2012 In The Rear View Mirror And Happy New Year


All things considered, 2012 has been a good year – a very tiring year, but a pretty good year none the less. Whoever said things are clearer in rear view mirror “clearly” was not thinking about me – the past 12 months that passed me by have not left things organized for me to think through. So here is a random attempt…..

On the personal front…

I managed to take some time off work (not nearly enough time), spent some time with my parents and my wife’s parents (again, not enough time) , bought a nice treadmill (2013 hopefully is when the ROI kicks in), traded in our old car and got a new one (which I hope to drive more one day soon) and finally got around to trading carpet for tiles in the ground floor of our house ( actual work yet to be done, but tiles selected and advance payments made) , cooked and ate out as much as we liked (way more than what my doctor likes for sure) , kiddo did great at school and in swimming class ( handily beat our expectations by a mile), both fur kids did ok ( minimal destruction of back yard, but 9 year old “Boss” sadly continues to have allergies, and has slowed down a bit ), and last but not least – got to mingle more socially with other Malayalees, thanks to KHA.

On the work front…

Not sure if it is “blessed” or “stressed out” that takes the cake when it comes to describe the year at work. I sure had a lot of blessings – every team that I had the privilege of leading this year went way above and beyond – including sales, project delivery and forward engineering. That doesn’t happen often – thanks gang. I was also incredibly proud to watch many team mates make great strides in their own careers as leaders. Playing a small part in their development makes me incredibly proud. As for the rest of it – between my employer and my clients, I have to call it a tie, when it comes to blessings and stress :) . If proof of the pudding is in the eating – I can’t complain. I made and exceeded all the quantitative goals I agreed on with my managers. Most probably I just need more experience in getting through all of these with a little less stress. Biggest lessons I will take away to 2013 – Trust the team ( they know the problems and solutions, so get out of their way), don’t postpone vacations (ever), and listen more than I talk (easier said than done). Biggest problem I could not tackle in 2012 – my inability to stop taking work home with me.

The strong working relationships I had with my clients, my superiors, my team and my peers – I am very thankful for it. When I told them about my decision to move on to another company, everyone was totally supportive. Still don’t know why I stressed out with “how do I break the news” :)

On the blogging front…

Few days ago was the third anniversary of this blog. I blogged on SCN a few years before I started this one. More than the blogs – it is the people that I became good friends with due to blogging – readers of this blog, fellow bloggers, SAP blogger and mentor program peeps et al , that made my year. Thanks folks – I look forward to our friendship to continue into 2013 and beyond.

As for quantitative metrics – I did post a lot more than I thought I will. Page views are probably not a good metric for the type of things I rant about, but if it is – wordpress says I got more than 2X the eyeballs I got in 2011. But what is really gratifying is that several of my clients, including CXOs, read my blogs and engage me in great debates when I meet with them. It is also funny that many colleagues knew of me as a blogger and did not know that I worked for the same employer as they did.

And finally, I think I am making progress on a lot of my “worry list” from last year. Still some ways to go – but I think I will do ok.

In 2013, as I am joining SAP – I might need to make a few changes to my blog. I am not a 100% sure on what all I need to change, but for sure I won’t be writing a lot about SAP in general – just as I did not write much about IBM as an employee. If my login issues with SCN get resolved, I would like to go back there and blog occassionally. But you know me – I will rant on anything happening around me :)

Happy New Year Everyone !

The Price and Prize of Social


When I read my friend Howlett’s blog on social enterprise – I had plans to write something on my blog too, but that feeling passed. I am not going to make any generalizations on social – just talking about my own case here. I will come back to the social enterprise topic some time in future.

Compared to many of my friends, I have been a late entrant to the whole social thing. And compared to many of them, I am still a lot less active on social media. Yet, I am way more advanced and active on social media than 99% of people I know. Has it helped me? yes, it has to some degree – both in my career and in my personal life ( and the distinction is lesser between the two today than even 3 years ago). But it has taken a toll too for sure in my personal life.

I started a personal blog around Christmas of 2010 – but became relatively active only about a year ago. I try to blog once a month at least – but have written about 8 posts in some months. Most of my posts have been in and around SAP and BI , but I have also written on politics, economics, food, sports and dogs. Pretty much any topic is fair game for me if there is a strong opinion I have on it.  And when it comes to opinions, I usually only have strong ones – for better or worse :)  .

I enjoy blogging as a medium to express my thoughts. And I have an explicit disclaimer that what I say is just personal opinion and not my employer’s opinion. But this does pose some challenges on occasion.

For example – at least partly due to blogging, SAP recognizes me as an influencer. And due to that I get some information earlier than others, and SAP picks up my T&E to attend some of their events, and I appreciate that. I try really hard to keep confidential info as confidential. But on the other hand it does not stop me from criticizing SAP on occasion.  The people who run the SAP influencer program, and senior SAP executives who talk to me have never told me what I should or should not write. But few others – including many friends – at SAP have often told me directly or indirectly that I am spreading too much negativity. I value their friendship – and I feel terrible when I hear this, since that is not my intention.

While I have no great  interest in happy talk  – I do say good things whenever I see it. And at least for HANA – me, John Appleby, Vitaliy, Harald Reiter and a few others do a lot for promoting and clarifying questions on Hana via our presence on twitter and SCN. And while I learn a lot from SAP during my interactions with them – I also pass on feedback from what I see on the field back to them. So hopefully things balance out some how from SAP’s perspective.

On career front, social in general has helped me. A large number of IBMers know me better via twitter and my blog , and it has helped me a lot in maintaining a very valuable network. I get to advise my clients better too since I have access to more people and information now due to social. I have won business in my day job thanks to name recognition from social media. And in general my managers have been quite supportive of me being active on social media. In return, I try hard to make sure there is no impact to my performance at work.

The biggest prize for me is the content I get from people like Jon Reed and Dennis Moore who curate the zillion tweets and blogs and send out high quality information. If it ever becomes a paid service, I would gladly pay for that. I would have never had a chance to get all this information without their feeds.

But for all the Prizes, I have a price to pay.  A day still has only 24 hours – and it means I am in front of a computer (or my phone) longer than I used to. And that takes time away from my family and my hobbies. That is NOT good – and is not sustainable.  So I have cut back on my social presence quite a bit. And I am sure I will overcompensate and will need a lot of time to find a good equilibrium.

If any one has a 12 step plan or something to find that equilibrium, please let me know.

Some Reflections On Blogging


As I took  time off in December, 2011 (which probably would not have happened if I did not have an enlightening set of conversations with Dennis Howlett)  – I had an opportunity to reflect on a lot of stuff.  And one of it was on my blogging.

 

I am a sucker for numbers ( Pls don’t hold it against me – I do BI work for a living) and I started by analyzing the stats in wordpress. I started this blog in 2009 December (I think I started an SDN blog a year or two before) , and a whole 104 people read it that month.  In December 2010, I had 3423  hits and in December 2011 I had 2740  hits.  I chose December to compare because it is the slowest month with a lot of people spending a few hours each day away from their computers and mobile devices when they are awake.  I wrote about 50 posts in 2011 – which correlates nicely to the number of weeks I had to fly (I write most posts during the plane rides). The numbers satisfied me ( apparently, I am not very hard to please) on quantitative front, so I thought I should check the quality too. And I did not come away happy this time ( ok so maybe I am a wee little hard to please).

 

As I read through what I wrote over the last year, it became pretty clear that at least 20% of the blogs were lousy. That is time I will never see again, and neither will the folks who read those rants.  Another 20% does not look balanced to me any more. And in the remaining 60%, I felt comfortable that I offered something useful.

 

At this point, all kinds of “consultant like” thoughts started forming in my mind. I narrowed down from a fairly large list to the following causes

 

1. English is not my first language.  Although I had to learn English at school in India, and have been living outside India for a dozen years – I constantly feel it is very difficult for people to understand what I am trying to say.

2. I don’t have enough experience blogging. I started late compared to most people, and probably have not developed a style that works yet.

3. I don’t think through all aspects of an issue before expressing my opinion on my blog.  I do this because I am not very patient, and also because I fear my blog will look like a white paper if I over think it. Forget readers, I will just have to kick myself if I read such a blog.

4.  I don’t have enough breadth of knowledge. My primary topic has been Enterprise Software, with a specific focus on SAP. I have done a little bit of other things too but not as much as I have done SAP. So there is a good chance that I am not making valid points in several cases where I express my opinion.

5. I am making opinions based on experience with large enterprises alone. For some reason, in all my jobs so far – I have had to deal with really big companies.  While that is useful, I do not have a good grasp of the smaller companies directly. What I know about the smaller companies is second hand information I have gathered while doing project reviews, few sales proposals etc. I have not “lived” the life in the SME space.  So when I make generic statements, essentially I am not generalizing enough due to my large enterprise bias.

 

So my plan for 2012 is to do the following

1. Try to avoid blogging on impulse whenever I can. I got some valuable input from Jon Reed on this – so I am not going to totally avoid the impulses, but will give my posts a little more thought than I have so far. ( Err..Excluding this one post I am writing – allow me to slack this one time)

2. Spend some more time reading and commenting on other blogs. I did read a lot last year, but probably did not comment as much and contribute to the conversation

3. Try other media to express my opinions other than the long form blog posts

4. Gain some exposure on parts of Enterprise Software that I am not familiar with . And I will try hard to hide my lack of interest in gamification and social blah blah till it works at some customer I know of.

5.  Gain some exposure to customer segments I have not focused on so far, and continue to “live” with customers.

6. Learn from eminent analysts and bloggers and develop my style as much as I can.

 

I know me better than you know me (I think) ! So I am fairly sure I will not succeed all of these :)  So lets see how it works out for me.

 

Happy New Year ! and Happy Blogging !