Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Friday, February 29, 2008

This week in links - week 9, 2008

8:23:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
Google launches online collaboration environment (a future SharePoint killer?):

"Meet Google Sites, the newest addition to the Google Apps product suite. It was designed to allow you to easily create a network of sites and share them with whomever you choose. Google Sites lets you pull together information from across Google Apps by embedding documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos, and calendars in your sites. Of course, we also harness the power of Google search technology so your search results are always fast and relevant"

"India Outsources to US Tech Workers" by Rajan Chandras:
"The buzz in the local Indian trade magazines is about IBM recently grabbing a multi-year outsourcing deal from the Indian operations of Vodaphone, the global communications giant. Deals like these demonstrate that countries like India and China are more than merely the source of competition for US-based IT firms (and US-based consultants), they offer a solid opportunity for those willing to brave the geographical and culture gap."
"Another view: SOA opening up ‘can of worms’ in organizations" by Joe McKendrick:

"SOA means a change in thinking not only among IT professionals, but among line of business executives and professionals as well. That systems are there to serve them, not the other way around. And they have the power and capability to make adaptations in those systems, easily, whenever they need to be made. And leaders of the organization need to recognize and support this new interaction between people and systems (and that’s going to take a long time)."

"Keeping Employees Productive—What Do You Mean I Can’t Surf the Web?" by Melanie Turek:
"In today’s virtual workplace, where more and more of us work from home or remote offices, far from the prying eyes of our bosses, it’s still frustrating to see how many of them insist on “visibility.” These managers want to know that we’re punching the clock as expected, and that we’re 100% focused on the business at hand when we’re logged in. But it’s better to judge people on what they produce than how they produce it. For some of us, that means reading the comics in between the business news; for others, it’s catching up on the latest You Tube videos. Either way, if we’re doing our jobs well and efficiently, who cares?"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Consider social software when crafting your EIM strategy

All too often, those of us who deal with information technology stick our noses into features, designs and technologies and soon lose sight of the purpose behind it all - why we are doing the things we are doing. What is the solution we are building for? What is the root cause of the problem we are trying to solve? Why do we need to solve it, why is it a problem in the first place?

When I need to remind myself of why I am doing what I am doing, I always try to revert to the same insight; it ultimately has to do with communication between human beings. I am trying to find out how information technologies can be used to make humans understand each other faster and better. Information technology usually comes into the picture when we as human beings are not able to communicate directly with each other in time or space. Still, it is easy to get carried away by the possibilities of information technology and forget that if we don’t connect the human beings in both ends of the communication process - the sender and the receiver -then the process is broken. No information will be exchanged, no decisions or actions will be taken, and no value will be created.

As IT professionals, we need to remind ourselves information technology is just a means to support and sometimes enable communication between humans over time and space. We do the plumbing so that the water can flow from the water purification plant to the all those who need to consume water. We make sure that there is water coming in to the water purification plant and that the water coming out of it not only reaches the consumers, but also conforms to a certain level of quality.

If you look at the use of information technology in this way, it is strange why many enterprise are still skeptic to social software and why they don’t consider social software as natural components in their information management strategies. Social software, or web-based applications that allow users to connect to each other to communicate and share information and content, are enabling an “on demand” infrastructure for active and passive communication between persons who see a value in communicating with each other. Persons who have connected to each other can choose to communicate actively via instant messaging, mail or other applications. Or they can choose to communicate passively - the social software can report to others in a person’s social network about what the person are doing (status) or have been doing ("I just noticed in my social network feed that my collegue has viewed a report on how to craft an EIM strategy - I must ask him to share it with me!").

Social software has the potential to become extremely powerful in an enterprise context, especially for large and distributed organizations where people in different locations or organizational units need to communicate and collaborate with each other. Why? Because they make it easy to establish and maintain communication processes between human beings. People can do the plumbing themselves, making sure that the information they need will reach them from persons they trust and share similar interests with. It is obvious that we haven’t more than scratched the surface of the potential of social software as tools for facilitating information (and thereby knowledge) management within enterprises.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dealing with (unnecessary) complexity

10:17:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

In his post "Clarify. Simplify. Implement.", Nathan Wallace presents a project methodology (or approach) to avoid or at least deal with complexity in a smarter way.

"Lack of time, politics and ego drive enterprises towards complexity. Complex solutions reflect our perception of the difficulty of our jobs, they reflect the important differences of every department involved and are an inevitable result of looking for quick wins by not challenging ourselves upfront.

As Mark Twain once wrote "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead".

Unfortunately, most project teams take this approach, saving on delivery time and hard conversations and effectively hiding lifetime project costs in lost productivity, frustration and training courses.

Clarify, Simplify, Implement challenges this process and demands the writing of short letters. Users will thank you for it."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Before your next face-to-face meeting, consider these questions...

8:15:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , 2 comments

Jessica Lipnack has put together a great checklist with questions to ask yourself before your next face-to-face meeting so that you don't travel and cause CO2 emissions unless it is absolutely necessary.

  1. Do you need to have a difficult conversation?

  2. Do you need to make decisions that depend on interpretation of subtle cues in body language?

  3. Do you need 8 or 16 hours of continuous work together?

  4. Do you have to share “things” that would be difficult to experience at a distance, like touring a facility or using a piece of equipment?

  5. Have you calculated the true cost of the meeting in terms of direct expenses and personal wear-and-tear?

  6. Have you done a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the meeting’s contribution to CO2 emissions?

  7. Do you sometimes travel because you like it or get the feeling that you are important for doing so? Is the meeting you’re planning one of those?

  8. If you do absolutely need face-to-face, could you:
    A. Organize a high-end video conference if people have never seen one another?
    B. Or, conduct a series of highly organized conference calls over a week’s time?

  9. If you absolutely need face-to-face, are you traveling to the most convenient location for everyone?

  10. Is everyone attending the meeting essential? Could some call in for part of the meeting?

  11. If you choose not to travel, can you explain your decision clearly to others?

I will definately start using myself to see how it works.

A next step could be to identify typical meeting scenarions and use the checklist to identify which scenarios that do not require in-person meetings. After that, I'd like to look at how these scenarions can be supported by various communication and collaboration technologies.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 vs KM 2.0

Andrew McAfee first coined the term Enterprise 2.0 and defines is as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.” Other definitions have popped up here and there after that, such as that Enterprise 2.0 is the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies within enterprises or like a recent definition by Carl Frappalo which defines it as "a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise".

What strikes me about Andrew McAfee’s definition is that it is very technology-oriented. It does not say anything about the purpose and potential value of emergent social platforms for companies. However, Tom Davenport reports that Andrew McAfee said that “the ultimate value of E2.0 initiatives consists of greater responsiveness, better 'knowledge capture and sharing,' and more effective 'collective intelligence' at his talk at the FastForward conference in Orlando last week. Tom Davenport draws the conclusion that Andrew is in essence talking about knowledge management.

I must admit to that KM and Enterprise 2.0 have their similarities when you look at what they ultimately aim to achieve. But does this mean Enterprise 2.0 simply is the next major version of KM? Should we in fact call it KM 2.0 instead? No, I don't believe so. Sometimes you need to make a fresh start., to get rid of old definitions and conceptions and start over with a blank sheet to get things happening. A vitamin injection to an existing term might not just be enough to get it alive and kicking again. The term Enterprise 2.0 as defined by Andrew McAfee has provided us with that fresh start (although it would be nice with an extended definition which includes something about the ultimate value of Enterprise 2.0 as stated by Andrew McAfee). The term Enterprise 2.0 makes clear that we are leaving something and going someplace new and that it has to do with how enterprises are managed and operated. Saying that we are just leaving KM for KM 2.0 would be too delimiting. And it would prbably not make anyone more than – possibly - raise an eyebrow. Calling the place we are leaving Enterprise 1.0 instead gives us the opportunity and mandate to define what we are leaving from how we define the future. It is much more powerful and opens up for new perspectives and innovative thinking. New people with new ideas are allowed to enter the arena.

Instead of having a KM 2.0 versus Enterprise 2.0 debate which essentially will be about how to label the same message, it is important that we all focus on getting the message out there, trying to change existing attitudes and behaviors of people within enterprises who do not realize the value in getting better at communicating, collaborating and exchanging information and knowledge with each other. The value should be apparent for enterprises which have a distributed workforce and compete on a global market where the fierce competition is forcing them to constantly get smarter, more efficient and more innovative at the same time.

One way to do create this change in peoples attitudes and behaviors is to demonstrate the possibilities we have at hand, such as social software. Technology can be used as a vehicle for change, as tools to change attitudes and behaviors. Let us get the message out there by demonstrating how Enterprise 2.0 technologies can be used to create value and help enterprises to be successful.

Friday, February 22, 2008

This week in links - week 8, 2008

"Enterprise 2.0: The New, New Knowledge Management?" by Tom Davenport:

"Still, that E2.0 is the new KM didn’t hit me for a while. But when Andy said the ultimate value of E2.0 initiatives consists of greater responsiveness, better “knowledge capture and sharing,” and more effective “collective intelligence,” there wasn’t much doubt. When he talked about the need for a willingness to share and a helpful attitude, I remembered all the times over the past 15 years I’d heard that about KM."

"I admit to a mild hostility to the hype around Enterprise 2.0 in the past. I have reacted in a curmudgeonly fashion to what smelled like old wine in new bottles. But I realized after hearing Andy talk that he was an ally, not a competitor. If E2.0 can give KM a mid-life kicker, so much the better. If a new set of technologies can bring about a knowledge-sharing culture, more power to them. Knowledge management was getting a little tired anyway."

Excepts from notes from a table talk about social networks inside organisations at the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum Blog:

"Social networks a good way to see who has the expertise in the organisation and to find mentors and connections across the globe, which helps with developing innovation."

"Social networking makes it easier to work from home and feel part of the business."

"Encourages people to be more innovative and put ideas forward but that depends on the organisation's culture"

"Very few people in organisations are aware and or positive about social networking"

In "Enterprise 2.0 should be harnessed as a strategic asset" from internalcommshub.com, the CTO from banking group Westpac argues that Enterprise 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs needs to be “harnessed as a strategic asset”. He stresses the importance of getting to know the audiences:

'One of the most important things for Westpac is to understand who works for us and who our customers are', said Backley. 'We have to have the technology and solutions that transcend three generational groups, and each demographic has a different experience with technology and what it can do.'"

"'Each demographic has a different experience with technology and what it can do. What’s important is to have technology that gives more power to the end user to do their jobs,' Backley said. "

Finally, an insight about BI from Doug Henschen in "TDWI Insight: Guiding BI From the Top":

"BI is not implementing tools and it's not an IT initiative. IT does not have the empowerment to make end users turn information into strategic actions."

Now, enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Information centric or information eccentric?

8:40:00 PM Posted by Henrik Gustafsson , , , No comments

Service orientation has been one of the major IT mantras for some years. Services have been and still are at the center of attention in many business and IT development efforts.

There has recently been a shift in focus from services to information. Information seems to be the next big thing and will be the focal point of many upcoming enterprise initiatives. My fellow blogger, Oscar Berg, has lately presented many statements from different thought leaders that support this finding.

Information and information management has been around for decades, so why a shift in focus now? Maybe it is because a number of people have started to realize that a service without information is an empty shell and a SOA initiative is fragile without a strong information foundation.

The recent hype concerning enterprise/web 2.0 has also put more emphasis on information and its role in business communication and collaboration. Information is today required to break free from application silos and organizational boundaries.

But seeing information as shimmering pearls may lead to the false conclusion that information are more valuable or important than services.

In a typical corporation, people that work with information and data rarely meet or understand people that work with services and applications. They have different mindsets, methodologies and tools.

Therefore, the current move towards information centricity may lead to a better understanding, cooperation and balance between these two groups. But one likely scenario is that the information/data group will see an opportunity to take lead and start doing things their own way, not building on the experiences of the service/application group.

Information (what) and services (how) should be seen as the two sides of the same coin. Being information or service centric is ok. That will help to understand different views of problems and possible solutions. But following the current trend it looks like many are about to go from being service eccentric to becoming information eccentric.

Words of wisdom by Tom Davenport on Information Management

5:06:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

Bertrand Duperrin is kind to share his summary of an interview given by Tom Davenport to the french economic newspaper “Les Echos”. Here is what Tom recommends:

  • stop thinking about plumbing (technology) and focus on water (information)
  • wonder why, although information management relies up to 5% on technology and 95% on pyschology (Tom Peters), companies dedicate less 1% of their budgets to human issues.
  • start by mapping information’s presence within the company (without waiting for Information Management Systems to be deployed)
  • break informatician’s leadership on information management
  • help archivists to master new information management jobs
  • follow the example of television and press in information sharing

You really should approach Information Management in this way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Radical ideas for efficient meetings

11:01:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments

Don’t you just love those meetings that don’t have a structure, focus, expected outcome or purpose whatsoever? What you have is someone calling to the meeting – which due to unfortunate circumstances can be you – and a place and time to meet. When calling to the meeting, it is optional to specify a time when the meeting is expected to end. The reason for the meeting can be that someone expressed a desire to meet, that you have said that you should meet on Mondays at a certain time, or "I don't have anything to do, so I'll call to a meeting".

I’m not talking about ad hoc social meetings by the coffee station. No, I’m talking about real meetings during work hours. Personally, I find these kinds of meetings to be quite amusing. It is especially funny when someone – it can be anyone in the room and not necessarily the person who called to the meeting – tries to wrap up the never-ending meeting (due to boredom) in the middle of a discussion by whispering “well, I have another meeting…”

I don’t know if this is a typical Swedish way to hold meetings, but I have a suspicion that although some elements probably are universal some of them are typical Swedish. Anyway, if you happen to find yourself being in lot of these kinds of meetings and eventually start to get bored with them (like when you hear the same kind of joke over and over again), here are some radical ideas to ensure that your own meetings are efficient (besides the obvious things as preparing an agenda with meeting objectives):

  • Book a meeting room that can take just as many persons as the number you have invited to the meeting. If any uninvited persons show up to the meeting, they will either have to stand up or decide not to participate in the meeting.
  • Forbid all participants to bring their laptops and mobile phones into the meeting room. That will stop them from doing other things such as checking their email or sending SMS during the meeting. Build a pile with their laptops outside of the meeting room.
  • Ask a few colleges (who obviously does not have anything better to do) to start circling outside of the meeting room and occasionally opening the door to see if it is empty approximately fifteen minutes before your meeting is specified to end. If your meeting is not on track by then, you will at least get a reminder for everyone to achieve something during the last fifteen minutes.
  • Bring a bullshit button to the meeting and place it at a central location on the meeting table. Ask everybody to press it when the meeting is heading away from the subject.
  • Provide every participant with a test before the meeting to test them if they have read the agenda that you distributed before the meeting. Those who fail get assigned tasks, such as taking notes, making sure everyone has something to drink, or watching over the pile of laptops outside of the meeting room so no laptop gets stolen.
  • Record the meeting and inform the participants that you are recording it and will make the recording available to other stakeholders.

Pretty soon, you will probably not be able to assemble any people to meetings - unless it is absolutely necessary. And they people you need to meet will probably investigate other means of meeting and collaborating with you, such as chat, phone conferencing and good old e-mail. Your main benefit will be that more of your time will be freed up to get some real work done.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This week in links - week 7, 2008

3:31:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
"Google kids lose their web cred" by Peter Williams:

"The idea that the Google generation ­- those brought up in the digital age -­ is the most web-literate is a myth, according to research commissioned by the British Library and JISC"

"Although young people appear at ease with IT they are overdependent on search engines, view rather than read, and lack the critical and analytical skills to assess the information they find on the web."

"The research warns libraries they will have to adapt to the digital mindset if they are to survive and prosper."
"Enterprise 2.0: Five Innovations the CIO Shouldn't Miss" by Jack Santos:
"Technology managers can't afford to ignore Web 2.0 collaboration technologies, such as blogs, social networking, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and converged communications"
"The Trouble With Web 2.0" by Alexander Wilms:

"According to the conclusions of Tim O’Reilly the core is not the technology (which has been there for some time) but the emergence of new “patterns” – new or changed business processes and a new concept of the user. These patterns have been put to good use in the World Wide Web. But can they be transferred to a corporate environment, at the enterprise level, as well? Let’s have a closer look on them.
  • the Web 2.0 platform breaks down borders between services
  • Web 2.0 utilizes the collective intelligence of its users
  • Web 2.0 cannot control the process of knowledge creation
  • Web 2.0 is constantly linking knowledge, thereby not protecting intellectual property"

Finally, in the post "Collaboration Tools" Mike Griffits presents an Excel spreadsheet created by Edgardo Gonzalez called "Collaborative Team Assessment" which you can download from the post. It contains criteria assessing your team’s abilities in:

  • Self Organizing
  • Empowered to Make Decisions
  • Belief in Vision and Success
  • Committed Team
  • Trust Each Other
  • Participatory Decision Making
  • Consensus-Driven
  • Constructive Disagreement

Friday, February 15, 2008

A trail of posts on SOA and organization

8:57:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
I followed a trail of posts about SOA and organization and found some nice stuff along the way, starting from "Tearing down silos, brick by brick" by Joe McKendrick...

"I once heard a rumor that there actually is a company with two integration teams that actually meet and talk once or twice a year. Just a rumor, mind you."

"Lorraine Lawson brought up the whole issue of silos and lack of communication in a recent post, and the implications for SOA. Namely, that SOA not only requires developers to know what other developers are doing, but that the business know what developers are doing, and visa-versa. Lorraine cites the example of one IT professional who had no idea what his coworkers did all day."

"I’ve also heard it said that competency centers also lift SOA matters above the grind of organizational politics. SOA projects can be prioritized according to the needs of the business at large, and not to serve the agenda of one business unit. Essentially, they can be silo-agnostic. (How’s that for a new term?)"
...then to the post by Lorrain Lawson "Overcoming IT Siloes on the Road to SOA Success":

"I’m hoping and, frankly, assuming, that most organizations aren’t quite that dysfunctional. Still, even if your developers are 25 percent more talkative and social than the ones in my friend’s workplace, you can see how organizational issues within IT could be a big barrier for successful service-oriented architecture."

"SOA requires developers to know what other developers are doing – hence, you have repositories and registries. But even with these technology solutions, how the IT organization interacts internally and with the business is a common problem for SOA implementations, says Eric Roch"
...and then back to the post "Organizing for SOA Success" Eric Roch:

"While most IT organizations are focused on the technology aspects of SOA a common barrier to SOA success is IT organization itself and how the organization interacts internally and with the business. IT organizational change is needed for SOA governance including the adoption of a SOA software development lifecycle and the runtime governance of shared services and the components that support them"

"The best practice for SOA organization is to establish a Competency Center to own the services catalog, common schemas and governance processes. But a SOA Competency Center does not just spring up overnight, nor will it address cross-functional barriers without participation from other IT entities."

"To overcome organizational barriers I recommend forming a cross-functional SOA Steering Committee composed of the leader of the enterprise SOA initiative, a lead architect from each functional-application system and an enterprise architect"
...and then finally back to a video clip of a customer (Luxottica) who according to Eric Roch is "linking their success to the SOA organizational structure and roadmap". It is worth checking out. To quote one of the persons appearing in the video, Ken Faw who is Director of Integration Strategies at Perficient:
"We don't have to have a massive governance effort. We have to get it to fit in into the whole evolution of people's intuition, their capacity to absorb it. To me, service-oriented architecture is bigger than the entry point - its the plane, it's the whole transformation of intuition that is going to happen to people, that helps them to become more autonomous agents, working in parallel to achieve multiple business objectives."

Yes folks, there we have the mysterious main ingredient in the recipe of success again: PEOPLE. The main ingredient is not technology, nor is it the organization in itself. It is the people, how they think and behave. And the problem with people is that if you can't do it with them, you can't do it without them either. Wouldn't it be easier if it was all just a technology thing, about bits and bytes?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Personal experiences from managing virtual teams

9:06:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , , 1 comment
Between 2002 and 2004, I was involved in my company’s effort to establish two development units in Serbia - first one in Novi Sad, then another one in Belgrade. The year before, in 2001, I had been business analyst in a project where we outsourced the software development to a company in Serbia and where the customer was situated in USA.

After we had managed the challenges of that project, we thought; why not establish our own development units down there? We were only around 15 people at my company (situated in Stockholm) back then and it was hard times for consultant firms. We simply saw the establishment of development units in Serbia as an opportunity to cut our development costs to increase our margins, and to be able to continue the development of our content management products. We calculated that we could hire approximately 7 skilled software developers for the same cost as one in Sweden. There was no need of a much more detailed business case than that.

I won’t go into details about the hardships that we faced during this period, but I can conclude that it was a successful endeavor even though I lost my hair and experienced the most stressful period in my life so far. It was one of those experiences that added ten years of experience in only two years.

Anyway, as product manager, project manager and requirements analyst in several projects I learned a few lessons about how to work with virtual teams for software development. Here are a few recommendations if you are up to a similar challenge:

  • Expect a lot of overhead in terms of project management, requirements and test. Overall, the project will consume a lot more man-hours. Productivity will be significantly lower than if you would run the project at your own location. But since the cost per development hour is much lower, you will still be able to increase margins if the size of the project is big enough (minimum 1000 development hours).
  • Ensure that you have a strong setup with a project manager, requirements analyst, test manager and architect at your own location. You then probably need to mirror that setup at the development unit. At least ensure that you have a project manager, lead developer and test manager at the development unit.
  • Co-locate the team for a couple of weeks in the start of the project to learn to know each other and find ways to work together as a team. If you use the same team for several projects, you don’t have to repeat it for the next.
  • Focus on visuals before text because of the language barrier. Use visual modeling and prototyping to communicate requirements and facilitate an understanding of what the project is to deliver. Use a common notation such as UML for modeling.
  • Use tools that make it possible to trace the requirements to design, implementation and test.
  • Use an easy-to-use web based issue management tool to define, delegate and follow up on tasks.
  • Use a versioning system with branching that can be used for multi-site development.
  • Make sure every team member has access to e-mail, IP-telephony and instant messaging and encourage them to use these when needed. But define some basic rules for when and for what to use these - you don't want to have IM conversations going on with each developer all day long.
  • Make each developer write a diary (we used e-mail and hadn't discovered that we could use weblogs instead) about what he or she has done during the day and listing any issues they are dealing with.
  • Set up a web based developer community (wiki) to share everything from instructions on how to set up development environments to code.
  • Use a project workspace with a document repository where the latest version of all project and requirements documentation can be made accessible.

There is not much magic here. The magic you'll have to add to this recipe is the right people. With "the right people" I mean that they must have the right skills and the right attitude. Regardless of what you do of everything listed above, you won't succeed if you cannot get the right people to your team and keep them motivated.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Security 2.0 - protecting us from stupidity?

10:30:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

From wonderwebby by Jasmin Tragas:
"People are moving more frequently from job to job, within a company or between them, in the same city or moving to the other side of the globe. Employers not considering how employees can transfer their knowledge and continue their personal learning and development between jobs and companies, are failing to meet the real needs of their employees personal development. This restricts the potential influence of new knowledge, social knowledge networks and innovation into the company culture."

From "Sensitive data 'impossible' to protect" by Robert Jaques:

"No matter how sophisticated a company's IT system is it is impossible completely to protect sensitive information, UK researchers warned today. The research was led by Professor Gerard Hodgkinson, director of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University."

"'Our research shows that organisations will never be able to remove all latent risks in the protection and security of data held on IT systems, because our brains are wired to work on automatic pilot in everyday life,' he said...//... If we considered and analysed the risks involved in every permutation of every situation we would never get anything done...//...If I make a cup of tea, I do not stop to weigh up the probability of spilling boiling water on myself or choking on the drink."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just think S.I.M.P.L.E.

8:03:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
In design disciplines such as industrial design, simplicity is often considered to be a virtue. But for some reason, simplicity does not seem to be a virtue in software design. Why is it so? I personally believe that a lot of the software is not designed by designers with the right mindset. And even if they do, they are run over by sales people and engineers.

Here is my definition of S.I.M.P.L.E. which helps me get into the right mindset and understanding what is most important when designing user experiences:

Suited for its purpose
Intuitively understandable
Made to work
Less is more
Empirically validated

Here are a few of my previous posts related to the subject of simplicity:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

This week in links - week 6, 2008

Matthew Hodgson writes about the need for more granularity in user roles in order to make the right decisions on what kinds of functional requirements that will meet user needs:

"Do you allow people to comment, review, rate and ask questions on your website’s articles? If you do, you’ll be enjoying the fact that your own users are helping others know what information is valuable on your website. It’s also valuable feedback because it helps you improve the quality of your information. Over the last month, I’ve been working on a strategy for a client to help them introduce this sort of user-to-user and business-to-user interaction. My client though, has until recently, thought of their users in the same way they do their print magazine. This has meant that their market segmentation is broken down into 3 (non-mutually exclusive) roles:

1. those that use the website,
2. those who read the magazine, and
3. those who buy stuff.

Unfortunately, this is not enough granularity to make informed decisions on the functional requirements that are necessary to meet user’s needs. By using the taxonomy of social computing, the market segmentation, and user needs, become much clearer."

Kyle Gabhart argues that EA, SOA, BPM and so forth are all different labels on initiatives trying to address the same kinds of problems in enterprises, such as:

  • "Business and IT need tighter alignment
  • Visibility between business and IT should be increased
  • Governance is needed at various levels of the organization to reduce risk
    and protect ROI
  • Business processes and technology solutions should be more flexible and better able to adapt to changing demands
  • Business processes and technology solutions should be designed intentionally and with sufficient rigor

The labels attached to these trends vary from enterprise to enterprise. Some drive toward one or more of these goals under the EA umbrella, others under the BPM label, and still others are talking about SOA. Some organizations use two or even all three labels. Regardless of the attached label, it is a strategic initiative at the business unit or enterprise level that aims to improve business predictability and squeeze more value out of technology investments."

Stewart Mader lists 7 strategies from the Society for Information Management's Advanced Practices Council for implementing a successful corporate wiki, the last one being the most important according to me:

"7. Understand wikis are best used in work cultures that encourage collaboration. Without an appropriate fit with the workplace culture, wiki technology will be of limited value in sharing knowledge, ideas and practices. (90-9-1 Theory)"

Monday, February 4, 2008

Coach and communicate according to maturity

A challenging task, for a consultant or knowledge worker, is to quickly convey opportunities and difficulties to different stakeholders and clearly show a way forward. One approach is to try to "coach and communicate according to maturity", as stated in the former post "Practical Enterprise Architecture".

Maturity models can be used as efficient communication tools. They have served me well in complex and challenging areas such as Enterprise Architecture, Master Data Management, SOA, Data Quality etc. The benefits of well thought through maturity models are e.g.:

  • Rapidly position where you are today
  • Express pros and cons of the current situation
  • Roughly position where you want to go
  • Clarify the appropriate steps forward
  • Show progress on your journey

The above list represents the possible outcomes of a well defined maturity model. But, too often, the available ones do not fit your purpose. When it comes to creating your own, the following simple guidelines may assist:

  • Build it around something tangible: I often start from a landscape view or architectural pattern that people can recognize and comprehend.
  • Start as simple as possible: Do not try to map too many levels of maturity and dimensions. Four to five levels are common practice. Five to seven dimensions should be enough to present the key topics within an area.
  • Build it iteratively: Release a first version that can be used as a marketing tool for your area during short meetings. Follow up with a more detailed version that can be used for workshop discussions. The maturity model can also be turned into a diagnostic tool if it is complemented with even more detailed questions and measures.

The maturity model will be of extra value if it is related to other areas. Master Data Management, for example, should be an integral part of a company's application and information landscape. Therefore it is a good thing to show how the Master Data Maturity Model fit with e.g. process and service orientation initiatives.

Speaking of SOA and relationships

12:13:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , 2 comments
SOA marries this, SOA marries that...SOA seems to be in a relationship with or even married to MDM, ECM, BPM, Web 2.0, BI, and many many more - at the same time. Maybe here's the explanation I've been looking for to explain how this can have happened:

Andy Dornan writes about the marriage between SOA and virtualization 2.0 in "SOA's Perfect Mate?":

"Virtualization 2.0 will go beyond server consolidation, making applications more agile and scalable to fit a service-oriented architecture."

John Crupi takes a closer look at the mashup-SOA relationship in "Mashups: Moving SOA Out of The Back Office".

However, everybody seem to agree that SOA and web services are NOT in a relationship. SOA is often misunderstood as the same thing as web services, and vice versa, which is incorrect. Still, I would argue that they are in some sort of relationship. A SOA is an approach to organizing IT resources better, a web service is a type of software implementation (an IT resource) that can be part of a SOA. Both of these two roles exist in most relationships.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Checklist for reducing CO2 emissions (beta version)

11:25:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg 4 comments
I just got a reminder from Jessica Lipnack about the checklist for reducing CO2 emissions that I promised to develop ("Taking the challenge"). Me and my fellow bloggers Henrik and Anders had a brainstorming session a week ago when we met in Stockholm (They both live there while I took the train from the city of Lund in the very south of Sweden where I live).

The checklist that came out of our session is in a very draft shape, but I guess it might be a good idea to post it anyway so that we can get some feedback that can help us develop it further. So, here it is:
  1. Start with yourself and where you are – think of how you can reduce the CO2 emissions that you cause at work (we already assume that you think of what you can do at home). Here are some of all the things you can do:

    - Turn off your computer when not using it – and unplug the power adapter
    - Drink water on tap (filtered if necessary) instead of drinking bottled water
    - When you go to meetings nearby - take the bike, public transportation by train or bus, or share a car
    - When you stay at hotels - shower instead of taking baths, reuse your towels, choose a hotel with a climate policy…
    - When you need to eat - choose seasonal fruits for the fruit basket, walk to the nearest restaurant, eat locally produced food…

  2. Ask yourself when a face-to-face meeting that requires travelling is really necessary - and when it’s not. Reflect on and question your own behaviour – are you sometimes travelling because you like it or get a feeling that you are an important person when doing so?

  3. If you need to meet but not necessarily face-to-face, ask yourself if any of there are other ways to meet and communicate than by a face-to-face meeting in real life - phone conference, instant messaging, group chat, web conferencing…

  4. If a face-to-face meeting is really necessary, is it an option to meet virtually? Video conferencing, virtual meeting place (Second Life)…

  5. If you really need to meet face-to-face in real life, check if you can meet at a location where as few of the meeting attendees as possible have to travel to the meeting, thereby shortening the total distance travelled by the meeting participants. Also question what persons really need to participate in the meeting (identify and try to stop meeting professionals from attending).

  6. If you need to travel yourself to the meeting, check what transportation options you have at hand. Try to choose the means of transportation that produces the least CO2 emissions but still offers a reasonable travel time and cost – and be sure to include the cost for any CO2 emissions in the cost! If it takes a few hours longer by train than by plane – can you motivate taking the train if you can work during the travel?

  7. If possible, always try to compensate for the CO2 emissions that you cause by traveling. You can calculate how much CO2 emissions you produce and how much you should pay on the CarbonNeutral Company’s web site: http://www.carbonneutral.com/pages/businesscalc.asp

  8. Finally, be open and proud about your achievements when it comes to minimizing CO2 emissions. Tell others that you choose not to travel to a meeting because you did not find it necessary to meet and that you solved it with other means of communication instead, that you walked instead of taking a cab to the nearby meeting, that you chose to go by train instead of flying, and so on. It will not only show that you care about the environment, but also that you are a responsible and caring person in general. It builds trust. Don't be afraid of how other people might react. For some, it can be an eye-opener and they might be impressed with your reasoning and behaviour, and eventually they will start changing their own behaviour. Others might be offended since it might cause bad conscience. But whatever kind of reaction you will get, telling others about your choices will help move things in the right direction.