Category Archives: Techno Babble

Originally imported from my previous technobabblogs.blogspot site, but will continue to contain all the self-indulgent thoughts, rants and views on anything even remotely related to the field of Information Systems and Technology.

Whether IT matters or is at all strategic

Greetings and Salutations,

Well, he’s at it again.

Who? Nicholas G. Carr, that’s who.

Infamously known for his article IT Doesn’t Matter (Harvard Business Review, Vol. 81, No. 5, May, 2003) that caused an uproar in the industry, spouting numerous response white papers, books and is quite possibly the most quoted paper (and later – book) in recent IT article history.

Mr Carr’s most recent article, The Next IT Revolution (CIO Insight, May, 2005) has already inspired no less a whiplash from the magazine’s readers and the IT Community at large (see below for links).

In the first article, Carr states that IT is a commodity and makes an analogy to the railway transportation industry. In his new article, an analogy is drawn between computing and electrical power generation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think he has a lot of valid points, but his reasoning and final conclusions are a little concerning. I almost wonder if he personally doesn’t get it, or whether he is simply cashing in on the widely held opinion of accounting and business type IT management?

I wonder how many of those managers would have agreed with Thomas Watson of IBM in 1943 when he claimed:

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers

or with Bill Gates in 1981 when he said those infamous words,

640K ought to be enough memory for anybody

?

So where do I sit?

Simple.

IT is a tool.

How you wield it is what turns it from a commodity item into a strategic advantage.

If you perceive IT as purely the technology. If you perceive that the value of IT is placing automation tools (desktops, applications, storage, etc) in the hands of the business, then that is all it is. Pure and simple – IT is a commodity. Why even try to pretend that you have an Information Systems department? Why pretend that as a CIO or Senior IT personnel you add value to the company? Take off your fancy 3-piece suit, don your overalls and fine-tune your cost-center department to become a well-oiled, maintenance-of-technology-components department.

However, if you dream of the ways that a wireless handheld can improve customer response times and operational efficiencies; how by virtualising the desktop you can mobilise your entire workforce and reduce costs; or perhaps the way common scanning systems can be integrated into a central purchasing system to speed up and automate your logistics across the country? Then IT is definitively strategic.

I agree with Carr that savings can be achieved by applying his “Consolidate. Standardize. Prune.” concept – but remember, the goal is to provide value to your host business, as well as provide savings from the commodity technology. Never compromise on the solution for the short term gain of saving a few dollars. When a solution truly provides a strategic advantage to the business, it is easy to justify, easy to defend, and just as easy to have funds allocated.

Want to read more on this topic? There’s no shortage of material, some interesting articles to begin with and explore:

TTFN!

The Enterprise Architecture Conference 2005

Greetings and Salutations,

Well, I’ve booked my flights, the conference tickets and am currently making hotel reservations for the upcoming 2005 Enterprise Architecture Conference being held by Btell at Star City from August 8-10.

As far as I’m aware, the conference is the only one (in Australia) that is dedicated exclusively to Enterprise Architecture.

For those interested in the field of Enterprise Architecture, the conference will have offer the opportunity to hear world renowned EA experts and Australian IT professionals alike speak on the subject. They’ll speak on both the theoretical and practical aspects of the architecture, as well as case studies of real world implementations from both the public and private sector.

Enterprise Architecture is definitely maturing. This conference helps to forge the transformation of Enterprise Architecture from a pure technology focus to one of overall integration inclusive of business processes and core information assets.

The value of this conference is different to everyone, for me, it’s in this statement from the brochure itself:

The aim is to impart real insights into how each organisation has undertaken their individual projects plus deliver some leading edge theory in developing areas of architecture. You will also have a unique opportunity to mix with peers from around Australia, New Zealand and further afield.

The highlights I’m looking forward to (and funnily enough my agenda for the conference):

  • Day 1
  • The Keynote : THE ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE STRATEGIST by Jeff Scott, Principal Strategist, Logical Leap (USA)
  • DEMYSTIFYING ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE TO YOUR ORGANISATION by Samuel Holcman, President, Zachman Institute for Framework Advancement (USA)
  • ARCHITECTURE MODELLING TOOLS FOR BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION by Chris Tisseverasinghe, Enterprise Architecture Manager, Coles Myer
  • AN IT DRIVEN APPROACH TO PROCESS ARCHITECTURE by Jamie Cornes, Team Leader, Business Process Architecture, Strategy Architecture and Security, Information Technology, Suncorp
  • VISANET: ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE FOR THE WORLD’S LARGEST PAYMENT NETWORK by Michael Gonella, Vice President, Enterprise Architecture, Visa (USA)
  • SECURITY ARCHITECTURE Panel moderated by John Gigacz, Chief Architect, Enterprise Architects Australia
  • Day 2
    • REDUCING TECHNICAL RISK – EIGHT BUSINESS DRIVERS FOR TECHNOLOGY AND ARCHITECTURE DECISION MAKING by Mark Carroll, Architect Adviser, Microsoft
    • THE ROLE OF SERVICE ORIENTED ARCHITECTURE WITHIN AN ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE by Chris Tham, Head of Architecture, Technology Distribution, National Australia Bank
    • ALIGNING EA INITIATIVES WITH BUSINESS STRATEGY by Richard Taggart, Chief Architect, General Motors (USA)
    • INFORMATION GOVERNANCE AND BUSINESS ALIGNMENT by Geoff Vitlin, Director, Doll Martin
    • PRAGMATIC APPROACHES TO TECHNOLOGY, DESIGN PRINCIPLES AND METHODOLOGIES by Associate Professor Peter Bernus, Enterprise Integration Group, School of Computing and Information Technology, Faculty of Engineering and New Technologies for EA Practitioners, Information Technology, Griffith University
    • ASK THE EXPERTS Panel moderated by John Gigacz, Chief Architect, Enterprise Architects Australia
  • Day 3
  • To read more on this (and other) amazing conference(s), go to the Btell conferences website, or download the PDF brochure The Enterprise Architecture Conference 2005. As an additional bonus, members of GEAO receive a 10% discount … effectively creating a 100% ROI in the membership costs!

    TTFN!

    The Harrow Technology Report

    Greetings and Salutations,

    Just a really quick one today … if you haven’t already discovered it, check out the The Harrow Technology Report … it’s an ever-interesting read, and in the author’s own words is about:

    the convergence of computing, communications, content, telecommunications, and the physical and medical sciences boldly take us where we’ve never been before. It’s going to be a fascinating, if more than occasionally an unnerving journey, but one which we and our businesses don’t dare ignore, least we get quickly left behind!

    So, do yourself a favor, check out the text archives (or even the MP3 versions) of the newsletters and enjoy reading about the brave new world.

    TTFN!

    Future Predictions: Grid Computing

    Greetings and Salutations,

    One of the articles I’d like to make a regular feature of on this blog are my thoughts on the future of IT technologies that, in my not-so-humble opinion, are hot and/or going to play a major role in our lives over the next three to ten years.

    So, in that spirit, I’d like to present the first of these …

    ______________________________

    GRID COMPUTING

    It’s a term being bandied around a lot at the moment. Everyone is touting it as “the next big thing” and asking if “you’re ready to join the grid“?

    The Term

    It’s a known state of affairs, suppliers and other major players in the IS&T environment are constantly creating new buzzwords in the hopes of creating greater market awareness, demand and some form of competitive advantage.

    Grid Computing is the newest addition to the ever growing list.

    Even though in my opinion, many of the “new technologies” emerging are just another evolutionary step, the ever increasing list of buzzwords gives the impression that there’s something new and exciting and altogether different from previous technologies.

    You would have heard all of them as well, phrases and words such as adaptive computing, autonomic computing, on-demand computing, utility computing and N1 all discuss the same basic concept.

    So, in this rant I will use the term Grid Computing to cover all of these different terms.

    [siderant.1] The use of all of these terms has left the impression that the technology is complex and difficult to understand. It’s also alluded to the fact that each supplier is doing something different, and thus, the whole concept is not ready to support mission critical implementations. This simply isn’t true. In my opinion, being able to apply technology to mainstream business requirements, not the technology itself, is the true sense of its value. [/siderant.1]

    So What is it?

    In essence, the technology enables the use of distributed computing resources (such as processing, network bandwidth and storage capacity) to create and grant it’s users and applications seamless access to vast IT capabilities. The technology is basically based on an open set of standards and protocols (check out the OGSA – Open Grid Services Architecture) that enable communication across (potentially) geographically dispersed environments.

    The idea is that with grid computing, you can optimise computing resources, pool them for large workloads, share them across networks and enable collaboration from anywhere across the planet.

    Evolution, not revolution

    The technology isn’t new, per se, in fact, most of it is built on previous technologies and in some ways can be seen as the latest evolution of other developments. These technologies are all familiar to you, such as distributed computing, World Wide Web, peer-to-peer computing and virtualisation.

    Here are the analogies I’d like to use to demonstrate:

    Distributed Computing: Grid computing is about bringing computing resources together, not unlike distributed computing, however, unlike clusters and distributed computing, there is no requirement for physical proximity nor operating homogeneity.

    World-Wide-Web: For most users, the complexity of the web is hidden, they enjoy a single, unified experience. While the Web is mainly designed to enable communication and information sharing, grid computing enables the ability of full collaboration toward common business goals.

    Peer-to-Peer: Most are familiar with the p2p model that allows users to share files. Grid computing ramps that up and allows many-to-many sharing of files and other computing resources as well.

    Virtualisation: Just like most virtualisation technologies, grid computing enables the abstraction of IT resources, however, grid computing enables the virtualisation of vast and disparate IT resources, not just a single system.

    What does it mean in the corporate environment?

    Well, most large vendors are already on board, each offering different value proposition services.

    IBM has been heavily involved in the OGSA Global Grid Forum, and with its generally evangelising activities, it is fair to say, has been instrumental in bringing grid computing out of the labs and white papers and onto the mainstream IT floor.

    IBM, HP and Sun expect grids will blend into the ordinary IT fabric. They believe it will follow the trajectory of other HPC technologies, such as RISC, SMP, parallel computing and CC-NUMA.

    IBM Global Services, CSC and other such professional services and consulting corporations will target global, enterprise, R&D, business analytics, engineering and design grid opportunities. Meanwhile, while CPU cycle scraping doesn’t have much of an enterprise grid future, the per-GFLOP and per-hour metering charge systems do and are firmly in their respective cross hairs.

    Unsurprisingly, Microsoft hasn’t had much to say about its grid plans. although it is a sponsor and partner of OGSA and Globus, there isn’t enough of a volume push to force their hand in this space yet. Indeed, I’m wondering if we will hear too much before it completes its Web services push. However, that’s not to say it’s not part of their long term plans. Microsoft’s plan is to have all its products running on .NET within five years. Part of this road-map is its services-oriented Business Framework, which will provide things like transaction and work-flow utilities – they sound very grid-like to me.

    For Further Information

    TTFN!

    Gates v Google

    Greetings and Salutations,

    A quick one today … I recently read a quote:

    Bill Gates says of Google, “They are more like us than anyone else we have ever competed with.” (see the original article dated April 25, 2005 from Fortune Magazine)

    and I had to laugh! Not because it sounds absurd, not because it makes people think Bill’s lost it, nor even the unsurprising stance of Microsoft to find competition out there – regardless of who they are or what they do – but the sheer, subtle gloom that is thrown onto Google by this statement. Okay, admittedly this is based on train logic, but work with me here:

    • When people generally think of Microsoft: Monopolistic & Evil
    • When people generally think of Google: little innovative guy & “do no evil”

    So, when Bill turns around with the above statement, he has put together a new formula into peoples heads:

    • If (Microsoft = Evil) & (Google = Microsoft Like) then (Google = Evil)

    Now some already agree with this evaluation, and have done so for some time.

    Me? I think Google is going after a share of the pie … yes, into other software arenas, but so far, always only with the view of providing better and more complete search facilities. I must admit, that I am a fan of best-of-breed natural selection … so I hope they carve themselves out a nice slice. But then again, I also hope that new players, like this one, also come to the fore and give them both something to think about!

    Want to follow this further, there’s plenty of commentary out there.

    That’s all for me,

    TTFN!

    Three Types of IT People

    Greetings and Salutations,

    Today, I’m going to present an excerpt from one of the many articles I began to write, at some point, and either lost the direction or lost track of time, as other issues (i.e. such as job-hunting) took priority. This is a contentious topic, as everyone will want to put their $0.02 worth in … but I guess it’s my blog and I can express my opinion!

    In Short, It’s about the three types of IT people out there and how they affect the relationship with the business they serve …

    ______________________________________

    The IT industry has undertaken a number of roles throughout its juvenile life cycle. As with any new field, it has had its share of growing pains, mistakes, failures and successes. While it is unfortunate that the business community quickly dismiss successes as expected outcomes and holds an elephant’s memory for the failures and mistakes, it also holds true that, if the industry was to be objective with itself, it has not furthered the cause for itself in the business world.

    In my view, the IT industry is generalised into three major generational qualifiers. Each of these “generations” has caused great benefits to the field of Information Technology and yet caused a great disservice to the field of sibling unity in the business world.

    The White Coats
    In the early days of ICT, the devices were large, complex and above-all extremely expensive pieces of machinery that were kept in a sterilised environment – far away from the users – and maintained by specially educated scientists.

    The ever-visible white lab coat denoted and enforced the special place that was held by the device operators – a badge of distinction they wore with honour. These ‘high priests’ were the keepers of the sacred knowledge that was the new field of computing.

    The ‘white-coaters’ ran the equipment like a holy relic. They nurtured and protected it, applied strong concepts of proper procedural methodology and demanded respect from the clergy that was the business users. These ‘high-priests’ took ‘requests’ from the clergy and deemed their worthiness. They told the business what they could and could not do. The focus was not the business – the focus was the device. All mere mortals were looked upon with disdain for they were not worthy, not capable and, in most likelihood, not clever enough to grasp the wonder of the technology.

    A decade later with the advent of Personal Computers, this mindset was still quite common in the industry. The white lab coats were replaced with a complicated, technical, three-letter acronym rich language. Non-IT professionals were kept at bay by the simple ethos – if you cannot understand us, you are not worthy of our time. Even today, many IT workers continue to utilise the linguistic barrier and maintain the ‘high-priest’ mindset that can be heard reverberating throughout many an IT department:

    • “the business can’t make technology decisions – they don’t understand it”
    • “users shouldn’t be allowed to utilise a computer until they are certified”
    • “computers should be locked down, we’ll tell the business what they can do and they should be grateful we let them touch the technology at all”
    This thinking naturally places and actively promotes a direct conflict between the IT department and the business. It promotes a negative feedback loop between the IT department and the rest of the business. The users are disillusioned with white-coaters; they are consistently made to feel incompetent and consistently unhelpful in the goal of improving the user’s job and thus making the business’ requirements unachievable.

    Thus, this type of department is considered hostile, a hindrance to business requirements, unreliable and even untrustworthy.

    The Gadgeteers
    The gadgeteers are the second generation of IT professionals, born from the PC revolution. These individuals have been attracted to the IT industry because of the gadgets. They revel in the latest and greatest. Simply put, they are Technology Junkies.

    This group is commonly considered the stereotypical IT professional. The primary goal of the gadgeteer is to get their hands on the latest – Software, hardware, portable, peripheral, server– anything, as long as it is the latest, the greatest and the best. These individuals can cite the latest specifications of any new IT component and argue the benefits of the most minuscule differentiators between products.

    They simply love technology and its potential.

    Users love the gadgeteer – they provide a wealth of information for their next home purchase, offer a wide range of “cool hardware” and are quite happy to deal with a user who shows any sign of interest in the technology.

    The business relation with this department is not so rosy. Managers are always befuddled when they see an outrageous price tag for the latest technological fad. Managers tend to shrug and throw money at these departments … at first. They will begin to question why there is a requirement for 42” Plasma Screens on the desktop of every IT worker. They wonder why every year the IT budget gets bigger, but the solutions provided do not match the output.
    In the end, the business views this department as untrustworthy, unreliable and most-of-all a money-sucking black hole.

    The “Yes” Department
    The third generation of IT professionals grew out of the corporate requirement to reign in the rogue IT department. More in line with accountants that the previous two generations, these professionals do not impose rules on the business, only purchase what is required and only implement what the business asks for. The business managers out there are most likely already salivating at this. It sounds like the ideal department – in check, in line and in control.

    However, this group of IT professionals lack the pure passion of the previous two generations. They always agree with the business, never contradict it and always say yes. As appealing as this appears to the business managers among the readers, there are downsides.

    The decisions for technological advancement in this group is usually made by other departments – unrealistic time-lines and budgets are put forward and the IT department simply agrees to these restrictions, accept the project and run off to complete it. Not providing the business with the correct feedback or advice can result in the implementation of the wrong technologies, the wrong solutions or simply the least cost effective result.

    Many a business has set its management friendly ‘yes men’ off on a project that they anticipated to be complete in three months for $150,000 only to discover that it took a year longer and ended up costing $700,000.

    Even without this extreme, this group has a hard time justifying saying “no” to the business – even when they really should. Processes are undermined, procedures overwritten and standards subverted all in the name of pleasing the business.

    Unsurprisingly, this forms a negative feedback loop and the business will once again view the department as unreliable, untrustworthy and a hindrance to timely requirements – regardless of the constant aim to please.

    ______________________________________
    Well, that’s all for now … I will right more on this later … I hope you enjoyed my “little” entry, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

    TTFN!

    Introduction

    Greetings and Salutations,

    Welcome to my little corner of the world where I get to self indulgently blurb out thoughts, rants and views on anything even remotely related to the field of Information Systems and Technology.

    Well, what can you expect from this blog? Not much, just opinions and views … sometimes they’ll be long winded diatribes on the nature of one topic or another, other times they’ll be a two line opinion or view …

    Really, this is just a space to allow me to express my views, maybe solidify ideas, utilise the space to place some of my sermons to my mentees and keep some form of historical archive that I can go back to and say “Wow! I really thought that would take off?!?”

    TTFN!