See the cloud, be the cloud

The two habits in this section could not be further apart. One is as old as work itself - the mastery the mundane - and the other the newest habit on the block. In IT we are witnessing a shift from command and control over users to that of service provider to consumers. To support this shift there is transition from discrete procedurally defined roles to that of end to end product ownership. An organisations IT service provision no longer comprises a number of point solutions. Rather it is has become a tangled interconnected web of metadata, content, infrastructure and security.

As IT services continue their ascent into the clouds, we as IT Pros need to adapt to the new paradigm. We can achieve that through a 1-2 combination of:

Habit 6 – Increase your skills in product and scenario ownership

The habits that preceded this one do not require additional learning activities. They do require changes and adjustments. On the other hand this habit will probably need you to set time aside to learn something new. Mastery of this habit is a journey that I am currently on. Hence of all of the habits this is probably the one that is lightest when in comes to this project. In time I will return and build it out based on my own experience.

In my short time in IT, skills related to product and scenario ownership are the ones that continually emerge as the ones that unlock opportunities and allow you to view technology driven change from a human-centric perspective. These are the skills that make the adoption of technology more likely to succeed in the long run.

The key principle is that technology needs to be treated like a product. It needs to be packaged so that it is desirable and easy to unwrap. It needs to be scalable, needed and available at an appropriate price point. Application of this principle forces you to adjust the language you use with your users (aka consumers) and to focus on the requirements and features that matter the most.

As a starting point I encourage IT Pros to get an appreciation of what Product Owners do – part hands on, part architect, part sales person as the mindset and skills work well with technology. This is not about Agile. Agile is a just a way of getting things done. It just so happens that elements of Agile align well with product and scenario ownership. In my personal journey I have found the following resources useful:

  • Roman Pilcher’s Product Owner Guide
    • This succinctly distils what product ownership is about. Whilst it does make reference to SCRUM, you do not need to employ that way of getting things done as part of product ownership.
  • Resources from Product Focus and Mind the Product
    • The team at Product Focus have produced a number of detailed product and scenario ownership guides. Whilst they are aimed at those in a full-time Product Owner role they are useful for understanding the bigger picture. I find myself referring back to them when my leadership make suggestions about organisational structure or processes. The blog posts from Mind the Product are typically human-centric and as such provide a great insight into the behaviours and mindsets required to understand your consumers and to growth as an IT Pro.
  • User experience resources from Nielsen Norman Group

Product and scenario ownership on its own will make a difference but if a scenario is considered in isolation the difference may not be as expected.

image presents a dictionary definition of the word holistic
definition of holistic

Technology permeates through the organisation. It is for this reason why IT Pros (and their leaders) need to take a holistic view. Products are part of an interconnected ecosystem often sharing common metadata, content, infrastructure and security. Taking this view helps with your situational awareness as well.

Habit 7 – Take control of the mundane and make time to add value

To be honest this is the most generic of habits and one that can be applied in every situation, by nearly everyone.

image presents a dictionary definition of the word effective
definition of effective

The daily email deluges, demands of incident support tickets and service level agreements all coupled with constant vendor and security driven change challenges an IT Pro’s drive to “Let’s do this right”. With increasing frequency we inhabit a world of “Let’s do it now” . Every day there is a new maelstrom to deal with.

6 steps

This checklist includes steps that have helped me cope with the maelstrom. The checklist can be used in one or two ways. At the individual level it is a checklist for personal success. At the team level it is a checklist that can help you focus collective efforts.

  • Create a routine for the best use of your time
    • Schedule errands, meetings, and appointments so that you are not switching back and forth between different subjects. Its the switching between subjects that really damages productivity. One minute you are thinking about this and then you have to think about that. It takes longer to return to the mindset you were in to do the task than you’d believe.
  • Create a to-do list for your day, week, and month
    • Highlight the most important things that need to be done each month, and then assign the tasks needed to complete them to specific weeks and days on your to-do list. This is the most effective way to be sure that a huge project won’t get overlooked and that your time is being used as effectively as possible.
  • Figure out what must be done only by you
    • As part of Habit 1, you’ve got to let it go. Don’t let yourself be held back from tackling the important things by work you do not need to personally do. Are there other people on your team who can take these jobs off of your hands?
  • Find people who are good at the things you are not
    • Play to your strengths and find people who can fill in the gaps for your weaknesses. Habit 2 placed an emphasis on the power of community to provide many eyes when it comes to understanding trends and innovations as well knowing when something beyond your IT world might be broken and ways to fix it.
  • Set a deadline, and reward yourself when you reach it
    • Setting a deadline is a key step in attaining your goals. Setting a deadline a few days before your real deadline can help with extra breathing room but used inappropriately it can ramp pressure up unnecessarily.
  • Keep your work environment distraction free
    • Often easier said than done, especially when a pandemic changes where, when and how we work overnight. Avoid the urge to browse the Internet, play with your smartphone, make personal phone calls, run errands or allow other distractions to get in the way of accomplishing your goals. If you develop the habit of keeping work for work time and personal stuff for home time, you’re more likely to accomplish what needs to get done during the day. It will make your time at home more relaxing and enjoyable.
  • Keep emails short and to the point
    • There is no need to send a paragraph when one sentence will do. Not only does it waste your and the recipient’s time, but people tend to respond more quickly to email messages that are direct and concise. That said, always be polite and courteous. There is also a variant to this step. “Don’t send an email at all if the dialogue is conversational”. That’s what chat is for.

Summary

This section covered two habits. One as old as work itself – the mastery the mundane – and the other the newest habit on the block. The key take ways are:

  • Technology needs to be treated like products
  • Products are part of an interconnected ecosystem often sharing common metadata, content, infrastructure and security and so IT Pro’s need to consider scenario’s holistically
  • As long as there is work, the mundane will exist, and you can take simple steps to reduce it and give you space to think

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