Category Archives: Technology

IT Budget Blog Series: Know your client

Introduction

Establishing an IT Budget is not an easy process, and depending on the scope of your resource oversight, it can easily multiply in complexity.  Before we dive into the particulars of establishing the budget, we need to know our client, our client being the staff and infrastructure that makes the company run on a daily basis.

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IT Budget Blog Series – Introduction

2017 led to many new areas of leadership and discovery. One area I got to play an active role in was IT infrastructure planning and execution.  As part of the many activities I performed and lead, none was more interesting than IT Budget planning. IT budget planning has so many dimensions that need to be considered to establish a reliable budget figure, especially in regards to software development companies. In this series, I will discuss many of the lessons learned, how I designed the budget file, what implications I needed to consider for various roles in the company, and tricks I used in Excel for my final report.

The process all begins with a general assessment of where the company is today, what is the company’s mission/source of revenue, and company target in the near and far term. In my case, when I joined the company they have been in operation for over a year, but no budget has been established previously, so I almost was starting with a clean slate. As the Chief Product Owner (official title: Director of Product Management) I had already a solid idea of what the company’s short and long-term goals and the tools needed to succeed. But if you are not wearing many hats (roles) as I did, your first step is to perform interviews with key stakeholders. Your objective is to answer the following questions:

  • What does the company do?
  • Who are the actors (roles) in the company?
  • What do they need to complete their tasks? (aka software, which in turn results into minimum hardware needed)
  • Is vendor support programs often used or is community-centric support enough (i.e. forums, online articles, senior support)?
  • Which software purchasing programs provide most return on investment (Subscription/Cloud Services vs Perpetual/On-site)

Above is just a start of the questions you want to answer before beginning to develop your budget. My final recommendation is to identify how long you want to forecast your budget. Why do you want to forecast? Well if you come into a young startup (especially in the domain of Software Development) the operating costs can provide a real shell shock to management (get the oxygen tank ready before hitting the send button). Forecasting budget for at least the 2 years that follow will help show how the costs trend south (if team headcount remains constant of course).

In my next couple of posts, I will share

  • How I structured the budget file
  • What Excel magic I used
  • Complexity related to licensing and support with various software vendors (including the massive grey box of Microsoft)
  • Typical Hardware/Software requirements per role

Look forward to your thoughts along the way!

Push Feedly articles to Microsoft Teams

Are you an informationholic? Do you wish you can share interesting stories with your teams to help extend their knowledge as well? Well now there is! After much trial and error, I figured out how to push articles from Feedly (my most favorite digital media aggregation tool) to Microsoft Teams (Microsoft’s answer to Slack with Office 365 subscriptions). For this solution we will use the following services:

  • Feedly Pro or Feedly Teams, sadly, cannot use Feedly Basic as it does not support the next requirement
  • IFTTT (If This, Then That), free, but to link to Feedly service, you need Feedly Pro or Feedly Teams.
  • Microsoft Teams
    • NOTE: you can use a similar configuration below but have output to Office 365 Groups or general email as well if you prefer or do not use Teams in your office. This article, however, focuses primarily on MS Teams.

The general concept is, when you see an article you are interested in, you can add notes and highlights to the article, then finally save the article to a personal board.  These features are actually new to Feedly and you can read more about them here (this is actually what finally got me to buy a subscription to Feedly Pro) – https://blog.feedly.com/boards/

Once the article is saved to a personal board, the IFTTT service will automatically pick it up, then POST a message immediately to the Microsoft Teams channel of your choosing.  An important note: In IFTTT we will be using Applets which are much easier to build compared to a full recipe which IFTTT provides support for as well. This means we will be limited to creating one applet per channel. If you want a single article to push to many channels, you will need to create separate applets or create a recipe without using the GUI (i.e. developer method, and beyond my current skill :-P)

Ok, let’s dive in and see what we have.

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Free access to popular project management and document management tools

Today I received a pleasant surprise. Atlassian now provides their popular project management and document management tools for free*!

* Ok ok, free is a very lose term. Up to 5 active users, but still what a great offer!

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App UI/UX Design on a Phablet, Struggle is real!

If you are a mobile UI/UX designer, life in the old’in days was fairly simple, you only had to concern yourself with a handful of screen sizes all around the 3-4″ size. Today is a different story. First with the Samsung Galaxy/Note series of phones, we were introduced to the phenomenon of Phablets, the merging of what were mini tablets and the smartphones, and Apple finally caught on to this trend 2 years ago with the iPhone 6 and 6S. Me, however, is slow to jump in so I am still sporting my iPhone 5.

So why am I writing this, yesterday I was on LinkedIn app ifor iOS which I am still working on accepting the more Facebook like and less career focus, but we cannot really blame the app, the trend of the service has moved that way, no I will not answer that math problem for the 1000th time, thank you very much, and the answer is always Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally!!!! Sorry, lost train of thought for a second there. Anyway, I was looking at a job advertisement, when I was trying to scroll through the page but the sucker would not move!

IMG_1534

I could not understand why. First, I thought it was just slow (I noticed this in their recent updates, especially on the Me tab), but even after waiting, still screen would not scroll.  I then Discovered what was going on… See the tab bar Highlights and Details? This is coded to stay at the top of the screen when you scroll past it.

IMG_1534.v2

You have to actually tap, hold and drag the small area between the page tabs and that app navigation bar –

IMG_1534.v3

If I were using a Phablet, This area would be larger, and probably closer in line with a more natural position, center of the screen, but due to the abnormal position, it is difficult to reach or even know that more information exists below.

So to my fellow UI/UX experts, remember that although Phablet is the new trend setter (particularly around 4.7″) we lonely 4″ and smaller folks are here to stay (thanks iPhone SE).

Web Fonts, a blurry line between UI and UX

I’m a technology hobbyist; love to follow everything related to technology, especially in relation to mobility. That is probably what attracts me to Apple so much. Anyway, I was on a search for latest news about Apple Watch as rumors are now swirling of an event in March. Anyway, long story short, I came across an article from a blog I don’t commonly follow, Macworld.co.uk. But as I was reading an article about latest rumors, I immediately noticed I was having a terrible time reading it. Here is a snapshot of what I am talking about –

Poorreadability

This brings us to the topic of today, selecting a web font, but what is more important UI (user interface) vs UX (user experience)? In my example above Macwrold chose to use a lightweight font called Aktiv Grotesk, a very pretty font, I must say BUT only if used correctly. Like any font, there are many ways to manipulate it, including Font Weight and Font Height.  Macworld is using it not only for first heading but subsequent headings. In the example above, h2, has the settings of:

Font Weight: 200
Font Size: 1.5em

Font Weight 200 turns the font into lightweight giving it the modern clean simple look. If we increase font weight to 300, we lose the goal of the font.

fontweidht300

That leaves us with Font Size. If you play with the Adobe Typekit or even better, codepen.io, you can fine-tune the CSS settings. After a few trial and error, I discovered that Font Size is best read at 3.1em or 50px as shown below while maintaining the preferred Font Weight:

ImprovedPixelWeight

So what is your thoughts? When should UI be sacrificed for UI in regards to font? Any other tricky fonts out there?