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Group Management for a task system

March 27, 2011, 4:11 pm - James Farrer

I was thinking about a need at work in our ITSM Suite (we use Service-now.com but the problem has existed in our last couple of tools as well) and after tinkering with it for a while I came up with what I think to be a clever solution.

The challenge that we've had in several of our tools over the last number of years has been the ability to find the group for a user when assigning a task to someone (in this case an incident, but it is more generally applicable). Because the list of assignees is based on the group, things have typically worked like this: an incident is created and before they can save it they have to find who it should be assigned to, sometimes they know the group and sometimes they know the person to assign it to. If they know the group, then it's not too bad, but when they only know the person they have had to search through the groups one by one. In the past I created a seperate search utility that was flexible enough to use but still required jumping to a separate window to search and then manually coming back.

We are currently moving to Service-now for our incident tool and it has the ability to look up a person independant of the group which was the first step. It still didn't populate the group though, so we still needed some improvement. We could just look up the group, but in many cases people are part of multiple groups. We decided it would likely be worth setting it up so you could set a Primary Group for the user, but if that hadn't been done yet there was still a possibly random selection of the group. This is still better than nothing, but not ideal.

I finally had the idea to include an order field on the group. I could look up the groups a person is a member of and select the first one as the groups are ordered. This gives us a way to set the Primary Groups for almost everyone without requiring a Primary Group to be set beforehand. Since most of the duplicate groups are actually sub-groups of a larger group (often based on skills) this can be used the majority of the time.

Depending on the ordering of the groups there may still be some mostly random group assignments, but this will be more the exception than the rule. For cases where the general group ordering does not make sense they still have the ability to set a Primary Group for the user.

It only takes a few lines of scripting to implement the logic, is relatively maintainable and remarkably flexible. I'd say that qualifies for a good win.

Mark Zuckerberg at BYU

March 27, 2011, 3:31 pm - James Farrer

So Senator Hatch invited Mark Zuckerberg to come and do a Q&A session at BYU. It was surprisingly well attended. Apparently Mark had never done something like that. There was probably 10,000+people that showed up. I had heard rumors and had somehow formulated some ideas of what he was probably like but I was pleasantly surprised to see him act much more like a normal person (take that as normal for people that I hang around, which is significantly geekier than most people). Several of my co-workers agreed with me that he seemed very much like someone who would be comfortable hanging out with us on a weekend, and us with him.

Senator Hatch played the part of host and if this was any sort of indication he should never be a talk show host. He seemed to try and make everyone happy (I heard lots of "typical politician" comments from people walking away afterwards).

There were several things that rang true about what Mark said, but one of the things that was interesting was that he and his friends thought, hey this would be nice to have. Then they built it. It turns out other people also wanted it and now he's a multi-billionaire or something like that.

I'm pretty sure I could do what he's done. Now, I just need to come up with an idea...any suggestions?

A Great Article: The unspoken truth about managing geeks

March 3, 2011, 7:27 pm - James Farrer

This is a very good article on working with and managing IT groups. The world would be a much better place for everyone, not just the IT folks, if more people read, understood, and applied the stuff in this article. It may not be perfect, but it rang truer than just about anything else I've read or heard.


A few highlights:

"Good IT pros are not anti-bureaucracy, as many observers think. They are anti-stupidity."

"Users need to be reminded a few things, including:

  • IT wants to help me.
  • I should keep an open mind.
  • IT is not my personal tech adviser, nor is my work computer my personal computer.
  • IT people have lives and other interests."

"With IT, you cannot separate the technical aspects from the business aspects. They are one and the same, each constrained by the other and both constrained by creativity. Creativity is the most valuable asset of an IT group, and failing to promote it can cost an organization literally millions of dollars."

And last but not least:

"What IT pros want in a manager is a technical sounding board and a source of general direction. Leadership and technical competence are qualities to look for in every member of the team. If you need someone to keep track of where projects are, file paperwork, produce reports and do customer relations, hire some assistants for a lot less money."


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