Computer Weekly Blogs

November 14th, 2007

I have just discovered a range of blogs under the Computer Weekly banner, and expecting to see the usual journalist names (not that I have anything against the journos, they do a pretty good job), I was surprised to see a blog from a real CIO.

Adam Burstow offers insights from the CIO perspective and his blog is a call to action, at least by name, which is “Making IT Happen”.  If you are interested in CIO matters, it’s worth a read.

Radio Silence

November 14th, 2007

Don’t panic.  I am not thinking of joining in with the potential bloggers strike.

It’s just that things have been so busy, which has prevented me from posting for a while.  Lots of change going on at Blue Prism.  A new mood is emerging in the industries we work in.  In line, chronologically at least, with the start of the credit crunch, there seems to be a great deal more short-termism.  Capital budgets are being slashed, especially in IT.  There is increased demand for results PDQ.   Urgency is increasing.

As an enterprise software vendor you might think the IT budget cuts are a threat, but the opposite has occurred.  We fit in quite well to the new mood and our sales pipeline has never been busier.

Apart from sales (which is always the first priority) my time has been demanded on investment and recruitment matters, which anyone involved in running any sort of company will know is time draining, albeit highly interesting and often entertaining.  I hope to reveal more in due course, subject of course, to the usual array of confidentiality clauses 🙁

Giants vs Dolphins

October 29th, 2007

I was at Wembley last night for the first ever NFL game hosted outside the US and it got me thinking about competition.  It was a tremendous occasion and thoroughly enjoyable.  I guess the Dolphins, who are having a dire season, (an eight game losing streak keeping them firmly planted at the bottom of the AFC East 0-8), had little to lose by giving up home advantage.

NFL Wembley

In fact Miami were no pushover.  Their opening drive, based almost exclusively on an aggressive running game, put them in a promising position only to run out of steam with a 48 yard field too much to ask in wet and windy conditions.

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The difference between IT specification and business requirements

October 25th, 2007

I had a rude awakening this week when visiting an important customer.  We were trying to persuade this customer to buy more Blue Prism software to automate new processes, and early in the meeting we were stunned to hear a really negative reaction.  “Of course, I am really keen to do some more work with your product but we will have to persuade the business users who are very negative about your current solution”.

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Obstructive IT

October 19th, 2007

Computer Weekly is reporting Gartner’s views that CIOs must “reassess the role of the IT function”.  The general thrust is that CIOs need to realise that there is some anarchy going on and with web downloads, collaboration tools and SaaS, business users are implementing their own solutions, whether the IT function likes it or not (and in fact the IT function often doesn’t even know).

You may remember our Rogue IT Survey which gives a lot of insight into why the user community is “doing its own thing”.

For Blue Prism’s part we are considering ways of making it easier to buy the product as an incremental purchase rather than a major investment decision and this does no more than put us in line with nearly every other enterprise software vendor.  So there is a trend and the CIO does need to think about this before anarchy runs rife in the organisation.

As a vendor, we are not trying to usurp the power of the IT department.  Indeed, I personally support a strong IT governance model.  However, many IT departments put so much governance, methodology and process in the way of good ideas that they become un-implementable and this is a shame.  The world of enterprise software is not changing – it has already changed.  Outdated processes and thoughts still remain from the Cobol/mainframe days and I do think that many IT departments simply follow rules for rules sake.

Time for some common sense and to see the bigger picture.  There is definitely room for some governance and process but when this is simply obstructive, you can’t blame the business users for looking for their own ways to solve problems.

BPM versus the people

October 11th, 2007

I read Ann All’s post about putting a human face on BPM this morning which is understandably pro-BPM, but I started to get confused about whether there is a move towards automating everything, bringing people back into processes to enable process improvement, or there is just a “horses for courses” thing going on.

I am definitely in the latter camp.  BPM is about managing processes.  If there is a need for consistency and accuracy, but the process cannot be automated then it can at least be managed, and people undertaking the process can be guided to the right actions.  This can be a powerful way of ensuring consistent customer service, or to meet compliance requirements for example.

But what if the process is rules based?  Why does that need any management?  Surely it just needs automating?  Well, perhaps this is where the process improvement comes in.  Even automated processes need to be monitored and can (and should) be improved.  At a minimum there is an ongoing requirement to change automated processes to meet new laws, regulations, marketing initiatives etc and this means that the automated processes need to be both visible and flexible.

So where does this leave the people then?  Just managing some super BPM dashboard like a modern day Joe 90?

Of course people have a role to play in business processes.  The example mentioned in Ann’s article was the new hire process.  I don’t believe the world is ready to see this fully automated yet, since there is always a judgmental element to the process on both sides and this necessitates human contact.  However, in the UK and US at least, there are detailed and highly complex laws relating to recruitment and selection to ensure no discrimination occurs, for example.  This means the process lends itself to being managed by a BPM system.

Other processes are simpler and rules based.  For example, lost and stolen card blocks.  When a bank receives notice that a customer has had their bank cards stolen, a clerk has to trawl round the various systems blocking the various cards.  Accuracy is essential here to prevent fraudulent use of the cards, but the process is entirely rules based with no room for judgment.  This is a process that should be automated.

So horses for business process courses?  People are good at negotiation and expert judgment.  Computers are good at munching through rules based processes.  I’ve seen nothing yet to persuade me that the implicit negatives of those two statements are any less true.

Can IT learn from Change Managers?

October 2nd, 2007

Anyone who has ever been a project manager, or had any PM training, will be under no illusion that the single most important feature of a successful project is to have senior management support.

I have done a bit of project management in my time, and like most PMs, have fallen into the trap of how to measure the success of a project.  Tradition says that a project comprises cost, quality and time.  So if you deliver your project within budget, to specification, and within the planned timeframe you have succeeded, right?  Well, only in a small minded way, in my opinion.

What if you’ve delivered a cart, when the organisation really needed a horse?

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Word play

September 28th, 2007

Time to lighten up a bit, as I prepare to go off on hols for a few days.

Do you like words?  Have you got a short attention span?  I’ve got a couple of good sites for you, but don’t blame me if you waste half your day… let’s you create new words and humorously define them.

Example?  I added Errordite – (adjective) – Thought to have shown profound knowledge but in the event, proved to be wrong.

Struggling to think up a random werd (sic)?  Try which is a random word generator.

Hours of harmless fun for the litterati (noun – people who consider themselves to be men of letters but actually are rubbish, like me) amongst you.

Other Blue Prism bloggers

September 27th, 2007

Just thought I’d alert you to Blue Prism Software Architect, Ciaran Gultnieks’ blog.  He doesn’t really need or want the publicity but if you are technically inclined or you like chickens and ducks you should give it a read.

Ciaran is currently experimenting and comparing CouchDB, Mnesia and MySQL which, if you are still reading, perhaps you should jump across and see what it’s all about.

Contactless payments

September 27th, 2007

I don’t know why I have such an interest in this topic but having just read this Finextra report I am still pining for a leap forward in contactless payment technology.  Or not so much a leap forward in technology, as a bit of joined up thinking and collaboration.

I don’t want a VISA key fob, a payment card or a calculator with proximity technology.  I don’t want anything new to carry round.  Quite the reverse, I would like to greatly reduce all the crap in my pockets, so please my I have my contactless payment technology installed in my mobile phone?

If we are really in a so-called technological revolution, why do I still need a wallet, or a key ring for that matter?