VW a lesson in marketing versus regulations

By now you will be very aware of the VW diesel scandal where the software on the car detected when the car was being tested and controlled exhaust emissions to past the test.

Anyone that works in gathering requirements can easily see the problem here. There were two competing requirements Marketing and Regulatory and in the end the marketing side won out.

Big business is a game of cat and mouse. Laws are in place for a lot of things but for business the viewpoint of laws is the risk / cost of being caught and the benefit of not following the law. If the law is not enforced 100%, business will start to think of it as an optional law. There are numerous cases of settlements between car companies and the US government or consumers. The Titanic is a classic example of the law being met but the intent of the law being missed which was to have enough life rafts to save lives – the law had not been written in such a way as to force the life rafts to be enough to meet the number of passengers.

When gathering requirements for a solution, care must be taken to understand the implications of giving one set of requirements higher priority over another. Risk analysis is supposed to be done to ensure the VW, Titanic situation never occurs today. However profit is a powerful master and it will make people blind to that which is obvious.

Double check those requirements that fly in the face of morals to make sure you are not ignoring something that will later make you a headline.

 

The industrial revolution 2.0 – where Jane & John Doe programs make sense

If you ever saw pictures from the original industrial revolution (1790 – 1870) you would have seen machines producing goods that also required humans to keep them supplied with materials. In some cases it was dangerous work as the humans darted under the mechanism of the machine to keep it supplied. One wrong step and the human resource was injured or killed.

These machine in their own way were original pieces of programming. Basically the Steam Punk of code where the internal workings are completely visible. Humans basically made up the shortfall in what could not be replaced easily or affordably by machine.

Step forward into today and while the brass and iron has vanished we still have humans fulfilling the roles where machines have not caught up.

Amazon pickers is an example of the humans still meeting the need.

When do you ask does it make sense to replace the human programs (lets call them Jane & John Doe)?

NOTE: This article is a somewhat tongue in cheek consideration of the removal of humans from the workforce and is not meant to offend anyone who is worried about AI takeover.

Let’s first look at the benefit of our human Jane and John Doe programs:

1 – Easily programmed if task is not too complicated.

2 – Can be programmed by other existing programs.

3 – Adaptable interface – Buttons, levers, switches etc.. are not an issue.

4 – Can be replaced if failing.

5 – Low short term investment costs.

6 – Can be easily reprogrammed as tasks change.

7 – Multiple interface methods for programming – auditory, touch, visual.

 

The cons of Jane and John Doe:

1 – Program can leave of own accord requiring another program to be obtained.

2 – Program can be injured requiring maintenance costs to be paid even if another program replaces it.

3 – Not all programs are of equal ability which can cause quality issues.

4 – Limited amount of transactions per hour can be handled and there is risk of memory leakage if the task is too frequent or repetitive.

 

Now let us consider the attributes of the equation to determine when to replace the Jane and John Doe programs with actual computerized machines :

1 – Cost of your current Jane and John Does + cost to remove them from the role versus the cost of the computerized machine.

2 – Frequency of the transaction – more frequent or increasing frequency raises the number of Jane and John Does programs you require making a computerized alternative more attractive.

3 – Availability of Jane and John Does – if they are getting harder to find, their cost goes up.

4 – Complexity of the task – like point 3, if the complexity of the task is getting higher, the number of Jane and John Does that can do it get less, increasing their cost.

5 – Long term need for Jane and John Doe – if the task is not changing and going to be around a long time, programming a computerized alternative makes sense as the long term return can be seen.

6 – Reliability of the computerized alternatives or level of risk a single failure point can create. When you have a large human set of programs, there is a lot of redundancy built in if one fails. With a computerized machine, when it fails, there is no backup until it is repaired.

There are probably a multitude of other reasons to keep or replace Jane and John Doe. This article is just to make you think about it from a ROI point of view and how history repeats itself 200 years later.

To quote what the head of an IT operations once said to me back in the 1989 “As soon as the cost of the tape system comes down to being cheaper than the staff I will get rid of the operations staff.” By 1992 the operations staff were out of a job as a machine had replaced them – the cost had come down enough. Machines eventually get cheaper than their human counterparts.

 

When software kills due to incomplete requirements

If you are lucky, your software has not been responsible for the death of anyone to date. If you are unlucky then you know it.

When a analyst gathers requirements for a piece of software there is a tendency to focus on the happy path and ignore the surrounding paths that can lead to disaster. Unfortunately events can lead up to the identification of the missing requirements and sometimes death is a result.

To be fair, we humans can still kill ourselves without software such as with the mechanical loaded gun or the speeding car taking a bend too fast. However software seems to give people in some cases a false sense of security that does not exist. In other cases it can give them power to do something that should not have been possible if they were directly engaged with the physical which leads to disaster.

The article below refers to two cases where software enabled a pilot to do something they should not have been allowed to do with death being the end result.

Lessons from spaceship two’s crash

In the above article, the situation was different from my previous article about lack of tactile feedback. In both cases the pilots knew what they were doing, they just did it at the wrong time or too frequently for the specific vehicle to survive.

As an analyst, be it a system’s analyst or business analyst, it is not enough to think of just the happy path. Whenever you are gathering requirements you need to also think of what will keep us on the happy path. Whenever there is an interaction or a key data point, ask yourself if the event that causes this can be triggered at the wrong time or occur too many times.

Look for the ways that one can step off of the path and see if you can build either a metaphorical wall to keep us on the path or ways to get us back on the path before any damage is done.

Testers working for nothing – why you should not go into testing as a career

Often Business Analysts will see in their job description the act of testing. True heavy testing requires special skills that do not tie in well with good Business Analysts skills.

Business Analysts often need to get out and communicate with a variety of people and dig beneath the surface of conversations to find the true requirements / processes.

Testing however relies on the information presented from the Business Analyst along with other documents and  industry standards to validate the work done. Testers effectively thrive in an atmosphere where communicating with a variety of people is not required.

While small amounts of testing such as a minor enhancement can be covered by a BA, care must be taken if the BA role requires more than that as it will weaken your BA skills over time.

Maybe the above is not enough to dissuade you from heading down a testing career path from your BA role but two trends should discourage you from heading into testing as a career:

1 – Outsourcing

Recently I saw a corporation completely outsource their Testing Department. Part of the reason behind this is the theory that the size of a testing department varies according to the work being done. A vendor was considered a better solution to handling the waves of work as opposed to having staff on hand.

2 – Testing for nothing in hope of potential rewards

This is the most worrying concern for anybody involved in testing. It looks like a Silicon Valley startup has ditched paying testers a wage. Testers have to compete to win cash by being the first to identifying bugs / issues that nobody else has identified. If they are not the first then they get nothing for their efforts. The prizes are also so small that only someone living in a country overseas could justify the risk of time and effort for little to no reward.

Data handling – know when to bring the experts on board.

We all know about the Y2K incident with the 2 digit year however there are still examples of data storage length being inappropriate for the data to be stored.

If you are a Business Analyst that deals with data then it is important to always be questioning the data requirements to ensure that they meet the need of the business / application now and especially in the future.

Industries where data is critical to their function will probably leverage Data Modelers / Engineers / Scientists to manage data definition. As a BA we should not be afraid to state when the  data knowledge is beyond us and ask for the project to employ one of these specialists. Do not try and wing it because the end result can be expensive to the company.

To read up on some of the impacts of data, see this article below from the BBC:

Data Handling that led to disasters

PM versus BA – the dead discussion and why being a PM may be better than being a BA

It can be interesting to read articles on the Ideal Way that things should happen. These articles are somewhat like the ones about why all people should be debt free and happy. If you are not debt free and happy, then you personally are doing something wrong.

Focus of this website is in the reality of the workplace which is usually far from Ideal. Politics, Oligarchies, Budgets etc. can all get in the way of achieving the Ideal or “World Peace”.

If you want to read up on the debate around the fact that there is no difference between PMs and BAs but it is all about what you bring to the table (“Ideal Approach”) then check out this link – PM vs BA.

Honestly however, the whole conversation is dead one which is what the author of the article states. The author basically questions why PM versus BA is even a discussion point to which I have to agree (having had a foot in both camps (PM / BA) I see no reason why the right BA cannot do PM work and vice versa). Business Analyst term has become so watered down anyway it means many different things to people in the industry. There is no one definition (outside of the textbooks) for what a BA is. Effectively as the author of the article states, project success is based on collaboration and not on title. However in the real world, project teams (especially in larger companies) are formed based on titles / roles / budgets / deliverable dates and that is where the Ideal is left behind. The company that you are at will dictate your role to you based on their process / procedures / politics etc.. Some companies will be Ideal while others will miss the mark.

From a current trend perspective over the past 20 years, I have seen the companies go from using BAs to manage small projects as they gather requirements to the other scenario of having PMs gather requirements as they manage projects. Talk about territory wars. As the trend continues, the BA starting out might be better off to go into Project Management first since they will get better experience than trying to come up through the BA ranks where they run the risk of being no better off in experience than a secretary.

From a historical perspective (ignoring the above about collaboration approach), let us talk about the facts around the PM being different from a BA.

1 – Project Managers are brought on before Business Analyst so why bother with the BA.

– Pure Business Analysts are seen as an unnecessary expense in a lot of companies – last hire in your small companies. More and more the Project Manager is being looked at to deliver the Business Case / Requirements as part of their role to avoid the expense of having a Business Analyst. Personally I have seen two recent larger clients push to have the PM do most of the work since the rational is that they need to have a PM anyway so they might as well leverage them to do everything with the theory that the project is saving money. In these companies, the BA is getting downgraded to little more than a secretary required to document whatever the PM states and store it in the appropriate software.

2 – Project Managers can always do BA tasks or vice versa

– A project that is on a tight deadline cannot afford to have the resource distracted from requirements gathering with PM paperwork / issues. Try to gather requirements while putting together multiple project status / dashboards (and they all have the same deliverable date) and you will see what I mean. Sure this is not a problem when deadlines are not important.

– Not all BAs can do financial reporting / resource management as they have not been trained nor do they have the experience. After you have sat through a few cost center allocation discussions with Finance, you will enjoy getting back to requirements gathering

– Paperwork / Software used by PMs may be unfamiliar to BAs. MS Project and the latest tools all require some form of training / experience. Dashboards have to be designed / populated for projects which takes time away from requirements. It is the same for PMs trying to capture requirements as they may not be familiar with the software where the requirements are stored.

– Some PMs have no clue about proper requirement writing (ambiguity), business case development (what does the business really want and how to justify it) and it shows when the project moves through the phases. It is kind of like expecting a BA to be able to design databases. Some have it and some don’t.

3 – PM is the natural career progression for a BA

– NO it is not! Pure Project Management is different to Business Analysis. Even the IIBA acknowledges this when they ask you to describe the role you had in the projects you worked on. If you answer too many questions from a PM perspective they will not acknowledge that experience as being BA relevant.

 

Hopefully I got the point across that the BA versus PM debate is dead. To argue it anymore would be to ignore the trend in the industry which is downgrading / killing the Business Analyst job title making this whole discussion pointless.

As Business Analysts, we should be more concerned with making sure the role we are in ties into our skills. Remember, the BA title by itself is pretty much worthless these days as it means so many different things to different companies. Your focus should be on getting the skills / experience to be in the role you desire and not on the job title.

For a list of Business Analyst job titles, see links below:

Job Titles Job Titles

 

Responsive Design – the past repeats itself and when you should not bother about it

Google has been sending out emails to websites advising that the web site position in Google search results will be negatively impacted if the website fails to implement responsive design.

Google’s argument is that they want to serve their customers the content that is most viewable on the device being used by the customer. Responsive design being that the website adjusts itself to the screen size of the device being used.

All of the above is the past repeating itself. The print industry has been dealing with this for years.

If you traveled through airports back before e readers, there were lots of small bookstores selling books. Most of the books for sale were of a certain size – the small paperback. Book size was dictated by limited shelf space in the store and what travelers were willing to carry with them on the plane.

Like Google, the bookstore would not stock your book (as in appear in Google search results) if it did not meet their size criteria unless you were some incredible author (book guaranteed to be wanted by travelers no matter the size). Readers were less likely to buy your book if it was larger as it was more hassle to carry around.

However if you were the author of a coffee table size book, you did not care about the getting into the airport bookstores as that was not your market.

Big companies like to be everywhere on the web since they need to maintain brand recognition / market share / income. They also have a large budget to handle the design challenges responsive design creates. For some reason, however, big company still are not able to implement smooth Responsive Design.

Looking at the facts –  BBC.com recently changed their website and introduced moving click points and lengthier navigation (top menu items now moved to sub menu). ABCnews.go.com prevents the user from being able to pinch zoom on their pages. These are just some of the many examples out there of issues with responsive design implemented by large companies.

With large companies failing to implement responsive design well where does that leave the little guy who has the much smaller budget and the less brand recognition?

To answer the above question we first have to consider some others:

1 – Are the people visiting your website likely to be on mobile devices now or in the future?

If you answered yes, then you have to weigh up the % of mobile visitors against the cost of supporting them. Basically, can you afford to lose the mobile visitors if google no longer promotes you?

2 – Does your brand need to increase market share?

Can you afford for your website not to be listed in the mobile search as it will reduce the amount of instances that your brand is visible? If you are trying to build up your brand, the loss of presence in mobile search could negatively impact you especially if a competitor’s brand is present while yours is not. But then again, maybe you are the coffee table size book author and it does not matter. Or you are leveraging other channels such as YouTube / Facebook so losing on mobile search is no big deal.

3 – Will I lose significant revenue if my web site is not found in mobile search?

Does the effort justify the cost. For e-commerce sites, being mobile friendly is almost a requirement but for content sites this is debatable. Do people really want to read the news / advice on the screen of a small telephone.

If you have to go down the responsive path on a limited budget, probably the best bet is to find a vendor that has already developed the web site software to support your web site. For content, Word Press now has themes that are responsive.

Don’t expect a magic wand solution to responsive design as even with off the shelf packages there will probably be something not quite right.

In the long term, screen size will become stable as consumers decide what works and what does not and will chose to purchase the most useful mobile devices. When that happens, the software solutions will be robust and the whole Google conversation on penalizing those that do not implement responsive design will be part of history.

8 pitfalls to avoid with your job application.

1- Online Profile Check

An interesting development these days in looking for jobs compared to 15 years ago is that your online profile can haunt you years later. Remember that every time you post information about your current or previous positions it is available to others as well. When applying for jobs, be sure to make sure that any online profile you find when searching on yourself does not reveal embarrassing or contradictory information that weakens your job application.

2 – Certain level of education required

Education is not something you can fake. Employers have been burnt by this so they check applicants often and the process for validating education is becoming easier. In some cases, companies will not hire you until the education has been validated. The old trick of picking an education establishment in the middle of nowhere does not always work anymore and at the very least they will want to know why you got your education from this far off place.

Some warnings from the BBC about resume checks.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31594181

How to handle Education:

Compromise here is to at least be attending a course that leads to the qualification required. Employer will see that you are in the appropriate education and may let you get to the next stage of the job application. As to when you actually complete the education and how long you have been studying it, that is up to you.

3- Years of Experience more than currently experienced

If you are lying just to get a job, you don’t have the experience and are not a quick learner you can be sure it will be worked out quickly that you are not a fit. Even as a quick learner you may not be given the time to learn the job before they are onto you for lack of experience.

I read a resume once where the person had a master’s degree, was 27 years old and had 9 years of relevant work experience. Where you might ask is the problem? This person had 7 years of full time schooling with 9 years of work experience coming to a total of 16 years and they did not start college at 11 but at 18. It gets murky here. Some people will consider a working month; week or even a day in a calendar year as 1 year worth of experience and put such on their resume.

Understand that no two persons will have the same experience for the same time period. Someone who consults will have a larger variety of experience compared to someone who works in the same job / company for the same period of time. However someone who works in the same job / company for years may have more depth of experience since they have been totally focused on that role.

A lot of time, employers put years of experience required to exclude the candidates with no experience at all or based on their judgment of what experience brings to the role. As stated above, someone with one year of experience may have the equivalent of another person’s 10 years just depending on the jobs that they did. In the 80’s the rule of thumb for consulting was 2.5 years experience before you could become a consultant. The number of years has been increased significantly for job applicants due to lies that people have been putting around experience. An average of 5 years seems more like the norm these days.

How you can get caught with lack of experience:

– You go into a role where other colleagues have the experience so your lack of experience is obvious. I worked at a site where on the first day of the job I was asked to perform a simple task under the eye of the manager who hired me. Failure to have successfully performed that task would have led to a quick exit.

– You are not a quick learner. If you do not have the experience and you can’t pick it up quickly, you will end up being found out.

– During the interview, you could be asked to describe the projects that are relevant to the experience and how long you spent on each. Mistakes in duration will quickly add up to not matching your resume experience. Explaining that a project lasted for months or over a year could also trip you up if the normal experience for the role is short projects.

– When hired, you ask too many basic experience questions making it obvious you do not know your stuff.

– Employer has an acquaintance from your previous employer who states in their opinion what your work role was at your previous employer that does not tie with what you stated you did.

How to handle years of experience:

Nobody asks if you did 2000 hours in a particular role over a calendar year, they just want to know that you held a job in that role for the particular year combined with whatever else you did for the remainder of the year was related. Putting it plainly you have to look at the months/year when you did not have the role and translate the experience of the role you were in into the position you are applying for. Unless the employer has a direct acquaintance at your previous employer it is unlikely that the new employer will get the exact project by project details of what you did.

4- Job skills required are specific

I have been to interviews where specific skills were requested but that was because the employer had gap in skills that needed to be filled. Other times I have gone to employers where the skills were already present so the employer was looking for someone that would fit in with the existing team.

How you can get caught with lack of specific skills:

– Testing of your skills during the interview process.

– Monitoring of you as you put your supposed skills into action.

– Ask you to describe previous projects where the skills were used.

How to handle lack of specific skills:

If you don’t have experience in the specific skill requested you need to at least get an understanding of it. Understanding can either be obtained thru training or via reading a book on the subject. Any training you take can be easily added to your resume under training. If you only read a book, then you will need to tie the specific skills back to projects you have worked on so that the skills will at least appear on your resume. Sometimes as you learn the skill you may find that you were already using it in your job anyway, you just called it something else. In both cases (training or book reading), where appropriate, any work that you did that is relevant to the skill, you should mention.

5- Job title is not one you have held

Maybe you are trying to change career from being a Project Manager to a Business Analyst and as a Project Manager you performed Business Analyst tasks. So all your employee job titles state Project Manager. When your resume lands on the employers desk they won’t bother looking at it if you state you were a Project Manager so you change it to Business Analyst.

How you can get caught with not having job title:
– Somebody provides a reference stating that you were in a different role. Make sure you references understand the role that you are presenting yourself for.
– Old profiles of you exist on the Internet saying you were something else.

How to handle lack of job title:
Change your thinking to the “title for my job”. Ditch the words “job title” and instead say who employed you and focus on the title for the role you performed. Avoid using the words “Job Title”. If they ask what your job title was at the interview, just state the title for the job you performed as that was really your job. If part of the time you were in one job role and the rest of the time in another for the same employer, don’t break out the experience by role but instead mention you were in both roles and state the years at the employer.

6 -Gap in job years or currently unemployed

How you can get caught with  job gaps:
– You are unable to provide references for a period of time.
– The experience dates don’t add up on your resume.

How to handle gaps and unemployment:
Even if you do not have a paying job, you should be providing your relevant expertise to others. Point here is to have a 3rd party that will vouch that you worked for them (paid or unpaid) in some capacity. The minute you are between jobs or are trying to get back into the workforce, look for those opportunities which can build references. Review your past period of gaps and see if anything you did over that time is relevant to the work you are applying for. Document it all and be ready to provide references that will back you up.

7 -Previous job at much higher level than one being applied for

How you can get caught with level of role in previous job:
– You use terms that may not be applicable to the role being applied – example managed financial budgets when applying to a developer job that is all about pure coding.
– You talk about the people you managed when the role has no people to manage.
– Previous experience is overly impressive – such as worked at the United Nations when job is for a small company.
– You have an internet profile that shows what you were before.

How to handle higher level role in previous job:
It is ironic that on the one hand we are told to play up our successes but the on the other hand we do not get hired because our success scares the employer. Going for a lesser job requires making the employer feel that you are not going to get bored and quit. You need to remove any terms / experience that is not relevant to the job you are applying for. You will have to set the title of your previous job to match the role being applied for. Downplay large companies you have worked for by focusing on describing the small team or department you worked in. Avoid mentioning words that would associate you with large global organizations if at all possible by looking for other ways to describe projects / experience.

8 -Samples of work not your own or incorrect

So your future employer asks you for samples of relevant work and you grab whatever you feel like sharing. This can be great aid but it can also bite you in the butt.

How you can get caught with an incorrect or someone’s document:
– Employer has an acquaintance at your previous employer who can validate the original author of the document.
– You are unable to talk intelligently about the document.
– It contains glaring errors that make you look unsuitable to hire.
– Document sample is way larger than anything the employer would expect you to deliver making them suspicious that others helped you with it.

How to handle document samples:
Best to use your own work. Keep your document samples small and make sure they do not provide confidential information. If needed, mock up some samples based on your experience. A page here or there and never a whole document. Be prepared to talk to every page shared as if you were doing a presentation. Verify that what is present in the document is correct as it represents your best work.

In summary I hope you find this information useful and it helps you get your next gig.

Good Luck

2 reasons to think physical product when designing Web UI

February 22, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, UX / UI, Web Sites 

Previously I have talked about tactile feedback in good product design. Today I want to suggest that anytime you design an interface you think of a physical product.

Why has this come about?

With the easy availability of touch screens, any web page is effectively a physical product as opposed to the days when we were limited to point and click via a mouse.

Some of you may argue that this is already being handled by having mobile versions of your web pages or mobile applications. This however does not take into consideration the larger touch screens that are coming into play as monitors or even when a user decides to browse your regular web site via their Tablet device. Some web sites are also assuming the network / server speed and graphic processing power will be able to cope with large pages (size in kb)without impact to the user but this is not the case.

Too illustrate the point of two bad touch interface design for a web site I will transfer the problems to a physical laptop.

1 – Laptop keys move around when laptop lid initially opened and every time a page button is clicked

Nobody is going to buy a laptop where the keys move as you try to use them but for some reason large web site owners such as CNN.com (page moves up by a row once it has finished loading) / abcnews.go.com + autotrader.com (banner advert expands and pushes page down) expect that users of their web sites will put up with this when the user opens a web page.

Why does this happen:

A – We see examples where banner adverts bounce page text up and down so when a user tries to select a link or read an article they are stuck with a moving target. In the worst case, the banner advert expands for a short while and then shrinks giving a user a double hit on a moving web page.

B – Web page has become bloated and parts of style sheet is loaded last meaning the layout location of some web page elements will move after the page has been presented to the user.

Page below initially loads without banner advert.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

Then the banner advert appears pushing text on page down.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

2 – Laptop keys made incredibly small that you can’t be sure which key is pushed.

Yet again, nobody is going to want really small keys on their laptop but we still see this on some web sites. Mainly it still crops up in paging where the site still focuses on using a small number to allow the user to select next pages. These small numbers are hard to touch accurately with your finger and even with a mouse it requires some dexterity.

www.Realtor.com is an example of this.

Difficult to select web links

Difficult to select web links

When designing for the web, think beyond the actual web page.

Ask yourself how well would the user interface on this web page work if the UI was part of a physical object such as  the keyboard on a laptop?

 

14 tips for surviving Senior Level meetings.

At some point in your Business Analyst career you may be asked to meet with Board level staff. This should not frighten you if you follow some logical tips.

1 – Don’t go it alone.
Find someone to help you setup, run and share results/minutes of meeting.

2 – Make sure someone in the room can vouch for you.
Someone in the room of a senior enough level has to be able to support you when things get tough. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to at least one individual prior to the meeting to introduce yourself and get them on your side. Failure to do this could leave you in front of a firing squad.

3 – Know who the most senior people are in the room and respect their authority.
If you don’t know who a person is that has the power to end your job, better to find out before you challenge their meeting behavior or statements.

4 – Define the rules and objective of the meeting.
Always good to define the rules and objectives. Please note however, the higher the level of meeting the less the participants are willing to listen to the rules, in those cases you have to go with the flow.

5 – Dress to match the meeting participants.
If the meeting is a suit and tie affair, wear them.

6 – When things go astray.
Ask the participants if they are open to taking a break.

7 – Be Bold but not Reckless.
Be careful of how you control the meeting. Being respectful to participants is key and don’t get sucked into arguing with them. Note and accept their objections then move on.

8 – Meet one on one post meeting to resolve issues.
Since you avoided the argument, afterwards is when you meet with the individual or subordinate and work to resolve their issues.

9 – For long meetings, meetings at lunch or dinner make sure the food and drinks match the level of staff.
Quite often you can reach out to the personal admin of the highest of the participants and work with them to schedule the right food and drinks.

10 – Be flexible.
Senior level staff availability changes at the last minute. You may find your meeting getting shrunk or bumped. Often these people are used to meeting in the evenings post the regular work day.

11 – Learn the individual personalities before hand.
Knowing what to expect from the individuals involved in the meeting keeps the surprises to a minimum.

12 – Know the terminology / acronyms
Either learn the stuff before the meeting or have someone with you who can whisper / Instant Message you what is being said.

13 – Use IM to get live meeting feedback
If you or your companion is not presenting, have your senior friend in the room (point 2) let you know if you are going off track by Instant Messaging you feedback to the computer that is not presenting – don’t want the IM to appear on screen.

14 – Prepare psychologically.
Follow whatever routine you use to relax and stay relaxed during the meeting.
http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20140904-jitters-act-like-a-starfish

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