30 December 2010

Cloud Computing - From Hype to Hope

This is a 2009 interview with Larry Ellison CEO of Oracle, where he has a rant about the concept of “cloud” technology. Larry argues that the technology components of the cloud are all existing technologies and even the primary business model of cloud, the concept of “rental” has been around for more than a decade so cloud is more about hype than any real innovation. But it is the combination of the technology, the business model and the “hype”, which has made cloud computing a technology of great interest today. I would agree with Joseph Foran that cloud is an evolution and is here to stay.

The emergence of cloud computing brings together the concepts of primitive beginning, hidden usefulness and how combinations of technology can lead to a new path which technology changes may take. The internet had fairly humble beginnings, where it was used to share research. The internet of today still enables research sharing but has also brought new paradigms for online shopping, social networking, applications and even the research and knowledge sharing has grown substantially with the inclusion of wikis. Cloud computing leveraged this shift in internet use and in combination with the rental business model may be poised to free organisations from some of the ICT baggage, which has weighed down their budgets, if they can live with the services that are being offered, whether these be infrastructure, platform or application-related.

While for start-ups making use of cloud services is a way to minimise ICT-related capital expenditures and as the decision will be made from the start there should be little disruption. However, for established organisations journeying into cloud will cause significant change for both business and ICT. It is going to be challenging to balance the "economics of the cloud" with the organisation's differentiators; to find when and where investment into the cloud makes the most sense; to align the cloud strategy with the overall organisation strategy. Could be an interesting time for Enterprise Architecture.

16 November 2010

Social and Context-Aware Computing, Pattern Analysis and Cloud. What's in it for you?

Gartner has identified four trends which will have impacts on both business and IT
  1. Cloud
  2. Business impact of social computing
  3. Context Aware Computing
  4. Pattern Based Strategy
While these trends will impact ICT investment, they should also impact the services in ICT. ICT organisations should consider how these converging trends will impact the services ICT can provide to their customers, whether that be within the organisation or whether these services could be expanded to become a profit centre.

How might social computing be used to increase engagement in ICT governance, planning, implementation and support? How can communities of interest assist in developing consensus on information needs and terminology to improve discovery?

Examples of Context Aware computing are the Mobile Transit Companion and new research at Ryerson is looking at building an intuitive application which allows mobile device users to set situation-specific business rules on when, how, where they receive voice and video calls. The situational information includes location, calendar information and their communications bandwidth. It is easy to see how this technology could be used to save ICT spend on communications by selecting the most cost-effective connection method, but what else could context-aware computing enable?

How will patterns in and between cloud computing, social networking, context-aware computing and transaction data be able to aid ICT decision-makers in refining the services ICT will provide?

We have been witness to and subjected to rapid change in technology and the way society has incorporated technology into its day-to-day functions at work, at play and at home. It seems with the convergence of social networking, context-aware computing and pattern analysis combined with new licensing and service delivery models offered by cloud computing, the rate of change is poised for acceleration. How are you going to take advantage of it?

15 November 2010

IT Transformation & Enterprise Architecture. What's the Connection?

I recently came across a post by John Palinkas from Castlepointe, Why IT Transformations Fail. This post summarises that to successfully transform IT you need to:

-Have a clear shared vision of the change that is continuously communicated to everyone.
-Ensure understanding and acceptance of the reasons for the change by everyone.
-Create and implement metrics linked to the desired business results.
-Be quick and nimble with interim deliverables that are 80% right

Interestingly or maybe not so surprisingly these behaviours would apply to any transformation project. Additionally I think these behaviours are directly in line with Enterprise Architecture objectives. "So what?" you ask. In many organisations on their Enterprise Architecture journey, the IT shop is seen as imposing Enterprise Architecture upon the business. At a very high level there is some acceptance that IT is needed to enable the business outcomes and an architecture is required to better manage the IT assets. But what this actually means and how to engage across the organisation is a bit of a mystery.

It is expected that the IT shop will get a handle on the technical architecture to drive it from what may have been an piecemeal organic architecture to one which will enable greater flexibility in supporting the business. So there is also acceptance that IT will model the business to demonstrate relationships between IT assets and the business outcomes.

But as you move into information, application and business architecture more and more people across the organisation have needs and opinions. Additionally, the organisation may have continuous improvement processes and EA should work hand in hand with these change programs not as a parallel stream. EA tools and methods may be used in conjunction with the transformation/continuous improvement methods and tools to assist in developing and communicating the shared vision and how activities in the transformation move the organisation towards the vision. The architecture will also assist in defining metrics, which may be more meaningful as they may look across the organisation and pull out previously unknown interdependencies.

Supporting the the last point is probably the most critical and yet for many the most difficult. The architecture team needs to be nimble to keep up with the 80% solutions and the refining their architectures as the transformation progresses. If this is not happening the architecture will quickly be seen as out-dated or simply an after the fact documentation process or even worse an impediment to the transformation, stalling the deliverables because the development of the architecture artefacts is slower than the transformation cycles.

So back to IT transformation and EA, what's the connection? EA practices may be used to support IT transformation. Not just IT transformation in the sense of what IT assets are required to support the outcomes of the transformation, but to work hand in hand with the transformation program and develop dynamic easy to understand artefacts that communicate the vision, tie the vision to the stakeholders view point to give them an understanding of how they impact the vision, interdependencies, identify metrics and the transformation steps.

To me it seems the separation of EA and continuous improvement/transformation programs is counter-productive. As I wrote in a previous post, I believe that EA should facilitate change, not just change in IT assets but business change, otherwise EA will become another stove pipe.

07 November 2010

Behaviour in the Virtual World - Can Enterprise 2.0 Ever Succeed?

I've been researching social behaviour on the internet. Originally I intended to take a closer at a concept from a previous post, how people change their virtual personae depending upon the website. While I was surfing I came across a couple good videos that got me thinking about online behaviour and how it would impact Enterprise 2.0 initiatives?

The first video was by Clay Shirky at the Gov2.0 Summit, Clay Shirky on Technology Insight. In this video Clay goes through two case studies around participative sites: Apps for Democracy and Wikitorial. Apps for Democracy was able to engage the community by providing data sets and then asking the community to surprise them. This is contrasted by Wikitorial, which the Los Angeles Times needed to take down due to "a few readers ...flooding the site with inappropriate material".

Clay maintains that the success/failure of a collaborative/participatorial site is not dependent upon the technology but is dependent upon the type of social contract the participants feel they have. He cautions that the users motivations are unpredictable and they need to be given space to participate. He also cautions that the more "success" is predicted and advertised in advanced the more likely people are to rebel and display rogue behaviour, like those described in this second video which is a bit crude but does nicely depict differences in the way many people behave online then when in a face to face conversation.

So what does this mean for Enterprise 2.0? Will rogue behaviour undermine the conversation channels? Or will the reduced anonymity and increased connectedness (being part of the same company/agency) cause people to restrain from participating, reducing Enterprise 2.0 to little more than bulletin boards where people post information but there is little engagement in conversation?

Is there Enterprise 2.0 initiatives at your workplace? What has been your experience?

07 August 2010

End-User Devices - iPads, Tablets, Smartphones - Oh My

With the convergence of technologies into smartphones and other devices like iPads people, it is becoming more likely enterprise IT organisations will need to deal with many different end-user devices. In many organisations there are people who are relatively "desk-bound" but many others move between their desks and various appointments, and there may be other portions of the workforce who don't have a desk and are involved in field work. All of these work environments may be supported by IT and where previously an organisation with a high percentage of field personnel may have highly specialised end-user devices with specialised applications running on them, now commercially available products with software development kits may meet the needs. Additionally, where it may have been cost-prohibitive to arm your partly mobile work force with end-user devices now people expect to be able to compute on the go.

I came across this article Ballmer (and Microsoft) still doesn't get the iPad, which looks at why the iPad has sold more units in the first 3 months then PC vendors sold tablets last year and the failure of Microsoft to understand the tablet or iPad-like market.

The article suggests Microsoft is stuck in the PC paradigm and they are looking to cram the PC into a tablet device, and are not taking into account why people use tablet devices. A number of the issues of cramming a PC onto a tablet come down to human machine interface (HMI). Using an application with a user interface which has been designed for a PC with a mouse (or other precise pointing device) and keyboard is difficult with a tablet.The iPad and the applications which run on it have designed their user interfaces to be used with fingers. Even though this user interaction style limits the capability of the device the device still meets many market needs and people purchase the device with these limitations in mind.

The article does think there is a market for more robust applications and a more “PC-like” capability in tablets but that a complete rewrite of the user interface for windows and the applications which run on the tablet would be required. An interesting question is will the PC tablet software vendors make the necessary user interface updates to capture a new market of people who want more from their tablet device? And what will this mean for enterprise IT organisations?

19 May 2010

Semantic Web - What's the future hold?

I came across the video below which looks at the concept of the semantic web, describes the semantic web and then looks at some of the human factors around the semantic web - looking at the question - "should there be an ontology?" There are the purist who think of course there will be an ontology and then there are the pragmatic folks who believe the relationships may be more "scruffy" where there is a blending of structured ontology and more "personalised" ontologies.

While this video looks at this issue from a "global" web community, the same types of dynamics can be seen across an enterprise. There are people who believe everything can be neatly categorised and that the relationships between the data and categories can be mapped in a manner that will provide a tidy, clear, precise depiction of the enterprise and all the entities within it. It seems to me to be human nature to try and put everything inside boxes, but we don't all see the same boxes or the same connections between the boxes. In order for information to be to be found in a user-friendly manner, the search parameters need to match the individual user's construct of the world, which may have similarities with the majority of other users but is also likely to have differences. How then do we make the vast amounts of information being produced by the enterprise easily discoverable? A structured ontology may provide a starting point but how do we get down to the user-based view of the world?

I'm not sure how is the web going likely to grow from it's manually integrated information paradigm of today. While new technology will cause some level of change, a major influence is the way people interact with the web and make use of the technology already available. People have a knack for finding work-arounds and coming up with interesting ways of using tools. What does the future hold?

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

04 May 2010

EA to facilitate change

This Enterprise Architecture Gartner report states:
"Decisions may be heavily influenced by a business context and the organisation’s business landscape, people and politics, future state vision and experience. Regardless of the approach, EA must facilitate change. The key is to create, not the perfect or elegant architecture for the moment, but the most adaptable architecture for the future"
Which in my opinion is a great goal for EA - to facilitate change, to be adaptable and not to get into a vicious circle of defining an architecture down to the nth degree. This links back to a question of when do you know you've done enough? I don't think the answer lies in the question of when is enough enough, but rather in being more aware of how the products from EA are being used and adapting the EA work to assist the business in planning change. I have often seen great initial deliverables that have helped the business down a journey. But these first successes are followed by a split where the EA team goes off based on that outcome to try and create the elegant architecture and the business trots off in another direction to work on the organisational change management and when this happens EA loses its relevance.

I do wonder if some of this is due to short sighted EA consultancies looking to stay engaged with the ICT-side of the house, because in most organisations this is the organisation that has bought off on at least exploring the EA path. This easier path to a longer engagement results in spending time creating products that may not be relevant at the end of the day. As 10cc wrote:

"Art for arts sake, Money for gods sake
Money talks so listen to it, Money talks to me
Anyone can understand it, Money can’t be beat oh no
When you get down, down to the root
Don’t give a damn don’t give a hoot
Still gotta keep makin the loot"
This type of thinking may end up with people losing patience with EA efforts and considering them irrelevant. EA really needs to bridge ICT with other business support organisations and business operations to show relevance to all. By being engaged with all aspects of the business, in other words 'the enterprise', and being flexible in your EA approach based upon where the business is exploring change, EA will show value by being able to facilitate that business change.

27 April 2010

Social is the Enemy of Business

Came across this and thought it would be good to post.

How will this reversal impact on enterprise alignment?

18 April 2010

Social Media - What persona is appropriate where?

In a recent blog in TalentedApps, Amy Wilson explored how communication methods used at work vary from communication with friends, even when the people you are communicating with are the same people.

The selection of which social networking tool to use when and how, as well as what persona you display in each network, affects how people put together a picture of you. Some people will be connected through only one network but many may be connected across multiple networks and they get a broader picture of your life.

How does this access to our multiple personae impact our relationships? This is something each of us needs to come to terms with for ourselves. There are many organisations spreading warnings about the security of social networks and how much information a person who wants to exploit that material may find on the web. It is up to each of us to be informed and make our decision as to how much of our lives we wish to share with our networks, which networks should be kept internal to an organisations, which to expand into the realm of global access and which of your networks intersect and how. I am just starting my journey down this path and exploring my use of tools like facebook, twitter, linkedin, plaxo, blogger so I will keep you posted on my findings.

10 April 2010

Digital Citizenship Awareness - Impact on Workplace?

I have been surfing around looking at the concept of digital citizenship and how social media is being used to increase awareness of digital ethics and acceptable behaviours. I particularly like this short video that looks at the choices a person has on-line. How their digital persona will behave.

What does this mean for the enterprise? As I noted in a previous post that looked at my son's behaviour with all things digital, digital natives just expect technology to be there, to work and to enable them to discover, create, and collaborate and we need to take this into account when offering services. But another aspect is that digital natives will be exposed to and likely taught what it means to be a "good digital citizen" at school, and it will be interesting to see how this will change the work environment both in the digital and analogue environment.

14 March 2010

IHE - Information Integration in Healthcare. What can other industries learn from their experiences?

I'm currently doing research related to an electronic health records solution and I'm looking at the IHE initiative to integrate the healthcare enterprise. As I go through the processes, profiles and frameworks the problems that the healthcare industry are trying to resolve are very similar to other industries that I have worked with but the approach to integration seems more pragmatic than I have experienced elsewhere.

The frameworks look at sharing of information where there are multiple standards for information exchange as well as terminology. The proposed solutions do not put all the eggs in the "single standard" utopia. To quote one of the presentations on the IHE website:
"IHE provides a standard process for implementing multiple standardsimplementing standards"

The process looks at the realities of working in an environment with multiple authorities across regions (state/provincial, national) each with their own systems (electronic and paper) and their own political pressures around provision of service, privacy and managing costs.

It's an interesting problem space with much different drivers than integration in the financial sector or other largely commercial industries. I look forward to going through the lessons learned and the plans for the future.

22 February 2010

Visualisation and Mash-ups with Social Media - Where could this take us?

This post has the theme of decision making in today's world of social media. What is the impact of social networks and data mash-ups and visualisations of their content on decision making?

The post on Talented Apps looks at the role of humans in the network the concept of balancing the size of the network (the number of the participants) and the voice of the individual.

A recent post Harvard Business Review: Four Ways of looking at Twitter demonstrates how trends can be pulled from social networks. Another post Tech Crunch: Five Ways to Mix, Rip and Mash your Data. provides an overview of tools that can be used to build agents to bring together information from RSS feeds and other sources giving people more tool sets to gauge information flow.

But what does popularity in tweets or RSS Feeds mean?

I find myself tossing between two quotes:

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."
- George Bernard Shaw


"There's a whiff of the lynch mob or the lemming migration about any overlarge concentration of like-thinking individuals, no matter how virtuous their cause." - P.J. O'Rourke

13 February 2010

Example - How to make a complex concept entertaining

I came across this example of presenting a complex concept in an entertaining and educational way. Thought I would share this

ICT Stereotypes - Are they keeping people (mostly girls) away?

This is a bit of a different track for me. My husband recently started the new school year. He is an ICT teacher at a local school for Year 11 and 12. There is a very slim turnout of girls for ICT courses and he is wondering how to attract more girls into the program?

I did a bit of asking around and one of the more popular opinions I got back was that a more social or personal relationships focus around ICT may encourage attendance. I came across the Digital Divas program, which offers a single sex program for Year 8 ICT to encourage girls participation.

I also found this European Schoolnet summary of a white paper from Cisco looking at Women in ICT. Where there was an observation that there was a poor understanding of the types of job roles and opportunities that exist.

To provide some insight into ICT roles Education Queensland published Female ICT Role Models, providing biographies and role insights for female members of the ICT community and the Education Technology Debate posted Female ICT Role Models, on TV and Youtube looking at the potential impact of these media to encourage participation in ICT.

Personally, I did not originally pursue a role in ICT, in fact I consciously avoided it. My perception of ICT careers was of programmers and did not include roles like business analysts, IT architects, project managers ...etc. I know many people who have found careers in IT more by accident, normally through being involved in a project as the business subject matter expert and then staying in the field. Is the ICT industry losing out because of people's perceptions?

Here is a video trying to change the perception of ICT

Maybe the change in perception will increase enrolment from both genders. What do you think?

01 February 2010

Communication Primitives - SHeet Music for IT Professionals - But what about the User?

Defense Systems recently published an article DOD turns to basic building blocks for a common language, that describes Business Transformation Agency's approach to overcoming the language barriers inherent in the system development process - Primitives.

Primitives are common vocabulary and common design patterns, which can be used to describe business processes, information and data in a notation. They are intended to be understandable to a wide variety of people involved in system development, much like sheet music provides a universal notation for musicians. This initiative supports the need to align all layers of the enterprise architecture with a common vocabulary or notation set, which is certainly an integral part to improving system development. In the US DOD the Business Transformation Agency (BTA) is using primitives for enterprise architecture, business process training and simulation.

It is time that greater commonality be found between the various disciplines related to system development and the concept of a global language for IT professionals is a great one. I like the analogy of the sheet music because it can be extended to the end user. In the case of music the end user does not need to be able to read sheet music to appreciate the output. This is also the case with IT outputs. In some cases the user reaction to the "music" is easy to gauge, kind of like a music single - iPhone apps, video games and to a certain extent office productivity tools. In other cases, like many enterprise systems, the "music" presented is more complex than an opera or the works of Greek bards like Homer and frequently this complexity is increased due to the intermixing and overlapping of various pieces. This may result in a user experience much like the one viewers were presented in Star Trek Next Generation when Data was listening to four songs at the same time.

This complexity makes it much harder to keep the focus of the user's attention. In the world of enterprise applications there is a need to be more proactive in gauging user reaction, not just to focus on function points but to the overall user experience. A need to strive to present "music" that they would sit down and listen to or get up and dance to - whichever they prefer.

25 January 2010

IT Savvy? Watch out for the IT Explorers!

There has been a lot of focus on IT Savvy over the last few years.

Some are looking at how an IT savvy organisation makes better use of its resources to employ IT in the successful pursuit of its objectives. To follow-up from the 2005 paper by Peter Weill and Sinan Aral, Peter Weill and Jeanne Ross have recently written a book targeted at business executives discussing the merits of an IT savvy organisation, IT Savvy – What Top Executives Need you Know to go from Pain to Gain. Here is a link to a December 2009 interview with Dr. Jeanne Ross, MIT Sloan School of Management.

Others are looking at the impact of IT savvy on security. This Deloitte article Equipping the Federal Workforce for the Cyber Age, looks at the concept of a cyber savvy workforce to reduce security risks. While others look at the impact of an IT savvy workforce on internal fraud risks.

A recent ZDNet UK article by David Clarke looks at the need to increase baseline level of IT savviness of the public to even out the uneven access to and understanding of information technology. I contrast this view with a look at the potential future workforce. The "Shift Happens" series provides some interesting statistics about the changing world. I particularly like version 3.0 of Did you know? found below.

This video in combination with my experience with my son makes me wonder what the future holds? My son and his friends have no fear of IT. They see it as a landscape to explore. They use social media, videogames and productivity software with the same mindset - exploration. I also wonder about the upcoming generation's ability to take in data. I have found this article on the Spatial Brain and how we use our brains in 3-d videogames along with articles on video games slowing brain development but from my observation, my son and his friends seem to have an ability to suck-in more information from multiple sources simultaneously and react to them then I have any hope of coping with. So what does this all mean?

There has been a concern over the millennial workforce and the security risks from their use of social media on corporate networks as described in Millennial Workforce: IT Risk or Benefit? But looking at my son and his friends, the millennial workforce is the start of a trend towards a workforce of IT landscape explorers that will challenge the conventional IT operations, governance, risk and compliance processes. Anarchy vs. Control? Consensus vs. Autocracy? Barriers vs. Openness? Where will the balance lie in the future? The IT organisation will have unprecedented pressure from the workforce to respond and to partake in the exploration. In the words of Bob Fletcher and Cole Porter "Don't fence me in."

16 January 2010

Visualisation - Ideas for communication

When trying to share ideas across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, information visualisation techniques can be very useful. I recently came across Fantastic Information Architecture and Data Visualization Resources and I found some of the visualisations inspiring.

Another site that brings out powerful world demographic visualisaitons is Gapminder

This talk from Chris Jordan on www.ted.com uses visualisation to help people grasp how our actions affect the world around us.

08 January 2010

Modelling - It's all about communication

UML, BPMN, JML, IDEF, Information Engineering and many more... Looking at software development methodologies there are a number of modelling languages to choose from. Many of the languages are dependant upon the target software technology but the key objective of the language is to communicate.

Many times I see people become engrossed with a particular modelling language and lose sight of the objective to provide a communication tool for all stakeholders. Don't get me wrong there is a place for formals models that abide by the standard when communicating with other people who also are familiar with the model syntax, they allow software engineers to consider design options and determine an appropriate development approach... but sometimes the focus of the modelling effort goes into tweaking models to the nth degree. This search for the perfect model rarely assists in developing better code, nor does it assist in providing communication outlets that engage the non-technology stakeholders.

What techniques do you use to assist with communicating the application design with the non-technical stakeholders? How do you confirm that the design tracks back to the business need? Prototyping and agile development methods look to get the user buy-in through interaction with prototypes but is there a way to blend agile approaches with modelling approaches?

Back in 1998 Keith Harmon and Alan Perkins compared Object-Orientation and Business-Driven Information Engineering and came to the conclusion that the approaches were symbiotic as Business-driven Information Engineering is a technology neutral and reflect the business goals of the enterprise. Similarily, when looking at UML and IDEF Ovidiu S. Noran at Griffith University concluded that there is no one perfect tool that will do everything but it is up to people to select the right tool for the job and Kim found IDEF and UML to be complimentary in the article the complementary use of IDEF and UML modelling approaches.

I share the belief that there is not an obermodelling language out there and sometimes a blend of modelling approaches - some "official" and some that work for the stakeholders will bring together a design portfolio that will enable all stakeholders to actively engage in the design effort.

06 January 2010

Working with Silos

I came across a video from Burton Group with Lyn Robison discussing how silos are here to stay and looking at approaches to bridging the silos as opposed to trying to break-down the silos.

Although this video looked at silos from a technology standpoint. You could look at business silos where you could apply Service-Oriented concepts to bridge business processes gaps as well as knowledge silos where you could apply social networking concepts and solutions to assist with exposing "tribal knowledge", bringing together people with shared interests as well as mining for subject matter experts that may previously have been buried within a business unit and lost to the overall enterprise.

IT has spawned many methodologies/approaches/modelling techniques for analysing business needs from an IT-perspective, organisations have implemented/developed multiple business process improvement methodologies and each industry vertical or function may lend itself to different methodologies. The challenge for us now is to embrace the variety and bridge these methodology silos. Any ideas?