Get Yourself An IT Management Agent

Get Yourself An IT Management Agent

Management agents are not just for Hollywood stars anymore…

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (10 April 2013) says really good freelance application developers are now being represented by IT Management Agents.

One such agent company is called 10X and they represent more than 30 IT stars.

The management agent helps the developers find jobs, negotiate salary and terms, and handle the paperwork letting the IT guys do what they do best–which is code!

10X takes a 15% cut of their client’s earnings, but some developers claim 2-3 times the salary they were earning before by using an agent–and rates are climbing to $300 an hour.

Some companies are using these premium talent coders until they can bring on a full hire or when they need some big guns for some special IT project.

Perhaps with agent in tow (and even without), IT folks will start to shed their outdated nerdy image and instead take on some real Hollywood glamour–for the talent they really do bring to the organizational table. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>The User-centric Web

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David Siegel has written a book called “Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web To Transform Your Business” (Dec. 2009).

The main idea is that businesses (suppliers) need to adapt to a new world, where rather than them “push” whatever data they want to us when they want, we (consumers) will be able to get to the information we want and “pull” it whenever we need it (i.e. on demand).

Siegel identifies three types of data online of which less than 1% is currently visible web pages:

  • Public Web—what “we normally see when searching and browsing for information online: at least 21 billion pages indexed by search engines.
  • Deep Web—includes the “large data repositories that requires their internal searches,” such as Facebook, Craigslist, etc.—“about 6 trillion documents generally not seen by search engines.”
  • Private Web—data that “we can only get access to if we qualify: corporate intranets, private networks, subscription based services, and so on—about 3 trillion pages also not seen by search engines.”

In the future, Siegel sees an end of push (i.e. viewing just the Public Web) and instead a new world of pull (i.e. access to the Deep Web).

Moreover, Siegel builds on the “Semantic Web” definition of Sir Tim Berners-Lee who coined the term in the 1990s, as a virtual world where:

  • Data is unambiguous (i.e. means exactly the same things to anyone or any system).
  • Data is interconnected (i.e. it lives online in a web of databases, rather than in incompatible silos buried and inaccessible).
  • Data has an authoritative source (i.e. each piece of information has a unique name, single source, and specified terms of distribution).

While, I enjoyed browsing this book, I wasn’t completely satisfied:

  1. It’s not a tug of war between push and pullthey are not mutually exclusive. Providers push information out (i.e. make information available), and at the same time, consumers pull information in (access it on-demand).
  2. It’s not just about data anymore—it’s also about the applications (“apps”). Like data, apps are pushed out by suppliers and are pulled down by consumers. The apps make the data friendly and usable to the consumer. Rather than providing raw data or information overload, apps can help ready the data for end-user consumption.

All semantics aside, getting to information on the web is important—through a combination of push and pull—but ultimately, making the information more helpful to people through countless of innovative applications is the next phase of the how the web is evolving.

I would call this next phase, the “user-centric web.” It relies on a sound semantic web—where data is unambiguous, interconnected, and authoritative—but also takes it to the next level, serving up sound semantic information to the end-user through a myriad of applications that make the information available in ever changing and intelligent ways. This is more user-centric, and ultimately closer to where we want to be.

>Lifesaving Technology is User-centric

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There is no better technology than one that saves lives. That is its very essence.

Lifesaving technologies take many forms, from medical imaging to hurricane prediction, from biotechnology to food safety technology, from lifecycle energy management to emergency alerting and countless others.

I read with great interest in the Wall Street Journal (31 Dec. 2009) about another new life saving technology in the area of transportation safety. It is a simple iPhone app created for $8,000 called R-U-Buzzed? This free application download helps people determine whether it is unsafe for them to drive because they are drunk.

Individuals simply enter information such as “weight, gender, hours drinking, and a tally of beer, wine, and liquor consumed.” The application then spews our their blood-alcohol content and a color-coded safety message, as follows:

· Gray—“No hangover expected.”

· Yellow—“You’re buzzed.”

· Red—“Don’t even think about it…designate a sober driver.”

In some cities (just in the state of Colorado for now), there is even a GPS feature that helps users call a local cab to get them home safely.

While the use of the application isn’t foolproof, and some caution that users shouldn’t depend on it alone for judging their intoxication level, using social computing to appeal to young people who are drinking is a significant potential lifesaver because so many young adults are involved in fatal crashes. In fact, federal statistics show that more than two out of three (65%) of drunk drivers who died in a fatal crash last year were between the ages of 21-34. Another 17% were under 21.

One user of the application raved that it “felt very solid and mathematical and trustworthy, and nonjudgmental.” Hence, the application may be more acceptable to users than hearing from their friends that perhaps they shouldn’t drive.

Applications such as this one are truly user-centric, and because of this I believe they hold even more potential for saving people’s lives than technologies that are difficult to understand and use. As technology leaders and architects, we need to ensure that everything we create is friendly to the user, remembering that we are solving problems for people—not machines—and that often, lives are very much at stake.

As we celebrate the arrival of 2010 with family and friends tonight, let’s make a special toast for the people whose technology needs we’ve supported in 2009, and look forward to many more years of solving business problems and enhancing and saving even more lives.

Oracle – An Architecture Treasure-trove

Anyone following the strategic acquisitions by Oracle the last few years can see a very clear trend: Oracle is amassing a treasure-trove of business applications that are powerful, interoperable, and valuable to mission delivery.

Most recently, Oracle snapped up Sun for $7.38 billion, right from under the clutches of IBM!

Oracle with $22.4 billion in revenue in 2008 and 55% of license revenue generated overseas “is the world’s largest business software company, with more than 320,000 customers—including 100 of the Fortune 100—representing a variety of sizes and industries in more than 145 countries around the globe.”(www.oracle.com)

Oracle’s roots are as a premiere database company. However, since 2004, they made more than 50 acquisitions in calculated business areas.

The Wall Street Journal, 21 April 2009, identifies some of these notable buys:

2004—PeopleSoft for human resources and financial management.

2005—Siebel for customer relationship management.

2007—Hyperion Solutions for business intelligence.

2008—BEA Systems for infrastructure management.

2009—Sun Microsystems for software, servers, and storage devices.

Oracle has been able to acquire companies with operating-profit margins of 10% and within six months expand those margins to 40%.”

With the recent purchase of Sun, Oracle is gaining control of critical open-source software such as Java programming technology, Solaris operating system, and MySQL database.

According to Forrester Research, “Forty-six percent of businesses plan to deploy open-source software in 2009.” Oracle can now provide an important service in product support and updates for this. (Wall Street Journal, 22 April 2009)

In addition, Oracle also provides various middleware to integrate business applications and automate processes.

From databases to end-user applications, from service-oriented architecture to infrastructure management, from content management to business intelligence, Oracle has put together a broad impressive lineup. Of course, this is NOT an endorsement for Oracle (as other companies may have as good or even better solutions), but rather an acknowledgement of Mr. Ellison’s keen architecture strategy that is building his company competitively and his product offering compellingly. Ellison is transforming the company from a successful single brand that was at risk of becoming commoditized to a multi-faceted brand with synergies among its various lines of business and products.

Some lessons for enterprise architects and CIOs: Build your product lineup, create synergies, uniformly brand it, and be number one or number two in every product category that you’re in (as Jack Welch famously advised) and grow, grow, grow!

>Enterprise Architecture Terms and Taxonomy

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A key foundation to developing enterprise architecture is getting the EA terms and taxonomy right for the organization, so that there is a common language and understanding by business and technical subject matter experts of what all things EA means.

Here are some fundamental terms and a high-level taxonomy for them (prior to having these, I found considerable confusion in the enterprise as to what many of these terms meant and they were used incorrectly and interchangeably by various users):

1) C4&IT—Any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, or techniques used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, transmission, or reception of digital, voice, or video data or information to the appropriate levels of command. This includes command and control, networks, common operational picture systems, information assurance services, communication products and standards, computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware, procedures, services (including support services) and related resources. (short definition─Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information Technology)

2) FISMA Systems—An application or general support system that meets the requirements of the Federal Information Systems Management Act (FISMA) of 2002, including completion of certification and accreditation, risk assessments, policies, and procedures, security plans, security awareness training, annual security testing, remediation procedures, incident response procedures, and contingency plans. (short definition—systems as defined by FISMA).

a. Application Systems—A discrete set of information resources [i.e. applications] organized for the collection, processing, maintenance, use, sharing, dissemination, or disposition of information. (short definition—one or more applications).

i. Applications—the use of information resources (information and information technology) [i.e. hardware, software, and database] to satisfy a specific set of user requirements. (short definition—combination of hardware, software, and database).

b. General Support Systems—An interconnected set of information resources under the same direct management control that share common functionality. It normally includes hardware, software, information, data, applications, communications, and people [i.e. infrastructure]. (short definition—IT infrastructure).

3) Products and Standards

a. Products—Includes hardware, the physical parts of a computer system, and software, the programs or other “instructions” that a computers needs to perform specific tasks.

b. Standards— Guidelines that reflect agreement on products, practices, or operations by nationally or internationally recognized industrial, professional, trade associations, or government bodies.

The way to read the taxonomy is that C4&IT at the top is the CIO world of work and it is composed of Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and IT. C4&IT decomposes to FISMA Systems (since all systems must be FISMA compliant). FISMA Systems decompose to Application Systems (and their applications) and General Support Systems (infrastructure). And these systems (applications systems and general support systems) decompose into hardware and software products and standards.

The short working definitions are fairly straight forward and the longer definitions are based on public information definitions from National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and The Department of Defense (DOD).

These terms and taxonomy should help enterprise architects and their users differentiate C4&IT, Systems, Application Systems, General Support Systems, Products, and Standards, and maybe even widgets by inference. 🙂

>An Online Only World and Enterprise Architecture

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How long will it be before the internet becomes our primary means of storing personal data and running software applications (web-based)?

MIT Technology Review, 3 December 2007, reports that one core vision for the evolution of technology (that of Google) is that we are moving from a computer-based technical environment to an online-only world, where “digital life, for the most part, exists on the Internet”—this is called cloud computing.

Already, users can perform many applications and storage functions online. For example:

  • “Google Calendar organizes events,
  • Picasa stores pictures,
  • YouTube holds videos,
  • Gmail stores email, and
  • Google Docs houses documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.”

Moreover, MIT Technology Review reports that it is rumored that Google is working on an umbrella application that will pull these disparate offerings together for a holistic cloud computing solution.

What’s the advantage of cloud computing?

A computer hard drive is no longer important. Accessibility to one’s information is limited only by one’s access to the internet, which is becoming virtually ubiquitous, and information can be shared with others easily. “The digital stuff that’s valuable… [is] equally accessible from his home computer, a public internet café, or a web-enabled phone.”

What are some of the issues with cloud computing?


  • Privacy—“user privacy …becomes especially important if Google serves ads that correspond to all personal information, as it does in Gmail.”
  • Encryption—“Google’s encryption mechanisms aren’t flawless. There have been tales of people logging into Gmail and pulling up someone else’s account.”
  • Copyright—“one of the advantages of storing data in the cloud is that it can easily be shared with other people, but sharing files such as copyrighted music and movies is generally illegal.”
  • Connectivity—“a repository to online data isn’t useful if there’s no Internet connection to be had, or if the signal is spotty.”

Still Google’s vision is for “moving applications and data to the internet, Google is helping make the computer disappear.” Human-computer interaction has evolved from using command lines to graphical user interface to a web browser environment. “It’s about letting the computer get out of our way so we can work with other people and share our information.”

Of course, Google’s vision of an online-only world isn’t without challenge: Microsoft counters that “it’s always going to be a combination of [online and offline], and the solution that wins is going to be the one that does the best job with both.” So Microsoft is building capability for users “to keep some files on hard drives, and maintain that privacy, while still letting them access those files remotely.”

I will not predict a winner-take-all in this architecture battle of online and offline data and applications. However, I will say that we can definitely anticipate that information sharing, accessibility, privacy, and security will be centerpieces of what consumers care about and demand in a digital world. Online or offline these expectations will drive future technology evolution and implementation.