Saturday, April 20, 2002

After more than my fair share of challenges that I faced when I upgraded one of my systems from Windows 98 to Windows 2000 (which I needed in order to run Oracle), I thought I was plagued by bad luck. One of the dumbest problems I encountered was the fact that Microsoft's Windows 2000 would not recognize my Microsoft keyboard. But I digress. In his 15 April column in PC Magazine titled The Good, The Bad and Microsoft, John Dvorak recites the problems he had when he installed Windows XP. I am usually neutral about operating systems, but I'm beginning to develop a genuine mistrust of Microsoft.

Friday, April 19, 2002

SureTrak is a Sure Thing. In my 16 April entry in Postcards from the Revolution I briefly described the strengths of my favorite project management application, SureTrak Project Manager 3.0. In my opinion it's the best single-user PM software bar none.

SureTrak was designed with features that practicing project managers need, not glitzy fluff. Among its features are:

Although it has serious features, it also has glitz: you can publish in HTML, add graphics to your schedule and customize bar legends. It also has team features, such as email management, the ability to manage multiple related projects simultaneously, and the ability to exchange files with MS Project via MPX files. Note that there are some losses when you exchange MPX files because SureTrak has features that Project doesn't have and they will not import correctly into MS Project.

If you make the leap from MS Project to SureTrak I strongly recommend investing in Planning Using Primavera SureTrak Project Manager Version 3.0 by Paul E. Harris, which will get you quickly started.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

ISO 9001:2000. Among Linda's recent topics are ISO 9001 and 900-3. There is a single sentence in the new ISO 9001:2000 requirements that's a bombshell: Customer perception, as to whether customer requirements have been met, shall be monitored. There is a book on this topic, Customer Satisfaction Measurement Simplified: A Step-by-Step Guide for ISO 9001:2000 Certification, that has as its sole purpose to provide you with ISO 9001-friendly techniques for meeting the requirements in that sentence. The author provides a clear, 7-step process for tackling that daunting task:
  1. Identify your customers.
  2. Identify their requirements. (Maps to ISO requirements 5.2, 7.2.1).
  3. Determine what you're going to measure, and how.
  4. Measure satisfaction based on step 3. (Maps to ISO requirement 8.2.1).
  5. Analyze the data. (Maps to ISO requirement 8.4).
  6. Report the results.
  7. Communicate the results and employ continuous improvement methods. This complies with the change from the 1994 version in that continual improvement is now required, where it was only implied in the 1994 version.
What makes this book so valuable is that it reduces the complexities for meeting each of the requirements using the process to a series of steps in each process stage. Each chapter contains a summary of the goals, then gives step-by-step procedures needed to attain the goals, and identifies the deliverables that must be produced. This sounds simple on the surface. In reality implementing customer satisfaction requirements management, measurement and continuous improvement is a complex undertaking that not only touches virtually all parts of an enterprise, but also mandates a change in corporate culture.

Additional value in the form of worksheets and checklists covered in the appendices (and provided in electronic format on the CD ROM) make this book absolutely essential to any company that is pursuing certification (or are re certifying under the 2000 version).

Other factors that make this book invaluable include:

This is the only book, to the best of my knowledge, that solely focuses on this aspect of ISO 9001:2000. Fortunately, it covers all of the essentials and leads you step-by-step through the process of meeting this important set of requirements. I personally believe that it's the key to getting certified under the 2000 requirements because of the scope and magnitude of effort that is required to comply with a seemingly innocuous requirement that can be a major barrier to achieving certification.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

When Will They Stop? Are you using Microsoft's XP family of products? If so you should know that it may be doing things behind your back. A 12 April article titled Win-XP Search Assistant silently downloads files is yet another of the growing reports of how the tagline, Where do you want to go today? is starting to look like I'll take you where I damn well please.

Microsoft isn't the only culprit. Consider the ramifications of Data Mine—Or Yours? by Diane Savage, then read World Without Secrets that Linda discussed in her last entry. That book has an associated web page from which you can download a sample chapter and read related articles.

The only reassuring news in the past week is an Associated Press article titled Web Group OKs Privacy Standards.

ISO 9001 & CRM. Mike's is preparing an entry about the ISO 9001:2000 requirement to manage and measure customer requirements. This requirement, as he will show, will make attaining (or maintaining) certification a challenge. At some point customer relationship management is going to become a hot topic. The best book on the topic that I've found is Jill Dyché's The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management.

This book is thorough, clear and filled with useful information. It's organized in two parts. Part 1 defines CRM in chapter 1 and in the next six chapters covers the reasons and issues for implementing CRM from five perspectives: (1) Marketing, (2) Customer Service/Call Centers, (3) Sales Force Automation, (4) E-business and (5) Data Analysis. The case studies, all based on real clients and situations, add life to the well written chapters on marketing, customer service and sales force automation. In addition each chapter contains nuggets of insight, clear discussion of the topic and numerous checklists and tables that you can use for your own projects.

Part 2 covers delivering CRM and is structured in the logical sequence of planning, tool selection and CRM project management. Like the first part of the book the four chapters in Part 2 contain case studies, checklists and excellent advice. It is in this part of the book where you'll benefit from Jill's experience because she reveals common traps and pitfalls, and gives advice on how to deal with them or bypass them altogether.

What I like about this book is that it covers the business and technical parameters, requirements and issues. Jill's writing style makes it not only readable, but engrossing as well. She goes into considerable detail about how and why CRM is important to meeting business requirements and gives business metrics, explains differences between CRM and business intelligence, and the pro's and con's of all issues and factors. Because she covers the subject from the five perspectives I listed above this book is valuable to all possible stakeholders in a CRM project. I especially liked her use of the Porter value chain and how she leads you through the development of a business case for CRM.

If you're involved in CRM, or are in a company that is implementing ISO9001:2000 (which requires that organizations have an effective method of measuring customer satisfaction to achieve ISO certification), then this book will be your most valuable source of information.

The Dark Side of CRM. It's ironic that after finishing Jill's The CRM Handbook that the next book I pick up is World Without Secrets. This book is chilling for a number of reasons, but the top ones (in my opinion) are:

What I like is the way the author thoroughly and systematically addresses the threats to our privacy, freedom and well being. The discussion in "Rise of the Mentat", aside from catering to fans of Frank Herbert's Sci-Fi masterpiece, Dune, will open your eyes about how information is processed and fed to us. After reading this chapter you'll wonder how much you really know, and how much of what you think you know is based on all available facts and data.

However, the real eye-opener is the way that virtual communities are coming together in ways that could not have been predicted ten years ago. The Internet has enabled people of like interests, both benevolent and malevolent, to find one another on this planet, band together and begin exerting influence. In the same manner that maps drawn with political borders do not display cultural borders, these groups called "Network Armies" in the book go beyond cultural or national interests and are changing our social fabric in ways that the author only touches upon.

This book is well written, filled with examples and facts, and arrives at thought-provoking conclusions. It does not matter if you work in IT or another technology-focused industry, law, business or non-profit organizations, what this book has to say and the facts and conclusions that are presented are important. If the author is correct (and I think he is), our lives are changing in dramatic ways and this book is a rough roadmap to where we're headed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Book Review. Cyber Forensics: A Field Manual for Collecting, Examining, and Preserving Evidence of Computer Crimes by by Albert J. Marcella Jr (Editor) and Robert S. Greenfield (Editor). Thorough and suitable for the experienced professional.

This book is an excellent follow-on book to Computer Forensics: Incident Response Essentials by Kruse and Heiser, which introduces the fundamentals. See my 14 April entry in Postcards from the Revolution for details. This book goes much deeper and is more technical than the Kruse and Heise, therefore the ideal audience is practicing professionals who have prior experience in forensics and a wide range of hardware, software and network knowledge.

Tools and techniques are presented in painstaking detail. I was unable to find a single gap or omission, which speaks highly of the editorial and review process behind this book's 464 pages. While most technical disciplines can dispense with finer details, the nature of forensics is to overlook nothing. If you find the step-by-step thoroughness boring that is an indication that forensics may not be your forte; if you're an experienced professional you'll appreciate the coverage of every technique or use of tools.

While the discussion of tools and techniques will satisfy even the most experienced practitioner, I found the detailed discussion of legal aspects, HR considerations and overall security and incident response processes to be the book's strongest points. This area is what sets forensics experts apart from technicians, and it is here that the book (in my opinion) adds the most value. Procedures ranging from how to properly gather, preserve and control evidence, to legal considerations for designing processes are covered in clear language, as are US and international legal guidelines.

Parts that I especially like include: intrusion management and profiling, up-to-date information on electronic commerce legal issues, the numerous checklists and cited resources, and the clearly delineated process for dealing with incidents.

If you're new to forensics you will probably get more from this book by first reading Computer Forensics: Incident Response Essentials by Kruse and Heiser. If, however, you have previous computer forensics experience or are currently serving in that role this book is probably one of the best investments you can make.

The book's accompanying web site keeps it up-to-date and provides additional material and links on forensics and other security-related information.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Mike's last entry in Postcards from the Revolution about CMM inspired me to thumb through Ken Dymond's excellent A Guide to the CMM: Understanding the Capability Maturity Model for Software. That book and Kim Caupto's CMM Implementation Guide: Choreographing Software Process Improvement are two of the most effective books for anyone who needs to understand and implement the capability maturity model.

Last summer Mike and I were playing around with Paintshop Pro (see my 29 May 2001 review) and created a graphic that depicts the evolution of process maturity. We had fun creating the graphic, and made sure that it was consistent with the capability maturity model levels. We also made sure that it was aligned to our professional focus, service delivery.

As I was pondering Dymond's books, another book came to mind: Jill Dyché's The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management. Was it the 3-letter initials, CMM and CRM? Both authors' last names, Dymond and Dyché, starting with the letter 'D'? Or the excellent writing? Minds work in mysterious ways.

However, if CRM is a topic that interests you you'll like the MS Word document titled Customer Relationship Management: Successful Implementation and Innovative Practice. This 17-page document, in presentation format, captures the essence of CRM.

I'm a loyal fan of Jill Dyché. She is smart, personable and straight-talking. I first discovered her when Mike lent me a copy of her first book, e-Data: Turning Data into Information with Data Warehousing. As luck would have it, she was checking her book standings on Amazon and noticed my 30 June 2001 review, then spotted Mike's 28 June 2001 review. She contacted me, and sent both Mike and I copies of The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management. My goal this month is to write an Amazon review, and a glowing one at that. Both of Jill's books are outstanding and have my highest recommendation.

Now it's time to return to my studies so I can complete my requirements and pass the tests for Oracle Certified Professional. Believe me, it's not an easy certification to earn.

Administrative Note. Over the next few days my ISP will be doing maintenance. Most of the documents we provide here reside on the server that hosts You may experience Document not found errors during the next 48 hours. If there are any documents that you absolutely need during this period let me know and I'll e-mail them to you.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Scalability and Performance + Yet More About Architecture. In my 8 April entry I mentioned Greg Barish's excellent book, Building Scalable and High-Performance Java Web Applications Using J2EE Technology. I was so impressed with the common sense approach that Mr. Barish proposed, and his clear writing, that I did a little investigating. As it turns out, Mr. Barish isn't your run-of-the-mill developer who wrote a book, but is a Ph.D candidate in the prestigious USC Computer Science Program. Two additional papers authored or coauthored by Mr. Barish that I found interesting are:
  1. Using Tcl to Rapidly Develop a Scalable Engine for Processing Dynamic Application Logic. I recently cited the findings and conclusions from this 11-page PDF document to support the use of tcl in a proposed project.
  2. World Wide Web Caching: Trends and Techniques. This 8-page PDF document is one of the clearest discussions of caching as a scalability technique that I've read. It's lavishly illustrated and masterfully explained.
An additional document that serves as a nice capstone on my previous entries about architecture is Conflicts Among Architecture Evaluation Criteria, which sorts out some of issues related to architecture evaluation that I've been discussing.

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