Posts Tagged 'Organization'

January 10, 2013

Web Development - JavaScript Packaging

If you think of JavaScript as the ugly duckling of programming languages, think again! It got a bad rap in the earlier days of the web because developers knew enough just to get by but didn't really respect it like they did Java, PHP or .Net. Like other well-known and heavily used languages, JavaScript contains various data types (String, Boolean, Number, etc.), objects and functions, and it is even capable of inheritance. Unfortunately, that functionality is often overlooked, and many developers seem to implement it as an afterthought: "Oh, we need to add some neat jQuery effects over there? I'll just throw some inline JavaScript here." That kind of implementation perpetuates a stereotype that JavaScript code is unorganized and difficult to maintain, but it doesn't have to be! I'm going to show you how easy it is to maintain and organize your code base by packaging your JavaScript classes into a single file to be included with your website.

There are a few things to cover before we jump into code:

  1. JavaScript Framework - Mootools is my framework of choice, but you can use whatever JavaScript framework you'd like.
  2. Classes - Because I see JavaScript as another programming language that I respect (and is capable of object-oriented-like design), I write classes for EVERYTHING. Don't think of your JavaScript code as something you use once and throw away. Write your code to be generic enough to be reused wherever it's placed. Object-oriented design is great for this! Mootools makes object-oriented design easy to do, so this point reinforces the point above.
  3. Class Files - Just like you'd organize your PHP to contain one class per file, I do the exact same thing with JavaScript. Note: Each of the class files in the example below uses the class name appended with .js.
  4. Namespacing - I will be organizing my classes in a way that will only add a single property — PT — to the global namespace. I won't get into the details of namespacing in this blog because I'm sure you're already thinking, "The code! The code! Get on with it!" You can namespace whatever is right for your situation.

For this example, our classes will be food-themed because ... well ... I enjoy food. Let's get started by creating our base object:

/*
---
name: PT
description: The base class for all the custom classes
authors: [Philip Thompson]
provides: [PT]
...
*/
var PT = {};

We now have an empty object from which we'll build all of our classes. We'll go I will go into more details later about the comment section, but let's build our first class: PT.Ham.

/*
---
name: PT.Ham
description: The ham class
authors: [Philip Thompson]
requires: [/PT]
provides: [PT.Ham]
...
*/
 
(function() {
    PT.Ham = new Class({
        // Custom code here...
    });
}());

As I mentioned in point three (above), PT.Ham should be saved in the file named PT.Ham.js. When we create second class, PT.Pineapple, we'll store it in PT.Pineapple.js:

/*
---
name: PT.Pineapple
description: The pineapple class
authors: [Philip Thompson]
requires: [/PT]
provides: [PT.Pineapple]
...
*/
 
(function() {
    PT.Pineapple = new Class({
        // Custom code here...
    });
}());

Our final class for this example will be PT.Pizza (I'll let you guess the name of the file where PT.Pizza lives). Our PT.Pizza class will require that PT, PT.Ham and PT.Pineapple be present.

/*
---
name: PT.Pizza
description: The pizza class
authors: [Philip Thompson]
requires: [/PT, /PT.Ham, /PT.Pineapple]
provides: [PT.Pizza]
...
*/
 
(function() {
    PT.Pizza = new Class({
        // Custom code here that uses PT.Ham and PT.Pineapple...
    });
}());

Before we go any further, let's check out the comments we include above each of the classes. The comments are formatted for YAML — YAML Ain't Markup Language (you gotta love recursive acronyms). These comments allow our parser to determine how our classes are related, and they help resolve dependencies. YAML's pretty easy to learn and you only need to know a few basic features to use it. The YAML comments in this example are essential for our JavaScript package-manager — Packager. I won't go into all the details about Packager, but simply mention a few commands that we'll need to build our single JavaScript file.

In addition to the YAML comments in each of the class files, we also need to create a YAML file that will organize our code. This file — package.yml for this example — is used to load our separate JavaScript classes:

name: "PT"
description: "Provides our fancy PT classes"
authors: "[Philip Thompson]"
version: "1.0.0"
sources:
    - js/PT.js
    - js/PT.Ham.js
    - js/PT.Pineapple.js
    - js/PT.Pizza.js

package.yml shows that all of our PT* files are located in the js directory, one directory up from the package.yml file. Some of the properties in the YAML file are optional, and you can add much more detail if you'd like, but this will get the job done for our purposes.

Now we're ready to turn back to Packager to build our packaged file. Packager includes an option to use PHP, but we're just going to do it command-line. First, we need to register the new package (package.yml) we created for PT. If our JavaScript files are located in /path/to/web/directory/js, the package.yml file is in /path/to/web/directory:

./packager register /path/to/web/directory

This finds our package.yml file and registers our PT package. Now that we have our package registered, we can build it:

./packager build * > /path/to/web/directory/js/PT.all.js

The Packager sees that our PT package is registered, so it looks at each of the individual class files to build a single large file. In the comments of each of the class files, it determines if there are dependencies and warns you if any are not found.

It might seem like a lot of work when it's written out like this, but I can assure you that when you go through the process, it takes no time at all. The huge benefit of packaging our JavaScript is evident as soon as you start incorporating those JavaScript classes into your website ... Because we have built all of our class files into a single file, we don't need to include each of the individual JavaScript files into our website (much less include the inline JavaScript declarations that make you cringe). To streamline your implementation even further if you're using your JavaScript package in a production deployment, I recommend that you "minify" your code as well.

See ... Organized code is no longer just for server-side only languages. Treat your JavaScript kindly, and it will be your friend!

Happy coding!

-Philip

January 30, 2012

Three Bars for Life

Working at SoftLayer has its perks, and one of my favorite perks to enjoy over the last three years is the ability to use a week and a half of my vacation time to travel over to Hawaii. I normally visit the Lahaina area on Maui, as I have family over there that operate Lahaina Family Farms. This year, I was able to help them plant hundreds of vetevir plants for irrigation control ... And I also found myself getting a new tattoo.

Before I go any further, I should probably back up and talk about how unique the SoftLayer culture is. In 2010, a few of the SLayers in Dallas got SoftLayer-sponsored tattoos from an artist that visited our headquarters. We have a Facebook album of SoftLayer tattoos that features some of that ink.

I work in SoftLayer's Seattle facility, so I wasn't able to join in on the fun in the Dallas office, but Lance extended the offer to anyone in the company that wanted to get a tattoo. As one of the few guys in Washington that has any ink on my body, I said that if the unofficial SoftLayer tattoo artist would come to Seattle for us, I'd get it done. There wasn't enough demand to justify a trip from Texas, but Lance said I could expense it if I wanted to join the club ... The only requirement was that the tattoo had to incorporate SoftLayer in some way.

I had a few ideas, but nothing struck me as a perfect design for SoftLayer Seattle. When I was in Lahaina, I stopped by and visited Tony, a tattoo artist at Skin Deep Tattoo who did a cover up for me a few years ago. He asked me how work was going, and I started telling him about how much I loved SoftLayer's culture and how the company has grown so substantially in just a few short years ... And he was impressed that we've added eleven more data centers on three different continents in the four years since we expanded from Dallas into Seattle.

I told him about Lance's tattoo offer, and we came up with this amazing SoftLayer Seattle design:

Sehmel Tattoo

I know it's a little crazy to get a work-inspired tattoo, but there aren't many places where you hear people saying things like "Three Bars for Life!" as you walk through the office ... I've just taken "Three Bars for Life" a little more literally in the form of a permanent tattoo. I've had a wonderful last four years, and can't wait for the many more to come.

3BFL!

-Bill

P.S. If you don't love the company you work for this much, you can always join the SoftLayer team. We're growing like crazy, and we're looking to add a lot of SLayers to the crew.

Categories: 
January 11, 2012

blue dog NETWORK: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from blue dog NETWORK about Hosted Sharepoint. blue dog NETWORK customers are realizing the results that every business wants from their information technology: intelligence, simplicity, and security. They get peace of mind and the agility to add or subtract users or services with just a click 24/7 at a cost savings of 30-50% over current IT services. blue dog NETWORK makes IT an operating expense, and from a financial and business management perspective, the implications are powerful.

EMPOWER your organization with Hosted SharePoint

SharePoint is the next generation of mobility and collaboration. Having access to a calendar or mailbox is one thing, empowering your organization to have all the content, communication, process management and flexibility needed to rapidly respond to business or customer needs is a goldmine ... One that is a simple click away.

Managing documents, calendars and inter-office information can be difficult. Documents get lost, version control is virtually non-existent and daily business functions that can be easily managed often get out of control. The capabilities of SharePoint 2010 work together to help your company quickly respond to changing business needs on an organizational rather than user level.

Using SharePoint 2010, your people can share ideas and expertise, create custom solutions for specific needs, and find the right business information to make better decisions without the requirement of costly technical expertise. SharePoint 2010 helps save time and effort, and focus on higher business priorities.

At blue dog NETWORK, we've found that our least technical clients quickly and with ease adopted Sharepoint as a mainstay for their diverse organizations. It really is the next generation of collaboration that has finally matured enough and is presented in a web interface whose simplicity meets end users' needs without training and learning curves. The two biggest Sharepoint benefits for them: An incredible productivity experience and the flexibility (and visibility) to respond to business needs.

Delivering the Best Productivity Experience
SharePoint 2010 helps your people be more productive. It offers a familiar Microsoft Office experience so your team can quickly and easily access the business information they need to get their jobs done. With blue dog NETWORK, this is available on any device with Internet connectivity (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphones, etc.) on Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix operating systems.

Rapidly Responding to Business Needs
SharePoint 2010 gives you out-of-the-box applications and a platform for customized solutions. You can use the features of SharePoint 2010 just as they are or quickly create secure and easy-to-use solutions for specific business needs. Because all of your information is consolidated in Sharepoint, you also have a one-stop place to track the progress of your projects, and if there are any problems, you'll see them quickly (so you can respond quickly).

Given the success many of our customers have seen with Sharepoint, I could go on and on about the business benefits of the platform. If you want to learn more, check out the details on our listing in the Tech Partners Marketplace. If you want to see a demo of Sharepoint 2010, visit our blue dog NETWORK Sharepoint feature and click "view demo" toward the bottom of the page on the right-hand side.

As Kevin and I talked about in the video interview above, blue dog NETWORK does a lot more than Hosted Sharepoint ... We offer all flavors of hosting for the end users, MSP and ISVs with White Labeling for resale. Given the demand for Sharepoint, we wanted to use this space to share a little of our expertise and experience with that platform.

Woof!

-Dana Viznea, blue dog NETWORK

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
Categories: 
December 22, 2011

Serving and Supporting - Outside the Data Center

On Tuesday, Summer posted "Giving: Better Than Receiving," a blog about all of the organizations SoftLayer has supported in 2011, and I'm one of the lucky SLayers on the new Charity Committee. We recently began this initiative to oversee charitable donations at SoftLayer and (more importantly) to encourage all employees to step-up and make a DIFFERENCE. Whether by volunteering or financially supporting a local charity, the idea is that we all participate in our community and try and help in some way.

One of the best examples of an organization that does amazing things for communities and people who deserve a little extra love is the TV show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." I've always loved the show, and I'm only quasi-embarrassed that I've shed a tear or two when the crowd shouts, "Move that bus!" and the homeowners see their brand new home. If you aren't familiar with the show, the EM:HE team finds deserving families who, for one reason or another, need a new home, and over the course of one week, the EM:HE crew and a slew of local volunteers set to work to rebuild or remodel the home.

You can imagine the amount of supplies, coordination and man-hours that go into building a new home or completely remodeling it in just one week. That's where the community and local businesses get involved: Supplies are donated by companies, and the work force is made up of show employees, people from the sponsoring companies, and an average of 2,500 volunteers every episode.

With that generous involvement, the challenge becomes coordinating the massive amount of work, people and projects to get everything done in a short period of time. That's where the Internet comes in. How can the show maintain an online presence for vendors, sponsors and fans of the show? Each of them plays an important part in the show's success, so they need to be kept "in the know" with the most up-to-date information. And that's where we come in.

This philanthropic show definitely meets the requirements of SoftLayer's Charity Committee, and when the show was nominated as a prospective organization to support, we immediately set plans in motion to figure out how we could help support the show and the deserving families getting new homes.

We've donated $25,000 in free hosting services this season to support the show's online presence. We'll be providing a place for vendors who donate to gain some visibility and a place for fans to watch videos and keep up with the show ... And that's no small task: The site receives about 6.8 million monthly impressions.

As Summer mentioned in her post, this is just one of the many ways we're reaching out to support organizations that are doing great work. Let us know what charities matter the most to you, and we'll get them on our radar. We're always looking for ways to get involved, and the first step is learning about who's doing this kind of amazing work for such a great cause.

-@skinman454

December 20, 2011

Giving: Better Than Receiving

The holiday season for many of us is a time for giving and reflecting back on what we are thankful for, and this year has been an awesome one for SoftLayer. As a result of that awesomeness, we've been able to help several organizations raise money and awareness ... So many that we recently created a Charity Committee to find groups and organizations we can support in the future. Why would we need a committee to do that? Here's a snapshot of a few of the organizations we've helped this year:

Carter BloodCare – Carter BloodCare is a blood center who delivers 330,000 units of lifesaving blood components each year. This year the organization setup a mobile blood drive outside of our headquarters so that any employee who wished to donate could. To learn more about Carter BloodCare, visit http://carterbloodcare.org/.

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center - The SLayers in Dallas weren't the only ones with an opportunity to donate blood. In Houston, the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center set up shop in one of our conference rooms to accept donations. The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center serves the largest medical campus in the world, so they're always grateful for people who "Commit For Life." To learn more about the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, go to http://giveblood.org/.

American Heart Association – American Heart Association's mission is "To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke." This year SoftLayer split up into teams to compete to see who could raise the most money. The Marketing team alone raised over $7,500! To learn more about the American Heart Association, make your way over to http://heart.org/.

North Texas Food Bank - The North Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit organization on a mission to create a hunger-free community. They currently operate 1,146 feeding programs around North Texas, and our Dallas office brought in nonperishable food items to donate. Check them out at http://ntfb.org/.

Houston Food Bank – Like the blood drives, our Houston crew wasn't going to be left behind when it came to supporting a local food bank. The Houston Food Bank is the largest Feeding America food bank in the nation. They currently feed around 865,000 people each year. Learn more at http://houstonfoodbank.org/.

Captain Hope's Kids – Captain Hope's Kids is an organization that helps homeless children to live as close to a normal life as possible. Aside from monetary donations they collect items like coats, toys, school supplies, and even baby formula. Visit their website at http://captainhope.org/.

Tour De Pink – Tour De Pink is an annual bike ride in Texas that raises money for breast cancer research, education and awareness campaigns. Head over to http://www.tourdepink.org/ to get the current fundraising total for 2011. Right now, they're just a hair under $350,000 raised. SoftLayer was honored to be the presenting sponsor of Tour De Pink, and we're looking forward to next year!

Toys for Tots – The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new and unwrapped toys for children who are less fortunate. The program then delivers these toys as Christmas gifts to the needy children in the community. In SoftLayer's offices, SLayers were encouraged to bring in new, unwrapped toys and gifts to give through this program. http://toysfortots.org/ has all the information you need about that program.

Community in Schools – Community in Schools is an organization that connects kids in school with mentors who can help them with problems inside and outside of the classroom. Many SoftLayer employees volunteer their time each week to help tutor and mentor kids in the Dallas area. If it's something you might like to get involved with, the Community in Schools website for the Dallas region is http://www.cisdallas.org/.

The other day someone said to me "If you can help and you are able to, then you should," and I am so grateful to be a part of a company who can help and does.

Happy Holidays!

-Summer

Categories: 
November 19, 2010

What Does it Cost (Part 2)

Your People and How They Relate to Your Infrastructure

If you read my previous blog, “What Does it Cost (Part 1) - The Overview,” you may be interested to delve deeper into the conversation and math behind how all of this adds up. Essentially asking yourself “is it better to build infrastructure yourself?” is a good thing and you will inevitably try to ask yourself what does it cost to do so versus looking into “what would it cost to have SoftLayer do this for me since this is what their core competencies reside in?”.

Remember that one of the big lessons we can learn and that I re-learned at the conferences I attended is that your people are your biggest assets. This lesson is showcased and repeated several times and for good purpose, since this seems to be a time tested rule. While your people are a biggest assets they can also easily be one of your biggest costs especially if they are not managed properly. Every business should have a growth model but one thing that can hold you back is the cost of growth (or your growing pains).

Think about the amount of people you need when you run everything inside and what that will wind up costing. If your business, network, and uptime are all mission critical you’ll also need to take into consideration the number of people needed to make sure a facility is 24*7. You will need someone to fix a drive that brakes and needs to be replaced at 3:42AM, won’t you? Take the number of people that you think you’ll need and now consider what would happen if you were to double in size in a single year (or you could use your own timeline in your head). Would you need double the people or possibly more when you consider the needs of managers to make sure everything was in line with your business strategy? What would the cost be that you would need to pay when considering more than just their salaries.

Think of the other things that do not jump out at you immediately like taxes, insurance, a 401K plan, office space, other liabilities, etc. Gary Kinman (VP of Accounting and Finance) estimates that the cost of each additional employee is about 15-20% more than just the cost of their salary without including things like office space. This is one of the biggest aspects often overlooked, because it not only takes new people you would need to hire, but how it can monopolize time and production you would get otherwise from people you already have on staff.

Now, if you remember from part one I mentioned how Opportunity Costs are some of the biggest costs in the differences between how SoftLayer can help you versus doing things yourself. If you reverse the previous scenario and say that after you’ve just doubled in size there is a bust in the economy which causes you to have to contract. For starters the easiest way to cut back on spending is in people, so you may have to lay people off and ultimately make you the bad guy. Now here is where ugly gets really gruesome.

If you talked yourself into how cheap it can be to buy and do everything yourself you are in a real tight spot because now you may not have the necessary people to run all of your infrastructure, or in an even worse case scenario you may not even need it. What this spells out is that you keep something that cannot be used even though you are paying for it, and you had to let people go just to keep the rest of the boat afloat. Didn’t we say that our people are our most important asset earlier? You can’t always know what kind of worker someone will be when you hire them or how things will work out, but you do want to put yourself in a position to keep the good ones that you trust to push your business forward around and happy.

All right, that is enough doom and gloom scenario. Let’s look at this subject from another angle. As you grow in size generally everything you have and everything you use will grow right along the company. We covered the fact that it will probably become more and more obvious that you’ll need more people to do the work for your business. Hiring systems administrators, DBAs, and development staff can all be good moves that would impact your business specifically; however, are you putting them in the best position for them to be successful? Have you ever seen that show “Undercover Boss”? It seems that in a lot of the episodes you would see that a CEO was not cut out for doing a lot of other jobs in the company and would have a much greater appreciation of everyone who did all of those jobs and how hard they work. Sometimes they would have comments about if they were really trying to get that job they wouldn’t last long. Keep that thought in mind when asking these same Sys-admins, DBAs, and development staff to do jobs that they do not specialize in.

Taking your people in positions where they may get a grade of an “A” or a “B+” and putting them into different positions where they may get a “C-“, “D”, or even an “F” will not likely be good for production levels, decrease levels of morale, and will also likely tank the investment value made in the employees themselves and/or the infrastructure you purchase.

Bottom line is that the way the world is evolving is to work smarter, lessen risk, and (in drawing back to part 1) get more out of having less. The best way to avoid unnecessary risk is to not overextend yourself in the first place, and to stay in a position of flexibility so that you can react and adapt to the market around you. This is what SoftLayer is built for; keeping you with the most options in order to increase your ability to innovate and execute without sacrificing any level of control and without costing large sums of upfront capitol.

I am guessing that about 9 times out of 10 if you take the time to sit down and do the math it all makes perfect sense.

-Doug

Categories: 
March 10, 2010

The Case for Task Managment Systems

How many times have you received a “task” through email with no priority or due date attached? Just “Hey, do this…” with nothing more. It leaves you wondering when this particular “task” is supposed to be completed or how important this task may be. What if you’re slammed with about 5 different items at once and the email with the “task” disappears into the mass of emails you receive all day? Now you have the author of this “task” upset because their task was not completed by the time they didn’t specify in the email lost in your inbox. It’s a disaster just begging to happen.

Emails get lost. Task notes get thrown away by the cleaning crew. The dog ate my task. In using a task management system, none of these situations could ever happen.

A Task Management System is either a frightening or salvatory three words for the disorganized among us. It’s a savior for those desiring efficiency and a nightmare for those unwilling to change.

Wow, you are really convincing! So, what type of task management systems are out there? I’m glad you asked that question...

Task Management Systems range from the simplest (Ta-da Lists - http://tadalist.com/) to the more advanced (JIRA - http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/). Both, of which, could meet your needs exceptionally well.Wow, JIRA looks really awesome! What are some pros and cons of the task management system? Another excellent question… PROS:

  • Task organization
  • Task prioritizing
  • Task collaboration between employees
  • Task status updates
  • Custom reports for Tasks
  • Task history CONS:

  • New system to learn.
  • That’s really about it, honestly.

It’s really a no brainer that the task management system is a major improvement over basic email and can bring about high efficiency in the work place.

April 23, 2009

Dress To Impress

I’ve recently discovered the TV show Mad Men, which is well into its second or third season now, and is just an awesomely good time. If you haven’t seen it or heard about it, the basic premise is this:

“Late 1950’s advertising agents in NYC drink, smoke and fool around too much.“

That’s about it. There are a lot of layers on top of that, but the heart of the show is a Lucky Strike and a whiskey neat. The main character is Don Draper, the coolest cat who ever cooled. He wakes up with perfectly combed hair, knows all the right things to say and owns more suits than Men’s Warehouse.

The scene (or line, actually) that got me writing was one where Don Draper is hanging out with some beatniks listening to Miles Davis and ends up getting into an argument with one of them about “Conformity VS Rebellion”. Don represents the suit wearing, 9-to-5’ers and the beatnik represents the free-spirited bohemian lifestyle. An unrelated incident brings the police to the building and the beatniks are all scared to go outside because of them. Eventually Don gets tired of arguing (I can’t imagine he’s tired of the Miles Davis. Everyone loves Miles Davis), and decides to leave. The following exchange takes place:

Beatnik: Hey man, you can’t go out there.. there are cops outside.

Don Draper: “….You can’t”

And then he leaves. Of course, the cop outside gives him no hassle at all, and the audience yells “Oh Snap!” Well, I did anyway.

This illustrates a personal philosophy of mine that I’m happy to say we use in a lot of aspects at SoftLayer, and that is “Dress to impress”. Whether you want to think about it or not, your wardrobe is going to tell people a lot about you before you ever get a chance to. This goes for a lot of other areas as well, not just your pants and jacket.

If your desk is cluttered up with papers, I’m going to assume you’ve got too much work. Or you are sloppy.

If your passenger seat is full of stuff, I’m going to assume that you never have passengers, which means you probably live alone.

Conversely if your car is uncluttered in any way I’m going to assume you never drive it.

The same goes for your web page, your order forms, your forums. All of these things sway the needle of the “Good/Bad” scale one way or another, and most of the time it’s really, really subtle.

At SoftLayer we spend a LOT of time on attention to detail. Our datacenter is so clean you can eat off the floor, and it doesn’t happen by accident. When people walk into the room I want them to say “wow!” and I’m happy to say that it happens every time.

What does your look say about you?

-Jeaves

Categories: 
July 20, 2008

SLales Quotas

It's usually unwise to place bets on what the SoftLayer Slales Team can and cannot sell. We will blow the quota out of the water every time.

But still, we like to place harmless wagers from time to time. Sure we have sales quotas every month, but sometimes our Management team likes to make it interesting by seeing how far beyond our goals we can get each month. May was the BEST sales “spiff” to date. George Karidis was unfortunately on the losing end this month, and had to shave the 3-bars logo into the back of his head. He wore it proudly to customer/vendor meetings & dinners until they grew out.

To be fair, the SoftLayer Sales team has a remarkably easy time making our numbers - it's almost effortless to meet or exceed our server quota every month when you're are standing behind the best product on the market, and working among the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic sales team in the industry.

Go Team SoftLayer!

-Mary

Categories: 
December 21, 2007

It Takes All Kinds...Well, Four Kinds Anyway

Over the years I've had a chance to see a number of different organizations in operation – churches, non-profits, clubs, public companies, and private companies. I've found that in all these organizations, four types of people are needed in order for them to thrive.

I made this observation of four types of people about 20 years ago. I honestly don't remember reading this from a business book or hearing it at a seminar so I don't have a source to cite. But since there's "nothing new under the sun" according to Ecclesiastes, I apologize in advance if you're reading this and this list originated with you over 20 years ago.

Some may think that comfortable new buildings, plush surroundings, or artistic furnishings can help an organization thrive. I'm reminded of the IBM "Innovation Station" commercial. I couldn't find it on their site and the best I could do elsewhere is this Italian version. The surroundings of the people are merely surface cosmetics. The people are the soul of an organization, and each one has a different mix of gifts and talents. It is this mix of gifts and talents that I sort into four groups and the people of the organization must draw from their fundamental gifts and talents for an organization to thrive, regardless of the environmental cosmetics – especially if this is your environment.

Innovators
The first group of folks is the smallest in number. They're the innovators. They can approach a blank whiteboard, pick up a marker and brilliance flows through them onto the board. They're so in touch with markets that they don't just sense the needs felt by the market that need to be filled – they know the needs of the market before the market even feels these needs. The innovators cast the vision for what can be. However, if you ask them to make the vision better, deliver the vision, or maintain it after delivery, more often than not the vision will not be realized because making the vision reality is not a part of their gifts and talents. Making the vision a reality depends on folks from the other groups.

Refiners
These are some of the folks who approach a blank whiteboard and they pick up a marker, but the board remains white. It isn't within them to come up with new and innovative solutions to market needs. But if there's a new and innovative idea on the board, they'll grab a marker and make it better. Maybe the original idea has a logistical problem that keeps it from being viable. They'll solve that logistical problem. Maybe a proposed process is inefficient – they eliminate the bottlenecks. They perhaps can put together a great project plan and GANTT chart. But if you ask them to deliver the project or maintain it in a production environment, you may see failure and frustration. This is where the next groups come to the rescue.

Deliverers
Hail to the Project Managers here. These are the folks that can take a new idea that's been boiled down into a viable plan, marshal the troops, juggle dependencies, assign resources, balance budgets, tackle key tasks personally, hit deadlines, and declare victory when the idea is a reality. Project Managers also need some deliverers to work for them. These are the folks that gobble up a chunk of work on the project plan, put their nose to the grindstone, complete the task, and then return for more. But after the victory party to celebrate successful delivery, asking them to go to the whiteboard and think of something new or asking them to keep what they delivered up and running may be unproductive.

Maintainers
These are the folks that hate to see things break down. Their greatest joy is to do things over and over to keep production up and running and on pace. They love checklists, routine tests, and a predictable work day. I once worked as an automobile insurance underwriter, which is a fancy way to say that I sat at a desk and processed one application after another all day long, day after day, entering data and rating risks. I lasted about a year. This isn't part of my gifts or talents, and I gained a whole new level of respect for this group of people. Without them, the organization breaks down and ceases to function. And as anyone in hosting knows, keeping systems up and running is a key fundamental of the business. The coolest new features don't matter a bit if there's no electricity in the data center.

Dangers of "Pigeonholing"
An organization needs to know which category their folks are fulfilling in their current roles. But in reality, people often have gifts and talents that lend themselves to more than one of these groups. A smart organization will recognize this and allow people to grow and develop rather than sticking them in one spot forever. For example, I'm about equal parts Refiner and Deliverer, and don't ask me to innovate or maintain – you'll be sorry. I'll do best in a role that requires both refining and delivering. When an organization pigeonholes its people, they'll only keep the people so long. They have a way of leaving to find organizations with more fulfilling opportunities.

I can find all four of these groups here at SoftLayer. We also allow some crossover into the functions of other groups. We've found that a good number of our Deliverers are also good Innovators for example. Consequently, as a company, we've lost a grand total of three employees since our beginning.

-Gary

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