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Making a Case for Face-to-Face Classroom Training

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

As a technologist, I believe it is vital to continue to develop my skills and competencies through formal and on-the-job experiences.  As a technology manager, I strive to cultivate an atmosphere where my team recognizes the value of developing their skills and expertise.  As a leader within a technology trade association, I’ve heard various perspectives identifying that opportunities to network with peers and acquiring professional certifications are strong motivators for association participation.

However in recent years, I’ve found it difficult to find appropriate classroom training programs catered to technology professionals.  In the last six months, almost half my staff have encountered a situation where an off-site technology class has been canceled because not enough people signed up for the course.  More recently, I purchases a new network access control system that included a training component.  To my surprise the training was only available online.

I maybe showing my age, but I have a certain bias toward structured, off-site, classroom training.  In my opinion, these types of situations offer tremendous value for technologist.  I will concede only a small portion of the value emanates from the trainer leading the course.  The majority of the value comes from the other attendees who are participating in the course.  Listening to the stories of others, who often have a different experience with a vast array of products and technologies, makes up for any lost time or workload disruption.  In my limited experience with online training setups, this interaction with other classmates Is a deterrent.  Wikis, knowledge bases, Google searches, and YouTube videos have the potential to pass on technical information, but fail to capture the perspectives and experiences of a classroom full of technologists whose experiences, observations, and  opinions typically differ considerably from my own.

So where does a technologist find this melting pot of valuable knowledge in a market that is moving away from my preferred method of knowledge transfer?  Even if I can find classroom style training options, more often than not, they fail to sell sufficient seats to justify the expense of hosting a course.  Is this an opportunity for trade associations to revise their stance on vendor agnostic requirements, and begin pursing the finite training allowance with manufacture and product specific courses which incorporate some level of certification or professional development credit?  Or should technologists resign themselves to the realization that with newer delivery methods,  they will have to find another source to listen to the war stories from colleagues?

You haven’t cut the cord yet?

Last week, a college buddy of mine commented on Facebook that he was considering canceling his phone telephone service because it was primarily a vehicle for telemarketers to interrupt his evening.  My initial thought was, “what took you so long” to arrive at this realization.  I came to this conclusion three years ago, when my wife and I decided it was time to get my oldest daughter a cell phone.  The decision was clear when we evaluated the costs vs use and discerned that by dropping our home phone service, we could transfer these funds towards cell phones.    One of the draw backs associated with the election to discontinue local phone service, is the concern associated with having a cell phone number published in things like church directories.  To resolve this issue, I signed up for a Google Voice account, that would serve as our “home” number, but could be routed to any number of family cell phones.  We enjoyed the additional features of voice mail notification like speech-to-text translation that can be sent via text message or email.

Coincidentally, on Jul 7, 2011 Om Malik posted on article on GigaOM entitled “When will the (traditional) telephone hang up?“.  The article challenges the idea of what constitutes a “phone call” and references material from Tom Evslin, a Federal Communications Commission Technical Advisory Committee member, that eludes to issues associated with carriers supporting the public switch telephone network (PSTN).  What caught my attention is the reference to data from the National Center for Health Statistics that predicts that by 2018 only 6% of the US population will be using the PSTN.  To put this in context, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) report released in May 2010 identified that one in four US households were “wireless-only”, meaning their primary telephone service was from a cellular phone company.

So whether motivated by the annoyance of telemarketers or the financial burden of paying for too many telephone services, there seems to be momentum in discontinuing the home landline phone service.

Categories: Uncategorized

Internet TV

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

“Cutting the Cord”, it’s a battle cry that many of us have heard with regards to telephone service.  The economics were simple, do you pay for land line, cellular, or both.  In 2008, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that “16-percent of households have no traditional landline phone and rely exclusively on a mobile phone”.

A similar debate has also come to the television set.  Do you “cut the cord” of your paid content subscription and leverage the fee paid for broadband Internet to receive video content.  In August 2010, a New York Times article sited that 88% of their customers still had some form of traditional video content subscription.  In the same article the president of Leichtman Research Group said that Americans were not and did not indicate they were moving towards eliminating their video content subscriptions in favor for Internet based video content.

At the same time Netflix is predicting that “members will watch more content streamed than delivered on DVD” in the 4th quarter of 2010.  Then you have reports from Cisco that likewise predicts that video will consumer 90% of the consumer internet traffic by the year 2013.  My query is whether these online video services are viewed on computers, or are they making their way to television set.

My own experience is that I’m watching more online or streaming content on my television (interconnected to my laptop) than I do from over-the-air or paid cable/satellite service.  Now I am in the minority in that I do not have a paid cable/satellite service.  At the same time online video content services via Hulu, Netflix, and even the major broadcast network’s own web pages provide ample opportunity for me to watch shows and content at my convenience.  Just yesterday I watch the entire first episode of “The Sing-Off because I had a scheduling conflict when it aired Monday night.

From my professional perspective, this is a significant conundrum.  Part of my professional responsibilities including managing a 40 channel cable television service for 2,500 college residents.  This represents a significant annual cost and the question I’ve wrestled with over the last three years is whether this service was used and useful.  Early indicators suggest that while college students are more likely to view video content over the Internet, they also watch traditional cable television as well.  The tipping point, in my opinion, will be when live sporting events become as ubiquitous on the internet as they are on broadcast television.

Disruption Restlessness

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the last week I’ve seemed to encountered a flood of connection challenges that have left me restless.  Over the weekend, the family was planning a gathering with some friends from church and we decided to sing some Christmas carols.  Being the resident technophile, my responsibility was to gather and print our lyrics for this activity.  Laptop in hand, I proceeded to outperform the request with not only lyrics but sheet music print outs.  After successfully printing three selections, suddenly all web connections timed out, and I was left stunned as my wireless internet (WiMax) connection had completely dropped out.  Undaunted, I took a recess from the task with hopes that this disruption of service would be short lived and I could return to the responsibility and complete the request in true over-achievement form.  While I’m not entirely surprised, my service disruption extended well beyond the evening’s festivities.  So when it came time for singing carols, I armed myself with my trusty iPhone with 3G cellular service.  While the “turn around” between a song being named and I could have the lyrics in the palm of my hand was longer than I would like, we were able to navigate the technical difficulties and have a enjoyable time.

Later that same evening, after the aforementioned internet service became functional, I was browsing on my laptop when it suddenly and without warning froze.  Several reboots and choice words later, I was able to diagnosis that something was quite the matter.  After boot-up, the trusty laptop would freeze after about 10 minutes.  Thankfully this particular unit is a work laptop, but not necessarily my primary work laptop.  So I resigned myself to call it a technical day and would return to diagnosis the problem later.  Evening and morning came, and as it were Sunday I felt hamstrung without my trusty laptop detailing my lack of performance by the fantasy football teams I managed.  Further investigations of this device yielded little results other than the conclusion that our tech support folks would need to look into the situation.  It’s been several days since I’ve laid eyes on the coveted device that has been trustworthy for my years.  The diagnosis is software related and it’s pending return will be void of the files, images, pictures, and music that it once contained.

As it’s the week leading up to Christmas, the halls of my employer are quiet, except for those technologists that are attempting to update, upgrade, and perform various tasks that normally are acceptable during a normal business day.  But as with any change element, fallout is expected and today is no different.  Following a construction meeting early this morning, I walked into the office charged with a idea of consolidating a file share of CAD drawings.  My positive attitude and new found vigor quickly dropped when I realized I was unable to connect to the network share where these displaced files resided.  Once I again I resorted to calling the technical helpdesk to inquire about server issues and while cheerful, they weren’t aware of any perceived issues.  So I performed my own technical end around and contact a member of the Systems group.  They too were unaware of a server issue as they were knee deep in a firmware upgrade that had done south.  However a coupled muffled phrases later, the condition I’d observed was confirmed and footsteps were heard as energy was expensed to resolve the problem.

So as the hours before a much needed and deserved holiday and vacation wind down, I’m stuck with the impression that disruption of service is how my time will be observed over the course of the next couple of days.  While I am grateful that none of these reside under my technical responsibilities and as such require long hours troubleshooting processes and engaging vendor support represents who read from the same manuals as I do.  I am reminded that my own restless feelings are similar to those of the customers that I serve day in and day out, when such disruption is associated with an area I am responsible for.

Categories: Uncategorized

Making Sense of it All

September 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Each day, advancements in technology shape our lives.  The use of smart phones with internet access, the proliferation of social media, and the amount of content available on the internet are several examples that have offered many benefits.  At the same time the adoption of these technologies and advancement can be overwhelming.  To this end, I’ve come to accept a systematic way to approach these advancements.  This approach has proven to help guide resource allocations and allows the freedom to evaluate technologies to ensure maximium benefits are captured.

This approached is based on six stages of engagement.  The stages include …

  • Watch … being aware or taking note of a technology
  • Study … making specific attempts to dive deeper into technology and determine it’s usefulness, acceptance, relation to our current technology stack, and quantifying the benefits offered
  • Engage … looking at how, when, where, and why a specific technology should be incorporated.  This is when the process expands to stack holders, financial analysis, and more resources are allocated
  • Commit … this is the decision making stage to determine whether or not to adopt a technology
  • Execute … this is when a decision is made to adopt a technology and includes a project plan
  • Operationalize … this is when the execution is complete and the technology joins the stack

Some technologies move quickly throught these stages, while others never get beyond the “watch” stage.  This approach doesn’t dictate speed, resource allocation, or scope.  However it does provide a framework for approaching technology as well as provide a structure to faciliate conversations.

Categories: Uncategorized