Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill

Beantown Web maintains a policy of not discussing politics. This posting is an exception. Feel free to contact your Senator or Representative to discuss the findings presented in this story.

There are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 100 members of the U.S. Senate. The websites of these 535 members of the U.S. Congress were graded by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF). A press release is available for review.

The most common grade issued: "D"

Less that 14% of websites received an "A" rating. The 85 best websites received one of three Mouse Awards as follows:
  • 18 Gold Mouse Awards (A-plus)
  • 27 Silver Mouse Awards (A)
  • 40 Bronze Mouse Awards (A-minus)
Two Bronze Mouse Awards were issued to Massachusetts Congressmen:
Massachusetts Senators not receiving awards:
Massachusetts Representatives not receiving awards:
The Congressional Management Foundation did not release the grades of any students other than the "A" students.

If you are not from Massachusetts you can identify your U.S. Senator and your U.S. Representative and then check to see if he or she was one of the 2006 CMF Mouse Award Winners.

"One of the key purposes of the awards is to highlight best practices so offices can improve their sites by learning from those doing a good job," said a CMF resprsentative.

Websites were evaluated based on how well they incorporate five basic building blocks of web communication effectiveness:

  • audience
  • content
  • usability
  • interactivity
  • innovation
A downloadable report (pdf) presents a nice 20-page discussion on "Building a Successful Web Site" using the five basic building blocks listed above.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sources of Hire Survey

Where do companies find new employees? Organizations that track this information refer to the data captured as Sources of Hire (SOH). An annual SOH survey sheds some light on which strategies might yield the best results for job seekers attempting to obtain gainful employment.

The survey, now in its sixth year, covers 40 large highly-competitive, high-profile companies that employ nearly 1.3 million people. Smaller companies are less likely to track SOH data. So, these findings may not be consistent with how smaller companies find qualified workers.

The Sources of Hire survey was coordinated by CareerXroads. A summary is available from ZoomInfo.

Here are a few highlights from the most recent survey covering 2006 hiring data:
  • positions filled by internal transfers and promotions (34%)
  • positions filled by employee referrals (26%)
  • positions filled via the company website (21%)
  • positions filled via job boards** (12%)
** Monster.com, CareerBuilder and HotJobs are the top three job boards.

Best Strategy

So, the best strategy appears to be getting your foot in the door, perhaps through a temporary assignment via a placement agency. Then, you have an inside shot at bidding for open positions -- full-time employees are usually given preference for these jobs.

Next Best Strategy

The next best strategy appears to be good old-fashioned networking. An employee referral is the primary source that companies use to fill vacancies with external candidates. So, expanding your network of contacts remains a reliable job search strategy.

Alternative Strategy

When you are not already on the inside and don't have an internal connection, you are nearly twice as likely to land the position if you apply via the company website, as opposed to, a job board. So, if you see the job you want on a job-related website, go directly to the company website and follow the online application instructions.

Suggested Game Plan

To improve your job search prospects, it pays to expand your network of contacts. One strategy for doing so was outlined in a Beantown Web posting published one year ago entitled Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In this article I introduced readers to a social network for business professionals called Linkedin. My Linkedin network at that time consisted of one contact. One year later my network has expanded to more than 100 contacts. These contacts have more than 8,600 direct connections.

One key to successful networking is to offer something of value to your network of connections. Beantown Web is one strategy I use to offer value. If you are a Web professional and find that the resources I have made available on this blog have helped you, here are several ways for us to connect:
  • I would be happy to add your e-mail address to my distribution list if you don't already receive e-mail notices of new postings.
  • If you have an idea for an article or a service that could help your Web-related career I'd like to hear from you.
Where would you like to go today? Perhaps, I can help you get there? My contact information is listed in the right-hand column.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

BATEC Workforce Study

"Technical skills get you the interview, soft skills get you the job."

This is just one conclusion from a study presented at the Boston Area Advanced Technological Education Connections (BATEC) IT Futures Forum conducted at Staples headquarters on February 2.

This study presented data on current and future information technology (IT) workforce skills requirements in the Boston area. Data was compiled as a result of live focus groups and telephone interviews and was gathered from the following three sources:
  • IT workers
  • hiring managers
  • strategic planners
For students the research attempted to answer two questions:
  • Who is getting the jobs now?
  • Who gets to keep them in the future?
Technical skills:

Career growth potential is a function of the technical area that you chose to focus on. In general, Web developers (programmers) with database knowledge and expertise should do quite well. The research projected the following outlook for the greater Boston area:

Much faster than average growth potential:

  • database design and administration

Faster than average growth potential:

  • Web development and administration
  • Digital media (desktop publisher)
  • Programmer

About average growth potential:

  • technical writing
  • technical training

Declining growth potential:

  • technical support (help desk)
Soft Skills:

In addition, customer service skills are in demand as more IT jobs are becoming customer-facing. Technical workers should highlight experience working with the following three groups:

  • internal customers
  • external customers
  • potential customers

Finally, employability skills, in addition to technical skills, factor into the soft skill set that will help win over the hiring manager. Listed below are eight general skills that employers are looking for. Providing examples during an interview of how you have implemented these skills in a work setting will help separate you from your competition:

  • communication (oral and written)
  • work productively in teams and groups
  • customer and business focus
  • listen for meaning and comprehension
  • resourceful and creative problem solving
  • prioritize work and self evaluate
  • comprehend and communicate quantitatively
  • develop original solutions to novel problems
The PowerPoint presentation and streaming video of Peter Saflund's presentation are available on the BATEC website. The full report is expected to be published by the end of February.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Productivity ROI Calculation

The Challenge:

Managers spend up to two hours a day searching for information. This productivity drain occurs because the majority of managers store information on local hard drives and in individual e-mail accounts. Only 16 percent use a collaborative workplace such as a company’s intranet portal.

The Solution:

Web designers and developers are in a unique position to improve corporate productivity by helping organizations store and retrieve valuable information via a Web portal.

The Economics:

Assuming that the corporate expense for a middle manager is $50 per hour (substitute your own figure here), two hours of lost productivity equates to a daily productivity drain of $100 per manager. An organization with 10 middle managers loses $1,000 of productivity per day simply trying to find information! This calculation can be used to estimate the return on investment that the development of an intranet can bring to an organization.

Additional Background:

The data was compiled as a result of an online survey of more than 1,000 middle managers of large companies in the United States and United Kingdom. It was coordinated by Accenture and a press release is available for review.

Additional findings include the following:

  • More than half (59 percent) of middle managers said that as a consequence of poor information distribution, they miss information that might be valuable to their jobs almost every day because it exists somewhere else in the company and they just can’t find it.

  • Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents said gathering information about what other parts of their company are doing is a big challenge.

Two Big Ideas:
  1. Web developers can develop their own intranet to easily access technology that may be valuable, but not easy to access, if stored in books at a remote location. For example, I have decided to move the contents of my technology books online for my benefit and the benefit of students I work with at CDIABU. Check out the beta version of the Web Apprentices Training Center.

  2. Web developers can utilize the results of this survey as a catalyst to explore the marketplace for "content management." One open-source solution for managing online content is WordPress.com. Check out the beta version of the Web Apprentices Training Center Blog created using WordPress that will allow readers to comment on the Web Apprentices Training Center.
Centralized data access and online collaboration are two tools that Web developers can use to enhance productivity. These tools can help position you on the profit side of the corporate ledger and enhance your value to any organization that wants to be more productive.

Monday, February 05, 2007

2007 IT Salary & Skills Report

"The rate at which your salary increases is proportional to the extent that you take personal responsibility for your continued education."

"Specific technical skills are less important than the more management-focused communication and planning skills."

These are two conclusions reached from a survey of more than 1,600 information technology (IT) professionals. The survey focused on two key areas: salaries and skills.


The survey listed 17 technology job functions.

The average survey respondent had the following profile:
  • base salary exceeds $71,000
  • more than half received a bonus last year averaging nearly $4,000
  • age: 42
  • experience: 11 years in IT
The average salary for Web/Internet developers is $63,800.


The number one concern of survey respondents:
  • keeping up with skills
This concern rated higher than any of the following responses:
  • IT compensation
  • IT job market
  • Job security
  • Outsourcing
More than 60% of respondents attended training within the past nine months. To demonstrate how important technology professionals feel about keeping up with technology skills, nearly 20% paid for their own training!

Some employers are more generous with time off for training than others:
  • no training time off (31%)
  • one week of training (38%)
  • more than one week of training (31%)
Nearly two thirds of employers paid all training expenses, in addition to providing paid time off.

To learn more about the factors that impact compensation for technology professionals, access 2007 IT Salary and Skills Report from Global Knowledge.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boston Market -- February

Are you looking for a Web-related job in Massachusetts? A research report released last week may have some bearing on the direction that technology spending might be heading in 2007.

With the launch of Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system 5,000 new tech jobs will be created in Massachusetts according to a report issued by Framingham-based
International Data Corp. The report is summarized at Information Week. The Boston Globe provides a more detailed summary of the research findings. The report was commissioned by Microsoft.

One reason why web-technology professionals should be aware of this report is that "18% of total IT employment in the state will be Vista-related." Businesses and consumers will be purchasing software and hiring third parties to provide installation, support and training. This is money that might otherwise be earmarked for Web-related projects.

If money starts to temporarily shift away from Internet development and towards infrastructure upgrade, then now might be a good time for Web professionals to take a look at Microsoft's approach to creating dynamic Web pages.

This month's analysis of the Boston job market focuses on Microsoft-centric technologies. For Web professionals these include Internet Explorer 7, ASP.NET and SQL Server 2005 .

Internet Explorer 7

The rapid upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) to Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) continues. Three months after its official release IE7 now accounts for a greater percentage of the browser market than Firefox, Safari and all other browsers combined. Still, the vast majority of Web surfers (54%) continue to use IE6 which is a troublesome browser for Web design professionals to work with. However, if the upgrade to IE7 continues at the current pace, IE7 might become the most popular browser on the Web as soon as April.

Note: Web browser statistics for January are located in the right-hand column.


ASP.NET is a set of web application development technologies marketed by Microsoft and used to build dynamic web sites. PHP is one popular open-source alternative to ASP.NET.

The number of jobs listed at BostonWorks.com in the greater Boston area that request knowledge in each of these technologies are as follows:

  • ASP.NET [ 185 ]
  • PHP [ 52 ]
Currently there are more than three times as many opportunities for Microsoft-centric Web programmers than for open-source Web programmers.

SQL Server 2005

SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) developed by Microsoft. MySQL is one popular open-source alternative to SQL Server.

The number of jobs listed at BostonWorks.com in the greater Boston area that request knowledge in each of these technologies are as follows:
  • SQL Server [ 377 ]
  • MySQL [ 51 ]
Currently there are more than seven times as many opportunities for Microsoft-centric database developers than for open-source database developers.

If you are not yet familiar with Microsoft's approach to Web development, perhaps now is a good time to test the waters while the Microsoft marketing machine is in full gear. Knowing Microsoft-specific technologies opens the door to three to seven times as many job opportunities as compared with open-source alternatives.

Exploring these technologies need not be expensive. For example, Microsoft provides you with all of the software and training videos you need to get started. These resources are FREE. Simply access
ASP.NET to get started today. You can even begin learning Microsoft's implementation of Ajax, a buzzword that is associated with Web 2.0.

Note: "Average Salaries in Boston" and "Top 10 Web Technologies in Boston" have been updated to reflect February statistics. Data and links are located in the right-hand column.