Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The foundation for SOA

I have previously addressed "Why EIM is needed for SOA - and vice versa". Eric Roch shares a few experiences which stress the importance of information management to provide a proper foundation for SOA:

SOA really involves a lot of blocking and tackling for IT shops full of heterogeneous systems that must be integrated and disparate data stores that have accumulated over the years. Rationalizing legacy systems and cleaning up data is too much like the old IT grid and it is tempting to put a SOA Band-Aid on top and hope for the best. The problem is the Band-Aid comes off and the festering mess shows through the best of top-down designs.

I have been fortunate to work on many successful SOA engagements that have spanned several years using SOA for integration and information management as a foundation for business process automation and innovation. I have worked with colleagues and experts in the data management field to build a solid information foundation for SOA and seen SOA grow at companies from the ground up – from legacy systems and data up to the presentation layer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is your quality system fact or fiction?

You might hear quality and compliance people say things like "if it is not documented, then it does not exist" but do you hear them say "well, it is obviously documented, but does it exist?" as often?

The lack of documentation is a big problem in many enterprises, but I would say that the amount of documention that does not reflect the reality is an even bigger, though more hidden, problem. It is more convenient to look for a specific document or to review an existing document to see if it conforms to certain requirements or standards than to go around asking each and everyone if the contents of a document reflects their reality. I would say that accuracy is the quality which is hardest to measure and ensure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

SharePoint - Dream or Nightmare?

To answer my question in the title; it depends on which side you are on, if you are on the provider side or the customer / user side.

I myself have been having some nightmares as I have been on the user side for almost a year now. During this period, I have had two assignments where I needed to collaborate with colleagues located at other offices. As we have tried to minimize traveling and face-to-face meetings unless they have been absolutely necessary, we looked for support in our SharePoint 2007 installation. Our primary need was support for creating and sharing MS Office files with each other. Given our needs and the promised capabilities of SharePoint 2007, we should have been hand in glove.

Michael Sampson recently shared his notes from a web seminar by Tony Byrne from CMSWatch entitled "Evaluating SharePoint from a Business Perspective". Here are some excerpts and my own comments:
"Tony said that the key strength of SharePoint is in file sharing. Other types of collaboration -- project/task tracking, social networking, enterprise knowledge management, collaborative authoring and review, discussion and collaborative filtering, and synchronous collaboration and communication -- have varying degrees of out-of-the-box capabilities vs. custom development required"

If file sharing is the strength of Sharepoint when it comes to collaboration, then anyone having thougths about using Sharepoint for collaboration should seriously reconsider. There are simply much more simple and convenient ways to share files than using SharePoint. SharePoint is more about file storing than file sharing. File sharing requires easy access, such as the possibility to access files from any computer with Internet access. For this, there are many web 2.0 apps which are better suited.

According to Michael Sampsons notes, Tony Byrne have the following answer to what SharePoint really is:
“Myth ... 'out of the box product' to fit most information management needs"

"Reality ... the most 'finished' pieces still revolve around file-based collaboration. And it's very user-friendly for this."

"When you get beyond that, it becomes a development platform ... or 'consultant friendly'"

The best thing with SharePoint is that it has a lot of capabilities out of the box, ranging from ECM to collaboration. A bad thing is that it underperforms in more or less all areas and that a lot of custom development is required to make it perform. This is why SharePoint is a dream for consultants and why Microsoft has an army of consultant firms that help them sell SharePoint to potential customers. But the worst thing is that SharePoint fails in usability. I disagree with Tony Byrne when he praises the usability of SharePoint when it comes to file-based collaboration. And potential customers need to keep in mind that usability is not something that comes out of the box from projects run by SharePoint consultants.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This week in links - week 17, 2008

"Forrester: Social networking means business, big business" by Caroline McCarthy:

"In a new report written for the market research firm, as detailed by Larry Dignan at CNET News.com's sibling site ZDNet, analyst G. Oliver Young predicts that "Enterprise 2.0" applications--buttoned-up versions of the Web 2.0 apps we all know and love--will be a $4.6 billion industry by 2013. Social networks, Young wrote, will make up the bulk of that, with nearly $2 billion invested in them."

"This means we'll probably see a lot of intra-company networking tools (souped-up corporate directories, for example, or internal forums) as well as more interactive varieties of technical support. Not surprisingly, Young's report predicts the biggest adopters will be large companies where you can't just stroll over to the HR or IT folks for a little face time, and where instituting collaborative tools from 37Signals or Zoho could speed things up when not everyone's based in the same building (or time zone)."


"Partner Collaboration - The Solution Is In The Wiki" by Paul Wescott:


"We set up a wiki with each new partner that provides efficient and organized access to the Socialtext information needed to be successful. It really accelerates the productivity of new partners to have a central location for information and interactions with us, rather than a series of disconnected emails."

"One of the greatest benefits of these solutions is the direct and open feedback channel we get with partners. Participation is not limited to Socialtext channel management; participants include product development, marketing, customer support and others that benefit from the current information provided by the field and the sharing and communication in both directions that result."


"Social networks in organizations: balancing risk, reward, and transparency" by Ross Dawson:


"I am finding it very tiresome to continuously hear security consultants and vendors with big PR budgets go on endlessly about risks, without ever mentioning business benefits. This drone gets into executives’ heads, and as a result discussion of social networks – and many other potentially valuable business tools –focuses on risk and not benefit"

"...It is critical to acknowledge, understand, and minimize risk, but executives are equally culpable if they ignore business value as if they ignore risk. "

"...transparency increases business value, however providing transparency must be done intelligently and strategically. The danger is that executives become frightened of the risks, so unintelligently don’t provide transparency, and thus negatively impact the company’s value. Effective business leaders understand that in a complex world business value requires a highly nuanced approach, rather than the black and white view of organizations that is so frequently peddled."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Information is like water - essential to our survival

Being able to communicate is absolutely essential for humans. As social beings, communication is a key part of our lives and what enables us to create and participate in various social structures. As humans, we need to belong to and participate in social groups or communities, from families to nations.

Communication is essential for any kind of collaboration (process two or more people work together toward a common goal). An enterprise can be defined as “…people getting together and collaborating to achieve a common goal” and communication is therefore vital for any enterprise to succeed. Although humans typically communicate and collaborate most effectively when we meet face-to-face in small groups, this is not practical in many situations. We often need to collaborate with people located elsewhere and sometimes we also need to communicate over time. We might also need to communicate with more people than is possible to communicate with face-to-face in a physical meeting. To enable collaboration in these cases, we create messages which we encode into various types of digital content (text, images, video, sound) and make accessible to the intended users via information technologies. In a sense, information could be compared to water:
  • Information, like water, is essential to our survival. Given that collaboration is what an enterprise is about, information is also essential for the survival of enterprises.
  • Information, like water, needs to be managed so that it is supplied to the enterprise users when and where they need it.
  • Information, like water, needs to be of sufficient quality to be suited for its intended uses.
  • Information, like water, is managed in a system which collects it from various sources and distributes it to the users.

The analogy with water can also be used to illustrate the purpose of different disciplines dealing with information within enterprises:

  • EIM (Enterprise Information Management) is about ensuring that the users will get access to the information (water) whenever or wherever they need it. EIM is about ensuring that the information (water) is consistent, that is it is of sufficient quality and that it will be delivered (flow) to the users in a timely manner.
  • MDM (Master Data Management) integrate information (water) from various sources, store it in a repository (reservoir), cleanses (purifies) the information so that it is of sufficient quality, and makes it accessible to any application (water supply system) that needs it.
  • SOA is an architectural style that defines how applications (water supply systems) should architected for ensuring interconnectivity, modularity and reuse of key software capabilities (pipes etc).
  • Enterprise Architecture (EA) is usually performed by an EA team (city planning department) which besides organizing the business and IT resources so they align with the business strategy also creates the principles, rules and guidelines for how the information (water) should flow throughout the organization (city).

Friday, April 18, 2008

This week in links - week 16, 2008

"Socialtext People is in-the-Flow!" by Michael Idinopulos:

"Socialtext announced two major product announcements today: Socialtext People and Socialtext Dashboard. I'm excited about Dashboard, but People really rocks my world."

"Socialtext People isn't just an inside-the-firewall social networking tool. It's a networking tool that integrates with Socialtext wikis where people are doing their in-the-flow work: posting messages, drafting meeting agendas, taking notes, documenting processes, spec'ing products, and so on. You can see what people are actually doing, not just what they say they're doing. You can also see who they're doing it with."
"Complimentary report: Executive Insights into Enterprise 2.0 from roundtable hosted by Future Exploration Network and IBM" by Ross Dawson:

"The week before the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum, Future Exploration Network and IBM hosted a roundtable of senior executives discussing Enterprise 2.0. Highlights of the discussions were written up in a report which is being made openly available, to assist other executives in considering the key issues involved. Download the report here."
"The poverty of enterprise 2.0 and social media" by Dennis Howlett:

"CXO’s instinctively know that internal collaboration, whether through rudimentary technologies like blogs and wikis hold significant efficiency promise. They know the technology is relatively inexpensive compared to other types of enterprise technology and that implementation can be rapid. They also get that in the longer term, these technologies could hold incredible promise for business effectiveness across their entire value chain lies in releasing huge amounts of resource back into the business. None of that is disputed. What is disputed are two things, social media and social networking as applied internally. Why?"

Eric Burke shares his short version of Lifehacker’s Top 10 Email Productivity Boosters:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Increasing collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation

In "Questions to Ask Before Replacing Corporate Email", Dennis D. McDonald addresses the problem of using e-mail as "the one and only" collaboration tool:

"For me a bottom line issue is understanding the costs of introducing new technology and replacing old technology, given that the old technology — email — is not going to disappear (nor should it)...//...How long these extra costs will need to be incurred will depend upon the organization and the speed of adoption, and complete adoption won’t occur overnight ...//...These additional costs need to be weighed against the savings of time that emerge when it is found that efficient use of collaboration software actually reduces not only the number of (inefficient) emails associated with certain types of activities but also the meetings associated with certain types of tasks."
In "Build It (and they won't come)", Marc Solomon debunks some myths about "knowledge hubs" and shares his insights about how to get your users engaged as participants (to make them share their knowledge).

"The perennial, time-tested truth is that people who love to learn don't share that love for what they learn (or care to share). How do we make it worth their while?...//...Turning users into contributors requires that we architect searches that highlight who the contributors are along with the volume and nature of what they're contributing."

"No 12 step program can move forward until the addict admits that they have an addiction -- in this case relying on email to provide a dashboard-like visibility into what's fresh and noteworthy on an organizational level. How can the addict be weaned from the isolation of 1:1 asynchronous communication so that their comfort zone includes RSS readers, search alerts, and subscription feeds for staying on top of their priorities and moving targets."

"Enterprise systems are saddled with the tags we force on them to label their content baggage. But the more control we exert on our metadata the more pressure we put on our producers to execute our elaborate coding schemes. At what point can we introduce commonly accepted web 2.0 fare as folksonomies, tag clouds, and ability to aggregate these terms by their popularity?"

"One of the self-fulfilling failures of expert-finding deep dives is that when you ask for volunteers your most sought-after domain leaders are already snowed under -- why would they volunteer their protected time to be officially pegged for all to see on your corporate radar? One of the many benefits of connecting metadata to search is that the engine can quantify thought leadership based on business need -- not based on who volunteers for guru status in a given topic."


In an article in BusinessWeek, "Life on the Edge: Learning from Facebook", authors John Hagel and John Seely Brown argue that "social network provides important lessons for executives—and a key forum for innovation and experimentation":

"Dismissing Facebook as irrelevant to business would be dangerously shortsighted. Yes, it is on the edge of traditional business activity, but it is an edge where new approaches to business are being tested and refined. Like most edges in the business world, it may look marginal at the outset, but has the potential to redefine business more broadly over time...//...So what lessons should more traditional companies take away from the early Facebook and SocialMedia experience?"

  • "Create more edges. The decision by Facebook to open up its platform to third-party developers unleashed a torrent of innovation that continues to expand...//...By offering application developers easy access to millions of potential users, Facebook spurred broad innovation in a short period of time."
  • "Provide better ways to connect at the edge. Brokers like SocialMedia attract diverse participants at the edge and provide mechanisms to catalyze new insight and share knowledge. "
  • "Demographic edges are fertile grounds for business innovation...//...Younger generations can be important catalysts for business innovation, both because they often uncover unmet needs earlier than older customers and because they are more willing to try a new product or service."
  • "Experiment and iterate rapidly. The power of Facebook as an innovation platform is that it costs so little for an application developer to introduce an application and generate quick market feedback. This environment encourages lots of experimentation and accelerates learning."
  • "Social, technologic, and economic are inextricably intertwined. Facebook succeeds because it satisfies profound social needs to connect and be acknowledged via an easy-to-use technology platform. It also carefully manages the economics of its business to avoid upsetting the social order."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This week in links - week 15, 2008

"Most Users Are Unhappy With Enterprise Search" By W. David Gardner:

"Separate U.S. and U.K. surveys released this week found that search engines are failing workers."

"...keyword searches don't work for most employee searches and the search 'monster' is becoming a growing problem for businesses and organizations."

"In its report, Sinequa said many employees in the London study are struggling to find even the most basic information, and their travails are negatively impacting their productivity. Just 8% of the workers have a tool that permits them to search across their own company using key search terms, Sinequa said."
"A world without Enterprise RSS" by James Dellow:
"Enterprise users are lacking some of the tools and features available through the Web 2.0 consumer RSS ecosystem. And Enterprise RSS users want their RSS "when and where they want it" too!"

"The problem is that without Enterprise RSS this is hard to achieve, as most basic enterprise approaches to RSS use a simple Web content publishing approach - i.e. RSS content is published like any other Web content but consumed through an existing application or a desktop reader. However, the RSS content has no idea if anyone has actually read it and if a user wants to consume RSS feeds on different devices or even from different reading applications on the same device, well... bad luck."

"Enterprise Twitter – or how to tap social networks for expertise without using email" by Ross Dawson:

"In organizational network analysis circles, an MIT study on how people find information is often cited. The research showed that in an organization, people were five times more likely to go to people than to databases to get answers to their questions. So knowledge workers’ productivity is strongly related to their social networks, in terms of who they know who can help them, and whether there is sufficient trust and reciprocal value in the relationship that they get a response."

"Effective professionals are already tapping their external networks using Twitter and other tools to do their work better. They should also be able to use the same tools inside the organization."

"Building relevant social ties based on trust and mutual understanding that enable focused, efficient questions and knowledge sharing will always be far higher value than broadcast mechansims. However there is definitely a role for light-touch queries inside organizations, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of that in the coming year or two. "


"Tips for Social Computing in the Enterprise" by Chris Howard, vice president and director of the Executive Advisory Program at the Burton Group:

"People form communities based on shared interests. Once the community is in place, it becomes a greenhouse for the development of ideas and the distribution of information, attracting all those who wish to participate."

"Chris Zook recommends searching for "undeveloped adjacencies," or unexploited capabilities in the organization that can be developed into new, repeatable processes. Successful corporate innovation capitalizes on existing assets and ideas combined in new ways. Use of social computing creates a new stage for innovation, where ideas are more easily exposed and patterns spotted. As communities work out the kinks of new ideas in public forums, innovative thinking coalesces and ownership/leadership emerges."

"The collective intelligence of the community leads to answers more quickly. As more questions are answered, repeatability increases. As new workers enter the company, there is a baseline of knowledge to get them ramped up more effectively. Much of that knowledge is available as content within the social computing infrastructure."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Collaboration and SOA - more than just buzzwords

I tried to answer a question yesterday that I got sent to me via e-mail from an employee at the client company and who is located in Portugal . To be able to answer the question, I had to request information from two persons in my team, one of them being located in Switzerland and one being located in another city in Sweden. In a few minutes I had answered the question and received an e-mail from the employee in Portugal in which he thanked me for the answer. Thanks to the information in my answer, he could continue with his tasks at hand. As I mentioned something about this conversation to my client sitting almost next to me, he said "Isn't it fantastic? That we can sit here and communicate with people all over the world within a few seconds?"

I had to admit that it is quite fantastic. His question got me to reflect on how surreal my current assignment must have seemed just 20 years ago; I am planning and coordinating activities which involve hundreds of people (editors) all over the world, people who are located in countries such as Japan, Sweden, USA, Russia, China, Portugal, and France. I have direct contact with well over fifty of these people, primarily via e-mail or phone. We meet once a year on a conference and then never travel to meet face-to-face.

The project team that I am managing and which is responsible for rolling out new IT solutions to the markets (which we must help all the editors need to learn, prepare and launch) consists of a handful of people. We are partly co-located, but some of the team members work from other locations. We mostly communicate via phone or e-mail and when there is a need for us to meet in a more structured way, we use a web conferencing tool (WebEx from Cisco). We basically never need to travel to get things done. Often, it is just not a viable option. In addition, the corporate policy says that travelling should be avoided for environmental and cost reasons whenever possible.

Although we have much more to do to become more efficient in communicating and collaborating with each other, it is interesting that our biggest headache is not about communicating or collaborating within the project team, with the editors or with all stakeholders in different organizations. No, our biggest headache is the one we get from the constant battle we have to fight with the IT legacy. The problem with the IT legacy is, as usual, that it was not originally designed for the current requirements and that is almost possible to change. The short version is that it is a very complex and lengthy process to get things out to the market (or even at all). Add to that that the inflexible IT legacy adds a lot of extra friction between the ordering organization and the organization supplying it with IT solutions.

I personally both understand and stress the importance of separating the concepts of SOA and web services, one being an architectural style and the other being a technology that can be used for implementing a SOA. Still, I must admit to that web services are excellent for demonstrating key SOA concepts as well as for demonstrating the potential benefits than an organization can get out of SOA. SOA and web services go hand in hand. Even though I now work on the business side and not on the IT side, with people coming from a marketing and business administration background instead of an IT background (I have a combination of both), there is now a common understanding between the ordering organization (“the business”) and the supplying organization ("the IT department") that SOA is the way to go. SOA is no longer just some mysterious or over-hyped buzzword. Why? Because we have all seen a SOA in action.

For a small but essential part of the current solution, core software functionalities and content are now provided to consuming applications via web services. On top of the web services layer, different user experience applications can be designed and developed. Fast. And it can be done by external parties. The latter is virtually impossible today for other parts of the IT platform, even though the task is mostly about presenting existing things in a new way. They will have to navigate in a very complex IT environment and sometimes make changes all the way back to the legacy systems – which of course cannot be changed within the time-frame of the project, so you end up having to scope out functionality and content which would be valuable to end-users. To sum up, new solutions can be delivered much faster since core functionalities and content can be easily reused and thereby shortening development time AND since external capacity can be used to deliver them.

I am absolutely convinced that the keys to empowering enterprises today is to better support communication and collaboration between people and to increase the agility of their IT systems. Improving communication and collaboration is to me a low-hanging fruit since the tools and technologies are out there, although it is a big challenge since it has more to do with people and changing their existing attitudes and behaviors than it has to do with technology. Increasing the agility of the IT systems will in most cases be a costly and potentially very lengthy process, but it is an inevitable investment enterprises need to make if they are to compete on a global and rapidly changing market place.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Insights about SOA

From "Why REST, WS-* and technology are the problem, not the solution" by Steve Jones:

"...I'm really beginning to feel that IT, and most especially the software part, has some form of terrorist organisation going whose job it is to ensure that the business always looks on IT folks with disdain."

"Pitching REST, WS-*, ESBs etc is exactly what SOA should not be doing. Its about time that IT started looking at genuine business cases and signing up to explicit measures. Who cares if you use REST, WS-* or flying monkeys to do something, if you've committed to delivering a 10% increase in sales then the choice is yours."

"By continually pitching a technology centric view of the world IT will continual to marginalise itself and prevent any genuine progress being
made
."

From "Whipping the QA Process Into SOA Shape" By Wayne Ariola:

"Provide visibility. When exposing business information internally, or by sharing data with partners externally, the businesses goal is to demonstrate that each part of its system is reliable. Visibility will ultimately promote trust. Trust will ultimately promote reuse of these business assets."

"Internally, the organization has a distinct goal of promoting reuse of business assets. The challenge of reuse is truly a cultural shift in the way that developers and architects have traditionally delivered projects. Given this long-standing cultural barrier, the quality metrics need to tell a very distinct story for the internal constituents. The data should give the internal organization the confidence and trust that the business asset is robust enough for the application. The negative case is also true: The architect should also be able to determine that the service asset is not robust enough for the specific application."

"Promoting trust for an asset must begin early, as soon as the asset is created. Visibility into asset quality helps drive the development cycle and promotes trust for later reuse. In order to promote trust early, the business must define policies that govern the different aspects of the services life cycle, runtime and design time."

From "What is SOA?" by Eric Roch:

"Many IT focused SOA efforts have become an easy mark those selling SOA products since SOA now requires governance software, registries, an ESB, a SOA Suite or what ever the particular vendor is selling. I recently did an audit of a company that spent $18M on software, hardware and services that had no service oriented applications after 18 months with none in sight. The enterprise architecture group designed it all and had it built but no one knew what applications were going to run on it. I was literally told by IT that when I talked to the business that I could not use the term SOA because they already viewed it as a failure. This is the disasterous results that occur all too often when IT shops take this type of approach to SOA."

"Many have set up knowledge bases, best practices, guidance frameworks, and governance processes. And yet these SOA initiatives invariably stall out." Well maybe these companies should have spend less time installing software and building frameworks and more time understanding what business processes could be impacted by removing poor interfaces or eliminating bottlenecks or providing needed information faster (just to name a few). That “stunningly beautiful SOA infrastructure” is worthless without business applications running on it!"

Monday, April 7, 2008

Looking for excellent blogs? You'll find them here...

I've finally updated our blogroll with links to blogs we find excellent. No introduction is needed, just go ahead and explore them.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Can you tell the difference between EIM and ECM? Really?

Do you find it hard to make a clear distinction between the concepts of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM)? If you do, I ensure you that you are not alone. In this post I will try to make the distinction a little bit clearer by using good-old communication theory and a simple (maybe even naive) analogy. To start with, let’s look at the current “official” definitions of the two concepts.

Although there is no agreed upon and hence no official definition of Enterprise Information Management, one of the best I have found so far is this one from an article in DMReview.com by Iain Kiernan where EIM is defined as:
"the processes, technologies and tools needed to turn data into information, information into knowledge and knowledge into plans that drive profitable business action."
When it comes to ECM, the official definition from AIIM defines ECM as:
“...the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization's unstructured information, wherever that information exists.“
Already here, it is quite easy to see that ECM is more technology-oriented than EIM. But what else is different? The distinction is still not really clear and communication theory might come to help here.

Communication theory defines communication as “a sender transferring a message containing information to a receiver”, information being a message that is received and understood (Wikipedia.org). In other words, information is the end result of a cognitive process in the head of the receiver. It is not something that actually exists on the paper which the message was written on. In a digital world, what is processed by the receiver is a message carried by more (data) or less structured digital content (text, images, sound, video…). When the message that the content carries is interpreted and understood by a receiver, it turns into information. This information can then be turned into knowledge (one definition of knowledge defines it as "the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate", wikipedia.org).

With this in mind, we can conclude EIM and ECM focuses on two different things in a communication process:

  • EIM focuses on identifying receivers and understanding their information (and kwowledge) needs so that effective messages – messages that are understood by the receivers and create the intended effect (action, or absence of action) – can be created and delivered to them in the right time.
  • ECM focuses on how to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content (carrying messages) to identified receivers.

To clarify even more:

  • EIM is about creating efficient messages intended for specific receivers (persons or roles), while ECM is about capturing these messages as content.
  • EIM is about knowing who needs to receive the message and when they need it, while ECM is about knowing the name and address of the intended receivers and deliver it to them as required by the sender.
  • EIM cares about the message being interpreted, understood and creating the desired effect, while ECM cares about the content – whatever it might contain – being efficiently and securely delivered to the address of the named receiver.

Can you see the analogy with someone writing and sending a letter via regular mail? EIM is the author who writes a message to an intended receiver, chooses the media which in this example is a piece of paper, puts the paper into an envelope, writes the name and address of the receiver on the envelope and chooses a delivery method that will deliver it to the receiver in the right time and at the right cost. ECM is the postal service that picks up the letter together with a lot of other stuff from other senders, describes and organizes all them to be able to manage and deliver them efficiently and safely, and then delivers them to the addresses on the envelope. The mailman won't stay to observe the receiver when he or she opens the envelope and reads the letter, but the sender of the letter might request a letter back from the receiver to confirm if the message was understood or not.

Friday, April 4, 2008

This week in links - week 14, 2008

Meredith Whittaker at Google emphasizes that Google Docs is collaboration tool by launching the Google Docs Community Channel at youtube.com:

"Google Docs is all about being able to share and collaborate, and now we're taking the idea of sharing a step further with a new Google Docs Community Channel. This is a place to watch videos from regular folks all about Google Docs, connect with others, and pick up smart tips about all the ways to use the application."
Continuting on the subject of Google, Network of Unreasonable men poses the question: "Is Google goneburger?"

"Is Goggle heading for trouble? Despite all their product development efforts & a significant amount of hype, they still only have one revenue stream, advertising.

On top of that the word is that they are loosing staff in large numbers due to growth pains.

Finally, look at their strategic stance or lack there of. Who are they strategically aligned with? Perhaps more importantly who have they rankled? MS, Yahoo, Apple, Broadcasters, news companies….Wouldn’t a more prudent stance be to take on just one of these giants (by partnering with their enemy) at a time??"
Whether or not this is true, I will keep enjoying the "free" apps and services from Google. I wrote a post a while ago, "Web 2.0 – A true Internet revolution?", which touches the same subjects as the post cited above:
"Interestingly, the primary business model on the web is based on selling advertising space which is primarily used for marketing consumer products. This is the paradox of Web 2.0. Even if people are really starting to change how they use the Internet and the web, no one should be surprised if Google and Facebook will suddenly stop showing outstanding growth and profit numbers when the business cycle reaches the next recession. When people don’t feel confident enough about the future to buy a new flatscreen TV och refridgerator, it will eventually hurt Google and Facebook badly. Hence, a true Internet revolution will in my eyes only only come when the primary products that we consume (accounting for the biggest part of our consumtion) are intangible digital content and experiences. Then the Internet can become the engine that drives the global economy, just as the industry once became more important than the agriculture for the national economies."
Finally, Bertrand Duperrin applies Archimedes' theorem to Enterprise 2.0 "with trust instead of liquid":

"If we consider companies will have to change, two solutions are possible:

- going quietly, in order to be ready when the “old” model will be out of date. It supposes to start early in order to have time to find one’s own way, since “magical recipes” don’t exist.

- jaming on the brakes and accepting the risk of facing violents changes later. Some, like Gary Hamel, think since change isn’t in corporate DNAs, this is what will happen.
But when it’s time to migrate to management 2.0, enterprise 2.0 or to adopt social computing tools, more than the fear of change, trust is essential.

And what about Archimedes ? “Any individual immersed in a trustful environment gives back to this environment as much trust as he receives”.

A good question would be: is the price to pay when you don’t trust the organization higher than when you trust it wholly, even if some aren’t trustworthy."


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Master Data Management Maturity

Managing master data and content has its benefits and barriers, as stated in a former blog post (here). Many enterprises are tempted to buy Master Data Management (MDM) vendor solutions that can help them address master data challenges.

Having a competent support system is an obvious success factor, but I will outline some other aspects that are beneficial to consider when starting an MDM initiative. The factors below are organized as a simplified maturity model for a rapid positioning of your MDM program or project.

Organizational awareness

  • Reactive: There are minimal awareness or some locally IT driven master data activities
  • Managed: Business and IT understand master data needs and solutions. Requirements are aligned
  • Proactive: An information-centric approach are established where master data and content assets drive business process and application landscape improvements

Metadata and modeling

  • Reactive: Few or project driven data and content models
  • Managed: Information models for prioritized master data and content domains
  • Proactive: The enterprise information model covers important master data and content domains

Application patterns

  • Reactive: Siloed data and content are extracted for business intelligence, portal publishing or similar
  • Managed: Master data and content are consolidated into trusted sources that enable consumption and reuse via integration
  • Proactive: The trusted sources are migrated into MDM hubs that operate in a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) environment

Governance mechanisms

  • Reactive: Absence of ownership and stewardship roles
  • Managed: Key master data and content governance roles and cross-functional forums are put into practice
  • Proactive: Master data and content governance processes are defined and unified with business and IT governance structure and processes

Quality control

  • Beginning: Mostly fire fighting and other unorganized activities
  • Managed: Centralized quality management supported by key roles
  • Advanced: Quality processes in place driven by service levels and zero defect policies

To get the most effect of an MDM initiative, it is essential to develop the above factors in parallel. For example, what use is it to deploy a full-blown MDM solution if there are not governance mechanisms or quality control to assist it?

The lingua franca in application development

A wire-frame is no deliverable of the design phase of a application development project; it is a collaboration tool. Used as such, it can integrate the so often separated worlds of visual design, content design, interaction design and technical design. If a wire-frame is not used as a collaboration tool, the value of wire-frames can in fact be questioned.



I have used wire-frames (including annotations) successfully in many projects. Accompanied by other artifacts such as a site map, interaction (activity) diagrams, design rationale documentation and use case descriptions, they are very powerful tools for rapidly communicating, negotiating and agreeing upon requirements and the overall design during an application development project. The secret with wire-frames is to create them with the intended audience in mind.

I have also seen wire-frames being misused several times. The typical misuse is that an external design agency, which is typically responsible for the visual design and interaction design, uses wire-frames internally in their in-house design process. In that process, they do not involve external stakeholders such as content authors and the application development team that is to design and build the application. Instead, they deliver the wire-frames together with a site map, style guide and other artifacts as a part of their final delivery, naively expecting the receiving application development team and content authors to use them blueprints for building the applications and developing the content. The problem is only that it is not possible to implement them at a feasible cost and that they do not fulfill the content requirements. So the design agency is forced to return to the drawing table, annoyed by all the "criticism" (feedback) that "questioned" (provided input to) their design solutions. At this point they should realize that they need to open up a dialog with external stakeholders, but they probably won’t.

Properly used, wire-frames provide a language which all parties in a development project can understand and talk and a vehicle for messages at the same time. IT people, user experience designers and content authors get a means to talk with and understand each other. If wireframes are used as collaboration tools in a dialog with designers from the other design disciplines, wire-frames will serve as the lingua franca in application development.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A simple illustration of the power of simplicity

This one is no April fools joke. Eric M. Burke illustrates how simplicity is a key to success in a very simple (understandable) way:

Virgin + Google = True




According to a post on the Official Google Blog by Sir Richard Branson, President and Founder of Virgin Group, he is teaming up Larry Page and Sergey Brin to establish "a permanent human settlement on Mars".


You can read more about the endeavour here. Below is how the Virgle Base will look when established on Mars in 2015.


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