Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Annual Review – 2011

My first thought, , , what happened and where did the year go. Don’t know if you feel the same way, but 2011 just seems like a blur it went by so fast.

Time for my Annual Review to recap the year, , , maybe this will help explain why 2011 went by so fast.

  • 3 IT Manager Institute classes and only 1 trip this year, , , to London, Ontario Canada, , , that’s #44, 45, and 46
  • Tested webinar training and delivered three 1-hour classes for European managers
  • Taught a 4th IT Manager Institute (our 47th) via webinar, , , 5-hour days for 5 straight days, , , reviews were good
  • Rewrote my first ten books, , , a major effort that took over a year to complete
  • Upgraded our company’s entire systems, processes and business applications infrastructure, , , from hardware to shopping cart, a major effort but positions us well for 2012
  • Rebuilt our web sites from the ground up using a WordPress platform, , , see
  • Posted approximately 200 ITLever Blog articles and posts
  • Updated the IT Manager ToolKit

Most of the year was spent on the big rewrite project and the infrastructure upgrade, , , both were huge efforts. To be able to focus on these projects, I pulled back on my travel schedule and minimized the number of classes in 2011. Our company took a financial hit but it was something we needed to do to position for 2012 and beyond, , , and we are excited about where we are.

In my next blog post, I’ll lay out some of the results of what we have been working on to make 2012 one of our biggest and best years in “helping IT managers of the world achieve more success”.


Excellent graphics software

In my small business we constantly need to develop images to promote our products and to make our web sites, brochures, etc. more appealing.

Three software products I use are powerful yet very inexpensive.

Developing 3D books, boxes, etc.
I use two software products primarily and they work great.

3D eBook Cover (Click here for info)
$ 59.00 (discounted often by 50%)
Powerful with many options including developing PNG files with transparent backgrounds, , , a must have for this type of work. Has a bit of learning curve like most products but pretty intuitive by playing with it some. Creates some truly great images like the ones below.

Quick 3D Cover (Click here for info)
$ 57.37
I’ve had this one for a long time and it is a tried and trusted tool in my marketing arsenal. Doesn’t have as much creative flexibility as 3D eBook Cover, but when you need to create a 3D book cover quickly, this is the one I tend to go to.

3D text

XARA3D (Click here for info)
XARA 3D is the way to go even though you can do a lot with PowerPoint these days. Xara3D gives you all types of 3D effects plus it animation of your text using standard templates you can customize if this is something you like. I’ve been using Xara3D for 5 years and it has been a great addition.

I also use Xara Web designer on occasion, , , also a handy tool.

Download this simple project scheduling tool

Managing projects does not have to be complex, , , the simplest of tools can be very effective.

While there are plenty of tools you can use to keep track of everyone’s tasks and responsibilities, here is one that is easy to use and understand.

I’ve been using it since my IBM days in the late 1970’s, , , before spreadsheets and PC’s. I still use it today and teach others how to use it to deliver projects successfully. You don’t throw something away when it works well and gets you positive results.

How it works
Here are some instructions for using the spreadsheet template. These are also included in an Instruction workbook in the spreadsheet tool:

  1. Fill in the Project name.
  2. Fill in the Project Manager name and contact information (e-mail, phone number, etc.).
  3. Fill in the month at the top of the column groups (Jan., Feb., Mar., etc.).
  4. Fill in the week ending dates for each weekly column. There are five columns for each month to provide for five-week months.
  5. List the tasks required to complete the project.
  6. List the person responsible for each task.
  7. Place a slash mark (/) in the cell of the week in which the task should be completed.
  8. List the resource participants and their initials at the bottom of the first page for reference.

CLICK HERE to download the Excel spreadsheet tool.

New web site is completed –

Wow, you forget how much content you have developed over the years until you have to develop new web sites to showcase it. We have a tremendous amount of “how to” training material for the IT manager and it has to be one of the most comprehensive libraries of IT manager resources in the industry.

The web site is officially launched! Check it out.

This new website and domain becomes the foundation of our ongoing brand, , , the IT Manager Institute, , , something we have been developing for many years. The key pieces are in place, but we still have several more items to add to the list of products plus there will be new announcements shortly.

Our web site will be history in just a few months although you will still be able to use it as a path to get to our company resources, , , you may like the shorter url. 🙂  I will continue to use as a corporate domain and for email.

We have other domains that will be put to use in the near future to compliment the IT Manager Institute brand and to promote specific products or services.

The two sites you want to watch are:

  1. – our IT manager products and services site
  2. – our IT manager BLOG

We will make new announcements on the site as well as in our monthly newsletter, Practical IT Manager Tips. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive a free copy of IT Management-101 at

I chose WordPress as the development foundation primarily because of:

  • Ease of use
  • Search engine optimization
  • Flexibility and functionality access with plugin options
  • Key functionality features that are key to our future, , , you will hear more about these in the near future

Our infrastructure migration is nearing completion. We have been working on the new web sites and other projects you are yet to see for months, , , all to position our company with the ability to deliver better IT manager resources that are both accessible and affordable to the IT managers of the world.

I’m very excited about 2012 and the future and believe we are well positioned.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We mailed our Christmas cards and the annual Sisco Christmas Letter to family and friends last weekend, and I thought you might like to read it.

After all, I consider all of you who read my Blog a friend, , , and I’ve been fortunate to meet many of you. Click on the images for a better view.





Annual Sisco Christmas Letter

I’ve been sending a Sisco Christmas Letter with our cards since 1993, the year Eddie had his accident. Many of the early letters were an attempt to keep people posted on his progress. Over time we’ve tried to share a few memorable things that have occurred in our lives.

We receive many positive comments, , , our friends and family seem to appreciate the small effort we go through to keep them aware of what’s going on with The Sisco’s, albeit such a small piece of information on two pages.

Send me your comments, , , maybe you do something similar.

Sorry for the temporary absence

foundation blocksYou haven’t seen many posts on ITLever lately because I’ve been very, very busy on some major projects that will be important for 2012. I’ve been hard at work laying the foundation blocks for the future of our company.

That’s right, we have big plans for 2012 and you are about to start seeing some of the results of our efforts.

  • New training – both in available options that allows me to cost effectively reach many more IT managers around the world as well as new content that will help you achieve more success.
  • New books – I’ve finally rewritten my first ten books (now called the Practical IT Manager GOLD Series) so I can focus on several new titles that have been waiting for me to get to them.
  • New products – What I will tell you here is that even though I probably have more material and training resources for IT managers than any other organization in the world, I feel as though we have just begun. You may want to subscribe to ITLever so you won’t miss any of the new announcements that will be coming. To subscribe to ITLever, see EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION in the right-hand column of this page.

Getting the rewrite of my first ten books behind me and updating our company’s infrastructure has been a major time constraint, , , so much so that I reduced my training travel schedule considerably this past year in order to dedicate the time needed for these big projects.

Would have been nice if I could have delegated the books rewrite to someone else, but I had to do the work. Thought I could just “tweak” the books slightly and be finished in 30 days, , , that is, until I started working on the first book and saw how poorly written they were. Seems that my writing skills have improved some in 8 years. The new version is much, much better than the originals.

Dedicating time to focus on these big projects meant taking a financial hit to our business in 2011 but I believe it was worth the investment.

Well, I’m back.

We still have some major infrastructure work going on but the heavy lifting is all but over and I will soon be able to devote much more time to developing new content and delivering more training than ever before.

We are excited about the future and I hope to be posting much more to ITLever in 2012.  We have a lot more to develop and share in our mission of, “helping IT managers of the world achieve more™ success”.

Stay tuned.

Webinar services option for my business

I’ve been researching webinar services options for my business and have been experimenting with a few of them over the past few months.

If you have webinar experience I would be interested in reading your comment and recommendations as we finalize our selection.

We have narrowed our selection to the following options:

  1. Webex
  2. GoToWebinar
  3. iLinc
  4. ClickWebinar
  5. VIA3

From a usage standpoint, I’m most familiar with Webex having just delivered a 5-day IT Manager Institute for a group of IT managers from Croatia and Slovenia and several 1-hour training sessions leading up to the Institute, , , see Class #47 at

Webex worked well and was easy to use, but I still have a bit of learning curve. I’m also a bit familiar with GoToWebinar and a couple of other services I have sampled.

The Institute webinar went well overall, but 5-hour sessions over 5 days is a challenge for students although it was much easier for me. I didn’t have to stand up all day, no airports or hotels to deal with, , , simply show up in front of my PC at 8:00am to deliver the class (3:00pm their time).

A couple of students stated the webinar approach worked exceptionally well for them, but one student said it was not that effective for him, partly because he may have had a poor connection, , , so reactions to long classes are a bit mixed at this point. I’ll plan to do another Institute by webinar soon to see if we can get a clearer picture.

I plan to deliver a whole series of 1 and 2-hour training sessions in 2012 so finding a webinar service that works well for me is important which is why I’m spending extra time to scope out the alternatives.

Here is a short list of key features we are looking for in a webinar service:

  • Low cost
  • Scheduling and reminder capability
  • Audio via Internet
  • Video (webcam)
  • Ability for administrator to control the audio and video
  • Preferably no user download requirement (but not an absolute requirement)
  • Easy to navigate
  • Desktop sharing
  • Annotation
  • Messaging, Raise Hand, etc.
  • Recording and playback
  • Ability to collaborate with several people in a meeting

If you have experience in any of the vendor products mentioned above and want to provide insight, we will appreciate your comments.

Stay tuned for my decision.

IT Manager Institute #47 and our first via webinar

This week I have been delivering an IT Manager Institute to managers in Croatia and Slovenia, , , all from my home office via webinar. The class is hosted by Housing Co., a Slovenia based company who has hosted three of our past IT Manager Institute classes.

I’ve been thinking of doing this for some time but was always concerned about the length of time students have to sit in front of their PC to receive the considerable amount of material I cover in the 5-day IT Manager Institute.

We have met for 5 to 6 hours each day this week and will complete the program on Friday. From my side, it is much easier because I don’t have to stand up all day. I’m interested in seeing the survey results to see how they match up with past students who have participated in the classroom version.

A webinar is more of a “one-sided” experience with less interaction, and I can tell there is not nearly the same energy level as I experience in the classroom. It is simply harder to get to know your students in this format. This is the biggest downside I think.

My sense is that webinars are better when they are no more than 1 to 2 hours in length, but our students expressed a desire to work through the program in one week rather than spreading it out over several weeks.

The upside is that we can deliver the class at a lower cost, , , requires no travel for students or myself, , , no airfare, hotel or food expenses, , , and it is less wear and tear on one’s body when you eliminate long plane trips.

Some of the students are working most of the day and attending the class in the evening, , , they are 7 hours ahead of me so when we start at 8:00am my time it is 3:00pm their time. This may be an additional benefit for students I haven’t thought about, , , or maybe not. 🙂

In 2012, I have plans to deliver a whole series of webinar classes on specific topics to help IT managers achieve more success. If the survey results are positive for this class we may add IT Manager Institutes to our webinar plans.