CUSTOMER RELATIONS

SECOND DEGREE VS. CERTIFICATIONS: don’t waste time or money

Experts weigh in on whether a reader should pursue an advanced IT degree or go for certifications

When you’ve got about three years of IT experience under your belt and you want to increase your earning power what do you do? Do you go back to school and earn an advanced degree in IT ? Or do you take your first steps in pursuing vendor certification? Those were some of the questions I received recently from a reader who has worked as an IT administrator (the only IT guy) at a small civil engineering company. He currently earns about $43,000 a year and wants to bump up his salary but his time for education is limited due to family commitments. So what’s the best option?

I’m often asked by IT folks whether to pursue advanced degrees – in 2005, we discussed the pros and cons of MBAs for IT pros (see below for links to those newsletters) - but we’ve never discussed IT degrees for relative IT newbies. I wanted to get some professional opinions so I put the questions to two recruitment agencies, an IT manager at a construction firm, and a certification trainer. This is what they said:

Advice from staffing companies:

James Del Monte is president of JDA Professional Services, an IT staffing company based in Houston. He says: “Having a 4-year degree in anything is a good start and will open most doors. Having a technical degree is preferred in lieu of experience. So he is off to a good start. Given his situation, my suggestion would be to get Microsoft and Cisco certifications. He sounds like he is more interested in a technical career and could use some formal training in this. It also sounds like he is looking to improve his situation more immediately. I would suggest a Master (MBA) if he is interested in more of the business aspects of IT or views himself getting into management. That of course is a longer term commitment. His compensation for what is described seems fair. His next move would be into a larger company where he can learn from others.”

Sandi Henrikson is regional manager at Sapphire Technologies North America. She says: “A degree is desired by many employers, even if it is just a non-technical Bachelor’s. If the worker is young or early in his/her career and has the time to devote to going back to school (i.e. not a lot of family obligations or a demanding job) then investing their efforts in obtaining a degree would be recommended. However, where this candidate says he has limited time, it may be better to focus his energy into getting certifications. With certifications you can pinpoint the specific career path you want to follow and fine tune your skills precisely to the position that you want to aspire to. There are many online certification courses for the person who cannot dedicate themselves full-time, as well as the ability to pursue a Master’s degree part-time down the road if you choose. Many companies, including Sapphire, offer discounted training offerings to assist their employees in keeping up-to-date with the latest technology.”

Advice from an employer:

A. Reader, who wants to remain anonymous, is an IT manager at a construction company, and offers this advice: “What is the employment objective of the individual? Is the individual currently working in IT? If IT management is the goal then a Master’s degree in IT is probably going to serve the needs of that position well. An IT manager with a Master’s degree with a good balance of advanced and current technical and business background brings tremendous tools to the 'table'. One of the most difficult aspects of IT management is having a manager who is skilled enough and current in his/her grasp of emerging technologies such that they can communicate effectively with the project managers and technical specialists.

“If an individual is looking to enhance their marketability in core technology positions such as network engineering or project management I see the choice of Master’s vs. certification as a bit of a toss-up. If one wants to be a project manager with a specialty in security, the Master’s degree could serve well; certifications would be a plus, but could also be seen as overkill or the reverse with the Master’s degree. The credentials become a ‘flashpoint question’ of what does this person want to be, a manager or super-tech? By the same token a well-seasoned engineer with project management and security certifications along with a solid resume would be a very appealing candidate.”

Advice from a certification trainer:

Wendell Odom, CCIE No, 1624, splits time between writing Cisco training books for Cisco Press and teaching classes at Skyline ATS. (Wendell will also be blogging for Network World’s Cisco Subnet site in September - watch this space for details. If you have any burning Cisco certification-related let me know and I’ll forward them to Wendell, or keep an eye out for his blog and you’ll be able to contact him directly).

Wendell says: “I think employers want both types of folks - certified and those with a Master’s in an IT-related field. However, the real trick is to look at job roles within IT and within the networking-centric part of IT. The vast majority of job roles within the networking part of IT requires the skills proven with certs more so than the skills and knowledge proven with a Master's degree. I would say though that someone with a Bachelor's degree plus some certifications - even if the degree is not in IT - has a distinct advantage over those without a degree. I've talked to many students and readers over the years who were somewhat frustrated by having their options limited in some ways by the lack of a degree.

“Also, you need to separate your thinking in terms of whether the employer is a company implementing networking technology [an IT user], or a reseller/vendor/consulting company. An overwhelming number of students tell me that [IT user organizations] do not care a bit about certifications for current employees. They are about skills first, and certifications second, for potential employees. So, for those employees, I'd say getting certified is an important step if they’re looking to land the next job. However, the resellers/vendors/consultants see some inherent value in the certification branding, so oftentimes the skills and certifications tend to be on an equal footing. There's also a much more likelihood that these companies would help you move towards getting your next certification.

“A quick word on the Master's in an IT field. If you want to work in the broader world of IT, and not just networking, then I'm a big fan of getting a Master's. It's just a lot tougher to get there, especially once you're past the carefree days of youth. However, if you're going to focus on a career in networking, I'd recommend a [Cisco Certified Internetwork Engineer] cert over a Master's in IT – CCIE certs are more centered on the technologies you'd work with. I've never met a CCIE who thought the cert didn't have a big impact on their career.”

Thanks to all the experts who offered their advice and thanks to the reader for writing in with the question. As a seasoned IT pro, I’d like to know your thoughts on this issue. Or if you’re an IT newbie – let me know if you are pursing a Master’s degree or vendor certifications

Learn to Control the process not the people

Learn to Control the process, not the People

Are you a Micromanager?

As a manager, you must remain involved in your employees’ activities. But where does involvement stop and micromanaging begin? Sticking your nose too deeply into an employee’s work process can be counterproductive and waste time. Learn to control the process, not the people.
Let’s say you overheard an employee refer to you as a micromanager. To find out if it’s true, answer the following questions using this scale:

4 = Very often        3 = Often      2 = Sometimes      1 = Seldom       0 = Never

HOW OFTEN DO YOU …

1. Give specific directions about how you want a task completed?
2. Wonder what employees are doing and whether their time could be spent better?
3. Reject an employee’s suggestion because it isn’t how you would perform the task?
4. Get annoyed when a normally capable employee makes a simple error?
5. Worry about whether a key task will be done right or on time?
6. Sneak a peek when your employee isn’t around to check a project’s progress?
7. Delegate work in increments rather than explain the entire project at once?
8. Resent or refuse to answer questions about “why” a task needs to be done?
9. Find employees coming to you with questions they should know the answers to?
10. Talk most of the time during strategy meetings or brainstorming sessions?

Score


30 to 40

 

 



20 to 29

 

10 to 19

 

 




0 to 9

 

 

Result


Your employee is right: You’re a micromanager.

 



Shift your focus to results. 


It’s not your fault






He must have been talking about someone else

Evaluation


You may be focusing too much on how employees perform the work, not the outcome. Instead of always explaining how something should be done, explain what you’re trying to achieve. After all, your employee may know a faster, better way

You’re not a “dyed-in-the-wool” micromanager, but you need to loosen the reins a bit. Give employees more space to make decisions

If you’ve answered the questions honestly, you’re not micromanaging your employees, but you still have a problem. They view your critiques negatively, so you need to work on communicating your expectations and feedback more effectively.

The complaint is probably an isolated remark.

How well does your office run when you are not there?

Writing your SOP manual: 4 important Guidelines

When leaving your job for whatever reason — going on vacation, getting promoted to a new position or nearing retirement — are you suddenly scrambling to write everything down for your replacement two weeks before you depart? Or, if you've just arrived at a new job, do you wish someone had left behind some written instructions so you wouldn't have to keep bothering your new co-workers with questions?

And, does it seem that your organization invests a lot of time and resources in its employees, but when staff members depart, they take all that corporate knowledge with them? Wouldn't it be nice to retain that knowledge in writing for your company?

The solution? In situations like these, the way to keep business operations humming along is by having a standard operating procedure manual in place for every position in your organization.

Never be left scrambling to remember how something should be done

Here are some important guidelines to follow when you're creating an SOP manual:

1. When writing any procedure, walk yourself through the steps and document them as you go. You have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn't know how to do a task and walk her through it. This can be difficult when writing about something you're so familiar with.

Here's an oversimplified example: Think about an IT person who works with computers day in and day out, and someone comes to him wanting to know how to start her computer. The answer he would likely give is to enter the username and password, not realizing what the person really wanted to know is how to get the ON button to work.

If you document the steps in a checklist, that's a good way to set them out in an easy-to-read fashion. Once you have a procedure documented, go back and reread it to see if it makes sense or ask someone not familiar with the task to try it based on your written instructions.

2. It's best to avoid putting anything confidential, including passwords, in your procedures manual, unless it's going to be located in a secure location (electronic or hard copy).

Keep your passwords and other confidential information in a separate location to avoid someone getting ahold of not only your SOP manual, but also all the passwords to access your computer system.

I keep my passwords in a folder in my Outlook account, but some people have all their passwords saved in an Excel spreadsheet, which only they can view. If you have them in hard copy, a locked drawer would also be a good place to store them. Wherever you store them, make a note of it in your manual.

3. Keep references throughout your procedures manual generic. A procedures manual is meant to be passed on from person to person, so I would recommend that you use position titles rather than the actual names of staff in those positions, including yourself.

In my own manual, I use the term "this position" when referring to my duties, such as "this position is responsible for supervising the receptionist" or "this position reports to the CEO.…"

4. Less is more. An SOP manual doesn't need to be 200 pages long. As a matter of fact, less is more. You want to include all the essential information and be specific without being wordy. If the manual is too large, it will end up not being used because it's hard to find anything and there's just too much to read.

The goal should be to create a manual that allows you and others to easily retrieve the information needed to do your job. You should use checklists to explain a process or bulleted lists to cut down on the word count.

Three Key Success Factors in a Business Area

When an entrepreneur starts a business, he should consider three key success factors. These factors are key indicators and milestones that you set to measure the success of your company, according to business expert Steve Ma Reyna, writing on the Power Home Biz website.

Retaining Customers

In any industry, a company is successful if it can retain its key customers. A proactive and aggressive company does not become complacent after getting the big contract; it works to keep it. Develop new ideas based on the needs of your larger clients to keep them interested in doing business with your company. If your company cannot retain its top clients from year to year, staying successful will become increasingly difficult.

Product Development

Whether you sell a tangible product or a service, if you do not keep up with the changes in your marketplace as dictated by your customers, you cannot survive. Being first to market and staying ahead of the competition is always ideal in trying to maintain your market share, but it is not always achievable. At minimum, you need to make sure you are keeping up with the demands of your industry and are consistently recognized as a company that stays on top of product changes.

Cash Management

In any industry, with any company, one of the main keys to success is managing your cash flow properly. Maintain open lines of communication to potential investors and lenders at all times. That way, when you need financing quickly, you have options. The ability to manage your business so you have cash on hand can also help you get financing. When lenders see that you are able to balance your books and maintain a profit, they are more likely to approve your financing. Cash on hand is also important for those times when you cannot get approved for financing but need operating capital right away. Learn to manage your cash to help your company survive and prosper.

How to Write a Short Bio About Yourself

Writing a bio can be a fun challenge, a look at some peoples bio could get you wondering and thinking out loud; most especially in the present era. Most times, individuals and companies tend to write astray, mix up and add what isn't required in a standard bio. Write a brief biography to introduce yourself, highlight achievements, list credentials and any notable projects with which you are involved. Bios should be short and concise, listing only relevant information. Avoid listing personal statistics, such as family and hobbies; instead angle the bio to the intended audience, whether for a personal website or a professional networking website. 

Follow these methods:

Introduce Yourself

Begin the bio by introducing yourself, and always write in the third person. For example, write "Jane Akindele is a freelance writer" rather than "I am a freelance writer." State what year your relevant work experience began, such as "has been writing professionally since 2001" or "worked as a consultant since 2006," and list any areas of specialized expertise.

Education and Credentials

List your education after the introduction sentence, including the name of any degrees you have earned and the institution you attended. Include any other relevant experience, such as additional certifications earned as well as the names of any professional organizations that count you as a member.

Notable Achievements

State any notable achievements or awards earned. Keep the information relevant to the intended audience of the bio. Authors can briefly list the names of any publishing houses or magazine titles where their work has been published. Business professionals can highlight awards or other recognition achieved in their careers.

Closing Statement

Conclude the bio by briefly stating any current or upcoming projects, such as a new book coming out. The last sentence should state where you reside, such as "Jane Akindele lives in Ikoyi, Lagos." Adjust the bio as necessary when your education, expertise or achievements change to reflect the most current information.

The Impact of Leadership on Organizational Performance

Leadership is an important function in small business. Leadership and management represent two completely different business concepts. Leadership is commonly defined as establishing a clear vision, communicating the vision with others and resolving the conflicts between various individuals who are responsible for completing the company's vision. Management is the organization and coordination of various economic resources in a business. Leadership can have a significant impact on an organization's performance.

Setting the Tone

Small business owners usually set the leadership tone for their organization. Owners accomplish this by developing a mission or set of values by which they operate their company. This creates a minimum level of acceptance for employee behavior. Business owners often create company policies or guidelines from the company's mission or values. Policies and guidelines also give business owners the ability to remove under-performing employees from the company.

Types

Three types of leadership are common in business: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. Each type of leadership impacts organizational performance differently. Authoritarian leadership is commanding and sets clear expectations for employees in the organizational. Democratic leadership encourages feedback and input from managers or employees regarding organizational performance. Laissez-faire is a hands-off approach, where managers and employees work according to their own preference and schedule. This leadership style can lead to poor motivation and work practices.

Features

Successful organizational performance relies on the proper behavior from managers and employees. Leadership can be an evolutionary process in companies. Business owners who provide leadership can transform an employee from a worker completing tasks to a valuable team member. Leadership skills can help change an employee's mentality by instilling an ownership mindset. Employees who believe they have a direct owner-style relationship with the organization often find ways to improve their attitude and productivity.

Function

Leadership can help a business maintain singular focus on its operations. Larger business organizations can suffer from too many individuals attempting to make business decisions. Business owners can use leadership skills to get managers and employees on the same page and refocus on the original goal. Leadership skills can also help correct poor business practices or internal conflicts between employees.

Warning

Leadership can have a negative impact on organizational performance. Leaders who are overly dominant or become obsessed with achieving goals can overlook various details in the business organization. Managers and employees may also be less willing to help dominant or extremely critical leaders with accomplishing goals and objectives. Dominating leadership creates difficult business relationships. Other companies and business owners avoid dominant leaders who consistently request financial benefits.

6 corporate wellness and fitness strategies .

Encouraging healthy habits can help improve workers’ performance, reduce absenteeism and lower health care costs. 

1. Focus your messaging on what wellness will mean to employees.

Getting employees engaged with corporate wellness programs — and keeping them engaged — is still a struggle for many organizations.

The motivational messaging you provide employees can make an enormous difference in engagement. Pressure and shame don’t motivate. The message that “exercise is good medicine” doesn’t work, either.

Instead of telling employees that “exercise is the most important thing you can do for your health,” encourage them to think about what exercising might mean for them. Most people don’t value health per se. When you lose your health, you worry how it affects your ability to meet your goals. Health is really just an intermediary between who you are and what you want to achieve.

We advised HR professionals to focus on the goals employees want to achieve, such as playing football with their kids on weekends, rather than trying to motivate them by pitching improved health as a goal. Wellness isn’t something people strive for; quality family time is.

2. Get the CEO involved in your wellness program.

Get started with a new wellness program that would involve everyone in the organization. Inviting employees to “beat the CEO” in a weekend fitness challenge proved to be a big hit. Stressing the importance of getting top-level, high-profile executives involved in your corporate wellness program.

3. Encourage healthy sleep habits.

Sleep is getting a lot more attention these days. A number of employees in Lagos are particularly sleep-deprived compared to their counterparts in other states. Various factors affecting this can be incessant traffic, etc. 

Lack of sleep can lead to physical health issues, including increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and a depressed immune system; mental health conditions, such as anxiety, mood swings, depression and stress; and daytime performance and safety issues, which include declining work performance, cognitive difficulties and excessive fatigue. 

Encouraging healthy sleep habits can help improve workers’ performance, reduce absenteeism and lower health care costs. Counseling employees to avoid watching TV or reading a laptop or tablet before bedtime; avoid alcohol or exercise before sleep; and not engage in any activity that requires serious concentration before going to bed. Fitness breaks during the day can help, too.

4. Set a tomato timer for 25 minutes, then repeat. 

U.J. Ramdas, co-founder of "Intelligent Change", offered inspiration and tips for making the most of each day.

Among the tips Ramdas offered:

  • Decide on your most important goals in life. These goals should help inform the tasks you set for yourself every day.
  • Every night, before you finish work, jot down 3 to 5 things you need to do the next day. Rank them from highest to lowest priority.
  • Every morning, start with the highest priority task. Give it your undivided attention for 25 minutes. Don’t get distracted by email, texts, or other interruptions during this period. Set a timer to keep you on track — preferably a tomato timer. (This is called the “pomodoro technique,” as pomodoro is Italian for ‘tomato.’)
  • At the end of the 25 minutes, take a short break. Then, hyper-focus on your second most important task for 25 minutes.
  • Whenever possible, schedule meetings for the afternoons, so you can get your most important work done first.

5. The ultimate goal is to help employees ‘bring their best selves to work’

We’re at a point now where many corporate wellness programs have moved beyond prompting employees to get 10,000 steps a day or monitor their sleep. Some incorporate meditation, stress reduction even financial planning.

Going forward, the focus will be on “connecting all the dots” of various health metrics, such as heart rate and sleep, and “understanding how they impact each other” to give employees a more holistic view of their well-being.

 To achieve success and career longevity, it’s always been important to be sharp, vital and fully engaged on the job. But in the future, could ‘bringing your best self to work’ also help protect you against increasing automation in the workplace? 

A lot of people are worried about losing their jobs to technology.  The jobs less likely to be negatively affected by automation are those that involve creative work, planning and strategic decision-making, according to Fortune. So, it stands to reason that if you’re consistently taking good care of yourself — whether you’re in an employer-sponsored wellness program or not — you’re more likely to be fresh, sharp and alert at work. And as a result, you’ll be in a better position to be creative, decisive and strategic. You’ll be the kind of employee, in other words, that robots may have difficulty replacing.

Set Your Goals And Make Them happen...

Goals big and small can be the stepping-stones to a happier life and the way we set them can make a difference to achieving them. 

Clarionttech is helping many companies including multinationals reach accepted international Standard; We provide quality structure for companies and train ambitious individuals by teaching, inspiring and supporting them towards achieving their certifications in the various areas of professionalism and career-field. Here's how.

WHY DO IT?

Having goals for things we want to do and working towards them is an important part of being human. The path towards our goals may not always run smoothly or be easy, but having goals, whether big or small, is part of what makes life good. It gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, points us in the direction we want to go and gets us interested and engaged, all of which are good for our overall happiness.

Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle said: "Well begun is half done." And with regards to goals, he's right (as he seems to have been on a lot of things). Paying attention to how we set our goals makes us more like to achieve them and achieving them makes us feel good about ourselves and our lives.

WHERE TO START?

  1. Decide. Think of something you want to do or work towards. It doesn't matter what, as long as it's something you want to do - ideally something you're interested in or feel excited by. It should be something you want to do for its own sake, not for something or someone else. It can be a big thing or a small thing - sometimes it is easier to get going with something small. And it often helps if it's something that's just a little bit beyond what you currently can do - goals that stretch us can be motivating!
  2. Write it down. Carefully. Writing down our goals increases our chances of sticking with them. Write down how you will know you have reached your goals and when you'd like to have achieved it by. Ask yourself: what it will 'look' like and how will you feel when you've done it? How does it connect to who or what you value in your life? Describe your goal in specific terms and timescales e.g. 'I want to undergo a professional training and get certified in the Human Resource Management by the end of August' rather than 'I want to do some training.'  Write your goals in terms of what you want, not what you don't want. For example: 'I want to be able to wear my favourite jeans again', rather than 'I don't want to be over-weight anymore'.
  3. Tell someone. Telling someone we know about our goals also seems to increase the likelihood that we will stick to them.
  4. Break your goal down. This is especially important for big goals. Think about the smaller goals that are steps on the way to achieving your bigger aim. Sometimes our big goals are a bit vague, like 'I want to be healthier'. Breaking these down helps us be more specific. So a smaller goal might be 'go running regularly' or even 'to be able to run around the park in 20 minutes without stopping'. Write down your smaller goals and try to set some dates to do these by too. Having several smaller goals makes each of them a bit easier and gives us a feeling of success along the way, which also makes it more likely that we'll stay on track towards our bigger goal.
  5. Plan your first step. An ancient Chinese proverb says that the journey of 1000 miles starts with one step. Even if your goal isn't to walk 1000 miles, thinking about the first step on the way will really help to get you started. Even if you don't know where to start there's no excuse - your first step could be to research 'how to…' on the internet or think of people you could ask or to get a book on the subject from the library. Then think of your next step…and the next…
  6. Keep going. Working towards our goals can sometimes be difficult and frustrating - so we need to persevere. If a step you're doing isn't working, think of something else you could try that still moves you forward, even a tiny bit. If you're struggling, ask people you know for their ideas on what you could do. They may help you see a different way. Thinking about different ways of reaching our goals makes it more likely we'll be successful. If you're really struck - take a break and then re-read the goal you wrote down when you started. If you need to adjust your goal - that's ok too. Then have another think about a small next step…
  7. Celebrate. When you reach your goal take the time to enjoy it and thank those that helped you. Think about what you enjoyed and learned along the way. Now, what is your next goal or project going to be?

Do not hesitate to let us in the know of your intending goals, and accomplishment. Also, you can add getting that professional training and certification with us at Clarionttech Services Limited. 

Customer Relationship is not an Option

Customer Relationship Management is a comprehensive approach for creating, maintaining and expanding customer relationships.

Frederick Reichhold and Earl Sasser of the Harvard Business School shows, most customers are only profitable in the second year that they do business with you. That’s right. Initially, new customers cost you money—money spent on advertising and marketing and money spent learning what they want and teaching them how best to do business with you.

CRM does not belong just to sales and marketing. It is not the sole responsibility of the customer service group. Nor is it the brainchild of the information technology team. While any one of these areas may be the internal champion for CRM in your organization, in point of fact, CRM must be a way of doing business that touches all areas. When CRM is delegated to one area of an organization, such as IT, customer relationships will suffer. Likewise, when an area is left out of CRM planning, the organization puts at risk the very customer relationships it seeks to maintain.

Are you a manager whose area doesn’t deal with external customers? This part of the definition still applies. First, you and your team support and add value to the individuals in your organization who do come into direct contact with customers. Again and again, the research has proven that external customer satisfaction. faction is directly proportional to employee satisfaction.
That means that the quality of support given to internal customers predicts the quality of support that is given to external customers. Second, consider your internal customers as advocates for your department or area. For you and your team, CRM is about growing advocates and finding newways to add value.
 

Data Management: What You Need to Know and Why

Executives, managers and information workers have all come to respect the role that data management plays in the success of their organizations. But organizations don’t always do a good job of communicating and encouraging better ways of managing information. Even though they won’t always play a role in implementing or directly managing data quality, MDM (Master Data Management) or virtualization technologies, the business users of technology are increasingly responsible for setting goals and leading the adoption of end users in pursuit of revenue goals, better customer satisfaction and other metrics of success.

Thus, a fundamental understanding of core data management practices helps everyone see opportunities and play a role in the evolution of their organizations. Know the basics and you’ll be better equipped to overcome any given information-related project or challenge you’re contemplating (and there will always be plenty). More important, you will have an informed view with which to join the discussion about initiatives to match the goals and culture of your own organization. We are offering this second edition resource as a business oriented, working guide to core data management practices. In this episode, you will find easy to digest resources on the value and importance of data preparation, data governance, data integration, data quality, data federation, streaming data, and master data management. You can use the tabs and resources in these materials to grasp each of the terms above. Even if you know or think you know what they mean, see what’s new and learn what organizations in different industries are adopting. Use it as a reference, circulate and share it. You will quickly understand (and be able to explain to others) how data governance can help improve policies and workflows. You will see how data quality initiatives lead to more confident and better decision-making. You will know why master data management helps deliver consistent and aligned views of customers, products, partners and suppliers. Just as consumers have adopted their own tools and habits to better manage their lives, the technology-driven advances at work will lead to utility and better ways of getting things done. It is a journey more than a destination and one that requires participation and ownership across different levels of your organization. A basic holistic view of data management initiatives and practices will put you on a productive course and help to keep you there.