The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Displaying articles for: October 2008

Open Source versus Open Standards

I happened to be browsing an email yesterday on the topic of Open Source, in which the author was clearly passionate about the benefits and virtues of Open Source. As I read it, I sensed a similarity with the quest we saw a few years ago with regard to ‘all out' software re-use. It was the concept of loosely coupled services working within an architecture framework (SOA) that became the enlightenment that was needed to put that quest into perspective. So, are standards to be the enlightenment that will bring a similar perspective to the Open Source debate?

Now, no one is going to argue, least of all me, the contribution of Open Source in the areas of functionality, integrity, collaboration and innovation; but, we should be careful when we portray it as being the basis of building successful Information Systems. What we should be considering, is the ability of all software, to incorporate standards. Ultimately, this will be the true benchmark of any software's value to the IT industry - not whether it is Open. This view is shared by an industry calling for standards, simply because they will better support business process, and greatly abstract the method of implementation. So, all things being equal, the source of software will be less relevant when the architect is able to easily integrate the underlying technologies. Having just been through such an exercise, I know this to be true.

Before beginning to write this blog, I wasn't sure that others shared my view, but a quick Google search showed that Jonathan Schwartz from SUN first raised this point in his Open Source versus Standards blog in 2003, and many have since then. So, what I am saying is certainly not new, but a recent successful integration project that was based on standards went a long way to crystalising my thoughts.

Conflict, Gen Y and the Next Generation Enterprise

I was reading a blog entry on the "Motivate Inspire and Innovate" blog about How to Manage Generation Y (it was part of a series). It got me thinking more about a blog entry I'd done, titled: And not Or. The enterprise irregulars have also been talking (mostly internally) about the Gen Y question.

 

They all talked about the corporate environment and how it forced them out.

 

As I read the posts about Gen Y and how they were all destined to start their own small companies, I was forced to think about why I did not. I've always been a bit "out there" for most of the teams I've worked with, but I always focused on making them successful. In the process, I built a network of people who felt somewhat grateful.

 

I wrote a paper for Cutter a while back on what I thought it would take to have the next generation enterprise - I snuck it into a set of articles on Enterprise 2.0 (a moniker I always thought sold the enterprise short). I am an avid believer in strong internal business networks, as well as networks of suppliers and customers as a component of increasing importance for the next generation enterprise. Those who can establish a coalition and rely upon a network of networks will have an advantage.

 

The same can be said of interpersonal networks, especially during times of uncertainty. After a while, in my career, I ended up with a role where I could "wander around and make myself useful". I take on assignments, but always move on before I got too bored - because someone else needs the help.

 

When I became a Fellow for EDS, I told people "I knew I'd never get to finish anything, but I didn't know that once I became a Fellow I'd not even get to understand them, before I had to move on." It looks like I am going to continue to do this kind of thing for HP, so I am fortunate because that is the kind of person I am.

 

It does make me wonder what the larger companies will do if the Gen Y folks are as intolerant as everyone thinks. I agree it is an "and", not an "or" world out there, but the larger companies will be run by Gen Y someday... will they enable an experience more like those who have to leave the company or like mine?

IT's Time for Transparency

If you read the title as "its time for transparency", you could easily mistake me for any U.S. politician or political pundit. But this blog is really about Information Technology's ‘time for transparency'; transparency in the way that IT provides services to users.

I suspect that there will be a loud call for transparency at all levels of business in the near future, given the magnitude and impact of the current financial meltdown on Wall Street and in the investment markets. IT will certainly play a key role in making the information available for business leaders and executives to monitor, control and oversee business operations on many levels. CIOs should prepare themselves and their organizations for new reporting and analytics requirements, regardless of whether they are required by new regulations or simply as a matter of good business practice.

But what about your IT operations and service delivery to your users, internal customers and/or external clients? How transparent are you with them? And to what extent do you routinely provide information regarding the quality of your services and explaining the impact on the business?

Perhaps your organization has adopted and implemented best practices and standards such as ITIL, CMMI, ISO 20000, Lean Six Sigma, and others. A well-performing IT services organization proactively informs business/application owners of major outages and impacts, before they call your service deck to inform you. A world class IT organization uses analytics to predict service outages before they happen, and prevents them from happening.

What approach do you take with root-cause analysis of problems that seem to be minor impacts? Usually the answer is "If it doesn't impact my Service Level Agreement (SLA), then let's not make an issue of this". This is the opportunity for IT to provide open and transparent access to service delivery metrics to its customers.

Why doesn't IT have "Universal Instrumentation" so that users at all levels would have open access to view the speedometer, and fuel-gauge of your business? Without transparent access how do you know if you are succeeding or failing? Is the truth hidden behind layers and layers of spreadsheets and formulas that people don't trust and "no one understands"? You need to be able drill down into the data at every level, so users and IT can build trust and confidence in the data.

Perhaps it's time for a balanced approach of notification and open access - let users have access to all levels of data and metrics in a manner they can comprehend. Data transparency means real-time visualization of quality and operational metrics from a detailed device level through application performance and its impact on business processes. Would you fly a commercial aircraft through the clouds with no instrument panel?

Going forward, the need for end-to-end visibility and real-time visualization of IT business impacts will become even more critical, as firms begin to employ IT services that are outside of the traditional data center; services like cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The adoption of these newly emerging services will create a more complex environment to manage, and place a greater emphasis on advanced IT service management capabilities.

Now is the time for IT to adopt a policy of transparency with users, and to build the operational management systems required for new IT delivery ecosystems that span private datacenters and network centric services providers. CIOs can avoid, or prevent, a future "IT meltdown" by taking proactive steps today.

 

Microsoft PDC

This week I'll be spending Monday through Wednesday at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. I think there will be a lot to talk about from this one, based on the amount of press that appears to be attending. You'll probably have heard all about it by the time you read this though.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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