Sunday, January 09, 2011

Using Windows Tools to Maximize Productivity

One of the most important things for consultants to do is to maximize their time. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to assist in this endeavor. I'm specifically focusing on Microsoft tools, namely Windows Phone and associated services to get more done in less time.

Smart phones have really taken off. Of course, some of us have been using "smart" phones long before Apple came along and took credit for inventing it.

Here's a list of three Windows tools that can be used to maximize productivity:

Windows Phone - Syncs with Hotmail, Hotmail calendar, and can use Outlook connector to sync with Outlook on a desktop. Use Zune software to sync up podcasts and music.

Windows SkyDrive - Upload your documents and photos to this secure online storage area, where they can be accessed from your WP or any internet-connected computer. This is a lifesaver when needing to access business documents on a client site or to edit using the WP.

Office Online - Last but not least, the ability to create, edit, and save Office documents on computers without the client software is huge. Office online doesn't have the full functionality of the client tools but it's enough for basic documents and has saved me more than once.

I hope you consider using these tools to become more productive. They are all available for low or no cost and provide high return on time.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Importance of Goals

Welcome to the first post of 2011. Ironically, or maybe not, I'm writing about goals today for software techies, and my first goal is to publish posts more frequently.

It is very easy to get into patters of life that just happen and people, like energy, tend to follow the past of least resistance. This is especially apparent in corporate America, where people get hired as employees, suffer through yearly reviews, get raises every now and then, but (often) fail to build a comprehensive goal list. In corporate speak, this is called a "career path". I prefer the term "Career plan", because the employee is the responsible party for developing and executing his/her own career plan. Especially in the era of corporate downsizing, one should not and cannot let their career path be dictated by a single company.

A career plan can be simple or detailed. It must be actionable. One plan might state "Advance to become Software Architect". This seems slightly lofty and possibly unreasonable, but with the right planning becomes a distinct possibility. Compare with the goal of "Advance to become Software Architect by presenting at a major conference, spending 5 hours a week networking with fellow architects, and publishing an article in a journal during the current year". The best case in this scenario is that you now have a plan and become a software architect and the worst case is that if you achieve all the goals you've set yourself up in a strong position to move into the role down the road.

I would imagine that if you are reading this blog you've probably been doing some networking or attended a tech event. These two facts alone will put you in the "creme de la creme" as they both show initiative in expanding your boundaries. But never rest on your laurels, continue moving forward and setting new goals as you retire achieved ones.

The best goals are SMART:
S - Specific (Get a MBA, Publish an article)
M - Measurable (Degree is conferred, article was published)
A - Actionable (Something that can actually be done)
R - Realistic (Something that you really can achieve in the time allotted)
T - Time driven (There is a time limitation in which to achieve the goal)

The fact is that the software development lifecycle is alive and well, and this relates to techies as well. It's a "grow, learn, and achieve" industry versus a "stagnate and die" one. In which group do you consider yourself? What is your SMART career plan for this year?