Periodically IBMers get an email reminding them to know how to reach their manager, and to make sure their manager knows how to reach them, in case there is an emergency. The managers dutifully gather up contact information -- cell and home phone numbers and home addresses -- and share them upward. When I was a manager I used to carry around a spreadsheet in my purse. IBM, like many companies, has a disaster response plan. Step one in that plan is to find out if any IBMers need help, and that is the manger's job.
I was reminded of this the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing. We were on our way home from a long weekend away. We had just found out about the bombing, and were in a state of shock and anger and fear -- a combination of "I've been there other years -- that could have been me", and "who did I know who was going to be there today?" and "thank God our son is in New Orleans or he would have been there" and "who could have done this, and why?"
My cell phone rang, and I instantly knew it would be my manager. She was checking in on all her employees in Massachusetts (she lives in Pennsylvania) and was able to tell me my immediate co-workers were all okay. Less than two hours after the bombing, managers were reaching out to all IBMers known to be in the area. Since our largest software lab is in Massachusetts, that was a lot of people. It was also school vacation week, so many people were away, including managers. For an event like the marathon it's not just who lives in the area, but also people who might be running or supporting a runner. It took quite a while before we got the the "all clear, no IBMers need help" message.
In 10 years I've seen IBM do this for earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes. I've gotten the "are you okay?" phone call several times. I don't know what would happen if I said "No, I need help!", but I have every confidence that my manager would be finding out what I needed, and working with other IBMers to get me help from people on the ground -- the Red Cross, emergency services, whatever would be appropriate.
Sometimes the good old fashioned phone tree is darn useful. Which reminds me.....there's a new manager in my reporting chain and I ought to program his phone number into my cell phone......
This week I had an afternoon without any client meetings, so I decided to go install Notes 9 aka Notes Social Edition, as I'm seeing rave reviews from my network on my Connections Home page.
Part of what keeps IBMer's technically sharp is doing a significant amount of our own IT work, so I rolled up my sleeves and started the install.
First, the screen asking me for my intranet password wasn't coming to front, and I couldn't figure out why the install wasn't starting. Duh.
Once I figured that out, I then realized this was going to take a while, so I brought out my backup laptop and started it up. Well, whoops, hadn't run that in a while...needed lots of mandatory updates. And draft, I HAVE to encrypt the hard drive, not an option to skip it any longer. Well, at least I could run Sametime while this was all going on, so people could ping me.
Meanwhile, on my primary laptop, the Notes 9 install was going along fine...and then it failed....something about not being able to start the java virtual machine. So I removed it, rebooted the machine, and tried again, since that was listed as the first thing to try. Well darn, didn't fix it.
I had to give up, as I had meetings coming up. So I re-installed Notes 8.5.3 to get myself operational. Okay, no problem, up and running.
Except now Sametime won't start. I've un-installed it, and done a clean re-install. No luck. This is probably due to funkiness left over from when I was on the Sametime team, installing daily builds. Thank heavens I have the option of running Sametime in my Notes client, because that one works.
The moral of the story is that even IBM, who actually has great internal IT procedures, has trouble with individual desktops. I've entered my help ticket to get my Sametime fixed, and reported the Notes installation bug (with zip files full of logs). Hopefully I'll get Notes 9 up soon, cause it looks really cool!
As an IBMer, it's been interesting watching the media and social media reaction to Yahoo's work-from-home ban. It's a debate that every technology company has, occasionally swinging the pendulum from one extreme to the other, in order to tweak some aspect of the local culture. Most of the time you never hear about it, unless it happens to you or your friends.
Every time recently when I've heard about one of these "back to the office" initiatives, research studies are quoted showing how collaboration and innovation are more likely to happen when people work within 50 feet of each other. After the management meeting, the unofficial word on the grapevine is usually "Google makes everyone come into the office."
And that's the crux of it -- every now and then a company is widely admired, and then other businesses in the same area try to emulate that company's culture. It's why "In Search of Excellence" continues to sell so well. The only problem is, culture doesn't transplant very well.
IBM swings the pendulum on the office or home emphasis too. A decade ago, IBM figured out that we could save a lot of money on real estate if we set up people as at home workers, and suddenly I knew dozens of people who had an office location listed as "HOME". Then IBM built our Littleton, Massachusetts site, our largest Software Lab in North America. People were so used to working from home that some of them didn't bother coming in to unpack their boxes. So an "in the office 5 days a week" mandate was imposed -- which was tough on the folks with long commutes, especially on Friday afternoons.
The mandate did fill up the parking lot and the cafeteria. After a time I stopped hearing the grumbling, and noticed the parking lot was awfully empty on Friday afternoons -- but very full every other day of the week. The mandate had done its job -- it reset the social conventions to make the office a place people wanted to come, to see people and reinforce that social glue.
The best is to have both -- an office, with great people in it so you WANT to be there, and the flexibility to work from home when that's the best thing to do. Sometimes giving up commute time is the only way to fit everything into a 24 hour day. You don't HAVE to have an office to Collaborate -- but it's darn nice to have the option.
Ten years ago today, IBM completed the acquisition of Rational Software and I became an IBMer.
In those ten years, I changed brands, moving from Rational to Lotus. I have worked in Development, Support, and Services. I got my PMP certification, took a client facing role for the first time, and have worked with people on every continent except Antarctica.
IBM's a big company, but a culture of trust binds it together. One of the things we were told when we first joined the company is that there are no rules, only guidelines. If someone tells you "that's a rule" and you've got a good business reason why it shouldn't be, then you do the right thing. Get management support first if you can, but if it's not unethical or illegal, and you're confident it's the right thing, then do the right thing.
Early on I had an example of that. Our local Rational office was a small office building, and we had a tradition -- the candy dish. Every day at 2 p.m. a candy dish was put out in the break room with a variety of candies. Bite size candies. Hershey's kisses. Sour balls. It varied every day. Almost everyone came by to scope out the candy, see if one of their favorites was there, and grab a piece. It was a natural gathering spot. Lots of collaboration got done there. A volunteer purchased it, put it out each day, and submitted expense reports.
After we were assimilated into IBM the question arose...what about the candy dish? Well, our acquisition executive was no dummy. The candy dish continued.
About a year later, the candy queen (who reported to me at the time) came into my office upset. She'd had a call from auditing, and they told her we couldn't do the candy dish any more. It violated a contract with our vending machine vendor, who had the exclusive rights to provide candy to US IBM sites.
I called the auditor back, and we had a conversation. He explained about the exclusive contract with the vendor. I explained that this was a key part of our local culture. It was especially important during our assimilation in IBM that we keep that touch point going, to strengthen the social glue. And since the local norm was nobody could take more than two small pieces of candy, it was not really competing with the vending machine. With no cafeteria in the building, that vending machine got plenty of traffic.
He listened, and then he came up with a solution that would do the right thing by our employees and keep our expense reports from being flagged for auditing. We should re-submit our expense report for the candy, and label it "break room supplies" from now on.
It was my first example of IBMers doing the right thing, but by no means the last. Happy Anniversary Rational! And hey, is there still a candy dish?
Ten years ago I worked in a small office building, in a "face time" culture, and we worked business hours except during crunch time. During crunch time it was stay late, and come in on weekends. If you didn't come into the office you had to have a darn good reason -- like being sick or having a sick kid. Only the managers had teleconference numbers.
Now I live in e-meetings and on the phone, have two on-demand e-meetings and two on-demand teleconference numbers. Most days I go into the office (the largest IBM Software Lab in North America) even though almost everyone I work with is somewhere else -- including my clients. Today I had a 7 am meeting, to talk with a colleague in Germany. Sometimes I end up on the phone talking with my client in Hawaii at 10 pm at night.
I've started working with a new client, with a new set of IBM Services teammates. We're in the design and plan phase of an engagement that will take us through most of the year. Which means one heck of a lot of document generation and fact finding.
Today I got pinged by Sametime by our Solution Architect -- he needed to know a fact. Where is the SmartCloud Enterprise datacenter in Germany. It begins with an E. Did I know? Well, no I didn't remember that from the presentation I saw last summer, but I told him to let me poke for 10 minutes and I'd get back to him.
First I googled. Found lots of IBM marketing literature, but no details about where our cloud data centers were located. Yeah, I know, it's the cloud, location doesn't matter, doesn't need to be in the marketing literature.
Second, I tried to find that presentation in my email archive. Nope, don't even remember when I saw it, so that was a no go. I wasn't even sure I ever got emailed a copy, so not worth spending any more time.
Next, I did a search on the IBM intranet. Nothing on the first page of results was relevant. I was hopeful for a few minutes when I found sales training on SmartCloud Enterprise; the first few documents had nothing on locations. I was thinking of pinging some of the "experts" listed on the side of the page, but they were all in Europe and this was Friday afternoon US time. Nobody online.
Finally, I noticed a third search box on our main intranet page. Search Communities. We have an unbelievable number of internal IBM Connections communities, created by IBMers to share all kinds of information. Well, what the heck. Why not?
First try, first search item.. forum question "Where are the SmartCloud data centers?" And the posted answer had a complete list...with mailing addresses no less.
Wow. In 13 minutes I had the answer for our architect. (There are time stamps in our Sametime chat.) If I'd been smart enough to search our Communities first it would have been 1 minute. Note to self, search Communities first next time.
It's January, and at IBM that means it's time for our executives to play musical chairs. :^)
Seriously, IBM does a really good job of keeping the senior executive pipeline full; that means the lower level executives get experience in all parts of the business as they move up. It's pretty good odds that a new year means a new executive somewhere in an IBMers management chain.
This week I was having lunch with some former co-workers, and we were talking about the organizational changes. During the discussion, someone observed that one of the executives was "really active on Connections" and she liked what she saw.
Which got me thinking....most of us Google ourselves from time to time to find out what pops up. It's reputation monitoring we all should do occasionally. But do we do similar checks on ourselves on our Corporate intranet? Hhhhmmm, THAT hadn't occurred to me before.
So, I started doing searches on my new Executive. Not much there. Then I started doing searches on myself. LOTS there. Whoa, I found a Sametime chat from 6 years ago that had been pulled into an Activity by the person I was chatting with. Also lots of more recent hits since I micro-blog regularly, and comment on other people's micro-blogs. I'm a member of a number of public communities, and post in forums as well as answer questions in forums. I write an IBM internal blog with some co-workers. I show up in meeting minutes, and on emails pulled into various client-specific activities. History from my last 4 jobs is scattered all over the IBM Intranet.
I realized that when I look up someone in Profiles, which happens multiple times a day, I've started scrolling down to their board, to see what they've posted in their micro-blog. Some people post nothing. Some people last posted over six months ago. Some people only post where they've been. "In LAX" "At Starbucks, waiting to meet with Client X" Others only post big client news "Won the bid at Acme Inc!" Some post URL's to interesting articles about technology trends. Some post about IBM strategy. A few people I have had to "unfollow" because they are just too wordy. Some executives are definitely worth following -- it's better than an all hands meeting and takes less time. Some people I always read their micro-blogs -- they are funny, thoughtful, or thought provoking. Those are the people I try to emulate -- newsy, honest, entertaining, informative.
Come to think of it, I haven't googled myself recently.....
In my teenage years I read a LOT of science fiction -- novels, short stories, anthologies. It was wonderful escapism.
I remember a fragment of one story -- it was about a woman reviewing the domestic computer records of people who died, to make sure there was nothing important in them before the records were deleted. In this story, people used the computer for everything -- entertainment, money management, personal diaries, for social connections with friends and family, ordering groceries and clothing. Computing power was ubiquitous, available, reliable. It was a utility.
Well, I'm seeing it happen in my own household.
(Obvious Parental brag) Our oldest son had his Eagle Scout Court of Honor last week. It was a wonderful event, very personal to him. One of my jobs was to create the slide show of his decade in scouting. Now, I am NOT a scrapbook mom. While I had been attempting to consolidate all our digital pictures on one desktop system I hadn't quite finished the task. Then the hard drive of that desktop system died (luckily I had a backup) -- and the software I had been using to organize pictures was no longer available for download on the new disk drive, so I had an emergency decision to make on how to tackle the chaos. .
Long story short, I was able to find pictures by looking at about 4 different backup drives from computers we've used in the last decade. I'm back to trying to consolidate them all -- but this time I want to put them all in the cloud. But which picture service? Still working on that.
Since I wasn't real happy with the quality of the desktop backup, I'm enabling cloud Backup -- it's already part of our antivirus subscription, might as well use it.
I re-downloaded "A Christmas Carol" from my audiobook library on audible.com onto my new ipod to get myself in the holiday mood. I bought a few ebooks for Christmas and had them auto-delivered onto one of the four kindles in our household. Almost all of the holiday shopping was done online.
Anyone who knows me knows I struggle with my weight. Yup, I'm on Weightwatchers.com AND I now have the companion WeightWatchers/Philips Activelink, which keeps incredibly accurate records of how much activity I do on a daily basis -- which is never quite as much as I thought I did. Ah feedback. All on the internet for me to access anytime anywhere.
We have Netflix and Roku and video on demand. I don't remember the last time we bought a DVD. We've all got facebook accounts. Two of us have LinkedIn accounts. Two of us have online game accounts...and the 14 year old has enabled his xbox to play team games over the internet while talking on his bluetooth headset to his gameplay buddies -- all of which he set up without asking me to help (another parental brag).
We pay the bills online using e-banking; it's pretty rare to write a check.
In short, more and more of my domestic life is out on a server farm somewhere out on the internet. Not quite like the story, as it's a fragmented mess of data scattered over many different companies...but getting closer by the day. Wish I could remember who wrote that story -- I'd like to go back and re-read it!
This week I crossed a new milestone in my working life; I acquired a second teleconference number. I needed it, because I now have some back to back client meetings. IBMers respect client privacy; since meetings do have a way of running to the last minute, I didn't want my second client dialing in early and hearing my first client. My solution is to create separate audio meeting rooms..
I've noticed that this is a pretty common practice among client-facing IBMers. It's such a common scenario that there were no justifications or approvals needed; the IBM web site instantly generated my second call in number on my request.
An always on, "meet me" teleconference capability is a basic business tool. When I was a development manager, I asked the developers on my teams to have a current passport, a company charge card and phone card, their own corporate e-meeting "room", and their own (corporate paid) teleconference number. Most of them complied, though some thought it was pretty silly. "But, I don't travel." "My team is here, I don't call people." "I'm not a project leader, I don't need to run meetings."
Then there were the client crises that sent one developer to France,and another to the Philippines. New team members joined from Dublin, and there were more phone calls, and international calls at that. The team reorganized to meet short term objectives, and suddenly there were many parallel meetings going on with remote team members. It became useful and practical to be able to have a meeting with remote team members on demand. My management mandate started making sense to the very logical developers on my team -- who realized their time was costing IBM a great deal more than the pennies we spent on the teleconferencing.
I use my teleconference number routinely when I schedule meetings. I've used it to talk with hiring managers about job opportunities, to have one-on-one chats with mentees and clients. My manager always uses her teleconference number when she schedules 1-1 meetings -- it avoids the whole "call me at this number" dance. It also makes it easy to deal with international calling, since the teleconference number has standard numbers outside the US for dozens of countries.
In short, it's just darn useful. . IBM, thanks for making it so easy for an employee to have a teleconference number - and more than one if we decide we need it!
I took great glee this week in un- subscribing from the middle-school email list-server. There has to be some benefit from having two kids in High School, and a little less email in the home inbox is one of them.
I've noticed the last couple of years that the volume of paper coming home that my kid forgets to give me has decreased dramatically. More and more gets posted on the school web site and/or emailed out in the daily newsletter, or special notes from the principal. Sometimes teachers of a particular class will blast an email to all the parents of kids in that class -- for instance telling us of an upcoming field trip and asking for the permission slip to be signed and sent back. For which I am very grateful -- no parent likes to get the frantic "I forgot, can you come sign the permission slip right now?" phone call.
What has been even nicer in the last year is watching the school and teachers adopting new tools to reach out to parents.
Now there are text messages reminding parents of upcoming athletic meets and what time the bus will leave for the event. When my cell phone buzzes on Tuesday afternoon or Friday afternoon it's a good bet it's the auto-updater telling me about the logistics for the next day's cross-country meet. And, hooray, the athletics web site has the address for the away events, with a link to click to get a map!
The band director tweets updates of factoids he wants parents to know -- changes to practice times, reminders of upcoming events. At my suggestion, he has started tweeting when the band bus departs from the Away football games. This allows parents to estimate when they'll need to be at the high school to retrieve their child. Of course, your child could actually CALL you to let you know they're on the way home, but somehow that just never quite happens.
Given how crazy our household can be, with two teenagers coming and going (neither of them yet with a license), and two busy adults, I am grateful for all the help I can get coordinating schedules. Thank you High School!
IBM maintains a really big instance of IBM Connections on our intranet. I say really big because it contains profiles for all employees worldwide, has 618,920 public communities, 126,000 blogs, 20,000 public folders, 12 Million public files, and 340,000 public wikis. Thank heavens for tagging and search.
IBM is rapidly coming to rely on Connections. That's easy to see, because if it goes down the complaints are pretty vociferous in the micro-blogs after it comes back up.
It's interesting to watch IBMers adopt Connections. It's very organic. I'm sure there is training out there, but I haven't heard of anybody taking it! People start with one feature, try another, and another....
First, an IBMer will click on a link for the corporate directory and end up in Profiles. We all use Profiles, as it's just the next instance of our old Corporate Blue Pages Directory. Profiles has this cool little feature called micro-blogging, which people use to post status updates, complaints, and random how-do-I queries. People see their co-workers post status updates, and they start building their "network", to build up their feed of status updates. I still add a few new people to my network every week.
Every now and then you see a micro-blog go by you have to comment on. It's a question you know the answer to, or a good idea you want to endorse. Before you know it, you're micro-blogging every day too. Our executives micro-blog links to cool articles about the business and to congratulate teams for making major milestones or closing a big sale.
For people who work from home or the road, and rarely go into an office, micro-blogging is a chance to connect -- the virtual cup of coffee.
Then, on a frantic project, rather than email working files around to an ever changing distribution list, IBMers decide to start posting the files in Connections Files or in an Activity.
Teams start posting procedures and training materials in wikis -- either standalone or in a community.
A virtual team working toward a particular goal, perhaps closing a sale, or putting together a Statement of Work, creates a private community to hold work in progress and keep track of work completed.
After you've been doing this for a while, you begin to realize it's hard to remember where everything is. THEN you start tagging. I've seen teams have little "tag-fests"...tagging their co-workers and files.
I keep finding new cool things to use. Today I created a multi-person blog for my team to use to share experiences working with our clients. I haven't told them about it yet, but I think they'll like it.