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.

I am in the process of starting my own company that will build an exciting new product leveraging many Web 2.0 tools (more on this in the future). I am working on a marketing strategy and podcasts will be one of the many social networking tools that I will leverage. So today I created my first podcast and figured out how to embed it into my blog. I was also able to add it to iTunes and play it on my iPhone. I had to hunt all over the web to figure out how to do all of this. I will put all of the steps here so the next person can get up and running in minutes. But first, listen to my podcast that describes the steps. Then follow the details below and your blog will be in podcast heaven!

Get your own playlist at snapdrive.net!

Now here are the steps so you too can embed podcasts into your blog.

  1. Download Audacity (I chose the beta version)
  2. Download the MP3 Plugin
  3. Run Audacity and record your podcast
  4. Export file to MP3
  5. Register on Snapdrive.net for file sharing (or use your favorite site)
  6. Upload your MP3 file
  7. Click on details and select "create a streaming flash player"
  8. Choose options and generate embedded HTML code
  9. Cut and paste code into your blog
To add your podcast to your iPod or iPhone, simply run iTunes, choose the "add file to library option" and then sync your device.

I love how the web is transforming the way we communicate. It is so easy to share rich content like podcasts, videos, and images. If you have any issues trying to get your podcast to run from your blog, leave me a comment and I will assist you the best I can. Good luck!

In the .Com days companies were built overnight and threw together web based systems without a lot of thought about architecture and planning. Many of them crashed and burned and left investors with empty pockets and sent day traders back to their full time jobs. Now we are in the Web 2.0 days and I see this pattern developing again. New websites are popping up everyday as the social networking craze races across the globe. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Web 2.0, especially the social networking aspects of it. But just like in the .Com days, there is a huge race to be the dominant web site like Twitter who attracts millions of users with the hopes of being bought by Google or Microsoft. Once again, architecture seems to be an afterthought. Twitter, who has being growing at a rapid pace, went from the web darling to the site that is always down in the course of a few short weeks. But this is a pattern that is not unique to Twitter. I have saved a few screenshots of cute little error messages that I frequently get when I use all of these hyped up web sites.

I wish these companies would spend as much time on capacity planning and architecture as they do coming up with "funny" error messages. They are only funny to me when they are rare. I have seen the whale way too many times and if the"Monster gets lost" one more time I won't be back.

When it comes to stability and reliability, there are no shortcuts. If you are not careful you might wind up like Twitter. Last month they looked like a multi million dollar website that was changing the world and on the verge of making its founders millionaires. Now they are struggling to keep their customers as their system fails to keep up with the demand. This has opened the door for some other startups like Friendfeed. Hopefully they invested in architecture so they don't run into the same issues when the masses flee Twitter and open up accounts on Friendfeed.

The moral of this story is that architecture is critical for sustaining success for any software product. You can pay now and build it right up front, or you can pay later and call in the firefighters and the PR folks.

I was recently interviewed by the good folks at Stacksafe about SOA and IT operations. You can go to their blog and see the transcript. For those of you not familiar with Stacksafe, here is a demo of their Test Center product.

In other news, I will be participating in a user panel called Measuring the Value of SOA at Gartner's Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit on June 11 in Orlando. I will be teamed up with fellow blogger Todd Biske and SOA author Melvin Greer. Here is the description of the user panel as described in the agenda:

In this session, several practitioners will share firsthand experience of justifying and measuring the value of their service-oriented architecture (SOA) activities: How to make the initial business case and continuously demonstrate the benefits? What metrics to use? What return on investment (ROI) to expect? What challenges have they encountered, and how did they overcome them?
For those of you attending, feel free to send me a tweet on Twitter or eMail so I can set aside some time to meet up and talk technology.

And finally, after nearly 13 years at my current job, I have made a bold decision to enter the job market and am seeking out companies that are looking to implement BPM, SOA, or Enterprise Architecture. I have enjoyed implementing these at my current job and would like to take all of those lessons learned that I frequently share with my readers and put them to use. If you know of anybody who needs help on these initiatives, I'd love to chat with them.

First it was WOA vs. SOA, now it's Mashups vs. SOA. When will people start focusing on business problems and stop having religious wars about which technology is best? All of the above mentioned technologies are great tools for your IT toolbox. They should be used where they make sense. SOA is an architectural approach. Mashups and WOA are technologies that work well with SOA. Why can't we all get along?

One of the items on our SOA roadmap is extending our architecture to include mashups. We envision leveraging popular mashups like Google maps but we also hope that our customers can extend our products and services with their own mashups. Take a look at all of the mashups that are available for Salesforce.com.

I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it until somebody proves me wrong. The problem with these emerging technologies is not the technologies themselves, it is the people. Only people can take great concepts like SOA and Mashups and create a bunch of unnecessary noise that scares the masses away. Instead of arguing about semantics, people should try to better understand these concepts and figure out how they can apply them to solve real business problems. At the end of the day, the business doesn't care what technologies you use. They just want their tools delivered faster, easier to use, and at their finger tips wherever they are.

I have been blogging about our SOA project for over a year now. We are closing in on our first year of development and are ready to deliver eight different projects over the next two months. A few months ago we started our second process reengineering effort in another line of business. In this initiative we were able to access the process from pre-sales through contracts/proposals all the way through delivery. In the pre-sales area there is plenty of data mining and data discovery processes that take place so the sales team can go after the best opportunities. The pre-sales process is a business problem that is perfectly suited for our business intelligence (BI) tools. Historically, our BI tools were delivered as stand alone solutions. Now we have a need to allow the users to drill into data, select one to many result sets, and pass the information onto the next business process. In short, this means that we need to connect our BI results to our BPM tool.

In our current implementation, our SOA stack looks like this...

Our BI architecture (we use Microstrategy) looks like this...

But if treat our BI architecture as just another abstracted presentation layer, we get this...

In the previous picture, you can see that our SOA stack does not need to understand or even interface with the complexities of the BI platform. Instead, the selected result set that the user chooses from the BI user interface can trigger a web service to pass the results as an XML message to the SOA stack where the BPM engine takes over and moves the data into the next step of the process. Below is a example of a BI interface that I "borrowed" from the Microstrategy's web site.

Imagine drilling into the subcategory of computers to find an opportunity to sell a loyalty campaign to a customer based on certain performance metrics and demographics. Once the sales person selects a potential opportunity and hits the submit button, the data can be fed into the proposal process and much of the order entry data can be prepopulated to improve quality and save time.

So why does this matter? The point is that when we leverage architectures that abstract the presentation, data, business processes, and business rules, it becomes really simple to integrate applications whether they are home grown or commercially built. Because of the abstraction layers in both our SOA and Microstrategy's architecture, both solutions can treat the other as a black box and simply communicate via services. What makes this even more attractive is if our customers or partners have their own BI tools that we want to integrate with our systems we can simply provide them with an XSD so they know how to format the XML message (of course this assumes that the proper security is in place).

Another benefit of leveraging our BI tools as an abstracted presentation layer is that we can take advantage of many out-of-the-box features from the BI platform. Features like subscription services, alerts, flash enabled emails, mobile support, scorecards, and dashboards are just a few of the many rich features that you do not have to build from scratch. But the big bang is that your CIO will be happy to see you leverage the company's large investments in both BI and SOA while wowing your customers at the same time.

Here are this week's jobs that are posted on my IT Job Board.

  1. Lawson contractor in Tampa
  2. CEO needed in NYC
  3. Temp to perm Java developer
  4. PHP developer needed in Philly
  5. Business Analyst needed in PA
Each week I pass along job opportunities that come across my desk via email, phone, LinkedIn, etc. I pass these opportunities along to my network in hope that somebody can benefit from these opportunities. If you are a recruiter, I am happy to pass along your job openings. If you are looking for work, I hope these opportunities are helpful.

Until next week, keep fighting the good fight!

Email me if you are interested

I was poking around on Slideshare today and stumbled across a few good presentations about Twitter. If you run into any folks that still don't understand Twitter, show them the following content.

Here is the Video that the presentation referred to:

The next presentation is a long one but discusses how Twitter can be used in business.

I wrote a post called Adobe Flex beats Silverlight every time in September of 2007. My key point was that Flex runs on Flash which is installed on over 99% of all PCs and laptops in the world. On top of that, Flex has released Air which allows you to deploy your application on the desktop independent of the operating system. This enables you to interact with data both online and offline and can sync up when the user connects back online. Salesforce.com is all over this already.

Today I read O'Reilly's post called What's Keeping Adobe Up at Night? Probably not Silverlight. Looking at the chart below you can see that Silverlight has gained no market share on Flex. I do not believe that this has much to do with the features of Silverlight, but more with the fact that the Silverlight plugin is on very few PCs and laptops across the world and is not getting adopted at a rapid pace.

Both Silverlight and Flex allow you to build breathtaking RIAs (Rich Internet Applications). Major vendors are leveraging Flex because of their requirements to provide a zero footprint application that runs on any browser and any operating system. Although Flash is not exactly zero footprint, the fact that it is on almost every single PC and laptop makes it acceptable for corporations to use. Look how Microstrategy, a leader in business intelligence, is leveraging Flash. If you click through these demos you will see a very rich user experience that can be fully integrated into your portal or sent as an email. SAP, Google, HP, and many other large companies are also leveraging Flex to create richer user experiences with their products. You can see many more examples of Flex in action here.

Check out Nokia, Wii, and Minicooper for some outstanding eCommerce sites that use Flex. And here's one for the guys (sorry ladies, it's about the technology, really).

RIA is changing the way consumers use the Internet. eCommerce companies who do not invest in this type of technology will fall far behind. In a few years rich interfaces like these will be expected. Adobe is in a great place to continue to dominate this market place. Microsoft has the money, the name, the power, and the product to succeed in this space, but I don't know how they will overcome Adobe's lock on having 99% of the PC market with Flash installed.

I guess we will just wait and see how this race plays out. In the mean time, I will continue to standardize on Flex in my enterprise.

Here is a presentation on Slideshare: 10 reasons to use Flex

Here is a slide show for those who need to explain to upper management the risks involved trying to implement SOA and the importance of SOA governance. This must be sold early on and the necessary resources must be brought in. Trying to implement governance after implementation is risky, expensive, and hard to do. Like SOA, governance should be implemented one step at a time and will take years to evolve to a high level of maturity. Make sure your SOA governance maturity level matches your SOA maturity level. Don't try to implement all of your governance up front because you will never have any time left to implement any SOA projects, hence you will not deliver value to the business. I hope the slides help. Enjoy!

Web 2.0 social software and collaboration tools have drastically changed the way I work and learn. Whether it is social networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or information sharing tools like blogs and wikis, access to information and lessons learned have never been easier to find. I have worked at the same place for 13 years and had a very limited network until I started using these tools. Now I am collaborating with smart people all over the world. I recently was contacted via Twitter to participate at the Gartner & SOA Consortium “User Panel: Measuring the Value of SOA”. This opportunity never would have occurred if I had not taken advantage of Web 2.0 technologies.

What I am discovering is that these technologies are still very foreign to many people in the industry. Others are aware of the technologies but have written them off as child's play and see no value in them. Meanwhile, the world is changing and the way people communicate is radically different due to these technologies. So I have been wondering out loud why so many people are in the dark? Here are the conclusions that I came up with.

  1. Some people see work as a 9-5 necessary evil and are not motivated to learn new skills and keep current with technology.
  2. Some people (especially us old timers) are resistant to change. They insist on using the methods that have worked for them for the last 20 years.
  3. Some people fear change. These people are comfortable with the way things are and fear becoming obsolete if their daily routine changes.
All of these things are concerning to me if I am putting a team together to implement a new technology or to change the current way we deliver. To combat this I added a series of questions to my interview process. I wanted to find out if and how the candidates research trends in technology, if they are familiar with the tools that the younger generations are using, and how adaptable they are.

Whether I am interviewing existing employees to build a new team or potential new hires from outside the company, I now try to see how aware they are of how the web is changing the way information is shared. Here are some of the things I might ask:
  • How do you keep current with technology?
  • What tools do you use to collaborate?
  • How would you go about researching how to implement SOA?
  • What was the topic of the last technology article you read?
  • What is one of the most exciting new tools on the web today?
There are many more questions that could be asked. If their answers are I use email and trade magazines then they probably are not keeping themselves current. If they are unfamiliar with blogs and wikis then they are definitely old school and further questioning is needed to make sure they don't resist change.

I remember when I first stumbled across Twitter a year ago. I just couldn't understand the value. As time went by I noticed more people in my network were becoming excited about it. I could have dug my heals in and said, "I have managed to survive all of these years without it" and just ignored it. Instead, I created an account and started using it. At first it seemed like a waste of time but as I started following the right people my eyes opened to a whole new world of communicating. Now I can't live without it.

So my point to all of this is if you are in a position to put together a new team or hire new people, do you want people who aren't ready and/or willing to change the way they work or do you want people who are comfortable adapting to new ways of thinking? A quick way to gain insight into which side of the fence these people sit on is to test their Web 2.0 knowledge. If they can tell you more about their favorite reality show then they can about Web 2.0, move on to the next candidate!

In response to the recent surge of bad publicity that SOA has received, I have been screaming from my soapbox that SOA is the real deal, it's just the people who keep screwing it up. I offered my recipe for success and my ideas about change management. As I look back at my SOA journey, I identified one new role that I would add if I ever get an opportunity to lead another SOA initiative. That role is an Organization Change Management (OCM) specialist.

What is the OCM Role?
The OCM role is critical to the success of any large scale culture changing initiative. This person is responsible for accessing the readiness of the organization to change and then creating a change management strategy to help the organization transition from its current state to the desired future state. Developing a communication plan is also a key deliverable. People at all levels of the organization need to receive frequent communications of the impact of change, when the change is coming, what it means to them, how their jobs will be impacted, what the deliverables are, what training they will receive, and when will it be delivered. To make matters more challenging, each layer within the organization will need this information in a way that makes sense to them. For example, developers will want the low level detail, the business will want it in business terms, the financial people want it in dollars and cents, and senior management want an executive summary. There is no one communication fits all.

Then there is the skills assessment. What skills do we need? What can we address with training and what do we need to go outside for? Do we need to change our incentives and rewards programs, our recruiting process, our software development life cycle process, etc.? Does our existing job titles and pay scales make sense for the skills we need?

You can see that from this list of questions the scope of this role is more public relations (PR) and human resources (HR) then it is architecture.

Who fills this role?
There are a few options. This can be filled internally by an executive sponsor, an HR generalist, or even a project manager. However, only fill this internally if the person has clout and is near 100% dedicated to the project. If they have another day job then don't bother. External resources are also an option. This has many benefits. First, you can get someone who lives and breaths change management and has been through many of these types of initiatives before. Why reinvent the wheel and learn this from scratch when there are experts in the field. Second, the hours needed each week may fluctuate. You may need 40 hours one week and 20 the next. With an external resource you can pay only for the hours you need. Third, it is advantageous to have a fresh perspective from an outsider who is not tied to existing processes and cultural barriers. Fourth, this person can give candid feedback to the higher ups without worrying about getting fired. For example, let's say a senior executive is not pulling his or her weight in one area of the project. The consultant can confront that person and in extreme cases go above that person to provide feedback without worrying about their next pay check.

What are the benefits?
Investing time and money in change management can make or break a project. In my case, several of us took on various tasks in this area, but collectively we did not have sufficient time to communicate at the level we needed to. Some areas we didn't even get a chance to address. Leveraging an OCM specialist greatly improves communication, addresses project risks, helps people adjust to change, and greatly reduces resistance. You can survive without this role, but it will be much harder, cost more, and take longer due to resistance to change and communication gaps. Take it from someone who has spent the last two years fighting the good fight, change is good, but dedicated change management specialists are better.

Last week I tried an experiment which was to share some of the IT job leads that come across my desk via email or phone. I received a few responses so I figured I'd share this week's job leads with my network. So I created a new blog called Madgreek's IT Job Board where I will put detailed descriptions of jobs as they come to me, and once a week on this blog I will highlight some key jobs with links to the job board where you can see the details. I actually had a few recruiters contact me on LinkedIn and asked if I would share their job leads on my blog. Here are this week's opportunities:

  1. Look what's cooking at Hershey!
  2. Are you a Microsoft CRM pro?
  3. Leadership needed for a social networking startup.
That's it for this week. If you know of any recruiters who want an opportunity to showcase their jobs for free on my site, please have them contact me at mkavis@yahoo.com.

One of the challenges of explaining the value of Enterprise Architecture to your organization is the perception that EA is nothing more then a think-tank for high priced architects who practice philosophy from their Ivory Towers. Executives are concerned that the EA team will produce nothing more then nice documents and diagrams and will not contribute to the overall benefit of the company. I have seen three different approaches to EA based on this perception.

Not in my house!
In this scenario, the CIO totally buys into the perceptions and will shut down any attempt to invest in EA. This often occurs when the key decision makers are not highly technical and clearly do not understand the value of EA. IT shops who take this approach tend to work hard and not smart, reinvent the wheel over and over again, struggle to keep up with demands of the business, and lack a flexible architecture to adapt to change.

Half-baked EA
Some companies attempt EA with only "one foot in the water". In this scenario, they believe in the value of EA but fear the perceptions of EA. Instead of addressing the perception issue, they choose to create tactical deliverables so that they can "show" the business concrete evidence that they are delivering value. By giving their architects tactical tasks they take away strategic thinking time required to build out an EA. This becomes a distraction that may entertain the business for a short amount of time but it increases the likeliness of your EA effort to fail. To deliver EA, you must spend the time up front to create the vision, the roadmap, and then methodically produce the deliverables required to deliver the vision.

Full blown EA
These companies have fearless leaders who are able to sell the value of EA and don't let perceptions get in the way of creating real value for the organization. These companies will have to fight the good fight since many people in the organization believe in the Ivory Tower perception and will not be supportive of the initiative. It is critical that the EA group stays focused to the cause and does not get distracted with non strategic initiatives. In other words, they cannot get sucked into the machine! On the flip side, these companies must be very careful that they do not try to over analyze the enterprise and spend months or years creating documents and delivering nothing to the organization.

How do we get there from here?
My advice is to treat EA like any other large culture changing initiative. Follow the steps I highlighted in the post EA, SOA, and Change:

  1. Build strong business case
  2. Secure executive sponsor and top level buy in
  3. Create a Road Map
  4. Communicate the Road Map
  5. Empower Others to Act on the Road Map
  6. Start small, deliver early and often (agile)
  7. Expand, leverage architecture
  8. Govern
The challenge is getting through the first 5 steps in a reasonable amount of time so that you can start showing value in steps 6-7. Here is an important point. The business can never really "see" Enterprise Architecture which is why the half-baked EA methodology is a waste of time. Instead of trying to create deliverables that are visible to the human eye, the EA team should focus on getting the development teams to leverage your EA. EA is under the covers and should not be a puppet show for the business. The business should "feel" the impacts of EA when IT starts improving its time to market, delivering consistent and standard products and services, becomes flexible and agile, and becomes a partner in matching technology to business goals and objectives.

EA is a journey and should be treated as one. It will take years to mature an EA but it shouldn't take years to provide value. There are many books that describe the phases of EA maturity (Enterprise Architecture as a Strategy is my favorite). Each phase can produce real business benefits. Keep the long term goal in mind but set your short term goals on value added deliverables that are stepping stones for the final phases of EA maturity. And most important, stay out of the Ivory Towers!

As I mentioned in the post IT Jobs - Looking for technologists and leaders earlier this week, I will share the many job leads that somehow find their way to my email or telephone. I want to use this blog as a forum to help my readers and recruiters hook up for potential jobs that cross my desk. Here is my first weekly summary:

Software Engineers - 2 Permanent Openings in Orlando
The successful candidate will possess a Training or Simulation
background, with solid Software Engineering skills in C#, C++ or VB.Net. These
are permanent positions; two openings with a possible third opening on
the way.

Web Engineer - Lewisville, Texas
Web Operations Engineer needed to assists higher level systems engineers and architects in designing technology solutions and systems integrations. Works with higher level engineers to learn about the architectural processes and standards. You are the first line Production Support and your primary focus is Web Operations and Deployments.

The function of Web Operations and Deployment is to facilitate monitoring and configure it and to maintain the daily operations within data center facilities. The team is the second level support for operational issues that occur and are responsible for application and configuration support. Interacts with Application and Web Development, assist overall infrastructure of Development Also oversees all changes that affect Integration/Model and Production Environments)

Act as point of escalation for application/system issues, participating in resolution, problem tracking, and analysis reports.
Handle business and infrastructure application/system promotions.
Complete service and work requests submitted, to meet business objectives.
Initiate new methods to make operational procedures and policies easy to use while maintaining the security and integrity of the environments.
Evolve with operational policies, employ new tools, and provide creative process improvements utilizing innovative technology.
Provide on call support, evenings and weekends.
Must have skills: at least a conceptual understanding of N-tier application architecture with preferably 1-3 years experience with IIS.

It is desired for someone to have 1-3 years of MSMQ and .Net experience too (but not required).

Technologies involved: Windows 2000\2003; Altiris; Biztalk; Com+; DCom; Citrix; SQL+; VMware; VBscripting

GVP Consulting and Prof Services NEEDED
Global Vice President of Consulting and Professional Services for a global SAAS company . Candidates can be located anywhere in the US and work remotely. Candidates must have built a successful consulting practice from scratch at least once in your career. Candidates must have experience placing consultants at Fortune 1000 clients. Must have a rolodex. Must be able to land new clients. Compensation will probably be in the $300-500k+ range, but really depends upon the candidate. Board is willing and able to put together the right package for the right candidate. The focus is on hiring the BEST candidate. This is a key position, reporting directly to the CEO.

Dir Sales NEEDED for US and Europe (300k+)
Need three Regional Vice President/Director of Sales. Need someone to build each of the following areas: Northeast, Midwest and Europe. The CEO only wants to hire the best and is prepared to reward and motivate his “A” players. He is willing and able to put together the right package for the right candidates. There will be no cap on commissions. (The other RVP/Director of Sales is making over $300k/year.) CEO prefers candidates that can manage an individual quota while building a team. Candidates must have strong track record of managing and closing enterprise software deals with Fortune 1000 companies.

Aqualogic Architect / Sr. Developer - Warren, NJ
Aqualogic Business Process Management (ALBPM) Architect/Senior Developer. This role will be a lead architect/developer role that will be charged with both design and implementation of the ALBPM product inlcuding including developing workflows and custom data gathering screens. This project will be implemented on two fronts. First there will be an effort to automate and centralize the user provisioning request mechanism for 220 systems. This front end BPM implementation has already been completed for 30 systems. The second portion of the project will integrate the solution through an ESB into Sun Identity Management which will perform the actual user provisioning actions on all 220 systems spanning Active Directory, SQL Server, Oracle and Windows Domain integrations.

Will be responsible for the technical implementation from design to implementation. Should have hands on development skills and be able to both configure ALBPM solution as well as develop any custom screens and interfaces to integrate into the TIBCO ESB.

4+ years Aqualogic Business Process Management (ALBPM) design and implementation skills

5+ years Java/J2EE

3+ years Web Services

Previous experience in consulting is considered a significant advantage.

Dynamic web interface design using XHMTL, CSS, JSP, ASP.net

SPML experience a major plus

TIBCO or ESB experience a major plus

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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"