How old is a “Legacy” application?

April 16th, 2007

What do we mean when we use the term “legacy” application?

Jason Stamper talks about ageing technologies and speculates that even old Java applications could often be considered legacy.

I think we should take a business focussed view of this and I suggest we should ask the following question.

If we re-evaluated, today, would we buy/build this application again?  If the answer is no, then it’s a legacy application.

I have more than a sneaky suspicion that asking the business this direct question would yield some uncomfortable answers.  In fact I would go so far as to suggest that by this definition, many business reps would consider a large number of applications to be “legacy” before they are even live.

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Buy vs Build

April 12th, 2007

The old argument for buying packaged software, I was reminded by Alan Inglis, is to benefit from industry best practice.  In other words, to benefit from the software author’s experience of solving your problem for other organisations, the benefits of which they have (undoubtedly) built into the package.

The theory goes that you can standardise your back office and equalise your cost per transaction (or whatever the key measure is) with your competitors, then your organisational strategy becomes one of marketing, i.e. differentiate your products with better R & D, advertise them and sell them better, always secure that your cost of delivery/administration etc is no higher than your rivals’.

Hang on a minute?  That doesn’t sound very ambitious!  It also means your costs are no lower than your rivals…

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On WordPress, Akismet, and Spam

April 10th, 2007

Being new to the blogosphere and having taken various recommendations to go with WordPress (which I must say I am very happy with), I was not initially concerned about spam.

Following the recent receipt of two spam comments, I decided to enable Akismet.  In the last two days things have gone wild!  Akismet has captured nearly 200 spam comments across the two blogs that I run.

Whilst I am delighted that Akismet has intervened, I am nervous about enabling people to leave comments without moderation.  I have never refused to allow a genuine comment, positive or negative but I am trying to balance the benefits of allowing un-moderated comments versus the risk of getting spammed to death for those that get through the Akismet filter.  Any more experienced bloggers out there with any advice?

Another Fallout Between Business and IT?

April 9th, 2007

My second comment on Bill Barr’s most interesting blog concerns his post Applied IT vs. Computer Science/Technology.

Wow – where to start – this post covers so much ground!

I hope he is not living up to his claim to be putting out ideas 5 years ahead of their time when he describes the “ever widening gap between the Business and IT” and “the miserable job the majority of IT has done with respect to delivering value to the business”.  I thought the gap was closing and that enterprise IT people these days are much more business focussed.

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Ship Ahoy!

April 9th, 2007

I’ve only recently discovered Bill Barr’s blog (and added it to my blogroll) and found some really interesting views that I felt compelled to post about.

Firstly at Ivory Tower or Crow’s nest? Bill argues for the need for IT architects to take a high level view without retreating into an ivory tower.  I am pretty convinced that the role of an IT architect is to see the bigger (business) picture and always be looking ahead to prepare the matching and necessary infrastructure.

I am equally convinced that “if we could only convince businesses of the value of having a lookout place high enough to see beyond the next quarter ….” then the job of the IT architect would be much simpler.

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Are GUIs Really So Bad?

April 9th, 2007

Allan Engelhardt is a guy I have worked with and respect a lot.  His knowledge of enterprise IT architecture is way beyond mine and he seems to successfully bridge the gap between IT purity and business need – in other words he is a pragmatist whose focus remains on delivering the end result.

So I found my thoughts provoked by his recent post on The Post GUI Era based on discussion from O’Reilly’s 2007 Emerging Technologies conference.

Now, I wasn’t at the conference but I do think that Allan has barely scratched the surface in this debate.  The theory goes that man wasn’t born understanding GUIs, and more natural interfaces such as speech, for example, are potentially better ways of managing the interface between human beings and technology.

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Let’s Legitimise Rogue Behaviour.

March 28th, 2007

In my short time in the blogosphere I’ve noticed a common theme around CIOs, IT Architects and others in the IT community concerned with “Rogue” behaviour.

I say rogue behaviour because some posts refer to rogue users, others to rogue solutions, rogue IT etc.

The common point is that if the IT function does not serve the business with what it needs, then you can absolutely guarantee that some rogue behaviour will emanate from the business.  Usually the IT function doesn’t even know about it, until the rogue solution falls over and the business calls in the IT guys who are suddenly landed with a mission critical “system” to mend and support.

So how do we square the circle here?

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March 28th, 2007

Back in 1998, I was doing a Masters degree at Leeds University.  An IT Module on my course posed a question something like “What is the case for transactional websites in UK retail banking?”

Do you remember 1998?  It was the year Netscape announced they were going open source.  Home broadband did not exist in the UK. The vast majority of people did not have a home internet connection of any type and probably almost no-one over the age of 25 regularly used the internet or had a personal email ID.  There was not one single UK bank offering meaningful transactional capabilities on their website.  The internet (or should I say Web 0.1) was only just taking off.

Polls at that time were concluding that only about a third of the British public expected to have online retail banking within 5 years with some really tech savvy people (13% of the population) wanting it within 2 years!  Wow!

About 3,000 words (on paper) later I concluded that there was no current short term ROI case for fully transactional internet banking but it was blatantly obvious that it would take off and any bank that didn’t take the leap of faith and invest, would get left behind both in customer service and cost per transaction.

This unremarkable conclusion somehow managed to get me a good mark for that paper – it seems even more unremarkable today.

So is SOA in the same boat then today, being blatantly obvious but needing a leap of faith?  I don’t think so.

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30 years of progress

March 26th, 2007

I had to smile when I read Antique Software by Jason Kolb.

It brought back memories of my schooldays when my mate Paul Bryce (where are you now?) and I tried to get the best from a ZX80 with (I think) 1KB of RAM and a cassette tape recorder attached.  The “PC” (I am pretty sure that term had not yet been coined) was linked to my dad’s black and white portable telly.

We thought we were so cutting edge!

On the one hand it would be a laugh to go back to those days, but imagine no mobile phones, no digital TV, no internet (aggghhhh!) – I guess it would make us realise what a stunning technological revolution my generation has been privileged to witness in the last 30 years!

March 27th – someone at Blue Prism has just pointed out that I am still using technology from the dark ages.  Despite having a super light laptop and a mobile phone, I still find room on my desk for a Casio folding calculator from circa 1985.  Some things just continue to give you good service and a feeling of comfort, and the soft pad of calculator buttons does it for me.

Bathgate’s trusty desktop toolset

Coca-Cola and Big Bangs

March 23rd, 2007

I must be one of the few people in the world who can’t stand the taste of Coke.  Certain developers where I work could potentially survive only on Coke but that’s just not me.

However, I don’t hold a grudge against any organisation just because I don’t like their main product.  So I was pleased and impressed to read CIO Interview: Big changes come from small steps in this week’s UK Computer Weekly where the interviewee was Tania Howarth, CIO of Coca-Cola Europe.

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