Thursday, February 20, 2020

Google Users in the UK to fall under US, not EU data protection rules

According to Reuters, Google is planning to move its British users' accounts out of the control of European Union privacy regulators, placing them under U.S. jurisdiction instead:
The shift, prompted by Britain's exit from the EU, will leave the sensitive personal information of tens of millions with less protection and within easier reach of British law enforcement. The change was described to Reuters by three people familiar with its plans. Google intends to require its British users to acknowledge new terms of service including the new jurisdiction.
Ireland, where Google and other U.S. tech companies have their European headquarters, is staying in the EU, which has one of the world's most aggressive data protection rules, the General Data Protection Regulation. Google has decided to move its British users out of Irish jurisdiction because it is unclear whether Britain will follow GDPR or adopt other rules that could affect the handling of user data, the people said. If British Google users have their data kept in Ireland, it would be more difficult for British authorities to recover it in criminal investigations.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It Might Be a Good Time to Consider More Remote Workers

Worried about the heath implications of spreading contagions? Or maybe you are just seeking to bolster your team with a more geographically dispersed workforce.

My advice is to manage remote workers by focusing on accomplishments, outcomes, and goals rather than just workflow. Of course, you still need to put place those processes — repeatable processes are the key to continuous improvement. But micromanagement of off-site personnel will hamper productivity.

Plan for remote interactions at the outset: email, texts, conference calls, slack or other chat services. One difference between face-to-face communication and communication via email and chat is that it is difficult to determine a person's intent from electronic communication because there is no tone or facial expression to provide context. When face-to-face, you are absorbing body language and facial expression. Humans understand a lot from those cues — as much or more than verbally.

Both employees and managers should resist the impulse to overanalyze every word in every message and to read negative intent into brief replies.

Pro tip: set office hours a few days a month when everyone is in the same place at the same time — overlapping time zone differences.

Finally, by cognizant of the need to intentional facilitate productivity boosts through trust, as well as cultivating opportunities for personal interaction.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Want to Stop a Pandemic? Start with Flying

For an excellent analysis of aviation's response to the ongoing Wuhan Novel Coronavirus problem, we read at Lexology:
A large number of international airlines have suspended their flights to mainland China. Those airlines which are still flying have allowed cabin crew to wear face masks, and crew layover time has been reduced or ended altogether. Some airlines have also modified their in-flight services, for instance by no longer providing pillows or blankets, suspending duty-free sales, and changing the nature of meal service.
Based on experience from previous epidemics, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has produced an Emergency Response Plan for use by airlines in the event of a public health emergency. Although a number of airlines do have an emergency response plan to deal with public health emergencies, the template Emergency Response Plan has been issued by IATA for those airlines that do not. It details the roles and responsibilities of the emergency response team, along with specific checklists to be adopted.
In relation to suspected communicable disease generally, IATA has also issued various best practice guidelines for airline employees and agents. These cover, for example:
  • Cabin crew: setting out how to identify passengers with a suspected communicable disease, and the actions to take once such a person is identified. These include informing the Captain, who is required to report the suspected case to air traffic control under international regulations. Similar guidance for cabin crew has been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection, which has also issued recent recommendations for dealing with the 2019-nCov virus.
  • Cleaning crew: setting out the procedures to follow to clean and disinfect an arriving aircraft with a suspected case of communicable disease.
  • Cargo and baggage handlers: drawing on previous experience with SARS, avian flu and Ebola, this guideline notes that there is no evidence that these infections could be transmitted by cargo or baggage handling. Although it recommends proper hand hygiene, no specific measures are advised.
  • Guidance has also been issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), who issued a Safety Information Bulletin on 27 January 2020. EASA recommended that airlines provide information to crew members as to how to identify and manage a case of acute respiratory infection on board an aircraft. It also recommended that airlines performing passenger flights to or from affected countries should be equipped with protection kits for crew members assisting with potentially infectious cases. In addition, the Bulletin calls upon airlines and airport operators to collaborate as much as possible with public health authorities, in order to provide support in tracing passengers in the event of flights where 2019-nCov infection has been confirmed.
As far as airports are concerned, the responsibility for managing the risk of communicable diseases at airports rests with both national and local public health authorities and the relevant airport operator. 

As of Feb 6, 2020, the WSJ is writing: "World Health Authorities Warn Virus Hasn’t Peaked After China’s Deadliest Day - Death toll in country now stands at 636, with more than 31,000 cases."

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Uncool and Hard, But Worth It

So the Real-World Quadrant Q1 2020 has come out... showing my chosen path (service oriented architecture, SOA) as in the uncool/hard quadrant. I've never shied away from hard work, when the payoff can be worth it. And that's the case with SOA. SOA is an architectural approach to make (often already implemented) services available in an agnostic format to consumers (where consumer is some other IT process).

From the perspective of reusability, SOA makes perfect sense. But it isn't the answer, always. I like to think of SOA as a way to think about applications and the way they interact with other business processes. If these processes work in concert, that can be an avenue for extra value. Now if doing that doesnt gain any business value, then other models might make more sense. The key is to look forward, and do the hard (and uncool) work.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

How do I write better proposals?

Not long ago, I was asked by a client what my "secret sauce" for writing great proposals is. I thought about it, and realized there is no secret! Writing clearly is the first step. The second is applying tried-and-true techniques picked up from being a magazine journalist, a technical author, and, yes, even a poet.

After more than 20 years in the business, I have found that if I'm writing regularly about technology, management, and other topics, it makes sense to get hands-on. As a technologist and management consultant, I am able to incorporate my expertise into technical responses. Here is a snapshot of my approach to making a technical response stand out:  

I build an accurate "fact bank," a series of statements describing the company and its past performances. Before I start filling in the bullets from the "pink" version of the technical response, I go through source material for the company and write down 5-10 sentences that precisely describe the successes of the firm, how the team works, major features of our solution, and how those features translate into important benefits. During on-going review, Workbench notifies the client, so that they review the "fact bank" and make any necessary corrections, additions, or deletions. After they do that, I incorporate their edits. Now I have the body of pre-approved content I use to construct the technical response, and I know what I'm writing is factually accurate. The clients is able to review drafts, stored in the document management tab in Workbench, knowing a draft addresses the PWS/SOW in a compelling way that's on the mark.

When I'm chasing content on subjects I am not personally expert in, I do three things:

  • I do basic research into the topic. For example, when addressing a requirement to assess IOT vulnerabilities, I found a library of white papers from IBM that provided the meat-and-potatoes of a technical model. IBM's approach, available under Creative Commons license, is a sensible one that knowledgable staff can implement.
  • I interview subject matter experts (SMEs) within the organization. When I was tasked with writing a response for Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) to design and implement a processing center, I could write authoritatively about the IT systems requirements. But for the architectural aspects, I contacted the teaming partner, a building design firm in Texas, to interview one of their senior architects on an optimized design approach. I incorporated that information into the overall winning response.
  • Finally, I ask the client for PowerPoints from their engineering team. Having been one, I know engineers in particular tend to be visually oriented, and it benefits the response to have visuals to accompany technical copy. The "meat" of an idea can be extracted from the visual -- then I write a clear, descriptive caption for it. Translating ideas from a visual into text helps everyone understand technical concepts.

On the subject of capturing information from SMEs, I often conduct interviews over the phone. But occasionally I get SMEs who prefer to express themselves other than verbally. In those cases, I offer to email them questions so they can email me their replies. Often those people with technical aptitude may not speak English as a first language, but can compose emails well enough. If responses are unclear, I rewrite them in plain English and then reply back with my rewrite for review. Usually the SME makes a few minor edits, and after that, I can move forward incorporating into the larger technical response.

Not rocket science, and perhaps Mr Herger, my 11th grade English teacher at Good Counsel, might recommend a few more tips. But this is a good start on drafting technical proposals that stand out.