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    2 Replies Latest reply on Jan 5, 2014 9:42 AM by Moderator Melinda

    Haircuts and IT

    chicagocio Scout

      I was 13, on my porch, bored, and holding still mom was cutting my hair.  Then she said something dreadful:  "Oops." That was the last time I didn't have a professional do my hair.  You would think visiting a professional would solve that problem.  However, my quest for a good haircut didn't end there.  It seems professionals don't all have the same skill level and I'm finicky about my hair.  It's Chicago winter and I refuse to wear a cap over the top of my head because I can't stand hat hair.  Tonight the lady cutting my hair had trouble doing what I wanted.  She was obviously new and a bit inexperienced.  Over the years I've learned a bit about what the good stylists did.  So I started helping her.  I don't do hair but I do know how to set things up so I can watch my hair take shape and help point things out to her as she goes along. The result was good hair. The other result is that I don't have to organize my life around the great stylists' schedules in order to be sure I get the hair that I need.  Any store, any time, any stylist...I get good hair.


      It's like that with IT.  You can go out and hire web developers, programmers, graphic designers, etc. but you aren't always getting the best when you do this.  I know how to tell what competencies these professionals have.  And I use that knowledge to customize the strategy for the needs of the clients I serve (the "Business").  There's no replacement for skill and experience, but being able to work with what you have is a business survival tactic.  To be honest, I fear for small businesses out there hiring help based on a candidate's portfolio or resume and assuming that they also have competency to keep a project on time, on budget, and of sufficient quality.  It's not even safe hiring off of good reviews.  Reviews must be taken with a grain of salt since people have varying tolerance levels for lateness, cost, and compromise.  Their 4 stars and your 4 stars might not be the same.


      If you have IT needs and don't want your business to have a bad hair day, you can start here. But, if you don't want to click a link, here are some quick tips on getting the most out of your IT help.


      1. Don't keep changing or adding to your requirements.  I don't move my head around when they cut my hair and it's the same thing.  Work out a specific set of needs and then stick to it.

      2.  Ask about their experience on estimating.  Have they had to estimate before on a schedule and then stick to it?  A lot of freelancers like to work on their own clock.  Look for ones that have experience working for an employer or make sure the freelancer can tell you how they make sure a project finishes on time.

      3. Constantly monitor that what you want (or need) is worth the trouble and cost. Consulting companies and freelancers often have a customer-centric approach which has the downside of saying 'yes' to everything you ask for even if the ROI is questionable.  So, as you work on your requirements, solicit their opinions on complexity so that you can evaluate whether it's worth doing.  Itemize your requirements and prioritize them so you can get complexity feedback then scratch those that don't seem like they are worth the trouble.

      4. Watch out for your assumptions.  If you don't see it in writing in the contract then it likely won't be done.  If you don't have a lot of experience giving requirements to technical people, you should really reach out to someone like me (i.e. someone with business IT experience). But, if not, then remember that they will give you statements of work that are pretty literal.  If you don't see verbiage specific to something that you want, ask about it.  Computers do only what you tell them... nothing more and nothing less.  Practitioners of computers tend to act the same way.  What you don't want is to receive a work order and then get broadsided when what's delivered isn't what you expected.


      Feel free to share experiences and other lessons learned!


        • Re: Haircuts and IT

          Great article Chicagocio. This is good advice for someone who has no clue where to turn and doesn't know anyone in the profession to ask. Starting from scratch can be horrifying when something as important as IT comes up with your own business.


          I took a totally different approach when I needed something for my own business. When we decided to start our own business, the first thing I did was research. I spent months collecting information from other business owners (and not necessarily in our field) and asking MANY questions. Every business needs a great accountant, marketing specialist, IT personal, insurance agent, etc...I spent months asking personal friends, forums (much like this one), associations, retired businessmen, township officials and even complete strangers who generously revealed their business experiences with me. It's been over 13 years that I have had my own company and have found that the best, competent service has almost always come from word of mouth. Ironically speaking, my own business is based on word of mouth.


          As a woman, I would NEVER sit in an inexperienced hairstylist chair for fear of that horrible hair, without watching other clients leave first. As a business owner, my advice is the same.



            • Re: Haircuts and IT
              chicagocio Scout

              Melinda, it has been my experience that word of mouth is exactly how most people choose people in my profession. And when you are able to tap your network and do the research in a timely fashion and it nets you the professionalism and skill set you need then it works well. You were able to do so and I think it lends credence to why 13 years later you are still up and running. To follow the hair metaphor I hadn't the opportunity or time to observe others leave the salon and any rate it turns out a stylist can do some hair styles well and others not so well. If I was watching previous customers leave, would I be able to judge?  Much better than nothing for sure, but also not necessarily a panacea.  Information technology can present the same conundrum.  The referrals have limited value if customization is the name of the game.  Your business needs may not necessarily be what that professional has done before.  He or she may be inclined to solve for that by fitting what you need into what they've done before instead of the other way around.  So I've been offering clients the ability to have someone else run the projects even if I don't actually do the work.  This way you have one party to do the work, another party to make sure it's on budget, on time, and at the quality needed. If the IT professional doesn't get things done as expected, then the other doesn't get paid.  It's a separation of powers sort of thing and a way to move forward when word of mouth nets you nothing or no one you can be sure can do the work. It's like getting an experienced stylist with practical experience doing hair, running salons, hiring stylists to find the right place and the right person for your hair without you doing a ton of research or rolling the dice with whatever salon you walk into.