Sep 14 11

Personal Balanced Scorecard

by David Samoranski

I have been thinking a lot lately about the most critical factors to optimizing performance within companies. Organizations are made up of people and those people have the most profound impact on the ability to create and execute strategies to achieve an organization’s mission. If people are not happy, they are not engaged and not performing well individually. This lack of performance leads to excess costs, reduced productivity, and customer dissatisfaction. On the other hand, happy people help build an engaged workforce that enables an organization to excel.

Happiness is such a soft and fluffy word. What does it actually mean? Based on readings from several authors in personal productivity and self-improvement, I think happiness is a state where your efforts are aligned with your values. Everyone’s values are different, so happiness comes in many different flavors. This concept of alignment is very similar to the balanced scorecard methodology used in business. The balanced scorecard identifies strategic objectives so that the efforts of the organization are aligned to specific goals that will directly affect the mission. The balanced scorecard methodology categorizes strategic objectives into four perspectives (learning and growth, business process, customer, and financial).

It turns out Dr. Hubert Rampersad has modified this business scorecard concept to personal achievement in his book, Personal Balanced Scorecard. Many of the concepts are the same. Create a vision of what it is you are trying to achieve in life and a mission statement that defines how you are working towards your vision. Personal objectives fall into four perspectives (health, relationships, growth, and finances). Strategy is only the first step in managing performance though. An example of an annual cycle could look something like:
1. Analyze Performance
2. Define Objectives
3. Specify Goals
4. Identify Initiatives
5. Prioritize and Budget
6. Plan and Execute
7. Monitor and Adjust

I was not easily able to find information about implementing the personal scorecard process. I want to put the idea to work, so I figured I would start out with a personal assessment of how my time and energy currently fall into these perspectives. I feel things like work are contributing to growth and finance goals, while things like sports contribute to relationships and health. This is based on very loose estimates, so the next step would be to assess this a little more accurately. I can keep track of my activities throughout the week and then analyze where I actually spend my time and energy.

PBSCgraphic 

I think one of the biggest challenges to personal happiness is the concept of a paradigm. Dr. Stephen Covey addresses this concept in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My personal interpretation of this idea is that we are all driving on the road of life. We all have different internal maps that guide where we think we are going and the decisions we make to get there. The problem is that our maps are wrong. They have been built on false limitations, social pressures, and learned behaviors that restrict our ability to see and think clearly. If we shift our paradigms and discover what is truly important to each of us as individuals, then we can redraw our maps and ensure our efforts are actually driving towards the things we value most.

In addition to documenting my activities for the next week, I also want to prototype an assessment that helps identify how people value each perspective. This could potentially create a way to quantify happiness in terms of targets, actuals, and variance. This would provide a good base of information to create improvement objectives and continue a process similar to the one listed above.

Jun 11 11

Strategy and Execution

by David Samoranski

Strategic initiatives fail for many reasons. Success is often enabled by hard work rather than detailed planning. The most innovative business strategies offer little value if the execution falls short. Many ideas and methodologies exist to assist companies with managing the work identified in their plans. I think it all comes down to metrics. That which is measured gets done. The new wave of accountability and transparency is fueling this demand for insightful information in the organization.

Presenting decision makers with data that helps them identify risk and visualize how initiatives fit together enables them to make informed decisions about the business. It is extremely important to identify appropriate metrics that give insight into project data such as resources, schedule, and cost. Strategic planning defines the overall objectives of an organization and the specific drivers that will realize those objectives. Alignment of projects and initiatives to these drivers guide the business to do the right things. Performance metrics and monitoring help ensure that the business is doing things right.

Key metrics or vital signs for an initiatives health should present information in a simple, logical, and repeatable fashion. This forms the basis for a consistent monitoring and reporting experience. Create acceptable ranges and thresholds to identify critical problems. Incorporate variance trend analysis to allow managers the ability to forecast potential problems. Root cause analysis can enable experienced managers to investigate alternatives and adjust the course of action before the variances have a significant impact on the desired outcome.

Accurate tracking and measurement of metrics drives more effective and timely resolutions to issues and crises situations that may occur. Questions about performance are a great way to identify meaningful indicators. Examples include:

How much have we spent so far?
How does this compare with the plan?
What risks have been identified?
What are the potential impacts of the identified risks?
Are we accomplishing the milestones we planned?
Are we completing deliverables as planned?
How many people are working on this?
How has the baseline varied over time?
How many open issues exist?
Are we on schedule?

Designing the reporting interfaces to present this information and identifying the data required to drive those user experiences comes next. Thinking about execution from a monitoring perspective allows you to define the information that will be needed to determine success later. Making this information readily available to everyone in the business leads to a more results oriented culture that focuses on execution performance.

Apr 30 11

Social Media and Me

by David Samoranski

My unofficial definition of social media refers to tools and technologies that enable online interaction. These conversations may contain content such as text, images, video, and audio. They might also include web-based applications such as WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TweetDeck.  It has taken a few months of trial and error for me to determine the most appropriate use of each. Here is what I have learned.

Blog – www.davidsamoranski.com
I use WordPress to publish this blog. It is easy to setup, easy to use, and easy to customize. If you are looking for a tool that does what you need and doesn’t have a sharp learning curve, check it out. More importantly, I find that my purpose for blogging is to record a thought in some detail. I will usually spend 30 minutes or more crafting an idea and articulating the message I am looking for. I initially set out with a goal of blogging once a week, but have found once a month can be a challenge. I keep my posts professional and do not discuss anything personal.

Twitter – www.twitter.com/davidsamoranski
I have experimented with Twitter for a bit and have found its place for me… at least for now. I started off thinking this should be treated like a status update and tossed out information about where I was travelling or what I was doing specifically. I don’t think this provides any value or any compelling reason to follow my tweets. So now, I am more focused on trying to incorporate tweets into my daily work. It might be valuable to someone if I am researching a topic and find a helpful resource. This is my strategy with Twitter moving forward.

Facebook – www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000484832773
I use Facebook as the personal outlet for status updates and pictures. I initially tried to integrate my tweets and blog posts into Facebook to reduce the number of tools I had to keep up with. I found this didn’t work so well for me. I now use Facebook to connect with friends and family and have a difficult time deciphering where the line is for Facebook when compared to LinkedIn. I do have my blog posts integrated as Notes and keep my profile public to promote the professional side of things.

LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-samoranski/21/124/969
I just started on LinkedIn. So far, my opinion is that it looks like Facebook for business associates and colleagues. I was looking for a way to stay in touch with people I have worked with or am currently working with, without subjecting them to personal information they probably don’t care about. I am very open to accepting friend requests, so any colleagues that want to interact less formally can send me a friend request on Facebook.

TweetDeck
TweetDeck is really cool. If you tweet, search tweets, have a Facebook or LinkedIn account – this tool is for you. I setup TweetDeck with 5 columns to aggregate all of my stuff. I see the tweets that I follow, my Facebook live feed, my LinkedIn network updates, and Twitter searches for SharePoint Server and Project Server. You can also connect to MySpace if you have an account and post updates to any of the sites through a single client interface. It’s also available as an iPhone app.

So, that’s it for now. I wish I had more time to contribute and interact online, but it seems to ebb and flow with professional and personal responsibilities.

Nov 14 10

Building Hype

by David Samoranski

Adoption of new processes and tools does not just happen. Adoption planning should be an integral part of any process improvement or technology deployment effort. This is critical to realizing the desired future state, improving productivity, and delivering a return on investment. Let’s take a look at several strategies that can be leveraged to proactively mitigate adoption risks for a technology solution such as SharePoint or Project Server.

Executive support is very important. An executive sponsor needs to believe in the value of the solution and have the political capital to influence change in the organization. A solid governance plan defines the people, process, and technology facets of a solution. This plan identifies roles, responsibilities, policies, and procedures in addition to the technology infrastructure required. The team members, project managers, and stakeholders associated with the solution should clearly understand the objectives, vision, and mission.

It is also very important to consider the user experience. Site design, navigation, and ease of use play a large part in the perception of success. Incorporating self-help resources directly into the tools promotes discovery and new learning. A training plan that focuses on providing role specific instruction will help build confidence in users, owners, and administrators. All of these elements are substantial, but an often overlooked and equally valuable adoption strategy is hype.

Hype is used to stimulate and excite people. Communicating the project roadmap, enlisting enthusiasts, and providing demonstrations focused on business value can be effective means to energize a solution deployment. Motivating and rewarding evangelists can result in a groundswell effect within the organization. Advertising internally with HTML email campaigns, webcasts, and print materials are great ways to develop a surge of support. Announce new features and benefits in the newsletter or other corporate communication mechanism. Encourage users to provide feedback and make sure it is acted upon when they do. Offer tips and tricks to help users accomplish tasks more efficiently and continue to realize value from the solution after the initial rollout.

Sep 23 10

Presentation Skills

by David Samoranski

The purpose of my presentations is generally not to lecture, educate, or teach. The true objective is to impact and have an effect on the audience. A presentation is often a single opportunity to create the impact I desire for a specific audience. My intent is to capture the attention of the audience and deliver relevant value. I must connect with the needs of the audience in order to accomplish this. Several techniques and best practices can be employed by anyone to improve the effectiveness of their delivery.

Many people are frightened or fearful of speaking to large groups. Confidence is the solution to overcoming the fear or anxiety associated with public speaking. Confidence is not an attitude or feeling. You do not have to feel confident to be confident. You simply need to learn how to exhibit confidence in any situation. The perception of your audience is their reality. They will believe you are cool, calm, and collected if that is how you appear. Confidence is nothing more than a set of physical skills you can practice.

The time before your presentation begins is a great place to start projecting your confidence . Imagine yourself as the host for guests in your home. Be courteous, cordial, and welcoming. This is much more inviting than pacing back and forth on stage or fidgeting with your hands and feet. Try to smile, look comfortable, and appear loose. You can also practice controlling your voice and gestures.

Your voice is an extremely important part of how your audience perceives your confidence. Practice speaking in rhythmic phrases instead of sentences. Avoid talking too fast by using pauses to breathe and pace yourself. Project your voice to demonstrate a commanding mastery of the subject matter. Modulate your tone to provide excitement and emphasis on key words and concepts.

Body language and gestures can complement your voice to enhance your delivery effectiveness. Gestures can be used to animate presentations, help communicate words or concepts visually, add interest to dull topics, and reduce the effect of nerves and anxiety on the presenter. Try to be as relaxed as possible. Avoid fidgeting, playing with rings, crossing your arms, or holding them behind your back. Practice keeping you head, neck, and shoulders loose to help set your audience at ease.

There are many other presentation techniques that can help you connect with your audience, display confidence, and exhibit subject matter expertise. Try using more imagery, illustrations, and diagrams in your slides. Include analogies, metaphors, and similes to promote understanding. Use personal examples, personas, and fictitious companies to humanize the content. Humor and quotes can also be successfully incorporated into your presentations. Challenge yourself to tell a compelling story rather than simply regurgitating information.

Engage with the audience and be empathetic to their needs. What is the value proposition of your content? What makes your presentation relevant for the audience? Adjusting your focus accordingly will help ensure that your message has real meaning for those in attendance. Control your voice and body language to deliver a confident and engaging presentation. Mastery of these skills will offer you the opportunity to create the impact you are looking for.

Jun 16 10

Process Refinement and Optimization

by David Samoranski

I want to take a moment to talk about process improvement. I believe this is a key aspect of helping customers deliver their outcomes. I was recently engaged with a customer to improve a financial process and would like to share an overview of my approach.

What do I mean by refining and optimizing business processes? Well first, let’s address the difference between refinement, optimization, and reengineering. Business process reengineering is usually a radical, top-down, high risk approach to revolutionize a customer’s process. Refinement and optimization takes an incremental, bottom-up, continuous improvement approach towards a process. My current focus is on using Microsoft Office technology to remove steps, automate activities, or speed transitions in the process.

My Approach:

  1. Document the current process
    1. Model the roles, activities, and decision points
    2. Calculate cycle and work time
  2. Analyze the current process
    1. Define the pain or challenges
    2. Standardize metrics for performance
  3. Design the future process
    1. Focus on key improvement areas
    2. Perform gap analysis
  4. Identify the solutions
    1. Map tools/capabilities to process challenges
    2. Propose solutions to realize the future state
  5. Prioritize the solutions
    1. Compare business value and complexity
    2. Determine best approach

A large number of problems usually result from using the right tool in the wrong way or using the wrong tool altogether for a given process. Solutions should focus on quick wins that consist of small adjustments to the current process to deliver the most value with the least complexity. Using the right tools and using them in the right way can help reduce wasted time, missed deadlines, unnecessary steps and labor, manual work, rework, and inefficient communications. Make sure you choose pain that can be measured. A compelling vision will only resonate with stakeholders if you can back it up with metrics to communicate the impact. Take the time to develop a business case and adoption plan for the changes you are proposing in your solutions.

Mar 19 10

Enterprise Social Computing

by David Samoranski

Collaboration trends have shifted the focus of Microsoft SharePoint to social computing. The 2007 product, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, is largely centered around document collaboration. SharePoint Server 2010 brings many new features to the market to satisfy the enterprise demand of Facebook, Twitter, and Delicious users. The upgraded My Site in SharePoint now delivers capabilities like the wall from Facebook, the micro-blogging service of Twitter, and a social tagging functionality similar to Delicious. The blog and wiki interfaces have also been enhanced to provide users the engaging experience they have become familiar with using tools outside of corporate SharePoint environments. Check out my article below to review the latest collaboration trends and see how SharePoint is improving collaboration in the enterprise.

Enterprise Social Computing by David Samoranski

Feb 25 10

SharePoint 2010

by David Samoranski

SharePoint is an integrated set of technology capabilities that helps organizations solve problems and challenges. The platform empowers users with an enterprise portal delivering information management capabilities and a rich search experience seamlessly blended with collaboration and social networking functionality. Features such as process automation and workflow often motivate companies to review, analyze, and improve their existing processes. Centralized reporting and decision support dashboards often drive businesses to new levels of performance management. The stable framework and improved integration with external data provides a strong platform for systems integration and custom application development. A balanced deployment approach focusing on people, processes, and tools leads to benefits such as reduced costs, improved productivity, and innovation.

I am truly excited about the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010 (expected to be released soon). Check out the video below and I will take you through the full value proposition.

Nov 30 09

New Hardware

by David Samoranski

I have been doing a lot of work with virtual machines lately. I am only able to allocate 2-3gb of RAM to Virtual Machines (VMs) and use an external HDD for my Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs). I decided it was time to upgrade my laptop with additional memory and storage space. I have a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation M6400 with 4gb RAM and a 250gb 7200rpm hard drive. This machine has 4 DIMMs and 2 HDD bays. I am only using 2 of the 4 DIMMs and the primary hard drive bay, so the upgrade is pretty easy and straightforward. I ordered (2) 2gb DDR3-SDRAM 1066mHz SODIMM modules and a 500gb 7200rpm SATA 2.5 hard drive from an online retailer for about $200. I documented the installation steps and posted them below.

The back of the M6400
The back of the M6400

 

The back of the M6400 with battery removed
The back of the M6400 with battery removed

 

The back of the M6400 with battery and base assembly cover removed
The back of the M6400 with battery and base assembly cover removed

 

Empty secondary hard drive bay
Empty secondary hard drive bay

 

Empty DIMMs
Empty DIMMs

 

The new gear
The new gear

 

Installed hard drive and memory
Installed hard drive and memory

 

M6400 upgraded and back together
M6400 upgraded and back together

 

I turn on the computer and see I have 8gb of RAM, but only see my primary hard drive
I turn on the computer and see I have 8gb of RAM, but only see my primary hard drive

 

Click the Windows icon > [right click] Computer > choose Manage
Click the Windows icon > [right click] Computer > choose Manage

 

The new disk is recognized and prompts for initialization
The new disk is recognized and prompts for initialization

 

Right click Disk 1 after initialization and choose New Simple Volume…
Right click Disk 1 after initialization and choose New Simple Volume…

 

Specify the volume size and click next
Specify the volume size and click next

 

Assign a drive letter and click next
Assign a drive letter and click next

 

Format the new partition, assign a volume label, and click next
Format the new partition, assign a volume label, and click next

 

The new drive now displays as expected
The new drive now displays as expected

Nov 6 09

Learn and grow

by David Samoranski

Welcome to my blog. I am starting a journey to develop my online identity. I am new to blogging and will initially be sharing my adventures in social media. My intent is to learn and ultimately share information to better leverage Microsoft technologies such as Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Office 2010,  SharePoint Server 2010, and Project Server 2010.

I currently work for Robbins-Gioia as a Principal Technical Consultant for the Technology Solutions Group. My primary focus is to help clients deliver their outcomes through process improvement, enabling technology, and a focus on change management. I would like to share my knowledge and experience with the information worker community. I have big plans for tutorials, demonstration videos, and other content to help users understand and apply technology to business challenges.