If It Was an Effective Meeting You Took Good Notes

Note Taking Template

Outline “Note Taking” Mode

If it was an effective meeting you took good notes…or is it because you took notes, it was an effective meeting?

Either way, good note taking skills are imperative.

Have you ever been in a meeting or conference call where no one did what they promised to accomplish at the previous one? Due to the fact that no improvement has been produced since the last meeting, there’s little to go over, and people lose interest soon…very soon!

Momentum grinds to a halt and all you hear is radio silence.

It is a common scenario, yet it’s one which can frequently be avoided by just ensuring adequate notes are usually circulated promptly before and after every meeting. This allows the dialogue to still be fresh in people’s minds because everyone has a very clear reminder of what they have to do or for what they are responsible.

I have been using the same note taking template since 2002, when it was shared with me by a man named Bill Whitley who was the owner of my company at the time.

Download the Template (23.3 KB Word Doc) – Instructions are included in the document

Every time I need to share my screen during a meeting and people see this template and how quickly I am able to take notes, they are immediately impressed.

I hope this note taking template helps anyone who chooses to download it.

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Goals versus Tasks

Goals versus Tasks - Goal ManagementI was recently reading a white paper* by SuccessFactors titled: “Doing the Right Things: Using Goal Management to Drive Business Execution.”1

A section that really stood out and is worthy of sharing discusses the difference between goals versus tasks.

As an obsessive list maker who hasn’t completed a list in umpteen many years, this topic obviously caught my attention. The basic premise is that employees should have no more than 10 goals. When an employee has more than 10 goals it’s usually because they have confused goals with tasks:

Goals are outcomes, accomplishments, or responsibilities people need to fulfill to be effective in their jobs. Tasks are activities people perform to achieve these goals.

Well said.

Then to bring the idea home, the paper makes a rather excellent sports analogy:

The difference between tasks and goals is like the difference between executing plays in football and scoring points. At the end of the day achieving points is what matters, not the number of plays you ran.

I was much more of a soccer player but even I related to this mainly because of how awesome it is! Thank you SuccessFactors for actually creating and providing a white paper that educated me AND captured my short attention span at the same time.


1 “Doing the Right Things: Using Goal Management to Drive Business Execution.” SuccessFactors. 2012. Download White Paper.

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App Review – mSecure Password Manager Review

mSecure Password Manager ReviewmSecure Password Manager for Android

Company: mSevenSoftware
Website: mSecure for Android
Product Page Description:
mSecure for Android is the leading password manager and digital wallet in the Google Play Store. mSecure has a premium Android look and feel with features like collapsible section headers, search, sort and auto-login assist.


I have been using DataVault well, ever since it was first released, when it was just a desktop tool. I have been loyal to DataVault but decided to switch to mSecure about 1 month ago. I have always looked for a better password manager, trying and testing just about all the “top” tools on the app market. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m picky, very picky and know what I want and mSecure had it. My “Basic” Requirements in a Password Manager:

  • Entries must have unlimited fields
  • I like icons, the more the better (thanks mSecure!)
  • Password required to access the app
  • Good organization of Categories with options for different views
  • Customization, customization, customization
  • Desktop software
  • Ability to sync with DropBox and other things like this

mSecure is hands down my new password manager. The only thing I would add to a wish list for the tool is the ability to import DataVault. Besides, I’ve drank the Kool-Aid and it is good!

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Proven Strategies for Controlling Scope Creep

Picture the scenario: You’re the BA on an implementation project. Everything is going well and milestones are being met. All stakeholders are happy.

Then, all of a sudden, a stakeholders tells you that the system just HAS to do something that was never planned for in the Requirements. It just HAS to have a field to track a customer’s credit status. It HAS to have a maker-checker approval workflow for modifying transactions. It HAS to have the ability to attach documents to a customer’s record.

The list goes on…you’re flooded with numerous change requests and you realize you have serious scope creep issues. Scope creep is one of the most common things in projects and to be honest, I did not realize how detrimental it was at first. Aside from the fact that it distracts everyone from delivering the base outcomes of a project, takes away hours and hours of our time as BAs and drives your PM and Program Director insane.

I am breaking this post into two parts to open up discussion on my strategies for controlling scope creep. My point of view is that of a Business Analyst but you can apply these ideas to any sort of project regardless of your role with the project.

Over-Communicate to Users

One of THE most effective and undeniable ways to control scope creep is through over-communication with your stakeholders and users. I’ve found that when people are continuously involved and kept up-to-date on the status of a project, they will be more amenable to ideas and will provide necessary buy-in when you need it.

Just picture yourself entrenched in a project that you’ve been updating a user regularly every two days about the project’s status, issues you are facing and the progression of the timeline. If, out of the blue, there is an unexpected “enhancement item” requested/required by this user, it is going to be a great deal easier for you to negotiate and request, for example, a rescheduling of said enhancement.

Compare this scenario to a situation in which you have not communicated with the user, at all, during the project. That user, mark my words, is going to be unyielding when pushing their enhancement through.

Documentation, Documentation, Documentation

Document EVERYTHING to help control scope creep. As a project manager, there are countless discussions and agreements that occur outside of official meetings.

NEVER agree to anything outside of an official meeting. Always minute and document agreements and decision points though a formal meeting. That way, if a user disputes something was signed off and agreed, you can refer to the meeting minutes as evidence.

People forget about things. You have to have documentary evidence that things were agreed on knowing that people forget things.

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Thoughts on Personality Tests and Career Archetypes

I like taking personality tests, career tests or any type of assessment that helps me better understand who I am from a new perspective.

My advice about personality, career, and all other assessment tests: Take them. Take every single one you come across and always be honest because….wait for it….THEY ARE FUN!

My New Career Archetype

My most recent “assessment” was from a rather popular salary assessment website called their “Career Archetype Assessment.”

Rob Ferguson is a Magician


The Magician archetype is all about the power of transformation. Magicians have an ability to make a vision a reality, not just for themselves, but for others as well.

A strong Magician archetype means you have a strong belief in your own ability to change the world. Often the Magician can change a negative situation into a positive one just by redefining the issues or changing goals to meet the new situation.

Traps to Avoid
Too often a Magician will spend time waiting for the miracle to happen, rather than putting in the effort to make it happen. Procrastination and over complication of simple solutions can be traps for the Magician.

If you have a strong Magician presence you will feel at home in an organization with a clear vision that gives you enough autonomy to effect change.


What is hilarious about this assessment is that I am not a procrastinator but I do find myself waiting around for other people to get things done.

The quiz was fun so all is well in the kingdom.

Some of the more reputable personality tests include:

Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator
Taking the test results in one of 16 types with titles like “ESTJ” and “INFP”. These refer to four polarities (such as extroversion / introversion and thinking / feeling). The test is used to assess preferences without easy links to strategies or role models, so really require an expert to interpret the results and translate it into effective action.

Wealth Dynamics
Wealth Dynamics has rapidly grown into the most widely adopted profiling systems for entrepreneurs and business owners around the world. The reason for its success is that it links both your strengths and weaknesses to your preferences, and then gives you clear role models and strategies to follow. It takes the very best of MBTI, DISC and Strength Finder, and delivers to you a system that is intuitive, relevant and easy to explain to others.

The Sixteen Personality Factor (16PF) Questionnaire
The 16PF is a personality inventory that measures the 16 normal-range personality traits identified by psychologist Raymond B. Cattell and fellow researchers. Later, five global (or second-order) factors were discovered. The 16PF assessment scores both the broader, second-order traits as well as the more specific and precise primary traits. The assessment is commonly used in the workplace but also in academic and counseling settings.

Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness (DISC)
The DISC assessment is based on a four-quadrant behavioral model identified by William Moulton Marston. The test assesses the behavior of individuals within certain situations. Behavior is grouped into four major personality styles, each of which tends to exhibit specific characteristics common to that particular style.

Caliper Profile
The Caliper Profile is a commercial assessment that measures 25 personality traits related to job performance. The instrument is used for hiring, performance improvement and team building and is designed to provide information on an individual’s strengths, limitations, motivation and potential.

McQuaig Word Survey
The McQuaig Word Survey (WS) is a measure of four personality domains that capture core aspects of the widely established “big five” personality factors. It is organized into 21 word sets, each consisting of four descriptors (a tetrad) – one from each of the four personality domains. Respondents rank order the trait-descriptors within each of the 21 sets based on the degree to which they are self-descriptive. WS interpretations and recommendations are based on seven basic profile patterns and their subsets.

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SiteCatalyst Tagging Resource Tutorial

SiteCatalyst Tagging is the process of adding JavaScript code to your website pages to collect visitor data.

Sitecatalyst Tagging Tutorial

Adobe’s excellent overview of SiteCatalyst tagging

In this tutorial, you will learn how to add tracking using the most common method, client-side SiteCatalyst Tagging. This is not an exhaustive review of the topic, but an overview that will provide you with the experience to create your own test pages. You will also learn to monitor in-transit data using the AdobePulse Debugger.



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Adobe Insight Forum Now Has Some Activity

Lo and behold, there are now six posts in the Adobe Insight Forum:


Maybe in another year or so there will be six more posts! I’m kidding.

If anyone using Adobe Insight is up to the task, please help contribute to this forum which could be helpful for all Insight users down the road.


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Review of Mastering the Requirements Process Third Edition

Book Review

Mastering the Requirements Process: Getting Requirements Right (3rd Edition)
Price: $43.86
Publication Date: 2013* 
*Amazon’s page lists August 2012 as the Publication Date but my edition arrived 2 days ago and the Copyright clearly indicates 2013.

My Initial Thoughts:

I’m not sure it’s possible to find a more detailed book about the Requirements Phase of Project Management. With over 700 pages of detailed information, this book delivers. 

I usually gauge any book like this (hardcover, textbook-looking intimidation machine), by the authors’ ability to engage me through their writing. I literally cannot pick up a book like this one and read it cover to cover unless the author makes the topic (which I usually know beforehand to be boring) compelling and interesting. 

Suzanne and James Robertson (the authors) accomplish this…for the most part! 

My Current Progress:

  • I’m about one third of the way into the book but had to put it aside for a couple of days when my wife reminded me to be a husband and father again!
  • Like I previously mentioned, no matter the subject, I never read a book word for word…this has been and will continue to be the case with Mastering the Requirements Process 3rd Edition. Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a speed reader, seriously.
  • I really do love reading books on subjects that I think I know something about but then realize, usually very quickly, that I still have a lot to learn!

    !Random Tangent Alert!…It’s like the feeling of being in a meeting with a large group of people and feeling like you’re the dumbest person in the room. I live for those moments! Being surrounded by extremely intelligent people brings out the best in me…Tangent Complete.

Watson super computer that can answer any questionIf you’re a Business Analyst and/or involved with the Requirements Process, this book can be your Watson. You know. The super computer built by IBM that b-$%!* slapped Alex Trebek a couple of years ago. Watson is an artificial intelligence Goliath computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language and when I tell a BA this book can be your Watson, what I obviously mean is that it will answer any question(s) you have or will have about the business requirements process.

So far, I’m learning a great deal, getting updates on topics I already understood and realizing I could have done requirements in the past SO much better if I had this book umpteen years ago. So, without further delay, I would like to say “Thank You” to Suzanne and James Robertson! A labor of love for both of you, I’m sure, that will hopefully pay off! Best of luck to you both!

To read more about Mastering the Requirements Process: Getting Requirements Right (3rd Edition), or even see a list of new features in the 3rd edition, I found the best price on Amazon. FYI.


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Business Analyst Tools Part I

As an on-going attempt to identify the Business Analyst Tools most commonly need, I’m starting a list. I’ll post more tools over time but feel strongly that this list is only as strong as the comments and contributions of readers that add their own tools when they read this post.

The list begins…

  1. Microsoft Office (did I even have to list it?) – Full Office Professional Suite
  2. ErWin – Entity Relationship Diagrams
  3. Visual Studio Web Edition – UI Mockups, Prototypes
  4. Autodesk SketchBook Pro 6 – Drawing application specifically designed to work with pen tablets to deliver an authentic drawing experience
  5. Snag-It – Screenshots, Editing Images
  6. Borland CaliberRM – Requirements Management

Please add your own tools in the comments section.



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Guest Post: Adobe SiteCatalyst Review

Adobe SiteCatalyst LogoSince the only thing that matters to publishers is how customers use their sites, they need the proper tools to gain access to that information. For their best interest, publishers and marketers need to really understand where the user is going, and how it’s affecting them in the process.

Adobe SiteCatalyst provides the tools necessary so that marketers and publishers have the chance to make sense of the traffic data that is being measured. Adobe® Analytics allows you to see what’s happening in your business — and then quickly act on it — through the use of high-performance, real-time analytics. The Adobe SiteCatalyst software helps marketers quickly identify the most profitable paths to their web sites, determine where their visitors are navigating on their sites, and determine the critical success metrics for online marketing campaigns.

Using Adobe SiteCatalyst helps businesses understand and measure what’s going on with their sites and gives them the proper tools to optimize accordingly. Using SiteCatalyst makes sense, especially if businesses want to know their customer base and increase their revenue.

The SiteCatalyst solution, part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, draws data from both your online and offline channels, and ultimately becomes the compass that guides your marketing efforts and overall business direction.

What is the Adobe Marketing Cloud?

Adobe Marketing Cloud gives you a complete set of analytics, social, advertising, targeting and web experience management solutions and a real-time dashboard that brings together everything you need to know about your marketing campaigns. So you can get from data to insights to action, faster and smarter than ever.

-Guest Author

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