Back to Blogging


As a part of our Corporate New Year’s Resolution we have decided to make it a point to restart our blogs, and add a few new ones that will be done by a few employees for a new perspective. We have received a lot of feedback that people are actually reading what we write and enjoying it (I have no idea why). At any rate, today seemed as good a day as any to unearth the blog as we await a potential government shutdown (I feel like this may have been the topic of my last blog as well).

As Yogi Berra once said, “it seems like deja vu all over again”. Politicians holding our government hostage over items that are unrelated to a budget and willing to bring the entire system to a halt to make political points. I can’t help but wonder, would we be here if these same politicians had something at stake in this game beside votes? As a small business owner whose primary customer is the Government our entire company will be shut down. No revenues, no new work, no paychecks. For our employees that means not knowing when you will next be paid, not knowing if you will be able to take that summer vacation you were planning, and not knowing how you will pay your bills should this shutdown linger. I can assure you that we all care a great deal. For Congress however, they will still get paid and thus have no motivation to actually compromise. We are viewed as pawns in their game.

Seeing as how we have come to the brink several times over the past few months, its funny how with each passing deadline the public seems less and less interested in the topic. And who can blame them. When you live and work in the political bubble, you sometimes think everyone cares about this nonsense like you are forced to. I think Congress is guilty of this as well and that is what is causing a lot of these issues.

Here’s to hoping for sanity to prevail and a resolution to this budget showdown. But more importantly here’s to hoping for a future where our elected leaders can act like real everyday Americans where we can agree to disagree on certain topics and we can still accomplish things together even when we have different ideas as to how things should get done. In the real world we don’t get everything we want and we can live with compromise and not view it as a defeat!

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My Thoughts on the Election


It’s been a long time since I posted something and that was mostly because I have been busy  but also because I haven’t had much I felt too passionate about spending the time to write. Well I guess I finally came across something that has gotten me a bit fired up and wanted to vent.

We are now less than 1 week out from the 2016 Presidential Election and if you are like me you can’t wait for it to be over with. (Disclaimer: This is not going to be a political post that comes out in support of either candidate but rather one that laughs at the absurdity of both). Is this really the best that we can do? Where did we find these people? I cannot turn on the TV without some breaking scandal or leaked email or video.  I am amazed how far this country has fallen in the last few years. We are not respected overseas anymore and we are being laughed at by those overseas at how ridiculous we must look that we cant even have a “normal” election with 2 “normal” candidates. Republicans, if you get angry that I don’t vote for Trump, don’t get mad at me, get mad at yourselves for putting this guy on the ballot. You decided to put the one guy on the ballot that could give Hillary Clinton a run for her money as the most hated politician on earth. Democrats, if you are upset that this has become a close race and how on earth could we be this close to putting “that ass” in the White House, ask yourselves how you chose your candidate as well.

One candidate is currently under not one but 2 FBI investigations. She has a history of lies and deceit and shouldn’t even be able to hold a government clearance let alone be trusted with the national security of this country. The other is for lack of a better term, an ass.  He has absolutely no political experience and to put it kindly a checkered business past. We still aren’t sure if he paid taxes in the last decade and he has less restraint than a 5 yr old when you take their toy away from them. How about a third party candidate you say? Super, let me run in and vote for the guy that can’t point to Syria on a map.

The thing about this election that has gotten me most depressed isn’t even the fact that these are our choices. It’s the fact that all across social media one side feels the need to call anyone supporting someone on the other side stupid or dumb or an idiot. This is what our national discourse has turned into. I think that if you are one of those that feels it is your national duty and responsibility to vote then you should 100% exercise your right to vote and do your civic duty. I just do not understand how you do not do so this year without holding your nose when you pull the lever. I certainly do not understand how you can be out there campaigning as if the candidate you are backing is not extremely flawed.

When it’s all over, I sure do wish we could start to put the pieces back together and make this place somewhere where we can agree to disagree at times but also compromise for common sense improvements. For Democrats, there are ways to cut taxes and the size of the government without just making the rich richer. For Republicans, it’s 2016 and it’s OK to evolve your social stances and if you elect a Democrat it does not mean they will start confiscating guns tomorrow. If I am a betting man however, after this election we will have a lot of pissed off people because their candidate lost and now “we are doomed”. I think that’s what has me the most depressed as we approach Election Day this year. I dread what we are in for over the next four years….no matter who wins.

Management and Teamwork


The following post was written by one of our employee’s (Chris Hall) and provides his take on this issue. Thanks Chris!
I recently came across this article, which really got me thinking… When external or unanticipated factors present challenges to finishing the project, teams must decide what action to take.What corrective action should be applied right away to hopefully make the biggest positive impact for the project? Also, what actions should be applied towards long-term delivery approaches to hopefully not find your team in the same position again further down the line?  Everyone needs to accept where they are and how they got there, and commit to tackling both challenges.
This probably comes as no surprise, but I’ve actually never saved a project on my own, single-handedly. As a PM, my role is to plan and execute projects, but like most PMs, I definitely have teammates and yes, even multiple bosses. PMs manage the projects, but is it our responsibility to manage external factors? This is what bosses are for!  When an external factors pose challenges to delivering a project on time and under budget, bosses at the program and portfolio level should promptly be informed. Many will also want to be briefed on the issue and then will even dictate the level of involvement they wish to take on going forward. The PM shouldn’t be expected to manage those external factors, but it is our responsibility to ANTICIPATE external factors as best we can, and communicate them to leadership as soon as possible. These leaders will most likely be anticipating several other potential factors that may have never even occurred to the project teams. They will also likely want to very tightly control just what messaging is delivered to stakeholders about changes to the plan, and how they receive such information. In some situations, there may even be legal implications to be considered.

I try to set aside time to examine my projects from alternative perspectives in order to better anticipate what could impact my projects that I might not currently be managing to. Sometimes this helps me identify risks, other times I discover opportunities to make improvements in quality.  Anticipation will only get you so far though. Simply identifying potential factors impacting delivery does not give you the experience you need to know what action is the most appropriate to take. This is when the PM should use a Decision Brief to inform the next level of management about what he or she has identified, and present possible actions to be taken. Many executives will say “Don’t bring me a problem without also bringing me a solution.” This is what they are looking for.
  The options you present should be fully vetted, including several pros and cons for each, and any risk mitigation steps that have already been taken. The executives may simply ‘approve’ your suggestion or they may wipe it out completely presenting a new way forward. But once that decision has been made, everyone should be back on the right track, or at least the same track.
So now that you’ve proposed an alternative plan and gotten the whole team on board with it, how do you avoid ended up right back where you started the next time around? The first article I linked listed several  great suggestions but my favorite is this one about eliminating the ‘Kill the Messenger’ mentality.
At every significant milestone review, give explicit permission to team members to reveal negative information. Through your words, actions and facial impressions, encourage people to be realistic about schedules and risks. Never punish the delivery boy for bad news, and don’t promote “yes men”or used-car-salesman behavior.

I think a sound principle is that everyone on a team should be dedicated to improving things. This almost always involves fixing broken processes, gaining effectiveness or efficiency, and maximizing quality. If you can’t come up with suggestions to accomplish any one of these on your project, you probably aren’t trying hard enough.  This isn’t me giving you carte blanche to just go out and become the Debbie Downer of the office though.  This type of culture has to be embraced from the very top.  For now, hold on to those suggestions for formalized “lessons learned” or brown-bag lunches, and keep a positive attitude about the concerns you may have. It helps to remind everyone that we’re all team players in this together.

Emergence of a Company


dock

If you aren’t blind, then you have been on the road and looked at the driver next to you at some point and seen them typing away on their phone while they are driving. Maybe you have even been that person once or twice yourself. When I see this I cringe. Texting while driving has become a huge problem in this country.Some stats courtesy of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration( NHTSA):

1.  27% of all accidents are cell phone related.

2.  The average cost to companies per accident:  Tow away: $25,000  Injury: $150,000  Fatality: $3.6M  (weighted average per acccident is over $50k)

3.  A texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than a non-texting driver
4.  Three types of distractions manual, visual and cognitive.  In 2013 AAA did a study measuring cognitive workload comparing different driving scenarios with various technologies.  What was found was while hands-free technology measured slightly less distracting than hand-held devices, new speech to text technologies measure significantly more distracting than both.

Obviously, this brings about a huge opportunity to solve this problem. I am fortunate enough to sit on a board of a company that is run by a college buddy of mine and his father. The company is called Dock-N-Lock (www.dock-n-lock.com) and if you ask me they are onto something big. Dock-N-Lock forces the driver to dock their cell phone in the dashboard in their system before the car can even be started. To me, this concept is brilliant and I am confident it is going to take off in the very near future. Jeff Pothul and his team (not much of a team yet since he and his dad doing much of the leg work on a shoe string budget) have been working their tails off to get this product to market.

It has been pretty cool for me to watch as they go through the daily ups and downs of starting a new business. It brings back memories for me of when I was first starting integrateIT. I had days where doors were slammed in my face but those were often times followed by that one day when a new door opened. Those are the days that make you keep on going. Dock-n-Lock is closer than ever to bringing their product to market. They will be performing their first Production pilot next month for a large trucking company that is considering installing their devices in their fleet. They also already have 2 additional pilots set up in the coming months. The product will be coming to market in the months that follow with an initial target of trucking fleets followed soon after by the individual consumer market (think teen drivers!).

Obviously I have a vested interest in seeing Dock-N-Lock take off but what really got me to invest in this company is the fact that I knew the team behind the idea and I love to see when entrepreneurs are passionate about their ideas and will stop at nothing to see it come to fruition. Starting a company is usually not as glorious as people think it is. You work around the clock with often little to no payoff and you often times work for little or no compensation in order to keep costs down. That’s why when I see someone that I know succeed in their quest to get a new company/idea up and running, it makes me smile. Jeff and his dad are closer than ever to seeing their dream come true…and that’s pretty cool.

If you are interested in investing in dock-n-lock, your time is NOW. Contact jeffpothul@dock-n-lock.com for more information.

Why an IT Company?


I was asked recently to write a blog entry about why I chose to start an IT company. Was this my dream from when I was a kid or something? As my mom can attest, I always talked about being a businessman and growing up always pretended I was running my own business. Back then it was selling baseball cards or designing and operating my own golf course. So I always had the business gene. What I didn’t have though is the Technology gene (and still don’t really). If you ranked the technology aptitude of the individuals working for integrateIT, I would fall near the bottom of the list. Although I know I would fall ahead of Dave so I have that going for me.

What Dave and I have as opposed to the technology gene is the opportunity gene. We both have a skill at identifying an opportunity and making the most of it. We can identify a need a customer has and deliver on that need. We do this by providing the customer exactly what they are asking for and with a great attitude and energy. For me it was a customer that requested that I come back to work for her to lead a program. That request lit the light bulb in my head that she was specifically requesting ME to lead that program…and that it wouldn’t matter which company I worked for. That was it. There was nothing more to it…11 years later here I am.

Is this my dream job? I would say that running my own company and working for my self is absolutely my dream job but that the type of business I run is not necessarily. As I mentioned before I have never really had the technology gene and so that continues to be something I work on and try to improve upon. I still call my brother anytime I have IT questions myself (HE has the IT gene in the family). Running this company is something that I believe I have gotten good at and so I will continue to grow it for as long as I can until it is time for me to start my next endeavor. What that is…who knows. I still have many other aspirations that I may try to pursue someday (Sr PGA professional, house flipper, politician to name a few). I laugh at the thought that I would actually be able to do any of these…but then again I am sure I laughed back in the day at the thought that I would run a company as well.

A Successful Night for Charity


poker

Our winner showing over her stack of chips and her Club Level seats to the Redskins game! Our runner up showing the Agony of Defeat!

This past Friday we held our first ever Charity Poker Tournament to raise money for two great charities (The Jason Beach Foundation and the Washington Literacy Center). Putting on this tournament turned out to be a lot more work than I expected it to be and heading into the event I really wasn’t sure if it would all be worth it. Well, we found out quickly that it was.

All of the participants seemed to have a great time as they enjoyed the open bar, the buffet, the poker, and the conversations at the poker tables and around the room. Some even ended the night by enjoying some dancing in an adjoining room at the club!

Since the event I have had several people come up to me to comment on how much fun it was and request that we hold another one in the future. Done.

A big challenge for Dave and I is to always try to be creative when planning events to try to pick events that can be enjoyed by all types of people. We have held Iron Chef cooking contests, bowling parties, Top Golf outings, Happy Hours, attended Nationals games, Redskins games among other charity events like cleaning up students laptops at the Literacy Center, charity walks, making care packages for soldiers. To me the perfect events are ones where we can combine having a fun night with raising money or helping out charities. That’s exactly what we got with the poker night. Everyone had a blast and Dave and I were able to present both charities with checks that we know will be put to great use. I am already looking forward to an even bigger and better poker night next year!

Bring Your Own Device


imagesAn emerging trend in corporate America that you will hearing a great deal about in coming years (if you haven’t already heard of it) is BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. The thought is that Employers can save money by having employees use their own device and not having to purchase devices for them. Employees benefit by having their employers cover a part of the monthly fees for that device and do not need to juggle between multiple devices. Sounds like a win win proposition right? Not so fast. On the surface this sounds like a no brainer but when you take a few minutes to think it through it raises a number of questions and potential issues.

1. What if I break my device? This would raise a few questions. For starters did it break while you were working or when you jumped in your friends swimming pool and forgot it was in your pocket? Regardless of the fact, now what happens. I can no longer do my job now until I get a replacement device. Does my company pay for the replacement or do I?

2. What devices are supported? Do software development teams now need to develop software that can work on ALL Operating Systems? If so, then would this increased development and support cost offset much of the savings of purchasing devices? Can a company pick one and say that all employees must have iOS for example? Would doing so cause legal issues with hiring practices (you essentially say that all potential employees must have an iPhone to work for your company?). Building software that works on several different browsers is hard enough. Imagine the challenges of developing software that works on any operating system and then providing a help desk that can also trouble shoot the issues that come up and determine if it is a software issue, an OS issue or a specific device issue.

3. What can I do/not do on my own device now. Can my company just wipe my personal data under coverage of protecting proprietary data? There have been reports of a rise of employers that utilize BYOD wiping data from employees devices. Below is an article explaining the rise in this practice and also how companies make no differentiation between company data and personal data. What happens when the employee leaves? Do you require them to erase all of their data to ensure they do not leave with company proprietary information on their device?

http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2014/09/08/every-three-minutes-a-workers-personal-device-is-remotely-wiped/?mod=e2tw

4. What can you do on YOUR device? Will companies start dictating what you can and cannot do on your own device? Can an employee for example no longer manage their fantasy football team on their own device?  What happens when a door to door sales rep for your company walks to a customers house and they have an offensive wallpaper on their device that is seen by the customer?

As the use of BYOD continues to grow, these issues and many others will continue to increase and need to be addressed. At its core BYOD seems like a really great way to save money for corporations. But before you rush to jump in it’s important you think through the potential issues that could arise and really do your homework to decide if it will really end up saving you as much as you think it will in the long run. Too many people start talking BYOD like it is a no brainer solution that is going to save the company endless pots of cash before looking into the technical as well as legal challenges of making the move.