There has been so much talk about SOA lately that I wanted to poll my fellow bloggers to see how far along your companies are. Please take a brief moment to answer this poll.
Nick Carr created one of the longest running questions I have ever seen when he wrote his book Does IT Matter back in 2004. There has been so much discussion arguing for both sides of the answer including this article from Harvard's Andrew McAfee. I believe that a key differentiator for a company is the business processes. For IT to Matter, IT must create an architecture that supports the business's need to dynamically change and customize their processes. This allows the business to be more self sufficient and agile, which leads to a better user experience and faster time to market.
This is why the BPMS and SOA vendors are cashing in right now. Many IT executives are starting to understand that IT needs to be more of a partner to the business then a cost of doing business. BPMS solutions allow IT to provide tools for the business to rapidly deploy new systems that can have a huge impact on the bottom line by:
- reducing costs through process reengineering
- identifying bottlenecks and providing what-if analytics for ongoing process improvement
- providing robust, AJAX & web enabled user interfaces
- providing visibility into performance metrics with built in business intelligence tools
- providing self service capabilities for the end users, thus reducing the dependency on IT resources
So to make a long story short. Does IT Matter? It can matter if IT recognizes that "Process is King" and that the business and IT need to work hand in hand to provide solutions that create a competitive advantage.
I spent the last two days in Weston, FL. attending various BPM and SOA related lectures. One session I enjoyed was George Paras's "Connecting the Dots: Establishing THE Enterprise Perspective". George is the editor-in-chief for the Architecture and Governance Magazine.
George reminded us that as architects we should think, act, and behave as business people. Everything we do as architects should be geared around value creation by affecting change in the name of product innovation, process transformation, technology transformation, and business transformation. In other words, we need to enable the business to be better, faster, more efficient, better informed, etc.
He then went on to point out that one of the reasons that it is so hard to create business value these days is because our technology and our business processes have become so complex. He showed us one slide that states, "Complexity INHIBITS Change....Complexity consequently INHIBITS Business Value". In my opinion, as we begin to model both our operational and technical architectures, we must make it a goal to minimize the complexity and subscribe to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid!) methodology.
The last golden nugget that I took away from George's presentation was about maintaining balance. George talked about how companies struggle to make progress towards establishing an enterprise architecture because the business demands so many tactical projects yielding only short term gains. The chief architect or architecture group must figure out how to get the company to start thinking strategically which yields long term gains. But be careful, you need to strike a balance between tactical and strategic. The business cannot stop while you go off for 6-12 months to create an enterprise architecture.
George's answer to the "Balancing Act" is the Managed Portfolio. The Managed Portfolio combines :
- Enterprise Strategy & Planning
- Project Portfolio Management
- Enterprise Architecture
During a break, I had a chance to speak to George (us Greeks need to stick together). I discussed my project and our approach to implement SOA only for the services required to support our BPM initiative, as opposed to creating a full blown SOA implementation. He agreed that we were on the right path which will make me sleep a little better tonight. I then handed him my last business card which was crumpled and stained with spaghetti sauce. Talk about great first impressions!
There were many other meaningful lectures at the show, but this was the best one to blog about.
What is Product Development 2.0 exactly? It's an informal term I'm applying to something that online startups and traditional businesses both are increasingly doing: leveraging of mass user contributions, providing open architectures for others to build on as they like, and even handing control over key product decisions directly to users. The re
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Here is an interesting article about blogging.
Keep your blog clean, express yourself, and opportunity might come knocking.
I recently wrote two posts about the how Web 2.0 is changing the way we communicate (here and here). I recommended that organizations start paying attention to the younger generations usage of the Web because it will drive radical change. Today I read this article which backs up my argument.
The funny thing about it is that the government is passing bills to punish schools for embracing these technologies. Why? Because they don't understand the technologies.
In my last article, I talked about how the younger generation’s usage of the internet was driving a lot of the technologies that make up what is now called Web 2.0. The Gen Y and Internet Generation’s desire to stay connected with their friends has led to many social networking sites like MySpace and Flickr. Their need for chatting, instant messaging, and video has changed the way people interact and communicate through the net and through wireless devices. Blogging and tagging have become a widely popular mechanism for sharing and searching for relevant information. Kids’ websites, like Webkinz, have introduced very young children to online collaboration, rich media applications, and online shopping.
All of the above items are driving up the popularity of rich interfaces usually created in Macromedia Flash or by using AJAX. Now that developers are able to build robust, fully functional browser based applications, the desktop is becoming less important (Microsoft is Dead). I ended the discussion warning that managers need to “think like” or pay attention to what the younger generation is doing on the web.
Why? Look how technologies like portals and instant messaging started. Plumtree Portal (now BEA Aqualogic), was founded by then 25 year old Glen Kelman who spawned the portal idea from his usage of My Yahoo pages. Instant messaging, which is now widely used in many corporations spawned from internet chatting. Do you see where I am going? Today, blogging and tagging are already catching on as great tools for knowledge sharing. Many folks in management who are not up to speed with the world of “Web 2.0” look down on staffers who use these types of tools because they don’t understand the significance of it. If managers would start paying attention to what millions of people are doing on the web they would realize that technologies like social networking will soon start revolutionizing the way companies communicate with each other. It might take a few years for this to catch on but it will.
So I conclude this two part article with this message. Start thinking like the younger generation and go out and explore the tools that millions of kids are using on the net today. More and more companies are starting Web 2.0 initiatives so start educating your management now before they get left behind.
For more info, the best blog I have seen by far on this topic is Don Hinchcliffe’s Enterprise Web 2.0.
I have been consumed in research on the topic of Web 2.0 the last few weeks. All of my research keeps bringing me back to the generation of kids born in the 80’s and 90’s. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I was born as a Gen Y (1978-1990’s) or Internet Generation (1994-2001) child. Much of what is driving Web 2.0 is the online expectations from these two generations. My two kids, ages 10 & 8, are Internet Generation kids. Here is my assessment of their generation in terms of their online expectations and abilities:
1. Technically savvy – I am probably the only member in my family who is more capable of using technology then my kids. From the web, to IPods, to cell phones, to Tivos, etc. My kids could use almost all of the features of these technologies before they knew how to read. As a matter of fact, and I am embarrassed to admit it, my daughter at age 6 had to show me how to use the “mouse” feature of my Nano when I first bought it. So much for my dual computer science degrees!
2. Technical from birth – This is slightly redundant from my first point, but I do want to point out that they resist nothing that is new. When they see something new, they embrace it. When I look at my parents’ generation, when they see something new they run from it. Do all of the clocks in your parents’ house still flash 12:00?
3. Short attention span – If it doesn’t work, if it’s too complex, or if it takes too long, they are gone.
4. Advertising is break time – They are accustomed to fast forwarding the TiVo, Adblock, and various other technologies that don’t force them to sit through or click through commercials.
5. Independent – They don’t need assistance, directions, or user manuals. They are very resourceful and learn with their eyes.
6. Low budget – Actually no budget. They don’t have cash, and they know that if they want something they have to perform some painful duty (takeout the trash, clean their room) to earn it. So they are accustomed to doing things at no or low cost.
Now take a step back and see how these characteristics apply to Web 2.0. Throw in Gen Y’s social networking demands and you have described many of the characteristics of Web 2.0 technologies. Now look at some of the statistics of internet usage by age in the US and the UK. As you can see, the younger generations are heavy users of the web.
So why do I care? I care because I think most of corporate America is missing the boat when it comes to embracing technologies like instant messaging, blogs, tagging, social networking, and AJAX to name a few. How many of you have a magazine rack full of paid subscriptions to various trade magazines at your work? Do people actually still read these things? The younger generations and those of us who are “web 2.0 aware” use RSS feeds to get the news that we want. If you depend heavily on main stream news and paid subscription services, you probably don’t really know what’s going on. These sources are controlled and influenced by big money. Blogging is free and Democratic. Here is an excerpt from Paul Graham’s article Web 2.0:
The second big element of Web 2.0 is democracy. We now have several examples to prove that amateurs can surpass professionals, when they have the right kind of system to channel their efforts. Wikipedia may be the most famous. Experts have given Wikipedia middling reviews, but they miss the critical point: it's good enough. And it's free, which means people actually read it. On the web, articles you have to pay for might as well not exist. Even if you were willing to pay to read them yourself, you can't link to them. They're not part of the conversation.
Another place democracy seems to win is in deciding what counts as news. I never look at any news site now except Reddit. I know if something major happens, or someone writes a particularly interesting article, it will show up there. Why bother checking the front page of any specific paper or magazine? Reddit's like an RSS feed for the whole web, with a filter for quality. Similar sites include Digg, a technology news site that's rapidly approaching Slashdot in popularity, and del.icio.us, the collaborative bookmarking network that set off the "tagging" movement. And whereas Wikipedia's main appeal is that it's good enough and free, these sites suggest that voters do a significantly better job than human editors.
The most dramatic example of Web 2.0 democracy is not in the selection of ideas, but their production. I've noticed for a while that the stuff I read on individual people's sites is as good as or better than the stuff I read in newspapers and magazines. And now I have independent evidence: the top links on Reddit are generally links to individual people's sites rather than to magazine articles or news stories.
My experience of writing for magazines suggests an explanation. Editors. They control the topics you can write about, and they can generally rewrite whatever you produce. The result is to damp extremes. Editing yields 95th percentile writing—95% of articles are improved by it, but 5% are dragged down. 5% of the time you get "throngs of geeks."
On the web, people can publish whatever they want. Nearly all of it falls short of the editor-damped writing in print publications. But the pool of writers is very, very large. If it's large enough, the lack of damping means the best writing online should surpass the best in print. And now that the web has evolved mechanisms for selecting good stuff, the web wins net. Selection beats damping, for the same reason market economies beat centrally planned ones.
Even the startups are different this time around. They are to the startups of the Bubble what bloggers are to the print media. During the Bubble, a startup meant a company headed by an MBA that was blowing through several million dollars of VC money to "get big fast" in the most literal sense. Now it means a smaller, younger, more technical group that just decided to make something great. They'll decide later if they want to raise VC-scale funding, and if they take it, they'll take it on their terms.
I will continue this topic in part II of my next article where I discuss how IT management, who are typically in their late 30’, 40’s, or 50’s, need to start thinking more like their kids’ generation and start embracing Web 2.0 before they become as outdated as their old bell bottom jeans.
Gypsylibrarian.blogspot.com (2007). What does Generation Y want? Retrieved on April 8, 2007 from http://gypsylibrarian.blogspot.com/2005/08/what-does-generation-y-want-article.html
 Pew Internet & American Life Project (2007). Demographics of internet users. Retrieved on April 8, 2007 from http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/User_Demo_1.11.07.htm
Krasne, A. (2007). What is Web 2.0 anyways? Retrieved on April 8, 2007 from http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/webbuilding/page4758.cfm
I ran across this article and just had to pass it on in case you missed it.
A good buddy of mine forwarded me this article from eWeek by Deborah Perelman. The following quote from the article summarizes the content: “In the simplest terms: too many IT workplaces have become Dilbert-ized—micromanaged, bureaucratic and stifled creatively. It's become an environment where busy work is praised and morale is low.” The article talks about IT as a commodity with trends in outsourcing. Flextronics CEO, Michael Marks, goes one step further in this Businessweek Online article Design is a Commodity. He recommends outsourcing the engineering process for electronics.
How did we get here? In my opinion, IT has done this to itself through the years due to the following reasons:
1) Not working closely with the business
2) Inability to successfully manage projects
Let’s talk about the first point. In the 60’s and 70’s, the business was dependent on IT for information. There were no high powered PCs and the Internet was not for commercial use. Most of what IT worked on in the public sector was business enabling applications. During the 80’s and 90’s, huge advancements in processor speed, memory, and disk technology enabled personal computers to do the work of the massive mainframes from the previous decades. Then the internet came of age which changed the way people and businesses interact with one another. These two important technology advancements changed business for the better but not without consequences. The days of IT being in control with centralized and reliable systems gave way to the complex, distributed, and multi platform environments that we live in today. This in turn, directed a lot of IT’s attention towards infrastructure projects. In today’s world, a large portion of IT budgets go into projects and services that keep the lights on for the company (email, voice & telecommunications, security, compliance, etc.) and do not contribute to additional revenue. In addition, software vendors started delivering shrink wrapped solutions (ERP, CRM, Financial applications, etc.) that was not feasible for companies to build internally. I believe these factors have all contributed to the fact that many IT shops have become disconnected and/or out of touch or alignment with the business. IT has become perceived more as a cost center then an enabler. Employees have become known as what Catbert calls “Headcount”.
Point #2. The PMI Institute states that 72% of IT projects they studied were late, over budget, lacking functionality, or never delivered. Of the 28% “successful” projects, 45% were over budget and 68% took longer then planned. These numbers are frightening! Lack of project management best practices have caused many companies to lose faith in IT. Many business units have started buying their own software packages or paying outside vendors to solve their business problems. This is another reason why IT and the business have become unaligned.
When a company views IT as an expense and not as an enabler, the IT shop becomes a poster child for Dilbert cartoons. Companies tend to look for ways to reduce or eliminate expenses. Once you view your employees as “headcount”, the creativity, passion, and drive gets drained right out of you.
So is IT doomed? Many experts believe that in order for companies to stay competitive and survive in the upcoming years, IT needs to focus on business processes. In the article, The How, Why, and Where of Future I.T., Mark Gibb’s states that, “I.T. has to be able to show that it delivers a real return on investment.” To accomplish that, I believe that IT should start embracing:
1) Project management – to improve delivery and communication
2) Portfolio management – to maximize IT investments, align priorities w/business, and control workloads
3) Business process management – to optimize and automate business processes
4) Enterprise architecture – to align technology with corporate goals and strategies
5) Change management - to manage change and impacts on people and processes
6) Agile development – to deliver value early and often
What are your thoughts?