After a week of Tech Con, I need to get back in the saddle and start blogging so I thought I'd start with one issue I’ve given some thought to recently. It is tackling reviews of projects that are currently underway and in trouble. Governance may help you determine where to focus but once you find those projects in need, the real work begins.
Sometimes good technologists are brought into existing projects that are in trouble -- it is just a fact of life. A good technologist has experience that should be applicable to almost any technical situation and should have the skills to advise others on solving problems.
Unfortunately, when you are overcome by events, it can be difficult to follow your own advice. Over the years, I’ve pulled together a few generic questions and activities that can be pulled out and used to validate that you have not overlooked the obvious.
Like all consultants, when you are trying to orient yourself to the situation, you ask a number of questions. Asking the team rather than just diving in and looking at the situation from their view always provides some good perpectives. A few of the questions I use with project leaders and architects are:
- Describe any resource constraints that remain for the project.
- Share any contractual issues or pending changes for this project.
- Describe any significant differences between the “as designed” model and the project as it is being implemented.
- What are the greatest business risks to this project be completed as planned? Do you feel the impact is adequately documented and approved?
- Describe any client relationship issues outstanding with this project.
- When was the last joint user/project team meeting discussing the status of this project? What was the user’s level of satisfaction expressed in the meeting?
- Who is the design authority or architect of the solution that is ensuring the project is technically being built as designed?
- What is the most significant technical risk remaining on the project?
- What is the project’s turnaround plan and what is your confidence level that the dates will be met?
- Is there anything you know that could help ensure success?
Some of these should be documented in the project work products, but many times it is the discrepancies that are the most interesting.
There are also common areas of investigation such as:
- Vulnerabilities to events outside the organization’s control such as denial-of-service attacks – a safety check to see how proactive the team is at identifying vulnerabilities. Business continuity comes into play here as well.
- Troubled, dependent projects, unsupported vendor software, and key people inclined to leave the organization
What areas have I left out?
Today, HP Launches Industry’s Most Complete Software-defined Network Fabric for Cloud. This network fabric is built on HP FlexNetwork architecture, enabling business agility for clients by delivering two times greater scalability and 75 percent less complexity over current network fabrics while reducing network provisioning time from months to minutes.
This is possible by:
- Improving IT productivity by unifying the virtual and physical fabric with new HP FlexFabric Virtual Switch 5900v software, which, in conjunction with the HP FlexFabric 5900 physical switch, delivers advanced networking functionalities such as policies and quality of service to a VMware environment. Integrated Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregator (VEPA) technology provides clear separation between server and network administrations to deliver operational simplicity.
- Reducing data center footprint with the HP Virtualized Services Router (VSR), which allows services to be delivered on a virtual machine (VM), eliminating unnecessary hardware, by leveraging the industry's first carrier-class software-based Network Function Virtualization (NFV).
As organizations move to software defined networks, some fundamental changes in the approach will be required and these products are a start down that path. Here is a video with a bit more high level discussion and some details:
One item he mentions is: “Data Science: An Introduction, a wikibook being developed as a tutorial on the subject, describes data science as ‘a child born of the mature parental disciplines of scientific methods, data and software engineering, statistics, and visualization, . . . a mash-up of several different disciplines.’”
This book is a basic introduction to data science that is being created dynamically. It describes the wider impact where data science techniques are being applied.
I am part of the curriculum development committee at SMU. A number of years ago, we discussed the need to increase the analytics courses in their business school. The SMU students are now reaping the benefits of that coursework development. Within HP we are rolling out a “data scientist” community internally, so that as people gain experience they can share what they learned with individuals in other domains… Almost every individual (or organization) can do something now to become more aware and involved, if they have not already.
It is not that these techniques are really that new, it is more that the computing capabilities have expanded so they are applicable in more places than ever. One work of caution though, my view is that it is not about greater insight but about the reduction in “time-to-action”.
I wrote a post about what a technologists can do to be relevant a while back and at the time I thought that a list like this would be relatively transient. It turns out that unlike buzzwords, the underlying technologies are usually here for the long haul -- just ask a COBOL programmer. The half-life of the experience is likely much longer than I thought.
I was in a discussion today where we talked about a list of experiences a technologist needs to have in order to talk with some degree of authority about the next big thing in an enterprise context. Naturally, a person can’t know everything to the same level of depth, but there is a basic, useful level for every strategic technologist to have.
Some of the obvious ones I’ve mentioned before were:
- Install a public cloud-based virtual machine and use it for something
- Write an application for a mobile device and get the app listed in the app store
- Take an on-line class (or maybe a couple every year) through a tool like coursera
A couple of those items would have been as applicable 2-3 years ago as they are today. Some have changed quite radically in their capability in that timeframe. I’ve done each of them at least twice for one reason or another and each time I learned something new.
If I were to add a new one that I haven’t touched in a very long time, it would likely be something to do analytics. There is a bit of a problem with this one though, since having enough data to do something useful and interesting may be tough.
I mentioned I was going to experiment with 3D printing. I now need to find something in the Internet-of-Things space as well.
I’ve probably looked at all these things enough to understand what their good for, but actually tackling a project brings that perspective to a whole other level. The hands-on experience doesn’t need to be production ready quality, since the goal is as much generating the exposure to the issues and ideas as it is solving a particular problem.
What other areas should a technologist tackle? And how? I haven’t even mentioned anything in the networking space. Anyone who has looked under the covers of Software Defined Networks probably knows the depth of impact changes in this space will have for the future.
The book Outliers talked about spending 10,000 hours on an area to become great. I wonder how tackling 400 technology domain experiences allows you to be successful - that’s 10 a year for 40 years.
The HP Moonshot System is leap forward in infrastructure design that addresses the speed, scale, and specialization needed for a bold, new style of IT.
HP ProLiant Moonshot servers are designed and tailored for specific workloads to deliver optimum performance. The servers share management, power, cooling, networking, and storage. This architecture is key to achieving 8x efficiency at scale, and enabling 3x faster innovation cycle and bringing thousands of cores on target for projects. It uses 86% less energy, 80% less space, 77% less cost and is significantly, less complex to install and maintain.
After talking with other technologists, I believe that it is a start down a path that will change both how software is written and how solutions are envisioned. When I look at the initial product data sheet, I see a 4.3 U chassis that can hold up to 47 server cartridges. As the processing capability improves so can the cartridges. A full rack of these will replace the computational capability of whole data centers just a few years ago. Granted it excels at certain type of computing needs.
As the HP Pathfinder Innovation Ecosystem improves and continues to bring together leadings partners, a broader set of problems can be addressed:
This means having access to the latest technology and solutions at a groundbreaking, time-to-market pace measured in months rather than years. I can’t wait to see what next big thing will spring forth from this.