Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Michael Jenkin, Innovating Business Executive, International Microsoft Technology Expert

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Michael Jenkin.

Michael JenkinMichael Jenkin is a SMB IT specialist and long serving community leader.

Michael Jenkin has been working in IT for over 20 years. He started his IT career completely by accident. Starting at University where he studied Electrical Engineering, he drifted into programming and building early computers. He was quickly swayed into IT and never looked back.

He brings real world computing to the table and takes in-depth looks at emerging technology and trends. His various associations have led him into providing training and giving presentations on behalf of Microsoft in New Zealand, Singapore, Redmond and in Australia. Michael was a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) from 2004 to the end of 2008.

Since retiring from the MVP program he has dedicated his time to other community outlets including an occasional talkback slot on the radio, writing articles for IT industry magazines and he represented millions of members of IT professional user groups as the Vice Chairman of pre-GITCA APAC. More recently, in 2010, he became the chairman in the APAC region for the Global IT Community Association (GITCA).

Michael runs his own community SMB IT website, participates as a volunteer in many programs to assist the less fortunate to get computer equipment, and is constantly on the lookout for any opportunity to help.

Michael was the IT Manager for the Australian National Scout Jamboree in 2004, Youth convention NCYC 2005 and other events which has led to an Australian Premier's Award and scouting merit.

Michael has been the technical reviewer for many IT books and has provided advice and reviews on many applications. In addition, his community projects have led him to be the Executive Producer of a South Australian short film and also the senior engineer for the philanthropist company, Digital Intermediately; all this whilst maintaining his role within his own IT company.

Michael started Business Technology Partners with his business partner in 2008 and considers this his biggest challenge. Michael is a Small Business Specialist and concentrates on Microsoft products and partners with other IT professionals to service other technologies.

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Q: Michael, thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.

A:  You are very welcome, thank you for this chance to share a little of my part in the technology world.

Q: What are your top 5 recommendations on virtualization?

A:  Virtualization is not always the answer. You need to first understand the required business services, software services and finally your client's needs. Virtualization helps to fill a noticeable technology gap and is certainly taking over the mainstream physical server roles; however, you need to achieve what is best for your client, meet their expectations, and keep to their budget.

My top 5 recommendations are a mix of understanding your client first, and then IT.
  • Examine carefully your client's needs. Listen to them. Get them to explain in their words what they want and what they expect. Be sure to know why virtualization suits them. Is it ROI? Security? Redundancy? A whim? Or a business need/advantage? Do they understand what virtualization really means?

  • Know your product. Test your solution. Use it like your client will use it and then compare the speed and usability to the systems they currently have. Plan. Test. Rebuild.

  • Pick your battles. If the product does not perform in a virtualized world, don't be scared to look for other solutions. Your reputation as a vendor is on the line. Seek other people's advice.

  • Don't put too many services into any particular virtual server. Don't try and squeeze everything into the one child session. Build a stable of servers to supply the overall required services. Be sure to build and design it in a reliable and efficient way. Your customer will benefit and thank you in the end.

  • Don't underestimate the hardware platform you choose. Update the firmware and drivers. Test the solution with pass-through drives and don't buy the cheapest hardware. Put together the best solution you can (within reason) and if you need to cut back, let that be the client's decision.

Q: And your top resources on virtualization?

  • Your best resource is those around you who have been down the path before you.

    • Look online in the forums.
    • Attend user groups.
    • Talk to your peers.

  • Turn to the hardware vendors. Look at their websites and confirm that the hardware you are planning to use has been tested for virtualization. Take note of the patches needed for certain chipsets or processors. Take note of special network card drivers or high performance disk I/O drivers. Read their forums and ask them questions about what you plan to do.

    • As examples, download the Dell, IBM and HP HyperV guides from their websites.

  • Read the Microsoft whitepapers. Look through the TechNet forums.

    • Download the Microsoft "Hyper-V Product Overview Whitepaper" from the Microsoft download section.

  • Follow those in the community who are working with it daily. Each new release of virtualization software and patches comes with new challenges and features. Follow those who have their fingers on the pulse.

  • The best resource is your experience and your time. Invest in yourself. Build a server and break it. Search online for the answers and dig about in the system. It will take you time upfront but in the long term you will save money and time.

Q: What are your top 5 recommendations on Azure?

  • Think about security. Microsoft has given you dependability, high availability and scalability. You need to design your solution around security. Your Azure service is likely available anywhere in the world. You need to interact with it in a secure way and ensure others do the same.

  • Make sure you understand the business requirements. Azure has come a long way; however, there are some situations where it is not the correct solution and there are other situations where Azure is the only solution that makes sense.

  • Carefully consider your backup strategy. You have high availability and many other built-in Microsoft tools; however, you need to plan your own independent backup.

  • Check the legalities. Where is your Azure database? The cloud has blurred the invisible lines that are drawn between continents and countries. Does your local law prohibit you having your data offshore? Are you breaking any laws or industry specific rulings? Do you need to carefully plan where your Azure server is and will you need to seek a local hosted service?

  • Capacity planning. Make sure you, your provider, or engineer gets it right. Your client deserves the best service.

Q: And your top resources to find out more?

Q: What are your top 5 recommendations on the Private Cloud?

  • I have mentioned it before and it still applies. Capacity planning. Make sure you take the client's business into consideration and have a strategy that matches their direction and growth. Being a private cloud they likely have a vested interest in the hardware, its lifetime and how it will be migrated in the future. They need ROI so plan and get it right at the beginning.

    Just because this is a private cloud, it does not mean you can't expand like the public cloud. You need a scalable system. With a private cloud, you are scaling via physical provisioning and you are the one in charge of the plan. Make a choice early on if you are using virtual servers, blade servers, external RAID packs or Sans.

  • Another common tenet would be security. You can never overestimate security and can never analyze it too much. You are giving access to your data from anywhere, on any device, and from whoever happens to be able to authenticate (even though it is in your private cloud). Put steps in place to reduce the attack surface. Don't overlook physical security at the premises. If you are hosting your private cloud offsite, check your supplier has the security you expect.

  • If you are managing this private cloud, don't forget patch management and maintenance. These devices are in your loving care and will not look after themselves. Don't limit this to the software. Check the environment, the dust levels, moisture and all things that can damage equipment. Pay attention to the power protection and cooling. If you are hosting offsite, you are likely limited to the software maintenance. Always check your contract that the physical will be maintained.

  • On premises equipment: Build your infrastructure in a way that is neat, modularized and tidy. If something breaks, you need to trace cables or parts easily and quickly. You will receive the emergency phone calls when things break. You can't pass these onto a provider. The buck stops with you. Make your life easy and document, plan, and test every step of the physical infrastructure.

    Offsite equipment: Demand to see the location up front and look at the current equipment being hosted. Ask about the vendors repair track record and ask to see their emergency plans and risk analysis. Check you can get access in an emergency.

  • Always recommend and supply the best warranties available in the industry. Always get the extended warranties with onsite service. You need the backing of reputable companies with quick, efficient and well respected onsite support. Make sure you can get these agents onto the premises in a rush, if required.

Q: And your top resources to find out more?

Q: What are your top 5 recommendations on Windows Phone Apps?

Q: Your top resources?

Q: What you are top 5 recommendations on Windows 8 and Windows 8 Apps?

  • If you are an IT person, you will tire of the additional clicks needed to get to many items you previously had direct access to. Learn the shortcuts. It will save you stress and time.

  • Be careful what you link your Windows 8 machine to. You might end up with your fiends Flickr, SkyDrive and Facebook account hooked in when you log in with your Windows Live ID (bound to your Windows logon).

  • If you are inclined to not like the Metro feel, give it time to grow on you. We all have to learn new things and I have found that from an end users point of view, it is faster and easier to accomplish tasks with this new design.

  • Take a look at the Wordpress App, an excellent way to bring your blogging world together with a new pleasant viewing interface.

  • I also like the Evernote App.

  • Finally the Skydrive App.

Q: Your top resources?

Q: Please share your top best practices on SMB?

A:  I feel that there are two categories of best practices when working in SMB. Your business, which is likely an SMB itself, and your clients, who are likely in the SMB space.

Best practice for you, as an SMB working in the SMB field, is to partner with other professionals. Don't take on everything, carefully pick your battles and have partnerships with those that can help you, and can work with that which you can't handle.

Partner at a business level with those who are experts to help you run the business, including legal, accounting, planning and general support. Partner at an IT level to support products you don't normally handle. Leverage contracted engineers on jobs where you don't normally have the capacity and manpower. Networking and partnering amongst your peers helps you grow your business and your standing in the IT community. The SMB space is no place to be selfish, territorial or overly competitive. Work with your peers.

Best practice with clients is to learn their business enough to appreciate their needs and desires. Listen to the clients. Be honest and helpful. Build long term relationships and let your client base build though the momentum of your contacts. The SMB world is large. There are many more SMB companies out there than large-enterprise companies. They all network together and plan strategies to be successful. Be a part of their strategy and you will grow with them.

Q: Can you profile recent wins concerning your business and what value you provide?

A:  We have had two recent large projects occur purely because their existing IT support did not listen to them. We have also acquired many small clients who were given bad experiences by managed service providers.

One of the large clients needed cheap economical systems but within the guidelines that performance was important. Unfortunately the final virtualized solution gave very poor performance and the network design showed a complete lack of understanding of the business and the client needs. We have moved the client to a model that supports the business in its market and gives the performance it needs. The solution was not as we first expected, however came about from analyzing the business needs and listening to the client. As we took the time to listen and include them in the design process, they were very excited to implement our ideas and support us.

The smaller clients (of which there were many) were using managed service agents on their workstations and servers. All have the same complaint. They hardly see the people who support their network and yet get billed for badly performing workstations. They get invisible support for the network and are ruthlessly billed monthly.

Managed services is a great tool, if used correctly. The "set and forget" attitude of many MSP's is leading to the technology gaining a bad reputation. We again listened to the clients, discussed their needs and made sure we met their expectations.

Q: Can you profile your role with GITCA and what value does GITCA provide?

A:  GITCA is made up of groups of volunteers (in each region), who seek to support IT user groups and the wider IT community. My role is to look after the Asia Pacific Region, with my group of supporting volunteers.

We assist in many ways including the promotion of user groups and their events, providing funding, resources and support. My role is to grow the membership in the APAC region and identify people with whom I can partner with and invite into the GITCA system. I provide support to those in my region and spend many hours answering questions including giving general advice.

We have many Microsoft MVP's in the GITCA family and access to some of the brightest thinkers available in Information Technology. We have access to some of the biggest technology firms in the world and are able to provide connections between these firms and the members. Over the years we have been able to provide many benefits from Microsoft, and also provide online resources including training and seminars.

Q: What are the five top challenges in your current non-profit and business roles?

  • "Time is an illusion" - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    We all think we have enough time. The internet has made the world smaller and more reactive. We previously waited patiently for things to happen but now need instant gratification. This is a very large challenge when working in business and managing a client's expectation.

    As we all grow time poor, it is also hard to find time to be a volunteer. In my non-profit GITCA role I need to appreciate that volunteers have lives, jobs and other items to attend to. I can't expect it to be easy to manage my GITCA role and I constantly need to work at it. The only way I can achieve the goals in GITCA is to use the team as a resource and delegate. As volunteers have other priorities, this is a task in itself.

  • Funding. A non-profit group as large as GITCA (and with as many members) needs to find a source of funding. It needs to revisit that source over and over and supplement it along the way with other sources. With the global financial crises and with our own personal funding worries in our own lives, this has become a survivable but consistent challenge.

    In business, funding has also been a source of concern. Not so much for my business but my clients. We have had to work with our clients and give them as much support as we can. They have made a commitment to us in choosing us as their IT support; we have made a commitment to them that we will support them.

  • Staff. All members of the team, in business or in my life at GITCA, need to be driven to the same goals and understand the same rules. In today's society where we are working with many different generations and age groups, finding the correct mix has become a challenge.

  • Life quality. Long hours at the office, a long commute home, a long conference call at midnight and urgent work to be done thousands of miles away. Our lives are becoming more complicated and we are having less time available for ourselves.

  • Skill shortages. In business we are finding it very hard to locate the correct people to fill the roles available. In the non-profit world, you often get many volunteers, but their skills also do not align with the roles at hand.

Q: What are the top 5 disruptive technologies and how will they have impact?

  • Social networking. Personally I love Facebook. I can contact long lost friends and catch up. I can also give my "one line blog" on Twitter and promote myself on LinkedIn. Used correctly, these tools are fantastic. Used during the work day they can be invasive, distractive and sources of leaked communications. They can sap time purely from the fact they generate sounds and popups on your screen when you are working on something else. They provide a window into your life, when you should be busy elsewhere. Ultimately if used incorrectly, they are stealing time and assisting people in producing substandard work. Our workplaces are changing and these tools are reducing staff effectiveness.

  • Online streaming. Staff addicted to the latest viral joke on YouTube. This can be used appropriately for training or fun afterhours; however the streaming technologies also can distract people for long lengths of time and cause inappropriate material to enter the workplace. It can cause embarrassment and offence. This is again stealing time and in some occasions, showing visual techniques and processes that are simply dangerous.

  • Online shopping/auctions, the instant gratification of buying something and then waiting for the courier to deliver. Hours spent hunting online, distracted from your work. This can deliver the best prices, the best delivery times and sometimes the best service. It has its place. Unfortunately it is helping the world to learn to expect smaller timeframes.

  • Smartphones. Smartphone apps. The latest ring tone, paired Bluetooth game, online game/gambling, online Twitter and Facebook. Staff always needing to have the phone, displayed and facing them. Always watching for the next message. Shortened attention spans and aggravation if the phone sits still for too long. People are getting too easily distracted and not concentrating on what needs to be done.

    They are also a great email, contact and calendaring tool. They have some great benefits. The challenge of the future is allowing the phones for the good of the business life, but avoiding the pitfalls.

  • Online storage. People swapping large files at work (not necessarily your company secrets). Photos, movies and music. It is opening your business to possible piracy and time wasting.

    It is also a great way to get your technical tools from point A to point B. Again a challenge that provides advantages and disadvantages.

Q: What specific challenges and opportunities should IT practitioners and businesses embrace today and in two years and five years?

  • Embrace the general lack of money in the marketplace. Now is a time to get back to basics, talk to your clients and support them. New hardware and software might be a ways off however their existing network needs your care. You have the chance to learn your client better and make your offerings better suited to them.

  • Look to the cloud. Its current penetration is nowhere near where it was expected; however, it will get to the point where it is the solution we all need. Start looking now and moving towards it now. Look towards staff management systems, job ticketing systems, and accounting systems that are cloud based. Let someone else fix the bugs and keep it up to date. Take that overhead away from your business.

  • Build partnerships. There are too many technologies out there. You can't know them all. Plan to find the right mix of partners. In 5 years' time, you can't predict the operating system on the desktop or server (if they exist). Partner with enough diverse technology experts now and build a strategy that helps give you a marketplace early warning system, for when you need to look to new technologies.

Q: Describe five areas of controversy in the areas that you work.

  • The cloud. Has it made server engineers redundant? Should we pack up and learn a new trade? Absolutely not. Some clients can't move to the cloud for bandwidth or legal reasons. There will be servers for quite some time yet.

  • Should you be an MSP? The hype has said yes. Everyone should be an MSP and then they can relax and take it easy. Seriously, if you do it right, you will succeed for now and into the future. If you are going to sit back and relax, letting software agents do your work, you had better have a backup plan.

  • Should you start providing HaaS services? Is there any money in selling hardware or should you rent to your clients per month?

    I think clients can still see ROI on purchased hardware. I don't think the HaaS model applies to all clients (or even a significantly large section).

  • Should you start your own data centre? Should you be a cloud provider? Is the traditional SMB specialist going to fail as servers move to the cloud? I can't be sure however, I am working on the in-house server model and use the cloud to fill the gaps where it is appropriate. I certainly don't have the finances to start a data centre and if needed, I can resell space in data centres.

  • Virtualization, is it slow and pointless? It is seriously a matter for the situation to dictate. There are some tasks where this is a great technology and there are other tasks where you need to spend too much money to get the service level required.

Q: What is the value in professional associations for computing professionals?

  • The biggest value is the support of your peers.

  • Learning from others in a friendly and informative way.

  • In some cases, buying power or enough member numbers to effect change.

  • Having a charter and a level of respect. A measure that you meet.

Q: What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized non-licensing based credentials?
[See and the Global Industry Council,]

A:  After seeing the mistreatment of computers and clients through 20 years of observation, I wholeheartedly support a code of ethics that is transportable from country to country. An understanding that a person meets a specific level and can be trusted is invaluable.

IT professionals work around the clock, handle very sensitive information, and need to be held to the highest code of ethics and then be proud to be a valuable, respected member of the profession.

The IT industry is very much a negative service industry. Let me clarify. It is a service industry where most people are contacting you in a negative light as something has gone wrong or is going to cost lots of money. They rarely call to say "something has gone right". They always remember the things that have failed. Being a profession with a code of ethics helps a client who is always finding fault trust the industry and let the professionals do their job. It will also help clients seek out those that have proven they meet the standards.

It could help drive better training and support for those that are members, and partnership markets formed alongside the profession will hold it in high acclaim.

Q: Please share your deep insights and a candid discussion on emerging technologies — CIO vs CTO.

A:   In the SMB space, most clients do not have a CIO or CTO. Most often the accountant or owner of the business tries to fulfill the role of both the CIO and CTO with advice from their trusted IT consultant. They try and use existing technologies to solve business issues and see them through (similar to the CIO), and rely on the IT consultant to point them to any new technologies or provide the new technological advancement, much like a CTO.
  1. Technology to grow revenue vs technology to increase efficiencies.

    In the SMB sector, many businesses aim to increase efficiencies through technology, thus keeping more of their profit. Their aim is to eventually invest in new technologies to grow revenue, but they rarely get to that point. They spend most of their time finding efficiencies and saving money and then starting the process all over again. They need a trusted IT professional to explain to them that the time is right and the systems efficient enough that they need to start growing revenue. Many who run the businesses are in CIO mode and can't grow by themselves into a CTO role.

  2. Impact of business driving the technology decisions.

    Good business drives profit up, drives staffing numbers up, drives marketing to sell more and then makes the owner satisfied. IT is rarely budgeted for and is often an emergency expense pointed out by an IT professional. No matter how much profit is made or how good business is, the IT expense is often unexpected. One of the many exceptions; if a particular vertical market sees an opportunity to make money though better technology, there will be a drive to that new technology by the market members.

    Good business needs to be pushed by external factors to spend the surplus on technology (or it needs to be an emergency). Unless the industry is technology driven, good business is not always a sign a company will invest in new technology.

    Bad business drives an increase in patch management and rarely sees new infrastructure. All technology decisions, good or bad, are stressful and under duress in bad business.

  3. Technology perspectives from the customer's point of view.

    In the SMB sector, technology is in the background and their business is in the foreground. They need to work on their craft and the technology needs to silently enable them. Their skill is in something other than IT and technology and they do not want to be affected by the technology or involved in it. They have their business to run. They want the experts to make the technology happen with the least inconvenience to them.

  4. Are CIOs becoming the Chief Innovation Officers?

    In my experience, the CIO is mixed with the CTO and is indeed heading towards the Chief Innovation Officer. They are expected to find innovation, provide innovation and stand by their innovations (and still do the work of the CTO and CIO).

  5. What are other hot topics?

    Should the CIO / CTO be on staff or outsourced?

Q: Please share your deep insights on Governance/Board and a candid discussion on what the board is really thinking.

  1. The Board's top 3 concerns as it relates to the integration of technology and business:

    • How much downtime will this cause and will the cost include sending staff on holidays or will they be away for training?

    • What is the backup plan and risk mitigation? Am I at risk?

    • Why does it cost so much when there are cheaper "unqualified" solutions/services on the market?

  2. Who board members rely on within the organization:

    • Accounting team

    • Sales manager

    • General Manager (usually in this order)

  3. Deploying an IT governance program:

    • What is the maximum time we can keep equipment before it affects staff?

    • What is the least we can work with?

    • What are our goals and do we need to increase IT to support it?

    • Can we improve our use of IT without upgrading?

  4. Innovation and its impact on the organization's future success:

    • How long before the training and upheaval will be paid for and the innovation will be paid off?

    • Will we need a further innovation to replace this one before we get ROI?

    • Do we have the right people to see this innovation bedded in and keep it running?

  5. Preparing the work force for the future:

    • Can we bring in fresh staff that can already work with this?

    • Do we find a champion amongst our staff to train and then pass on the knowledge?

    • What do we need to do to be able to support the staff to cope with this and can we put someone in place to do the support?

Q: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share three stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).

A:   Story One:
While representing Microsoft as an MVP and speaking at a not-for-profit gathering, I recanted the experience of running the IT for 11,000 scouts on the side of hill. We had built a small city from nothing. We had placed infrastructure across the site for IT and telephony. We had transported many buildings to the site and had many struggles. Many, many things had gone wrong and there were many moments when giving up was the easier solution. I was after all a volunteer, I was sure someone else could fill my shoes. I had given three years to the project and felt I had done my time.

I did not give up. I pushed on, found servers that were sponsored and very cheap computers. I arranged free internet and established a well-run helpdesk and emergency system. I had achieved a fantastic result and was very proud. It was this that led me to speak. I was there to motivate other volunteers and show that these things could be done. After the speech as the room cleared, a wheelchair bound man who had lost the use of his limbs approached me. He said, "You have inspired me to volunteer. I will forget my own troubles and go out and find something to do. Thank you for speaking today."

This is one of those moments that everything "clicked" and felt right. I felt that I had inspired one person and achieved my goal. This person has struggles but will overcome these and make big things happen.

Story Two:
On one trip to New Zealand, I presented on Small Business Server and remote facilities. I could sense the hunger for knowledge in the room and the session went many hours longer than intended. Walking back to the hotel room, delegates came with me to talk more on the subject. One particular delegate wanted to start an SBS users group and wanted to know what to do. After swapping business cards and promising to stay in touch I headed back to Australia. A while later, I was the technical reviewer on a book about Small Business Server. I sent the New Zealand contact a copy, to help him start his user group library. I thought not much more of it.

More recently, the place I had visited in New Zealand was destroyed by the Christchurch earthquake. I had concerns for this person and his group. Oddly enough, he had been evacuated to Australia, to my home state of South Australia. Our chance meeting in New Zealand led to us sharing a walk around the South Australian Museum and a coffee. He paid for it and treated me like a guest in my own state. He put aside his troubles and thought it fit to show me his appreciation.

It is strange how the people you meet and influence often come back to be a bigger part in your life.

Story Three:
I recall my first presentation on Microsoft Home server. It was the biggest group I had spoken in front of at the time. I had 220 pairs of eyes looking at me and I was very nervous.

I was on stage to display the merits of the technology and the projector started playing up. I then found that the home server (Beta software) was failing and that the script I was following was not going to work. I had to cut short the demonstration by considerable time and throw to the crowd for questions ahead of schedule. I was nervous, shaking and worried. The questions and answers session went on for some time. Towards the end a person from the crowd came to the microphone and said, "Thank you for the best presentation on a Microsoft technology I have ever seen."

I almost passed out in shock. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the questions and answers and hardly realized anything had gone wrong. It goes to prove, communication is key. Keep it flowing and get everyone involved and it will be a success.

Q: If you were conducting this interview, what 3 questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?

  1. Why do you volunteer?
    It opens new horizons for me and pushes me out of my comfort zone. I have learned so much and meet many great people. I have had the opportunity to do far more than I normally would have.

  2. What made you go into business for yourself?
    I was a very successful engineer working for someone else. I felt that what I really wanted to do, I could not do unless it was for myself. It was not an easy decision, and being self-reliant for skill and income was scary, however I am glad I did it. It was truly out of my comfort zone but an essential part of me growing.

  3. In technology, in any time, who would you want to meet? Why?
    Many IT people want to meet Bill Gates. They wanted to meet him when he was the world's richest man and the founder of Microsoft. I am not going to disappoint you. I would like to meet Bill Gates, now. Not back when he was at Microsoft. Now, when he is on the fields, trudging through the dirt, volunteering his time to solve riddles and put his money towards cures. I briefly met Bill Gates in 2004 in Redmond. That was exciting, but meeting him now, that would be my dream. I would love to get him talking about how he is helping people.