Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.

As an every day user of open source products both at work and at home, I feel obligated to give back to those who donate their time and energy for the greater good of computing. I have chosen to join the OpenOffice community and assist in Marketing and Quality Assurance. I have been using OpenOffice for years. I have many computers with various operating systems (Kubuntu, Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS, Mepis, XP, and Vista) and OpenOffice runs flawlessly on all of them. I have written about my experience with Open Office at work in the popular post Open Source and Microsoft Free. Like many corporations, my company uses Windows XP and Microsoft Office. I use Kubuntu and OO and have had very few issues exchanging documents with others both inside and outside the organization. I know that the quality of this product is the direct result of the hard work and dedication of many volunteers throughout the world. Now it's my turn to give back.

I will be working with the volunteers of the Marketing team and sharing information here on my blog from time to time. As a QA volunteer, I will log issues that I find myself or that are sent to me from my readers. So if you have any issues you would like to log please contact me at mkavis@yahoo.com so I can get the details.

In the mean time, let me share some information with all of you. For those of you who are new to OO, I have included some screen shots of the different tools the OO has to offer.

For you bloggers out there who use OO, go here to get banners to add to your blog like I have. I have also encouraged my team to contribute to an open source project of their choice. Not only will that allow my company to give back to communities that we reap benefits from, but it also gives us experience working with a very collaborative project environment. I believe that companies can learn a lot about how to successfully deliver software by experiencing the collaboration that goes into a release of open source software.

For those of you who use open source software on a regular basis, I encourage you to contribute. There are many ways to participate:

  • Donate
  • Develop
  • Test
  • Document
  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Translations
What will you do to contribute?

For those of you who have been reading my blog, you know that my company has been working on various projects that leverage BPM and SOA technologies. One of the biggest challenges we have is dealing with culture change and providing the right level of communication to people at all levels. Next week, we plan on implementing a few Enterprise 2.0 technologies to address those challenges.

Enterprise 2.0 is a fancy term that represents a host of web based collaboration tools like blogs, wikis, social networking platforms, RSS readers, bookmarking, tagging, and many others. Dion Hinchcliffe has one of the best blogs that explain Enterprise 2.0 (also called Web 2.0 in Business). His article called Social Media Goes Mainstream does an fantastic job of explaining Enterprise 2.0 and its benefits.

Back to my scenario. On our corporate portal, we are launching an enterprise architecture community which will link to the wiki and our blogs. Members of our architecture team will blog about various topics to share lessons learned, tips and tricks, and various research information as we learn more about the technologies we use. Our project manager will blog about the project, our testing architect will discuss the ins and outs of testing SOA, our configuration management guy will cover his area of expertise, and I will blog about the EA team's vision and strategic direction. All of our governance information will be accessible via our wiki. We are leveraging Mediawiki, the same open source wiki tool that runs Wikipedia. For the blogging software we are using Wordpress, another open source tool. Our next step is to implement a RSS reader so people can subscribe to content that is relevant to them.

Driving traffic to this new community on the portal can be challenging. Our plan is to have our CIO send a biweekly communication to all of IT. He will distribute an email with a URL to his blog which should bring most people to the site. In his blogroll will be links to the EA team's blogs and the enterprise wiki. Our hope is that in addition to keeping people informed about projects and technology, people will start to collaborate on the site. Once the collaboration starts, fresh new ideas should emerge from the staff and knowledge sharing and collective intelligence will prevail.

If this new EA community is successful, we can take it to the next level and start experimenting with tagging and social bookmarking. This will allow people to tag and rank information that is relevant to them which in turn makes popular content easier to find. One of the challenges that many companies, including ours, have with their portal is that it is difficult to find documents. Tagging and ranking solves this problem.

So next week we unleash some of these Enterprise 2.0 technologies to the masses. I expect adoption to be slow since many people are probably not familiar with these tools. But the biweekly CIO communication should be the "killer app" that drives the traffic to the site. Hopefully these tools will improve communications. We will still use all of the other communication mechanisms as well, but the blogs will allow for frequent, short communications that can reach large audiences in a short amount of time.

I will share the lessons learned on this experiment as we encounter them.

Eric Roch wrote a great piece today called The Difference between SOA Theory and Reality. I started to comment on it but my comments turned into this post. Eric's key point is that there is no one right way to implement SOA.

The reality of SOA is that every company is unique with widely different systems (as-is architecture) and culture .... The approach to governance and organizational structures will depend on the culture and capabilities of the organization.
This is true for all technologies not just SOA. I have read countless articles about the best approaches to delivering SOA, Enterprise Architecture (EA), ERP solutions, Business Process Management (BPM) and many others. Bloggers get into religious wars about how their approach is the only correct approach. These bloggers might generate a lot of traffic but they are doing the community a disservice. As Eric says, every company is different. In some companies, IT budgets are handed to them at the beginning of the year. These companies have to make due with the dollars they have and running a top-down SOA project is virtually impossible. In companies like mine, the business is funding the SOA and BPM initiative. We have specific projects that justify the expense of the infrastructure and capital investments for SOA. Once again, Top-down does not work in this scenario. This requires a bottom-up approach since the business is expecting new functionality every couple of months. In other companies, IT can be more strategic and budget for a multi-year SOA implementation. In this scenario, a top-down approach can be a reality.

Whether it is EA, SOA, ERP or others, it really comes down to these variables:
  • Business driver
  • Level of executive support
  • Culture
  • Time
  • Money
  • Talent
The combination of these variables should lead you to the solution that will work in your world. The thing that people need to understand is that there is a difference between what is the best way of implementing technology from theory and text books versus what makes financial and strategic sense from a business standpoint. At the end of the day, it's not about the technology, it's all about the business.

Here is another lessons learned from my world, but this time the focus is BPM, not SOA. I have mentioned many times how we sold the business on BPM and SOA. After modeling the future state processes and creating a roadmap of projects based on a combination of business priority and service reuse, we took our business case to the finance department and secured funding for a number of high ROI projects. The funds secured were for procurement of BPM and SOA tools (BPMS, ESB, Data Services, etc.) and for capital labor to work on the various projects. We also were able to justify two new positions in a new department in the business who is responsible for business processes. Sounds good so far, right?

Well, we should have funded one more thing and that is an initiative to change our culture to be process centric. The two new resources are consumed in the new projects which means the process of becoming a process-centric culture will take a very long time. It takes focus and dedication to the cause to train staff, hire experienced talent, and move the organization to a place where optimizing business processes is the norm. So what is the down side?

Although we are providing a ton of value by automating processes, connecting legacy systems, providing visibility into the workflow, shortening the order life cycle, and leveraging operational dashboards and reporting, we are not creating processes that are as efficient as they could be. In some instances, users are asking for the same functionality and processes that exist today. There is still too much focus on reports and not enough focus on data and there is still too much emphasis on exceptions and not enough standardization.

Is it a disaster? No. Could we be developing more efficient processes? Yes. I am hoping that with each iteration we will improve the processes and the business folks will become more process-centric over time. I do feel that if we could have justified an initiative to create a process-centric culture, we would achieve a higher ROI and see the benefits of it quicker.

So the lesson learned that I would like to share is don't forget to invest in change management initiatives. Getting funds for a culture change initiative is not easy, but you should strongly consider trying. Some companies already have business process centers of excellence or practice methodologies like TQM, Six Sigma, Lean etc. For those who don't, the earlier the culture becomes process centric, the better the Return on Investment.

Here are a few of my other lessons learned from past posts:

I know this is a technology blog, but I had so much fun at the Giants-Dallas game this past week that I had to share. For those who know me, I am a die hard Giants fan living in Florida. I go to 2-3 games a year and live and die by the successes and failures of my beloved G-Men. After watching the Giants beat Tampa from the endzone seats two weeks ago, I jumped online and bought a ticket from stubhub.com and flew to Irving, Texas by myself. I went to the game hours before kickoff and stumbled across a great tailgate party with some crazy fans from New Jersey.

Yesterday I found this hilarious video.

So much for America's team. Although I have always despised the Cowboys, when Landry was coaching I had to respect the team for their class and teamwork. That all changed in the Jerry Jones era of greed and the "me, myself, and I" mentality of stars like Michael Irvin, Deon Sanders, Patrick "Foot in Mouth" Crayton, and especially Terrell "I Love Me" Owens. Couple that with Wade Phillips claim the his team is better and should of won and TO's pitiful post game crying session, "America's Team" looks more like a bad reality show. Here is TO disgracing the fans of the storied Cowboys franchise.

And finally, today I sent T.O. a special order on his web site.

From Giants Beat C...

Want to know the latest techniques, tips, and tools for SOA adoption and best practices? Want to step beyond simply implementing Services to making SOA a loosely-coupled reality? Want to learn from industry practitioners on the best ways to guarantee SOA success?

We recently contracted with Zapthink to set up a four day SOA Bootcamp at our corporate headquarters in St. Petersburg, FL from February 26-29. The class can hold up to 40 people. There is plenty of open slots left. If you are interested please shoot me an email for more information. If your team sends more then three people then volume discounts apply. I need about five more folks to meet the minimum requirements for the class.

This is a great opportunity to get some intense training and to network with peers in the Tampa Bay area. For those of you from out of town who want to escape the harsh winters and enjoy the Florida sun, there are hotels within walking distance to the facilities.

Here's a plug for my friends at Zapthink:

Attend ZapThink's Practical SOA events in 2008! The best of the best in the world of SOA take you through concepts, business issues, approaches, and technology to make SOA work within your organization. We don't focus on the hype and the folks who have products to push, but on the “brass tacks” of making SOA work for you.

Zapthink's Seven PSOA Events:

I wrote a piece called Why are you still generating reports that spawned a few other posts from fellow bloggers James Taylor, Todd Biske, and Robert McIIree. Robert had an interesting point of view which I would like to discuss. In his post he stated:

Excel and similar tools are used for two reasons: first, because it is very familiar to most users and "good enough" to generate reports and analytic output; and second, such use is quick and effective without running through the IT gauntlet to enlarge the effort by "gathering requirements," making it a full-blown project, and waiting a long time for "results."
I agree that Excel is user friendly and a favorite of most business users. Excel is an acceptable tool to manipulate data but should not be used as a system of record. I have seen too many occurrences of key financial data/reports residing on someone's C: drive with no way of validating the integrity of the data. I have also seen many business users create their own "systems" by pulling data out of various databases and building critical reports that are most likely inaccurate. Why are they inaccurate? First, most users don't understand the concepts of data integrity, don't have access to data dictionaries, and don't understand the physical implementation of the data which means they have limited means of validating what they have created is accurate. Second, since IT usually has no idea that these systems exist or how they are updated, changes to the source data are made without the knowledge of the end users' home grown systems. So I say Excel is a great tool for dicing and slicing data but the business community should not be driving the business off of home grown Excel systems.

Further down in the article Robert states:

Instead of asking "What problem are you trying to solve?" we should be stating "Here's what we have available, what is missing or needs to be altered for your needs, and will this work in other parts of the business?" The former question implies that IT knows more about the business and its specific issues than the business does.

Which it doesn't, and never did.

I understand Roberts point but this is where I ask the question, "Are you customer centric or a customer servant?" If you are a mere servant for the business, when they ask for stuff you simply build it the way they want. At the end of the day, you are letting the users design systems. If you are customer centric, your goal is to provide the business with accurate tools while at the same time ensuring that the business processes being requested are value added. One of the main reasons why BPM is so hot these days is that we have been servants to the business for years. The business knows what they need to do their jobs, IT should know how to provide solutions to meet those needs. My company just reevaluated its business processes in a certain area of the business and found that over 50% of the processes were non-value add processes, also known as waste. Why is this? For years the users asked for reports and we created them. The users knew what they needed but they did not ask us to build the right solution, nor should they. Here is an example:

We were asked to create a "data quality check" report to ensure that a certain attribute in a legacy order entry system matched the appropriate value of an attribute in a legacy financial system. The real problem was that the order entry system needed additional quality checks in the user interface to prevent erroneous data from getting into the database. So if I did not ask the question, "What problem are you trying to solve?", we create a new report accompanied by a new non-value add business process which requires manual labor to validate and to correct and does not guarantee that the problem will get fixed. If I do ask the question, I get the answer, "We need to be proactive to find and fix discrepancies between the financial system and the order entry system before we expose bad data to our customers". That response leads us to a simple UI fix which allows the systems to handle the problem and eliminate the need for a data entry clerk to perform more mind numbing, non-value added processes.

I keep going back to Nick Carr's theory that IT does not matter. If IT is simply taking orders and letting the users design their systems, then Nick is right. Instead, IT needs to help the business meet its objectives by delivering feasible solutions that provide quality, ease of use, and business value. If IT's role is to be servants, then there is no reason for the company to have it's own IT staff. Simply hire cheaper labor to follow orders. Just my 2 cents!

As I sit looking out the window of the 23rd story of the Marriott in Ontario overlooking the incredible sight of Niagara Falls, I started forming my New Year's resolution and created a list of things I hope to see in 2008. First, the resolution. As always, I pledge to make myself a better IT professional in the three areas that I believe make a leader complete: Technology, Business, and People.

I pledge to strive to learn more about the following areas of technology:

  1. Web 2.0
  2. Security
  3. Agile Development
  4. Event Processing
  5. Enterprise Metadata
As always, I will share my experiences and opinions on my blog and welcome your feedback.

I plan to work even closer with my key business partners in 2008. My current BPM/SOA initiative has my IT shop spending more time with business than it ever has before. This year we will make the time spent with the business more productive and generate more results. I will share my experiences with all of you as IT and the business work together to take our company to the next level.

I pledge to do a better job guiding people through change. We can talk about enterprise initiatives like SOA, BPM, Enterprise 2.0, Outsourcing, Agile, and others all day long. To make any of these successful, you will need to get people motivated and beating to the same drum. The people side, especially change management, is usually the hardest part of these projects. I will share my lessons learned in this area, as well.

2008 Wish List
That takes me to my wish list. My wish list is aimed towards my fellow EA bloggers. During 2007, my first year of blogging, I learned a great deal from sharing information with other EA bloggers. My wish list is all about making this experience more valuable in 2008. For this to happen, I ask for the following:
  1. If you are going to complain about something, offer solutions. Throwing darts adds no value if you don't provide alternative solutions.
  2. Share lessons learned, I do. And don't just share the things you did right, the best lessons learned usually come from doing something wrong and recovering from it.
  3. Don't call out others for having opinions. If people have a different opinion then the one you believe in then collaborate in a professional manner. It is beneficial to the readers to see the both sides of a discussion. Calling people out leads to either a flame war or worse, can cause an otherwise collaborative discussion to fizzle out.
  4. Become more connected. Let's collaborate more through social networks, conferences, user groups, etc. I am on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, and any place that I can find other smart people to learn from.
  5. Request blogging topics. I have, from time to time, requested bloggers who I follow to discuss certain topics of interest. I would love to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on various topics that interest my readers.
  6. No more "SOA is hype/just a buzzword articles. SOA is real. I am experiencing it first hand and the benefits to the company are tremendous. The real question about SOA is "How can one pull it off?" I'd rather see posts focus on that question.
  7. And finally, have a productive 2008!

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My favorite sayings

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there"

"Before you build a better mouse trap, make sure you have some mice"