Monday, December 29, 2008

Watch out for Yahoo's Net-Enabled TVs!

This is really Cool!.
Its a news that re-affirms my viewpoint that Future of IT is all about Highly Personalized & Innovative User Experiences.
Yahoo and Intel are working together along with a whole list of partners to bring the Internet experience to TV.
Yahoo aims to transform the TV watching experience from a passive mode to much more active activity. It plans to bring its most-popular Widget Technology to the TV, that can be controlled from a remote control. The Widgets can be downloaded at real-time from a Widget Gallery. And Widgets themselves can connect to the Internet in real-time and download data such as Weather, Stock Quotes, etc. And All this experience comes at no cost of compromising the TV experience.
Yahoo has made significant progress in this area. Do check out the wonderful demo and the follow-up update. Yahoo believes that the technology will penetrate the mainstream market in 2009 and will be dominating the Consumer Electronics Market in 2010.
What does this mean to Business Technology/Enterprise IT? - You have got a new channel to deal with. :-) Especially for Media, Publishing and Entertainment verticals, its a revolutionary technology development that will take those industries to new markets.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Biz Development 2.0

I don’t know if any company in the world has opened up its core business data as Open APIs for free consumption. Best Buy has done it recently with the help of Mashery. Mashery, the API management services company calls it as Business Development 2.0. Want to know Why?. Continue to read further.

Best Buy has taken all its product data such as product images, descriptions, user comments, pricing and make it available in the form of APIs. These APIs can potentially be used by bloggers, social applications, or Mobile Application Developers to develop new touch point applications for interacting with Best Buy.

While the results of this move are yet to be seen, the initiative itself is indeed adventurous and ground-breaking from business perspective. Am sure the Open APIs would certainly lead to proliferation of innovative applications/Widgets in innumerable delivery channels.

For example, an end-user can built a wish list out of the Best Buy products and place it as a Widget in iGoogle homepage. An expert blogger who constantly reviews digital cameras can embed a Point-of-Sale widget right next to the same blog post.

What does this all mean to its business? – More Touch-Points lead to Increased Traffic. And Increased Traffic would result in Enhanced Revenue. Another interesting claim that Mashery makes is that, by introducing these Free APIs, the business can acquire new Partners without depending much from IT. Isn't that threatening to Enterprise IT shops?. Its high-time that Enterprise IT wakes up.

Best Buy claims that this could lead to new Business Model Innovations.

I would go to the extent of categorizing this initiative under Open Innovation. It truly demonstrates the Openness characteristic of the Internet and holds the network effect of web 2.0. As mentioned in O’Reilly Technology Blog, these initiatives re-draw the boundaries of the traditional organization. Closed companies are going to find it more and more difficult to survive against Open companies. I couldn’t agree more!

Some of the other companies that follow this Open Path are – MTV Networks, World Bank and Reuters. World Bank has opened its Global data sources in the form of free programmable APIs. According to the bank, the data can be mapped, visualized and mashed in unlimited number of ways that will help develop a better understanding of trends and patterns around key development issues.

It looks like the trend is to essentially translate internal, once-proprietary corporate data into free-flowing rivers of information so that the Internet can consume it instantly & innovatively.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No Excuse for not having Enterprise Architecture

If you are observing clearly in Enterprise IT shops, a new governance practice has gained significant ground over the last few years. And that is ‘Project Management Office’. The mission of the Project Management Office is to establish standard Project Management System of processes and Tools that ensures consistency in Project Management methods practiced across the organization. The key objective behind PMO office is to ensure sustained success in project execution by adhering to best practices.

The need for PMO must have arrived with the increase in the volumes of projects and top management needed new ways to manage the risks and ensure the predictability of those projects in terms of cost/schedule and resource parameters.

Now, take a look at this perspective. The PMO office, however small or large it may be, is a support function to the actual delivery. It performs Governance, Mentors, Audits, Tracks and Reports the Projects/Project Managers. It provides indirect benefits to the IT organization and not contributing to the project directly.

Now look at this, as mentioned in this blog, the value (of PMO) is not always measurable in the company’s financials. But the increase in predictability and control can be related to the bottom-line, with a proper governance structure and controls.

I also had a chat with PMO focal in my company. And He reconfirmed the fact that his office is often challenged / questioned to assert its value.

Now, If you are an architect, Does it sound like a déjà vu?. I see a strong similarity between the PMO functions/challenges with Enterprise Architecture office.

But, my observation is – the CIOs who are not sold on Enterprise Architecture Office and its value have invested significantly on PMO offices. Howz that possible? Do you see a interesting conflict here?

The fact is simple – Enterprise Architecture is not understood. Period.

If CIOs can unquestionably invest in PMO offices and depend on its services to ensure their success, why don’t they invest on EA office?. As a matter of fact, PMO’s value cannot be directly measured.

As my fellow architects, I did have suspicions on the EA practice and its value and read about various new thought processes EA 2.0, etc. But, Am completely convinced that EA can add significantly value to the IT organization irrespective of its position within the company (say cost centre, service centre, or strategic partner). Here, I refer EA as a IT management discipline (not necessarily business architecture)

In fact, as a starting point, for cost starved IT shops, EA elements can be included in the PMO office. Sounds like a Good Idea?

Now, Who has the responsibility to sell ‘Enterprise Architecture’ same way as PMO office?. Who else – We, the People – The Enterprise Architects.

1. We ourselves should be first convinced about EA and its value for the company
2. We should have the ability to communicate the value of EA to the CIO and Leadership in unambiguous terms with lot of conviction. A Lot!
3. We should Deliver Value and Live upto the promises!

The mission statement for EA Office can be as simple as - To enable the IT in implementing consistent, reliable, secure and useful IT solutions that are aligned (to strategic business goals), responsive (to changes in business/Technology) and cost-effective.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who leads the RIA space?. Adobe or Microsoft?

The battle for RIA market share is clearly intense between Adobe and Microsoft. Existing install base, browser/device support may indicate that Adobe is evidently leading the pack. However, Microsoft has its own advantages. I wouldn’t have thought in favor of Microsoft, had I not seen these wonderful Siverlight demos. It’s exciting and never before seen user experience in RIA space. I would love to see both of these companies to compete in the business applications market in addition to media/entertainment market.

In the recent Adobe MAX 2008 event, it has been announced that Adobe has plans to expand the collaboration with SAP. I see more advantage to SAP compared to Adobe in this deal. The key question to be asked is ‘How does Adobe leverage the experience of working with SAP to evolve its RIA product portfolio? Do they use that experience to nurture and mature the RIA platform, so that it becomes a preferred standard for developing RIA clients for critical business applications?

Apparently, Microsoft doesn’t need such a partnership because Microsoft itself is a provider in the Enterprise Business Applications/Infrastructure/Platform segment. (e.g. BizTalk, Microsoft Dynamics/Commerce Server & .NET framework)

The silver bullet that I see in Silverlight that has the potential to kill Adobe is the support for .NET framework. Building applications in Silverlight means that the developer can take advantage of the languages such as C#, VB, Python or Ruby, whereas Adobe has only one choice ActionScript. In the Silverlight 2, the Windows Presentation Framework has been fully integrated. Hence, the .NET developer base can take advantage of their existing skills to build new, powerful cross-browser Rich Internet applications or Windows applications using Silverlight. And remember, the .NET framework is built and time-tested to develop enterprise-class applications.

Adobe’s ActionScript is clearly evolving over the last few years to achieve the maturity required for building strong Enterprise client applications. I still remember the times in 2002 when I evaluated Macromedia Royale (the code name for Flex then) to transform a product’s user interface from its traditional HTML to RIA. Those days I believed RIA was a radical change. I still do, in the way web applications can be conceived and designed with RIA paradigm. But the difference is – We have more choices now in 2008, in addition to Flex.

Sure, Adobe has been aggressive. BBC has built its iPlayer using Adobe AIR. (AIR being an RIA & offline web app platform). Some of the Silverlight enabled Websites have migrated themselves to Adobe Flex. However, will it be sustainable to compete with Microsoft in the long run?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Live Mesh Possibilities!

Couple of years ago, when I was designing a custom application over BlackBerry sync, I was facing some real technical challenges - like interfacing with Device driver libraries, handling character encoding between PC and BlackBerry device, etc.
Hopefully, Live Mesh would solve most of these issues for Windows based devices once it's released. The prime objective of the Live Mesh, as I understand, is to provide a developer friendly interface to the Mesh Platform so that useful applications can be seamlessly written. So I expect a much more user-friendly, coarse-grained services from Live Mesh platform that will relieve the developer from handling low-level issues.
On seeing NetFlix Taps Microsoft's Silverlight for Streaming movies, Blockbuster working on a Live Mesh app to deliver video on demand and seeing a whole set of Hosted services release from Microsoft, I am starting to believe that Microsoft is steering the industry in the new direction, as it claims 'Software+Services'.
To be specific, I was curious to understand the possibilities of LiveMesh, beyond File and App synchronization. Obviously, File sharing/Device syncrhonization alone cannot be the USP of LiveMesh. And I hoped there must be something more to that...And I was not wrong.
Got some interesting findings about Live Mesh possibilities..
- Live Mesh is not just a point solution for file sharing. It is a 'Platform' in the Cloud that is intended to provide synchronization services across various devices including SmartPhones and PCs.
- The main intention is to provide developer friendly platform & services so that useful applications can be built on top of the platform. Developers can sync not just folders/files. They can design custom objects and sync across devices/apps. Yes, I said 'apps' across devices.
- There are two aspects to Live Mesh. 1. Building Rich applications in the PCs that can synch/transmit data and settings across devices. 2. Ability to extend Websites to a world of devices (The second one is really interesting)
- What are the new capabilities a Live Mesh enabled Website will provide? Here are some scenarios.
- You will be able to export your transactional data from an online banking website into your personal device of choice. And you will be able to do this when you are online and logged into Online Banking website. We can expect to see lot more websites Mesh enabled, as it moves to Production ready status.
- If you are a frequent travel website user, the website can pickup your calender data from the Mesh (Your own personal Mesh, It could be from your PC or a SmartPhone) and recommend travel plans accordingly. Sounds cool! It may also mean that you will be able to perform a Single Sign-On from the Travel website to your Live mesh account?. May be :-)
- Now, add to this Live Mesh technology, some juice of data semantics and custom logic, you get a new range of 'highly personalized' applications that truly implements the software+services hybrid architecture.
But, We will have to wait and see how long its going to take to see these kind of apps in reality!

Fast Track to Enterprise Architecture!

Microsoft may get criticized for their exclusive pro-Windows solutions. However, I have found their contributions in MSDN towards SOA, Design Patterns, Software Factories and Architectural Journal are significant and much more open. I have found some of their SOA literatures are technology-agnostic and architecture-centric.
Continuing on the Enterprise Architecture topic, I would like to bring the recent update from Microsoft on EA to my readers. Microsoft is coming with an Enterprise Architecture Toolkit, essentially a ‘Software Factory’ for Enterprise Architecture. Sounds very interesting!.
The EA toolkit is not released yet, as far as I know. However, in one of the msdn blogs, the toolkit’s offerings are listed. If someone is building a EA for their enterprise by preparing some of the EA artifacts and developing new processes, the good news is – You don’t need to start from scratch. All the templates that you will need, the processes that you will need to define are available in the Toolkit pack. All you need to do is leverage those base templates to customize for your Enterprise specific needs.
Typically, Software Factories are applied for Software Development requirements like Web Services or Smart Clients. For the first time, the concept of Solution Accelerator / Software Factory is applied to the Highest-level of Abstraction.
However, the catch here is that, the toolkit is based on Microsoft product set – Microsoft Visio, Word, etc. Not bad!. Most of the times, architects use those tools anyway to prepare EA artifacts. And the traditional EA tools are expensive!.
Some of the cool things which I liked are – Templates for ARB, Using Portal and Workflow features essentially bringing the collaboration aspects into the architecting process!.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Cloud Computing Consequences!

What is the impact on Enterprise Architecture with the introduction of Cloud Computing and SaaS?
One word – ‘Serious’.
Here is my perspective.
- On the first look, it may seem like Enterprise Architecture is irrelevant in a company if your complete IT is running on Cloud Computing, SaaS and Outsourcing/Offshoring. In fact, I was of the same opinion last year. However, Its not the case. In fact, the complexity is going to get multiplied.
- We have moved from Monolithic systems to Client-Server to Tiered Architectures. With SOA comes the truly Distributed Architecture. And with Cloud Computing and SaaS, We are moving to “Globally Decentralized/Distributed Architecture”.
- With Global distribution, we will be able to compose business processes out of services from, Services running on Azure/Amazon and host the resulting composite in another cloud platform. Does that sound too Cool and Flexible!. Of course. But, It is also exponentially complex to manage in the long-run!
- Some of the challenges - What are the failure modes in these Global composites? Can we optimize the attributes of those composites? How do we trace/troubleshoot, version control these composites? What are the foreseeable security threats in these Global platforms?
- Integration between these huge Clouds/SaaS platforms? - Welcome to the world of Software-Intensive, Massive System of Systems! :-)
- If the first generation EA guided us in dealing with System of Systems within an Enterprise, the next generation EA should help us in addressing ‘Massive System of Systems’.
- With this new complexity, not only Enterprise Architecture gets necessary, but becomes absolutely critical in the IT ecosystem.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Business Case for Enterprise Architecture

This is my 100th Blog Post!. :-). Thanks to all the readers who frequent to my blog!.

Well, Contrary to this blog post title, am not going to talk about the finer details of preparing a business case for an Enterprise Architecture initiative. Rather, I am going to talk about ‘What makes the client to ask for a Business Case?”.
Here is a little background…
Statistics assert that only 5% of the companies practice Enterprise Architecture. And Most of them are successful leaders in their businesses, not just IT.
When I attended Zachman’s conference last year, I was surprised to see Zachman being cynical about the realization of EA in the industry. He, in fact, went on to add that it may take next 10-20 years to see EA truly alive in the companies.
I am also closely watching some of the Enterprise Architects’ blogs. I don’t see convictions by looking at their blog posts titled – ‘Enterprise is a Joke’. ‘Enterprise Architects do only powerpoint presentations’. ‘There are not enough skilled architects’, etc.
In the recent past, when I was evangelizing EA among the Top IT leadership, I often get questions on ‘short-term quick hits that can be achieved by EA’. That’s a tough one to answer!
Now the question is – ‘Why there is lack of faith in IT?’
And many of us know the answer – Because, the teams often fail to deliver, despite spending lot of cash, effort and energy. The harsh reality is that IT does not believe in itself that it can deliver something significant, valuable and comprehensive.
If IT doesn’t believe in itself, How can we expect Business to believe in us to treat us like partners and not as order takers?
Now, getting to metrics…I happened to read this revealing Datamonitor whitepaper on EDS site. Though the intent of the paper is to analyze the maintenance issues Vs adopting new innovations in existing applications, I found something very relevant and interesting to our topic of discussion here.
Some of the observations are:
- IT departments that are overwhelmed by application maintenance do not see the benefit of planning
- Datamonitor believes that skepticism of these overwhelmed decision makers can be largely attributed to a sense of ‘hopelessness’ or ‘burn out’ over formalized IT strategies. Such decision makers are operating in a state of survival rather than one of enthusiastic Optimism
- IT departments see the value of planning primarily in the ‘build’ phase and not in the ‘run’ phase. They don’t really care too much about the ‘lifecycle’ of those application in the ‘planning’ phase.
- And now, this compounds the maintenance complexity and inhibits the company from embarking into new initiatives – creating a vicious cycle.

What a resounding observation!

As someone said, adopting EA is like a lifestyle change – like following a fitness regime. And that cannot be realized without discipline and commitment to change!. The problem is not with EA. But, the way we look at it!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Software to Change Human Behaviors

The title looks persuasive? Yes. It is!
When I looked at the list of new management gurus by CNN, one of the Gurus who generated curiosity was BJ Fogg, Founder and Director, Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford University. As mentioned in CNN site, the Big idea of Fogg is that ‘Mobile technology will be the most powerful way to influence customers in the next 15 years’.
Well, I am not going to talk about Mobile technology in this blog post. And I am not going to talk about web 2.0 either. This topic has relevance but not much significance with Web 2.0.
But, my interest was, How Software applications in general, used in combination with specific media like Web/Mobile, can change the attitude and behaviors of humans. The pitfall in this approach is that it can impact the customers both in the right way and the wrong way!
And for all you know, sites like Amazon are already leveraging these concepts for quite a few years. The amazon’s reputed ‘Recommendation engine’ that suggests books based on the past like-minded buyer’s preferences/behaviors, is actually trying to influence you saying ‘Why don’t you buy that book as well?. It seems to be good (by displaying the rankings)’ Well, this may be called as Marketing, to be precise in the business context. But, It is actually ‘persuasion’ in a larger context. Same with, Amazon reader list application recently added in LinkedIn.
For the first time, I am hearing somebody deeply thinking about how technology can be linked to human attitude, their thoughts and behaviors. This perspective empowers the technology field like never before and I see a ‘Wow!’ factor!. As Software Developers/Designers, we might have done this persuation in the past unconsciously. Now, the same design theory is being approached in more formal and scientific manner.
Now, if Technology and Software applications has so much of power, the question is, what are we doing with that? Are we leveraging those technologies to write powerful applications that generate positive impact among people?.
Stanford is working on an interesting field named as ‘Captology’. Captology is defined as the design, research, and analysis of interactive computing products/technologies created for the purpose of changing people's attitudes or behaviors. In fact, Stanford has already published couple of books on the same topic and they are available on Sale in amazon.
I happen to read the excerpt in the book and the author talks about some of the interesting thoughts on how Captology can have a deeper impact to the level of user interface design of graphical applications.
It would be interesting to explore how these concepts and technologies can be applied towards ‘change management’ / ‘Organizational Design’ in the context of Enterprise 2.0.