Monday, December 31, 2007

Not Doing SOA can invite Lawsuites?

Very interesting perspective!

Why would someone do SOA?...Two reasons:

1. To make your IT environment simplified
2. To fuel growth initiatives using the Agile IT enabled by SOA

Now, what if the corporates who have implemented SOA are more profitable than the corporates who have not implemented?. The farmer will be able to deliver more value to stakeholders than later...

David Linthicum of Zapthink group has this very interesting insight into SOA Vs Shareholder Value in the InfoWorld.

I couldn't agree more to his point. The Days are not far where the corporates are audited not just for their financial controls and security procedures, but also for effective IT systems & enterprise architecture. And if the audit reports that a company's IT is ineffective, will the stakeholders keep quiet?

So, its time for corporates to question themselves...Whether SOA makes sense for them?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Innovation Sourcing

IT outsourcing companies are talking two things as of today.

1. If your business thinks IT is non-core to you, outsource it to us. We will manage better. We have the expertise.

2. If your business thinks IT is core for your business, then partner with us. We have the experise. We can innovate for you.

The two claims are extremely simple to understand. But poles apart. It requires totally different set of competencies to offer these two claims.

The trouble will come only when the outsourcing company has to make both the claims to the same client over a period of time. The companies's relationship with the client, branding, competency and cost would be scrutinized by the client to accept the transition.

So, the best approach would be to find a middle ground between the two, which would seamlessly, but incrementally take the service provider from stage 1 to stage 2 without much turbulance.

Enterprise Mobility - A Myth?

There is lot of buzz around Mobility these days - iPhone, Skype, WiMax and Smart Phones.

But, Are we really ready for power applications on the mobile?. Not yet.

There are two key reasons that are inhibiting the surge of mobile apps:

1. The platform is inherently limited in features. Beyond, J2ME, if one has to develop powerful applications, they have to adapt the native platforms that are specific to the devices. This limits the developer community and the portability of apps.

2. The technology is maturing. Rich Internet Apps/Flash support are still awaited on popular platforms such as BlackBerry.

3. Expensive. If one has to write a 'connected' app on mobile, it has to go thru carriers and utilize the bandwidth. This is not so easy and the bandwidth is not so cheap to consume. So, the spread of connected applications is still limited.

4. Most of the mobility apps consumers are field workers or senior management teams. The senior management people are not 'power' users, in the sense, they dont use anything beyond email. The field workers, except, white collar, are still waiting to get access to those devices in work.

Having many such limitations, we dont know what we are missing today in the mobility world.

However, things are changing and maturing slowly....

With Google working on Android platform with Open Handset alliance, there may be a new 'killer' application waiting to explode. If Google can crack it, that could be the tipping point for Enterprise Mobility....

So, Enterprises....keep watching Android...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Architecture for Business Improvements

Read a very nice article on Microsoft Architecture Journal on 'Business Improvements using Software Architecture'.

My thoughts on the same follows...

Traditionally, in IT services, the solution implemention happens in passive model. There is no consulting element involved. The true intention of the outcomes of the business requirements is not understood in detail like productivity improvements, business enablement, Growth potential, etc.. These factors need to be understood purely from a business perspective.

These perspectives need to translate to architecture decisions in terms of usability, extensibility, performance etc. These architecture decisions also need to be in sync with enterprise architecture standards.

If these two factors are not taken into consideration during the solution architecture phase, then the system will end up as another silo.

From project execution standpoint, we need to factor effort and time for involving these elements at the relevant stages in the SDLC cycle.

Enterprise Mashups Vs Composite Apps

Today morning, while I was driving, I was listening to 'Enterprise Mashups' podcast from Gartner.

It immediately triggered one interesting question - what is the difference between Enterprise Mashups and Composite Applications?.

Some of the observations:

1. Enterprise Mashup are addressed to 'Long Tail' of the enterprise. They are primarily targeted to individuals or small teams. Composite applications are the cousins of Mashups in Enterprise applications world.

2. Enterprise Mashups - Development and Management/Governance is left to individuals/Community.

3. Enterprise Mashups are 'assembled' by individuals/small teams. Composites are 'built' or 'developed'.

4. Enterprise Mashups are not supposed to have any business logic on its own. Composites can have business logic / orchestration logic.

5. Composite applications are much more critical/serious in nature compared to Enterprise Mashups. So, Composites are typically left to IT development teams officially. Composites require a strong governance as well.

6. Enterprise Mashups are based on web 2.0 'Culture' rather than 'Technology'. Composites have their roots in 'Mashups' and 'Web 2.0' but there is more technology flavour to it.

7. Enterprise Mashups are loosely-coupled. Composites are also loosely-coupled, but not to the extent of Mashups.

I think, from pragmatic perspective, its is the company's 'culture' and 'organization structure' that is going to be the key decision factor in web 2.0 or Enterprise Mashup initiatives.

From today's world, it looks like the 'solutions' are pushed to the IT shop to try out new things like web 2.0, Mashups, etc... What is the need of the hour is 'Identification of problem statements or potential pain points or improvement areas' that could be alleviated by these new solutions.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Change in CIO

Today, our CIO has addressed a townhall meeting...

Some of the key take aways are:

1. CIOs have started to realize the potential of Enterprise Architecture and Service Oriented Architecture.
2. CIOs understand that it should be from their sponsorships EA and SOA initiatives have to be funded.
3. Change Management is the key for strategic initiatives. Why dont we use HR practices of organizational change management while introducing Technological change or EA change?. Very interesting perspective. I am going to hunt for HR management practices that talk about change management.
4. In a company where metrix management is heavy, there are multiple bosses, organizational re-alignment is the order of the year, the leaders come and go, How would an investment such as SAP implementation cope up with that?. Very Good question.
5. The answer is SAP implementation is rigorous and anything and everything that gets implemented should be meticulously planned.
6. Run IT like a business - Not necessarily towards making profits...But atleast it should start by getting recognition from business for the value that is delivered by IT. That by itself, is an achievement.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Competetive Differentiation

Of late, I have become more curious and interested in learning the developments happening in DW/BI analytics area.

When the products are really becoming commodities, services are outsourced, what would be the true differentiation for a company?

A tough question, right?...

As I learn, the only remaining space for making competitive differentiation is the innovation in business processes that sorrounding the products and services. So, How do we innovate?. We innovate on what we understand very well. We innovate on the landscape that is closer to us and when we are able to spot the opportunities in the existing business processes.

So, thats where the analytics comes on, the company that collects information on every business function, gathers insights and identifies potential opportunities for optimization/differentiation, is going to be the winner in long term.

I see this is one of the few areas where Business-IT alignment is the Key and the involvement of Business is critical to the success of BI programs

Next-Gen Technology for the Poor

If you have read CK. Prahalad's book on 'Bottom of Pyramid', you can guess what am I talking about...

Today, I read another article in Times of India that states that most of the BoP initiatives that are started by corporates are aimed at exploiting the poor than benefiting them. So, the need for BoP 2.0 arrives. In BoP 2.0, it is not just required to understand the underserved, but to truly partner with them to provide solutions that would serve them.

As we all know, the traditional markets are over-served and they carry the "legacy" baggage. So, it is diffult to introduce any new technology or product into their markets, as it would call for a 'change'. I know, how difficult it would be to introduce a 'technology change' in the enterprises.

But, the BoP market is just opposite to the capitalist market. They dont carry any legacy technology platforms that need to be dealt with. Groundbreaking/Breakthrough innovations can happen without much interruptions in that BoP markets only. So, Keep watching for the arrival of next generation of technology from the BoP markets.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The future is in Mainframes

OK I made up that title!.

There is lot of talk in the industry on the latest Sun Microsystems CTO's speech on 'Red Shift' that is happening in the industry. According to him, the investment towards hardware infrastructure for web applications is growing. And it is growing to the extent where it is going to exceed the supply generated by Moore's law. He goes on to say, in future, we will need systems that would be massive enough to cater to huge set of end-users, in the scale of Google and eBay infrastructures. The traditional blue shift market - like ERP infrastructure or Wintel infrastructures - are in the mode of server consolidation.

So, if his words to be believed, in future we will need infrastructure that is as massive and as capable as old mainframes....atleast in logical anology.

Couple of thoughts on the same lines:

1. According to Moores Law, there is going to be tremendous demand for new software technologies/multimedia applications that would leverage the abundant power of hardware infrastructure. Hence, if the demand needs to be met, there needs to be software technology innovation that is happening at the pace of hardware innovation.

2. Grid Computing/Virtualization can go a long way to meet the growing demands of infrastructure needs. For example, why would a manager / information worker need to have a a high-end laptop when he only utilizes a quarter of that computing power. Can't he plug-in to the network to utilize the computing power as well?

3. While the Hardware computing power innovation leads to productivity / cost savings, the software innovation would lead to not just cost savings but Growth / New possibilities as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Business Intelligence just got Smarter

One of the emerging trends highlighted in the Accenture Power Breakfast session was 'Closed-Loop Business Intelligence'.

I could correlate this trend with what I read yesterday on the business value of BI solutions. Typically, the BI solutions enable the business users to consolidate metrics and analyse and generate reports. The traditional BI solutions are open-ended, in the sense, it "supports" taking informed decisions. However, the end decision is left to the user himself. The BI solutions typically dont enter into that area where they recommend possible actions based on the metrics and data. So, its hard to justify a BI solution investment in a corporate unless until significant value could be earned out of it.

So far, there was no channel available to realize the business results. Now, its becoming a reality.
The vision for closed-loop business intelligence is to not only just analyse the metrics, but also 'recommend' suitable actions to the business user that would improve the overall business results...Sounds interesting!

Am just curious to know which BI vendor will be first in the industry to offer these smarter BI solutions.

Do you see a trend where all the individual domains of business applications are slowly converging and morphing themselves to be much more smart and adaptive?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Technology Adoption

I attended a breakfast meeting organized by IASA bangalore chapter with Accenture Chief Technology Architect.

First I should appreciate the IASA team for organizing such events for the Architects community in India.

The key Take Away from the meeting is that - There are plenty of innovations happening in the industry. All we need to do, as System Integrators, is pushing for Adoption. Adoption is the key and the need for the hour for the businesses. I couldn't agree more to this.

The thoughts that triggered to me on this statement

- How can an Architect play the role of a 'Change Agent' in evangelizing the adoption?
- What are the key challenges that are being faced by the businesses in going for adoption?

The result and the single answer is 'Have Enterprise Architecture Govern your enterprise IT'.

Monday, August 20, 2007

SaaS being Safe

There are always apprehensions about data security in a SaaS model. These apprehensions were holding the enterprises to move their business critical information to a SaaS model software.

Recently I read a very good example in Economist that relates to this fear. Remember, when the locker systems were introduced in the banks decades ago, people were reluctant to keep their money in lockers. But then, slowly things got changed and now people think that bank lockers are much more safer than their own house to keep their valuables.

Am sure in the next couple of years, this trend will begin to be visible in SaaS segment as well..

In banks case, probably one thing that has reassured people about the safety of their valuables is 'Government Regulation'. Similarly, I think we may need some kind of 'Industry regulation controls' across SaaS vendors to ensure data security.

[22 Aug 07] Today in the IASA meeting, I learned that organizations are already practicing SOX compliance when adapting SaaS model. So the regulatory requirement is already in place.

Align Your Business based on IT

All long, we have been hearing that align your IT to business. Sounds good..The whole objective of enterprise architecture is to create better alignment between IT and business.

But, the problem is - IT space is always more active. And its supply of products and technologies happen in a much more faster pace than the changes/initiatives that happen in the business space. So, How do we create an alignment when the supply is more than the demand?

Recently, I read a management article which articulates that the existing organization structure/processes and best practices may need to undergo "changes" if it has to accomodate and leverage the introduction of a new technology. Absolutely agree!.

For example, the web 2.0 suite of technologies cannot be simply deployed into an enterprise and made it successful. To make web 2.0 technologies successful, the org. culture has to change and accomodate the technology. If the org. culture changes, may be it will lead to better collaboration and yield better results in business performance.

Same applies for other new range of technologies as well...

So, align your business based on IT capabilities, if you really believe that IT could transform the business..

I was thinking that IT will only be glorified and shining in industries like Banking and Insurance. No, its not the case. Any industry can leverage IT and IT can be differentiator for any sector. It all matters on how IT is managed and bridged with the business. If IT house is seen only as a enabler/supplier, then the maximum potential of IT will not be utilized.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Application X-Ray

Is it possible to scan the existing IT solutions for their underlying business processes and tune them for optimization, perform gap analysis or improve them for gaps, innovate for new services?

For a new business process modeling, there are tons of tools exist for designing and analysis.
How about for existing IT apps which embodies business processes?.

Often, the IT solutions which are old for sometime are taken for granted. And the only thing that is worried about is their performance, availability, etc...which are non-functional in nature.

How do even look at the underlying business processes for improvement and innovations?.
Who knows the kind of potential that the business process has, if it's innovated to a new channel or new platform. These solutions might have been architected/designed a decade before and still undergoing regular support.

Unless until, the processes are understood, the application potential remains untapped...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hype is Good

Last Friday, our MD was addressing an Open House meeting...

One of the interesting news that he brought out was - our CEO has asked every functional head such as Sales, Marketing, and other LOBs to present their thoughts and proposals within their division for leveraging Web 2.0 technologies.

Am surprised that web 2.0 has got the attention of the CEO.

Though personally I dont believe in those 'technologies' (pls dont get me wrong here..I believe in underlying concepts though), in an enterprise context, I am happy that some technology is disruptive enough to get the attention of senior leadership to even talk about it and act on it...

So, all the Hype is Good

Hyperactive Market

I was talking to my brother-in-law who is running his own business for the past 20 years or so..

Got an interesting insight while talking to him...Those days, the focus of the business was on reducing the operational expenses, reducing the profit margin and focusing on Customer delight. But, these days, the focus is more on operational expenses (expenses like marketing, branding, expensive showrooms) and increased sales. In olden days, businessmen were not really thinking about increased sales and growth year-on-year. But, its apparant that, these days, any business has to be a growth business, for it to survive. Do you read the lines from the book 'Goal' here?

And there is a mad rush from every business house to achieve that double-digit growth year after year...

My question is, if every business grows "big" enough, where will the space for small and medium enterprises to sustain?. Are we doing justice to nurture a business ecosystem, where all players have a fair chance to play the game?. Or are we restricting the market open enough only for big players?.

The outcome will be increased costs, less number of choices. There has to be some way... I dont know the perfect solution.

But, the optimal solution for big as well as small players would be 'Innovation'. For big players to grow on certain targets year after year, and for small players to survive on their key strengths, its required to 'innovate' and 'innovate niche' that other players would find difficult to replicate.

I think we will reach a point where it would be 'Innovate or Die'.

In summary, Business is getting tough but interesting...

Applications with "Presence of Mind"

Scanning the next set of emerging technologies in the industry, it looks like its going to be 'Adaptive' technologies that would make the applications to have presence of mind. Interesting isn't it?

Moving from to 'Being Agile' to 'Being Adaptive'. The boundaries are always stretched...

If not intelligence, the applications should be able to 'learn', 'predict' and 'auto-correct' on its life-cycle. It surely sounds a natural progression...Already, the vendors have started providing solutions that would enable apps to behave in a adaptive manner.

For example, The traditional rule systems have morphed themselves into 'Enterprise Decision Management' System. All the other suite of technologies such as Complex Event Processing, Business Activitiy Monitoring, Serivce-oriented Business Intelligence started to fuse the application with Intelligence. And thats going to roll-out a new set of solutions in the market very soon..

Already some smart customers have started using some of those technologies...

While seeing the pace of the technology advancement, I tend to think that the speed of technology offerings sometimes outpaces the speed of business..and enables a whole new suite of opportunities...

Is the Business ready for it?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Strategic Thinking Pays off!

On reading a recent story on 'Relationship based pricing' in Financial Services. This concept basically talks about offering special prices based on the relationship that a customer has with a Bank across various business units like Insurance, credit card, etc. Traditionally, the prices/discounts are extended to the client only based on a specific product relationship. For example, a Bank will not typically offer special prices when the customer makes a product purchase across a line-of-business. This is due to the hard fact that the Bank does not have 360 degree view of the customer. Hard hitting indeed!.

Every bank is trying to get this full view of the customer. There are lots of point-to-point integrations are implemented in a Bank's IT system to realize this sceanario. The point is that it exists. But, it is also complex and erroneous. So, the banks have so far not realized the complete potential of having 360 degree of customers. New products/services on top of a 360 degree view have always remained as dreams.

Now, I see this scenario as the real business case for having an SOA based infrastructure and integration. Had the Banks had an agile infrastructure today, they would have been in a position to offer new services like Relationship based pricing. Now, since the fact that their infrastructure is not agile, its going to increase their time-to-market. And thats where the competitor wins!.

So, the future lies with the people who are really acting TODAY.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SOA is far far away

Recently I saw the movie Shrek-3 and the kingdom which Shrek is supposed to rule is call 'Far Far Away'.

Sounds funny!.

Here, I intend to draw parallel with this syllable with SOA.

In my company, recently, one of my colleagues gave a presentation on 'SOA - A Myth or Reality' and concluded it is a reality. I was telling myself that isnt it already a reality and why are re-opening the debate?

But, I feel the question is indeed valid, after reading a recent AMR research on SOA/BPM. AMR has clearly articulated that the toolset for creating and managing BPM and SOA is really not in a very matured stage, for adaption to be quicker.

Each vendor has its own architecture, style and suite of tools to model the business processes and architect the services. Are these tools from different vendors interoperable?. Absolutely no!. So, if the objective of SOA is all about integration and standardization, then you are expected to follow un-integrated set of tools and methods.

I was thinking for an ERP shop, its wise to venture into SOA with ERP supplied SOA products...the AMR report invalidates the very same assumption...

Some of the interesting points...

1. The SOA/BPM tools market is yet to consolidate and standardize.
2. Vendors approach in offering standardized services catalog differs. IBM provides a seperate service fabric for each of the industries, and SAP is still in nascent stage by growing the service repository by working with partners.
3. For a ERP customer, it is not necessary to always go with the same ERP vendor for venturing into SOA. they can still look at other mature EAI vendors like WebMethods/IBM to create the SOA fabric on top of the ERP.

Applying SOA to business, not IT

SOA is getting enough attention these vendors and clients...

Recently one of my ex-colleagues, a fellow architect, surprised me by throwing the idea of applying SOA to a real business context and not IT systems. Sounds strange!?. Not really!

SOA principles are mainly applied to IT systems to make it more structured and be agile.

How about applying the same principles to the real business?. The business organization, business processes and services offered by the business...

My colleague was quoting the example of service-orienting the IT services organization. By and large, all IT services are grown to an extent where their sheer portfolio of services (e.g. application development and maintenance, infrastructure management) themselves have become an independent organization within the bigger organization. Each Line-Of-Business within the IT services organization has become siloed, powerful, bureaucratic and rigid. Introducing any change in the respective LOB or composing/creating a new service by mixing/matching with another LOB has become a nightmare!. Its hard to believe!. But its the truth...Its increasingly becoming difficult to orchestrate services within the one and the same organization though they all belong to the same parent. But, the irony is, all such IT services/consulting organization do enough cross-selling and up-selling and claim to be the one stop shop for all services.

So, How do we solve the problem?...We can look at what SAP consulting does...It has defined productized services for several of their service offerings by implementing standardized tools, methodologies, and frameworks and trainings for its own consultants across the globe. So, when a new business comes from the client, SAP consulting nicely distributes the work across the globe and orchestrates and gets it done. All becomes possible because its services/offerings are industrialised.

I can visualize a 'Enterprise-level Global Service Bus' that is running within such an organization, where each LOB is seamlessly integrated and presents their services...It feels good to imagine such a nice-and-beautiful system. But its indeed looks feasible!.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Be structured to support Ad-Hoc

What an irony?

Whether we want our systems to be agile, or support mashups or composition of services or Reporting, our systems need to be structured and implement standards.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Best is Yet to Happen

I think the world is hungry for innovation...

Recent Forrester report claims that the next evolution of IT services would be in Business Innovation. And there is lot of hype around innovation all over the market...There is a talk about open innovation model, innovation networks..Using Technology to Transform business innovatively, etc..

Whether the traditional IT services companies of India are positioned to be a Business Innovation partner or a different story. I will blog about it later..

But, the need of the hour is not business innovation. But IT innovation. Yes...Many may deny that...But that is the need of the hour.

Rising package costs, slow penetration of SaaS, unavailability of competent vendors to the range of IBMs and SAPs, Need for Software Consulting/Services costs...The complexity around large system integration technologies and available options are still extremely prevalant. The magic pill for solving the traditional IT pains using Technology has not been discovered. Please note..the Outsourcing/Offshoring route is only a pain reliever. But, the permanant relief can only happen if the inherent technology that is outsourced to a vendor becomes less complex. The more the complexity decreases, the less the cost can be...

Till date, there are no viable innovations on that front..

So, the World is  pampering all incremental innovations like iPod, iPhone, SaaS, etc..

The best is yet to happen...And as the saying goes..."Innovation happens elsewhere"..

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do you have IT-EA alignment?

Recently I read an article from Forrester that lists the present day challenges of an EA role.

1. Limited Formal Authority
2. Balancing between Tactial priorities and strategic initiatives
3. Lack of talent / demand for more technical architects as part of EA group

I am literally living through these challenges day in and day out. And am sure every Enterprise Architect who is responsible for IT delivery and Technology competency will have these challenges.

The only solution to alleviate all these known issues in the longer term is to ingrain the EA principles into the planning and delivery of IT management.

Yes, its a "change management" initiative that cuts across all sectors within the IT organization. Right from Budgeting, Planning, Delivery and Maintenance.

And the change management does not happen in a day or two. It has to happen gradually with a strong championship/sponsorship from Senior management.

EA as a practice is quite huge. It ranges from architecture to planning to governance/operations.

Like how we talk about Business-IT alignement. There is one more movement that needs to be started, i.e. IT management - Enterprise Architecture alignment. That is the phase, most of the big organizations are going thru now. If and only if the IT shop is in good control, it can really talk about Business-IT alignment.

I strongly believe that in future, Enterprise Architecture has to be part of Management Studies in academia, especially for Management people who are specializing in Systems Management/Software Enterprise Management.

If that happens, the future alignment will be much more seamless.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Using Technology for Competitive Differentiation

Recently I was talking to the client regarding the use of web 2.0 technologies in the eCommerce Portal.

Immediately, the client asked me to list down the business value the client would get by using those technologies.

This has always been the case. Whenever new technologies need to be used in the solution, there is always a question towards BVI. Business Value Index.

My point is that if new technologies are used for competitive differentiation, How long is it going to take for other companies to replicate the same thing?

If we go by BVI, its always possible for the competitor to use the same new technologies innovatively to beat / bring a new competetive differentiation.

Anything that is measurable / quantifiable in benefits is 'repeatable' too. It obviates the competive differerentiation in medium/longer term.

So what is the solution?. The solution is to look for technologies that would build intangible benefits...

Sounding little ambiguous...?..that is how it is..! We cannot measure the benefits like customer loyalty, user experience, brand value, accessability/usability. But these are the key drivers that make a solution unique.

Although its possible to put together a framework around these intangibe benefits to make them quantifiable, the metrics will not be accurate as other tangible benefits like performance, availability, scalability, etc.

But, inherently, the technologies themselves will not be directly addressing these intangible benefits. It is the method/way in which those technologies are used for a particular customer and problem context will determine those benefits and make the solution unique and 'non repeatable'.

Using Technology for Business Value

Recently I was talking to the client regarding the use of web 2.0 technologies in the eCommerce Portal.

Immediately, the client asked me to list down the business value the client would get by using those technologies.

This has always been the case. Whenever new technologies need to be used in the solution, there is always a question towards BVI. Business Value Index.

My point is that if new technologies are used for competitive differentiation, How long is it going to take for other companies to replicate the same thing?

If we go by BVI, its always possible for the competitor to use the same new technologies innovatively to beat / bring a new competetive differentiation.

Anything that is measurable / quantifiable in benefits is 'repeatable' too. It obviates the competive differerentiation in medium/longer term.

So what is the solution?. The solution is to look for technologies that would build intangible benefits...

Sounding little ambiguous...?..that is how it is..! We cannot measure the benefits like customer loyalty, user experience, brand value, accessability/usability. But these are the key drivers that make a solution unique.

Although its possible to put together a framework around these intangibe benefits to make them quantifiable, the metrics will not be accurate as other tangible benefits like performance, availability, scalability, etc.

But, inherently, the technologies themselves will not be directly addressing these intangible benefits. It is the method/way in which those technologies are used for a particular customer and problem context will determine those benefits and make the solution unique and 'non repeatable'.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Changing Role of Enterprise Architects

Being an Enterprise Architect, I always thought what value can I bring to the table to the organization?. I always have questions, Architect - as a position, How can it add value and command the business case for survival and growth?

There are lot of disruptors arising in the industry that influences the role of Architect, especially, the Enterprise Architect.

The key difference is, its not any more technology factor alone that can influence enterprise Architecture. Nowadays, there are lot of other non-technical factors as well trying to influence the role of EA.

Some of them are:

1. Changing Business Models because of Open Source, SaaS.
Companies are evaluating Open Source, SaaS not necessarily because of technical advantages but on economical advantages.

2. Offshoring/Outsourcing
Again, yet another economical factor, where the complete technical solution is outsourced / offshored to an external vendor. Some of the solutions are even contracted for longer-term for economical reasons. These solutions are typically out-and-out managed by the third-party vendor rather than an in-house EA.

3. Industrialization of IT
The big IT vendors are working on the lines of Software Factories/MDA/MDD to industrialize the software development. During my college days, in one of the workshops, I remember reading a poster that says "In future - there is no Programmer". Its mostly becoming true. Now, when I went to SFDC site, it says "There is no Software". Stunning, but a practical viewpoint.

If there is no software, what is the need for EA?. This might look like silly. But It certainly has implications.

In such cases, where the need of a software is more determined by the economical reasons, the technology takes a back seat. Every new technology that comes to the market, need to sell itself, needs to market itself, why it is so cool. The hard truth is - its is business that comes first and Technology comes behind. But, the scenario every EA and CIO want to hear is 'Business and IT comes together always'.

4. Innovation
The Innovation is no longer a fancy word. Its becoming survival in the hypercompetive world. you will have to be innovative in the way you are using solutions as well.

Some of these pressures apply to management positions as well. In the changing world, the managers always need to ensure there are ways to reduce cost and ensure growth.

The conclusion is, the EAs / Architects need to constantly look for new ways to grow their career path considering the above factors.

Composite Applications in SaaS

This is an intersting observation.

I was thinking that SaaS always works in a platform based model. There is no client software that needs to be installed/or on-premise software to be purchased.

It is not always be the case. While SFDC provides a platform based SaaS model, there are other vendors who provide other models of SaaS.

For example, the vendor TwinField provides a Microsoft excel based add-on. This add-on needs to be installed on your desktop to perform extensive analysis on the financial data that is maintained by the TwinField services. The add-on interacts with the TwinField Services platform to retrieve the relevant data.

This is basically a hybrid model where you have little bit of on-premise and a lot of platform based services.

And this is absolutely the same architecture model that 'Composite Applications' follow. Its just that the TwinField does not implement this model in a Business Process/Flow context. Otherwise, it is very identical.

What I see is that, its not just the 'Services' that have the potential to be hosted in SaaS platform. Its also the 'Composite Applications' or some elements of 'Composite Applications' can also be hosted in the SaaS platform.

Friday, March 30, 2007

IT has more business knowledge than Business

If the title interests you, then read on...

Recently I read an interesting thought on Enterprise Architecture.

Traditionally, the business 'ideates', and 'decides' what kind of projects they want to do. IT 'takes the orders' and builds them for business. But eventually, over a period of time, IT gets involved in understanding the business requirements, the kind of changes that are happening in the systems, and becomes masters in those business processes.

The business process knowledge is 'tacit' in the IT folks who are maintaining in those systems. The business sponsors who funded the IT projects might have moved on. But the business process knowledge in those IT systems stays within the IT group.

Now, the question is, How can IT take advantage of this competency?. Its a critical and important question, for a IT organization to "grow" and not just to "deliver".

With this capability, IT has the potential to "propose" new projects based on the technology competency and business knowledge. It can jointly work with business to carve out new projects. The key here is both sides have to respect each others' ideas. That would ensure the collective success.

Now the question is, IT has been traditionally a development shop. This tacit business knowledge might have been there in documents/individuals. But, how to identity and tap those potential?. It requires a "new" skill. And that, is exactly, Enterprise Architecture is all about.

The EA office would ensure business-IT alignment, collaborative planning, standards, new markets, efficiency and Growth (to business and IT).

Using EA, if IT can propose new projects that are successful and demand a certain share in the new revenue that is acquired out of new projects, IT really becomes a 'profit center', not a 'cost center'.

Otherwise, if IT has to remain as a 'order takers', then its better to 'outsource' the entire IT to India. Because, you will get lot more good deals with better quality there.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Next Generation IT services

One of the biggest challenges that is currently being faced in the Indian IT industry is 'Lack of excitement' among the employees on Technologies.

I have seen the industry for the past 10 years. And the change is visible. The industry has grown exponentially. There are lot of new talents. And Plethora of projects.

But, so far, the industry has always executed the Projects in 'Staff augmentation' model, where all managerial ceremonies are well taken care of. Right from Processes, Quality, Escalation, communication, Resource rampup/Rampdown, Tight budgets, slogging, Schedule, etc.. But, one thing that was left out in the whole ceremony is the poor 'Technology'. It is pity to see that 'Technology' as the odd man out in an 'IT services' business.

Companies have managed to maintain top-line growth and bottom-line productivity. And they ran it as any other business, probably with very good management skills. And now, they are struggling to re-establish themselves as 'Technology / Thought Leaders'.

The last decade has completely established 'IT job' as a lucrative job, rather than a challenging/prestigious job. This has an impact of the new generation of employees as well. The new set of people who are joining has completely different set of mindset in terms of aspirations, again Technology being the last priority.

Studies are showing that while revenues are growing in every other IT company, the productivity per employee is going down year after year. Attrition is increasing year after year.

So, What is the solution?. Relook at 'IT services' as 'Technology-Intensive business'.

Partner with Industry and academia to 'contribute to the ecosystem' and 'encourage Innovation'. Of course, some comapnies are doing little amount of this kind of work. But it is not widespead, even within those companies.

Time has come to rethink our next generation.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Innovation from Customers - And Not Companies

If you observe the whole web 2.0 happenings its an innovation driven by the customers/Internet users.

Influenced by the predominant growth of web 2.0 techniques (not real technologies though), major vendors are being pushed to a situation where they need to brand their latest products as web 2.0 compliant.

Example, IBM is releasing latest portal product with AJAX support, upgrading its Lotus suite of products for business social networking and Peope Search. Microsoft is comingup with lot more features in its latest 2007 release - RSS integration, AJAX support, Social Networking within the Enterprise, Blogs and Wikis.

SAP is comingup with upgrades in the support of Rich Internet Applications.

Google search has entered into the corporate and More and more vendors are lining up to provide search solutions

So more and more, the customer experience on the Internet is driving the Product / Technology Innovations and eventually they will have an impact on Corporates as well.

The solutions rolled-out by the corporates to end-customers are invariably internet users and they would expect the same kind of experience that they get in other sites.

The business solutions that innovatively incorporates these new user experience paradigms are bound to win!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Disruptive Technologies

Over the lunch, I was discussing the IT trends with my colleagues. And one person was quoting on the use of 'Disruptive Technologies'. If there are disruptive technologies to come in future, probably the trends will change. The trend in which indian IT industry works.

The recent story by Business Today claims that the productivity per employee is declining year on year for the past five years for the Indian IT companies. But they are able to show growth in revenues and profits by the sheer size of the company - by adding more and more people.

My point of view was - It will not be 'Disruptive Technologies' that will change the business. It will be 'Disruptive Business Models brought by New Emerging technologies' will change the business of IT.

So far, it was 'SOA' that was claimed as one of prominent Disruptive Architecture (Not a Technology though). But, the implementation of SOA is as complicated as a J2EE platform, that it is holding many people from jumping to SOA world. Or the People who have already taken the deep dive are finding it difficult to breath because of various issues such as Governance, Funding Model, Performance, etc.

So It really remains to be seen which technology would be the next disruptor.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Composite Applications Complexities

If we carefully observe the current trend, the objective of all the big vendors is to support 'disaggregation' in the name of composite applications.

On one side, in the name of web 2.0, everything is internet enabled. Your Office applications are available on the Web. You get rich user experience using AJAX kind of technologies. In the name of SaaS, the business applications are also exposed as services over the web. This I call it as 'Webifying everything' in your desktop and Access it on the Internet. Access/Interact & Execute everything on the Web. Internet is the Platform.

OK. This is one side of the story. Other side of the story is, to bridge the structured and unstructured world of the enterprise. The structured business process is always available as web application / Portal on the Internet/Intranet. The unstructured communication always happens over a range of tools including your email client, office applications, workflow, etc. all happening right there in your desktop.

So, Do you see a conflict?. One side - One Team is webifying everying saying 'You dont really need to have anything on your desktop except your browser. Other side - Another Team is saying 'Your desktop is reality. It will not go. And Your Internet app is again a majority. And the best practice is to bridge them both effectively, so that the business process gets executed in entirety without any fragmentation/disconnectivity'. This whole paradigm is now packaged as 'composite applications'.

All the IT solutions will inevitably be torn between these two ends.

And the real solution will emerge only if we meticulously analyze the user requirements and choose the best platform / tools to develop the end solution.

Here is a sample:

Now, the important one - Are composite applications portable across platforms?. The real answer is No. IBM is developing its own set of desktop tools/clients using Eclipse platform. Microsoft is having its own office applications. And SAP is building its own set of composite application using its partnerships between Adobe and Microsoft.

If you develop your composite using any one of the platform, Can your end-user / external user having a different client platform really be able to access the composite application?

The summary is the composite applications do not have the same benefits of SOA, just because it is associated with SOA. They have their own complexities and limitations.