Business process centric architecture

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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BPM and SOA at a local level?

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

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?

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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The future of payments in London?

July 12th, 2007

Had to laugh at this announcement from Barclaycard.

The three in one “OnePulse”card:

1.  Chip and PIN card – your regular debit card
2.  Contactless payment card (but only in participating retailers and only in London)
3.  Oyster card (contactless travelcard for the London Underground)

Barclaycard call this “the future of payments in London” which really falls short in ambition for me.

Why can’t I import all that functionality (and more) onto my mobile phone so I don’t need a card at all?  That sounds like the future of global payments.

However, despite this derisory post, I must admit that I will be applying for one, as it does look like the best we’ve got in the UK right now, and at least it means my Oyster Card can go in the bin.  That is, unless Barclaycard have read this and terminate me as a customer! 🙂

Rogue IT and hardware

July 11th, 2007

The Blue Prism Rogue IT survey has generated quite a lot of coverage, but I was particularly interested to read Rogue IT and magic wands by Patrick Ancipink.

I am one of the people that falls into the trap of forgetting about the harder parts of the infrastructure, in particular, networks.  Not only do they “just work” but everything is plug and play these days isn’t it?

In the hype surrounding software architecture and particularly SOA, it’s easy to forget that hordes of IT people dedicate their time to making sure that the software has a hardware infrastructure to feed it.  Furthermore that this community has the same concerns about alignment of business and IT objectives.

BPM is a workaround then, or is it SOA?

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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Too much too soon?

July 4th, 2007

Ann All has an interesting piece commenting on David Taber’s views on the use of process improvement techniques such as six sigma.

I think David is absolutely right to suggest that using six sigma too early can stifle innovation and reduce the chance of new product success.

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Rogue IT is rife but that’s OK say IT managers

July 3rd, 2007

About to be released to trade press and on the Blue Prism website, since readers of this blog contributed to the survey (thank you), here is an advance copy of the press release.

Rogue IT: Survey highlights rogue users in 67% of organisations. 

Budget and resource constraints and a focus on strategic projects inevitably lead to pockets of rogue behaviour.

A strong governance model where collaboration between IT and the business is encouraged would help control rogue IT behaviour according to 75% of IT respondents in a recent survey conducted by robotic integration company, Blue Prism.  The survey highlighted that almost seven out of 10 (67%) organisations see elements of rogue IT behaviour from business users as a direct result of IT department budget and resource constraints and a necessary IT focus on strategic rather than tactical projects.

Despite the traditionally held view that all IT departments hold a dim view of rogue behaviour by users, the survey highlighted that IT fully understands why pockets of rogue behaviour exist, yet is pragmatic when asked for the best way of dealing with it – suggesting governance (75%) rather than introducing measures to eradicate it (10%).

So why does rogue behaviour exist in organisations? IT has the unenviable task of managing strategic, business critical projects while at the same time helping the business user with tactical change requests, so this mismatch between user expectations and IT focus is perhaps the answer.  Over 52% reported that working on strategic projects was the main focus for their department with 40% saying that delivering day to day business change requests was their priority.  The survey also highlighted that users expect projects to be delivered to ever shorter deadlines, with 86% of IT respondents believing this to be the case.

However, satisfying all business needs is often not possible given the strategic focus of IT teams versus the volume of change requests required by the business.  More than 71% of respondents cited IT department resource constraints as the reason why they are not able to satisfy all requests from the business followed by 67% of respondents who believed that IT department budget constraints were the key factor.

Of those surveyed however, 52% believed that they are able to satisfy over 75% of change requests and only 10% of respondents felt that they were able to manage fewer than 25% of requests.

Commenting on the survey findings Alastair Bathgate, Managing Director of Blue Prism said “The perennial problem in enterprise IT is how to manage the day to day demands of the business and business users within the confines of departmental budget and resource constraints and the pressure to deliver high level strategic projects. In this environment it is tough to find the budgets and resources necessary to address the raft of small changes that business users want.  It’s good to see the IT community acknowledge that users should be given the power to work on their own solutions, although there is a salutary warning from the survey that this should be done with tools approved by IT under an appropriate governance model.”

The survey also explored the question “What do you consider to be Rogue IT?” The following table provides this summary. 

    % of respondents
1 Vendor application installed without IT knowledge 100
2 Installing personal software 83
3 Locally written scripts in VB or other language 56
4 Local Access databases 50
5 Complex Excel spreadsheets 39
6 Using SaaS solutions like salesforce.com/Google apps 39
7 Macros in Word/Excel etc 28
8 Terminal emulator software macros 28
9 Other 11

Should tactical solutions have an expiry date?

June 27th, 2007

Todd Biske raises an interesting point about tactical solutions.

Tactical solutions often become permanent because once a problem is off the radar, the importance of allocating budget and resource to the longer term strategic solution drops right down the priority list.

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