Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Turn Your Expertise into Your Brand

Whether you are self-employed, employed by an organization, or a freelance contractor, developing a reputation as an expert can lead to new assignments and it can open up professional opportunities. Your reputation will help to build your brand. Your brand is what separates you from everyone else.
To Become an Expert
First realize that you don’t need to be the world’s foremost expert on something. Being an expert means knowing enough or being good enough to accomplish your projects and assignments well. Becoming an expert does not happen overnight. In addition, it's not just about your in-born talents. What makes people exceptionally skillful top performers in their field are:
  • Focus enables you pay attention to the task at hand. In addition, it helps you to ignore all the possible distractions that can pull you off your path.
  • Experience allows you to leverage what you have learned so that you can apply it to the next opportunity.
  • Keep working on assignments. You are going to have to put a lot of time and dedication into becoming an expert at anything. Doing so will improve your competency and skills. Remember that "practice makes perfect".
  • Humility will ensure that you understand your current level of expertise. In turn, you will look to learn what you need to move forward. Additionally, it allows you to see the importance to reaching out to others for assistance when needed.

Turn your Expertise into your Brand
  • Teach others what you know. When you can teach something, you are perceived as someone that must know a lot about that subject. Mentoring is a terrific way for people to develop a positive impression of you and your abilities. In turn, they may tell others.
  • Promote yourself via social media and other marketing tools. When doing so, focus on facts, not opinions. Tell the stories of your successes and where you implemented your expertise. It's difficult to convince others you are an expert simply by telling them you are an expert. When you demonstrate examples of your expertise, they believe that for themselves.
  • Advocate the subject of your expertise. Write articles or posts in blogs, comment on blogs and articles written by others, seek out and accept speaking engagements, and get interviewed by local newspapers and radio programs. With these opportunities, explain the topic of your expertise and why that is important to the reader/listener.
  • Expand your range of talents. Emphasize other skills that compliment your primary skill set. That demonstrates that you have a broad knowledge base in addition to your expertise. Also, you will not pigeon hole yourself into just one skill set.
Once you are seen as an expert in your particular field or with a specific skill, you will begin to establish your brand. That will open up the door for higher paying jobs and new business opportunities. In turn, that will help you to fuel your success even more.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What Cloud "...aaS" Could Mean to You

Are you confused about what technology is in "The Cloud"? If so, you might also be confused by "aaS". Simply, "aaS" is the acronym for "as a Service". Delivering information technology "as a service" is a licensing model where the software and hardware asset, and related maintenance and support, are offered as a subscription instead of being owned or leased. This is the essence of Cloud Computing.
In a traditional information technology asset acquisition model, you would purchase or lease hardware for placement in your own facility, or a leased facility under your control. For software, you would purchase licenses, either for perpetual use or for a fixed term. In addition, you would pay for maintenance and support on the hardware and software on a recurring basis for the useful life of the product at a cost annually of about 20-25% of the original purchase. In this model, you typically have a large capital cost for a product that continually diminishes both in terms of a financial and technological value.

In Cloud Computing, software and hardware are offered as a service by the technology provider, and the technology is typically (not always) installed and running at the technology provider's data center, not in your local data center. Instead of purchasing or leasing the technology, you subscribe to use it. The subscription cost is typically on a monthly basis, and covers all use, hosting, maintenance and support, as well as technology upgrades. Therefore, you do not have a large upfront (or recurring) capital expense. Instead, you have a recurring operating expense which can often be more cost effective.

What has allowed Cloud Computing to become more prevalent over the past few years is a result of an improved and more readily available high speed, high bandwidth internet. Internet Service Providers now offer high bandwidth internet connections at very reasonable costs. Many organizations need the high bandwidth internet connections to support the large amount of data transferred between the technology provider and their organization.

Cloud Service Models
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) - The service provider hosts servers, storage and other hardware, mostly virtually, with all hardware supporting services. The provided servers will host and run user applications and the service provider will handle all tasks related to system management, monitoring, maintenance, backup and resiliency planning for the subscribed infrastructure.

Platform aa Service (PaaS) - The service provider delivers hardware and software tools needed for application development. A PaaS provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure. As a result, PaaS frees users from having to install in-house hardware and software to develop or run a new application.

Software aa Service (SaaS) - The service provider distributes software (programs/apps) via their own hosted environment and makes the software available to clients over a network, typically the Internet. In addition, they include all support and upgrades for the subscribed software.
How Cloud Computing is Offered
Public Cloud - The service provider makes the technology, such as software applications and hardware, available to their clients over the Internet. The clients connect to the service provider's system to access the subscribed technology.

Private Cloud - Typically found in larger companies and organizations, the organization itself becomes the service provider. The organization's facility hosts and manages the technology and offers the services to their business groups. User costs are typically incurred and managed via internal budgeting practices.
Cloud Computing provides a simple way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the Internet. You would be wise to consider a Cloud Computing model when you need to replace or upgrade your technology. While there are many advantages to using or implementing a Cloud Computing methodology, I will address that in a future post.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bring Your Own Device

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is an increasing trend toward employee-owned devices within the workplace. Smartphones are the most common example. However, employees may also take their own tablets, laptops and USB drives for use in the workplace.

BYOD encourages company employees to work on the device they choose, accessing corporate email and applications via their own technology. The driving force behind BYOD is an IT self-sufficiency among company employees who already own and use personal technology. These devices are often newer and more advanced than the equipment deployed by many IT departments. Some key advantages to operating a BYOD strategy:
  • Increased employee satisfaction - Employees can work more comfortably and flexibly on equipment they know well.
  • Cost savings - Reduced corporate hardware spend, software licensing and device maintenance.
  • Better work-life balance - Employees who need to work from home already have the technology they need.
  • Productivity gains - Employees are happier, more comfortable and often work faster with their own technology.
While BYOD promises many benefits, it also increases pressure on the IT infrastructure to manage and secure devices and data:
Company-issued IT typically comes with an acceptable use policy, and it is protected by company-issued security that is managed and updated by the IT department. It can be trickier telling an employee what is, or is not, an acceptable use of their own equipment. 

Businesses that fall under compliance mandates (e.g. PCI DSS, HIPAA, or FDA) have certain requirements related to information security and safeguarding specific data. Those rules must be followed even if the data is on a laptop owned by an employee.

In the event that a worker leaves the company, segregating and retrieving company data can be a challenge. Obviously, the company will want to keep its data while the employee wants to keep his/her data out of the company.
What You Can Do
Make sure you have a clearly defined policy for BYOD that outlines the rules of use, ownership of data, and states up front what the expectations are. Lay out minimum security and virus protection requirements, or even mandate company-sanctioned security tools as a condition for allowing personal devices to connect to company data and network resources. Include this in your Employee Handbook, and get the policy agreement of all new hires.

Investigate deploying virtual desktop infrastructure, such as VMWare, Citrix and Remote Desktop. This is using the organization's server hardware to run desktop operating systems and application software, as well as controlling access to file-stored data, inside a virtual machine. Users access these virtual desktops using their existing PCs. All corporate security is managed on the virtual server.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Don't be Scared to Make a Presentation

You’re about to give a big presentation (or be the focal point in a meeting), and your nerves set in. You feel pressure in your chest, your breathing gets shallow, and you hear your heartbeat in your head. And suddenly, it seems inevitable that you’re going to mess this up and everyone will see.

The average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of their own death. However, there are ways to conquer your nerves before your next big presentation:

Prepare Thoroughly: The first and most obvious way to calm your fears is to do everything you can to prepare. Nerves are often triggered by surprises. There will always be surprises. However, you can limit their number and impact by researching your topic thoroughly, organizing your thoughts, identifying the key points you want to make, anticipating tough questions, and practicing your delivery. Know your presentation cold.

Give Your Presentation to Another Person: There are plenty of people you can practice on with whom you feel safe and comfortable. Examples of people you can practice on are your spouse/significant other, a friend, relative or coworker. Speaking directly to another person will help you relax, give you confidence and presentation experience, and you will become comfortable receiving questions from someone.

Be sure to tell that person to be completely honest with you in their critique, and to ask you questions after the program. If they have questions about your presentation, it is likely that members of the audience will have the same questions. So, practice giving your answers.

Expect That You May be Looking at Blank Faces: When you’re talking to someone one-on-one, they give physical and verbal cues that they’re listening, such as head nodding and making sounds of agreement. Groups of people don’t always do that. It's not that they are judging you. They’re most likely trying to listen to your presentation. Or, they might simply be in a world of their own.

Imagine Giving the Presentation: Picture every moment of the presentation in detail. Imagine the point of having the meeting turned over to you or being introduced on stage. Think about what that will feel like, how will you launch into your talk, and what the audience will look like. This will make you even more prepared so that your presentation will actually feel like an encore, not a first time occurrence.

Stay Calm and Loose: In most cases, people can’t tell that you’re nervous. If you stumble, act as though it's no big deal or that it didn’t even happen.

Now You are Ready
With proper preparation, you now have to trust that you’ve done all you can to be ready to give your presentation. The likelihood that your worst fears will come true is very slim. And once you get through the first 1-2 minutes, the rest will be easy.

So now consider this... You were asked (and earned the right) to give your presentation because you are the best person to do so. Plus, the audience is there to listen to you for a reason. Enjoy the experience!

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Keeping Your Email Inbox Better Organized

Email plays an important role in our daily lives, whether it’s personal or business. And we all get tons of emails whether we want them or not. When we use it appropriately, email is an incredibly useful communication tool. But, many of us feel overwhelmed by the amount of email that we receive and need to respond to.
Whether you’re catching up from last week, working through a post-vacation backlog, or just clearing out junk, taking time to organize your email will help you work more efficiently. Not keeping your email organized can create challenges for you during the day, which may compound over time:
  • We can't find that important message: - It's always a terrible experience to miss an important email or not be able to locate a specific message in the mess that we call our “Inbox”. 
  • An overflowing Inbox can be a big distraction: The amount of time and effort to navigate a disorganized Inbox or email account will make you less productive. Spending excess time searching for specific messages will make you less focused on the important tasks and people that you really need to attend to.
  • No longer receive messages: All email accounts have set maximum disk space limit. If emails are left on the email server indefinitely, your email Inbox may get full. Email messages with attachments take up more space than emails containing only plain text. So, your email account will fill more quickly if you have a lot of messages with attachments. Once your email account has reached its maximum limit, your email account will not accept new messages.

Here are some steps to take to get control of your email account:
  • Purging messages: Start by sorting your emails by sender. This will help you identify the messages you no longer need and the ones you have already responded to. Go through the messages quickly and delete as much as you can. But, don’t let yourself get bogged down by any one message. Messages that are candidates for quick deletion are solicitations from vendors, stores or shopping sites, contain expired coupons and invitations, and from senders you don't know.
  • Organize your existing messages into folders:
    • "Follow up" where you’ll file the messages you need more than a few minutes to respond to. 
    • "Hold" for messages that refer to an event in the future, like an invitation.
    • "Archive" for those messages you’ve responded to and want to keep a record of. For additional organization, you can have sub-folders under "Archive" by category, sender, etc.
    • Going forward, move new messages into these categories based on the matching folder, and then get rid of everything else. Once you respond to the "Follow up" and "Hold" messages, delete those too.
  • Create rules and filters: Most email systems allow you to create rules or filters that will act upon incoming messages even before you see them. You can instruct your email system to route messages into specific folders (or delete messages) based on the sender's email address, keyword content, and other criteria.
  • Spam: Flagging unwanted messages in you Inbox as spam will cause your email system to treat similar massages as spam in the future. Check your spam folder frequently. Delete the messages that are truly spam.
  • Trash Folder; Your email system usually moves deleted messages in a "Trash" folder. While no longer in your Inbox, those messages are still in your email system hogging valuable space. Delete the messages in your Trash folder to permanently delete. then and recoup the space Better yet, change the setting on your Trash folder to auto delete.
  • Export and save important attachments: Download and save important attachments to your desktop or server. Then, delete those messages with the attachment from your email account.
  • Tweak your social media profile notification settings: Most social media sites have the ability for you to control the frequency and content for when the sites send you messages. Doing so will reduce the number of email messages you receive.
  • Export messages that you must keep: Doing so will enable you to remove the messages from your email system. But, you will maintain the messages in a file outside of your email system for posterity.
Taking control of your Inbox isn’t a once-and-done job. But, maintaining order doesn’t have to be complicated or a pain. Once you put the processes in place that work best for you, it won’t take long to turn your process into habit.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

About Mobile App Development

In today’s busy world, people are wondering what really is mobile app development, and what is involved in producing a mobile app for their business. Mobile application development is the process of making or creating a computer application to run on one or more mobile platforms. A mobile platform is the operating system used on a mobile device.

Apple’s mobile operating system is called iOS, Google’s mobile platform is Android, RIM is Blackberry OS, and Windows is Windows Mobile.  Each platform has its own rules and requirements to make and deploy a mobile application. This is very important to understand because when making an application for mobile app development on the various mobile platforms you cannot just make one app and port it over to the next platform. You must recreate the application for each mobile platform.

When deciding which mobile application development is right for you, first consider what your overall goal is. Are you making a game, informational, utility or e-commerce product? Once you know what you’re making, then decide what platform(s) would be best for your mobile application and your targeted user community. Android has a very high market penetration. However due to the various operating system variations, Android development can be more challenging. Apple has a high number users and people are willing to pay for them. However development is more challenging to meet Apple’s requirements on being published.

When thinking about how and why to build a mobile application and begin development, it is important to think about how you plan to proceed.  Consider the following:

  • Set Your Expectation for Success: Is success x number of downloads, x amount of money earned, or x active users? Be realistic.
  • What is Your budget? The average cost of an application can range from a few thousand dollars to over a million dollars, depending on the complexity of the programming and number of mobile platforms to accommodate. It is important to define your budget.
  • What Platforms are You Going to be on? It is important to decide where your market is, what the best way to reach them is, and what gives you the biggest opportunity. Android is used on 46.9% of mobile devices*, Apple iOS on 42.6% of mobile devices, Windows is on 2.7% of mobile devices, and Blackberry and others comprise the remainder of the mobile device market.
  • What are Your Needed Features? Apps are not websites, you need to create good features that people want to use and have a good user interface. 
  • Does the Application Need Internet Access? While internet (or WiFi) access is needed to download the mobile application, consider if the mobile application needs internet access in order to be actively used (e.g. upload or download data). If it does, you need to plan for if/how it can be used when users do not have internet access.

Looking forward, it is expected that a large percentage of mobile application development will focus on creating browser-based applications that are device-agnostic (e.g. responsive web design). Browser-based applications are simply websites that are built to effectively work on mobile internet browsers.

For more information on this topic, contact Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC.

* Netmarketshare, February 2015

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Monday, June 1, 2015

What is the "Internet of Things"?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is where objects (or even living things) are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring a person-to-person or person-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electronics, electro-mechanical systems and the Internet. 

The impact of IoT is bigger than any of us may realize.
A "thing" in IoT can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a thermostat that alerts of exceeding the desired temperature threshold, an automobile that can alert the driver when a mechanical issue arises, a farm animal with a bio chip transponder, or any other object that has a sensor which can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. So far, IoT has been most closely associated with machine-to-machine communication. A product built with machine-to-machine communication capabilities, usually called an Internet appliance, is often referred to as being "smart".

The first Internet appliance was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in the early 1980s. The programmers could connect to the machine over the Internet, check the status of the machine, and determine whether or not there would be a cold drink awaiting them in case they decided to make the trip to the machine.

How IoT Will Be Used
In 2007, a road bridge collapsed in Minnesota killing many people because the steel plates became inadequate to handle the bridge’s load. As we rebuild bridges, we can use beams, plates and cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses and cracks. The sensors in the bridge will alert the bridge authority to fix problems before an issue causes a catastrophe.

The agriculture industry will use IoT to more effectively manage their production in order to feed a growing population. Smart farming will allow farmers to better understand the wide range of conditions that affect their yield. Embedding intelligence into the soil, as well as into the design and operation of machines, will allow sensor information to be combined with other data and the knowledge of the farmer. Farmers will water the crops only when needed and without over watering, and they will apply fertilizer only if necessary. For livestock farming, IoT includes monitoring the condition of animals to provide the right type of intervention at the right time, and only if necessary.

At home, we already have home security systems and thermostats connected to the internet. Looking forward, your refrigerator can inform you when you need to go shopping based on its contents and how your family uses the refrigerator.

The application of IoT technology is almost limitless.

IoT Comes at a Price
IoT will enable a future where every day devices are connected to the internet. In a world with billions of connected devices, privacy and data security becomes extremely important. IoT will collect data at a very granular level. When overlaid across devices and applications, companies are able to analyze and capitalize on this information quickly and in near real-time.

We have come to accept that some smart devices, such as our mobile phone, capture data associated with individual interactions. But, the ownership of this data is a matter of debate. Does the device owner or service provider own the data? Who can share that data with whom? Who must ensure data security? As consumers, we have never had to consider that for an appliance or a vehicle. 

There is no doubt that consumers should be able to control their own data. In addition, consumers must have confidence in how that information is protected and to be used.

What Should be Next?
Of all the technology trends that are taking place right now, perhaps the biggest one is IoT. It’s going to give us the most opportunity over the next several years. But, it has the potential to be the most disruptive and exploited. With the ever-increasing number of internet appliances and the amount of data that is generated in our increasingly connected world, it is essential that guidelines are developed to address privacy and security concerns.

It will be important to educate consumers on where and how their data is being shared. Consumers must become aware and accept that not all data is equally sensitive.  For example, data such as health, financial and individual communications should be subject to the more stringent privacy and security requirements than data that has been voluntarily given.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors

Friday, May 1, 2015

It's OK to Disagree With Your Manager

If you disagree with your manager about something, it’s important not to panic or retreat. You can disagree constructively by showing respect for his/her point of view, and demonstrating that you care about achieving the best result for the organization. You want to show that you’re truly working to collaborate. So how do you navigate this significant professional relationship without playing political games or compromising your character?
How you approach disagreement is critical when you want to disagree with your manager. Managers who are confident in their own skills and position want employees who will disagree with them when necessary. With disagreement comes alternative ideas, solved problems, stronger relationships, better products for your customers, and personal growth and development. 

Be Specific About Your Ideas
Don’t just list objections. Have facts available to support your position. Present supporting data to show that your proposal is fact-based rather than emotional.

Research the area of disagreement. Identify the practices of other departments or companies, and talk with other industry professionals about best practices. These will bring the necessary verification to support your opinion. This is especially important when the decision involves serious business issues that might require a disruptive change in management strategies, financial commitments, or have an emotional effect on employees.

Try to Give a Range of Options
Suggesting different possibilities signals your flexibility, demonstrates your thoughtfulness, and invites your manager to be flexible too. Understand the alternatives and be able to make your case in the context of a strong set of options. Offer examples of how your idea will succeed. If you have tested your approach on a small scale with good results, share that information. Inform the boss what you have learned from your approach.

Be Prepared to Win
If your argument prevails, be ready to move it forward. Demonstrate your commitment to ensuring success. Work with your manager to develop a final action plan. Your manager will expect you to act on your suggestion, and will respect you for seeing your idea through its completion.

If You Have Not Changed the Manager's Mind
What happens if you have done your best job of disagreeing with the direction and your manager decides to stay on the current path or rejects your solution? You tell the manager that while you disagree, you will perform the request as the manager has decided. Remember, the manager has the decision making authority and responsibility. At this time, you will know the point at which it becomes no longer okay to disagree further.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Don't Buy or Lease Your Infrastructure, Get a Subscription

In an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model, a third-party provider hosts hardware, software, servers, storage and other infrastructure components on behalf of its clients. For you, it means your organization will not own or lease the infrastructure, you pay for its use. Now, imagine extending that model to infrastructure in your own facilities, and include monitoring & management. Sound far fetched? It's not!
The next time your business needs new internet appliances, networking equipment or other technology, the traditional question you would ask yourself is should you buy it or lease it? Both options have their pros and cons. Ultimately, your method of acquisition will be based on several factors. Let's look at some of the benefits & costs of the purchase and lease options for your on-premises equipment. Then, we'll look at the new IaaS subscription model for your on-premises equipment.

Purchase Your Equipment
  • It's easier than leasing. Buying equipment is easy. You decide what you need, then go out and buy it. While you may negotiate the price, there are typically no contracts to sign.
  • Your equipment is deductible. The IRS currently lets you deduct the full cost of newly purchased assets, such as technology equipment, starting in the first year. Of course, the IRS can (and has) changed that regulation (Section 179 Qualifying Property).
  • The initial outlay for needed equipment may be too much. Your business may have to tie up lines of credit or invest hefty funds to acquire the equipment you need. Those lines of credit and funds could be used for other functions that can help grow your business.
  • Eventually, you're stuck with outdated equipment. Most technology equipment becomes outdated quite quickly. A growing business may need to refresh and invest in its technology every 18-36 months to remain competitive. You may be stuck with outdated equipment that you will be responsible to donate, sell or recycle.
Lease Your Equipment
  • Leasing keeps your equipment up-to-date. All technology equipment eventually become obsolete. With a lease, you pass the financial burden of obsolescence to the equipment leasing company.
  • You'll have predictable monthly expenses. You have a predetermined monthly line item expense, which can help you budget more effectively. 
  • You'll pay more in the long run. While leases rarely require a down payment, leasing is almost always more expensive than purchasing.

Another business decision you will make with a purchase or lease option is if/how you will manage the maintenance and support of the equipment. Even if the hardware is not obsolete over the life of the equipment, you will need to upgrade the firmware, apply security patches, update configurations, etc. to keep the performance of the equipment in top form. The cost of maintenance and support from the equipment vendor can cost 20% or more annually of the equipment purchase. In addition, you need to account for the cost of personal (staff or contracted) to keep your equipment supported.

Infrastructure as a Service now extends to on-premises implementation. Like a hosted IaaS model, you will not own or lease the equipment under contract. Your on-premises equipment (routers, firewalls, internet appliances, etc.) will be owned by the service provider. And, the all of the support responsibilities will be included in your subscription contract. 

On-Premises IaaS
    • You'll have predictable monthly expenses. Like a lease, you will have a predetermined monthly cost, which can help you budget more effectively. In addition, this will include your maintenance and support costs.
    • You won't be stuck with outdated equipment. Your contract will ensure all firmware, security patches, configuration settings, etc. will be current. In addition, you will get hardware upgrades as your current hardware reaches its end-of-life.
    • Completely monitored and managed. Your subscription will completely monitor, maintain and mange the equipment, including on-site service calls if needed. The vendor will likely know of service issues or upgrade needs before you will.
    • Cost. When you consider all of the actual expenses with the tradition purchase and leasing options, including the cost of manpower time and effort that can be reallocated to actually growing your business, on-premises IaaS can be a very efficient model

    On-premises IaaS is a solution worthy of your consideration. You will have many factors to consider when you need to acquire technology equipment. Now, you have another option to consider as to how you will acquire and implement that new equipment.

    For more information on this topic, contact Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC.

    I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
    David Schuchman     Princeton Technology Advisors

    Sunday, March 1, 2015

    What Went Wrong with Your Last Presentation?

    You are about to give the most important presentation of your career. If you convince the audience and gain their approval, you could change your business forever. You worked hard on the presentation and are well prepared. However, not long after you start to present to the audience, their eyes glaze over. They seem bored or distracted. Deep down, you know you've lost their attention. What went wrong with this presentation?
    Reflect Back on Your Performance
    While your memory is fresh, assess your talking points. You may discover glitches, such as a missing step in a process you outlined. Make a list of these flaws as soon as possible and promptly incorporate the changes into your slides and presentation.

    Did You Engage the Audience?
    You may see trouble spots regarding the audience’s reaction: Are people nodding, or nodding off? Are they taking notes, or engrossed in their phones? Try to recall specific weak moments, and develop specific fixes to sharpen your skills. For example, engage in a little Q&A with your audience. Questions arouse interest, pique curiosity, and involve audiences. Create tension or anticipation by posing a question and letting your audience think a moment before moving to the next slide with the answer.

    The Audience Doesn't Seem to Like You
    Whether the vibe in the room feels wrong or the audience acts like they don't respect you, you still need to get through the presentation. Afterwards, find out if there were external factors, such as a recent layoff announcement or other bad news that might be on people's minds. Ahead of your next presentation, check with the meeting organizer to see if there are such events that you should know about before you start. If you have time before your presentation, speak with some of the attendees to help gauge their mood and show your interest in them.

    Did You get Interrupted or Heckled?
    These are people who want attention at that moment, want to prove you wrong, are insecure with the spotlight on you, or are just having a bad day. The audience is usually as frustrated by the hecklers as you. A good approach is to acknowledge them and their questions or comments. Then mention to them that it is either off track, or give them a short answer if the comment is relevant. If their interruptions continue, offer to meet with them after the presentation to answer any questions or concerns they may have. Keep in mind that if the meeting gets out of control because of a heckler, the attendees will blame the you for not keeping your presentation moving along.

    Speak With a Trusted Person in the Audience
    No matter how well you planned your presentation in advance, the actual delivery will often expose flaws, gaps, or other shortcomings, even for polished presenters. Feedback from a trusted attendee will help you identify minor problems with the delivery, like weak opening remarks or awkward attempts at humor.

    With a little attentiveness to the needs of your audience, you will effectively deliver the important information from your next presentation.

    I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
    David Schuchman

    Sunday, February 1, 2015

    Don’t Just Prioritize Tasks, Say "No" to Some

    Good time and project management doesn't necessarily mean doing everything requested. More importantly, it means doing what is best for your organization, even when the organization may not realize it. Success and achievement are not measured by doing everything requested of you. It's measure by doing the right things. Sometimes to improve productivity and be successful, you must say "no" to some tasks, or at least defer some.

    Set Goals
    Understand what you must accomplish and when it’s actually needed. Goals give you a destination and vision to work toward. When you know where you want to go, you can manage your priorities, time, and resources to get there. Goals also help you decide what's worth spending your time on, what's not an immediate priority, and identify what's just a distraction.

    Prioritize Tasks
    One of the biggest work challenges that many people face is accurately prioritizing their workload. Here are some guidelines to prioritizing your task list to keep you well-organized:
    • Collect a list of all your tasks: Pull together every request made of you that you could possibly consider getting done. Don’t worry about the order, or the number of items up front.
    • Identify urgent vs. important: See if you have any tasks that need immediate attention - work that if not completed on time will have serious negative consequences. Those are important.
    • Assess task value: Look at your important work and identify what carries the highest value to your business and organization. For example, focus on client requests before internal work, organizational requirements before desired requests, and how many people are impacted by your work.
    • Check priority daily: Be flexible and adaptable. Know that your priorities will change and sometimes when you least expect them to. Keep focused and committed to the tasks you’re committed to doing right now.

    It's OK to  say "No"
    You may not be able to get to everything on your list. After you prioritize your tasks and add up the ranged estimates, cut the remaining tasks from your list. Focus on the priorities that you know you must and can complete. You can revisit the other tasks at a later time.

    You can apply the above strategy to large-scale projects as well as to your daily workload.

    I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
    David Schuchman

    Thursday, January 1, 2015

    Why Hire a Professional Contractor

    I write this post having recently started my own IT consulting company, Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC. In making this career decision, I reflected on why I previously contracted with professional consultants, and how I demonstrated doing so will bring value to my projects and the organizations where I worked.

    A consultant is a person that is a subject matter expert who is paid to perform a specific set of tasks over a set period of time for an agreed upon sum of money. In this case, I mean for you to consider when it is appropriate to hire an IT consulting professional for your next important project.

    As you approach starting a new project, take stock in the skills, backgrounds and timely availability of the in-house resources already accessible to you. Then, determine the skills and availability that you need to complete your new project on schedule. If there are gaps between those two reviews, consider bringing in consulting professionals. It’s important that the assessment of the skills, backgrounds and availability are performed objectively. An over confident or over ambitious program manager may not see these clearly (or truthfully).

    What a professional consultant brings to a project are:
    • Works with you, your team and/or your management on goals and deliverables.
    • Accountability for results, schedule and costs to complete key project tasks. These tasks and goals can be identified and added to the contract, which can translate into significant economies as compared to in-house efforts.
    • A proven methodology and skill set applied to the appropriate tasks.
    • Creativity drawn from a robust base of prior experiences.
    • No significant cost of training or “experimenting” on how to complete the assignment. The consultant will focus on achieving results. Training of in-house staff can be scheduled into the project both during execution or as the final tasks to perform.

    Once you determine that you will hire a consultant, you have several options for finding the right resources:
    • If your project involves purchasing a product, consider the vendor. While this may appear to be a costly upfront option (e.g. highest hourly rate), the vendor will provide well-trained product resources that will effectively perform the needed tasks.
    • Large multi-disciplined contracting companies have a variety of technical resources and specialties within their in-house staff. Some specialize in a specific set of technologies. While that can provide good value to your organization, you need to be sure the companies you speak with actually have in-house staff proficient in skill sets that your project needs.
    • An independent general contractor is a consultant who will manage your project and has access to a wide variety of the specialty sub-contractors needed on your project. It is often the case that the general contractor can be more cost effective and flexible as compared to specialty contractors since the team assembled is not limited to in-house resources. In addition, an independent general contractor typically does not have the overhead of larger firms.

    Hiring a consultant can be extremely advantageous by helping you plan, manage, and implement your key project goals. The apparent cost may actually be less than the real cost when you consider the benefits gained from hiring a professional consultant for your short-term needs.

    I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
    David Schuchman