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Author Archives: Dave Monahan

Still Building…

Dave MonahanMay 1st marks 17 years in business for Smart Dolphins. Boom!

17 years ago, I was simply hoping to build a “bona fide business”. Fresh out of school, the challenge ahead was large and exciting. There wasn’t an exact goal defined here, but at some point in the past 17 years, Smart Dolphins indeed became a “real” business to my eye. I feel extremely lucky to have had a childhood dream come true.

It’s interesting to reflect on how our goals and expectations have changed. We are building a company that isn’t just sustainable, but exists to make a very substantial impact on the world. We have a very special opportunity here. The work we do is so critical for our Customers (we call them “Allies”) and their businesses. These organizations do so much for the world and we enable this in so many ways. The future also promises many opportunities to continue to build value and depth into what we deliver that far exceeds the basic firefighting typically expected from our industry.

The heart of this challenge is really building something that is beyond any person or people (not to say people aren’t critical – who else would do the building?). The Pod often talks about how we can take the heroics out of our line of work. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a hero from time to time, but we see the bigger opportunity to build a heroic company. To the end, we’re trying to tame this chaotic beast of an industry (IT Support) through the methodical and consistent building of process, structure, automation, best practices, standards, etc. It is a paradox that all this stuff sounds so incredibly boring, but is also so awesome in its power, at the same time.

So, with 17 years of existence, in some ways, you could say Smart Dolphins has “made it”. In many ways, we’ve only just begun. That is how I view the day ahead when I show up at the office. There is so much more to build. So many more potential-customer-businesses to improve. So many more great Dolphins to find and grow. So many more ways we can deliver value to the business that make our awesome communities function and thrive. I often think I’m one of the luckiest guys around to have this opportunity.

17 years and still building…

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Business Continuity & Risk
We all know that we need to have a good backup system for our data. Sometimes, having a backup of a company’s IT employee is overlooked. A single-person IT department is a big challenge and a risk from a business continuity perspective. Even something as simple as an illness or a vacation can cause a large and costly gap in support.

Business Continuity & Risk

Joe Payne, Solutions Architect

Of course, permanent employee turnover can be an even bigger challenge — even when it is an amicable departure, with plenty of notice. To compound this, it is rare to find long-standing technology employees. The IT industry attracts the type of person who loves to learn and be challenged. In a single-network environment, the best IT people will often be transient. If an IT employee is good, they are more likely to be moving on before you’d like. A mediocre IT employee can be even more challenging to transition away from because of the damage-control required after they depart.

Whether an IT employee is around for a short time or the long term, they often surround themselves with technology and make themselves comfortable by configuring things in non-standard ways. It isn’t necessarily with any intent other than doing the best they know how to do. One person is naturally going to end up with gaps in their knowledge and experience. The challenge is that the remaining infrastructure left by a departed IT employee might be difficult to support without major work to bring it up to industry standards.

Leading and managing IT people has its own unique set of challenges.

When you only have one of a certain “type” of employee, you’re more likely to not give it as much attention as the “types” of employees that make up the bulk of your team. Unless an IT team is part of your core business, those duties might be best left to a company that specializes in attracting and retaining the best IT talent in your marketplace.

  • Smart Dolphins has been recognized through several awards for attracting and retaining the best IT talent in our market. This is a critical part of our core business and it is a core competency we have developed and refined over many years.
  • Our team has the scale to provide continuity to our clients that they couldn’t achieve on their own.
  • Most importantly, we have a very special process of auditing and aligning our clients with world-class standards and best practices.

If you’re concerned about business continuity, please contact us. We offer IT support to organizations on Vancouver Island and in Kelowna.

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Boost your Productivity with Focus@Will
Boost your Productivity with [email protected]

Many people listen to music while working. Personally, this is one area where I have had trouble mixing work and pleasure. Music is great, but I found it problematic to listen to my personal music library while working – it was distracting. I’d either get distracted by a good song or I’d be busy skipping stuff I was tired of. I did occasionally get in a zone as the right music blocked out the many other distracting noises around me.

Recently, I learned of [email protected]. This is a music service that shares music specifically engineered to address the issues I was having. There aren’t any words and it isn’t stuff that you would normally hear in your personal collection. You can choose from a wide variety of styles and even adjust the “Music Energy Level”. One of my favourite parts to the service is the simple timer that you can set. I like to give myself 25 minutes of focused time and then I take a 5 minute break (called the “Pomodoro Technique”, a technique we previously shared by the way). You can even rate your productivity after a session and you can see how your perceived focus changes over time. If that wasn’t enough, the site offers up a mix of (non-distracting) images. 

They offer a free trial and then a pretty inexpensive monthly and annual option. They even have a team account. If you do want to try it, use this link and I get a free year! Thanks!

 

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Typeracer
Improve your typing speed with Typeracer

If you’re anything like me, you tap a lot of keys in a day. I estimate I type for 403,653,395 hours in a year. If I were able to improve my typing speed by just 5%, I’d save like a few hundred hours a year. Math.

But have you ever tried some of those typing tutor things? BORING!

It’s time to race! If you’re anything like me, competition brings the best (worst) out of you. Hop on www.typeracer.com. Typeracer is a great, simple website where you can race other users at typing a short blob of text. The interface looks like:

Just beware that it is kind of addicting!

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Tech it Easy

At some point, every computer will fail. The standard recommendation for businesses is to replace computers every 3 – 4 years. The maximum lifecycle for a computer is 5 years.

Organizations often try to extend the lifecycle of a PC to trim IT costs. Unfortunately, this attempt to cut costs is an oversight that results in increased support and maintenance costs and lower productivity.

Every business needs a hardware lifecycle plan. Here’s why:

(1) Reduce Network Noise

  • Old computers eventually fail or become unreliable and slow.
  • Computers running older software can result in greater security vulnerabilities.
  • Organizations often say they will replace everything, but without an established process, they will likely forget or be tempted to stretch out the life.

(2) Save Money!

  • Direct and indirect (productivity) costs increase with the age of the computer.
  • Bulk replacement of computers all at once can strain your cash flow.
  • Older computers are more expensive to maintain.

(3) Get out of the IT business! Let the IT professionals manage your lifecycle plan.

(4) Boost Productivity

  • Keep your employees productive by reducing extended or unexpected user downtime.
  • Employee morale: fewer technical problems helps keep employees productive and happy.

Connect with a dolphin today!

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How not to save 2 cents an hour

I have had my laptop for around 4 years and it runs nearly as well today as the day I got it. A trusted friend, she is.old computer

The interesting part of this: I’m typing this on a new laptop.

Replacing a perfectly fine laptop might sound a little silly. Maybe this is a sign I like new, shiny stuff and will spend prematurely to get it. While I’m not completely immune to the gravitational pull of new technology, the new laptop was a much more strategic buy than simply being materialistic.

While my previous laptop was running fine, the past isn’t always a good predictor of the future. Risks related to failing technology do not grow linearly from day 1 to retirement. These risks escalate at an increasing rate. So, while my ol’ faithful hasn’t let me down in the past, I can’t demand she runs great forever.

Still, can’t I just run it until the next significant problem and then swap it out? That is a common (but poor) strategy with aging computers. There are a few problems with this logic. First, the next problem could be quite a doozy and be a lot tougher to recover from than if I make the transition to a new machine in a planned, methodical way. The problem could multiply the associated pain by coming at the worst possible time (as Murphy would have it).

Also, consider the cost of the lost time due to the lag related to making a reactive change versus a planned one – a planned purchase can be completely prepared in advance of you using it. What is one’s time worth? Lastly, if I’m buying in a reactive mode, I might make poor buying decisions that can be costly. So, maybe I could get another year or two out of my old laptop, but the savings on the delayed purchase usually don’t touch the sneaky costs related to this reactive approach.

Let’s consider the math here.

What does delaying a purchase save me? Well, perhaps if I stretch every computer I own from 4 years to 5, essentially, every 4th computer is free. That sounds attractive! Except, I have to earn it over 20 years (that’s 7300 days). Let’s say the “free” computer costs $1,200 or… $0.16 cents per day saved (two cents per work hour?). Still sound interesting? In my experience, the $300 saved on each computer pales in comparison to the risks and hassles of this approach.

Let’s be conservative for a moment and just say the two approaches are a “wash”. Let’s return to the previously mentioned “technology gravity”. This isn’t just a materialistic drive for guys like me that see what new stuff can actually do. My new laptop is worlds better than my old pal. I can’t tell you definitively how much, but it is enough to FEEL noticeably better driving home from the office at the end of the day. Something as simple as adding touch screen functionality, as one example, definitely saves me time and energy that will produce more value than the $0.16 cents I could have saved today by delaying this purchase.

Nobody should buy technology for technology’s sake, but if something can save you hours or days over the life of the asset, it is worth a lot to anyone who puts value on time or the quality of their output.

If you’re reading this on an old trusty workstation (or maybe not-so-trusty), how old is it? Forget that it is running today and think through the real costs with not planning it’s replacement in advance of its death? Think about it.

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Have you heard of Android Wear?

I’m sure many have heard something (probably lots) about the whole “wearable technology” trend. I thought I’d just pass along my initial experience with “Moto 360”. This was actually a hand-me-down from a friend so I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting (but I couldn’t say no to free techie stuff) so I thought my perspective might be interesting given, like most, I wasn’t sure what this thing would do for me.

Android Wear

“What does it do?” Well, in short, it is a watch that is kind of like an extension of my Android phone. The watch gives me notifications that are on my phone. It also allows me to interact with functions on my phone, through my watch. Huh? Okay, I’ll get more specific for clarity.

 My Favourite 3 Features: 

  1. At-a-Glance Notifications: Perhaps I’m driving and get a text or maybe my phone is in my pocket. I don’t want to be unlocking my phone and reading while driving. But, that notification? Was it my wife sending me an important text or just some silly distraction from a game or whatever? Well, I can glance at my watch and see that it was just a note that my Clan War was about to start. I probably don’t need to pull over.
  2. Basic Functions: I can also easily do some basic functions that I’d do through my phone, but instead I talk to my watch (my kids get so embarrassed when I do this – side benefit). I can use the “Okay Google” command and then offer commands such as “Send Text to Emma” or “Create Note”. The watch then prompts for more oral input and then it executes. I’ve found the ease of creating notes surprisingly useful. I’m a big believer of getting stuff out of my brain and this is an nearly-instant solution to recording a thought before it slips away forever. “Buy toilet paper” is waiting for me when I next shop for the family essentials.
  3. Navigation: I’m sure we’ve all used our phones for helping find a destination. Well, now I can just talk to my phone, “Okay Google”, “Navigate to Capital Iron”. Within moments, it will start instructing me on where to turn and continue to do so until I arrive.

These little units do a whole bunch more. They are most certainly a big part of the activity tracker genre. I can know how many steps I’ve taken today (not enough) and how many minutes I’ve exercise, etc. Similar devices track sleep quality, etc.

And of course, there is more and more “stuff” coming out every day. I could get an update for the watch or install a new app that could be earth shattering for me. In fact, the speed of change and range of possibilities can all be a bit of a blur. That is why I thought a few words here on some my initial experience with the Moto 360 might be useful.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a nerd and there is some novelty here. However, I’m initially struck by how making something easier to use can really change habits and improve life. This isn’t just stuff for geeks. Be open to possibilities and you’ll be shocked with how technology can change your life.

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Business

1.5 decades

15 years

180 months

780 Weeks

3900 weekdays

That’s a chunk of time, to be sure.

15 years ago I was sitting in the backroom of our townhouse at 1741 McKenzie preparing to take my new found skills to market. I was brainstorming business names. I was considering my hourly rate. I was carving Smart Dolphins into a shingle. I wondered who I could approach first. Smart Dolphins was preparing for launch. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was young and figured now would be a great time to give my own business a go.

We’ve all heard the stats about business survival rates. 80% fail in five years. Another 80% in the next five years… or something like that. I’d like to say I was one of the rare business gurus that beat the odds. I failed WAY sooner than five years and many times since. There were many times when I just had an expensive hobby. Other times were better, but in reality, I had a “job” without a boss (and not a particularly good job). I might have started Smart Dolphins 15 years ago, but I believe the real business was born much more recently than that.

Today, Smart Dolphins is a “real”, sustainable business. We have a consistent profit. We have great customers and retention. We have loyal A Players united by a powerful culture and directed by slick process. We continue to grow our revenues and professionalism. The business doesn’t need me during the day to day, nor does it rely on any one Super Hero Dolphin. We have a distinct competitive advantage and we have great plans for the future.

Smart Dolphins is a living entity on its own in the business universe.

Hmmm… Cool.

May 1st marks 15 years of work behind Smart Dolphins – most of it done by others. I have so many people to thank for getting Technology with Porpoise here. My family has been core to our success, of course. Obviously I need to thank all our long standing Dolphins – Jesse being the longest standing for nearly 11 of those 15 years. I have so many business colleagues who have been super-supportive of us in so many ways. No bills get paid without customers, but importantly, our Customers deserve medals for their patience and loyalty through the many bumps and learning we’ve gone through together.

It takes a village to raise a business. Thanks Village.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am confident and passionate about our future. Smart Dolphins is improving lives through business excellence and the leveraged use of technology. We’re denting the universe. I can’t wait to see what we can do with another 3900 weekdays.

 

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Reverse the Email Spiral

We all swim in email and it is time to follow the Email Charter:

Email Charter

Learn more at: http://emailcharter.org. Read it. Live it. Share it.

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Do you know Paul Holmes?

It seems most of the business folks that I ask say “yes” to this question. Like many, I have known Paul for a long time. I have a ton of respect for Paul’s various accomplishments and his massive reservoir of knowledge and talents. So I couldn’t be more excited to tell you…

As of April 13th, Paul is a Smart Dolphin! WOOOOOOO!!!!

In case it isn’t clear, this is exciting news.

We are calling Paul our “Technology Ambassador”. We’re tasking him with engaging the business community and helping business folks make great decisions for their business IT. Categorically, you could classify Paul’s role as a trainer, a consultant and/or business development. Paul is here to help and I’m confident he’ll do this in a big way.

Paul Holmes

In case you’re one of the few that doesn’t know Paul, he has a pretty awesome reputation. With 24 years of technology industry experience, including leading a web development company and a digital marketing firm, he knows some important stuff. He might be best known for (at least more recently) his co-founding of the hugely popular Social Media Camp. 27,000,000 followers on Twitter might speak to his popularity… wait, did I get the zeros wrong there?

This is a proud time for me. Paul joining the team sheds light on something special going on at Smart Dolphins. First, I feel lucky to continue to attract awesome talent in to The Pod. Paul is definitely a SMART Dolphin. Second, Paul is another example that Smart Dolphins has the scale and business model to do things effectively. As one of the business leaders I’ve been trying to do what Paul is going to be doing. However, with too many hats, I haven’t been consistent with it. Like we’ve done with many important roles at Smart Dolphins, we now have a dedicated person following a process to reach an important end result.

I invite you to give Paul a “howdy” by emailing him at [email protected] or calling 250.721.2499 ext 210. Or stop into our new office to say hi. You don’t want to be the only business person out there that doesn’t know Paul Holmes. Do you?

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