Blog

integration and implementation of technology-focused business solutions

Defining success with the cast of characters

August 15th, 2017

In our previous blog, we discussed the cast of characters typically seen on an IT project. Knowing who they are and what they value helps project managers understand their varied perspectives.

However, understanding is just one part of the equation. The goal is a completed project that all team members identify as being successful.

But, how do you define success with these different personalities?

Set Expectations

Chances are, the cast of characters have differing expectations. It's important to know what they are and how they fit within the project.

Before the project begins, sit down with people individually and ask:

  • What do you hope this project accomplishes?
  • What are your expectations involving project milestones?
  • When will you know the project is successful?

As they answer these questions, use the time to discuss the overall expectations of the business and project managers. Find common themes between their expectations and others. Ask for their help in reaching those goals.

Identify the Points of Pain

Figure out the biggest pains or problems and make them milestones. Those have meaning. One person may have different pains than others. So, milestones may be created for individuals or departments.

When the milestones are met, celebrate with them and help the rest of the company see the value. Often, people in an organization don't recognize how wins in other departments directly impact their work as well.

An example of this is implementation of HR software that speeds up the processing of applicants in a manufacturing company. Obviously, the software directly helps the HR department with efficiency of hiring. However, the impact of being able to add new team members faster benefits the entire company and should be recognized.

Capture Mind Share

Many people do their best thinking and problem solving away from meetings. Yet, it's essential that their ideas are expressed and shared. It helps people feel engaged and heard, and it creates a flow of communication to keep the project running efficiently.

Here are a few creative ways to capture mind share from the entire team.

Running white board

Designate a large white board for this. Ask team members to write down any ideas, issues, or suggestions throughout the week. Go over the information on the white board at each project meeting.

Cross-functional team lunch

Often, people hang out with the same group of people every day. Change things up by organizing lunches for small groups from various departments. Ask them to discuss a specific aspect of the project in which they have visibility. Have them report out on that discussion at the next project meeting.

Understanding that an IT software project is about more than the mechanics is essential. Building a relationship of trust with all people involved is every bit as important, because success is defined by the people impacted.

Comments: None

Cast of characters during an IT software project

August 1st, 2017

Every project is different and so are the individuals involved. From large companies to small organizations, diverse IT needs directly impact day-to-day operations.

Before launching an IT software project, it’s essential to understand more than the mechanics. Start dates and end dates are important, but the true key to success rarely lies in the metrics.

The people who are impacted by the change are the ones who define success. So, understanding the people involved, their roles, and their expectations should be the highest priority.

Let’s meet the cast of characters you’re likely to see during an IT project.

The Idealist

Though it’s nice to have optimists and dreamers on the team, these folks can be a challenge of their own.

The idealist wants the project to go smoothly. They don’t want to deal with delays or roadblocks. In fact, sometimes it’s easier for them to hear what they want to hear than deal with reality.

Working with the idealist requires a bit of mining for information prior to the start of a project. Ask questions like:

  • What IT projects have impacted you in the past?
  • What were some problems with those projects?
  • How did you work through those?

The answers to those questions should give clues to how involved they were with past projects, as well as how involved they might be during the current one.

The Naysayer

Just as every cloud has a silver lining to the idealist, every cloud holds a thunderstorm to the naysayer. This person can spot the roadblocks before others see them. They are quick to point out problems with possible solutions as well.

This is also the person who may take every project delay as a sign that a project is doomed.
Though dealing with a naysayer may seem taxing, their perspective can be helpful. Be careful of having too many naysayers though, as they feed off each other’s negativity.

The Apathetic

This personality may be the most difficult, especially in an environment where every team member has the potential to add value. Their lack of engagement can create moral issues as well as limit the scope of the project.

To reengage the apathetic person, try to discover what they value. What are the things they find meaningful? Asking them to talk about a previous successful project they were a part of is a great way to get them talking. Then ask, “What made that project successful?”

This process doesn’t have to be boring or take a lot of people’s time. Everyone has their daily tasks to complete along with new responsibilities involving the project, so it’s important to make it as efficient as possible.

But, taking the time to create a plan and cultivate buy in can help put their minds at ease. Change in culture and processes has a huge impact on an organization and the people who work there. Take time to understand the cast of characters.

Comments: None

The 10% factor: taking longer than planned

July 4th, 2017

Routine I.T. fixes are usually quick, whether it be at the software, middleware or database level. Experienced I.T. professional service providers have a track record and method for resolving some of the most common problems.

However, sometimes despite everyone's best efforts, the perceived simple solution becomes a time-consuming fix. This is nerve-wracking for the I.T. professional, and frustrating for the client. Extra time required can cause business delays and create additional cost.

After years of working on I.T. issues both big and small, we can give a general idea for how long it will take to resolve common problems. But about 10% of the time, despite our experience and best efforts, the resolution takes longer than we anticipate. In our profession, we refer to this as the 10% factor, which every I.T. professional encounters.

Here are some things we do to prepare for this situation.

Communicate

When speaking with a client about their I.T. problem, we clearly communicate the possibility of the 10% factor up front. We let them know that while our goal is to resolve their problem in the estimated time period, sometimes issues take longer. We also know that our professionals have an extreme desire to solve the issue which we openly recognize as the catch-22 in managing expectations.

This conversation allows us to discuss appropriate expectations. We believe this is the first step in transparent, honest service to our clients.

Plan

Once appropriate expectations are set, we create a plan. This plan will include what the client desires if we encounter issues that will extend the time we originally estimated regarding the problem.

Some clients tell us to keep working on the issue until it is resolved. Other clients want to be notified immediately of any challenges the technician encounters in order to make decisions based on that conversation.

Discuss Risk

As human beings, we unfortunately often avoid discussions of risk. Yet, we know that effective planning includes identifying potential risk. We want our clients to have insight into the remedy for which they are hiring us, and educating them about possible risks and solutions is part of that discussion.

We want to help you resolve your I.T. issues so your business keeps moving forward. We believe communication, planning, and discussion of risk is the best way to tackle any issue.

If you have questions regarding this or any other I.T. challenge, please contact us to discuss how LSG Solutions can serve your business.

Comments: None

Why staff experience matters for our clients

June 20th, 2017

We often get asked if we are a contracting firm. The simple answer to that is, “No.”

LSG Solutions does not hire newbies into entry-level positions and then try to train them to be the equivalent of a skilled worker. Contracting firms typically hire three new employees for every one skilled worker.

We pride ourselves on being a skills employer, rather than taking the the “body shop approach” that some IT companies take. We invest heavily in our team members and in addition, subcontract our FTE staff with some of the best technologists who enjoy our projects and our approach to client projects.

We do not guess and assume someone has proper skills based on a resume. We vet for the advertised experience by the in-house experience we already have. Our hiring process is rigorous to ensure we have the most skilled talent available to our clients.

Technology experience

The team at LSG is comprised of people with a wide variety of technology experience. This, combined with continuing education into the latest advancements, means our people have a “big picture” view of projects and their future impacts.

Project management

If you have read a few of our past blog posts, you’re probably with familiar with our commitment to project management. Ensuring transparency, completing project goals, and building lasting relationships drives our team members.

Our employees don’t think like technicians. We approach our work as project managers, understanding the importance of accountability, building trust, and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

Our staff brings experience, technology, advisory, and project management experience. Our focus is on your deliverables, not our hours on a timesheet. We believe these are the qualities that help us collaborate with clients and move their business forward.

Comments: None

Visibility into your Project – a MUST

June 6th, 2017

We often get contacted to fix broken IT projects. Once we’re involved, we often see common themes emerge.

For those who are charged with overseeing the project, having a few clear strategies in mind at the outset can make all the difference.

Here are things to plan for to keep your IT project on track.

Build a team

A project manager will likely be assigned to oversee the project via the vendor. However, it is essential that the customer have representation to provide proper oversight, as well.

From our experience, we find it’s best for customers have their own project manager. This gives two varied perspectives for managing the project.

End-users must have a voice at every step of the planning and implementation phase. They have unique insight into what is needed, what isn’t needed, and what’s actually practical from an operational aspect.

Decide what 100% completion means

The vendor and the customer may have very different views of what 100% project completion means. Before the project begins, set a target goal everyone agrees on.

This ensures everyone understands the expectation, and it limits miscommunication.

Set project metrics and targets

Incremental targets help the entire project team stay on track. It also creates an opportunity to identify gaps early on.

As a group, consensus should be made on metrics for tracking the targets and the incremental milestones. This helps build accountability and trust between work groups.

Ask questions

Team members should feel free to ask tough questions. Even if you have limited experience overseeing an IT project, questions can educate you to the various components and processes of a project.

If questions cannot be answered, project members should be tasked with finding the answers.

Again, this keeps the project running smoothly and helps avoid future roadblocks.

Whatever IT project comes your way, it’s important to both vendor and customer have transparency about the project scope and processes.

If you need help moving a project forward or getting one started, please contact us. We value the opportunity to partner with organizations to meet their IT needs.

Comments: None

How we can help you with a broken project

May 16th, 2017

It’s not unusual for us to get called in to fix a broken project. We’re always happy to help.

And after years of helping businesses with this issue, we’ve learned a few things about broken projects.

These can be on a large or small scale. In most cases, our client has spent money with the intent of reaching a preset goal, but for a multitude of reasons that goal was not achieved.

We are then called in to get the project back on track, and help our client reach their goal.

We’ve found that there are a few important things to keep in mind in order for us to help our clients pick up broken projects quickly and efficiently.

What happened

To fix a problem, we need to know in detail what happened from the beginning. This can be difficult, since people previously involved on the project may be hesitant to divulge information for fear of finger-pointing or receiving blame.

However, this is not the time for accusations. This is the time to lay out a road map of what happened, so we can identify the barriers and work to overcome them.

An easy way to focus the team on the problem at hand, and not on specific people, is to have each person discuss the tasks they performed, what went well, and what could have been done better.

To get people talking openly, it’s often helpful to have the project manager or lead start the discussion listing what they did, what went well, and what they could have done better.

What needs to be done

Often, our clients have a clear vision of their end goal. However, sometimes on a large IT project, the vision becomes blurry. This can be due to unforeseen impacts of the project, or differing expectations from various stakeholders.

Whatever the reason, we meet with the team and all stakeholders to ensure that everyone understands the project finish line.

To stay on task as the project starts moving forward, teams can adopt the stoplight description for tasks. When the team meets for project updates, each stakeholder can list the status of their task as a green, yellow, or red light. A green light means that the task is completed or being completed. A yellow light indicates that there are some gaps or challenges with a specific task. A red light means that a task is at a full stop.

When these updates are given, the team can compile a list of all the tasks with a yellow or red light status. Then, using all the resources available to the team, they can begin working through that list to mitigate those challenges.

Keys to reaching the end goal

We have found some key points are especially helpful to remember when completing a project that has faced some challenges in the past:

  • Start and finish something before adding on to it.
  • Appoint someone on staff as the project manager.
  • Have a secondary project manager for oversight and accountability.
  • Communicate often.
  • Agree on a system for approvals to give checks and balances for the project.
  • Set expectations with both developers and end users.
  • Avoid best case and worst case scenarios. Reality is usually somewhere in between.

Rest assured that, with patience, broken projects can certainly be fixed.

Comments: None

Oracle software audits: What you need to know

May 2nd, 2017

Recently, a company in Oklahoma told us about their experience being audited by Oracle. They were long-time Oracle users, and had never previously been audited.

Over the course of many years, their company’s IT personnel installed and ran various Oracle programs, but never performed a self-audit to check for appropriate licensing.

For this client, years of installing new features without referring back to their licensing agreement with Oracle ended up costing them a lot of money. $200,000 to be exact.

This is a common problem we see. Often, businesses install Oracle software, and as their IT needs change, install more software. However, during the installation process, there are specific boxes that get checked, allowing for greater functionality that is over and above what’s provided in the business’ original software license with Oracle.

This cycle gets repeated. Over time, this leads to major (and expensive) problems during an audit.

Here’s what you need to know in order to prevent an expensive penalty from an Oracle software audit.

Oracle’s honor system

Unlike Microsoft systems, Oracle’s software can be installed based on an honor system. Oracle does not require a key code to install their product.

While this allows for ease of use at install, it can also allow users to inadvertently install features they may or may not need, and which may or may not be included in their licensing agreement.

Oracle does perform random audits of users. If a user (business) is found to be using software or features without the proper licensing, Oracle charges a penalty based on what the user would have paid if they bought the appropriate license in the first place.

Be the skeptic

Any time your team is installing new software, be the skeptic. Teach your IT people that it’s okay to question whether a new feature is included in the license.

Always refer back to the licensing agreement for comparison. If something isn’t clear, be proactive and reach out to Oracle or an approved Oracle vendor, like LSG Solutions, with any questions.

Self-audit

Get your IT staff in the routine of preforming self-audits. Compare the current software running with your licensing agreement to see if there are any gaps.

If gaps are discovered, ask questions such as:

  • Is this feature being used?
  • Why was this feature turned on or installed?
  • Should we purchase the appropriate license or uninstall the item?

As always, LSG Solutions is ready to help your organization with any needs related to Oracle software licensing. Some of our clients will self-audit and then ask us to assist in verifying the information, which we’re happy to do.

Though we are an Oracle Value-added Reseller in Oklahoma, our relationship with our customers is paramount. We’re not the Oracle police. We don’t report customer information back to Oracle. But we will help you get back in compliance, so you won’t face a huge penalty if Oracle audits your company.

Please contact us at 405-285-2500 or our contact form for questions and other assistance.

Comments: None

New Oracle 12c R2 features for on-premise customers

April 22nd, 2017

At LSG Solutions, a key part of our work is anticipating new releases from Oracle and defining how they will help our customers. One such release, Oracle's 12c Release 2 (also known as detailed release 12.2.0.1), is now available for on-premise customers.

Previously only available to cloud customers, this version's new features continue Oracle's commitment to streamlining systems for business.

Here are a few important features included in this release.

Hot Cloning

In this version, there is no need to put the source into read-only for cloning. You can refresh a clone and relocate a PDB. This allows for a smoother software development cycle, as well as more efficient integration and delivery.

Expanded Partitioning

Without impacting current DML operations, 12.2.0.1 allows you to convert non-partitioned tables to partitioned tables online. They can also be set to read-only status to prevent inadvertent DML action.

These expanded partitioning features increase the manageability of various applications and continue to drive down the cost for storing volumes of data.

Vault Simulation Mode Protection

Security continues to be a top priority in this version. Vault simulation mode protection allows customers to test realms and command rules protections without denying access to the user.

Violations are logged on a simulation log file for tracking.

This feature increases efficiencies, which allows you to move new realms and command rules to production more quickly.

Approximate Query Processing

Being able to quickly access accurate information from your database is essential for business agility. This new feature allows approximate results of large volumes of data with little deviation from the exact numbers.

Again, aggregation of data in this manner speeds up processing time and makes better use of resources.

As with every new release, we know you may have questions specific to your business and systems. Please contact us for more information. We can help you plan next steps to support your business.

Comments: None

Will you need to switch to Oracle’s Standard Edition 2?

April 4th, 2017

Effective December 2015, Oracle launched Standard Edition 2 (SE2), intended to replace Standard Edition 1 (SE1).

We’ve recently seen an increase in customers asking questions about upgrading to this version. So, with that in mind, let’s take another look at SE2.

Oracle has always offered a database option for small and medium sized businesses with Oracle Database Standard. When compared to Oracle Enterprise, the cost savings alone made it the obvious choice for targeted users.

Customers using Standard Edition 1 (SE1) should be aware that this version is no longer supported. For customers using other versions, they may be seeing limitations on performance and limited processor capability.

Oracle says that SE2 is:

  • An affordable, full-featured database
  • Built for ease of use, power, and performance
  • Available on servers supporting a maximum of two sockets
  • Optimized for small business
  • Zero-cost license migration from either SE or SE1

SE2 vs. Enterprise Edition

It’s important to understand the differences between Oracle’s two types of databases.

SE2

This version is the small business edition. It is scalable as your business grows. However, you should be aware of possible licensing requirements when changing from one version to another.
Affordability is a hallmark of this version. Prices range from $700 to $17,500. Though it has a maximum support of two sockets, this is typically a good option for small and medium sized businesses.

Enterprise Edition

For those businesses needing greater scalability, Enterprise Edition will be the better choice. This version is available on single and clustered servers. There is no socket limitation.
Cost is a consideration with this version, as prices range from $4,750 to $47,500.

Migrating from SE1 to SE2

As Oracle moves forward with SE2, customers may have questions about migrating from their old edition to the new. Oracle says they expect this to be a seamless process. Though, as with any new database, delays or challenges may arise. It is important to fully understand the transition, and how it will affect your business before the migration.

We at LSG Solutions look forward to speaking with you and working with you through this change. Please contact us with any questions or simply to discuss your options.

Comments: None

Oracle 12c R2 database available to on-premise

March 10th, 2017

Released in 2013 to all customers (on-premise and cloud / DBaaS), 12c was available for purchase or upgrade for any customer. However, Oracle 12C R2 is Oracle Corporation’s first database release available only to database cloud (DBaaS) customers, in October 2016. In order to boost ‘cloud’ revenues, the Oracle 12c R2 version was no where available to download for supported customers for months.

However, recently Oracle made available, Release 2 of 12C, to the on-premise customer. Linux customers were the first to benefit from the wait while Windows customers were appeased later, in March 2017.

Features

With this new release of 12C, customers can expect:

  • The elimination of downtime with specific features
  • The ability to perform maintenance without taking the system offline
  • Improved performance
  • Improved Multitenant architecture allowing for more databases per virtual or physical server.
  • Further streamlining of space consumption and overhead of indexes
  • The ability to perform simulations with a timeline predictor
  • “Hot cloning” (a copy made without shutting down the source database)
  • Ability to perform simulations for enabled features
  • Ability to split items up across multiple databases, or to offload one thing into multiple databases
  • Increased memory

Moving organizations forward

Oracle understands the demands on business and organizations to do more with less. Their commitment to improved systems allows customers to do just that.

With ever-expanding features, this is a good time to assess your organization’s database and support timeline. It may be time for an upgrade. Though upgrading may seem expensive, when compared to the loss of productivity due to system downtime or inability to access data, the long-term benefit is often well worth the expense.

If you are considering upgrading to Oracle 12C or have general questions about your database, please let us know. We offer a wide range of services to assess what you have and help you plan what you need as your business scales.

Oracle 12c Whitepaper

Transforming Data Management – March 2017

Comments: None

CONTACT

501 E. 15th St., Suite 200B
Edmond, OK 73013
(405)285-2500
info@lsgsolutions.com