Motivate employees with an IT Training Plan

Experience tells us that training and education are two of the most powerful motivators for IT employees. “Training and Education” always rank in the top reasons why IT people stay with their company, while money usually ranks 7th or lower.

What does this mean to you and the way you manage your IT shop?  You should have a training focus for every employee in your organization!

A focused training plan will do a lot for your IT organization:

  • Reduce or eliminate knowledge silos and technical skill gaps
  • Develop skills depth
  • Motivate employees

Employees are motivated by the fact you are investing in their professional development and doing things that will make their job easier when you create more depth.

It helps if you have an overall game plan and a tool that helps you see your entire training focus. One of the tools I used recently in a management consulting engagement is the IT Training Plan below.

Download Training Template for Free!

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IT Training Plan

Using a template like this is simple and it highlights exactly what you want to see:

  • Training you need to prioritize
  • Who needs to receive the training

Quick steps:

  1. List the training you want to focus on in the first column.
  2. Highlight the high priority training classes.
  3. List your employees in across the top row.
  4. For each class, identify those who have functional knowledge by shading the appropriate cell green.
  5. For each class, identify each employee you want to target training for by shading the appropriate cell red.

It’s that simple. Now you can easily see what will be trained and who will receive the training. The final step would be to determine who should develop and deliver training for each class, and then target the training dates.

One recommendation is that when you actually deliver the training classes, you should consider recording the class so it can be used again for other employees in the future.

Invest in your people by providing a focused training curriculum that hits every employee in your organization.It’s time invested that will pay real dividends in the long run.

Download Training Template for Free!

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Software Review: Recuva saves the day when files get deleted

Recently a friend of mine called and asked if I could help him recover some files that he said were “accidentally deleted” from his laptop.  “Don’t worry,” I said, “as long as you haven’t added or deleted anything else, there’s a good chance we can get them back.”

It’s been a while since I had to solve this kind of problem, and I wondered whether people were still using old-style “UNDELETE” utilities.  I was doubting whether my friend would be able to remember the first letters of the names of the deleted files.

I asked, “So how many files are we talking about?”  My friend said he loaned the laptop to a former girlfriend, and she took it upon herself to delete ALL of the videos and ALL of the photo files that she could find on the entire laptop. Then she emptied the Recycle Bin, deleted some more files, and emptied it again.

That testimony made me cringe.  So I called a friend who works as a User Support Analyst III in a big IT shop and asked what’s the latest-greatest in UNDELETE utilities, and he recommended “Recuva.” I’m sharing this story because I’m now officially hooked on Recuva.

Where to get it
You can get the free version of Recuva here. It’s a quick download with a small footprint, and comes with 32-bit and 64-bit versions.  I copied the program files to a CD, put the CD in the laptop and launched Recuva. (By the way, Recuva works on any storage device, such as a thumb drive or camera.)

On the first pass, Recuva found several hundred files in just a few minutes. However, before I recovered those files, I ran Recuva again using the “Deep Scan” option.  This time, the program ran for 30 minutes or so and found many thousands of files.  I plugged a high-capacity USB drive into the laptop and told Recuva to recover the files to the USB drive.

How it works
Here’s what the screen look like as Recuva wizard runs. First it asks where were the files that were deleted?

Recuva2

Next Recuva wants to know what type of files you want to recover. Everything – or just picture, music or other files.

Recuva1

This screen shot shows what I think is one of the most useful features–the State column, which tells you whether the file can be recovered.

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Here’s the screen you want to see, showing that the file or files you wanted were fully recovered (and none were “partly recovered”).

Recuva4

Free vs. fee

I used the “free” version of Recuva to help my poor friend get his files back. While that version works just fine, it was a little cumbersome sorting and marking the files I wanted to keep. I imagine that the pay versions, around $32 for the Professional “home” version and around $44 for the business version, provide some enhanced capabilities for managing the retrieved-file list.  Recuva is available for Microsoft Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP and 2000, including both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

I now keep a copy of the free version on CD in my toolkit so I’m ready to be the hero on a moment’s notice the next time one of my dumb users friends accidentally deletes a file or two or three thousand!

Have you used Recuva? If so, please add your comments below and let us know what you think.

Jeff’s Quick Tips: 5 things techies should NEVER do or say (in sales presentations)

 Do you manage techies who participate in sales presentations for your company?  If so, this rant is for you.

 Slice and dice THIS!

I recently spent six hours listening to three different companies trying to sell “enterprise” software to a   high-profile, highly-successful company. All three companies blew it, and it wasn’t because the software sucked.  They failed because the techies who did the talking and clicking during the demos were terrible speakers. Here are the top five (5) things they did wrong.  The “techies” who represented their companies included a software support engineer, a project manager, and a programmer.

1. The techies couldn’t stop using jargon.  By “jargon,” I mean definition #2 from Dictionary.com: “unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.”   Out of boredom, I started writing down the number of times the vendors used tech jargon or sales buzz words.  In one session, the sales person used the phrase “level set” five times and the phrase “go to market strategy” four times in the three minutes it took to introduce the techie who would run the demo and explain the system.

One speaker had an annoying habit of using “literally” and “actually” every time he talked about a feature. “You can literally just type that right there and the dashboard will actually resonate in real time!  Really? The dashboard will resonate? I think he meant “be refreshed in real time,” but who knows.

Other crazy jargon used in the sales pitches included “modular maturity curve,” “differentiator between us and other vendors,” “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,” “blah blah blah,” “under the hood,” “drill down,” “bubbled up,” “time suck,” and “deeper dive.”

In all three sessions, the phrase “slice and dice” was used so many times I stopped counting. To everyone in the IT world, I beg you: Stop saying “slice and dice your data.”  It’s meaningless gibberish. Speak English, people. The only place we should be hearing “slice and dice” is on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

2. The techies admitted they weren’t prepared.  This sin is possibly the worst of the lot. One presenter apologized for a typo in the demonstration by saying, “Sorry but I literally just put this together last night!” Do you know what the potential client heard?  “I’m so pathetic I waited until the night before this big presentation to start working on it!” People snickered. And they tuned out on the presenter after that.

If you’re going to show up at a place of business and help your company land a 5- or 6- or 7-digit sale for software and professional services, start getting your act together before the night before.

3. The techies were late, without a good reason. There is no excuse for being late. “Oh sorry I’m late,” one presenter said.  “I couldn’t find the building!” 

Really? If you’re going to show up at a place of business and help your company land a 5- or 6- or 7-digit sale for software and professional services, get up early and get to the location early. Looking around at the people in the room, I figured that the 15 minutes of sitting and doing nothing the potential client several thousand dollars in nonproductive time.

Another vendor arrived on site five minutes early to connect his laptop to the host’s overhead projector, but then had to get on the phone and call someone back in the office to get the demo environment set up. Really? The back office support team didn’t know there was an important sales call scheduled for 2:00 – 4:00 PM?

keepright

4. The techies didn’t thank their guests.  I hope you don’t accuse me of being too picky on this one, but not ONE of the techies and not ONE of the sales people who accompanied the techies said “Thank you for having us here today.” To be fair, everyone thanked the guests for their attention at the end of the presentations. But no one said “Thanks for having me” or “Thanks for giving us the chance to show you our cool software.” It’s just common courtesy, folks.

5. The techies didn’t use industry-appropriate examples.  The subtitle for this mistake is, “The vendors didn’t know the audience.” 

As the project manager helping coordinate these demonstrations, I had conversations with all three presenters in advance. I said, “Please make sure you use examples of how the software can help people in this client’s industry.”  What happened?  While talking to a group of hospital administrators and risk managers and medical records supervisors, one of the presenters came up with this gem:  “For example, one of our clients using the system is a bank, and they’re concerned with blah-blah-blah and et cetera, et cetera, and…”  Really? You couldn’t think of one, single, solitary example that pertains to hospitals or the healthcare industry?  Do you know what the potential client heard?  “We’re so pathetic we don’t have any hospital experience, so we’re going to tell you how our software helps some industry totally unrelated to yours!” 

Takeaway – Give a listen

As IT managers, you may be more concerned with keeping the network up and secure than you are about sales presentations. But if your people are going to work with the sales people to demonstrate software, in person or via the dreaded “call-in” teleconference, you owe it to your people and to your company to pay attention to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. 

How can you help? Make your techie give you a preview or dress rehearsal of the product demonstration BEFORE the techie leaves on the trip or joins the meeting by teleconference.  Tape-record the dress rehearsal or the presentation itself so that you and the presenters can listen to it later and critique the content.  It’s hard to listen to yourself, I know. I spent many years as a stand-up comedian and one of the hardest things in the world is to listen to yourself on tape and be objective about assessing how you did.

If you fail to manage what your company’s techies say in sales presentations, don’t be surprised when the team comes home without the sale.

Join the discussion
Have you attended a software demonstration where the presenter was just awful? Add your suggestions to the list of “things techies should never say or do” by posting a comment below.

Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Call Me Maybe: A simple solution to a temporary phone outage

Often IT folks are expected to fix more than computers. If it plugs in, the computer geek is supposed to fix it, right? That can be good when you get paid by the hour, but it requires quite a bit of versatility, not to mention quick thinking.

If customers can’t reach you, they won’t stay your customers

A few months ago, a small company I work with lost phone service. So naturally they called their IT support person! Apparently the phone system was set up by a contractor several years ago, and  no one knows how to reach him now. I have some telecom experience, but not much.  Fortunately it was pretty easy to determine that the problem was their provider. The company’s internal phone system worked, but somehow service to the office was cut off.  The good news was that the provider was called and started working the issue immediately.  The bad news was that the estimated time to repair (ETR) was about 24 hours.

For this client, 24 hours without a phone was completely unacceptable, but there’s not much a small company can do to hurry up repairs by a Big Provider, is there?

How many phones line do you need?

It seemed like a much bigger problem that it was.  The 20 or so employees had no way for customers to reach them, but it occurerd to me that really only one phone number needed to be restored. The company has a main number with call routing to each employee’s phone.

Years ago a company was just out of luck when their local phone service was down. It didn’t matter if it was one number or 100.  There was only one provider, and if something happened to the lines, well, you just had to wait until the phone company fixed it. Now we have options. Obviously every employee could make their outgoing calls on their own cell phones.  They could send and receive email, as Internet access was still working. But customers could not call in.

Thinking outside the telecomm box

Since Internet access was working, the obvious answer was to switch them to VOIP. However, number transfers can take days. Forwarding call, though, takes minutes. Here’s how I solved the problem: I gave them permission to forward their main number to my personal home number, which is on Vonage.

The Vonage box is portable. It will work on any Internet connection anywhere. The best part, though, was that the Vonage box could also be connected to the company’s call routing system. The only flaw in the plan was that I was out a home phone, and anyone who called me got a recording thanking them for calling and telling them what numbers to press to reach certain people. Frankly, it was no great loss. Let’s face it–the only people who call my home phone any more are spammers and parents. I just warned the parents.

The entire fix took 20 minutes, only because I live 15 minutes away. OK maybe it was 25 minutes. The firewall had to be tweaked. As promised, the local service provider had the problem fixed the next day. I took my Vonage box home and phone spammers could, once again, reach me. Everyone was happy.

Join the discussion
What do you think of this tip for restoring temporary phone service using VOIP? Please post your comments or questions for Pat below.