Do you know what your CEO wants??

Recession, Downturn has forced several Organizations to rethink there IT spending and make sure Business gets all the help they need.     In my experience I have seen instances where CIO / CTO / Architects / IT Managers

  • Spend majority of implementation time on business process engineering only to realize that the ERP solution which they purchased needs millions of dollars of customizations.
  • Taking years building frameworks or standards which gets out dated everytime its used.
  • Choosing products which are so expensive and which needs consultants to do any implementation
  • Jump on to bleeding edge solutions where there is no need and no expertise.   At one of my clients as part of SOA implementation the team ended up hooking up two systems with all sorts of web services only to realize the two applications are hosted in same data center next to each other.
  • Start building a data center when there is a lack of infrastructure, unix / web administrators

 These mis steps can be avoided if  CIO/CTO & IT managers are tech savvy and look at alternatives are a snapshot of options listed below

  • Make sure there are Open source alternatives for the business issues.  There are already  ERP/CRM, IT service desk systems which  are comparable to product suites.  SugarCRM, Compiere, ofBiz, OpenTaps and IT service desk systems such as OTRS are few
  • Go in for a SAS model instead of building an infrastructure and having teams to manage your IT operations.  For example Google, SalesForce.com, Zoho offer several applications which can help your Organization
  • Buy against build.  Try out products before you start building your own application or system and once again check out on Opensource
  • Start Simple.  Do not go with big bang approaches for your SOA, Content / Portal solutions.  Try with in, use simple integration approaches such as Spring Integration, Mule, Content solutions such as Alfresco, Magnolia, LifeRay are few
  • In House vs Out Source.  Instead of building an application try to out source it, check out what free lancers can provide.  elance is an excellent site for companies 

In short this is what CEO wants from his IT leaders.  The IT leadership which can think out of box and make sure business needs

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Delivery with Competency

Last few years I have seen Companies coming up with different delivery models and frameworks.  Some have factories, competencies and COE supporting them.Few of these models have worked and some have remained in the Presentations to age along.

Lot of clients, captives still feel pressure of Project / Program Delivery due to  issues such as

Competent resources
Resource Attrition
Poor Project Management
Lack of Technical / Architecture skills

One of the successful ways to address these issues is to have a shared model or a competency model.  The Competency model helps in terms of scaling up and technical agility. Competency team can support multiple projects and technologies.  Competency would help a project which needs expertise, provide best practices and also keeps project on schedule.

Setting up of a Competency does not come easy.  It requires thought leadership with investments with focus on emerging technologies, R&D and constant training.   Competency in itself will be a SWAT team helping Projects at right time.  Comptency or COE is best explained by Madhusudan Rao my colleague

SOA and Hypecycle

Recent Gartner Hype Cycle and Infoworld’s Top 10 emerging technologies have provided enough evidence that companies had enough with their SOA investments and have moved on to embrace technologies which address their needs.  SOA based development, Products ruled last few years of market share.  Now there are less heard.  What happened to SOA.  Did the Hype die or did companies back out

Based on my recent client interactions and consulting engagements I have noticed that customers have simple business needs which is have their business process or function published. For them SOA turned out to be a Goliath.  More than what they could bite or chew on.  Product companies and their System Integrators started wooing customers with innumerable benefits of SOA

In short Companies were oversold about the over arching benefits of this SOA.  Though all this has been true the evolution of products, skilled resources and overall sustainability of SOA projects made it very difficult for a quick implementation.   Companies could not see the benefits or ROI of SOA projects similar to other development projects.  The downward trend or drop in importance to SOA in Gartner Hype Cycle is just because of reflection of above issues.

Serving Right Content on your Portal

Choosing a Content system will be a mammoth task to any Organization.   A additional requirement of Portal can make things much more difficult.   To make matters worse there have been buyouts, consolidation of the products.   CMS Comparison papers and websites  may leave IT manager confused on where and how to start.

Some Companies have been successful in implementing portals for personalization and content management systems to store their content.  Until now the above came with huge cost and effort. New products and improvements in Portal and Content Systems provide every IT manager look for different options.  Listed below are some tips

  • Make sure what your Company or Client wants.  Whether its a Content system or Portal or  a simple web application.  Of late several Portals have built in some features of Content Management and vise-verca.
  • Do not make huge investments.  With new standards and API’s ( JSR’s and JCR) it will not be difficult to migrate content.  Try open source alternatives first in a small way and then narrow down to a product
  • With in content system make sure whether the requirement is to store Web Content or Documents (Enterprise Content).  There are leaders in each of this category

There are great open source alternatives such as Alfresco for ECM, Magnolia / Droopal for WCM and LifeRay for Portals.  If the company is thin on IT go with simple easy to use products such as MOSS.   Either way start something small and do a small proof of concept or a mini project before taking a plunge into world of CMS and Portals.

    SOA Methodology for Dummies

    SOA projects are no easy ones, it involves complex integrating complex business process, defining a road map on how organization should execute, choose a right product and finally implement it.

    While starting SOA implementations Project Managers have no simple thing to look for to draw out a plan on what next.  Currently very few companies implement project using SOA Methodology.  The reason is its quite non-trivial to understand and branches out into several sub activities which the manager finds hard to track it.

    Listed below are some simple steps of SOA methodology.  These steps are synonymous with a SDLC

    SOA Methodology

    Now each of these high level activities have tasks which can guide the teams.  Please follow the blog for details

    Is it Green or Red

    Its common for every CIO / IT CEO to see a dashboard of

    • Project status
    • Portfolio performance
    • Resource Utilization

    All these needs a good Program Management Office and IT Governance Process.  Several companies have different ways of handling this.  IT companies / System Integrators make sure that there organization is categorized based on verticals or horizontals to account for their Portfolio performance.

    Other ways to resolve is a simple Portfolio Management System.  The system should have basic functionality

    • Organizing Projects under a portfolio, be it a domain , vertical or horizontal
    • Overall status of Portfolio should be reflected from the % of Projects with no schedule and cost variance.
    • Each project should have a combination of schedule and cost variance to denote whether its on schedule with right cost
    • Over and above each resource should be accounted in any one of the projects.  This will make sure that everyone in an Organization is accountable.

    Organizations get lost trying to use Products.   This can be avoided by starting small or using simple products.   A small team of focused individuals who can work with Project Managers can assimilate this information in no time and provide the CIO or CEO required information.

    Team Work at best – Cool Runnings

    Several of us would have sat through a seminar or meeting which HR has organized about Team Work.  We would have a renowned speaker or a Management consultant walk us through slides and exercises about Team building.  Lot of these might help the way we perceive the team and how we work, I still feel we could do something better where things remain engraved in our minds.

    I was recently watching an old movie “Cool Runnings”.   It’s a fictional comedy and I have watched this movie quite a few times.   The movie  depicts several facets of Team Work.    The movie is about a relatively unknown Jamaican Team  participating  in Winter Olympics at Canada.   

    The movie revolves on Team bonding and motivation.   Similar to a project which has a an architect, QA, Driving of bobsled involves 4 individuals a pilot, a brakeman and 2 pushers.  As in projects small errors have significant impact on the course and the time taken.  The movie also dwells on motivation.  How the team members motivate each other to make sure they are part of the Winter Olympics.   Above all the team makes sure that they reach the end point with their broken sledge.

    Though this is a fictional movie, I guess making it part of HR Seminar or team building exercises would go a long way.  Personally it would be engraved in each team members mind on how when they work together they can achieve impossible odds such as a Jamaican team in Winter Olympics