The IT Disconnect

And now… a word from the IT Communications Doctor

The bad news: There is a tremendous disconnect between the average IT professional and the other groups in most organizations.

The good news: There is an easy solution.

The Disconnect

The average IT professional is extremely busy. With all the systems we support, applications we develop, data we warehouse and infrastructures we maintain, it seems impossible to get it all done. However, this busyness has caused many of us to seem disconnected from the rest of the organization.

Have you ever heard comments like this?

 

  • “Those IT people just don’t understand what we need to get done.”
  • “If the programmers just knew something about the business we’re in, we might be able to make some progress.”
  • “I don’t understand why we need a new system. The old one was doing just fine.”

 

As the IT Communications Doctor™, let me diagnose these symptomatic statements.

 

Diagnosis: There is a disconnect between IT and these individuals – sometimes entire departments.

Prognosis: The IT group will have difficulty obtaining needed budget dollars and will be under continual stress from lacking accomplishments.

 

You may be thinking something like, “Tom, these people are just not technical enough to understand.” Are you ready for harsh reality? The problem is not entirely with “them”. It’s usually not that they are not “technical” enough. It’s usually that we, the IT professionals, are not “business” enough.

In order to connect with your cUStomERS, you must understand them. You must know how they do business. You must know what their business goals are. You must realize how they do their job and the reason they’re doing their job.

For example, can you answer these questions about the marketing manager in your organization?

 

  • What is the marketing manager’s primary focus right now?
  • What are some of the problems she/he is facing at this time?
  • How does his/her department research a new product?

 

I know. You’re thinking, “I don’t have time to learn these things. I have my own job to do.”

You’re partly right. You don’t have to know all the nuances of how the marketing manager runs her department, but you should know the basics. The next time you’re tempted to say, “That’s not my job” ask yourself this question:

What is my job?

Here’s the answer. You are an Information Technology professional. What does this mean? It means you implement, manage and/or develop technologies that are used to manage, store and/or deliver information. Did you catch that? Information. Information!

How can we possibly implement technologies to deal with information if we don’t know what information we need to deal with or how our cUStomERS need to deal with that information? We can’t.

This is why we must remember that it is our job to understand how our organization operates from a business perspective.

If I am a database administrator, I need to understand how our databases are being used. I should know why information is being stored, how it is being retrieved and, at least basically, for what it is being used.

If I am a programmer, I should comprehend the processes in which my application will be used, how the process works from start to finish, what problem/need the process is intended to solve/fill and anything else that will have an impact on the users of my application.

Creating the Connection

Are you ready for the easy solution? It’s really simple: You have to create the connection.

Don’t rely on the other party to create the connection. Remember, you’re the expert in this scenario. They will be afraid to approach you. They will fear they might look stupid or unlearned. You have to create the connection.

How? By asking questions. Questions like these:

 

  • What is the biggest challenge you’re facing at this time?
  • How has technology impacted your group in the past year?
  • What is the single most important area where we, the technology group, can help you do your job more efficiently?
  • What is your short and long-term vision for your group?

 

Do you see how these questions create a connection? I am not trying to make the IT group look good. I am expressing a sincere interest in the other person’s problems, needs and dreams. When you do this, you begin to create connections.

Now, if you think you have the connections you need, answer this question honestly:

Can you remember a time in the last sixty days when you sat down with someone from another department or group and asked questions like those I’ve mentioned in this post?

If not, you don’t have the connections you need. The good news is that you can do this once or twice a month and it will begin to create these needed connections. The discussions will usually last less that thirty minutes to one hour and the rewards you reap will be tremendous.

Where do you start? That’s easy. Start with the group or individual that you feel is your biggest problem area. The group from which you hear the most complaints. The group that you think has a real problem with you. Begin to relate to this group or individual.

Before you meet with the group manager, prepare your questions and be prepared to listen without taking anything personally.

When you do these things you’ll begin to form connections that will lower your stress levels and really begin to show the “value of you” as an Information Technology professional.

To understand the issue from the cUStomERS' perspective, visit this blog post at another site titled The Great IT Disconnect. Or view other Professional Development posts here at TomCarpenter.net for the IT professional.

-Tom

Disabling System Restore in Windows 7

At times and for many reasons, you may want to disable system restore in Windows 7 systems. Windows 7 creates restore points or recovery points on a scheduled basis and when you install software or upgrades by default. You can change when and how it does this and even completely disable system restore, if you desire. I'll explain more about system restore in this post.

Just to make us as confused as possible, Microsoft refers to two different things in windows 7 systems. First, we have the System Restore and second we have System Recovery. System Recovery is best thought of as the umbrella that covers System Restore and the process used to schedule and create restore points. Technically, you use System Restore when you want to recover a restore point created by System Recovery.

When you perform a system restore, by default, several items are restored including the following:

  • Windows system files
  • The registry
  • Applications

 

Always use caution when performing a restore. It is possible that the end state will be worse than the existing problem.

So, why would disabling System Restore in Windows 7 be a good thing. Well. the simple answer is that it consumes space. If it is set to use up to 10% of your drive space, on a 100 GB drive, it could be consuming 10 GB of your  space. If you system is currently stable and you simply need to get some free space, disabling System Restore will delete all restore points immediately. You can then enable it again and Windows 7 will begin creating new restore points in the regular manner.

If you are an advanced user and are willing to take the risk, you can simply turn System Restore off permanently. In either case, disabling System Restore in Windows 7 is a very easy process. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Right-click on Computer and select Properties.
  3. In the left pane, select System Protection.
  4. Click the Configure button.
  5. Select Turn off system protection.
  6. click OK.

Windows 7 Desktop Icons Disappeared

Have your Windows 7 desktop icons disappeared? Are you Windows 7 desktop icons missing? If so, there are two common issues impacting this. I'll help you work through them in this post.

First, many people wonder what happened to the good old Windows XP icons like Internet Explorer, My Computer, My Network Places and My Documents. These icons, or their Windows 7 counterparts, are still available. In most default installations, Windows 7 only includes the Recycle Bin on the desktop. All other icons are removed.

You can get back any of the following Windows 7 desktop icons that may be missing from your display:

  • Computer: This icon opens an Explorer window with all of your drives listed for navigation through the available storage.
  • User's Files: This icon, which will have the user's name listed as the descriptive text, opens an Explorer windows with the user's documents location open by default.
  • Network: This icon allows you to browse the network.
  • Control Panel: This icon allows you to place the Control Panel on the desktop as a direct shortcut.
  • Recycle Bin: This icon allows you to manage the Recycle Bin from your desktop.

 

To get most of them back, follow these instructions:

  1. Right-click on the desktop and select Personalize.
  2. Select Change desktop icons from the left pane.
  3. On the Desktop Icon Settings tab, select the icons you want to display on the desktop.
  4. Click OK to save your changes.

 

The preceding steps will help you place Computer, User's Files, Control Panel, Network or Recycle Bin on the desktop. To get Internet Explorer back on the desktop, you'll need to create a shortcut. The simplest way to do this is to follow these instructions:

  1. Click the Start menu.
  2. Open All Programs.
  3. Right-click-and-drag the Internet Explorer icon to the desktop.
  4. When you release, select Create shortcuts here from the menu.

 

In addition to these tips, Windows 7 seems to have a bug that causes two things. First, the icons may end up overlapping each other. Second, icons may seem to completely disappear from the desktop. Sadly, there is no direct patch for this at this time, but here are a few things you can try when your Windows 7 desktop icons have disappeared.

  • If they are overlapping, which will be evidenced by the fact that you do not see the icon anywhere on the screen, but some icons seem to look corrupted, simply right-click on the desktop and select View > Auto arrange icons. Then, right-click again and deselect the option. You will have to go through all of your icons again placing them where you desire, but this will cause them to be displayed on screen again.
  • If they are simply missing, first, try rebooting. This often gets the icons back. Second, manually look in your profile to ensure that the icons is in the C:Users{UserName} folder, which is the default locations for user profiles. In this folder, should be another folder named Desktop, which should contain the icons. If the icons are not in this folder, they are completely lost.
  • If the Windows 7 desktop icons have disappeared because they have been rearranged by the operating system, pray that they will stop. I wish I had a better answer for you and if I come across one I'll let you know. For now there seems to be no fix for this annoying bug other than to align the icons to a grid, reboot, and remove the alignment.

 

Hopefully, one of these tips either solves your problem or gets you moving in the right directions when your Windows 7 desktop icons are missing or disappeared. Good luck!

Little Known Windows 7 Shortcuts

And now for some shortcuts I'll bet you didn't know… or maybe you did and you forgot… or maybe you don't care… anyway, here they are:

Windows Key + Pause – Display the system specifications

Windows Key + Up Arrow – Maximize the current windows

Windows Key + 1 through 0 – Launch the corresponding taskbar app (try it, you'll see)

Windows Key + R – Display the good old Run dialog

CTRL + SHIFT + ESC – Display the Task Manager (this is my all time favorite)

Hopefully, you enjoy these little nuggets. I use these shortcut keys all the time and find them extremely useful.

Windows Boot Configuration Data File Is Missing

If you receive the error "The Windows Boot Configuration Data file is missing," you are likely to have heart failure. It can be a very scary event. The good news is that, assuming your hard drive is not toast, you can recover your machine in 20-30 minutes or less.

When the error "the Windows Boot Configuration Data file is missing" appears on our computer, don't panic. Instead, boot from the Windows 7 installation DVD in order to repair your computer.

NOTE: Ensure that no USB flash drives are connected to the computer so that the machine does not attempt to boot from them.

When the system boots from the DVD, you'll have to choose a language. Then click Next and select the link that reads "Repair your PC." You will choose to perform a Startup Repair in order to get the windows Boot Configuration Data fileback. This process can take awhile simply because booting from DVD can be a bit slow compared to booting from a hard drive.

Remember, when the Windows Boot Configuration Data file is missing, the Windows 7 installation DVD can save your day!