Using your LMS to manage inductions

It’s that time of year when we have our internal ISO 9001 audit and as a line manager I was asked to demonstrate that I had done inductions for my new starters.

I could have done that the hard way, looking through my inbox for the emails, but I decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to dogfood our own LMS to support our ISO process (See dogfooding on wikipedia if you’re not familiar with the term)!

Then I can use a report (and a pie chart!) in the LMS to support the ISO process.

  1. The first step is to use the compliance manager to set up a skill and set the audiences for that skill to be everybody.
  2. The second step is to add an attainment method for the skill, we’re going to use a verification for that. We’ll configure the verification to be something that the line manager has to assert.

    In our organisation it is the line manager that knows best when it comes to their team – so it’s their responsibility to log this information.

    We can also upload our Induction process document to the verification and link to an intranet page if we need to.

  3. That will trigger a link on people’s home pages, and email prompts will go out to ask people to start entering the induction dates for their teams.

And the audit? Yes, I passed. All green. Even better, when new starters join their line manager will now be prompted for an Induction and at the next audit we can run just a report.


Are you ready for the big Windows XP switch off?

In April 2014 Microsoft will stop releasing security fixes for Windows XP. Doesn’t sound very scary does it? However you should be very scared. I can understand why people hang on to XP, but let me explain why I think it’s time to let it go.

Every version of Windows has been an evolution, some bigger than others, but each one contains a large chunk from the previous version. Even Windows 8.1 will have some parts from Windows XP.

At the moment if Microsoft finds a bug in any version of Windows it will check all of the others to see if they are affected as well. That’s why security patches often apply to several versions of Windows. After April 2014 Microsoft will stop doing this for Windows XP. So what?, I hear you say.

The problem is that the bad guys will be watching for these security fixes after April, and those fixes will tell them where the holes are. Then they will look to see if those holes exist in XP. In a lot of cases the holes will be there – and they are not going to be closed.

Every Windows XP PC will become significantly more vulnerable.

You need to start replacing or upgrading those PCs now, if you don’t you run the risk of serious disruption to your business. Please, you have time, don’t waste it.

Further reading:

Microsoft Security Blog: The Risk of Running Windows XP After Support Ends April 2014

ComputerWorld: XP’s retirement will be hacker heaven, Hackers will bank bugs until after Microsoft retires Windows XP in April 2014; expect attacks, say security experts


IE6 – it’s not dead yet

There’s been a lot of talk recently about finally dropping support for old internet browsers, specifically Internet Explorer 6, by website designers and the technical media:

As an aside Smashing Magazine have also done a good job of explaining why you should upgrade:

Some web sites have even taken stronger steps such as imposing their own tax on purchases made in older browsers, though it could be argued that this is more about PR:,2817,2405813,00.asp

It’s easy to blame the user for not keeping up to date, and as a fellow developer I can understand the frustrations. However a recent trip to a hospital in Barcelona gave me a new real world insight from a user’s perspective.

Before I had kids I don’t think I’d been to hospital for at least 20 years, but now I’m thinking that we should be getting a loyalty card.

This time we were on holiday when my son, Henry, had his two front (milk) teeth knocked out while messing about with his brother – so a trip to Hospital del Mar (not quite as nice as it sounds) was in order.

As a software developer I see computers and software differently to normal people. Much the same way that a builder or an architect looks at a house, or an artist at a painting, I “see” behind the screen to the structure behind it. I have an insider’s view.

The first problem was registering with the hospital’s system. They had automated the place using SAP and it took 20 minutes to get us signed in. The receptionist let us know her frustration with it – usability was obviously not a priority.

Lesson 1
We all need to up our game when it comes to the user’s experience. It is the software developer’s dilemma:

“If we get it right then you won’t even notice it, it will be so smooth, when we get it wrong we’ll be the root of your bad day”

As I’ve alluded to before on this blog, software can do great things – it should also do it well.

Once we got to see a doctor (they arranged for an English speaking doctor btw – nice touch) Henry had to have an X-ray. When the image was ready the doctor whipped out her Samsung Galaxy Ace and she looked up the X-ray in a chat message from the radiologist. She then entered the number into SAP which opened up an old version of Java to display the image.

Finally as we were waiting, someone wheeled in a very expensive looking custom PC on a trolley. Well not just on a trolley, it was the trolley. It was running Windows XP.

Lesson 2
It’s not the users fault that they are using old software, if they even know anything about it. They have to do the best that they can with the tools that they have been given. That might even mean using their own devices to make life easier. Internet Explorer 6 on the PC, iPads and Samsung Galaxy S III’s – all in the same workplace. It might not even to be possible to upgrade the software – that PC on a trolley wasn’t cheap and it will be around for a while yet I’m sure.

The person sitting in front of the computer has little influence over what is on it – even if they wanted to.

This shows in our own browser statistics too:

90% of our users (that login) are using Internet Explorer and 5% are still using IE 6.

On average, Internet Explorer has a global share of only 32% and Internet Explorer 6 only 0.5% so our audience is somewhat specialised. This is as you would expect, our product is used by enterprise customers. We can’t and don’t ignore these users.


What to do
So this is what we will do:

  • We will be doing our bit to see if we can persuade our clients to upgrade from IE 6 to something more modern.
  • We will make sure that IE 6 works as well as the newer browsers.

That’s not going to stop us producing a great user experience but as far as the desktop browser version of our application is concerned, HTML 5 will be a distant dream. On mobile devices it’s a different story of course.

We have to work with what you guys are using…and hopefully you won’t notice, you will just have a great day…


Apple disappoints with iOS 6

Apple have a problem, they have set themselves up with a reputation for flashy, big bang updates. That keeps the fans happy but it’s not leaving them with enough dev time to get the boring stuff right. iTunes on Windows has got to be one of the worst examples of mainstream software around today, and it’s Apple’s.

  • Retina display, sorry can’t see the point – literally.
  • Siri, no thank you, maybe one day, but it’s not important to me right now. It’s also heavily biased towards the US.
  • Facebook – I don’t think so.
  • Passbook – do you really think Easyjet and Ryanair are going to pick this up? That’s going to be a US centric service for some time.

The phone application updates are useful, but come on, my old HTC Diamond phone could pull off better tricks than this. Apple are too far ahead, the early first movers, and it’s leaving a nice gap for Samsung and Microsoft. Samsung with the Galaxy SIII, Microsoft with Smart Glass.

It looks like my iPad will have to put up with living with an Android phone in the near future.


Software umwelt, are you compatible with the software you use?

Umwelt is a German word and is described thus: In 1909, the biologist Jakob von Uexküll introduced the concept of the umwelt. He wanted a word to express a simple (but often overlooked) observation: different animals in the same ecosystem pick up on different environmental signals. In the blind and deaf world of the tick, […]


Apple’s master stroke will be iOS 6, it’s the software stupid

The iPad 3, the ‘new iPad’, is a wonderful piece of kit, but somehow it manages to be a bit dull IMHO. In fact if you look at most tablets on the market today, even the non Apple ones, the hardware is pretty impressive. Nice bright high resolution screens, speedy CPUs, more than enough storage […]


Intelligent Software, not electronic paper

The lull between Christmas and new year is often a time for reflection, especially when you hold a position of responsibility. I met up with a friend recently who runs a very similar business to ours, in the sense that they sell software that can radically alter the way a business operates. In this case […]