Monthly Archives: November 2008

How service orientation has paved the way for cloud computing

Service orientation is the successful combination of technology, business processes, and methodologies. Service orientation is especially important to outsourcing firms because it allows them to adjust not only the methodologies that they adopt in producing technologies, as well as the way they run operations. Service orientation is a way for these firms to treat both their internal and external partners as customers. It is not merely about producing technology; it also takes into consideration the enterprise culture and the various business processes involved in creating, improving, and delivering services to clients.

In his book Service Oriented Enterprises, Setrag Khoshafian suggests that in building a service-oriented enterprise, it is important to look at a “bottom up, three-layered infrastructure,” namely:

• Service building blocks, where existing applications can be combined as services to form an SOA implementation
• Composition services, which is a combination of existing services to package a new service
• Business process, which involves either service building blocks or composition services

With these three layers in mind, one should easily understand the importance of streamlining processes, such that there is no need to create entirely new products and services. Instead, project teams have to recognize the needs of clients and put together service or product suites from what are already available. The practice ultimately enables delivery teams to avoid overshooting time and resources. Instead, the focus will be on introducing innovative services to both internal and external customer domains. Ultimately, integration is the key in building SOAs, automating processes, and managing technologies.

The best examples of the popularity and success in adopting SOE is found among web-based businesses, such the most popular e-commerce and social sites. AJAX and the “mashing up” of interfaces and APIs created a trend that three years ago came to be known as Web 2.0. From simple brochure-type web sites into programmable web, SOE gained traction not only among technology producers, but more importantly, among technology consumers. However, the real gem that lies in the midst of this revolution in Web technologies is in understanding the needs of businesses (and their processes) and putting together available packets of applications.

Nowadays, cloud computing and software-as-a-service approaches are off-shoots of SOE as initially made popular in the general public’s consciousness. Large IT firms have found inspiration in Web services to integrate business processes and applications.  At this point, the issues that have plagued the outside technology consuming public provide lessons in Web-inspired or Web-based enterprise computing. Always-on reliability, seamless transaction among applications, and data security are some of the measures enterprises need to establish in conducting internal and external businesses.

Overall, deployment of technology in the enterprise and to customers will be a matter of knowing what is in stock, how it applies to the business processes of both parties, and what measures should be put in place to combine and protect the integrity of these applications.  Linking business rules and process execution allow for more realistic performance measures and better project monitoring and management.

By ExecutiveBrief
www.executivebrief.com

Project Managers: People Don’t Like To Be Led

Project management advice: People don’t like to be led, especially professionals with clear responsibilities.  Nobody likes “a person who knows” to tell them what to do next.  All the time.  It’s demeaning and annoying.  So what’s a project manager to do?

Clearly, project managers and leads need to stay a few steps ahead of team members.  If they don’t, projects go astray.  Why?  Because it takes time to formulate a clear vision, one that won’t break down in the face of life’s challenges.  Only by staying ahead of the team can the leadership maintain that strategic edge.  But it’s when that strategic direction turns into tactical dictatorship that things go badly.

Some managers have such a hard time articulating their vision that they resort to dictating exact tactical steps to achieve it, rather than relying on competent people to pull it off.  See the issue?  It’s a difficult balance.

 

–ray

Beginning of the End: Defining Project Closure

When undertaking a software development project, an effectively designed closure plan serves as an outline of required tasks that must be carried out appropriately in order to result in successful project delivery, and adequate preparation is one significant element when it comes to ensuring a smooth transition to implementation. The closure plan must be considered at the outset of the project, as the client outlines their specific software requirements. With a detailed description of the desired end result communicated and understood, the expected capabilities and deliverables of the software are established. But as you enter the final stages of a software development project, what can be done in order to ensure that the program is completely suitable and fully primed for implementation?

Key Components
According to Joe Coley, independent software developer and member of Northeast Dataflex Consortium, “Projects that I’ve been involved with…have been very much subject to additional needs and desires of the user community.” In effect, this means that the end deliverable becomes the focus of the closure plan — that is, to ensure a high level of end user satisfaction with the software requested and therefore created. Coley has 20 years of experience in the information technology industry and offers much insight on the subject. When it comes to key components for successful closure plans, he highlights three main aspects to consider:

Assess the project requirements. In order to determine the best course of action throughout the cycle of a project, it is necessary to first consider the scope of the project. Establishing a clear outlook and complete understanding as to the required deliverables will greatly improve the ability to adequately determine exactly what tasks must be carried out in order to meet these deliverables in an efficient and timely manner.

Communication. While communication is always essential throughout the cycle of any project or initiative, it is imperative to establish a specific plan for obtaining end-user input, as needed and where feasible. Therefore, a key component to a successful close is establishing and maintaining open lines of communication with the appropriate groups. The end users comprise the group of those who will be utilizing the software in real-time business applications; they have the critical business knowledge as to ways in which the software can be created or functionality that can be incorporated so that the result will be a valuable tool with the capability to enhance their business functions.

Offer continuing support. When it comes to considering a focus on the continuing support needs of the end-user community, Coley cites a specific reason to do so, “There is always an expectation of continuing support in the form of application tweaks, bug fixes, and enhancements.” By extending continuing support to the end users, they have more confidence in the software program as well as in their chosen developer.

Any components, however, are unique to each project and must be considered on a individual basis; while there may be similarities among projects, what may have worked well during a project in the past might not be best suited for a current project. Establishing and maintaining a plan with the end user in mind makes for a smoother transition and successful close of a software development project.

 

Full text of the interview with Joe Coley is available here: http://www.executivebrief.com/article/the-beginning-of-the-end-defining-project-closure/.

Climbing Mountains

The company I work for is located in Colorado.  And for recreation, we climb mountains.  While climbing one, it occurred to me that you can’t always see what’s over the next one.  There are plenty of obstacles to block your view.  Maybe the next one will be easy.  Or maybe it will kick your butt.

Running a business is like that.  At startup, you’re anxious and ready to go!  You take each hill with blind ambition.  Nothing seems impossible.  You see a few mountains on the horizon, but feel certain they’ll fall by the time you reach them.  But the things you can’t see nag you.

Business is like a mountain

 

A few years into the endeavor, and you are sure it’s licked.  But you really don’t see anything beyond the nearest hill.  Some of your biggest obstacles are yet to come.  And you don’t even know it.  That’s when you need the real stamina.  And the faith to push up that next hill, however high it may be.

What are some obstacles your fledgling business might encounter?  How about this nasty list:

  1. Well-entrenched competitors
  2. Market changes
  3. Economic downturns (remember the dot-com bust and financial meltdown?)
  4. Personnel loss

They say 80% of all businesses fail within 5 years, and 80% of those remaining fail within the next 5.  Who’s they?  I don’t now, but my little startup is nearing year 9.  Does that make it better than 96% of the rest.  Well maybe, but I still feel like we’re just wandering in the mountains like everybody else.  🙂

–newshirt

Why is SaaS only popular in small business?

While SaaS has been gaining popularity recently, it is remarkably noticeable that its popularity is still limited mostly to small and medium-size businesses. Larger enterprises are still reluctant to embrace hosted application for their IT needs.

According to a recent Forrester Research paper, “The Truth about Software as a Service,” which is a result of a late 2007 survey of IT decision-makers from North America and Europe, only 16 percent of respondents are using SaaS applications. On the other hand, 80 percent are still reluctant to adopt SaaS. Of the 80 percent, only 47 percent expressed interest, while 37 percent were “not interested at all.”

If SaaS has been gaining popularity recently, the gap between big-business IT decision-makers who were interested in it and those who were either partially interested or totally uninterested is too wide.  As if to counter the SaaS advantages that were cited in the previous blog, researchers and tech workers in big enterprises cite various reasons why it is not being widely adopted outside the realm of SMBs. 

One of the top reasons why big businesses are reluctant to adopt SaaS is business continuity. Put simply, the market’s atmosphere is fraught with uncertainty that SaaS vendors could just shut their doors easily. When it happens, where do the hosted data go? What alternatives are immediately available to end-users?

Next to business continuity, data security, vendor lock-in, and accountability are some of the issues that clients — both large and small or medium-size businesses — raise most of the time. Because many large enterprises are sensitive about their company data, they are reluctant to hand company information to third parties. In terms of accountability, there have been complaints about vendors’ dishonesty about real downtime rates and the speed with which they address it. If a service is suddenly cut off, IT departments ask how long it takes for the service to be available again and what kind of assurances are provided to address such issues.

SaaS are typically fit-for-all, so customization is another nagging issue. Maybe small businesses’ IT needs are not complex, that is why they are more willing to sign up with SaaS vendors. On the other hand, enterprises that provide more than one type of service, sell more than one product, are present in different locations, and employ thousands of employees have IT needs that are as complex as their multinational presence and multiple businesses. That most vendors do not offer customizable services to match big businesses’ needs is one of the signs that it is still in its infancy.

Related to downtimes is the issue of scalability. Can a hosted service support thousands of users who access the application simultaneously? If it cannot, can a business enlist the help of another vendor? This is where the issue of interoperability and portability also come in. In most cases, transferring data from one SaaS provider to another takes time and considerable effort.

That SaaS became popular among SMBs means it is promising. However, this promise does not translate well in big business so far.

By ExecutiveBrief
www.executivebrief.com