The Joys of Traveling for Work

Traveling for work is always an interesting experience. A lot of questions flash through my mind before I leave. Will my kids be good for my wife while I’m gone? Will my flights leave on time? Will I run in to yet another incredible jerk on the plane that thinks he deserves something more than everyone else on the plane? Will the people at the client site be as sharp as nails or as dumb as rocks? Will I be able to get done faster than I thought so I can get home to my family? I’m sure a lot of business travelers have the same questions.

Traveling is always a crap shoot. Right now, I’m on a plane surrounded by a group with five tween or early teen kids. They all have their own gadgets, and they’ve generally been fairly well behaved. They have been watching movies with the speakers turned on which has kind of bothered me a bit, but I just cranked up the Allman Brothers on the iPod so I’m in good shape. One of the moms is directly in front of me and seems to be very unrefined and hick-ish, but I am flying to Saint Louis so I guess that’s to be expected a little. The guy next to me has clearly been on too many planes lately (he’s hunched over trying to sleep). I bet he does something similar to what I do. The guy next to him is the jerk of the flight who has treated a truly great flight attendant with complete disrespect. He doesn’t look like the typical road warrior so maybe he’s just always like that.

Anyway, like I said, traveling for work is always an interesting experience. Luckily, this is my last trip of the year. I wonder what 2008 will bring.

Curtain Call for Business 2.0

Business 2.0This morning, I read a very nice post from Michael Arrington on TechCrunch about the final issue of Business 2.0. Like Michael, Business 2.0 is one of the few magazines I read every month from beginning to end. The magazine fits my business style much more than any of the stuffy business magazines like Fortune. In fact, it was their cover story, Blogging for Dollars, that inspired me to really start taking my blog seriously.

I really hope that Business 2.0 comes back in some form after all is said and done. It sounds like many of the people working for Business 2.0 will be moving to Fortune so hopefully the editors will not squash the ideas and style that made reading Business 2.0 so much fun. I guess this means my subscription will be transfered over to Fortune as well although I haven’t heard a word from the publisher about this.

Michael also mentioned in his post that TechCrunch and Business 2.0 held discussions regarding a possible merger. I would love to see some of the people at Business 2.0 move over to TechCrunch. It is already one of my favorite news sources, and it would only get better with the addition of the Business 2.0 team. I have a strange feeling we may see exactly that in the not too distant future.

Best of luck to everyone over at Business 2.0, and thanks for all of the great articles over the years.

Interesting New Ways to Present Data

This Is Where We LiveMy day job requires me to wear many different hats depending on the projects that are active at any point in time. One of my main responsibilities is report design and development using the latest and greatest version of Business Objects. Basically, it’s my job to gather and present data in a way that is meaningful and helpful for our clients. I have always been a stickler about presentation regardless of the media so when I develop a report for a client, I want the layout and format of the report to be perfect. I want my clients to be able to look at a report and quickly and easily see how their business is doing. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using graphs to visually display the data.

I read a post from Smashing Magazine that had some great examples of how companies are getting more and more creative about displaying data. Some of the examples make regular graphs look completely antiquated. My favorite example by far is a 3D map from Time showing the population density of the United States. Readers can easily understand how to read the map, and it is visually stunning. Companies like Business Objects need to be keeping an eye on these great new ways to visualize data so they can add the functionality to their products. I know our clients would love to see their data in new ways like the examples in Smashing Magazine. Very cool and exciting stuff.

Via (How to Change the World)

Working Remotely Works!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how productive you can be when you are working remotely with people all over the world. As someone who does this every day, I am of the opinion that you can be very productive when working in a remote location. Not only have I worked on very successful teams at work that have been disbursed all over the planet, I also managed to get my Masters degree remotely by collaborating with other students and instructors in different parts of the country and the world. In some cases, I worked with military people stationed in South Korea and consultants shipped off to India during our classes.

The most important part of working remotely with other people and companies is that everyone commits to taking advantage of the best technology available to make everyone as productive and successful as possible. When this happens, a remote team can be just as successful or even more successful than a team that is together in one place. The team members learn how to communicate differently using online tools like IM, email, and newsgroups, and because everything is in writing, miscommunication is less likely. I believe that communication actually improves in successful remote teams. The proper tools mean all the difference in the world when it comes to working remotely.

I wrote about online collaboration tools back in May 2005, and that post is still very relevant today. In a post coming soon, I will investigate using Google’s suite of web applications to collaborate with people all over the world. Stay tuned!

I Have to Change My Password Again?

My good friend, Scott Driza, from DocBuilder.com Incorporated recently wrote about password policy considerations. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand changing my passwords at work. I’ve already run through all of my usual strong passwords, and I can’t go back to them until I’ve created 10 more passwords that I’ll never remember. What’s worse is that every single system at my current employer has its own password and password policy.

I am a big proponent of single sign on technologies because of all of the pain and suffering I have endured while trying to come up with a new password for a bazillion applications every 60 to 90 days. To avoid causing pain and suffering for your users, the first thing you should think about doing is tying all of your network and web applications together under one user name and password. I know this takes a bit of work when building or configuring the applications, but it is worth it in the long run. Secondly, make it easy for the users to come up with new passwords. Having a password at least 7 characters long with at least 1 capitalized letter and 1 number is strong enough for most businesses. Most of the applications are buried behind corporate firewalls anyway.

One user name, one password, one simple policy – Three things that will make your users happier and your network safer.

Great Office Video

I’ve been meaning to blog about this video I first saw early last week.

This has to be one of the coolest offices ever. I’d love to work there, but I’m afraid these guys would think I was an old fart at the ripe old age of 33. From all of the comments on CrunchNotes, these guys work for a company called Connected Ventures in NYC. If I were 20 something and in New York, I’d be busting down the door to work for this company. Enjoy!

From CrunchNotes and Internet Business Daily.

What In The World Happened To Me?

Hello everyone! Well, it’s been over a month since my last post, and boy, has it ever been a crazy month. Some time ago, my wife and I decided that it was best for our family to move back to the Midwest so we could afford to buy a house and settle down so our kids could remember where they grew up. So, over the last couple months, we have been insanely busy with the planning of a cross country move. The first major hurdle was making sure I had a good job in our new location. My company really came through for me and allowed me to work from home in the Midwest. I really can’t tell you how excited I am to have this opportunity.

With everything settled with my job, it was time to find a house. My wife is really incredible. She contacted a mortgage broker who had worked with some friends of ours and had us pre-approved for a mortgage in no time. We then decided it would be best if she went on the house hunting trip, and I would stay at home with the kids. She really was the best person for the job. She’s very organized and focused and did a great job over a long weekend to find the perfect house. She came back with a camera full of pictures, and by the end of the next week, we had an accepted offer on the house we wanted.

Now, you would think all of these things going on at once would be enough to drive a person mad, but the story’s not over yet. We were in a long term lease in the house we were renting and had to find a new tenant so we could get our of the lease. One night, we were just about to cook dinner, and we got a phone call from a family that was parked outside the house wanting to come in for a tour. We almost said no, but luckily we let them come into the house. They were a very nice family and really a perfect fit for the house. The next day, they spoke with the owner of the house and decided to rent it. The craziest thing was their time frame was the same as ours. The situation could not have been better.

With my job, a mortgage, a house, and our lease worked out, it was time to figure out how in the world we would get all of our things back to the Midwest. We had moved locally at the beginning of the year, and we knew how difficult it would be to pack, load, and transport all of our belongings, cars, and kids almost 2000 miles. We decided to hire a moving company, and it turned out to be a good decision. It was hard enough just getting the four of us to our new house. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we had to drive a huge truck as well. We all made it to our new home safe and sound, and most of household goods made it here in one piece. My buddy, Scott, was kind enough to let us keep our other car at his place until my parents got there last week for vacation. They’re going to drive back in a couple weeks, and then we’ll really have all of our things here.

So, that’s what my family and I have been up to since my last post. As usual, my wife is doing a wonderful job making our house a home once again. My daughter is meeting new friends and getting used to her new school, and my son’s getting used to wearing pants, socks, and shoes. It’s weird to think that he wore shorts and sandals most of his life until last month.

There have been many things going on in the world that I want to write about so check back soon for new posts. It’s good to be back!

How Things Should Work . . . At Work 1

This is the first in a series of posts about how I think things should work at work.

In the ten years since I completed my undergraduate degree, I have worked for companies of all shapes and sizes. One thing that seems to be consistent between all of those companies is that managers at all levels have a lot of work to do in the area of communication. Communicating with employees is an immensely important part of management, and when it is not done properly or not done at all; employees become disgruntled and less productive.

Passing along bad news is never easy, and this is most likely a leading reason why managers (and companies in general) seem to have such poor communication skills. Unfortunately, it is most important to deliver the bad news as quickly as possible to avoid rumors spreading like wildfire. Employees respect managers that are upfront and honest and will do whatever it takes to help those managers get the job done. Employees that feel they do not have the whole story and do not trust their managers will not work up to their potential, and the company will suffer as a consequence.

So, I guess my whole point is that managers should keep their employees informed to the best of their abilities. If there is bad news, then give the employees the bad news and tell them what needs to get done to correct the problem. If there is good news, then celebrate it with the employees. If someone gets promoted or changes teams, make sure all of the employee’s coworkers know about it.

Communicate!