Forbes article23 Aug

Note: The Forbes article was updated after a discussion with the author. It now reads much closer to my actual thoughts on oDesk, outsourcing, and my business in Billings. But if you read the original version of the article (the paragraph referencing me begins with “Entrepreneur Tom Rupsis”), then please continue reading…

Well, this Forbes article is going to cause some grief. I’m very disappointed about the section in which I’m mentioned, and let me explain why.

It’s true that I use oDesk because of the acccess to skills it gives me. I’ve managed thousands of hours worth of work from highly skilled contractors in countries around the world…from India, the Philippines, China, Bolivia, Canada, Mexico, and right here in the US. I’m an active and enthusiastic user of oDesk.

But that is definitely not to say that there aren’t very qualified and talented people right here in Billings. This is a great town in which to live and work. There are even people in town who are very skilled with Sharepoint (*gasp*). But for the particular project referenced in the article, I needed someone with solid programming skills who had integrated Sharepoint with a Novell network before.

There are a few Sharepoint implementations in Billings and probably fewer Novell networks. The likelihood of finding someone in town who could do that particular piece of the project in town? Slim to nil. But I found that skill from a contractor on oDesk and had the work completed in about 24 hours.

Back in a previous life, I did have to hire several people with advanced skills for a company in town. I had very few applications from local candidates and none were exhibiting the level of skill needed at that company. I ended up hiring two Montana natives who were looking to come back home after working in larger metropolitan areas and building their technical chops. Like I said, this is a great place to live and work. People want to come back here to raise their families when they grow weary of the pace and competition of the big cities. I also hired a couple local candidates with entry level skills and tried my best to help them develop. They’re doing great work now, from what I hear.

My other point of contention with the article is that it presents me as not being able to find enough people locally to help build my business. That’s total bunk. If I wanted to hire people to help my business grow I could do that in a heartbeat. I’m self-employed, I have no employees, and I hope to keep it that way. My business is just the right size to keep me busy while allowing me the time to give my clients the personal attention they need and deserve. Using contractors through oDesk helps me greatly in that regard.

So, for those people here in Billings and throughout Montana who would take offense to my section of that article, I hear you. And I agree with your dismay at reading that. I take offense to that myself. I’m removing myself from oDesk’s PR list.

Business,IT Management,Solutions,Technology

CBAP Certification13 Jun

On June 9, I passed the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) exam. The certification is established and managed by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and is designed to recognize “senior business analysts who have the skill and expertise to perform BA work on projects of various sizes and complexities.” If you’re unfamiliar with business analysis it is basically the practice of soliciting, defining and managing requirements for business solutions. Of course, you can always refer to Wikipedia for a more detailed description.

Since I also achieved the PMP certification several years ago, the CBAP process was quite enlightening. IIBA seems to be where PMI was 20 years ago. They’re just getting their methodology fully defined, just getting the kinks worked out of the exam and application process, and just breaking through as a “required” certification for professionals in the field.

To me, the certifications are not terribly valuable by themselves. Sure, they get added to the resume, the website, LinkedIn, etc., and they might one day help get my name through the initial HR screeners for some positions. But I’ve been doing BA and PM work for long enough to know that the real world does not generally operate as the academic structures of the two methodologies suggest.

So why did I bother subjecting myself to the ridiculous application and testing process required to get the CBAP certification?

When people want to know what I do, I most often tell them I’m a project manager / business analyst with some technical skills in database development and business intelligence.  Simply put, when you are an IT practitioner working for small to mid-size businesses in Montana, project management and business analysis are very complementary skills. In this market, companies don’t usually hire distinct project managers or business analysts. In my experience, if a company is big enough to start hiring an IT staff, they go first for networking and desktop support and then they hire will programming skills. They’ll usually hire several people with technical skills well before they ever hire someone who thinks about the business side of IT. By then, they’ve had a number of problematic experiences where their IT staff (however talented they may be) has failed to deliver in a number of key areas.

I work with these companies. They need people who can understand their business, translate their business requirements into technical terminology, and then procure (if necessary) and manage the technical resources to get the job done.

That’s my niche.

The PMP and CBAP certifications designate me as someone who designs, builds and delivers high quality IT solutions. They don’t prove I can do it, but the successes I’ve had with my clients and employers over the years do.

Software development,Staffing

Finding the right long term contractor19 May

I’ve been using the oDesk service to build custom software systems for about 3.5 years now. I’ve worked with contractors from across the world including India, Philippines, Bolivia, US, Canada, and Mexico. There’s a world full of very skilled people out there, and oDesk makes it easy to connect with them and accomplish great things.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky to establish strong relationships with a number of highly skilled contractors. So Brian McDonough from oDesk interviewed me to find out what I think makes a contractor great. I think it’s an interesting article and one that’s relevant to me personally in my role as a consultant.

Software development

Nice press in the Billings Gazette09 Jan

Jan Falstad wrote a very nice article about the work I’ve been doing on Schedappy ( and Total Offender Management (  Check it out!

Business Solves Unique Problems With Unique Software

Business,IT Management,Software development,Technology

Ideas to Improve Your Likelihood of Project Success13 Apr

I recently completed a large project for a non-profit client in the social services industry. The goal was to develop a system that would allow them to manage their case loads efficiently as their existing systems were inadequate to the task. I learned and confirmed several things by managing this project that I think you might find useful.


Contact Me

Granite Peak Systems, LLC
PO Box 80892
Billings, MT 59108
Tel: 406-672-8292


Since 2007, I have funded a Kiva account in recognition of my clients. Whenever I get a new client, or find a microloan that relates to the industries my clients serve, I contribute to the account. You can see my lender profile here: