Mercury Rising

June 7, 2007

With all the Mercury coverage recently, I thought I’d mention that my power went off at home one day last week.  From 9am to 4pm.  The whole street was out for Lines work.  No one told me.  No prior notice.  Nothing.    Same deal with the neighbour.

Makes you think what could have…..

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Broadband Shock

May 10, 2007

I almost sh*t myself today. I got an email through this afternoon from TelstraClear:

You have now used 66 additional block[s] of usage, on your TelstraClear HighSpeed Internet plan for the period to 4/06/2007.

Additional usage blocks are charged at $2.95 per block of 1,024 megabytes, regardless of the number of megabytes you use from that block.

So I thought I’d check out what the deal was on their Internet Usage tool. And got this – thankfully.

UsageMeter

Apparently, I am not alone. I literally would have sh*t myself if I got the shock that Mauricio did!

Sure, people make mistakes, but why have they not sent me an email update, telling me not to crap myself. Easy customer service stuff. And am I gonna call them? Not with their call waiting times!

BandAidAs an ex-operations manager, “production” spreadsheets used to really nag me.

You know what I mean.  A mission critical business function developed in Excel using botched together macros and datasources (if you were lucky).  Often meant to be a short term thing, but end up being around for eons.  These are usually developed by the spreadsheet gurus that, whilst far more intelligent than I will ever be, don’t know how to make these “production strength”, or appreciate why they need to.  Inevitably they move on, taking all knowledge of their spreadsheet mission critical business function with them. Either that or no-one know where the spreadsheet is.  Lots of other problems.  Duplicated data.  Users having freedom to write their own queries.  Drivers stop working.  Passwords change.  The list goes on.

So why is the production spreadsheet phenomena so widespread?  It’s usually one or more of the following:

  • Poor response times: A request is made to IT, who say that it will take at least a couple of months before they around to it.
  • Too expensive: IT respond and tell the business it’s gonna cost millions.
  • Two left hands: IT is not in partnership with the business.
  • No visibility: “IT?  Who?.”
  • Short term view: “It’s the easiest thing to do in the short-term”

With todays web technologies and frameworks there is simply no excuse for production spreadsheets.  Anything that is performed on a regular basis should be part of a system, not part of someones personal drive.

Particularly with web apps, moving production spreadsheets online reduces risk,  provides easier ways to share information and allows for automation.  Long term benefits.  It’s a no-brainer if your IT dudes are on to it.  Which is not always the case, unfortunately.  It’s our responsibility as IT professionals to sort this shit out.

So for those suffering production spreadsheet mania, I challenge you to step up to the plate and replace them.  Banish Thee!

A PRINCEly Qualification

April 23, 2007

I was chatting to an acquaintance the other day.  He’s looking for work as a project manager.  But no one will take him on as he has no PRINCE2 formal qualification.   Shame.  Another good person going to waste because a box hasn’t been ticked.

I’ve dealt with a lot of project managers in my time, and whilst I think that processes like PRINCE2 et al are great, it really boils down to the individual.

I have seen project managers that are so well qualified it’s scary, but they were crap when managing a project.   Conversely, I have seen project managers with little, or no, qualifications, and they were bloody brilliant.

In my eyes a project manager needs to truly own the project, live and breathe it.  Understand it.  Know the capabilities of its people.  Know what its critical success factors are.  Know what the risks are.  Know where the pressure points are.  A good project manager will make sure everyone is crystal clear as to what they are supposed to be doing.  Relentlessly.  Process can help with this, but at the end of the day you need a rigourous, tenacious and unerring discipline to make it all happen.  Make no bones about it, project management is about people.

With respect to PRINCE2, it’s like any methodology.  You take what you need and adapt it to get it working best for you.  For most NZ based projects, it is complete overkill.  You’ll need about 10% of it – which is basic project management theory anyway.

Recruitment is all about people.  Not paper.  How can two weeks of PRINCE2 training replace years of experience?

It can’t.  It never will.

I can confidently say that I have just had one of the most frustrating customer experiences of my life.

Wednesday 6pm

I arrived home on Wednesday evening to find my broadband connection down. We’d seen a TelstraClear van on our driveway earlier in the day, and we’d received a call that afternoon from someone wanting to schedule a modem upgrade. Broadband was still down though. “No problems”, I thought. “I’ll give TelstraClear a call”.

I gave up the first couple of times as I had been kept on hold more than 20 minutes each time, but without any message telling me what the wait times were.

Wednesday 9pm

I tried again later on that night, and finally got through after 40 minutes. No apparent problems, according to the kind lady. So I asked her if she could give me a time for this supposed upgrade. I was told that I would have to be referred to another “business unit” and that their wait time was 79 (yes, seventy nine) minutes! Bugger that. She said I should try calling later.  So I did.  At 10pm (hold time of 40 mins), 11pm (hold time of 40 mins), and then at 6am (closed!), and 7.30am (hold time of 40 mins).   I wasn’t prepared to stick it out.

Thursday 9am

I tried at work the next day. Twice. Both times I was told the wait time was 15-20 minutes. Both times I waited about 30 minutes, but to no avail. Thank god for handsfree!

Thursday 10.30am

And then I remembered I could send an email as I was at work! Within 15 minutes of sending the email I got back a response. Not the response I was after, but one nevertheless. Subsequent emails went… unanswered. Back to the phones. More long wait times. Getting angry now.

Thursday 9pm

Tried later that night. More long wait times. Bugger that. 50 minutes +. Finally sat it out and got through. Still no apparent problems, and everything should be working. But it’s not. At least they confirm a time for my modem upgrade – sometime between 9 and 12 Saturday morning.

9am Saturday

Nothing.

10am Saturday

Nothing. Decided to call TelstraClear to ask for an update

10.30am Saturday

woohoo, only a 30 minute wait. She can’t get hold of the technician dispatched, but will call me back with an update.

12:00noon Saturday

He’s running late

13:15 Saturday

Technician turns up, does something at the Telegraph pole, swaps out modem. Fixed.

The Summary

I cannot believe how much time I spent on hold (broadband is important!).  Over three hours, for a massive total of three conversations. That’s just totally unacceptable. Once I endured the wait, the service was actually quite good.  Which was the only saving grace from me hurling multiple expletives down the phone.

Let’s face it – it all comes down to penny-pinching.  This is going too far.  I’m content to wait 5-10 minutes, or be offered a callback service.   But this was nowhere near that.   I never have to wait more than a couple of minutes when I call my electricity supplier, so what’s so different with these guys?

Call Guinness

I’d love to hear about other on-hold stories.  Can anyone else out there beat my call waiting record?   I might have to call Guinness.

Why we love Australians

December 5, 2006

It used to be that news reporting, including sport, was good solid impartial journalism.

Watching the Aussie Ashes coverage tonight made me sick.  Yes, England capitulated once again, but the incessant Aussie commentators just going “You Beaut”, “Warney’s a Legend”, “Go You Good Thing”, every five minutes was just too much.  To be honest it just pissed me off.   They even called this one of the greatest tests of all time!

Nobody likes losing, but there’s nothing worse than some gleefully grinning smug-ass Aussie cricket pundit someone grabbing you by the hair and rigorously rubbing your face in the dirt.

Whatever happened to a little bit of respect?

It’s no wonder the Aussies are so popular.

Mobile Fraudband

December 4, 2006

I downloaded Google Maps for my Palm the other day. Great! Maps on the go.

I fired up my trusty Palm and fired up the mobile broadband, and began interactively using Google Maps on my Palm with ease. It will be really interesting to see Project X‘s mobile implementation of ZoomIn.

Anyway, after about (literally) 2 minutes I noticed that I’d gobbled up almost 500k of bandwidth. And here’s my issue.

I currently pay Telecom $22.22 per month, for 20MB of mobile broadband traffic. Yes, TWENTY MB. So that basically means if I am out and about I can spend no more than 40 minutes using Google Maps. Pardon me if my maths is wrong but it is any wonder why mobile broadband has not yet taken off yet?

Normal Broadband = Approx $49pm for 10GB

Mobile Broadband = Approx $22 for 20MB

Sigh. I long so much for the days when I can stream audio and video podcasts to my phone. Or even just hold a Skype call to get around the extorsionate international mobile calling fees.

Vodafone are no better.

New Zealand Telco’s are monopolistic and backwards thinking. Rod Drury tells the same story on a post with regard to the need for ubiquitous broadband.

Shame on the Telcos.