Back in Seattle

Last week, I was able to go back on the Microsoft campus in Redmond for a meeting. That’s the first time I’ve been back there since I spent 3 months there as part of the EDS Top Gun program back in 2005.

Flying into Seattle, we got a good view of the Space Needle and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.seattle

There were a number of déjà vu moments walking around the Microsoft campus.

IMG_20170324_124756711~2

I always find these opportunities to see what companies are most proud of very telling. It was clear that cloud, analytics and human interface transformations were in the forefront of their thinking — much like the rest of us.

Cloud Architect’s Song

binary singingI was looking for an old post and noticed that HP had taken down all the old TNBT posts.

One that always made me chuckle I’d put together a number of years back was the Cloud Architect’s song. I couldn’t find the exact version I had posted but I did my best to recreate it here.

The Cloud Architect’s Song (sung to the tune of I Will Survive)

At first I was afraid, I was petrified,
Kept thinking I could not instantiate
what you had specified.

But then I’d spent too many nights
re-hosting what you’d just built wrong,
and I grew strong,
I learned how to get along.

And now you’re back, wanting more cloud space,
I just walked in to find you here
With that need for more disk space,

I should have changed that stupid plan,
I should have made you pay that fee,
If I had known for just one second
you’d be back to bother me,

go now go, we don’t use core,
move objects around now,
‘cause you don’t wanna pay for it anymore,
Weren’t you the one who tried to break me with your burst,

you think I’d crumble,
you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh no not I, I will provide….

Long as I know how to shove
I think I’ll use EC2
I’ve got all my script to fire
And all my SaaS to give and I’ll survive
I will survive

Not your father’s SAP

This week’s SapphireNow was eye opening for me. My interactions with SAP were primarily from implementing BW in its early days (1999 V1.2B) and being the CT for the EDS side of relationships with large outsourcing arrangements that used SAP R3.

It was clear just walking around the SAP area that things have changed significantly. There were no SAP GUI screens visible, everything had a clean modern look. The UI customization demos were both easier to perform and actually possible for the end user with little customization. Granted they were not doing anything too complex.

Integration options seemed to be more intuitive and actually possible for a range of other systems, supporting bi-directional information flow.

Even the executive dashboard (sorry for the reflection in the picture but I took it myself) seemed to be something an executive could actually use with relatively minor training. I’ve always been fascinated by executive dashboards! The person I talked with said it is even relatively easy to extend the display using HTML 5 techniques.

SAP executive dashboard

I am sure there is still quite a bit of work ahead for SAP to get all the functionality (especially industry) over and running at maximum efficiency to S4 HANA, but what was shown was impressive. Likely the first thing any organization contemplating the move needs to do is triage their customizations and extensions. The underlying data structures for S4 HANA are much less redundant, since the in-memory model removes the need for the redundancy to hit performance. The functionality also seems more versatile, so hopefully many of the customizations that organizations ‘just had to have’ can be eliminated.

I’ve always said the first rule of buying 3rd party packages is: “don’t do anything that prevents you from taking the next release”. With the new approach by SAP those running S4 HANA on the cloud will be getting the next release on a continuous basis. Those with an on premise approach will be getting it every nine months (or so).  So the option of putting of releases is becoming less viable.

I’ll get a post on Diginomica next week with more of an enterprise architect’s perspective.

And not Or

and not or (logic)I was in an exchange the other day with some folks talking about their perspective that all companies need to be using cloud computing. I agree, but my view is slightly different. My perspective is that depending on the company’s size, needs and applications they will likely continue to have in house systems. It’s not a choice between things, but a choice among things and an acceptance of the way things are and one answer doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. You can’t look at it as: clouds the answer, now what’s the question?

Mobile computing is similar. It is the future interface of the enterprise, not really something special anymore. Embracing mobile devices and cloud computing will have a game changing effect, but it is not about the infrastructure but what we do with them and people want to do those things everywhere.

There are a number of other trends taking place like the IoT that are also shifting how organizations think about computing. It is interesting how this term is changing and how various organizations are trying to name it. It used to be ubiquitous computing, some call it ambient computing, but most still use the Internet of Things.

In any case the aggregation of sensors, devices, intelligence, and agents will shift how organizations generate value and shift IT to focus on systems of action.

Internet of Things Units Installed Base by Category (in Millions)

 Category 2013 2014 2015 2020
Automotive 96.0 189.6 372.3 3,511.1
Consumer 1,842.1 2,244.5 2.874.9 13,172.5
Generic Business 395.2 479.4 623.9 5,158.6
Vertical Business 698.7 836.5 1,009.4 3,164.4
Grand Total 3,032.0 3,750.0 4,880.6 25,006.6

Source: Gartner (November 2014)

Many still look at these opportunities primarily from an infrastructure perspective, but I definitely do not. It is about the business and the hardware side is a small (but necessary) part. Organizations that will compete effectively in the coming years are going to shift their thinking to “and” and not “or” foundation. It is not all about IT, but IT has a role in enabling this flexibility.

By the way the output of the And not Or logic circuit illustration is always a one –> true.

Waste can be Good – it’s all relative

AbundanceAs businesses makes the transition to where the edge of the enterprise is wired into the operational processes of the business, we will start to consume our resources quite differently than we have in the past. We can use the abundance of computing capabilities to shed light on all the dark data currently available to develop a deeper contextual understanding of situations we encounter. Money may not be growing on trees, but there is much more we can be doing.

An article in Wired magazine back in 2009 discussed how: Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It’s Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity. In this world of exponential increases in capability, 2009 is ancient history, even so, the article is useful. It works through examples like how Alan Kay used the precious resources of the computer to display pictures on the screen instead of just textual data. George Gilder called this “wasting transistors” — making people more productive by using the transistors (computing capability) available.

The funny thing about waste is that it’s all relative to your sense of scarcity.

As we look to use higher levels of automation to handle more “normal” activities and focus people’s attention to turning anomalies into opportunities, we’ll use pattern recognition and other techniques that may appear to waste cycles. I hear people today complain about the expense of cloud computing and that it is out of control. That is more about what they use these resources for, how they measure impact and exercise control than anything to do with cost, at least from my perspective. As more capabilities become available and algorithms improve, we’ll need to do even more with more – not less.

The Wired article shows how behavior needs to change as we move from a perspective of scarcity to abundance:

From a perspective of Scarcity or Abundance

Scarcity Abundance
Rules Everything is forbidden unless it is permitted Everything is permitted unless it is forbidden
Social model Paternalism (We know what’s best) Egalitarianism (You know what’s best)
Profit plan Business model We’ll figure it out
Decision process Top-down Bottom-up
Organizational structure Command and control Out of control

This kind of shift in perspective is disruptive, useful and the right thing to do to take maximum advantage of a truly scarce resource – the human attention span.

The ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ of Legacy Systems

Having recently gone through a personal disruption related to employment, I dusted off my copy of Who Moved My Cheese? After re-reading the book, I thought about how this applies to the life of the CIO and application portfolio management. We are all too often with the world we understand and the 80% (or more) of the budget it consumes – failing to Sniff out opportunities.

Recently there was a post: CIOs make the tough call on legacy systems by Mary K. Pratt that delved into the issue of managing the layer upon layer of project success that builds up to calcify an organization’s ability to respond, that I found a worthwhile read.

Even in this day of IaaS and SaaS, the basics of optimizing the application portfolio of an organization remains relatively unchanged. It gets down to where the organization is headed and an assessment of costs vs. value generation.

Organizations need to ask some fundamental questions like:

  1. What needs to be done and why?
  2. How is it going to be accomplished?
  3. What is the expected outcome?
  4. When will it be needed or done?
  5. How will we measure outcomes, so we can validate that the task is complete and effective?
  6. What resources will be required? ($$, people…)

Essentially an assessment of leading and lagging indicators and how the portfolio can support them.

A simple view of the assessment is summed up in this quadrant chart:

Apps Portfolio Assessment

I am sure there are other complex and wonderful interpretations of this, but to me this view is the simplest. Keep what adds value and has a low cost to operate. Refactor those programs (where possible) that have a high cost to maintain and also add high value. Validate the need for anything that delivers low value – you may be surprised how many of these you can turn off. Finally, replace those that have business support and high cost.

In this age of automation, the concepts of cost need to be holistic and not just the IT maintenance costs… For a parity of Who Moved My Cheese? touching on automation look to this Abstruse Goose illustration.

It is not hard to start but it is constantly changing so it may never be done.