Future Of Space Travel

For those of you who are upset to the see the final Space Shuttle mission this week, we definitely have something to look forward to with the new Orion, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for manned space flight.

The main saucer-shaped “Crew Module” can separate from the “Service Module” that contains the propulsion, water and oxygen for sustaining life, and cargo transport (this is similar to the flying “saucer” that could separate from the main body of the Star Trek Enterprise in later episodes).  

Orion will supposedly be the most advanced space vehicle out there to support missions from 4 to 900 days (virtually a full blown Star Trek voyage).

It is being built by Lockheed Martin (an early supporter of the United Federation of Planets?) and will have advanced life support, propulsion, avionics, and thermal protection for reentry (and hopefully in development are the phasers, photon torpedos, phase modulating shields, warp core, and transporter).
The Orion will be able to transport 4 crew and may be augmented by Robonauts (sort of like Data the android, but with no personality yet). 
Robonauts are engineered by a collaboration of NASA and General Motors, and according to GM, they will help automate “dull, repetitive, and ergonomically challenging tasks” and make us more efficient in both the aerospace and automative industries.  Note: A robonaut is currently up on the International Space Station for testing (a precursor to Deep Space Nine).
Progress is being made, cool things are coming, and we will hopefully all be fortunate to see it unfold.
Gene Roddenberry was right about our future all along. 🙂
(Source Photos: Orion from Wikipedia and Star Trek Enterprise from here)

>GM and Enterprise Architecture

>Where has enterprise architecture gone wrong at General Motors?

THEN: In 1954, GM’s U.S. auto market share reached 54%; in 1979, their number of worldwide employees hit 853,000, and in 1984 earning peak at $5.4 billion.

NOW: In 2007, U.S. market share stands at 23.7% and GM loses $38.7 billion; by 2008 employment is down to 266,000.

(Associated Press, “A Brief History of General Motors Corp., September 14, 2008)

Fortune Magazine, 8 December 2008, reports that “It was a great American Company when I started covering it three decades ago. But by clinging to the attributes that made it an icon, General Motors drove itself to ruin.”

GM clung to its past and “drove itself to ruin”—they weren’t nimble (maybe due to their size, but mostly due to their culture). In the end, GM was not able to architect a way ahead—they were unable to change from what they were (their baseline) to what they needed to be (their target).

“But in working for the largest company in the industry for so long, they became comfortable, insular, self-referential, and too wedded to the status quo—traits that persist even now, when GM is on the precipice.”

The result of their stasis—their inability to plan for change and implement change—“GM has been losing market share in the U.S. since the 1960’s destroying capital for years, and returning no share price appreciation to investors.”

GM’s share price is now the lowest in 58 years.

When the CEO of GM, Rick Wagoner, is asked why GM isn’t more like Toyota (the most successful auto company is the world with a market cap of $103.6 billion to GM’s $1.8 billion), his reply?

“We’re playing our own game—taking advantage of our own unique heritage and strengths.”

Yes, GM is playing their own game and living in their own unique heritage. “Heritage” instead of vision. “Playing their own game” instead of effectively competing in the global market—all the opposite of enterprise architecture!!

GM has been asphyxiated by their stubbornness, arrogance, resistance to change and finally their high costs.

“ GM’s high fixed costs…no cap on cost-of-living adjustments to wages, full retirement after 30 years regardless of age, and increases in already lavish health benefits. Detroiters referred to the company as ‘Generous Motors.’ The cost of these benefits would bedevil GM for the next 35 years.”

GM’s cost structure has been over-the-top and even though they have been in “perpetual turnaround,” they have unable to change their profligate business model.

Too many models, too many look-alike cars, and too high a cost structure—GM “has lost more than $72 billion in the past four years” and the result is? Are heads rolling?

The article says no—“you can count on one hand the number of executives who have been reassigned or lost their jobs”

At GM, conformity was everything, and rebellion was frowned on.” Obviously, this is not a successful enterprise architecture strategy.

Frankly, I cannot understand GM’s intransience to create a true vision and lead. Or if they couldn’t innovate, why not at least imitate their Japanese market leader brethren?

It’s reminds me of the story of the Exodus from Egypt in the bible. Moses goes to Pharaoh time and again and implores him to “let my people go” and even after G-d smites the Egyptians with plague after plague, he is still unmovable.

Well we know how that story ended up for the Egyptians and it doesn’t bode well for GM.

The bottom line, if the enterprise isn’t open to genuine growth and change, nothing can save them from themselves.

>Microsoft, Jerry Seinfeld, and Enterprise Architecture


ComputerWorld, 21 August 2008 reports on a news article in the Wall Street Journal that “Microsoft hires Seinfeld to bite Apple.”

“Continually painted by Apple and other rivals as uncool and unsafe, Microsoft plans to spend $300 million on a new series of advertisements designed around its ‘Windows Not Walls’ slogan that will feature Seinfeld and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.”

“Microsoft is not only trying to turn around a stodgy corporate image, but also wants to reverse recent product misfires, including the Windows Vista Operating System and the Zune digital music player.”

“Apple has rubbed in Microsoft’s lack of success and highlighted its own winning streak in a series of ‘Mac vs. PC’ ads.”

Is the Seinfeld ad a good branding strategy?

Well as my wife said, “this is as close as Microsoft can get to cool.”

Seinfeld, while rated by TV Guide in 2002 as one of the greatest TV programs of all times, is at this point somewhat dated—having aired nine seasons between 1989 and 1998—so it was over ten years ago! (Wikipedia)

In perspective, Seinfeld was already off the air before Vista, Zune, or the iPhone was ever created.

Microsoft’s attempt at reversing their “stodgy corporate image” is a feeble attempt that in fact solidifies that very image. It is no wonder that Microsoft is enamored with the 1990’s when they were the king of the hill in corporate America and in the technology arena with the launch of Microsoft Office in 1989 (the same year Seinfeld episode 1 aired) and before Google was founded in 1998 (the last season Seinfeld aired).

The Wall Street Journal, 21 August 2008, reported that “Microsoft is a little like the General Motors of technology. The software giant is, of course, much more successful, financially and in market share, than the troubled auto maker. But as at GM, Microsoft’s very size—over 90,000 employees—and it bureaucratic structure often make the company seem more stolid and less innovative than smaller, nimbler rivals like Google and Apple.”

From an enterprise architecture perspective where is Microsoft going wrong?

Microsoft is still living in the past—hence, the choice of the historic Jerry Seinfeld as their new image maker. Rather than acknowledging their current architecture and looking to the future or target architecture and how to transition forward, Microsoft keeps looking in the rearview mirror at where they were 10, 15, 20 years ago.

Microsoft keeps trying to catch up to the new generation of innovators like Google and Apple by either trying to acquire the 2nd tier competition like Yahoo or developing copycat products like the Zune.

More recently, Microsoft has tried to become more agile and take advantage of smaller groups to break their bureaucratic and cultural logjam. One example is Live Labs, “a small operation that aims to turn technology theories into real, Web-based products relatively quickly. It has only about 125 employees, and even that modest number is broken up into smaller teams tackling specific projects.”

Even if Live Labs succeeds, what are the other 89,875 employees at Microsoft doing?

To really compete in the future, Microsoft needs better planning and governance and this is what enterprise architecture can bring them—a forward looking and improved decision making framework.

>Unmanned Vehicles and Enterprise Architecture


Cars that drive themselves, fiction or a soon to be reality?

General Motors believe that new technology enabling unmanned vehicles is the key to their business future; so GM is setting their sights on this as their target architecture for their turnaround.

The Wall Street Journal, 7 January 2008, reports that GM’s new target architecture is to develop unmanned vehicles by 2018.

Chairman and Chief Executive of GM, Rick Wagoner’s “vision of he not-too-distant future, vehicles crammed with cameras, sensors, and radar and navigation technology will be able to brake and accelerate on their own, avoid accidents, and spot congestion.”

Larry Burns, Chief Technologist at GM states “we see vehicles going from being largely mechanical o becoming more and more electronic.”

“Pushing the technological envelope is a key element of Mr. Wagoner’s strategy for turning GM around and positioning the company to compete with Toyota Motor Corp. in the long term. He is convinced being the first with game-changing innovations is the solutions to one of GM’s fundamental problems—battered image.”

While GM’s quality problems have mostly been addressed, consumers still perceive GM to be a stodgy company and have not come back to buy.

Mark LaNeve, GM’s U.S. sales and marketing chief said that “GM believes it must challenge Toyota on technology leadership in order to reverse the negative perceptions of GM and to win back customers who have defected to foreign brands…Toyota right now clearly has a leadership position on reputation, financial results, and many other measures.”

Will this new architecture strategy work for GM?

I wouldn’t bet on it for a number of reasons:

  • Toyota is not standing still while GM retools; in fact, Toyota is already on the leading edge with the Prius gas-electic hybrid, and the Lexus luxury sedan that can parallel park itself.
  • If GM doesn’t deliver on this technology promise, they will have shot themselves in the foot; it’s one thing to be perceived as behind the 8 ball and it’s another thing to prove that you can’t deliver on your commitments.
  • GM has not clearly articulated the business requirement for unmanned vehicles in the consumer market; we are not dealing with the need for unmanned aerial vehicles in fighting the enemy in Iraq.
  • GM’s strategy, as presented, is not coherent; they talk about getting ahead with technology, but have not addressed their inferior position on other issues such as financial results and other measures that GM’s Mark LaNeve acknowledged.

From a User-centric EA perspective, GM has still not caught on to the essence of the Japanese concept of Kaizen—continuous improvement and user-centricity. GM is looking at trying to steal the technology mantle from Toyota instead of incremental and evolutionary improvement time and time again. It’s a philosophy you live by, not one that you steal.