>You Can Slow Them Down, But You Can’t Stop Them

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What happens when someone does something and you don’t like it—I mean you really don’t like it (and that something is painful—physically, emotionally, or even financially)—you try to get them to stop.

You see it all starts when we are little and growing up and big brother Johnny pulls our hair or takes our toy and we go running to mommy, yelling to make Johnny stop. Mommy comes out standing straight and tall and pointing her sharpened finger at Johnny, and looking Johnny straight in the eyes says stop bothering you’re little sister. Johnny looks down, sulks, and says okay (maybe even expressing a barely audible, and hollow, sorry). But then what happens when mommy leaves the room for a few minutes, Johnny’s at it again.

And that’s what happens when Johnny is doing something wrong…imagine if he believes he is doing the right thing all along, of course, he continues on his merry way doing what he was doing.

Organizations, like people, seek to stop the pain as well and if they can’t compete in the markets, they take it elsewhere.

The Wall Street Journal, 2-3 October 2010, reports “Microsoft Lawsuit Seeks To Slow Google.”

Like Johnny, Google (although technically smaller than Microsoft revenue-wise) is doing something that Microsoft really doesn’t like; Google is walloping Microsoft in smartphones: “Microsoft’s share of the worldwide smartphone market this year is expected to fall to 6.8% from 13% in 2008, while Google is forecast to jump to 16% from less than 1% two years ago, according to IDC.”

Microsoft like the kid, who wants the hair pulling to stop, and they can’t make it stop themselves through a competitive product at this time, is running to “Mommy,” in this case the courts, and seeking relief by suing Motorola, the handset maker for the Android.

As one patent lawyer put it: “My gut feeling is Microsoft is losing the hand-held wars and they’re using their patent portfolio to get some of it back.”

Certainly, Microsoft isn’t alone is using this slowing tactic, for example, recently HP filed to sue Oracle for hiring their ex-CEO Mark Hurd, even though as 24-7 press release notes California tends to favor the free movement of employees and do not enforce non-competition agreements.

While Microsoft believes their new Windows Phone 7 (i.e. the Windows Mobile replacement) is the answer to their smartphone operating system prayers, and will help them to compete against the Google Android (and the Apple iPhone), the market results remain to be seen.

If Microsoft continues with an inferior product, then like a Johnny in the right, Google will continue to go right on beating Microsoft at their own game (unless of course, the courts say otherwise).

>Engineering An Integrated IT Solution

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Traditionally, the IT market has been deeply fragmented with numerous vendors offering countless of products and IT leaders have been left holding the proverbial bag of varied and mixed technologies to interoperate, integrate, optimize, and solve complex organizational problems with.

While competition is a great thing in driving innovation, service, and cost efficiencies, the results of the current fragmented IT market has been that organizations buy value or best of breed technologies from across the vendor universe, only to find that they cannot make them work with their other IT investments and infrastructure.

The result has been a contribution to IT execution that has become notorious for delivering an 82% project failure rate as reported by the Standish group.

Typically, what follows numerous attempts to resuscitate a code blue IT project is the eventual abandonment of the investment, only to be followed, by the purchase of a new one, with hopes of doing it “right” the next time. However, based on historical trends, there is a 4 out of 5 chance, we run into the same project integration issues again and again.

Oracle and other IT vendors are promoting an integration strategy to address this.

Overall, Oracle’s integration strategy is that organizations are envisioned to “buy the complete IT stack” and standup “engineered systems” more quickly and save money than if they have to purchase individual components and start trying to integrate them themselves. Some examples of this are their Exadata Storage Servers and Fusion Applications.

Oracle is not the first company to try this integration/bundling approach and in fact, many companies have succeeded by simplifying the consumers experience such as Apple bringing together iTunes software with the iPod/iPad/Mac hardware or more generally the creation of the smartphone with the integration of phone, web, email, business productivity apps, GPS, games, and more. Similarly, Google is working on its own integration strategy of business and personal application utilities from Google Docs to Google Me.

Of course, the key is to provide a sophisticated-level of integration, simplifying and enhancing the end-user experience, without becoming more generally anticompetitive.

On the other hand, not all companies with integration strategies and product offerings are successful. Some are more hype than reality and are used to drive sales rather than actually deliver on the integration promise. In other words, just having an integration strategy does not integration make.

For the IT leader, choosing best of breed or best of suite is not an easy choice. We want to increase capabilities to our organizations, and we need a solutions strategy that will deliver for our end users now.

While an integration strategy by individual companies can be attractive to simplify our execution of the projects, in the longer-term, cloud computing offers an alternative model, whereby we attach to infrastructure and services outside of our own domains on a flexible, as needed basis and where in theory at least, we do not need to make traditional IT investment on this scale at all anymore.

In the end, a lot of this discussion comes down to security and trust in the solution/vendor and the ability to meet our mission needs cost-effectively without a lot of tinkering to try to put the disparate pieces together.

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!

>It’s Time to Invest in The Cloud

>Cloud computing is “shorthand for centralized computing services that are delivered over the Internet (a.k.a. the ‘cloud’).”

Cloud computing is to traditional computing as electricity is to rubbing two twigs together to make a fire. Ok. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.

Years ago, people made a fire in their home or workspace which they continually fed to get warmth, lighting, and cooking; now they get these from centralized utilities that distribute it to them on an as needed basis. It’s a lot more efficient that way!

With cloud computing—it’s very similar. Currently, we have our own computing resources (like a hearth and firewood) that we must purchase and regularly maintain to do basic information technology processes for transaction and analytical processing, information sharing and collaboration. Now, we can get these functions from centralized computing facilities or data centers that distribute them, as needed on a subscription or metered basis. This gives us a predictable, stable source of computing at reduced prices, delivered via the Internet, when we want and need it, and without the hassle of having to purchase and maintain the hardware and software infrastructure. It’s a user-centric model!

Most of us with very busy and already complex lives inherently understand and are drawn to a model that is convenient and cost-effective. Flip on the switch and voila—lights/heat in one case or email, e-Commerce, and online entertainment in another.

To me, if its not a mission-specific or highly sensitive application, the question is why shouldn’t it be in the cloud?

Fortune Magazine, 2 March 2009, on the rise of cloud computing juggernauts like Salesforce “a public company with a market capitalization of $3.5 billion, generates revenue of more than $1 billion a year—a 60% five-year annual growth rate—all from providing software subscriptions to business.”

Marc Benioff, their CEO says “We’ve always believe everything’s going into the cloud.”

Even detractors, like Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, has helped fund Saleforce and another major cloud computing vendor, NetSuite. Moreover, “Oracle at the end of January lauched a new version of its online sales-management product…CRM on Demand” —so you see where Mr. Ellison is strategically placing some of his chips.

What about the other major application vendors?

“SAP said it would be releasing a software-as-a-service product in May…and Microsoft also has customer-management software available. IBM just named a cloud computing czar, and Google and Amazon are launching ambitions initiatives.”

So what’s holding up the transition?

Generally, the biggest cited obstacle to moving to cloud computing is security. Yet, “Salesforce has recorded only one security breach, a phishing attack in November 2007.” Moreover, because of the scope, scale, resources, and expertise that these vendors have, they can actually deploy and maintain a level of security that other organizations may only dream of.

Never-the-less, “companies remain committed to owning and hosting their own software and despite the tough economic times, they are loath to try something new, especially if it means making additional investments, however meager.”

But in the end “cost cutting and convenience are expected to prompt more firms to rent software that will be delivered over the Internet cloud.” IDC projects that by the end of 2009, “76% of U.S. organizations will use at least one web-delivered application for business use.”

Further, according to research firm, Gartner, “of the approximately $64 billion spent on business applications in 2008, about 10% or $6.4 billion, was spent on applications housed remotely and delivered via the Net.”

The writing is on the wall or should I say in the cloud!

>IT Projects – Get It Right or Fix It Later?

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The Wall Street Journal 25 September 2007 reports on a new model being called the “wave of the future”, where IT projects are rolled out “on schedule…even if all the kinks haven’t been worked out” and then fix it later, as problems arise.

The idea of this model is that by rolling out and fixing problems on the fly, you avoid extensive schedule delays and cost-overruns common with IT projects.

Arizona University followed this model in rolling out their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and it was hailed as “highly successful” by a VP at Oracle, even though “there were payroll mistakes that left some [3000!] workers unpaid, underpaid, or overpaid.”

“Oracle hailed it as a model for both universities and corporations to follow.” The strategy is to “implement, adapt, grow.”

This model of fix it later is being used by “Internet companies like Google Inc. These companies label the software they release ‘beta,’ meaning that it is good enough to use, but it isn’t finished. Sometimes they keep it that way for years, using feedback from users to create ever more-refined versions.”

In the fix it later model, you “admit from the start that there will be mistakes; then work through the glitches [after rollout] with users’ help. This is the opposite of the traditional model that says companies “take their time and don’t start using a new computer system until they are convinced almost everything works right.”

Which approach is better?

From a User-centric Enterprise Architecture point of view, we have to balance two competing drivers.

  • One is the importance of meeting user needs and mission requirements, and this means that we don’t delay important IT rollouts unnecessarily, incurring schedule delays, cost overruns, and unmet requirements—This sides with the Fix It Later model.
  • On the other hand, we don’t compromise the mission by taking unnecessary risks and rolling out IT systems that are not tested ready and reliable—This sides with the Get It Right model.

Perhaps, the best IT model is a hybrid that I would call—“Get It Right, On Schedule and Within Budget!”