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Monday, May 27, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Cheese and Shrimp Stuffed Jalapenos

Bacon wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cheese and shrimp
Memorial Day food timeout - I made these yesterday and they were delicious.

Get some large jalapenos, cut lengthwise, core, and fill with a mixture of cream cheese and white sharp cheddar (with some garlic and seasoning in it). 

Place in a peeled raw shrimp and put on the other jalapeno half, then wrap in some thick bacon and close with a couple of toothpicks. 

Then grill slow and low - they will need your constant attention - and you will need to spray to keep down the fire.

Enjoy the baconny spicy goodness.

What should we measure in our technology departments?

It is very easy to assume things are working well and that our IT departments are functioning excellently.  But if we really want to confirm that, what metrics should we measure?

There may not be a one size fits all answer on this, as there are so many variables in the equation, but ultimately there are a few key things that most of us should be tracking, to help us gauge workloads, productivity, and customer satisfaction.

At the core of many IT departments, sits a help or service desk. If we don’t have a handle on these numbers, then that is the place to start.  The service desk is a window into our IT operations that can shed a lot of light on our operations.  

There are lots of things to measure – time to resolution, technician workload, technician efficiency, recurring problems, and more.  Most of us strive to turn around trouble tickets as fast as we can, while at the same time making sure the customer is satisfied and received excellent service.    So I would start with measuring these numbers.   If you do not have a way to measure customer satisfaction with work performed, then it may be time to shop for a new help desk.

Going over these numbers regularly with your managers and staff helps promote an efficient service oriented operation.   If staff is thinking about how their work is perceived by customers, then they are likely to provide better service.  Bad service ratings and customer satisfaction may be meaningful indicators of a serious IT problem that is not resolved, or they may indicate an overworked staff or even possibly show an employee issue that needs to be addressed.

At the end of the day, tracking many of these service desk related metrics should help us better understand the work our staff is performing and hopefully allow us to improve our operations and our customer service.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where are my backups?

Just one month ago, the small town and school district of West, Texas suffered a horrendous tragedy, with the massive explosion that devastated much of the small town and the West Independent School District. My understanding is that the explosion devastated much of this district’s technology infrastructure, servers, and backups.  And just now it is being reported that a lot of schools (and most likely their data) reside close to fertilizer storage across the country.  And unfortunately this week in Oklahoma City, five schools were ravaged by a horrendous tornado.

Data is unfortunately super easy to lose – if not to a major natural or other disaster, then just as easily to a failed hard drive, a broken water main, or a building fire.  Whether you are a technology director, superintendent, or a classroom teacher, this is the perfect time to ask several questions, where are my files and systems backed up?   Are the backups stored in different physical locations?  Are the backups in a secured location?   Can the backups be restored to a different place if needed? 
All of us need to be backing up our important digital assets (and our students’ assets.)   Very few of our schools sit somewhere immune to natural disasters.   San Antonio is thought to be a very good location in Texas much more immune to tornadoes and hurricanes than many parts of the state, such that we have many very large data centers here.  Yet the picture to the right is my son’s elementary school two years ago, with a major wildfire burning right behind it.  I am sure the staff of the school never thought a fire would threaten them, yet it came so very close. 

So before travelling down to San Antonio to ISTE, please take a few minutes and backup your laptop, iPad, servers, etc. to another site or perhaps to the cloud, lest some unfortunate disaster strikes you or your school.  Safe travels.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sweat the Small Stuff

I read a very interesting blog post on Linked In by Jon Steinberg.  In his post, he acknowledges that while there is value and a time and place for long term strategic thinking, the real work gets done when we focus on the details at hand.  As he states, “The real work gets done day in day out operating a little bit better.”

In K-12 technology, many districts spend a lot of time devote to creating a technology plan, often driven by the necessity of having one for receiving priority two eRate funds.  These plans can add a lot of value to our organizations, but at the end of the day they can be meaningless if we cannot get our day to day activities right.  Better yet we should always be focused on ways to improve what we do, and how our organizations operate.   If we can’t master the details of the here and now, how are we going to achieve the long term goals in our technology plans?

Too often, I see colleagues, business partners, and other schools miss little details or worse yet, not even worry about the details. Not worrying about the details can make you and your organization look inept and worse yet, can cause projects to miserably fail.  All of this cascades and eventually destroys credibility and ability to execute goals and plans.

In our IT world, with tens of systems being more interdependent each day and thousands of staff, students, and parents relying on us, the details are becoming more important than they ever have been.  Missing a step, forgetting a small piece or data, or misunderstanding system interdependencies can all lead to huge problems, and slow down projects, kill systems, and ultimately put a bad light on IT.

So there may be good reason why we wake up at 3am sweating the small stuff; that small remembered detail can mean the difference between success and failure.