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Regular cooks look for a recipe, check their cupboards and fridge and then go shopping for the missing ingredients.  Home chefs either peruse their kitchen or walk the grocery store, looking for inspiration. A great chef can create a new dish from leftovers and bits of this and that.  They simply see things in a new way.  Taking a second, and even a third look at ingredients inspires them.strawberry.gif


How much do you find yourself doing your job on auto-pilot, looking at the same things in the same way, using your tools exactly as you did 10 years ago?  But the challenges change as do your tools.  When was the last time you looked at what you did and how you do it with fresh eyes?  Start with your job – what has changed this year?  Have your company’s priorities or business focus changed?  Are you moving from a primarily storefront interface to the web? To mobile? Are you virtualizing or moving to a cloud?  Look back 10 years (or 5) and see if your job is different now. Then ask – are you still doing it the same way?


Next, look at the tools you use to do your job.  Are you on the current release? Have you read up on all the new features?  Do you even use a lot of what is available with the tool now?  Find at least one capability that you could use, but haven’t, and learn it.  Approach your old tool with fresh eyes; what else can it do for you?  Once upon a time, I got a notion that my modeling tool, now called BMC Capacity Management for Mainframes, could do more than just predict the future, as it is commonly used.  It could also tell me whether our various disaster recovery plans would actually work.  For some key scenarios, we were able to determine that they wouldn’t perform, even though, on the surface, they looked okay.  A new use for an old tool – what could be better?


Ask who else might benefit from the information generated by the tool?  Too often, we don’t see a way to share the information, or in some cases, don’t want to share the information, but it can be great to share with the business a report that shows them their business transaction counts paired with their IT costs. They can then see how they are doing from a profitability standpoint.  And you can include response time and other metrics showing them the quality of your work. 


Tomorrow, take a step back and review your data center “kitchen.”  What else can you make from what you already have?  How can you get more value out of those old ingredients?  You may be surprised at what you find.


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Back when I was a performance analyst, I began getting some oddly technical requests from senior management , literally “out of the blue.”  In one famous case, someone with a fancy title, ESVP or some other interesting combination of letters, demanded that we immediately begin to do “parallel SYSPLEX.”  I had a notion that he didn’t actually know what parallel SYSPLEX meant, so I asked “How much of it should we do?”  He replied, “We’re a bank. Let’s be conservative and do about 10% to start.”  I filed that request under a dump and ignored it.  But it got me wondering – where are these ideas coming from?  It was then I discovered a selection of management magazines, heralding the next new thing for IT, urging managers to get on board.  We were ordered to convert all VSAM files to DB2, to move from the mainframe to UNIX, taking perfectly good CICS systems and moving them all to MRO and more. 


These “good ideas” could absorb an army of technicians without necessarily resulting in any business benefit.  It isn’t that any of them were necessarily bad, but you had to be reading more carefully to understand under what circumstances these ideas were warranted and the cost of making those choices.  At the same time, real world issues presented themselves, but to many, it seemed a career-limiting move to focus on those. 

Now, the buzz is cloud and again, it’s not that moving work to the cloud is bad.  But you have to ask first – What problem are you trying to solve and will this be the best way to solve it? The savvy technician – the one who wants to retain his job while still doing the right thing – will take the following steps:


  1. Read the magazines.  If you don’t know what your managers are reading, you won’t really understand what is behind the request.  Figure out what the “free lunch” is to them and whether or not your real world works that way.
  2. Develop the right list of questions.  No manager in the world likes being told by his senior technician that he is an idiot.  But if you ask powerful questions, you can work together to understand the real problem and then, derive a good solution.
  3. Understand the business. At the heart of it all is the value the business gets from IT versus the cost.  Powerful arguments, when needed, will always involve framing the issue in terms of business value. 
  4. Be a diplomat.  Diplomacy is the art of letting somebody else have your way.
  5. Be prepared to learn more.
  6. Use this as a solution-buying occasion

Once an idea has been agreed upon, you will quickly find your new challenges require new tools.  If you have done the research and you are ready to implement the new direction, you should know before you start what tools you need so you can manage it.  If you wait, it is much harder to upgrade your toolset.  But in the beginning of a project, it can be readily folded into the cost of the project.  These journals can be your friend, or your enemy.  It’s your choice.  Don’t let a crisis go to waste.

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Excellence can take on many different meanings depending on your perspective. It can be a rating that indicates a level of superiority. For students, excellence is often rewarded with an “A” on a report card. An athlete who wins a gold medal is recognized for his or her excellence in a sport. Or excellence could refer to the quality of something that is exceptionally good – like my favorite brand of chocolate chip cookies.



However, since this is a technology blog, I’d like to shift the focus to excellence in data center automation. To drive efficiencies, automation requires developing and implementing effective processes.



BMC’s Ben Newton and Tim Fessenden discussed the concept of a Center of Excellence (COE) for the data center, and how this approach brings together talent from many disciplines to create and maintain automation best practices.  They explained how business analysts, people in engineering and operations, as well in other groups, can work together to drive automation and business value. They also identified steps for building the center. Their article describes this approach in: How a Center of Excellence Can Boost Automation Benefits

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It's amazing what I.T. was meant to be.