Is Your Company in the InformationWeek 500?

Is your company an innovator?  Do you want to know how some of the leading companies are using IT to strategic benefit?

For the past 19 years, the InformationWeek 500 has tracked the technology practices of the nation’s most innovative companies and the rankings for 2007 just came out last week.  This is what IW says about their annual study:

“Documenting the business-technology strategies, investments, and administrative practices of some of America’s best-known companies, this study offers a unique opportunity to understand and compare your company’s IT approach against the most innovative users of technology.”

Here is a link to ranking of the top 250 companies.

The top 5 companies for 2007 with links to their stories include:

  1. Con-way
  2. National Semiconductor
  3. Vanguard
  4. Kimberly Clark
  5. Washington Mutual

Finally, here’s the link ot the IW500 Hompage for more information and profiles.

First Commandment of Writing Requirements

As a follow-on to yesterday’s webcast on Finding Requirements, I am sharing a blog post I found on the pathfinder blog about writing technical requirements by Scott Witt.

Scott’s first commandment of “Thou Shall Always Address the Audience’s Needs” lays out 7 tips for writing requirements.

  1. Eliminate jargon
  2. Clearly organize
  3. Be consistent
  4. Eliminate buzzwords
  5. Avoid clauses
  6. Avoid passive voice
  7. Use “must” not “shall” (or don’t use must at all)

Read the rest of the post here.

Professor Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

What would you say in your “last lecture”?

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university on September 18, 2007.   In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

Randy, a professor of computer science, human computer interaction and design, is a co-founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and the creator of the Alice interactive computing program, which is being used by students worldwide.

Randy is still very upbeat and relatively healthy – which he demonstrated by doing several push-ups on stage.  His talk focused on the following topics:

  • My childhood dreams
  • Enabling the dreams of others
  • How you can achieve your dreams or enable others the dreams of others

Randy’s lecture is a true inspiration and worth watching.  It will also make you think about you would say in your ‘last lecture’ too.

If you’re pressed for time, you should definitely read Jeff Zaslow’s article in the Wall Street Journal and watch the 4-minute video excerpt of the lecture.  If you have more time, the entire lecture is also available below courtesy of Google Video.

The 4-minute excerpt of the Randy Pausch’s last lecture from the Wall Street Journal website:

The entire 1 hour 45 minute lecture from Google Video is below:

What’s the Best Way to Learn?

This topic was prompted by a discussion with Ellen Gottesdiener who is one of the Catalyze leaders and founder of EBG Consulting.  Ellen’s company recently introduced a new eLearning course, Roadmap to Success: Foundation for Requirements and Development, to their suite of training offerings for business analysts.  This new module is an introductory fundamentals course for business analysts or employees who need to know more about this function as it is related or adjacent to their jobs. EBG also offers this course blended with an instructor-led course on Analysis Modeling.

Ellen introduced me to some new ideas and philosophies around learning.  One of these is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Behaviors.  While Bloom’s Taxonomy is not the only system or hierarchy in training, it is easily understood and is one of the most widely used.  Essentially, Bloom says that there are different levels of learning and the goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all aspects of learning which will result in a more holistic form of education.  Also, some topics are better suited to instructor-led courses and others are more readily picked up by reading a book or participating in an online or eLearning course.

Bloom identifies three types of learning:

  • Knowledge (or cognitive) – mental skills
  • Attitude (or affective) – growth in feelings or emotional areas
  • Skills (or psychomotor) – manual or physical skills

Each of the three domains is further broken into subdivisions.  You can learn more by Googling Bloom’s Taxonomy and researching the topic on the Internet.  If you are designing courses, you definitely need to understand this in more details.

In some pre-launch beta-tests, Ellen timed how long the eLearning course for different levels of participants.  Experts completed the course in 4 to 5 hours, the average user took 7 hours and novices took 10-12 hours.  The same course which has been delivered by an instructor takes 1 day. 

Converting an instructor-led course to an eLearning course is not necessarily an easy task and you cannot simply copy and paste material from a Powerpoint into a learning management system.  Ellen used a Flash/HTML media designer, an instructional designer, a copy editor, professional voices, and she acted as project managers and content expert.  The eLearning course also incorporates multi-media and has mini-quizzes called Quick Checks where you can test your knowledge at any given time.

Some of the benefits to participants who take eLearning courses include:

  • Cheaper
    • Generally a little less expensive than an instructor-led course
    • Save on travel costs
  • More efficient
    • Can take at your own pace
    • Spread out learning over several days
    • Easier to fit into your schedule

Not all courses fit neatly into an eLearning environment and some types of learning and skills can only be learning by working with a live instructor.  The big takeaway is I think we’re going to see the availability of more eLearning in the very near future – especially for introductory courses.

In case you’re interested in learning more about eLearning, here are some additional resources to track down:

eLearning Guild – www.elearningguild.com 
Elliott Masie – www.masie.com
Ruth Clark – www.clarktraining.com

I would be interested in any comments from people who are delivering eLearning courses and from people who have taken eLearning course.

Tom Peters Lives!

Who knew?

My work colleague was at a conference this week and the keynote speaker was Tom Peters, the uber-guru of management.  Twenty five years ago, Tom and his colleague Bob Waterman wrote the seminal book, In Search of Excellence.  I guess I hadn’t thought of Tom since reading In Search, but he is definitely alive and still kicking.  Tom is continuing to write books and is still riding the speaker circuit. 

On his website, Tom willingly shares copies of his presentations and has converted many of his better blog posts to PDFs for easy downloading and sharing.  If you have the time, you can also view all 2700 slides (in 7 parts) of his presentation Excellence 2007.

In fact, you can even download the slides he used yesterday at the Taleo conference – both the short and long versions.  My only nit is that his fonts and colors are a little (ok more than a little) jarring to the senses (especially if you consider yourself a design expert). 

The slides give you only a small slice of Tom in action.  To get a taste of Tom’s presentation style in a live format, here is a short snippet of him courtesy of YouTube.  This is a 3-minute video on the topic “Innovation is Easy“.

Whatever It Takes

Ok, I’ll start with full disclosure.  This post has nothing to do with software design or definition.

Instead, this post is about a very interesting book that I am currently reading and one that I feel compelled to share with the Catalyze community.  And the title of this post is borrowed from the mission statement of Partners In Health.

The book is Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer.  This is the story of how a young medical student at Harvard co-founded a group called Partners in Health (PIH) in 1987 to serve one of the most impoverished areas of Haiti.  PIH has since grown into one of the world’s leading health organizations for developing countries and has pioneered techniques for treating TB and AIDS. 

One takeaway from the book is best summed up by a online review for the book I read on Amazon.com:

The title “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is a metaphor for life – once you have scaled one mountain (challenge), there are more to come. This is especially true for Paul Farmer, MD, who has devoted his life to what most people call “the impossible.” He has faced mountain after mountain in his quest to help mankind.”

Mountains Beyond Mountains is an inspiring and good read to help put things in perspective, especially challenges we may be facing.  The book has been out since 2003 and I cannot believe it took me 4 years to get around to reading it.

If you want to learn more, here are some other links that may be of interest: