Category Archives: Technology

Review: Fitbit Charger 2

fitbit_charger2

I got a hand-me-down; from my daughter. I thought it was the other way around, especially since dad is supposed to be the fitness nut in the family.

In the early 80’s I used a Polar HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) in my fitness training as I am always researching and testing health and fitness products, fads, trends, etc. The Polar HRM was a good tool, however I moved onto the next thing and ever since then I have just continued researching and reviewing the evolution of these technologies without actually using one.

My first week with this unit was vanilla, I put it on and barely paid attention to it. My goal was to look at this wearable from both a novice and experienced fitness enthusiast’s perspective.

To get started, I needed to sync with my iPhone; that was fast and easy. Next, I downloaded the app; that was fast and easy. Check, check for those considering investing in this health/fitness tool.

My daughter changed from one of the rubber straps to a leather one. I liked the leather one, but I knew that my activity level would require my getting an athletic (rubber) band. First note, accessories on Fitbit website are more expensive than other sources e.g. Fitbit Sportsband $29.95, I purchased one for $5.99 through an Amazon reseller. After several weeks my band is doing quite fine.

Being far-sighted I was concerned that I would not be able to see the small display, however I am pleased to report (to the older generation) that the white text on black background presents a clear visual.

Not sure if it is the age of this hand-me-down piece, or the actual sensitivity, but the tap navigation on the unit is not as responsive as that on my other touch electronics; so, no judgment here.

Online dashboard provides plenty of information for a novice to a seasoned health and fitness buff. However, for the experienced individual you may be looking for more info, for example, in addition to seeing average heart rate I would like to see average low and highs.

Things I like and you will to:

  • Clear readable display.
  • Easy setup.
  • Good mobile app.
  • Good web dashboard.
  • Plenty of configurations to help both the novice and seasoned individuals.

Features I would like:

  • Edit workouts for those times when you forget to hit stop
  • HRM Zones notifications. When moving from ‘Fat Burn’ to ‘Cardio’ to ‘Peak’ zones, I would like to be notified. The notifications should be user configurable and offer visual, audible and/ vibration.
  • HRM Analysis. At present, the dashboard shows average for workout and total minutes in the zones, however, I would like to see the totals divided into periods, for example; if total in the cardio zone was 20 minutes, I would like to see how many times and for what lengths led to this total.

My conclusion; anything that helps people pursue, or maintain, their health and fitness is good and the Fitbit Charge 2 does this and more.

 

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Intriguing?

 

AI imageThe following statement from one of the forums I belong to caught my attention, “The use of AI [Artificial Intelligence] in a higher education environment is very intriguing.” The submitter went on to ask for thoughts on the pros and cons. Here are some of brief first thoughts that came to mind.

I immediately thought, “Has there been any other moments in history that were perceived, in advance of it happening, as being ‘intriguing’? Did the inventors of flight ask themselves how this would change transportation?”

The use of Artificial Intelligence [AI] in all industries will be very intriguing as applications of its use are still to be defined and there is not a clear picture of the end, or the direction we are going. Within higher education, there will be several paths of AI’s evolution; the academic side, the “business” (functions, such as, Finance, HR and Procurement) side and then the convergence of these two. On the academic side; an example of AI will be in support of the students and educators in providing faster, more in-depth access to information – the web on a high dose of steroids. AI will reduce (not completely) the requirement of individuals to ask the questions. AI will ‘know’ the student’s academic degree and areas of interest, will know the planned and intended usage and know the desired outcome. With this knowledge AI will provide access to the answers or create paths to the answers. All of this guidance through a variety of technological solutions, one being the interaction with their personal assistants within their devices (Note: I am not saying laptop, computer, phone, watch, etc. because I don’t want to limit the future.).

What I find of greater interest is on the convergence side. Today, many educational institutions are under tremendous economic pressure. For a few years now, we have been hearing about how these institutions need to act more like businesses. To do this, they are looking more critically as to how to manage expenses, generate revenue or just stay alive. Imagine through big data analysis, educational institutions have extensive access to knowing who their ‘customers’ are. This knowledge will come from many sources, such as, recruiting efforts, admissions and the academic experiences of students and the faculty.

Following the premise that institutions have (nearly) unlimited access to data, here is a practical concept to consider within only one department; IT (Information Technology).

Utilizing IoT (Internet of Things) technologies, imagine being able to ‘track’ and understand all of a student’s real-world (visits to the dining hall, the library, how long they were there, what they ate, what books [what are books?] they looked at, etc.) and online use (how long they spent on the institution’s websites, or not, etc.). With all of this data, institutions will use AI to assess what technological investments and support they need out of their IT departments; thus, greater control of IT budgets, resulting in lower or better managed expenses.

The above profiled use of AI technologies and big data analytics within higher education will be one direction, however, there is larger issue here today and I project will grow substantially (Hopefully, not at the same pace as presented in ‘Moore’s Law’). This “issue” came to my attention when the author made a request for thoughts on the “…potential downsides…” I believe these new technologies are bringing us (human society) to a ‘fourth wave’ of evolution (see Alvin Toffler’s “Third Wave” for context on the previous evolutionary points). As with the other evolutionary waves, we are once again faced with the very serious societal impact topic of ‘good vs evil‘ during these historic periods. Each previous wave had its social benefits and consequences. While there are many, many positive opportunities with technology, equally there are many examples today of using evolving technologies in a harmful way e.g. cyber hacking in its many forms.

Which topic should we be engaging in; AI in higher education (or name your industry) or good versus evil in technology – intriguing?

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How are the projects going?

How are the projects going?

I was recently asked this question and my first response was, “fine”. I am very optimistic so almost all of my responses usually denote a positive tone.

The inquirer accepted this response. However, I am also very honest and I followed with, “…there are some challenges, but they [projects] are still moving forward…

Sometimes projects have bumps in the road” was their response to my response. I agreed.

Before they could escape our office breakroom environment, I stepped up onto my project management podium and proceeded to describe a view about project challenges.

If you are still with me, and for other project managers, does this resonate with your experiences?

In the beginning of a project there is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about the future; a future that will deliver millions of dollars, or solve world crises. Well, maybe not millions of dollars or world peace, but improved margins, new software, better processes, or a new building could be a result.

The team takes the project start’s positive energy and goes forward.vision

Then, at some point in the project’s timeline, team members lower their heads and lose site of the vision on the horizon. This is when side-steps, back-steps, project halts, tensions rise, emergency meetings are held, all because an individual, or group, becomes focused on a particular task, or event. This type of disruption creates delays and angst. My experience has recognized this situation on a number of occasions. The challenge for the project manager, and should be that of the Executive Sponsor(s) as well, is to get everyone to raise their heads and refocus their energies onto the future.

I often ask myself, why do people do this, take their eyes away from the goal? Do they still want to make money or have a new building? If yes, then take that desire and focus on the steps that will get the project going in that direction versus back-steps, or unnecessary meetings.

At this point in a project’s life, I have come to recognize that there are two things that a project manager will have to do.

  1. Resurface those project kick-off vision statements and circulate to the team.
  2. Attend those extra meetings, write up additional reports, have more phone calls (ugh!)

Do you agree that these two things will happen? Which one will you devote more energy to?

The next time I get the question, how are the projects going, I will kick it up a notch and say, “Great!

 

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Is there a Cloud in your future?

cloud

Are you considering deploying new websites and/or applications via a Cloud provider in 2014? Are you looking to have the benefit of high availability and scaling to optimize your applications management strategy for the New Year?

There is solid evidence that many functional departments across the organization are focused on strategies that will shorten implementation times and are increasingly looking to have the management of software and infrastructure hosted externally in the cloud to decrease time spent on upgrades, maintenance, and support.

If you are considering moving to the cloud in 2014, remember these key points when looking for a hosted solution.

Strategic

Your department should focus on the strategic objectives of delivering content, fulfilling workflow business processes and not on infrastructure and maintenance. By focusing on your strategy you ensure maximizing the growth of revenue and increasing customer satisfaction.

The cloud provides scalability and elasticity to easily match utilization requirements. Cloud solutions give you the ability to deploy your application in the cloud and improves flexibility for your organization.

Economic

The economic value of moving your applications to the cloud aligns your investments so you can pay for what you actually need. There are costs involved in the operations and maintenance of your IT infrastructure; with the cloud, businesses can allocate those costs to more resources, fostering innovation within the company as well as the creation of new products and services.

Cloud deployment for business applications reduces the cost of entry, IT costs, and infrastructure support, and provides faster time for use by business users. The cloud enables organizations to deploy their solutions faster. Do not invest in infrastructure that delivers short-term value. Don’t purchase an asset that depreciates and requires upgrades before your initial investment dollars have been accounted for.

Architecture

Architecturally the Cloud allows you to have a simple and consistent environment available to developers and key business users. This environment removes the complexity of using an application, making it easier to develop and deploy fixes, upgrades, and future release versions.

Moving your business application to the cloud allows IT to not have to schedule the testing and application of a software update and removes worrying about enough disk space or processing power to handle your application. A managed cloud approach provides an environment ready to scale to meet your peak seasons; it means having world-class security measures in place and significantly reduces your datacenter overhead.

A Focus on Strategy

The leading Cloud providers share the vision of having organizations focus on their strategy. They believe in helping organizations maximize the value of their investments.

A managed cloud offering provides confidence that your application is always up and available, ready to deliver amazing value to your customers and achieve your department and corporate objectives.

Organizations have recognized the value of the Cloud and have begun to move key business productivity applications like ERP and CRM to this solution. More and more organizations are recognizing the value they can gain from having their application managed in the Cloud.

Is there a Cloud in your future?

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Have you hugged your CIO today?

In the Wizard of Oz, there is a scene in which the omniscient voice barks, “Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain!”  

Powerful_Wizard_of_Oz

I, on the other hand, will propose that you should pay attention, and do it soon, very soon! Who is the man I am referring to? It’s your CIO and here are my four simple reasons:

  • It’s who you know. CIOs are smart, strategic, organizational leaders of your company. They may have a different function that appears to be outside and not critical to your core business (sales, marketing, finance, operations, etc.), however, they ultimately have the same goals, which are to make the company successful. They have been brought into your organization to deliver results, just like you. If you are new to your role, then think in terms of a meeting with the CIO as gaining another perspective and an opportunity to develop a strategic relationship.
  • Resources. You have a list of tactical items and projects to address and to resolve which require process management and/or technical resources. Do you have the team members to work on these? Guess what, the CIO’s team includes resources that may be available and are experienced in this work, or their team members may already be working on related projects.
  • Data is king. If you are frustrated by the reports that are delivered to your inbox, then you need to recognize, and gain a deeper understanding of how data flows through the organization. Along the way, I am confident you will uncover other valuable data nuggets to help manage your business. In today’s data-driven organizations, success is measured by KPIs (key performance indicators). If your company manages by KPIs and you believe that data is king, guess who sits on the throne!
  • Technology. The world is always changing (mobile devices, the cloud, etc.) and the way that organizations technically engage with their customers and team members needs to stay current. How are you going to be in the know? I am confident that your CIO has plans on how to deliver updates to your infrastructure and you need to be aware of what is coming. The sharing of roadmaps is a fantastic and beneficial use of time.

You may not need to get as close as the title of this post suggests, but meeting and knowing this team member will benefit your efforts, and theirs.

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The Importance of Scope within EMR.

emr image

In a recent discussion within the Linkedin Healthcare-IT/EHR/HIS group based on an article entitled, “EHR users unhappy, many switching“, many good exchanges of important ideas and topics (UI, security, data exchanges, HIPAA, interoperability, etc.) covered why users are unhappy and switching, however, I propose that from the project management perspective fundamentally the successful end result of any software solution is the adherence to a well-defined scope. EMR vendors engage and work with their clients to develop a scope. The requirements identified within the scope should not be based on the feature set; the scope should be defined by the stakeholders requirements along with defining what the desired end result will be.

In the case of an EMR solution, if the clinical caregiver population and/or some fraction of patients are not part of the development of the scope, already two key stakeholders end-user groups will feel frustrated by the outcome and adoption is likely to fail. Thus, the critical element is to capture this input from ALL stakeholders, OR, to accept the direction and input from the those creating the scope as the basis for measuring success.

This being said, the evolution of EMR solutions represents one of the most dynamic examples of the rapidly facing change of technology.

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“Data can tell any story!”

Data digital flow

Every day, in every office around the globe a report is being generated; the data in that report is intended to serve a purpose, whether that is to validate a hypothesis, show progress (or lack of), track, measure, etc. Database queries, Excel manipulations of pivot tables and many other tasks are regularly being done. Usually, the command is “just get me the data”. However, I am going to propose that business analyst and database programmers take your time and be a little slow in returning the data, after all, “data can tell any story”; at least, till the following points are consider.

  • Access – Yes, everyone wants the data. Experience has shown that the privilege of access to data is very easily provided to anyone who asks. However, without first establishing the program, the project or organizational goals, and the recognition by the program/project manager, or requestor the understanding of these goals, and until there is a clearly recognized confidence by the report producer that everyone is looking in the same direction and using the same “language” (definition of what the data fields are) then the answer is “Access Denied”.
  • Program Objectives – Many organizations struggle with clearly defining their program objectives, both qualitatively and quantitatively. In the B-2-B world and for this discussion, the focus is on the quantitative perspective. Companies want to help their customers achieve their objectives and are quick to provide data in support of these objectives in order to demonstrate the benefit of their product and/or service. To illustrate, let’s say the customer’s objective may be to get their employees registered into an education program by ‘X’ date. Imagine the following; if, after, let’s say 1 month the customer’s program manager comes into a meeting with great enthusiasm because she/he is reporting they have 98% registration and there is only a little time left prior to the end of their stated goal date, then a Director/VP says, “what about [insert new quantitative goal here]?” Without a clearly defined, up-front quantitative objective, the program manager is at a lost.
  • Interpretation – Data, when viewed by different individuals can be interpreted by in as many ways as there are number of viewers. Imagine for a moment that a Manager, a Director and a VP all are in the same meeting, all have generated reports in hand, however all arrive at different interpretations and conclusions of what the data is telling them; think about the ensuing conflict of dialog – not a pretty picture. Who is right?

I propose that 3 out of 5 readers of this topic will get it. Get what?

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Communications – Personal and “De”personal

communications

There are times when communicating with customers that a personal tone is quite effective and strengthens or creates a better relationship. However, there are definitely times when this personal approach can lead to frustration for the two parties by creating a “you versus me” tone – the specific scenario I am referring to typically occurs during customer support situations.

Here is an example to illustrate the point.

Customer calls or sends an email to customer support. They are frustrated (could be for any number of reasons); the bottom line is that they feel wronged and the support agent must right the situation. Most of the time the customer has started with an accusatory “you did (or did not)…”, thus starts the personalization – don’t get sucked into this confrontation. Here is the approach. Use empathy, personalize the support response in recognition of their frustration, after all this is a human interaction. Then, when dealing with the issue, depersonalize the communication. For example…

“Mr./Mrs. Customer, I am very sorry to hear that you have experienced this level of frustration…” (personalized)

“To be sure [Insert company name here] understands the situation, your organization requires [Insert problem here… (depersonalize)” Note the use of company name and reference to customer’s organization.

The ability to use “personal” and “depersonalized” communications will address the human side of the issue along with leading to the successful resolution to the problem.

This list of seven steps will help to remember when and how to communicate.

  1. Empathy (Personalize)
  2. Clarity of issue (Depersonalize)
  3. Playback with empathy (Personalize)
  4. Set Expectations (solution and time) (Depersonalize)
  5. Confirm Expectations are understood (Depersonalize)
  6. Restate empathy for situation (Personalize)
  7. Work and close issue

Did this help?

I hope this helps you!

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The “Bottom Line”

A customer’s experience is the MOST important and critical element to a company’s success! The customer experience is not concluded once they buy. It is not an isolated one-time event. Their experience is the sum of all interactions, formed by an organization’s culture and customer contact points. Every interaction influences the customer’s perceptions of the company’s product and/or service. There is no magic formula or checklist to follow. The customer experience consists of every impression and encounter; or someone closely associated with the customer, albeit they are one of the customer’s co-workers, friends or family members. Whether the customer is making a phone call for additional information, scheduling a meeting, or whether your website is easy to navigate, every interaction impacts the customer experience.

Believe it or not, like it or not, the customer experience is the key to your success. Accept, even a percentage of this idea, and this will lead you to look inward at your culture and not on the quarterly finance statements. If the focus is on the bottom line, you’ve missed the point. Keep the focus on the customer.

Consider this. When you have a relationship with someone and believe they care about you, you are more likely to trust them, follow their guidance and communicate with them honestly. When you don’t create this trust, then you risk losing the opportunity to have a new customer, or keeping the ones you have.

Building relationships with customers is the single most important thing you can do in determining how your product and/or service will be accepted, used and adopted. The focus must be on building a relationship with every customer, every time. (And yes, the bottom line will benefit as well.)

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What happens when the “soul of the machine” is no longer?

Today, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple announced his retirement. What does this mean for Apple? What happens now? Will the spirit and “soul” of Apple continue?

Great products and great organizations do great things when their “soul” is in it. I am using the reference to “soul” with recognition that it is the soul that drives all that we do. “We” refers to individuals or groups of individuals (companies, clubs, or any other grouping of people).

Think about it for a moment. What happened after John Wooden left UCLA or any other leader leaves their group? Is it still the same?

I recall reading the “Soul of the New Machine” and wondering, what next?

I now wonder, what next for Apple? Will Apple continue to be the world leader in innovative technology? Will they continue to be Apple?

My answer to all these questions. I believe Apple is losing its soul, but there are many souls that remain. It will be up to these remaining spirits to create their new Apple.

Good luck Steve Jobs! Good luck Apple!

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