Tag Archives: productivity

Fight the chaos: Design your toolbox properly

You need tools and methods to accomplish your daily tasks. No one will deny this insight.

I would like to give you an insight into my box of tools and methods. These tools and methods work for me, but they do not have to work for you. The design of your personal toolbox depends on your job.

Depending on who you ask, my job role consists of several roles: Currently, I am working as a consultant, head of the business unit, pre-sales consultant and technical account manager. That’s what you get when working in a very small company… And because of these different roles, my personal toolbox may differ from yours.

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PowerShell ISE on steroids

I’m not a developer. I deal mainly with infrastructe, things like virtualization, storage & backup, networking etc. Sometimes I had to write scripts, primarily PowerShell, batch or Bash. Many years back, I also wrote Csh and Ksh scripts. In the past years, automation was one of the rising trends in the infrastructure segment. And with automation, new challenges came up. Today I have to work with Windows PowerShell, in case of VMware with PowerCLI (which bases on Windows PowerShell), and sometimes I have use with REST APIs. I’m still not a developer. Due to this fact, I need tools that help me getting my work done.

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Organize your work with Kanban

Everyone has their own technique to organize work. As you maybe know, I’m a big fan of Lean. And you know maybe also, that Lean is a philosophy based on the aspect to create value for customers and eliminate waste of resources in production processes. Taiichi Ōno, the father of the Toyota productionsystem, defined seven forms of waste. Womack and Jones developed Lean Production, which is based on TPS, and highlighted five principles to achieve a lean production.

  • Value
  • Value stream
  • Flow
  • Pull
  • Perfection

There is especially one principle, which is used to schedule work: The pull principle, and Kanban is a method to realize this. Ōno stated, that Kanban has to follow strict rules and two rules are very important: Downstream work stages relate on the work of upstream work stages. The amount of the requested demand is indicated by a signal card. The upstream work stages produce only in the quantity demanded, and only if the demand has been requested by downstream work stages. Downstream work stages “pull” work from upstream work stages and the demand is delivered just-in-time. This sounds reasonable, if it’s a production process. But how can this help me to organize my work?

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TeamViewer Connection with Royal TS

Some of my customers use TeamViewer to provide a quick access to their systems, without the need to configure VPN connections, install software on hosts etc. TeamViewer provides fast and secure access without the need to install software. Simply start the teamviewer.exe and choose if you want to connect to a host or use the session id and password to allow someone else access your computer. TeamViewer is free for all non-commercial users! So it’s a great choice for remote support all your family members.

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Problem analysis with Kepner-Tregoe

When you deal with problems in IT, you often deal with problems where is root cause is unknown. To solve such problems, you have to use a systematic method. Only a systematic method leads to a fast, effective and efficient solution. One of the most commonly observed methods in my career bases on approximation. We all know it as “trial and error”. Someone tries as long until the problem is solved. Often this method makes it worse than it was before, and it often leads to wrong conclusions, and furthermore wrong results. If someone draws a wrong connections at the beginning of the analysis, this leads to a totally wrong path. I would like to illustrate this with an example:

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Reducing the friction: On-site installation

Scott Lowes “Reducing the Friction” posts inspired me to write a bit about a part of my job.

A significant part of my work is the on-site installation of newly purchased equipment. That’s one thing my customers really like. I’m not only the pre-sales guy that is doing designs and workshops, but I am also the guy who installed the things which he has thought up. This prevents finger pointing if something isn’t working as expected. I usually come into play after the rack installation and cabling. At this point I’ve done a lot of work. After the order confirmation one of my first activities is a meeting with the customer to plan the installation. This meeting is the formal project kickoff and a result of this meeting is a project plan, milestones, goals etc. You should note that project management is a important part, but It’s not done by a dedicated project manager. A dedicated project manager is only involved in bigger projects, but not for the usual “4-hosts-1-storage-dual-fc-fabric-1-vsphere-cluster” projects. At this point I start to structure the project. I create work packages, define activites, goals and configuration details with the customer. I use mind maps for it. In the end I have a big mind map with all work packages, activites, milestones etc. The process of thinking through the project is the hardest part. You need a certain amount of project experience. You should define as much as you can with the customer. Hostnames, IPs, VLANs, volume names, pros & cons of certain configurations, define a default password with the customer etc. – the more you define with the customer, the less you have to discuss and ask during the installation phase. You shouldn’t discuss the design with the customer at this point. If you have to discuss the design during the kickoff, either the requirements have changed or you sold something that don’t satisfy customer requirement. Now the task is to implement the design. After the kickoff you should have all you need, to go through the installation. I try to use digital media during those kickoffs. Either I use my iPad for notes and sketches, or I write it directly into a mind map. I use UPAD with a Bamboo Stylus Duo on my iPad and Mindjet MindManager on Windows.

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