Quite often, I tell people to look for others who are doing things similar to what they are doing or would like to be doing. I tell them to take that person’s business card and keep in-touch. Along the way, you might be able to help each other. Some of these people will be working with the same software, others will be in a similar business or work situation to you.
As you probably know, this is what I do. My company is small and small companies happen to be more likely to do this as they have fewer resources — we make up for that by knowing where to find people and information. Sometimes, people will be surprised at the things I can find out or know about running my business, the products I work with, and a variety of other things. Part of this has to do with my persistent nature and the fact that, when I want to find something out, I don’t give up on getting the details until I’ve exhausted every idea. Another part of this is that I just happen to know enough people to help me get those answers.
Quite often over the years I’ve had my business, I’ve gotten help and ideas from the other small businesses I know. While many large businesses have helped me, too, and I don’t want to make it sound as if I don’t value that, it is usually mainly the smaller companies who network with each other. When I have a new marketing idea, I tend to pass it by my cronies just to get some kind of reaction and ideas. If they want to put together a new business plan, they might pass it by me to see if I run across anything that is missing or that isn’t explained well. This type of activity goes on quite regularly among us. Few weeks go by that I don’t have at least one of these types of contacts.
That brings me to my next blog post. As it happens, one of the people I keep up with is John Avellanet of Cerulean Associates LLC, a compliance company (http://www.ceruleanllc.com/). By the way, some of you might have heard John’s name before as his company produces the “Smarter Compliance” newsletter. If you’re interested in reading it, I’ve been given permission by John to invite you to download a complimentary issue at this link: http://www.ceruleanllc.com/resources/cbcb6613/. This is only for the current issue, so if you do not download before the next issue comes out, I think this might expire. But if you miss this link, you can just subscribe, right? ;-)
Anyway, it so happens I’d been thinking about what to blog about. I realize I’ve been letting a couple weeks go between posts when I’m busy and I don’t like to let too much time go by as I don’t want anyone to think I’ve given up the blog. At the same time, John and I were catching-up on some business discussions we’d be having. At the end of our discussions, John happened to mention that he was so busy that he would like to hear any thoughts I had on work/life balance. So, I thought about it and wrote up a number of tips I’d gotten over the years that have worked for me.
His response was more than just a “thank you” — he immediately told me I should share this in a blog posting (helping me with my own problem at that moment) and even gave a target audience for it. And, in fact, that is in the spirit of the network of people we belong to — that we are looking to share these thoughts to help others as those who helped us have done. I dedicate the next post to John and also thank him for making it an obvious thing for me to do. Sometimes, that’s just the little push each of us needs.
Within the past few months, I had noticed there was a huge SampleManager resource crunch and many of those of us who talk about it have wondered if this is a long-term shortage. At the same time, the entire laboratory informatics industry seems busy.
SampleManager Resource Crunch Comments
The number of SampleManager-related contacts I’ve been getting has dropped, significantly, since I initially wrote about the potential resource crunch. There could be any number of reasons for that. Some projects probably filled their needs. Other projects probably realized that there are very few consultants available and either decided to try to hire someone and/or to train someone in SampleManager.
However, what I have found is that those projects who decide they need someone full-time and/or on-site at the outset seldom change their mind. Most of the smaller projects I work on, remotely, were already ready to do that when they contacted me. Thus, those projects that I suggested that to that didn’t have that thought already in-mind will probably never consider it. It has been my experience that when a project is marked as full-time and/or on-site in a resource requisition that they do not change. In this case, when I say I’ve “never” seen it happen, I really do mean “never.” I won’t say that it’s not possible that it could happen but, as of yet, have never seen it.
So, regarding the concept some of us have discussed, where larger projects would book a steady stream of a smaller number of hours, I haven’t yet seem that happen. For example, some projects were discussing possibly getting 10 hours/week from now until the end of the year, in order to make at least some amount of progress in the event they really don’t find the full-time on-site resources they are looking for, but none have actually taken that step, yet.
Overall, though, while there are still people looking for SampleManager resources and things are still tight, I don’t know that it’s particularly severe. Instead, I would merely say this is a busy year for SampleManager.
Along with that, I seem to find everyone is busy, this year. At this point, I no longer necessarily think it’s specific to SampleManager, although I’d say that possibly the upswing for SampleManager does seem somewhat stronger than upswings in other areas.
Personally, I just turned down an invitation to be a media partner at the IQPC ELN conference because I’d rather do customer work while things are so busy. I’ve been turning down everything except smaller projects, for now, as I just can’t fit-in huge amounts of work. For example, I still don’t have a single week in 2013 where I could give a new customer 40 hours and travel to their site.
The smaller projects keep dribbling in so I, like many others in the industry, know that you take the work when it comes because you make up for the slow years in the busy years as much as you possibly can.
The larger projects are waiting so long to try getting their work done via smaller increments that, unless they decide to do that fairly soon, they will lose out to all the smaller projects that are taking this opportunity to get some real attention.
In my last blog post, I gave a link to my May newsletter article on the “brain dump” which is where technical people fall into dumping all their technical knowledge onto unsuspecting bystanders. Part of that is the fact that they use technical words instead of common language and, in the end, users don’t understand what they’re saying. That last blog post is at this link: http://wp.me/pyRVq-wK
Ironically, I just received an e-mail from a customer asking a group of us to be more cautious about this. The customer’s users have mentioned that the technical people are giving too much technical information and speaking too technically, overall. Since this message was sent to the entire group that is working on the technical solution, I know it is not just personally meant for me. On the other hand, I’m just as liable to fall into this as the next person. Sometimes, even for those of us aware of the issue and who work to communicate in better ways with all those they work with, it is still possible to fall into this trap.
One specific area that is quite tricky is the issue of terminology. Within various products and areas of our industry, there are certain words we use to describe what we’re doing. Sometimes, the software we work with has specific words used for its various parts. However, when we work with users, especially those new to a specific piece of software, they might not understand those terms. It’s up to us to find ways to describe what we’re doing that gives them the right picture so that they can understand. Otherwise, their acceptance (or non-acceptance) is meaningless. If they don’t understand what they’re accepting or rejecting, we will end up revisiting the issue yet again.
The other day, I found myself talking about “phrases” and I got the impression that that wasn’t the way to get my vision across to the users I was working with. I do also have pictures I’ve created to show them what I’m proposing we do. However, when I explained the pictures, I told them the pictures were full of “phrases” which has a specific meaning in the software we’re using but which I’m not sure what particularly descriptive to them. Thus, I must probably find a new way to describe my pictures. My pictures are apparently not quite worth 1000 words, after all, as they seem to need some amount of explanation.
In the end, no matter how much you work at this, each group of users will have different terminology, different backgrounds and different ways of understanding what you’re saying. Too often, what they hear isn’t what you meant. The trick is to always pay close attention in order to pick up on this so that you can try to address the issue. This is where experience comes in. Anyone at any level can become a better listener but, until you’ve practiced it for awhile, it’s not that easy to pick up on the nuances.
In this month’s newsletter, the article focused on “The Brain Dump” that we technical people like to do, where we force lots of technical information on unsuspecting bystanders:
I happen to have a side interest in predictive analytics, which is a way of using numbers to make predictions. Those of you who regularly read my blog and newsletter probably already know that I am not keen on statistics, as they’re so often misused or used as ways to lie to us to try to force us believe things that aren’t actually true. As such, this idea that we can use numbers to predict something fascinates me, but I should add that the study of predictive analytics does use some statistics, as well as other tools.
I’m fascinated partly because it’s something I should know about for my business, but probably more because I wonder if it will end up being used to mislead us just as statistics currently are. Are we sensible practical people or will be be pulled-in by those using it as a simple crystal ball?
Who Knows and Uses This Information?
It is often the small companies like mine that figure out these new types of tools and strategies, first. We read articles and we tell each other about these things. We don’t have to ask permission to try them out. Once the large companies discover some of these things, they have more resources to create departments around them and explore them in more depth. So, when I speak with large companies about these types of topics, they tend to react in various ways. Some don’t want to speak with me on the topic because, “Gloria, your company is so small that you just don’t know anything about anything?!” or because they’re just not doing this type of thing, yet.
When I’m talking about the larger companies that I sometimes discuss this type of thing with, I’m partly doing it just to see how many companies are getting into using predictive analytics. I ask partly just because I’m curious, more than anything else. The types of companies I speak with includes software vendors, services vendors and periodicals that are related to our own industry, mainly, although I occasionally speak with companies truly outside our industry. The responses I get from these companies tend to be similar regardless which category they fall into.
Recently, though, I’m starting to see that the larger companies are probably starting to use some of this. But there are still those that don’t seem to have realized there is anything like this around. First of all, while I’m interested in this, I will admit right here that I’m no expert and what I do for my own business in this respect is rather limited. With that said, here are the two most recent related conversations I had with some relatively large companies in two different categories (software, service, periodical):
For one example, I happened to be in-contact with one of these large companies about an unrelated topic and we started talking about predicting behavior which was a slightly related tangent to the main conversation. It wasn’t terribly in-depth because we were both in a hurry, but we had a conversation that left me positive that this company was working this type of thing because they knew what I was talking about and actually had a discussion with me on the topic.
The flip side, and my second example, is that I was in-contact with someone from an entirely different large company. In it, the person made a statement that both included a number and was just obviously wrong . I responded to the person that he should be more careful about writing to the public (I was referring to myself) with statements like this because so many of us in laboratory informatics are analytical types who would immediately pick this apart. I gave an example of how the numbers wouldn’t support the statement. In return, he was quite angry with with me. However, while the person wasn’t in Marketing, I made the mistake of thinking that I was in-contact with another numbers-type person, which turned out not to be the case. In this instance, I misjudged my audience. However, I still did learn something.
My point is that some, but clearly not all, of the large companies are now starting to understand that this isn’t all just some voodoo, and that it’s probably just a matter of time before they all are doing it and it’s a more common practice.
Change always happens. Small companies like mine gain an advantage by being nimble and holding onto whatever the latest useful tools are but the large ones always catch-up, forcing the little companies to find yet another advantage. With regard to predictive analytics, that curve is called the “Adoption Curve” and I like this one partly because it’s in color, partly because it shows the chasm of innovation from the classic book “Crossing the Chasm”
While this latest edition was published in 2006, this classic book was originally published in the 1990′s. In any case, here the curve:
However, the fact that it comes from Rogers or has numbers assigned to it can be ignored for the purposes of this discussion.
As I occasionally do, I’m writing a post based on a search phrase someone used to get to my blog. Today’s phrase is: ”tips & tricks for labware lims”
Here’s what this is about, for those of you who don’t immediately know what this is: before LabWare LIMS got some of the tools together that they now use, we used to keep a “Tips & Tricks” document. It was just something like a Microsoft Word document. Yes, that’s how little was really in there, that it was kept as a document rather than a database. However, at the time, it was kind of a big deal. After all, when you have nothing, every little something helps. Additionally, I don’t think it was given to everyone, so those of us who were given that document felt privileged and also just a little more secure that our questions might get answered when we needed help because that document was the only place some of us had to find answers in the days when there were EXTREMELY few people to ask.
It did cover the tricky little things that drive people crazy. For example, in LIMS Basic, when you want to prompt the user a list you’ve built but to use a default value, it’s not obvious to a lot of people how to set your array up for this to work. Thus, these types of tips saved a lot of frustration.
You can imagine that that was at a time when the LabWare LIMS was much tinier than it currently is. In modern times, the LabWare LIMS has automation scripts, programming everywhere, modules for everything, but that was not the case in the days of the “Tips & Tricks” document.
These days, I don’t even know if that document is still around but you can get more information just about any other way than to use it. If you are a licensed LabWare LIMS user or a LabWare LIMS partner, you have access to the LabWare LIMS private tools. For the rest of us, we will make do by staying close with the other experts we know and being generous when they need something, as well. Alternately, we will post our questions to the public forums that are available to us, sometimes using several to get a complete answer. Remember that even the experts don’t know everything so don’t be surprised when you see one of us post.
Bottom Line: don’t bother checking the internet for that document. LabWare wouldn’t have posted it to a public site, for one, but there are much better tools any way you look at it.