business, humor, Projects

How to Use Your Consultants

If you work for a company, or maybe you own a company, or maybe you just know of a company, and you hire or work with consultants for various things, there are some common things to pay attention to which are often overlooked. Let’s get started!

Let’s say that your boss asks you, “Hey, Jim. Don’t we have some vouchers sitting around?

You answer, “We sure do, Bob, and my name is Dave.

That’s great, Jim! Maybe we can use those to get a fancy consultant in here to whip us into shape!

Yes ma’am, I’ll get right on it!

You dig around and find the vouchers, and then call your trusty vendor representative, who was already eagerly awaiting your phone call. He/she tells you about their “partner program”.

You swallow hard, and ask, “Tell me about this ‘partner’ thing?

It’s a fantastic program we offer to only our highest-valued premium super-awesome platinum-level customers, just like you! It’s a program with partners.

That sounds awesome! How do we use it?!

It’s easy Dan.”

It’s Dave.”

Right, sorry about that, Doug. Anyhow, it’s where we offer you a list of partner consulting firms, and you choose one to help you solve a technical challenge, or adopt a new challenge, right from the comfort of your conference room.”

You slam the phone down, jump around and squeal like a baby pig, then calm down and make some calls. You ask all your drunk high school buddies for recommendations, and they all agree that they don’t know what a consultant is. So you pick one from the vendor list, and arrange a conference call to discuss your ideas.

Soon after, you’re on your way to pursuing a new project. Now it’s time to plan how to misuse their services to greatest benefit of someone else, not you. Here’s how you do it…

Don’t have a clear list of objectives

That’s right. Clear objectives are for the movies. Real people don’t have them.

Figure out what the consultant should do when he/she arrives. They don’t mind waiting around for vague direction. And whatever issues you’re facing each day, you can leverage the consultant to help with those, while they’re waiting for the actual project to begin. You hired them to help onboard O365 and Intune accounts, but why not ask them to help with your printer issues? It’s your money, so burn it up however you want.

Also, all that mumbo-jumbo the vendor mentioned about “valid uses” for using your vouchers is just talk. They don’t care if you want to use them for completely unrelated products and services. Microsoft vouchers? No problem, they’ll be fine for working on that VMware problem.**

Don’t assign one person to each role

Leave every decision to a committee. It works great. After all: If one person can make a great decision, then 8 people can make an even greater decision! It’s like traffic: Just add more lanes and the traffic jams go away.

When the consultant asks for a user account to be created in Active Directory, it should involve as many people as possible. One for each object attribute if possible. And when it comes to PXE, oh boy, that should involve at least one person from every protocol-related aspect of your business.

For example, to create the guest account for the consultant, you might need the following:

  • Someone from the Networking team (because PXE needs a network)
  • A Facilities person or two (because networks have wires and stuff, and they use closets sometimes)
  • Someone for DNS (since your imaging process will probably need name resolution somewhere)
  • Someone else for DHCP (of course)
  • An Active Directory team:
    • Someone to focus on the naming convention
    • Someone to focus on group memberships
    • Someone to focus on the initial password
    • Someone to create the account incorrectly the first time
    • Someone to fix the incorrect account, but also remove it from requested groups
    • Someone to add the fixed account back to the missing groups
  • Someone from IT Security (because they have to be at every meeting anyway, so why not?)
  • Someone from HR to make sure the consultant isn’t offensive or insensitive.
  • A Telecom person (make sure the conference room is working for the remote folks)
  • Someone from Accounting (because something will cost something),
  • At least one Project Manager for each group above (got to keep those toddlers in line, after all)
  • And, someone from the cafeteria (you’re going to need coffee during all those meetings).

After a dozen or so meetings, you should have a clearer picture of how many weeks it will take to get the first account created, and a few more weeks to get the correct permissions assigned to it. If you start now, you might get 3 accounts created before the next fiscal budget runs out.

As a general rule: A meeting isn’t considered appropriately-staffed unless there are at least 12 people in the room. So, to be safe – double that.

Don’t be in a hurry

You’re important. You have a lot going on. Printers jamming. Passwords expiring. Facebook is slow. Jimmy spilled another beer into his keyboard. And the cleaning crew unplugged your router again. When that pesky consultant asks for some information, make sure to take your sweet time getting them an answer. Giving them a quick answer only cheapens your value in their eyes. Taking your time earns their respect.

A typical best practice rule is at least 24 hours per question. If they ask three (3) questions, that should take at least 72 hours. And if you only work 1 shift per day, that should be 72 business hours, or roughly 31 days.

And if the consultant reminds you about some so-called “expiration date” on those vouchers, be sure to remind them how important your business is. The vendor will obviously jump through every hoop to extend your deadline, because you’re waaaaay more important than any of their other customers. As if they have any other customers. Ha ha ha!

Be Flexible

One of the worst things you can do when bringing a consultant onto a project is lock things down too much. It’s important to keep your options open. Even something like picking one system or product to focus on can be risky.

Remember: Contracts are just rules. And rules are made to be broken.

For example, let’s say you signed a contract to get a consultant to help you with migrating to Office 365 and Exchange Online. There’s nothing stopping you from shifting direction at the first meeting. Some good examples might be:

  • “We can’t get these 5-year old laptops to image with Windows 10 using our old Ghost setup and DVD disks”
  • “Skype keeps crashing on the CFO’s computer, at his condo.”
  • “The CEO’s 6 year old daughter says she knows more about Office 365 than you.”

Just remember to stay flexible and adapt to whatever you feel is important each day. After all, you don’t know how many more you’ll get.

Conclusion

I hope you found this article informative and educational. Doing your part to keep consultants on their toes is the best way to insure you get the most out of the shares you own in their company.

** Disclaimer: Nothing said above makes any sense whatsoever and should be completely ignored.

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humor, Uncategorized

Random thoughts

sir_shower_cat

A short list of things I’ve learned in my fifty-five years on this planet, which has been sitting in my drafts bin for 2 years.

  1. Not everyone who wanders is lost.
  2. Assuming everyone who wanders is lost could mean that you’re lost.
  3. If you hate Coke, it does not automatically mean you love Pepsi.
  4. Newer is not automatically better.
  5. If there’s a salesperson involved, it’s because it needed selling.
  6. Work is never really eliminated.  It’s just moved around.
  7. You can’t truly appreciate something until you’ve worked for it.
  8. The more legs a creature has, the more love it has.  Except when it gets past 8 legs, then it’s scarry.
  9. Most people complain most often about things they know the least about.
  10. The best programming language hasn’t been invented yet.
  11. Every generation wants the next to think that they had all the fun.
  12. Every generation thinks they had to work harder than the next.
  13. If it doesn’t cut expenses, or increase revenue, it’s probably junk.
  14. Fixing bugs is not refactoring.
  15. Chances are good that a reboot will fix it.

humor, Personal, Scripting, Technology

$HoHoHo = ($HoList | Do-HoHos -Days 12) version 1812.18.01

santa-riot

UPDATE: 2018.12.18 (1812.18.01) = Thanks to Jim Bezdan (@jimbezdan) for adding the speech synthesizer coolness!  I also fixed the counter in the internal loop.  Now it sounds like HAL 9000 but without getting your pod locked out of the mother ship. 😀

I’m feeling festive today.  And stupid.  But they’re not mutually exclusive, and neither am I, and so can you!   Let’s have some fun…

Paste all of this sticky mess into a file and save it with a .ps1 extension.  Then put on your Bing Crosby MP3 list and run it.

Download from GitHub: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Skatterbrainz/Utilities/master/Invoke-HoHoHo.ps1

The function…

function Write-ProperCounter {
    param (
      [parameter(Mandatory=$True)]
      [ValidateRange(1,12)]
      [int] $Number
    )
    if ($Number -gt 3) {
        return $([string]$Number+'th')
    }
    else {
        switch ($Number) {
            1 { return '1st'; break; }
            2 { return '2nd'; break; }
            3 { return '3rd'; break; }
        }
    }
}

The bag-o-gifts…

$gifts = (
    'a partridge in a Pear tree',
    'Turtle doves, and',
    'French hens',
    'Colly birds',
    'gold rings',
    'geese a-laying',
    'swans a-swimming',
    'maids a-milking',
    'ladies dancing',
    'lords a-leaping',
    'pipers piping',
    'drummers drumming'
)
# the sleigh ride...
Add-Type -AssemblyName System.Speech
$Speak = New-Object System.Speech.Synthesis.SpeechSynthesizer

for ($i = 0; $i -lt $gifts.Count; $i++) {
    Write-Host "On the $(Write-ProperCounter $($i + 1)) day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:"
    $speak.speak(“On the $(Write-ProperCounter $($i + 1)) day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,”)
    $mygifts = [string[]]$gifts[0..$i]
    [array]::Reverse($mygifts)
    $x = $i + 1
    foreach ($gift in $mygifts) {
        if ($x -eq 1) {
            $thisGift = $gift
        }
        else {
            $thisGift = "$x $gift"
        }
        Write-Host "...$thisGift"
        $Speak.Speak($thisGift)
        $x--
    }
}

Enjoy!

humor, Personal

My Holiday Wishlist and Resolution Bundle

  1. My oldest daughter will have a healthy baby this coming May
  2. No more “Semi-Annual”, “Monthly”, “Broad”, channel weirdness. Just “Ring0”, “Ring1”, etc.
  3. The ConfigMgr console gets real drag-and-drop support
  4. An international conference agrees to broker all acronyms.  No more dual-meanings
  5. Azure adds a normal UX-efficient desktop style UI, instead of the stupid tablet-style “blade” UI
  6. Azure Automation Runbooks testing allows viewing the last test output WHILE in the runbook editor (without cheating)
  7. A 14 inch HP/Dell/Lenovo/Acer laptop with Core i7, 16 gb memory, NVME boot storage and room for an SSD for under $500
  8. Azure Automation Runbooks testing process displays real-time output
  9. Ubuntu bundles WMI-compliant CIM into the standard distribution, with an API exposed to PowerShell Core
  10. My dog would stop farting in my office while I’m on business calls
  11. Intune would add equal inventory granularity with ConfigMgr to leverage inventory data for reports, policies, targeting, etc.
  12. ConfigMgr would update the little tragically-underfed homeless query editor
  13. People would stop carding me when I order an adult beverage even though I look like Moses’ beardless brother
  14. Microsoft would release a new Windows client that blocks ANY installs except .MSI or .MSIX – period. No exceptions ever.
  15. Roku would add a TV volume control to their phone app (I don’t care if it’s technically feasible, I want it)
  16. Notepad++ would include a snippets library feature as f-ing awesome as TextPad has always had (sorry, but the add-ins all suck)
  17. My son would stop leaving his underwear on the bathroom floor when taking a shower
  18. The number of blogs/podcasts/videos showing how to install and configure things would balance out with the blogs/podcasts/videos showing how to use the cool features (the balance still favors installation complexity, which is unfortunate, unless you’re a consultant, cough cough)
  19. Someone would actually read up to item 19
  20. Get a monthly PowerShell users group off the ground here, finally
  21. Santa adds to my shot-glass collection.  I still need about a dozen more US cities
  22. Santa brings us a better harness for turd brain (aka “snuggle turd”, aka “stinky brain”, aka “Dory”, aka my 100lbs chocolate lab from Mars)
  23. Santa shoves a whole Roland TDK30 kit down our broken chimney
  24. Start going to bed earlier
  25. Write another book (it’s been awhile)
  26. Increase my studying efforts / attend more user groups and conferences
  27. Stop rambling on long blog lists about silly stuff like holiday wishlists
  28. Build more projects in my garage
  29. 29 is a weird number to run out of wishlist ideas.  I should add things like ending cancer and world hunger, stopping all wars, making all politicians honest and hard-working, making everyone nice on social media, and Virginia getting a professional sports franchise (any sport will do).  Eh.
humor, Personal, Society, Technology

Cranky AFaaS

I’m starting to use this “aaS” suffix more and more in casual conversation now.  I’m not just stooping to bag my dog’s fecal dispersions, I’m providing Feces-aas or FaaS.  I’m not talking shit around the coffee pot anymore, I’m providing BSaaS.  That’s right, I claim it as the first official use of “Bull-Shit-as-a-Service”, even though technically, the act itself was perfected by the US government a hundred years ago.  Nobody can touch them now.

techsupport

So, this week has immersed me in a series of, shall I say, annoyances.  The kind that spin my brain platter around to that classic tune: “Stupid AF but we’ve gotten so used to it that it seems normal now”.

Like this…

bs_onedrive.png

and this…

bs_office_odt

…and that’s only the beginning.

Then I heard a clerk at the grocery store talking to a customer ahead of me.  It went a little like this…

Clerk: “No maam, once you write the check out for the actual amount, I can’t give you cash back, unless you write another check.”

Maam: “This shit is bullshit!

Clerk: “Well, I suppose that it has to be some kind of shit. But that’s all I can do.

Now, technically he was absolutely correct.  But I don’t think is manager was amused, but he obviously agreed with this employee, and dammit, my beer was getting warm on that slimy conveyor belt waiting for her to move on.

Then I found out that “SCCM” has been hijacked, like all good initialisms/acronyms, by some glue-sniffing, child-abducting gang calling themselves “Society of Critical Care Medicine“.  The nerve of those people thinking their silly medical skills somehow matter more in this dangerous world than deploying patches to machines over shitty WAN/VPN/Wi-Fi links at 3am.

For the love of caffeine, can we get someone to form an official group to manage all these acronyms which now have multiple meanings?

Then!

Then I walking my dog, Dory, who at 100lbs, actually walks me, but that’s beside the point, and one of my neighbors stops me on the street…

Her: “OMG.  Did you see the rabid fox running around here?!  It chased me into the house with my two little dogs dragging behind me!”

Me: “Ummm…”

Her: “So, I called the police, they said I had to call Animal Control, who said unless I could keep my eyes directly on it, they can’t come out to do anything.  And I said…” (this is where I started to glaze over and pictured my dog getting mauled by some rabid animal and me trying to fend it off with a roll of poopoo bags in a plastic container…) “and so I just wanted to let you know.  Be careful!”

She went inside, I kept walking (getting walked by) my dog, and then saw the rabid fox limping around like it had finished off a case of beer or something, about 100 yards to my right.  I called our action-packed police department…

311: “Police non-emergency.  What’s the problem you wish to report”

Me: “We have a rabid fox running around our neighborhood.”

311: “I’ll patch you through to Animal Control.  If you get put on hold too long, their direct number is (insert “1-800-IDGAF”).  Please hold…”

20 minutes, no answer.  Repeated recording about how important my call is.

Hang up.  Call back.  10 minutes on hold.  Another call, 5 minutes.  Never mind.  At this point, I’m hoping it bites the first city employee that drives through the area, but I don’t really mean that, it just sounds snarky.

So I tweet our tax-paid folks with my complaint…

311.png

It’s now 4:51 PM ET on a Friday, which means those folks left work about 5 days ago.

Anyhow.  I’m staying away from work this weekend, but I will be doing something.  Maybe cleaning up my Github tragedy, or rebuilding my lab catastrophe, or staring at my belly button and thinking “I was once connected by a cable!”

Seriously, taking the wife and two of our kids to see Bohemian Rhapsody tonight.  I hope it’s good.

humor

The Cutting Edge: Moving Office Restrooms to the Cloud

After a decade of cloud transformation taking hold in larger organizations around the world, small and medium-sized businesses have also begun to pursue a cloud-based strategy.  Many business leaders are now looking for other areas to apply cloud technology.  The latest area of interest just happens to be business restrooms.

Just imagine the cost savings of not having to maintain toilets, urinals, sinks, cleaners, soap, tissue, hand towels, running water, ventilation, and event the custodial staff in every office!  Let someone else manage those things in the cloud, and we can reduce our lease costs, utilities costs, and improve employee productivity at the same time!” – Mai Ballzak, Chief Morale Officer at Ben, Dover and Smooch, LLP

Indeed, the potential cost savings are enormous, with more than material implications, it has potential for impacting staffing costs as well.

Not only can we reduce custodial and maintenance staffing costs, but we’re actively implementing a new program to train our employees to not use restrooms as much.  Maybe never! This keeps them at their assigned posts and improves productivity.  The results have been incredible!” – Ima Gassius, COO at Sphinct-R

Ima also mentioned related programs, like their latest “Fiber is for networks, not for digestion” campaign.  The goal being to reduce the need to leave assigned posts for non-productive restroom visits.  “Aside from a few messes, we’re seeing much higher productivity numbers from our human subjects, uh, I mean, employees, no wait, we’re supposed to call them ‘associates’ now.  Yeah.

Technologists are also getting on board with the idea.

We’ve been doing cloud since before there even was a cloud.  At first, I thought it was crazy.  Then I remembered how we’ve been trying to establish a cloud-agnostic approach to moving our shit around.  This IS literally moving our shit around, and without all the usual crap.” – Mike Hunt, Senior Analysis Analyst at the Allied American Analysis Analysts Analysis Agency of America, or AAAAAAA.

(psssst.  yes, this is satire.  please do not take any of this seriously. And remember: kids, don’t do drugs)