Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wherefore Art Thou, Workshop?

Pain and strain... Lack of sleep... Equipment malfunctions... Friends in the crowd hee-haw-ing at you... A nightmare? Well, sort of. I just planned and conducted my first workshop.

Susan and Dana, is it always like this?

The short version. We at the AZ SMB UG have been discussing the viability and subjects for Saturday training workshops, but had not had any recently. I have used ShadowProtect from StorageCraft and knew there was a new HIR version coming out. Storagecraft agreed to go through the beta version with some select IT guys. So, I volunteered to plan a workshop to facilitate putting the "squeeze" on the product beta. Sorry, I can't tell you what HIR stands for. That's why they call it a Non Disclosure Agreement (if you aren't Dis-close-tur the meeting, we Agree you get Non of the information, yuk, yuk).

What goes wrong when you plan a workshop? Quite alot. Clients suddenly want service, equipment doesn't get completely prepped, the equipment I supplied did not have the specs I thought they did, Virtual Server admin page cannot be displayed, etc. Griping, embarrassed, humiliated. Well, I can just get up again and do better next time.

Actually, though my high plans did not get accomplished, work did get done at the workshop, peer networking occurred, and other topics of interest got covered. :)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Importance of the Small Business Specialist

Why is it important for a computer consultant to become an SBSC? Does it say anything about the consultant that takes the time to earn the certification and recognizable from Microsoft? Darn toot'n.

From the start, the SBSC program at Microsoft is "different" than their other certifications. A good portion of the test is on "right-sizing" the technology solution to the client size and technical savvy. In doing so, Microsoft generated a "filter" to sift out the serious Microsoft oriented independent computer consultant from the have beens, hobbyists, stales, and incompetents. Am I saying that all SBSCs are competent and all non SBSCs are not? NO! If we relate computer techs to mechanics, I would use a repair shop with a AAA sticker in the window as I have confidence in the AAA (RAC in UK) to monitor and only recommend shops that have a good reputation. In the same way, the SBSC designation is an indicator of quality to the small business community.

I was just listening to a conference call on the subject of "The Benefits of Hiring a Small Business Specialist". A number things were brought up that characterize your average SBSC. 1) An SBSC will work to improve their technical skills. 2) SBSC's will partner with other competent IT professionals that have expertise in areas that the SBSC may not. rather than trying to "fake it" through something they don't know. 3) SBSC's have the health and welfare of the client's business at heart, recommending appropriate technology. What more reason does anyone need to hire an SBSC?

There may well be additional monetary benefits soon.
Eric Ligman put on an excellent webcast yesterday about Microsoft's strategy with the retail chains. There are programs coming that will allow the retail chains to partner with SBSC's to roll out technology projects to small business clients. Vlad has an excellent recap of the webcast. It is refreshing to see Microsoft trying to be a "rainmaker" between its partners and the big box retailers. There is a catch, though. Only consultants that are at least an SBSC will be invited to participate.

With so much benefit to being an SBSC, why would any computer consultant working with Microsoft technology not strive to become one. Additionally, why would any business looking for computer help not hire one? There are still mysteries in this world...