Why Yahoo’s Work-at-Home Policy is Correct

***NOTE, this post is being updated in a NEW blog! 

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People are making more of this than they should.  This isn’t about discrimination, or  convenient job-cutting or people working in the pajamas.

I suspect that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer discovered that perhaps the current policy was being abused or taken advantage by too many people.  I discovered this in my Technology Group years ago and implemented a similar policy.  COME TO WORK!

The BOTTOM-LINE is that people collaborate best when they work in close proximity. PERIOD.   If this wasn’t true we’d have everyone work from home because it’s cheaper.

You can talk all day about processes, the need to think, but companies, especially when they are challenged in the way that Yahoo is, need people working together in the same place, at the same pace, with common goals that can only really be effectively communicated on a continuous basis in-person!


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THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE FOR TECHNICAL PEOPLE.

Sure, I’ll buy into the case when a developer comes to me and says “I have a stretch of coding that I need to focus on, and working at home will give me the extra time and privacy I need to be proficient and prolific.”   I know it’s true for them because it’s true for me, as well.  Once in a while (but never do), I would love to sit down at home, close the door and work heads-down, thinking and creating.

BUT, in a BullishIT environment, you need to be present and accounted for, WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS and your peers.  Even though you can monitor, and code, and test remotely, you NEED to be physically present with your colleagues to be effective, both as a team and an individual professional.


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OK, some jobs CAN be done from home, sometimes.  But, if you’re going to work from your home, dress up (notice the tie), act as if you are going to leave the house, and be professional, even though you’re still at home.  In this case, the home has an extensive home-office system (I wonder if he’s allowed to deduct it from his taxes?).

OR IS IT?

Maybe if the President had to work in the Capitol building with his colleagues….

OK, no politics, then again…


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…here’s another job that allows working from home…


So, what did we learn?  That if you want to work from home, avoid Yahoo! (for now) and get a job that encourages working from home and provides the tools and processes that will allow you to be successful.

The presidency is not currently available, but the pope job will be, starting tomorrow.

P-Cz

‘In Living Color’ -Tech Differentiation, It’s Not Complicated

 

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What separates you from your competition?  I’m not talking about price or relationships.  I’m talking hardcore TECHNOLOGY!

When I was a kid, the big thing that TV Networks used to promote as the differentiator for their shows was that they broadcost “IN LIVING COLOR”.  That was a BIG DEAL back then, it sold a lot of color television sets and it brought in a bunch of viewers.  I remember that Batman was one of the early series in color and it was AMAZING.  I can’t remember when we got our first color-TV but I do remember, for years and years, that NBC Peacock!  It was a symbol of innovation and technology.


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And look, if you weren’t up on the ‘latest technology’, you would see what you were missing using the old technology.

What’s the point?

The point is that although technology is the ‘great equalizer’ it’s also the ‘great differentiator’, except that you need to know how to communicate that differentiation to your target customers.  I don’t know who decided to use the term “living” in the phrase, but they were attempting to communicate a differentiated value beyond the technology of color television.

Let’s update the premise


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I generally dislike commercials but tremendously admire a brand that simplifies the technical jargon into a message that EVERYBODY understands.

ATT – It’s Not Complicated

These commercials are brilliant.  Instead of hyping statistics and metrics they simply state “faster is better” and use little kids to illustrate their point in a humorous and MEMORABLE way.

Break down the messaging of your technical differentiation into the simplest value-proposition.  State your core value that makes you different from your competition, down to a statement, phrase, trademark, logo, kids, animals, whatever.

Let me state a few and see if you get my point (you will if you remember the brand)

  • “Raising the Bar”
  • “Connecting People”
  • “Solutions for a Smarter Planet”
  • “Engineered to Amaze”
  • “My Bologna Has a First Name”… wait, nevermind

It doesn’t have to be a slogan or commercial, you just need to CLEARLY communicate your differentiation to your prospects in a non-technical way.


Another nice benefit of doing this.  It becomes a rallying cry inside your company and focuses everyone on the mission.  It’s worth effort to get this done, the ROI is big.  Just do it!

P-Cz

CIO Beauty Contests

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A couple weeks ago I posted in my blog The Venture Technologist that I HATE music and programming competitions.

LET ME ADD TO THE LIST

I also hate

  1. ‘The Best Companies to Work’, and
  2. ‘The Best CIOs’

Now, I’m not going to point out particular contests, you can search for them yourself.  I’m just going to nicely talk about why they are so LAME and if you participate, well, no one is fooled.

I was asked a couple years ago to help improve the standing of a company I worked with in the “Best Companies” category.  Since the voting was only a couple months away, I decided to search out people in other companies to find out ‘how they did it’.  I was horrified.  I was advised to start an ongoing internal marketing campaign to convince people to help ‘juice’ the surveys for best results.  Since I was under time-constraints and the thought of running a marketing campaign repulsed me, I simply asked everyone in my staff of 1,500 to ‘be nice’ when they participated in the survey.  Well, it worked good enough to raise our standing, but we still were outgunned by a company who is expert at this type of thing.  (Yes, I’m wimping out by not naming names.  If you want me to spill my guts you’ll have to buy me a Scotch or two).


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OK, CIO’s, your turn. Here’s how you nominate yourself, no swimsuit required, thank goodness.

“Give us examples of how your nominee has substantially helped his or her company. How has this person used IT in innovative ways to create competitive advantage, optimize business processes…. and on and on.”  Nice words, but AS A COMPETITION?  PULEEZE.

They usually categorize based on age, experience, company size, community work, all good reasons to celebrate success.  But,

LET THE MARKET DECIDE!!

The true metric on the performance of a CIO is the success of the company.  If a CIO is truly at the ‘big table’ and plugged into  the business, then the success of the business is reflected in the success of the CIO.  These ‘contests’ may sell magazines, but they’re really not useful when attracting good employees or selling product.  They’re just too self-serving to me.  What’s next?  The world’s greatest CFO?   Wait, there’s competitions for that, too.


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Yes, be the best CIO you can be – BE BULLISH! Don’t take stuff  from anybody and push your company forward.  As a technologist, you have the power to propel your company to new heights, and if you’re not getting the support you need to do it, LEAVE and find a company progressive enough to recognize the value you bring to the boardroom.

Now, where’s my trophy?!?

P-Cz

Investing in Technology Companies

 

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I seem to be a magnet lately for investment advisers.  They keep sending me their latest ‘product’, which is generally a package of investments that supposedly will interest me.  These portfolios are really slick, with charts and graphs that are supposed to entice me to buy.

Too bad that they don’t understand me, their target customer.

I invest in three things: Music, Chocolate and Technology.  Of course music and chocolate are the best investments in the world, it’s almost impossible to measure their value.


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Just look at my concert-grand piano.  It just sits there.  The Steinway salesman told me that it will appreciate in value (yeah, right), but I don’t care.  Just looking at it gives me joy and when I sit down and play… And chocolate? Well, enough said.

OK, let’s talk tech companies.  How should you invest?

Should you go blue-chip, high-growth, startup, IPO, or what?  What financial numbers do you crunch, what thought-leaders (ugh) do you listen to?  I think of tech-investors like I do gamblers.  Everyone thinks they’re good at it and everyone’s a winner.  Until you get them to talk.

So what’s my secret?   No secret.

DISCLAIMER:  I don’t pretend to have any more insight than anybody else trying to make a buck, but here’s how I go about evaluating a technology company.  It has NOTHING to do with numbers or company strategy.  It has to do with technology people.


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Call them a ‘dork of developers’, a ‘subnet of geeks’, a ‘needy of nerds’, or a ‘party of programmers’, I look for groups of technical people to really discover the invest-able value of a company.  And it’s easy.  Go to the hangouts, the meet-ups, the coffee-shops, the bars where technical people gather and TALK TO THEM.  Finding out what type of technologies they’re working on is useful but, even more important, find out if they LOVE their work and AGREE on their company’s direction.  A passionate programmer is a productive programmer!

PROGRAMMERS DON’T LIE!!!
They will tell you the truth, many times a little more bluntly than you’d like, but you will find out what’s really going on inside their company.  Are they aligned with the strategic goals and leadership.  Do the Technologists influence major decisions?  Do they agree with the marketing message.  Do they like their sales-people?  And… are they engaged with their customers?  If not, watch out.

With startup investments and M&A work, I insist on talking to the CTO and/or development staff.  I have passed on more than a couple simply because I discovered that the technical staff was unhappy or uninformed on what was happy at the C-level.  I also know of some companies where it’s obvious that technology skills are considered commodity, expendable and replaceable.  These companies are doomed.  Technology folks have great influence on success, revenues and valuation of a company, especially in the long run.  Get to know them and you’ll know whether or not to invest.

IMHO, if you have engaged, empowered, proficient, prolific programmers, you have a powerful company worth my  investment dollar.  And this strategy scales from start-up company to mega-corporation.

Happy investing!  Take it from a programmer who NEVER lies!
P-Cz

Change is Good – Me First!

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OK, it’s supposed to be “you go first”, but that’s tired and cliche.

It’s been said that if you dream of tornadoes you’re reacting to chaos and uncertainty in your life.  Well, tornadoes are chaotic and uncertain, but they’re also stunning and a natural force.

I’ve dealt with a lot of change in my life and career, but nothing ever surprises me.  That’s because I live my life on the philosophy that change is always occurring and we need to prepare and embrace change.


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If you’ve been in IT for any length of time, you’ve already witnessed an incredible amount of change.  You live constantly with Moore’s law, software architecture changes, salesfolks shoving new products at you, analysts telling you what to do, budgets, staffing, recruiting, users, customers, service-levels, alerts, alarms, escalations, emergencies.  The list goes on and on: disaster-recovery exercises, business continuity, BYOD, CRMs, expenses, projects, change-controls, should I stop?  Performance management, Load-Testing, CMMi, CMMi2, SAS70, RDMS, PMPs, statistical analysis, probability matrices, RACI, dashboards, drill-downs, drill-ups, social-media, security, LDAP, AWS, Azure, argh.  No wonder we all dream about tornadoes!

But what does this have to do with change?  Everything I’ve listed above changes, at least once a year.  So, how do you plan a strategy based on change?  

Here’s how:  Plan for change, which means don’t over-plan.   Create some basic guidelines and best-practices as guiding principles.  Build a strong foundation on people and technology.  Define your Services and define ROI for each service.  Invest in an Enterprise Architecture (I’ll discuss this in subsequent blogs).  Subscribe to Lean Development principles.

Finally, be passionate, be inspired and, most importantly: BE BULLISH!

That’s why, when confronted with change, I say “let’s get on with it”.  Why delay, why stress, why over-think situations.  Move on, over, up, whatever, change is neither good or bad, it’s predictable and inevitable.

P-Cz

Grammys, Webbys, Hackathons, etc….

 

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I’ve ALWAYS hated music competitions.

Battle of the Bands, Van Cliburn Piano Competition, American Idol, The Voice, the list goes on-and-on.

So yes, I will not be watching the Grammy Awards next Sunday.  I believe that music should be celebrated and everyone that participates, from Adele to your niece in kindergarten, should be considered winners.   Now, I do not mind when award shows celebrate success in the marketplace, based on true ratings or the numbers of viewers and listeners.  This is fair and the marketplace is truly the place that should be considered in career success.  It’s just all this subjective nonsense based on judges who make the competition all about themselves.


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I am currently reading the book ‘Romance on Three Legs’, a book about Glenn Gould and his pursuit of the perfect piano.  What really draws me to Gould is his passion, his eccentricities and the fact that he was a pretty decent guy.  He also detested music competitions, even though he pretty much had to participate.  He also won his fair share, not surprisingly  since he may be the worlds best piano player to live.

Glenn Gould was a perfectionist who let his talent and his craft speak for himself, and he was rewarded with market success and the ability to pursue his talent even deeper.  He didn’t need a blog and he didn’t need to worry about his “brand”.  He just played.


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Since I equate music and programming equally, I’m equally annoyed when I see programmer competitions, hack-a-thons, and start-up pitches that are little more than a beauty contest.  I have to admit that I participate in these, but mostly as a mentor, where my job is to encourage and inspire.   Again, the true place for competition is in the marketplace or, when you’re pitching an idea, to run through a rigorous process, well understood, that can evaluate the business opportunity.  It’s not that I hate the idea of people getting together to collaborate on ideas and technology, or even to evaluate the outcome.  I just hate the perception that occurs on selecting winners and losers.  It’s Monday, I’m cranky.

Leave that to customers to decide.
P-Cz