Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Want Free ERP Software Advice?

I was recently introduced to the website Software Advice because they wrote an Introductory Article on SOA entitled The Plain English Guide. It's a pretty good overview for any beginner to SOA trying to grasp the fundamental concept.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will Cloudsourcing Change the Face of Consulting?

Some say a perfect storm is brewing that will change the face of consulting forever. It is called Cloudsourcing and it is the combination of: Cloud Computing + Online Collaboration + Inexpensive labor + tightening corporate purse strings =

• More Offsite (and offshore) consulting
• Shorter and less expensive IT and consulting projects
• More pre-built deliverables such as software applications
• Commoditization of IT in general

Could this be true? Will we all be working remotely to deliver our client projects going forward? Maybe someday, but not anytime soon. Sure there will be projects that fall perfectly inline for Cloudsourcing, such as Small/Medium size businesses who loathe infrastructure, software firms who are well organized to hire and on-board offshore, and high-tech companies who have already accomplished manufacturing outsourcing.

But,I challenge that there is still and always will be a strong need for more soft skills then hard, more white collar than blue, and more human elements that can never be replaced. Now, I'm not blind and I clearly see there will continue to be a push to off-shore more IT labor to save costs, and I think this works well when projects are in well-defined “Development” phases that software engineers can work remotely, effectively. However, here are reasons I believe Cloudsourcing will be a slower adoption than some are predicting:

• There is still too much confusion with Cloud Computing among IT departments. Face it, there are very few cloud pioneers, and most organizations are taking a “wait and see” approach. Most of the Fortune 2,000 and Federal government agencies, who are the ones who spend the most consulting dollars, haven’t jumped onto the Cloud bandwagon quite yet. Although a lot are investigating and interested in Cloud because they know this is the future of computing, they haven’t committed yet and probably won’t for a couple more years. Some say the pioneers are the ones with arrows in their backs, and this is why a lot of CIO's are letting their peers forge into the Cloud before they are. Cloud is inevitable, it is certainly they direction our industry is moving; it's just moving a little slower than some predicted.
• It’s hard to see eye to eye when you can’t see face to face. I believe it was Hilton Hotel’s marketing program that launched that slogan. And it’s too often true. There is too much human element in IT projects that cannot be accomplished through teleconferences, online collaboration, email, or other non-human mediums. It reminds me of the "Jay Cutler Conference Call Fiasco" that any Bronco's fan remembers. You have to meet people in person, and that is why there are so many consulting road warriors out there.
• Think about it…how many of these initiatives can be successfully completed without face to face meetings: Requirements Management, Project Management, Enterprise Architecture, Governance, Technology Insertion, Portfolio Management, Program Management, Communication Management
• Off shoring of Operations, Maintenance, Sustainability, Support, and Administration to me makes a lot of sense. However, off shoring innovation, business requirements, prototypes, and new ideas to me seems risky. I’ve always claimed off shoring is a delicate balance of quality vs. cost and anyone who has been on an offshore team knows how well the product or deliverable needs to be specified before handing over to the offshore team to develop it. Also, I've experienced off-shoring may be cheaper, but it's also slower so anything that is requiring rapid market penetration, flexibility to change on the fly, or time sensitive may not be the best candidate for this model.

Ultimately, we will see minor shifts to more cloudsourcing type models, but certainly no wholesale shifts. Small and Medium sized businesses are prime candidates and are already beginning to embrace this model. It makes sense for them. It just doesn't make sense for the typical Fortune 2000 corporate culture, especially for their strategic initiatives. Don't get me wrong-- I'd like to see the model work and spend less time in airports myself, I just don't think corporate culture is ready for such a monumental shift in consulting models anytime soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Are we Paid to Say No?

In a time when “yes we can” is the more popular battle cry, it seems software architects are still more aligned to turn down aspiring projects, due mostly to their roles as governance gatekeepers. This is not meant to criticize, as most enterprise-level software rejections are well scrutinized and evaluated before making such decisions. Software architects take their governance initiatives seriously, and I can say with a high level of confidence that most of these denials are highly justified. But, have we architects lost our entrepreneurial spirit, with governance as our defense? Are we over-scrutinizing new ideas and slowing down pilots of innovation because they don’t align with our governance policies and enterprise frameworks? Are we paid to say “no” more often then we say “yes”? How can we spearhead innovation instead of being too much of a police officer? The “Answer Lies Within”...

Look around
Where do you belong
Don't be afraid
You're not the only one

Don't let the day go by
Don't let it end
Don't let a day go by in doubt
The answer lies within

Part of your governance role has to be to help inject new, innovation into the enterprise. Here are some tips to do just that so that the rest of the organization doesn’t view the Architectural Review Board as the Great Wall of China:

· Coach along projects you know are coming down the Pipeline instead of turning them back to the drawing board when it’s time to review them for acceptance (and therefore too late to help them…).

· Help seed projects from the early stages by proving mentoring at the beginning, not the end. In other words, become a venture capitalist of your organization by helping new software ideas align to governance early! Invest in the next enterprise “start-up”!

· Follow Agile Principles—do things earlier, not later in the lifecycle.

· Institute a Software Mentorship programs to benefit the organization. Being a champion without sharing your secrets to success is selfish. Help the greater good of the enterprise.

· Put governance in the backseat during the early stages of a pilot project. Help get prototypes off the ground by marginalizing governance (for the moment…). Some of the best innovations had to bend (or break) the rules. Be a game changer if you have to! Governance can always to adapted and applied at a later stage (not too late...), but don’t sacrifice innovation for indoctrination.

· Create a culture of excitement, encouragement, and positive attitude. If others think meeting with you is going to the Principal’s office that culture will limit and intimidate the organization. Nothing new will arise and instead creates a cultural bottleneck to the next “Big Idea”. Don’t be a bottleneck to new ideas…