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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Managing IT Today

I just finished a manuscript of a new book tentatively titled "Managing Computer Systems in the 21st Century".  This will be published by MC Press soon.  I am also building a consulting practice based on the principles set forth in this book.

What I am finding is that most companies do not take firm control over their computer systems or IT organization.  I do not like the term IT (Information Technology) because I do not like the word "technology" which implies a focus on technology.  Interestingly enough the term Information Technology and its subsequent abbreviation to "IT" can be traced back to a 1958 Harvard Business Review article by Leavitt and Whisler taking about the future of computer based technology and claiming that the new technology needed a name.  It wasn't until the late 1980's or 1990's when the term became popular.

Your computer systems organization should be a service organization and not have its own initiatives.  It only needs resources including hardware, software, networks, etc. to support the business objectives of the business enterprise it supports.

We have lost track of the reason that computer systems exist over the years and we have focused on "technology".

Enterprises who have control over their computer systems (and the department that supports them) have a strong governance program starting with the board of directors and moving into steering committees headed by the senior most executives in the company.

All projects should originate from key business units of the company and be under the responsibility of a business unit executive.  The value and justification for a project should be that of the business unit.  It is your computer systems department's responsibility to provide the resources required to implement projects.  They must provide high quality services in a cost effective manner and deliver the services in the time frame agreed to prior to project initiation.

The IT or computer systems organization must provide services at competitive costs with external vendors or even offshore contract service providers.  Attitudes about the value of in-house programming or development (or even in-house equipment and technology) need to change.

All that is relevant is that the company's computer systems and new systems projects are meeting business objectives.

Throughout my career a goal was to build computer systems that were stable, durable, and could last for years.  With today's constantly changing business environment, we are now looking at disposable systems.  Today you can build a system for a specific customer, problem, or business opportunity that may cease to exist within a relatively short time.  It is up to the business to determine if their is an adequate ROI to justify the development of the system with the idea that it will be discarded when the business requirement no longer exists.

That is quite a concept.  Many of the systems that currently exist in many major corporations no longer have a business reason to exist.  They simply exist because they always have existed and no one has the knowledge to know where the system "might be used".  It is deemed safer to just keep them around.

Modern computer systems management positions IT or the computer systems organization as a service to the business units and positions business unit executives with full responsibility for all system projects.  A structured approach makes most sense where key business unit executives have discretionary authority to approve projects below a certain cost that only affects their area of responsibility.  Projects that exceed the cost limit, or affect multiple areas of the company must be approved by the corporate steering committee consisting of the CEO and senior executives and must have a single executive responsible for the project.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Programming, Languages, and Tools of the 21st Century

I just got dragged into a discussion on LinkedIn's EGL Group discussion called "What is the future of EGL?".  For those that don't know EGL (or Enterprise Generation Language) is a 4th generation language that generates Java and/or COBOL code.  It is an IBM proprietary product that supports advanced web development.

EGL is one tiny example of dozens of web or other application development tools available in the marketplace today.  In addition to dozens of proprietary products from various vendors (from IBM to virtually unknown little software houses operating out of the owner's garage) is open source.  In terms of web development the leader is clearly PHP.

PHP is this nasty little programming language (I really don't care for it very much), with millions of users and over a million companies building incredibly sophisticated web sites with PHP!

Why is PHP successful?  It is free and open source, but more importantly, there are thousands of free applications ranging from sophisticated e-commerce web stores to just about anything else you can imagine free for the download.  You can download and customize these applications and have sophisticated web applications up and running in days (often in less than a day).

If you don't have the expertise to customize or implement your own PHP applications you can rent the expertise.

You may still need more speed, power, or sophistication than PHP can offer, so you should use Java or C++.  Again, don't hire programmers, rent them from India.  You get superbly skilled people at a fraction of the price.  You also get a business dynamic that is easy to manage and costs that can easily be contained and controlled.

For years many developers and IT people or even business users frustrated with IT people have looked at products and tools like EGL, or many others to rapidly build new systems or solutions not coming out of the IT department.

Some of these tools are excellent, the question becomes how long will they last, will they be bought up by some major company and then what happens to them?  Computer Associates or CA has become the biggest dumping ground for old software companies.  IBM is close behind snatching up just about everyone it can.  Oracle has jointed the buying frenzy and Microsoft is there too.

Interestingly C++ was a language that was used to create compilers and operating systems and seemed to be way too complex to ever serve as a business language.  Java was a good alternative.  With Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Inc. the future of Java is questionable.  Java despite its popularity was never an "open source" product.  It was always a proprietary product owned by Sun and now by Oracle.  Oracle can modify Java, or change its licensing at their whim.  Will they?  Who knows?  Oracle has risen from a small database company to a major computer systems giant.  They are causing IBM and other major companies major headaches. 

Today, I would strongly recommend outsourcing all programming and development to offshore companies.  I say India but there are some great and inexpensive folks in other countries too.  Be sure they have good communication skills.

Avoid specialty or development tools unless you do so with the idea that you will throw them away when your situation changes.  Do not invest in some tools that require extensive staff training or hiring new people.  If you can buy a tool and use it with a minimal learning curve, especially if it is used by business people and not IT programmers then go for it.

Sadly, the corporate staff programmer is a dinosaur and expense that you probably should not be investing in.

Monday, October 17, 2011

IBM Stock Drop an Indicator of the future?

Investors are extremely concerned about IBM's current quarter results.  See the Rueters article titled: "IBM's Q3 disappoints, stock drops"

IMHO this is a signal of IBM's decline.  Unless some radical changes to refocus the computer and software giant on real solutions to real business problems and abandonment of its absurd and failed technological solutions in search of a problem will be its down fall. 

IMHO IBM's decline began with Lou Gerstner who reinvented IBM in the image of Nabisco.  Sam Palmisano is a Gerstner clone with a heavy focus on technical consulting.  Under the leadership of these two, IBM dumped its printer business, its printer business and ripped the guts out of its storage business. It has basically eliminated its AS/400 aka iSeries aka System i business is moving its formerly profitable zOS business to Linux and refocused its power systems group on Linux. 

Under Steve Mills "leadership" [???????] WebSphere and IBM's SOA initiatives, application servers, commerce server, and many other products have been virtually driven out of the market place by free open source software. 

The biggest issue for IBM today is Oracle after its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Inc.  With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle now has a complete and total turn key suite of solutions including all required hardware, middleware, and application software for virtually every business requirement you can imagine.  The Sun acquisition rounded out a total package of its own software, Peoplesoft, and JD Edwards. 

Oracle was a major IBM partner who helped sustain IBM Power Systems revenue.  Now Oracle will be selling its own hardware with extremely attractive package pricing. 

IBM's own strategic manuevers like the move to LINUX away from proprietary operating systems will hurt IBM significantly. 

While IBM remains a huge player in the computer systems market, continued drop in stock prices will open up the opportunity for a hostile take over.  Perhaps Steve Ballmer will realize his dreams, or perhaps Oracle's Larry Ellison will make a bid for IBM. 

Gerstner's gutting of IBM's field organization and virtual elimination of IBM's industry specialty groups who used to drive software and hardware development will ultimately weaken IBM severely.

IBM has loads of wonderfully brilliant computer scientists, but unfortunately, these guys as brilliant as they are have no clue what modern business wants or more importantly needs.  You have research scientists going wild with some great ideas that are totally unnecessary for modern business.

Note that all of IBM's SOA (service oriented architecture) support software has virtually tanked and for the most part been withdrawn.  IBM's initiatives in Java J2EE has been virtually abandoned along with many other "strategic initiatives" that were technically based. 

In addition to Oracle as a huge competitor, Microsoft remains an aggressive competitor as does HP.  In addition to commercial competitors, open source is making a huge impact on IBM revenue. 

Open Source now covers a broad range of solutions from operating systems (LINUX) to middleware (the Apache Software Foundation's Tomcat and Apache web server), and now a huge portfolio of application software from accounting to ERP and everything else. Open source has basically driven IBM's WebSphere division out of the market.

I think IBM has a long ways to go, but if this is a trend, they won't last forever.  Watch the competitors. Treat IBM just like any other vendor and do not give them any special consideration.  IBM has little or no software or hardware you cannot buy from competitors.  Go for best of breed hardware and software and get rid of any brand based allegiance.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs

I see many articles and blog posts about the death of Steve Jobs and I see praises for the many innovative inventions he created. 

What inspires me about the memory of Steve Jobs was his focus on people and how they used the machines he designed and built.  From his earliest Apple Computers to the iPhone and iPAD what you see are tools that anyone with no technical knowledge or training could pick up and use!

How many computer systems (hardware or software) can make the claim that you can buy it, turn it on, and begin to use it?  Have you noticed older people in their 80's or even 90's using iPAD's?  I have!  How about kids as young as 3 or 4 years old using certain iPAD applications.  If you have a five to ten year old stand back they can do anything and everything plus a whole lot of things you never knew existed. 

Non-technical adults who hate computers use Apple products because they can.  What could be simpler than pointing and touching a screen?  Or dragging your finger around on the screen?  This was Steve's true genius.

It is something that many of us have inside us but we put away and ignore.  Steve capitalized on his desire to create usable technology and did exactly that. 

I don't want to hear about the billions of dollars that he generated for Apple or this technology or that.  I want to remember a man that did what no one else had done:  brought technology to everyone! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Which Potential Customers Are you Willing to Ignore?

History repeats itself!  Back in 1996 when the Internet first was opened for commercial applications there was the Netscape Browser soon followed by Microsoft Internet Explorer.  The two browsers and several versions of each with varying degrees of incompatible support were all there was.  The techies thought it was too much work to provide versions of their web pages and web based applications for each.

When my developers told me this was too much work I simply responded by asking which of the thousands of users of each browser we should ignore.

Today the situation has repeated itself with divergent technologies from Apple, Microsoft, RIM (Blackberry), and Google (Android).  Today the stakes are much greater than they were back in the 90's!  Today if you choose to ignore a technology you can be eliminating millions of potential customers. 

Just today I signed up for a new free Webinar (desktop sharing) tool and found much to my chagrin that they mandated the use of Adobe Flash and therefore ignore all of the Apple iPAD and iPhone users (over 40 million people).  

This is not an isolated case. 

All too many web sites are driven by people who have failed to comprehend the necessity of supporting tablets and smart phones.  There are still a relatively small number of web sites compared to the total population that have SmartPhone or Tablet specific applications or web pages that provide a good fit for the device. 

Once again its time to shake up your IT organization or if you use consultants maybe its time for a new more modern web service! 

Just remember:  Which potential customers are you willing to ignore?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tablets and Smart Phones -- Bigotry Has Been Modernized

Mainframe and midrange system developers claim that the IBM 3270 or 5250 terminal is still the best way to deliver on-line systems.

Now we have folks trying to protect the laptop PC.  Check out this Channel Insider article by Don Reisinger titled "10 Reasons to Leave the Tablet Home and Bring the PC on the Next Trip".  Don presents 10 bogus arguments with little or no truth in any of his statements.  His arguments about screen size and the keyboard are personal preferences and not reality (I use my tablet quite effectively).  He raises one valid issue which is that many commercial business applications will be fully supported on a tablet or smart phone today, but that IMHO is a short coming of the corporate IT department responsible for delivering the apps.

The tablet and smart phone are a part of our day to day reality and are rapidly replacing the PC.  When coupled with cloud computing and virtual servers that can store terabytes of data or even media for an incredibly low cost (or in some cases free) these 10 arguments are absurd.

You can load a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation onto their free SkyDrive cloud storage and then use their broadcast tool to deliver the presentation anywhere you can connect to the Internet.  With 4G Android Phones that is virtually anywhere.  You can even connect most Android or iPhones to HD TV monitors or projectors via an HDMI cable.

While the screens on tablets or smart phones are small, they are incredibly high resolution and have features that make them easy to use.

The only truth in Mr. Reisinger's article is the fact that some corporate systems will not support smart phones or tablets.  Those applications need to be addressed and upgraded.

I wonder if Mr. Reisinger would argue that mainframes, midrange computers and the RPG programming language are the future of computer system technology?

I would go so far as to say that the days of the PC are numbered.  Not today, not tomorrow but definitely within the next decade.  I think you will find cloud providers in the near future (we are close today from both Apple and Microsoft cloud offerings) that will provide you with web, email, data storage, and access to applications.

BTW my $75 Bluetooth Keyboard for my iPAD which works with my Android is available today and totally deals with Mr. Reisinger's keyboard issues.

Beware of folks telling you that old technology is better than new technology.  When folks in your IT department tell you things like this it is most often job protection.  People who have taken the Microsoft training and certification tests look at PC's as the holy grail.  Funny, we still have the mainframe and midrange folks clinging to an even more archaic past.

Ask an IBM i (AS/400) RPG programmer what the best user interface is and they will tell you in a heart beat that the 5250 green screen is the best.  They will argue that it is faster and cleaner.  Ask a user who has to use one and they will scream in horror and dream of a modern web based UI.

The world is changing.  Change with it. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Search of the Ideal IT Organization Structure

Gartner Group and many others have recently been posting articles about the changing role and organization of IT within the modern business enterprise.  Gartner of course promotes their "Enterprise Architecture" but is pointing out that most enterprises are not embracing the concept. 

There are countless articles on the web about changing the structure of IT.  It move research, strategy, planning, and technology groups around but it appears to be a game of musical boxes on the org chart.  In most of the articles that I read, the fundamental assumption is that IT should continue to have the same basic functionality that it has for the past 20 plus years.  The fundamental issue is protecting the CIO's assets so to speak and his or her kingdom and multi-million dollar budget. 

There is a lot of lip service to corporate IT governance, but few organizations are stepping up to the plate.

In this old guys mind there is only one way to truly manage and control IT today and that is to move control out of IT to a team that reports directly to the CEO with dotted lines tot he board's IT Governance committee.  You can call this group Enterprise Architecture, Systems Planning, or even Corporate planning.  The bottom line is that it should be staffed with business analysts and project managers who have only the interest of the enterprise as their sole driving force. 

This new group should have no bias about building systems or maintaining them in-house, buying them from a third party, or outsourcing to a low cost but professional development firm.

The key to this organization is to always look at business problems and opportunities that can benefit from improved computer systems support, but has no historical bias towards any particular solution, hardware platform, or technology. 

I mentioned two key roles in this group:  business analyst, and project manager.

The business analyst's role should be to work with business unit leaders to define specific business requirements in such a manner that solutions can be crafted that address the specific needs of the business regardless of what technologies the solution might entail.

Project managers are required to manage computer systems projects as well as relationships with 3rd party vendors.  When people criticize the use of outsourcing vendors it is most often due to a failure to properly manage the vendor and insure that proper procedures are handled.  Professional project management is a key success factor in dealing with external vendors.

Note that in this scenario, an internal IT organization would be considered to be a vendor and treated the same as any other vendor.  This group would create a buffer between the IT organization and the business. 

Note that a big part of the role of this group would be the ongoing assessment of existing systems with recommendations to replace or eliminate old system that are too expensive to maintain or no longer meet business requirements. 

The people staffing this group should have excellent business and analytical skills.  Knowledge of current IT technology is desirable but should not be a factor in hiring or staffing positions in this group. 

Enterprise architecture should be a big part of the function of this group but not necessarily designing systems that are integrated enterprise systems, but rather insuring that there is sufficient integration between the various systems used within the enterprise.

Note: I have developed large scale systems for very large insurance companies and an insurance software house over the years and consider myself an expert and one of maybe 50 people who have built true enterprise systems over the years.  I still think the principles of enterprise architecture are commendable, but simply not practical in today's world of rapid change and globalization.

The key issue today IMHO is reducing the time from the identification of a requirement to delivery of a system to facilitate the requirement.  In my past I tried to design systems that would last "forever".  Today, if a system lasts 30 days and meets its business objective producing a return on its investment, then it is a success.  30 days might be a bit over the top, but a system that last a year would be reasonable. 

The key of this article is to get rid of traditional thinking about IT, refocus on business objectives and remove the dependency on multi-million dollar bureaucracies.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Enterprise Architecture

Are you familiar with the term "Enterprise Architecture"?  It is a name for an enterprise analysis methodology that first cropped up in 1987 in an article written by J. A. Zachman for the IBM Systems Journal entitled: "A Framework for Information Systems Architecture".

Today there are four major Enterprise Architecture "Frameworks" or methodologies:



While all of these are called "Frameworks" they are not actually a framework by modern definition, but rather methodologies for collecting and analyzing meta data about an organization, its processes, organization, and infrastructure.  The overall objective is to provide a means or framework for analyzing a large enterprise to make it more efficient, insure that computer systems and technology are meeting its business objectives and that the organization is meeting market pressures and demand as efficiently as possible.

I was unaware of this body of work as were most of my contemporaries while I was pursuing a parallel initiative that I had never labelled, but follows the same general line of thought presented in these frameworks.

Over my 40 year career, I have had the amazing good fortune to have the privilege of being able to lead the architecture and development of not one, but four separate enterprise level systems development projects three for for fortune 100 insurance companies and one for an insurance software house.

In the upcoming weeks, I will publish a series of articles on my view of Enterprise Architecture and will follow up with a book on the subject.

While none of the afore mentioned works are true frameworks, it is my contention that an enterprise framework can be (and SHOULD be) built as an open source initiative to form the basis of all enterprise systems for the future.

IMHO the major ERP vendors have outlived their usefulness and need to be replaced by a new modern collection of entrepreneurs producing small specialized software components and a new open market place to help consumers of systems acquire exactly what they need.

The framework defines the enterprise, its functions, processes, workflows, and organization.  There are specific points where process oriented computer programs or even interfaces to machines or manual tasks can integrate into the framework.  This means that if an enterprise were to utilize the framework and define themselves to the framework then they could buy or build components and plug them into the framework.

This means that enterprises would pay a fair market price for specific functionality that they may require instead of artificially inflated prices for 25 year old ERP packages.

Much more detail very soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Open Source -- MySQL & MySQL Workbench

I have no idea what the future of MySQL might be under Oracle's ownership, but as long as it lasts this is the most incredible development tool and for that matter a pretty good low volume production database.

Even more impressive than the MySQL database itself is the MySQL Workbench which can also be freely downloaded from MySQL.Org.   I have been using data modeling tools since 1980.  Many of these tools cost as much as $20,000 per workstation.  Others were in the $1500 to $2000 range.  ADW from Knowledgeware was the most expensive and consisted of four separate components priced at $20k per workstation each.

MySQL Workbench does all of the data modeling that these old expensive tools did and includes both forward and reverse engineering tools.  You can quite simply point the MySQL Workbench at an existing MySQL database and it will reverse engineer the database into an ER Diagram.  You can modify the model and forward engineer it back to your physical environment.

It took me about 5 minutes to download XAMPP (for my MAC) which isa complete MySQL test environment, then MySQL Workbench, install them and have a complete database development environment running on my MacBook with PHP.

This is absolutely amazing and provides all of the benefits of much more expensive modeling tools.

Just one more example of Open Source providing leadership in todays world.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing IMHO is a key part of the next generation of modern computer systems today.  There are many definitions of “Cloud Computing” depending on who you are talking to, but in the purest sense it is one or more servers operated by an independent hosting company where you host Web 2.0 based applications. 

You pay a monthly fee that varies from vendor to vendor but includes the use of dedicated or virtual servers (processor and memory).  You most likely pay a fee for data storage and bandwidth to access the server.  The most reputable vendors provide capacity on demand configuration options where you can use an on-line configuration tool to add resources as needed, and some will even dynamically increase your resources based on your workload. 

In the purest form of Cloud Computing, you rent raw computer resources from a hosting vendor such as LiquidWeb or Rackspace.  These vendors provide all of the hardware, operating systems (usually Linux or Microsoft Windows with SQL Server and other resources) as well as all of the disk storage and bandwidth you need to run web based applications.  Many of these vendors also provide the LAMP stack with PHP, MySQL or Tomcat and Java along with other open source middleware such as web content management systems like Joomla or Drupal.  In other words they provide a completely configured environment upon which you can install application software that you create or that you buy, or obtain from the open source community.

Some people have commented that Cloud sites are vulnerable to attack and you lose control.  A reputable vendor will have highly skilled security specialists protecting not only your site but the entire complex 24/7.  These specialists are generally of a much higher calibre than any you could afford to hire for a typical enterprise.  Additionally, it is unlikely you would be able to afford 24 x 7 protection.

The bottom line for cloud based hosting is that you rent the capacity you need as you need it.  You have no worries about hardware or software upgrades, no worry about disaster recovery or high availability.  You can be assured that backups are taken and sent off site. 

The second level of Cloud is Software as a Service (SaaS) hosted on a cloud server. The reason this is all called cloud is the fact that you have no idea where the servers are, what servers you are running on and simply don’t care.  All you know is that your applications are running in a LINUX based environment or Windows. You can run any application that runs on either platform. 

Some vendors like Salesforce.com run a private proprietary application on their servers which you access via the web.  It is a form of cloud, but not as flexible as using a hosting company with your own software, open source, or third party software in the cloud.

IBM and other vendors are offering hardware software combinations that claim to be providing cloud services.  The combination of hardware and software tends to be extremely costly with no measurable advantage over other commercial cloud hosting companies. 

Here is a list of 90 cloud computing companies:  http://raydepena.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/90-cloud-computing-companies-to-watch-in-2011/




When you combine cloud with open source you have infinite possibilities to replace old legacy systems with state of the art software at an extremely low cost. This model applies to the largest of enterprises as well as extremely small businesses. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Do you need computer equipment, networks, and people to support them?

IMHO, we have reached a point in time where today's business enterprises need to carefully evaluate the money they are spending on computer systems or "IT" and the ROI that they are getting from traditional business as usual IT.

In today's world you must ask yourself if you are really getting your money's worth from your IT organization at all and begin to look at the alternatives.

I suggest you create a clean slate as if you had never had any internal computer systems. Then carefully evaluate what you need, what kind of people you need, and how to proceed to develop a Computer systems support structure that makes sense for your organization.

One of the first questions I ask you to consider is whether you need those expensive mainframe, mid-range, or server farms of Windows or Linux based computers that you have at various locations throughout your  organization. 

To analyze hardware costs and effectiveness, what is the total annual cost of your hardware including your amortization or depreciation if you purchase the equipment?  What is the annual hardware support costs for theses systems? 

What is the software cost of the Operating Systems and/or utility software for backup, software management, and many other internal tasks that have no direct business return?

How many people do you have on staff dedicated to maintaining, operating, or supporting the machines and their operating software that provide no direct benefit to the business?

For a large organization this number can exceed $50 Million per year.  In mid-size organization it can easily reach $1 million.

Add to this mix the cost of your internal computer networks, leased telephone lines, connections by an Internet Service Provider to the Internet, and the people required to support your networks? 

Thus far, we haven't talked about a single penny that has a direct ROI to the business.  This often huge expense is related to providing a computing environment upon which to run 3rd party software or your own internally developed software.

So you say, what is the alternative? 

Simple, cloud based hosting with  reputable cloud based hosting company. 

You can get all the benefits of in-house computer systems and actually much more by outsourcing your computer hardware to a third party cloud based hosting company.  Please note that I do not recommend any particular vendor, but here is what I would look for:

  • Ability to run PHP & LAMP stack based applications
  • Ability to run Java applications and support common XML based communication protocols such as SOAP.
  • Ability to support and host Microsoft Windows applications in a virtual hosting environment, [eliminate the need for Windows servers and support staff], enable support for mobile devices like the iPAD, Blackberry, iPhone, Android devices, etc.
  • All User interfaces should be via the Internet.  Note: internally all you need to do is establish wireless networks to enable your business users and their computers or devices to connect to.
Your Vendor should provide:
  • Daily backups of various types.  
    • Server backup optimized for rapid restore.
    • Your data back up with the ability to down load to your location daily.
  • Replication to a physically separate data center (in a geologically safe location -- two centers in Los Angeles would be vulnerable to earthquake, two in close proximity in Florida may be subject to hurricane, two in St. Louis, Missouri would be subject to flood, etc. 
  • Highspeed maximum capacity bandwidth on their internet connections.  
  • Dynamic configuration so you can increase computing capacity, memory, bandwidth, etc. both on an as needed basis as well as a fixed allocation basis.
  • 24 x 7 x 365 help desk and support 
    • Hardware, software, and operational issue support
    • Internet support such as spam protection, assistance with avoiding spam blacklists.
    • Domain names and services
You will find that a good reputable hosting company (there are several very large and reliable companies) can provide all of the services that your own people and systems provided, usually at a fraction of the cost.  Additionally, there are no huge budgetary battles when you need additional capacity as these vendors sell you what you need and enable you to easily add more capacity on demand.

I'm going to stop here in this post, but in my next post we will talk about your systems development organization, programmers, and all of the technology that vendors want to sell you to support your business applications.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Open Source Project Management Software - Endeavor

As you know I have become a huge advocate of open source software.  In my new roll as COO for a company that assists non-profit organizations implement systems, I have been looking for a good open source project management system.

I was very excited when I saw Endeavor, but had my hopes forever dashed when I looked at their video located at: http://www.youtube.com/user/endeavourmgmt

This is a case of the world gone mad.  A true example of total cyber crap!  The product lets you record Use Cases, People, Iterations (whatever that might be) and tasks (low priority).  There is no ability to establish dependencies between tasks.  There is no PERT or CPM calculations.  There is no resource leveling, or any other feature you would expect in a real project management system.

In fact to add insult to injury and clearly demonstrate the stupidity of the developers, they let a developer input a percentage of completion.  Obviously these idiots have never taken a project management class or managed a project. Asking a developer for a percentage completion is like predicting the future with a crystal ball (I think the fortune teller is more likely to be accurate than a programmer).

Why on earth a USELESS case (UML/Rational Use Case) would get into the tool at all is beyond my wildest imagination. 

Heaven help us and project us from the geeks! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The End is Near for IBM

I was one of IBM's biggest fans.  IBM helped me develop my career, provided education, and helped me for years with support and advice.  Sadly, IBM today is a dinosaur who promotes dated legacy technology and sends a message to its customers that it is too risky to change and move to new technologies.

The reality is that IBM is focused on systems like its multi-million dollar zSeries line of computers, its midrange Power Systems where it continues to drag alone obsolete systems like IBM i. 

Sadly IBM under Lou Gerstner's leadership and the subsequently under Sam Palmisano's has focused on selling technology to IT executives and technologists.  Lou Gerstner decided that IBM did not need to work with the CEO or Chairman of Business Enterprises and virtually eliminated the field support staff consisting of System Engineers, Business Consultants and business industry specialists.  He dismantled specialty organizations that studied various industries identifying business requirements.

Today IBM sells raw hardware and system software to people with a PhD, MS or BS in Computer Science. They no longer care about business executives or what the requirements, problems, or challenges of your business may be.  All they care about is keeping you on the technology you currently use and buying multi-million dollar upgrades as they become available.

Well, I'm here to tell you that the world has changed.  That IBM is no longer relevant and that there are much better and much more cost effective solution available today, many in a cloud computing based environment where you may not even have to buy any hardware or expensive systems software.

Today's enterprise must look within and at its IT leadership.  Do you need a technologist running your IT organization?  Is it time to reinvent the organization that manages computer systems?  Do you need any programmers on staff?

Should you outsource?  Should you use Cloud computing?  Should you switch to open source or Linux or Microsoft based systems? 

Should you be paying COBOL or RPG Programmers $80k to $100k or can you rent much less expensive programmers from off shore vendors as you need them (if you need them)?

The world is changing.  I am now working with a major company who provides cloud based solutions.  No hassles for the clients, total reliability, high availability, and a total cost that is pennies on the dollar compared to in-house IT.

Its time to make a change.  Its time to dump your dinosaur and move into the 21st Century. I don't know what the "color" of  21st century computing is, but it isn't blue.