Archive for the ‘IT Strategy’ Category

75th post – age old subject

Monday, August 20th, 2007

I was surprised to see that this is my 75th post after only starting the blog in February of this year.  When I started out, I guessed that posting a couple of times a week might strike the right balance between boring people to death, balancing my work/life time demands, and making a contribution of at least some use.  After 26 weeks I am slightly ahead of target.  Natural enthusiasm one might say, or just poor forecasting as my board would no doubt argue….and let’s not even discuss quality issues just now!

Anyway I really risk boring you here, as I am on my old hobby horse – the inability of IT people to be smart enough to understand the business and make a meaningful contribution at all levels of the enterprise.  In particular the worrying emerging trend seems to be that CIOs are losing their seat at the board table.  This article in Computer Weekly is typical of late.  American readers should note that we Brits see less difference than you between a CIO, and an IT director, and the terms are often used interchangeably here.

Transatlantic idiosyncrasies aside, the important point is that the top IT job in the enterprise is losing power and voice.  This worries me because IT really ought to find it easy to justify its seat at the board table in the vast majority of large organisations.

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Why are some IT people so blind?

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

I once met a financial adviser who offered to help me sort out my finances.  Within five minutes of meeting her, she had told me what I ought to do.  I had not given any information about my financial affairs, my needs, or desires, yet she was proposing a structure for my financial arrangements, based on one single fact, that I was a director/shareholder of a company.  Needless to say, she did not make the sixth minute of the meeting.

This morning I read more coverage of the stupidity blindness of IT people, this time observed by Lorraine Lawson at IT Business Edge.  In her post How You Talk about SOA to the Business, it is clear that IT folk are still keen on pushing SOA to their business counterparts.

This has really gone on long enough.  Do you think business people really care about SOA vs EAI?  Whether you think of SOA as a tool, an infrastructure, a methodology, or a technology, it is invisible to the end user.  What is visible to the end user is whether or not a business problem has been solved.

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Lloyds TSB keeps on offshoring

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I may have to rethink my last post about UK banks not being evil, after reading that Lloyds TSB subsidiary, C & G (formerly Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society), is shifting 210 IT jobs to offshore centres.

Lloyds has a history of progressively off-shoring IT, call centre, and back office jobs to India, so one can only presume that they know what they are doing and understand the full impact of off-shoring.

I just hope they are doing it for the right reasons and not just to save cost.

What frustrates me most is that we have the means to be so much more efficient in our own country without having to ship jobs to distant, remote locations. Perhaps the problem is one of misguided management, and management turnover, combined with pressures to report results in ever shorter cycles.  If I was a middle manager in a bank, and was targeted with short term cost savings, knowing that in two years I will be in a different job, so my third year measures won’t count against me, then I guess I would take a short term view too.

IT – supplier or partner?

Monday, August 6th, 2007

I read Todd Biske for a balanced view of enterprise architecture and a particular focus on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).   His recent post titled Is a competition model good for IT? got me thinking.  Todd wonders if the IT department should be a supplier to the business, and compete against outsourced providers and vendors, or be a “partner, not a supplier”.

Those of us in the blogosphere come from many backgrounds and we all have different roles to play.  My view on this topic is obviously influenced by my role as part of the vendor community but I hope that will not put you off hearing me out. (more…)

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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BPM is a workaround then, or is it SOA?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

This press release landed in my in-tray this morning.  The basic premise is that enterprises are turning to BPM because the major systems (ERP, CRM etc) have not delivered the required flexibility in business processes.

There is a long held belief in the Build vs Buy debate that you either build and have a system that perfectly (or nearly) matches your business processes, or you buy a packaged application and change your business processes to what should be best practice.

But best practice (at least as determined by the software vendors) has some conceptual problems.  Firstly it assumes that all businesses are the same (they are not!).  Secondly it assumes that business users will accept the new processes (and so will their customers).  Thirdly it broadly ignores the existing IT infrastructure which varies enormously company by company.  Finally, it doesn’t acknowledge the massive amount of necessary change in business processes on an ongoing basis.

I think what we are seeing here is a user rebellion against large “benchmark” systems and the users are trying to address this with their own workarounds, or with BPM or similar.

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