Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Valid help

Friday, March 6th, 2009

This is the article I published on “Genova Impresa”, the Confindustria Genova bi-monthly newspaper.


 

From my eight great-grandparents, four grandparents and (May God help and keep them!) two parents, I came to this World halfway through 1980.

In my genetic baggage (ramshackle, like everyone’s, for the great weight accumulated by the accumulated debits of scatter-brained management) I, like everyone else, received the costly part of good heritage. The talents passed down from my ancestors from their primitive treasure are humility, simplicity, and honesty. Those of the peasant, the baker, the stonecutter, the blacksmith, the carpenter… strong mythical men, in their everyday affairs. It is the steadfastness, industriousness, respect for everyday work, the value of achieving a goal, responsibility for one’s own choices. Of these characteristics, the most important (before the ones you acquire on your own) are those furnished by the more recent parents.

In the present day, post “deadline” as President Giovanni Calvini called it, I tripped over the tangle of so-called “information technologies”. And now, after years of study and experience in applying them that I know them in various entrepreneurial ventures, I still work tenaciously to make them “work well.”

Up to today, the duration of training between study and practice has been a good 37,600 hours (142% more in corresponding work hours of any other coveted “job”, with all due respect for labor union orthodoxy). And so? This excessive inclination has earned me the skill required to untangle the “cases” that belong to computer science.

But what do I do? Study, teach, do consulting in the area of computer science, but most of all I try to show the use of the possibilities available for information technologies in industrial production, business and management, etc., recalling the fundamental principles of every profession.  It is well-known that acquirable knowledge is equal to the effort applied to obtain it. Even to become experts in contraptions and their relative manuals, to make the computer science gadget work (principally made up of critical elements of every type), it is necessary to study and experiment the material and immaterial tools, until you have the due command. 

The obligatory operative rigor for every serious professional is of special importance for computer science operators because of the hyperbolically high speed of the characteristic functioning of electronic apparatus. The other attribute of the computer science operator is the high level of commitment to professional development due to the continuous and rapid development of computer techniques. This is what you need to know to not be a part of the befuddled who “secrete” the confusion that disconcerts possible user-clients pushing them away from the amazing computer tool and maintains in administrators of our businesses the granite-like conviction of the un-useable quality of this unknowable computer science.

In these years, I have been committed above all to building and maintaining as functioning the solutions my clients have required, and I have invested the remaining resources in the area of associations, both as a member of the Computer Science Section of the Confindustria of Genoa, as well as a delegate for the board of Assinform for human resources and professional development.  What a few years ago was a “mugugno” or Genovese form of lament (suffocated by a guilty sloth) among the major businesses of the sector is today a unanimous “cry of pain,” that cannot be contained either in our private meetings or at public conventions: “Computer science professionals are lacking!”

But who today among entrepreneurs (who should support the value of ‘know-how’) deludes himself, telling himself that he can foolishly use “no” in place of “yes”, by trying to resolve the crisis by applying the same tools that are its cause… stop trying!

I have told the story of the “matter, from the point of view of one of the profession, especially addressing myself to young people with good intentions. 

In the crisis that seems not to have a solution, the one remedy that has already been well-experimented is that of recuperating, even if only in a small part of the system, the essential value of the truth: know-how.

Today I leave myself open and available only to those who do not refuse help, who with the welcome of those directly involved, can become valid help.

Un valido aiuto

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Dopo un lungo periodo di “silenzio” su questo blog (perche’ spendo il mio tempo “a fare” e non “a dire”), riporto di seguito il testo in lingua italiana dell’articolo pubblicato sull’edizione 1-2009 di “Genova Impresa”, bimestrale edito da Confindustria Genova. A breve sara’ disponibile anche la traduzione inglese.


Dai miei otto bisnonni, quattro nonni e (il Signore li conservi!) due genitori, sono arrivato sul Pianeta alla metà del 1980.

Nella mia valigia genetica (sgangherata, come quella di ognuno, per il peso dei debiti accumulati dalle precedenti scriteriate gestioni) ho anch’io,  come tutti, ricevuto la costosa parte del patrimonio buono. I “talenti” ricevuti dagli avi, del loro primigenio tesoro, sono lumiltà, la semplicità, e la sincerità. Quelli del contadino, del panettiere, dello spaccapietre, del fabbro, del falegname…dei forti uomini miti, nel loro fare di ogni giorno. Sono la costanza, l’operosità, il rispetto del quotidiano lavoro, del valore del risultato ottenuto, della responsabilità delle proprie scelte. Di questi caratteri, i più importanti (prima di quelli personali, da se stessi procurati) sono quelli forniti dai più recenti genitori.

Nell’era odierna, post tempo scaduto (come l’ha nominata il Presidente Giovanni Calvini) sono inciampato nel groviglio delle cosiddette “tecnologie informatiche”. E ora, dopo anni di studio ed esperienza nella loro applicazione in molte realtà imprenditoriali, tenacemente lavoro ancora per “farle funzionare”.

A tutt’oggi la durata dell’addestramento professionale, fra studio e pratica, e’ stata di ben 37.600 ore (142% in più delle corrispondenti ore lavorative di qualsiasi ambìto “posto di lavoro”, in ossequio all’ortodossia sindacale).  Ebbene? Tale smodata inclinazione mi ha fruttato la competenza richiesta per districare i “casi” propri dell’informatica.

Ma io cosa faccio? Studio, insegno, opero consulenze in ambito informatico, ma più di tutto cerco di mostrare l’impiego possibile delle tecnologie informatiche nelle occasioni presenti nella produzione industriale, commerciale, gestionale, ecc., richiamandomi ai fondamentali principi di ogni professione. E’ risaputo che la conoscenza acquisibile è pari alla volontà applicata per ottenerla (più agevolmente se corroborata da un po’ di entusiasmo). Anche per diventare esperti del marchingegno informatico (fortemente caratterizzato da criticità di ogni sorta), occorre studiarne e sperimentarne gli strumenti materiali e immateriali, fino ad averne la dovuta padronanza.

Il rigore operativo d’obbligo per ogni serio professionista è per “l’informatico” di peculiare importanza, a causa dell’iperbolicamente elevata velocità di esecuzione, propria del funzionamento degli apparati elettronici. L’altro attributo caratteristico dello specialista è l’elevato impegno dell’aggiornamento professionale, dovuto al continuo e rapido sviluppo delle tecniche.

Questo è ciò che c’è da sapere per non far parte degli abusivi che “secernono” la confusione che sconcerta i possibili utenti-cliente e che mantiene negli amministratori delle nostre imprese la granitica convinzione dell’inusabilita’ di questa “inconoscibile” utopia: l’informatica.

In questi anni mi sono impegnato soprattutto nel costruire e mantenere funzionanti le soluzioni di cui i miei clienti hanno avuto bisogno, e ho investito le restanti risorse nell’ambito associativo, sia come appartenente alla sezione Informatica di Confindustria Genova, sia come delegato al tavolo di lavoro Assinform per le risorse umane e la formazione professionale. Quello che pochi anni fa era un “mugugno” (soffocato da una colpevole ignavia) fra le maggiori imprese del settore è oggi un’unanime “grido di dolore”, incontenibile tanto negli incontri privati, quanto nelle riunioni formali, sino ai pubblici convegni: “mancano professionisti informatici!”.

Ma chi ancora oggi fra gli imprenditori (che dovrebbero sostenere il valore del “saper fare”) si inganna, raccontandosi stoltamente di poter usare il “no” al posto del “si”, di poter risolvere la crisi applicando gli stessi strumenti che ne sono la causa… eviti di provarci!

Ho raccontato, da uno del mestiere, e specialmente rivolgendomi ai “giovani” di buona volontà, la cronaca della “faccenda”.

Nella crisi che sembra non avere soluzione, l’unico ben sperimentato rimedio è ricuperare, anche solo in una piccola parte del sistema, l’essenziale valore della verità: il “saper fare”.

Oggi la mia disponibilità è rivolta solo a chi non rifiuta l’aiuto, che con l’accoglimento degli interessati diventa un valido aiuto.

AITech-Assinform annual report

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Today I attended a meeting, which I had been invited to by AITech-Assinform (Italian Association for Information Technology) in Milan. This event intended, as usual, to give a detailed preview of the “Report on IT, TLC and multimedia 2006” to the associated members.
During the general manager of AITech-Assinform speech, Federico Barilli showed one more time the status of association’s activities: what it has done and what it would be doing in the near future.
The occasion was very helpful in pointing out what are real needs and objectives that Information Technology companies be looking at, if they want to develop their business and create value in the Italian market.
The most important thing he said was:

“We all should know who we are!”

In these few words he identified the principle concern which Italian companies working in the IT field must face with, if they want to survive.
And this is what I’ve been saying over the past three years: in Italy nobody (supplier or customer) knows what Information Technology means. Nobody knows about the competencies, skills and empowering technologies that the “real world business” demands today. Nobody knows what IT is about (see my previous post “What is IT?”).
Some thinks that this is about some computer’s geeks working on something that they don’t need to see and that they should never have to take notice of. Some think that innovation is only a new label by which to increase his revenues.
Even from the economical point of view, the Italian scenario is unbelievably immature: we are losing at the moment a lot of regional-targeted European funds because there is no legal/syndicated recognition of any IT job role!

Analysts and consultants, mainly from NetConsulting firm, have delivered reports among which should be remembered the speech of Annamaria Di Ruscio: in which she points out the latest trends in national demand and the related positives and negative aspects.

Anyway, long before any objective and concern analysis, the main issues that stand in front of us now, and cannot go on being ignored any more are about the basis of our work: what we mean for “IT”? What our customers mean for “IT”? What we must do to sharpen our vision and bring it to the market, by actually aligning the business with Information Technology?

These questions need to be answered. The solution must be applied, now, because nobody can survive in a field where the first self-declared IT professional stands on and sells his time and his incompetence at the lowest price to a range of customers who can only look at the price when evaluating offerings, because they do not know what they are buying!

The solution is to create awareness in the customers of the role that IT products and services have in their everyday life at the same time creating a clear and rigorous process to legally certify IT professionals and vendors. There is no more time to waste words: we have to choose between maintaining fraudulent “IT businesses” and staying behind, or to let Information Technology help us to evolve.

It is not a matter of instruction

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

The more times I meet so called “IT professionals”, the more times I regretfully find out the inability of “business-decision-makers” to estimate IT competencies.
The complexity inside new technologies can make crazy anyone who has not chosen to be a technician, but it is my opinion that anyone can get a trustworthy evaluation about the capabilities of a “computer expert” if they make their evaluations with complete honesty, and without any discrimination or partiality.

First of all, we must understand the difference between instruction and knowledge: from my own experience, I’ve often had a good impression of people who have a lot to say about all the various technologies and products that are around, until I understand that they did not have any professional-grade skill. I have often found that this “technical knowledge” was the origin of their inability to make anything work, making them the worst kind of risk and failure element in the IT team.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my professional career is that the most important quality of an IT systems expert is humility. When I say, “knowledge” that implies what comes after one has had to face and resolve a variety of problems, after one has studied and revised what has been written and, after one has realized that they are in a place where no one else has ever walked before. Then you can start seeing a universe of variables, each of which you had never taken into consideration before! Only after this learning process, do you become aware of the fact that you cannot know everything by relying only on your own ability. Only then are you able to face each problem and realize projects without missing anything.

No one can honestly consider himself a good professional without recognizing that he is not able to know everything, regardless of his occupation. The only competence he must not lack is that of knowing his limits. That is why I do not base assessments only on skills, experiences or technical knowledge of the applicants anymore: these attributes have no importance in measuring true professional value, so I don’t let them influencing the picture I need to take.

But, why did I say it is simple to recognize quality in good professionals while at the same time knowing if a person is a bad technician? What can I rely on, when I need to know if the person I am speaking with is the person I need to employ, in a field that I do not know anything about? I often heard this question from many CEOs and HR managers. This is an important matter today to drive the company on the right way, since the main cause of damage comes from the incompetence of employees and/or managers.
The simplest and unique solution to know the value of anything (human being included) is to look at its fruits: there is no right way to obtain a trustworthy vision from speaking, all we know is, that only facts count!

Thus remember: do not try to estimate the value of a professional by looking at his essays, but instead make use of what he has built; that’s the only way to known his true value!

What is IT?

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

In my previous post “A case of Innovation” I wrote a little bit about what I do and how I do it. Some readers, who do not know me, might have been a little confused about me showing a successful IT project as a rare innovative case history, so I would like to explain one of the reasons.

For people who are not professionals in the vast field of Information Technology, the terminology used to describe it are widely unknown, and unfortunately also for concepts they do not even know that exist. That’s not much of a problem, you may think, but the shocking fact is that also most of the people considered to be “IT professionals” have no idea about what their roles are and how their jobs should be carried out!

So, what is Information Technology about? What are the roles and the skills IT professionals must have to be true “professionals”? The first subject is too vast to speak about in this short post… but I can say here what IT should be in a business environment, which is what I think you are expecting from these articles.

Information Technology, as some programs show, is considered by some as a teachable discipline, in which the procedures of which can be collected and learned in the same way a recipe can be followed by a chef, see for example the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) publications or the Microsoft Operation Framework (MOF) or Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) blueprints.

Obviously I do not intend to say that there is no need to create and maintain some procedures so as to better understand and administer IT services in an enterprise or in a service provider scenario, nor should the IT group in a company operate as a free artistic circle. I have learned there must be a simple approach so as to obtain the benefits expected by the business or by any activity, which needs to be empowered or supported by new technologies. I have learned that the so-called “IT service management” should be viewed as any other human activity which needs a team of people to carry it out. Thus, each member of the team must have a set of well defined roles and tasks by which successful results can be achieved, and each team member must be coordinated by a manager, who must have a clear vision of the objectives, responsibilities and needs of his group as they apply to the corporate business strategy.

So, taking for granted that we have some good professionals in our IT group, there still must be a clear vision of how it should be structured and managed and here is where the decision makers in a corporation usually get lost.

If you have ever look at the history of Information Technology, you would know that for some time now we have had to split all the matters into a range of “abstract layers” in order to evolve at the speed we have become use to and Information Technology will never be the same, because the skills needed to work at each layer have grown through the development of very complex and specific solutions, thus it’s impossible to have a complete knowledge and competencies in all of the different IT fields.

The need for specialization has not only come about because the scope of the skills has widened, but also because the mandatory skills to succeed in each field have become much different from each other.

That’s the reason why understanding how such a team must be setup is the most important thing that we have to consider during the process of building or restructuring a professional IT staff. Thus specialization and high-technical skills should be the goal in finding the right members of a good IT staff, while a comprehensive vision of both the technologies and the context in which they will be applied is the distinctive responsibility of an IT manager.

Do you believe that Information Technology is like any other human discipline, and thus can be looked at in the same way we look at other professional role? Or do you believe there must be a multi-staged approach to what is actually a multi-layered collection of technologies and techniques which drive the innovations that we hear about more and more often?

A case of innovation

Monday, October 30th, 2006

 

Every day I hear somebody speaking or writing about “Innovation”: it seems to be the password to gain access to the forum of the high-tech debates. How many times have I heard it while attending meetings, conferences or seminars in the halls of Confindustria Genova, and every time it was pronounced, it was misspelled or misunderstood both by the speaker and the auditors.

What is Innovation about? While for most of people who I spoke with it was only a good-to-hear word that must be used when they want to appear smarter than they are, instead Innovation is for me a way of working, a process that we use to achieve a better way of doing something, or by which we can do something that we were not able to do before.

You may think my words might sound a bit detached from the everyday reality, so let me show you a “case history” which will show you what I mean by “Innovation”.

Some years ago I was contacted by a mid-size company working in the northeast part of Italy. The person responsible of IT systems asked me to help him to resolve some technical issues about the Internet access technologies that were causing complaints from his users. He told me that he had contacted me because some years before I had met his CEO in Genoa and I had shared with him some of my personal view of the IT industry.

The first meeting I had with this manager confirmed to me what I had expected: first that the company (which was known to be one of the most profitable high-tech companies in the middle-east) was totally unstructured in management of its IT needs and, to make the circumstances worse, it had to handle the acquisition of a newly purchased company which would double the number of employees within a few weeks.

My business concept does not allow me to give to my customers other than what they really need, so I offered them an in-depth analysis of their actual condition, risks and opportunities that they would have to deal with from an IT perspective as linked to the Company’s business needs. By relying on my technical competencies and my business experiences, both the CEO and the President agreed to reorganize their Company in such a way as to have the IT management tailored to their business processes.

During the following six months I worked daily to meet the main objectives of the project:

  • design and build a new technical IT infrastructure to meet the Customer working processes;
  • migrate onto the new systems both the current Customer’s users and the users of the recently acquired business;
  • build a structured IT staff by training the current IT personnel, hiring new professionals and defining everyone’s responsibilities and benefits. Changing the Organization chart and redefining the role of the IT group in relation to the other business units.

In the end, a successful conclusion to the project came about, bringing increased revenues to everyone: to my Customer, to the companies in its value chain and to me.

Not only were all the projects goals reached on time, and a new IT department had become the first fully functional engine to serve the business processes, but it also grew into being a new business unit: it started to deliver successful IT projects for companies inside the same enterprise group, and then later to external customers. The “miracle” was done… something that had always be considered only a production cost was transformed to a new source of profitable business opportunities!

That’s only a short story, but… now what do you think about Innovation? What Innovation means for you in your everyday working?  If you have even heard about any other “case of Innovation”, maybe regarding your IT specialization area, please let me know about it!