IT reseller businesses. Most get rushed into selecting a candidate because they have a desperate need and then hope against hope that they will work in that role. In the majority of cases, they don’t, which means it’s right back to recruitment stage again.

The challenge with systems is that don’t grow on trees or magically appear when you rub a lamp. They need to be designed. They need to built. They need to be maintained and they need to be automated. I’ll go back to one of my other favourite quotes I’ve used before recently:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

― Albert Einstein

and say that compound interest ONLY works when you invest FIRST! All you need to do is start and keep working at it. Too many people focus on the end result rather than what they need to do NOW to move the ball forward.

I’ve spoken before about:

Core Microsoft Cloud IT Professional skills

and

The benefits of certification

It would also be hard to say that there is not an abundance of training available today from many, many sources on just about any topic you can name. Leverage these, put a program together, track people’s process and enhance it over time. If you are smart, you’ll get those who are undertaking the training to provide feedback and even adjust it for you. Thus, each new employee is helping to improve your training system.

Many employers incorrectly fear that if they train employees, they will leave. Many studies show the reserve is actually true. Employees prefer businesses that provide training and invest in their careers rather than those that don’t. Besides, as I said earlier, if an employee chooses to leave, you just insert another one into the system you have created.

The chances of you obtaining a suitably qualified candidate in the market today is pretty low. Instead, do what the military does and has done for thousands of years to great success, take anyone and put them into a system that creates the desired end result. By doing so you gain independence and you build another item of unique value in your business. Be a winner, build an employment system.


Every business today is a software business

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Following on from a post I wrote recently:

We all need to automate more

I’d like to continue my musing about the challenge of finding qualified staff, especially if you are a technology provider.

Traditionally, IT Providers have looked for staff that can perform a certain defined role in their business and that has kind of been where it ends. When that person leaves, they need to find a similar soul to replace them. There ain’t much leverage here if we are honest is there? Technology and technology businesses should be about leverage.

The main fault lies with the skill set that IT providers are recruiting for these days.

A very famous tech luminary wrote an article back in 2011 called:

Why software is eating the world

and if you haven’t read it, you should. You should also be mindful of that fact that it is now over ten years old! Given that context, I feel pretty confident in saying that EVERY business is in fact a software business today. Every business relies more on IT systems that it ever has and the core of IT systems is software NOT hardware or infrastructure. Problem is, most business don’t yet realise they ARE a software business!

So why is it that most IT businesses recruit people for old world hardware and infrastructure roles? Don’t they realise the world has well and truly been eaten now it is 2022? Perhaps a reason they can’t successfully recruit is what they consider ‘suitable’ candidates has moved on so much from such traditional roles to roles that embrace what modern technology is all about today. Software. Perhaps the reason people can’t be found is that no one wants those traditional roles anymore! Maybe?

In essence, any modern role, especially in industries that provide technology services should include software as a core capability, most importantly, the ability to code. No, I am not saying that everyone needs to be a C sharp developer. What I am saying that our world today is built on code and it takes people who understand that and can speak that language to successfully support it. The past is about speed and feeds, aka hardware. That is now pretty much an arcane ancient language. Bandwidth is the principal commodity of the modern workplace not CPU speed or RAM.

A traditional IT provider should therefore be looking for DevOps people. Those that can do the IT operations, create users, reset passwords, etc as infrastructure types have done for years but also be comfortable with creating automation processes and scripting to reduce the precious amount of human capital that needs to be invest to achieve these aims.

Another benefit of employing DevOps types is that the code they develop can be leveraged across many customers, unlike their time. A typical infrastructure tech is limited to a fixed linear set of tasks between certain times in a day. Code however, can run constantly across multiple environments with minimal human interaction.

Still further, when a DevOps type leaves the organisation their code stays with the organisation, whereas when a traditional infrastructure technician leaves they leave no real value beyond their actual time in the business. That is not playing smart business in my books, that is simply trying to throw resources at a problem which you can never win, because you are always going to have to replace the resource at some point in time. That situation has taken many business this long to realise. Problem is, now they have, they are not well placed to deal with it. All they can do is scramble for more resources which are becoming scarcer everyday. In short, your staff are going to move on, that is a fact. You will need to replace them. Is your only solution simply to replace staff as they leave with similar candidates? That isn’t a game you can win because you’ll always be time poor when recruiting and never find an exact replacement, and even if you do, that replacement could resign immediately and you are again faced with the same dilemma. What’s the definition of insanity again?

I think another reason why so few people want to do traditional IT infrastructure work is that it is purely and simply ‘slog’ work. By this I mean that your reward for closing a trouble ticket is, guess what? Another trouble ticket and then another and then another at infinitum. If you want to disincentivise  and burn people out, keep giving the same grinding work over and over again like trouble tickets. Most IT managers would hate that themselves yet they enforce it on their subordinates. To me, that is utter madness because you are treating people like machines and to my knowledge we should have all left that behind in the Victorian age!

An emphasis on code and software allows expression, it allows the human brain to to what it is good for. To create, to be imaginative and innovate. Most people entering the workplace are more digitally native than any previous generation. They have grown up with technology and the Internet. They don’t fear the technology but most businesses today still constrain their workers by time management methodologies rather than measuring them on result based outcomes. Most are more comfortable seeing workers put in the ‘hours’ (whether or not they are being efficient is irrelevant, as long as they are visibly burning time is the key) rather than providing incentives based on outcomes (like say adding value to a customers business). Again, pure and utter madness in our modern technology landscape.

Anyone today who as even a slight interest in IT is going to be into software and coding as they should be. In fact, EVERYONE, yes EVERYONE needs to learn how to code. It is the language of our age. This, as I said earlier, doesn’t mean you need to be a developer. What it does mean is that you have a greater array of tools you can use to solve problems for one piece of code can build on another and be shared with others thereby leveraging the initial input invested to create it.

Software is a problem solving tool that should be part of everyone’s professional skills. It ain’t hard. There is so much free stuff out their on the myriad of languages available to code in. BASIC, PowerShell, C++, Java, and so on, and so on. Just go to Youtube and you’ll find someone willing to teach you code. The more time you spend learning and implementing code, the better you’ll get at it. Coding is a skill, it ain’t a talent. Everyone who already codes at some point learnt how to code, they weren’t born with the ability to write quality Python out of the womb!

If your are selling your skills into today’s market, skill up on programming. Even knowing Excel macros is going to put you at least one step in front of your competition who can’t code. Because, if you can’t code you’ll be consigned to role where people take advantage of your time not you brain. In essence, you are trading your personal time for money and no matter what they pay you, that transaction is never enough as you’ll never get your time again.

So ask yourself the question, have I (and the business I may run) truly embraced the modern technology world that software has ‘eaten’ or are you living in the past hoping to trade time for money? Because if you are living in the past still, eventually the appetite of software will catch up with you and automate what you do faster, better and cheaper than you ever could. Where will that then leave you?

If you own a business, you should looking for people who support this model. That is, those who are software aware. Those who can use software to solve problems better than anyone else. Allow them to unleash the true capabilities of the human mind rather than constraining them to a treadmill of endless problem tickets. We want creators, not biological robots to burn out and throw away. That means businesses need to create the environments to support this. Look around and ask yourself whether your business today truly supports that environment. I’d have a guess and say that it probably doesn’t. You better watch out then, the software tyrannosaurus rex now roams freely.

Techwerks 15

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I am happy to announce that Techwerks 15 will be held in Melbourne CBD on Thursday May 26th 20212.

The course is limited to 30 people and you can sign up and reserve your place now! You reserve a place by completing this form:

http://bit.ly/ciaopsroi

or by sending me an email (director@ciaops.com) expressing your interest.

The content of these all day face to face workshops is driven by the attendees. That means we cover exactly what people want to see and focus on doing hands on, real world scenarios. Attendees can vote on topics they’d like to see covered prior to the day and we continue to target exactly what the small group of attendees wants to see. Thus, this is an excellent way to get really deep into the technology and have all the questions you’ve been dying to know answered. Typically, the event produces a number of best practice take aways for each attendee. So far, the greatest votes are for deeper dives into the Microsoft Cloud including Microsoft 365, Azure, Intune, Defender for Endpoint, security such as Azure Sentinel and PowerShell configuration and scripts, with a focus on enabling the technology in SMB businesses.

Recent testimonial – “I just wanted to say a big thank you to Robert for the Brisbane Techworks day. It is such a good format with each attendee asking what matters them and the whole interactive nature of the day. So much better than death by PowerPoint.” – Mike H.

The cost to attend in Melbourne is:

Gold Enterprise Patron = Free

Gold Patron = $33 inc GST

Silver Patron = $99 inc GST

Bronze Patron = $176 inc GST

Non Patron = $399 inc GST

I hope to also have a streaming option available as well. The costs for this will be:

Gold Enterprise Patron = Free

Gold Patron = Free

Silver Patron = Free

Bronze Patron = $33 inc GST

Non Patron = $99 inc GST

I hope to see you there.

Build a system to solve staff challenges

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One of the major issues that will remain a challenge for most SMB IT resellers is the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. Many times I have been asked questions like – how much should I pay? Should I get a more senior person or more junior people? What skills do I need to look for when it comes to supporting the Microsoft Cloud? My response to that is to say that you are going about things the wrong way.

The challenge with staff is that they are human beings. This makes them imperfect for any task for which you employ them. Also, even if you do manage to employ the ‘prefect’ candidate, they can resign from the business at any time. Given the pace of Microsoft Cloud technologies there will always need to be further investment in skills and knowledge to remain effective. This is a hard job, as many business owners already know, but there is a far better approach in my books.

The thing that I don’t see readily implements in most businesses is a training and onboarding system. The idea is that you build a system that will produce the results or skill levels you are after. In that way, you can simply input just about any candidate at one end and out the other end will pop a highly effective and skilled member of your business.

Having a system means you don’t have to spend time looking for people with the ‘right’ technical skill level and paying them a fortune. You can in fact focus more on what is truly important when it comes to employees, attitude. As the saying goes, you can train skills but you can’t train attitude.

A good employee will also welcome a structured developed path that they can progress along. A system like this also allow the use of metrics to flag employees that are struggling and even though excelling, so they can be given more opportunities.

The biggest challenge obviously comes with building a system. Problem is that most people look at the end result, decide it is all too hard and then fall back on antiquated approaches that don’t work. The best way to start, is just to start! You don’t have to develop the prefect system immediately, you can grow into it over time. The important thing is to start and keep working on it, because as we know, the skills requirements will continue to change over time.

I wrote an article a while back:

Key skills for an IT Professional

that I would suggest is a good place to start when determining what training topics to look at. There are also many resources you can use to help people get skilled up and most are free. The secret is to set them out in a curriculum so people know what is required of them and what they need to learn. Simply leaving people to ‘learn by experience’ doesn’t cut it in this field any more. Likewise, learning on the customers’ dime is not a good business practice to do regularly.

A skilled employee has more confidence when they approach challenges and are much more likely to stay with a business that has invested in them and has a formal training system that encourages them to grow.

Best of all, because it is a system, it can be used over and over again when new employees are brought on board. This will also provide a consistency of knowledge throughout the business and if done right, promotes greater sharing of information and mentoring amoung staff. The idea is that you use the people who use the system to help build, extend and maintain it as they are best placed to do exactly that by already being part of the system. Remember, you should not see the system as limited just to the content it contains but also the people who utilise it. You want to create a system that suits a broad audience, who learn via different methods and learn at different speeds.

In short, investing your time looking for the ‘prefect’ employee is an ineffective approach to building the skills and team you need in a business. It is far better to invest in building the ‘prefect’ training system that you can have total control over, own and will give the desired output for just about any input.

My Tech Books – 2022

Tech is as much a lifestyle choice these days as it is a career. The geeks and nerds have risen to rule the world. Don’t believe me? Ask Bill Gates and Elon Musk! Sometimes it is good to step back and take a wide look at how technology has changed the world we live in – for better and worse.

My selections below, both fiction and non fiction, I have found to be enjoyable and thought provoking in many different ways and I recommend them to everyone who is interested in tech.

Notable mentions from 2021

  • Click here to kill everyone: Security and survival in a hyper-connected world – Bruce Schneier
  • Lights out: A cyberattack, a nation unprepared, survising the aftermath – Ted Koppel
  • Spam Nation: The inside story of organized crime – from global epidemic to your front door – Brian Krebs

You can follow all the books, tech, business, non-fiction I read and want to read over at Goodreads where I have an account. You can also view my activity via:

https://www.goodreads.com/director_cia

1. Daemon – Daniel Suarez [Fiction]

A glimpse into the future of where drones and augmented reality may take us. That may not necessarily be a good place either.

2. Freedom TM – Daniel Suarez [Fiction]

A follow up to Daemon. What happens when technology dominates the world? Who benefits?

3. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline [Fiction]

Much like the Matrix. What is life like if you live inside the machine? You can be just about anyone you choose. I also love this book for all the retro technology that was part of my life. TRS-80 anyone? This book has become so popular that there is now a movie. Believe me, the book is better.

4. Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers – Andy Greenberg [Non-Fiction]

This is a great book if you are interested in IT security. It is also a very current book which makes it even more engrossing. It is easy to read and quite comprehensive in its approach, not only dealing with the technology of security attack but also the geopolitical reasons and consequences.

It reveals that shadow world of nation state cyber attacks and illustrates how they are happening today and likely to increase in the future. The connected world of the Internet has brought us many benefits but it is now increasing risks as our dependencies increase to the point that there are few manual backups that don’t depend on technology.

I think this book is a real glimpse into the future and what we may be in store for in the even of rising global conflicts. If you like tech, you’ll love this!

5. Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for our Connected World – Marc Goodman [Non-fiction]

Technology will ultimately doom us all I believe because we are building our world on stuff that unfortunately places a low regard for security and privacy. This book will show you why that is a road to ruination.

6. Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon – Kim Zetter [Non-Fiction]

If you don’t believe cyber warfare is real then read this book to understand how software is now a weapon as potentially devastating as any nuclear device.

7. Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World – Bruce Schneier [Non-Fiction]

Security is important but it is important in context. We need to be rational when we consider our security not emotional. A great level headed approach to how we need to be secure.

8. American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt or the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road – Nick Bilton [Non-Fiction]

An amazingly detailed book on the rise and fall of Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the Silk Road web site. In here are asked to think about whether technology plays something more than a neutral role in today’s world.

9. The Cuckoos Egg – Clifford Stoll [Non-Fiction]

Before the Internet was in the public sphere it existed in the world of academia. This is the story of how one man’s search for the source of an accounting error uncovered something are more sinister.

10. This how they tell me the world ends: The cyberweapons arms race – Nicole Perlroth [Non-Fiction]

Highlights the challenges that society has created, mainly from its’ own doing and questions of how we go about fixing this so we don’t end causing infinite harm to both intended targets and unintended victims.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 282

I’m joined by Shiva Ford from Microsoft to talk about the importance of community and how it has formed a major part of the success of many people in the industry.

Take a listen and let us know what you think – feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:

https://ciaops.podbean.com/e/episode-282-shiva-ford/

Subscribe via iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/ciaops-need-to-know-podcasts/id406891445?mt=2

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ciaops/need-to-know-podcast?refid=stpr

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send me any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.

This episode was recorded using Microsoft Teams and produced with Camtasia 2021.

Brought to you by www.ciaopspatron.com

Resources

Shiva Ford – Twitter

@directorcia

What’s New in Microsoft Teams | December 2021

My podcasts 2022

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You can find the previous year’s selection here:

My podcasts 2021

I do spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, generally in between things, like travelling. However, there is a limit to how many you can consume in a week and that’s why I need to be very discerning about what I listen to.

Regulars

These podcasts are ones that I generally won’t miss an episode of.

Windows Weekly

The latest Microsoft news with some fun and entertainment along the way. Paul Thurrott’s musing make this podcast alone something worth listening to.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Some really great advice, business insights and strategy. Also lots of life lessons that I have found work really well for me. A weekly must listen for me.

Hardcore History

These tend to be quite long, like reading a book, but a very good and very interesting. Luckily, they are not that frequent, so it can make a nice change from all the tech stuff

The Intrazone

All the latest news and information about SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Teams and more directly from Microsoft.

Sync Up

A podcast focused on the Microsoft files experience around OneDrive from Microsoft.

MJF Chat

Mary Joe Foley interviewing someone in the technology field. What I really like about these are they are short and to the point. Makes it much easier to listen to on a regular basis.

Darknet Diaries

Really well produced cybersecurity focused podcast. Has a nice variety of topics and the content is good and well researched. If you enjoy the security side of IT you’ll love these episodes.

Security Unlocked

Largely focuses on Microsoft security and people inside Microsoft working on security. There are plenty of super smart people there but can be a little narrow at times, however, it does give you insight into the investments Microsoft are making around IT security.

Currently evaluating

These podcasts I listen to frequently, but maybe not every episode. Some of these may eventually get cut from the roster. Anything here has to provide real business value for it to remain long term.

Risky Business

I tend to only listen to the news and updates section, the sponsored content not so much. It has lots of good information across the general IT security landscape but also comes with a fair amount of unsolicited opinion and bias.

Microsoft Cloud Show

Tends to be somewhat developer focused and this means that stuff outside that wheel house can be quite wrong. You also get an amount of opinion and bias in the commentary, which again can, at times, be based on incorrect or irrelevant information. Regularly, loses focus to cover topics which may not be of interest to many.

Modern Finance

Another Kevin Rose project that looks at the latest developments in blockchain, cryptocurrency, web 3.0 and more. Kevin’s superpower is spotting trends early, that’s why I listen.

Once off podcasts

Think of these more of a book you’d read or a TV show you’d watch.

The Lazarus Heist

Another well produced podcast from the BBC that follows the trails of and attempt to steal and launder billions of dollars. Apparently, additional episodes are coming later this year. If you like Darknet Diaries, you’ll like this.


I churn through these mostly at 2x speed to allow me to get through as much content as possible. I do have a few other podcasts on my current podcasting app. I am always on the lookout for good podcasts business, technology, history, whatever. So if you can recommend something you like, I’m all ears. These days, if you have a topic of interested, you’ll find many podcasts you can listen to. Don;t be shy to try them and throw away ones that don’t suit you until you find what you like.

Finally, of course, there is my own podcasting effort:

Need to Know podcast

which covers the Microsoft Cloud (typically Microsoft 365 and Azure) as well as business topics. I encourage you to have a listen and me know what you think. 2022 will be the twelfth year that it has been available.

Hopefully, there is something of interest to you in what I listen to. Feel free to let me know as well as any recommendations you may have, as I said, I’m all ears!