Saturday, 18 June, 2016

Udacity MOOC on Intro to DevOps

If you are interested in knowing about DevOps then you should check out a MOOC offered by Udacity. This introductory course is aptly titled as "Intro to DevOps". It has got three modules. First module explains what DevOps is and why it is needed. It also discusses DevOps principles viz. Culture, Automation, Measurement and Sharing, which are popularly referred to as CAMS. Second module focuses on DevOps environment. It requires the participants to prepare the development environment by using VirtualBox, Vagrant, Packer, Git and ssh. It further provides instructions to use these software tools as part of a small project. The final module covers continuous integration, continuous delivery and measurement. Besides introducing these concepts, this module asks the participants to set up Jenkins and Graphite to gain some hands-on experience.

I liked this MOOC since it makes us play with some prominent DevOps tools, besides explaining the basic concepts.

Tuesday, 14 June, 2016

Microsoft's MOOC on DevOps at edX

If you are looking for a quick introduction to DevOps then you should enroll in Microsoft's MOOC on DevOps at edX. This course defines DevOps as the union of people, process and products to enable the continuous delivery of value to end users. The course introduces key concepts such as Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, Release Management, Configuration Management, etc. along with demonstration of Microsoft's DevOps platform. In less than 10 hours, you can get a good understanding of DevOps and its benefits. What I liked the most about this course is knowing how Microsoft has embraced DevOps in its own workplace.

This MOOC started in last month but you can quickly catch up if you enroll in it soon.

Wednesday, 9 March, 2016

Book Review: The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

I picked up this book because it’s fable plus model And I liked it. It provides a story of a CEO, who turns around three businesses, a restaurant being one of them. During this journey, he develops a model of three signs of a miserable job. The model is simple; the three signs are anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement. The author, Patrick Lencioni, has given detailed description of this model after the fable. A good book to read for every manager!

Monday, 28 September, 2015

Book Review: How to lie with statistics

Published in 1954, this classic book pretends to educate us on how to lie with statistics. But the real and noble intent is to make us aware of pitfalls of blindly trusting statistics. It provides detailed elaboration along with illustrations, on how statistics can be used to deceive facts. In final chapter, it provides a list of five simple questions to ask, which can help uncover the truth. Indeed, this book is very useful reading for every manager.

Thursday, 18 June, 2015

Book Review: The Test of My Life

The Test of My Life is an autobiography of Yuvraj Singh, who is not only known as fighter Indian cricketer but also the one who fought against deadly disease of cancer. This book describes the story of both these aspects of Yuvraj's life. Book begins with his childhood at Chandigarh and ends with his resuming of cricket post his chemotherapy. On the way, it delves in detail on days of world cup 2011 and the chemotherapy at Indianapolis. It is truly a motivational book on how one can fight against tough challenges and continue to pursue his/her passion. It's highly recommended to everyone!

Sunday, 7 June, 2015

Book Review: You can sell

Written by Shiv Khera, this book is a how-to book for a sales professional. The book contains many examples from the areas of life insurance selling and vacuum cleaner selling. Still it is a useful resource for anyone desirous of selling ideas, solutions or services. Written in simple language, this book is quite readable and motivational. It covers entire sales process and provides detailed-level guidance for each stage of sales process. It also covers related areas such as goal setting and time management. Would recommend it to every aspiring sales professional.

Thursday, 4 June, 2015

Book Review: Flow

Flow is defined as the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it. It is one of the key concepts in positive psychology. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues starting in 1980s, a lot of research has been done to explore how flow happens in various domains such as sports, education, work and leisure. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has presented this research in this book in a language that can be understood by laymen like us. Though the book runs over some 300 pages, it takes time to read and absorb the concepts discussed in this book. A recommended reading for a person who is interested in positive psychology.

Tuesday, 14 April, 2015

Book Review: How Google Works

Written by Eric Schimidt (former CEO and current executive chairperson) and Jonathan Rosenberg (former SVP for Products and current advisor to CEO), this book provides insights into functioning of Google. But more than describing how things work at Google, the authors have attempted to provide guidance on how to manage new-age companies that would employ "smart creatives". The advice is given for almost all aspects of business, starting from culture to strategy to decisions to innovation. As Product Head for Educational ERP SaaS, I found the guidance given in this book quite relevant and useful. A must read for every practicing and aspiring manager!

Let me note down my key takeaways from this book:
  • product excellence is now paramount to business success.
  • rule of seven - managers should have minimum of seven direct reports.
  • exile knaves but fight for divas (great example of diva is Steve Jobs!)
  • bet on technical insights, not market research
  • hiring is the most important thing you do
  • hire learning animals
  • schedule interviews for 30 minutes
  • decide with data
  • every meeting needs an owner
  • spend 80% of your time on 80% of your revenue
  • the world's best athletes need coaches, and you don't?
  • guidelines for over-communication - reinforce core themes; make it effective; make it interesting, fun or inspirational; let it be authentic; ensure right audience; use right media;tell the truth, be humble and bank goodwill for a rainy day.
  • guidelines for email communication - respond quickly; be crisp; clean your inbox constantly; handle email in LIFO order; remember you are a router; use bcc feature judiciously; don't yell online; copy yourself on email for which follow-up is needed and then flag it accordingly; forward useful emails to yourself with search-friendly keywords.

There is also 8-page career advice, which I liked the most. Let me quickly note down the key points here:
  • when out of college, look for right industry over company
  • plan your career - think about your ideal job after five years and then assess your strengths and weaknesses
  • learn how the right data, crunched the right way, will help make better decisions.
  • read.
  • know your elevator pitch - your current work, the driving technical insight, measurement of success and how it fits into the big picture
  • travel across the globe
  • combine passion with contribution

Thursday, 12 March, 2015

Book Review: A mind for numbers

This book helps in learning how to learn. I got to know about this book after attending a MOOC on learn how to learn. Though the subtitle of this book is “how to excel at maths and science”, the book is helpful for learning any subject. It provides conceptual understanding of how brain works and how brain power can be used effectively for learning. It also provides various useful tips and techniques for efficient way of learning. Would recommend it to all avid learners.

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

Ten Guidelines for taking effective interviews

Here are ten guidelines that I follow for taking interviews. You may find them useful.
  1. Dress as per your company policy.
  2. Introduce yourself and greet the candidate with a handshake and a friendly smile.
  3. Make candidate comfortable and at ease before you begin with your questions. 
  4. Show respect and treat the candidate as your customer.
  5. Use a friendly tone of voice. 
  6. Listen more and let the candidate do most of the talking.
  7. Do not take mobile calls during the interview.
  8. Do not engage in arguments with the candidate.
  9. Do not offer right answers or feedback for improvement.
  10. End on positive note, regardless of the outcome.

Sunday, 24 August, 2014

Differentiators for IT Services Providers from the perspective of Enterprise IT Buyer

As Enterprise IT Buyer, how can you differentiate IT service providers? I propose Solutions, Automation and Scale (SAS) can help here. If a IT service provider is a pure-play service provider without any solutions built based on its past experience then its service offering reduces to professional services. Nothing wrong about it. But a service provider with ready solutions can help reduce time-to-market for IT buyers. Similarly, IT service providers that use automation for delivery of its services can provide lower time-to-market for IT buyers. Last but not least is the scale parameter. While big IT service providers would bring more predictability and stability for its services, small companies would be more responsive and agile than their larger counterparts. I have seen IT buyers choosing large companies for providing IT services for core and/or mission critical components of business but choose small companies for building innovative or even experimental IT solutions.

You may wonder why I have not included cost as a differentiating factor. Yes, cost plays an important role in selection of a vendor but let it happen once you short-list few (say three) vendors based on SAS criteria. Then you can get the best value for money by choosing one of them on the basis of price that they would offer.

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

One Day Course on Business Basics

I was recently requested to design one day course on business basics. I thought of designing it as a collection of 10 questions (with answers!). Here are these 10 questions:
  1. Which are different forms of a business organization?
  2. How a company is typically organized?
  3. What do managers do?
  4. What does accounting and finance department do in a company?
  5. What is meant by operations in a company?
  6. What does sales and marketing department do in a company?
  7. What kind of work human resources department do in a company?
  8. How information systems are built and managed in a company?
  9. What is the role of Board of Directors (BoD)?
  10. Question(s) that you wish to ask

Please give your feedback on choice of these questions. Will they be sufficient to know the business basics? If not then which questions should be added? Can they be discussed in one day (6 hours)? If not then which questions should be dropped?

Sunday, 29 June, 2014

c2b2 fifth and final module:Strategic Management

Let me share 20 questions for fifth and final module of c2b2: Strategic Management.
  1. What are types of market structure?
  2. How does money flow between business organizations and households?
  3. Which are key economic indicators?
  4. How fiscal and monetary policies affect economy?
  5. How economy affects business onrganizations?
  6. Which non-economic factors affect business organizations?
  7. How Porter’s Five Forces model can be used for industry analysis?
  8. What is SWOT analysis?
  9. How Ansoff’s matrix can be used for formulating marketing strategy?
  10. What is meant by vision, mission and objectives of an organization?
  11. What is competitive advantage?
  12. What is meant by value chain?
  13. What is meant by experience curve?
  14. Which are the generic business strategies?
  15. How balanced scorecard can be used for business performance management?
  16. How BCG matrix is used for formulating corporate strategy?
  17. How GE-McKinsey matrix can be used for formulating corporate strategy?
  18. What are components of a business plan for a startup venture?
  19. How is strategy implemented in an organization?
  20. How strategy execution can be evaluated and controlled?

Sunday, 22 June, 2014

c2b2 fourth module: Manager's Toolbox

Here comes 20 questions for fourth module of c2b2: Manager's Toolbox.
  1. How to summarize raw data?
  2. How charts can be used effectively?
  3. How to prepare for a business presentation?
  4. How to design a business presentation?
  5. How to deliver a business presentation?
  6. How to use plus-minus-interesting (PMI) technique for decision making?
  7. How to use decision matrix for decision making?
  8. How to use decision tree for decision making?
  9. Which are principles of quality management?
  10. Which are seven basic tools for quality management?
  11. What is meant by SMARTER objectives?
  12. How to manage time?
  13. How to do active listening?
  14. How to give feedback?
  15. How to receive feedback?
  16. How to prepare for win-win negotiation?
  17. Which netiquette you must know?
  18. How to use situational leadership?
  19. What are the sources of power in an organization?
  20. How a change can be managed in an organization?
Next post will have 20 questions for last module of c2b2.

Sunday, 15 June, 2014

c2b2 third module: Money Matters

Let me share 20 questions for third module of c2b2: Money Matters.

  1. How accounting information is processed?
  2. Which are key accounting principles?
  3. What is accrual accounting?
  4. What is depreciation in accounting?
  5. Why profit is not equal to cash?
  6. What information does profit and loss statement provide?
  7. What information does balance sheet provide?
  8. What information does cash flow statement provide?
  9. How profitability of different companies can be compared?
  10. How managerial decisions impact financial statements?
  11. Which are the sources for raising finance for long-term needs?
  12. Which are the sources for raising finance for short-term needs?
  13. In which ways cost can be classified?
  14. How cost can be managed effectively?
  15. How is revenue budgeting is used in a company?
  16. What is capital budgeting process?
  17. Which are the prominent methods for calculating return on investment?
  18. What is working capital?
  19. What is cash conversion cycle?
  20. How to improve working capital management?
In next post, I will share 20 questions for fourth module viz. Manager's Toolbox.

Wednesday, 11 June, 2014

c2b2 second module: Marketing Concepts

In this post, let me share 20 questions for second module viz. Marketing Concepts:
  1. What is marketing?
  2. What is 4Ps and 4Cs of marketing?
  3. Which are seven Ps of services marketing?
  4. What is marketing research?
  5. What is a marketing process?
  6. How consumer market can be segmented?
  7. How business market can be segmented?
  8. What are different ways for targeting market segments?
  9. Why positioning is important?
  10. What is product life cycle?
  11. How products can be differentiated?
  12. What is meant by brand equity?
  13. How multiple brands can be managed by a company?
  14. How the price of a product can be set?
  15. How the price of a product can be adapted?
  16. What are different ways by which products can be distributed?
  17. What is 5 Ms of advertising?
  18. How sales of product can be promoted?
  19. What are different kinds of sales people?
  20. What are the steps in a typical sales process?
In next post, I will share 20 questions for next module.

Sunday, 25 May, 2014

c2b2 First Module: Business Organization

In last post, I mentioned that I will be redesigning Crash Course in Business Basics (c2b2) to contain following five modules:
  1. Business Organization
  2. Marketing
  3. Money Matters
  4. Manager's Toolbox
  5. Strategic Management
Each of these modules will contain 20 questions, answers of which will be recorded as slideshow with voice-over. In this post, let me share 20 questions for first module: Business Organization:

1.    Which are different forms of a business organization?
2.    Which are key business functions?
1.    What does finance department do?
2.    What does accounting department do?
3.    What is meant by operations in a company?
4.    What do sales people do?
5.    How does marketing differ from sales?
6.    What is the role of human resources department?
7.    Which are key support functions?
8.    What do managers do?
9.    How do functions and skills differ with levels of management?
10. What is the role of Board of Directors (BoD)?
11. Is management an art or science?
12. In how many different ways a company can be structured?
13. What could be the rationale for choosing an organization structure over another?
14. What is an organizational culture?
15. Can organizational culture be managed?
16. How employees are recruited in an organization?
17. Which are the ways in which employees can be trained and developed?
18. Which are different ways by which employees can motivated?
19. Which are different types of information systems that are used by a company?
20. How information systems are built and managed?
I will share 20 questions for next module in next post.

Sunday, 27 April, 2014

Crash Course in Business Basics (c2b2)

Few years back, I designed a four-days training program, then called Micro-MBA for delivering it to my colleagues at L&T Infotech, Mumbai. My colleague, Sharvari, helped in designing this program and also delivered some sessions. We received encouraging feedback that time. I repeated this course last time at Chennai and again received good feedback from participants.

I always wanted to conduct this program more number of times. But its length of four days not only discourages participation by busy working professionals but also it makes difficult for me to find these many free days consecutively. This constraint prompted me to think whether this program can be conducted online.

For last several months, I am reading about online learning and I have got convinced that blended learning is a way to go. Yes, some learning content can be delivered online but some learning methods such as case study discussion or group discussion requires classroom sessions. So I have now started redesigning this program.

As a first step, I am redesigning this course to be delivered in 24 hours. Out of 24 hours, classroom sessions will run for 14 hours as seven sessions of two hours each. Rest 10 hours will be delivered as videos (slideshow with voice over). I have divided the course curriculum in five parts - Business Organization, Marketing, Money Matters, Manager's Toolbox and Strategic Management. Each part will have 20 clips, thus online component of this course will have 100 clips of around 6 minutes each. Each clip will answer one question. So one can get answers to 100 questions by watching these clips. Each part also has two discussion points that will be covered during five classroom sessions of two hours each. Final two classroom sessions of two hours each will be used for case study discussion.

As I will work on preparing 100 questions, I will share them on this blog. Once I start recording clips for these questions, I will start uploading them on YouTube. I plan to eventually host the list of questions with videos on single public web page. I hope to receive feedback on my work so that it can be refined further.

I am thinking of naming this course as Crash Course in Business Basics (c2b2). I hope nobody is holding trademark on this name. I plan to release my this work under appropriate Creative Commons License.

Monday, 3 March, 2014

Key Takeaways from CSI Convention - IT2020

On 28th February 2014, I attended second day of two-day CSI Convention called as IT2020 . I am sharing below my key takeaways which could be of use to some of you:
  • Senior IT executives from Essar Group, KPIT and M&M presented cloud success stories. Incidentally, all of them use hybrid cloud approach; all of them have got SAP ERP implementation on private cloud and other non-critical applications on Microsoft Azure.
  • The legal framework for offering and using cloud services is very much in place in India.  
  • Cloud would be most suitable for startups and SMEs but may not be fully adoptable by established large companies.

Thursday, 28 November, 2013

Book Review: Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults

Few weeks back, I had a chat with my colleague, Dr. Sanjyot Pethe and the topic turned to motivation of adult learners. At that point of time, she recommended this book and also got it issued from our library in her name. After reading this book, I must say a big thank to her as this is one of the best books that I have read.

In this book, the author,  Raymond J. Wlodkowski has provided 60 motivational strategies for four motivational conditions viz. establishing inclusion, developing attitude, enhancing meaning and engendering competence. It also describes five characteristics and skills of a motivating teacher viz. expertise, empathy, enthusiasm, clarity and cultural responsiveness.

Firmly supported by theory, this book provides useful and practical advice. A must read for everyone who is engaged in designing and delivering educational programs for adults.

Sunday, 17 November, 2013

Paper Review: Learning styles and online education

Zapalska, A., & Brozik, D. (2007). Learning styles and online education. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 24(1), 6–16. doi:10.1108/10650740710726455   Summary
This paper describes an assessment instrument that can be used to identify students’ learning styles. This instrument identifies four distinct learning styles: visual (V); aural (A); reading/writing (R); and kinesthetic (K). It was used to determine learning styles of students who participated in two online courses. It was found that there were only two students in each class who indicated preference for auditory learning, giving these two a multi-modal learning style. This finding may indicate that it is possible that students with prevailing auditory learning preferences may not be selecting online education as an option.

The paper argues that learning style of online students must be identified so that the instructor can plan appropriate teaching strategies to accommodate individual strengths and needs. The paper has has provided one questionnaire that can be sued to identify the learning style. This seems to be an important contribution of this paper. The paper’s conclusion that students with prevailing auditory learning preferences may not be selecting online education as an option, needs further validation with larger and more representative sample.

Catering to different learning style seems to be an important factor for success of online education.

Saturday, 16 November, 2013

Paper Review: ONLINE LEARNING: A Comparison of Web-Based and Land-Based Courses

Brown, J. L. M. (2012). ONLINE LEARNING: A Comparison of Web-Based and Land-Based Courses. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(1), 39–42,49.

The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in student performance in web-based versus land-based courses. There were three sub-problems:
  1. Why do students choose web-based courses over land-based course?
  2. Is there a difference in the grades of web-based versus land-based courses?
  3. Is there a difference in the retention rate of web-based versus land-based courses?
The study was based on an ex post facto design. The researcher pulled data in year 2010 from past classes (2007-2010) to explore the differences in student performance. Following were the findings:
  1. The average grades were similar.
  2. The web-based was the more popular format.
  3. Land-based courses had a higher retention rate for students.

Using ex post facto design, the researcher has confirmed two commonly known notions: web-based courses are more popular but have more drop-out rate than land-based course. But the student performance doesn’t differ due to different course delivery format, is something that is interesting to note. Perhaps similar study in other contexts would help to confirm findings of this paper.

This paper highlights the need to focus on finding ways to improve retention rate for web-based courses.

Friday, 15 November, 2013

Paper Review: Teaching Accounting Courses Online: One Instructor’s Experience

Dusing, G. M., Hosler, J. C., & Ragan, J. M. (2012). Teaching Accounting Courses Online: One Instructor’s Experience. American Journal of Business Education (AJBE), 5(3), 359-368.

This paper reports experience of delivering accounting courses online at a small liberal arts school. One noteworthy feature of the course design is utilization of STAR scholars for assistance in classroom delivery and for maintaining helpdesk for students. The author has shared following best practices and lessons learned:
  • When preparing an online course, thorough planning becomes the critical first step.
  • Each online course should have a standard look and feel.
  • Synchronous student interaction on a weekly basis was critical.
  • The pace of delivery within an online course must be controlled.
  • Multiple course assessment opportunities are critical in an online environment.
  • Listen to your students throughout the course and respond quickly to questions and problems that may arise.

This paper shares experience (lessons learned and best practices) of delivering an online accounting course. Strictly speaking, it is not a research paper but it is still valuable as it shares field experience, which is useful in building understanding about online education.

The approach described in this paper is very similar to what is being used in MOOC. It is interesting to note that technological tools can be effectively used to create a useful learning experience for students.

Thursday, 14 November, 2013

Paper Review: Online Delivery of Accounting Courses: Student Perceptions

Watters, M. P., & “Jep” Robertson, P. J. (2009). Online Delivery of Accounting Courses: Student Perceptions. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 13(3), 51–57.

The authors taught introductory undergraduate, upper-division undergraduate and graduate accounting courses online using Tegrity Campus 2.0 integrated with a learning management system (WebCT, Angel) to prerecord and publish all course lectures and provide all other course-related content to students in the three accounting courses. Students in the three courses could access the archived video presentations over the Internet or burn the presentations to a CD or a flash memory drive thus allowing students to view the digital videos at any time and as many times as desired. Following were the findings of the survey conducted to understand student perceptions:
  • Students in the undergraduate courses were slightly less enthusiastic about online delivery.
  • Student perception of the effectiveness of online delivery is in some way correlated with factors that lead to higher student success and performance, such as motivation, maturity, intellectual ability, etc.
  • Student perceptions regarding effectiveness are not inconsistent with their performance on course exams.
  • The percentage of students indicating that they believed that they had accepted more responsibility for their own learning was 37% in the introductory course, 21% in the upper-level course, and only 17% in the graduate course.
  • Student responses to the question "What did you like best about the online course" had two main themes: (1) convenience and (2) flexibility and effectiveness.
  • Student responses to the question "What did you like least about the online course" were almost all related to two themes; inability to interact with the professor and fellow students in real-time and technical problems with computer, network, and/or software.
  • All of the graduate students indicated that they would prefer an online course compared with a traditional course. Only 52% of students in the upper-division course and 41% of students in the introductory course indicated that they would definitely select an online course using Tegrity over a traditional course.
The authors have concluded the paper by mentioning that the differences in student "satisfaction" (perceived course effectiveness) noted in the undergraduate and graduate courses may be a function of several factors including educational attainment, age and maturity, motivation, learning experience, learning style, and prior exposure to online teaching. The overall conclusion is that the graduate students were more mature, confident, and motivated with significant prior educational attainment compared with the other students in the study and therefore were better suited for the online delivery of the course.

Though this paper seems to be weak in statistical analysis of data, the authors have shared their wisdom based on experience in this paper. The conclusion drawn in the paper needs more investigation to validate for its general applicability.

Though not supported by rigorous empirical research, authors have identified following determinants for student satisfaction for online learning as educational attainment, age and maturity, motivation, learning experience, learning style, and prior exposure to online teaching. There is research opportunity to test these hypotheses on larger student base.

Wednesday, 13 November, 2013

Paper Review: The making of an exemplary online educator

Edwards, M., Perry, B., & Janzen, K. (2011). The making of an exemplary online educator. Distance Education, 32(1), 101–118.  

This paper reports a descriptive qualitative research study of students' perspectives regarding qualities of exceptional online educators. Twenty three participants in this study provided their descriptive response.They described interactions they had with online teachers they considered exemplary. Modified narrative analysis was used for data analysis. The major themes identified in the study are exemplary online educators as challengers, affirmers and influencers. This paper also compares findings on excellence in online teaching with findings from an earlier study focused on exemplary face-to-face educators. Findings reveal that many strategies used by exemplary educators who teach face to face can be transposed to online teaching environment with similar positive results.

This paper makes use of modified narrative analysis to identify what makes an online educator exemplary. Then it compares its results with results of similar study done for classroom educators. It is not very clear whether such comparison could be valid. Nevertheless the identification of qualities of exemplary online educators is an important contribution that this paper makes.  

Given that online courses are challenged with respect to connect between faculty and students, one would expect that it takes something more on part of online educator to be an exemplary. It seems more investigation would be needed in this area.