Archive for July, 2007

IBM employees, empowered or restricted?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Roo Reynold’s post IBM virtual world guidelines outlines the recently launched “code of conduct for IBMers in virtual worlds”.  This adds to previously published guidelines for blogging and general business conduct.

Obviously, as an employee, Roo is bound by these new rules to take a positive stance on them isn’t he?  Maybe?  Maybe not.

It’s easy to knock the gorillas and I often do, but on this occasion I think IBM has got it about right.  The very fact that a code of conduct exists acknowledges that IBM:

a) is encouraging its employees to participate online for the corporate good; and

b) acknowledges that in such a large organisation there has to be some control (but not too much restraint).

In our small company, anyone who wants to participate in online worlds, blog, or commentate, and purport to represent Blue Prism can do so, because they can speak directly to a director if in any doubt.  But there needs to be some guidelines surely?

Do you remember when the inimitable Dale Carnegie said “dress for the job you want tomorrow, not the one you had yesterday”?  Of course “dress” was a proxy for the way you think, and the way you act in all respects.  One of our consultants once asked me what our dress code was.  I told him that, when on customer site, he should dress as well as the best dressed customer rep (but not better).  This is also a proxy for fitting in with our customers and business partners in all regards and as a simple principle is easily understood, if a tad primitive.  I think this extrapolates well into a “code of conduct” for online behaviour too.

IBM’s rules do cover well this principle of being respectful and protective of the brand but also appropriate to the environment of the virtual world.

The gorillas don’t have the luxury of our much looser “common sense” interpretation, and I think IBM is more empowering its employees than restricting them with this code of conduct.

Office space in the enterprise

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

It’s interesting to note how different enterprises treat their staff in respect of the office space they provide.

I was at a large UK retailer for a meeting, yesterday.  Retailers are not renowned for overpaying their staff or providing luxurious facilities.  However there has to be an understanding that, if you want your staff to be the smiling face of your company you better treat them with respect.

From the outside the building looked like a massive tin shed with porthole sized windows.  From the inside the floor plan was huge and lacked natural light.  However, there was smart furniture, well laid out with sound deadening screens where required.  There was air conditioning.  IT facilities looked excellent on the face of it.  An abundance of meeting rooms was supplemented by clever (and cheap) refreshment areas.  I thought they had made every effort to make the best of a difficult environment.  The staff seemed mostly upbeat and good humoured as far as I could tell.

On the walk back to the car park I passed the adjacent building which, although identical in architecture, contained a different company, a gambling operation that has been around for donkey’s years.  Without even going into the building I could see the difference.  Windows and doors were wide open as staff struggled in the heat.  The people I saw moping in and out of the building looked bored.  There were no external recreation areas.  The reception was small and uninviting.

I am not sure if this is about the (internet driven) resurgence in parts of the retailing sector and a decline in old gambling formats causing affordability issues, or whether it’s a reflection of two differing management styles.  Either way, I know which company I would rather work for – it’s not just about wages.

On business cases

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Amongst the SOA buzz around the blogosphere and traditional media, there is a recurring theme of how to promote SOA and gain acceptance within the user community.  How to justify SOA.  How to demonstrate its worth.  How to measure its success.  How to cost justify its use.

I think this all rather misses the point.  SOA to me, is just a tool for delivering business value.  There are many tools in one’s kitbag.  Promoting SOA for its own sake is just wrong.  It is a great idea that should be used only where appropriate.

Like any other investment decision I have a simple rule.  If the business case is not blindingly obvious, if you have to scratch around inventing new ways of measuring intangible benefits, if the financial ROI is hard to pin down, then you are probably on to a loser.  Focus your attention on something that does offer a compelling and obvious business case.  Find a winner.

Navel Gazing

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

I just read  Why I Blog by the Agile Elephant (Jordan Haberfield).  I’ve noticed a few other blogs become introspective recently, must be the holiday season.  This week I’ve been looking in the mirror too.

The last few months have been really hard work in my day job and I’ve not had time to do much, other than work.  In particular, my physical exercise has been almost non-existent.  I admit to being a little overweight but throughout my life I have always kept reasonably fit.  Not so in the last 6 months.  I like Steven Covey’s thoughts on this.  Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw.  It’s really important, so my mid-year resolution is to exercise more and (hopefully) lose a few pounds, and boost my energy levels.

I have also been thinking about blogging.  I started this blog in February of 2007.  I had been running an internal blog at Blue Prism and figured that there was nothing very secretive so why not share my thoughts more widely.

There was also a commercial element since firstly, people who read this blog are more likely to encounter Blue Prism and secondly, I can explore some concepts that are helpful, or interesting to us (e.g. the Rogue IT Survey).  Having said that I absolutely reserve the right to write about what interests me and that frequently has no relation to my employers.

So, for the record, here’s a few things you may or may not want to know about me and why I blog:

(more…)

IT project failure is widespread in Europe

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Here’s some stunning research reported by the BBC that I’ve only just found.  A European study by HP and The Economist found depressingly few IT projects being delivered on time with the major culprits being:

a)  outsourcing
b)  changing priorities
c)  poor co-ordination between managers

Further depression emerges in the lack of accountability.  IT people are reportedly not being charged with taking responsibility for the late delivery.

My first reaction was that this smacks of mis-management in IT.  But then I wondered if the responsibility should be jointly held between IT and the business.  Every IT project is there to serve a business end in some way.  Therefore IT can only provide what the business users want and if they change their mind, then the project slips.

(more…)

“New” mashup platforms taking over the enterprise? Not yet.

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Wow, Dion Hinchcliffe at ZDNet has looked at the enterprise mashup space in much more depth than I did a couple of months ago.

He raises some interesting issues, though, about why some of these tools are struggling to gain acceptance in the enterprise.  I believe that there are some unique features that need to be addressed to meet enterprise requirements:

(more…)

Business process centric architecture

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I am feeling quite pleased with myself for managing to get the word thrice into my last post.  Such a fine word don’t you think?

This post comes to you with the word analyst.  A dirty word in some parts of the blogosphere.

I have never paid an industry analyst but I am thinking of doing so.  Not to write some white paper promoting my company’s solutions and position us positively against our competitors.  I can write that free of charge and just as many potential customers will ignore it as if an analyst had written it.

What I actually want to achieve is to look at a wider industry trend.  I want to test whether today’s view of IT architecture is really becoming business process focussed.

(more…)

BPM and SOA at a local level?

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

More interesting coverage on alignment of BPM and SOA from Jean-Jacques Dubray got me thinking about what a large undertaking it would be to make such an implementation enterprise wide.

I am not trying to open up the bottom up versus top down argument here, already eloquently covered by Todd Biske.  Rather, I am trying to think of things as central or local.

I like the idea of tools that can implement local solutions to local problems.  Clearly central control is required or the IT infrastructure will run out of control.

However, IT departments are struggling to meet the ever growing number of change requests and have only blunt tools and scarce resources to address them.  So the business users get “wait for the strategic solution” (read between the lines “some months/years away if successful at all”).

Is it possible to provide solutions that are powerful but temporary?  Should these solutions be capable of fitting into a future architecture based around BPM and SOA?  Should business users have the privilege of not having to wait years for strategic solutions but be able to capture key process benefits right now?

Thrice yes in my view.

Indian wages rise – off-shoring ROI evaporates

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Interesting piece in the UK Independent today reporting rising Indian wages rising to 75% of the US level (20% only two years ago).  This is good news for Indian developers but bad news for companies who have off-shored purely and only to save cost.  No wonder US companies are finally starting to bring software engineering work back to their shores.

In the UK where IT off-shoring has been prevalent but not quite to the same degree as the US we wait to see if the same trend emerges.

Maybe we are getting to the stage where work will be placed for reasons of skill, geography, culture, convenience, service and team motivation – not just for cost reasons.  Or maybe work will just start transferring to the Far East, Russia, and Africa.  UK and US universities have plenty or representatives from these regions so the skills must be emerging.

Of course, I am referring only to the IT sector.  The Independent reports Indian call centre wages still significantly lower than in the West, although staff turnover is starting to spiral.  Smart companies who have outsourced important customer service operations (to the detriment of customer service), should take note before this turns into another wage spiral and eats up their ROI.

What is governance?

Friday, July 13th, 2007

I was reading Governance without goodwill is dead by Brian Sondergaard and this got me thinking about a definition of governance.

When I want a definition I sometimes consult the much discredited Wikipedia and on this occasion, the entry was predictably weak.  I don’t feel I have the authority to contribute to the Wikipedia definitions of governance or IT governance but I thought I might add my two penneth here.

(more…)