Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Internet is Broken

I would direct you to some intersting and insightful comments on the state of the Internet infrastructure by MIT's David D. Clark in

The Internet Is Broken

The Net's basic flaws cost firms billions, impede innovation, and threaten national security. It's time for a clean-slate approach, says MIT's David D. Clark.

By David Talbot

Here are some quotes to get your attention

In his office within the gleaming-stainless-steel and orange-brick jumble of MIT's Stata Center, Internet elder statesman and onetime chief protocol architect David D. Clark prints out an old PowerPoint talk. Dated July 1992, it ranges over technical issues like domain naming and scalability. But in one slide, Clark points to the Internet's dark side: its lack of built-in security.

In others, he observes that sometimes the worst disasters are caused not by sudden events but by slow, incremental processes -- and that humans are good at ignoring problems. "Things get worse slowly. People adjust," Clark noted in his presentation. "The problem is assigning the correct degree of fear to distant elephants."


Indeed, for the average user, the Internet these days all too often resembles New York's Times Square in the 1980s. It was exciting and vibrant, but you made sure to keep your head down, lest you be offered drugs, robbed, or harangued by the insane. Times Square has been cleaned up, but the Internet keeps getting worse, both at the user's level, and -- in the view of Clark and others -- deep within its architecture.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, December 30, 2005

How to Become More Creative in Solving Problems

Over my 20+ year career, I have had the opportunity to observe many different co-workers in fields as diverse as computer programming (business), computer programming (scientific & engineering), solid state physics, antennas, digital logic design, systems integration, customer service, accounting, web design, mathematics, banking, insurance, manufacturing, marketing, databases, acousto-optical signal processing, microwave electronics, management consulting, package-enabled business transformation, radar, security, and enterprise architecture. There are more to the list but I won’t bore you.

It seems that no matter what field, there are always a few people who stand above the rest as being really creative and innovative in the way the solve problems. They’re the ones you go to when you have a really intractable problem.

The solution they select may not always be elegant in the academic sense. Sometimes the “problem” is the project schedule and the solution really needed is something which can be done quickly. Sometimes the solution isn't a technical one either. Perhaps there is a political solution or an idea can be "sold" differently.

I find myself often wondering “Why do some people come up with more creative approaches than others?” and “Is this kind of creative problem solving something innate (something we are born with, a gift) or is this a skill that almost anyone can learn?”

I suspect the answer is a little of both. For the creativity I was born with, I am truly grateful.

As for developing my creativity as a skill.... I am not an expert on how the brain works, but I have noticed that my most creative ideas come at times when I am exposed to new ideas from others. When I hear them express problems or solutions in a way different from mine, it gets me out of a rut. It makes me exercise new and/or different brain cells.

For example, I filed a patent application on an idea I had while listening to someone else’s presentation at a large IBM technical conference. I had this burst of insight when I looked at a particular block diagram in the presentation. As the guy talked, I immediately thought “His diagram is missing the XXX !” (where the XXX was my idea, not to be talked about here)

For any management who might be reading, this (perhaps unoriginal) observation of mine doesn’t bode well for all the emphasis on distance learning which saves money by eliminating travel costs but greatly reduces the chance of accidental discovery of new people and ideas!

I would say that it is probably good for our creativity if we allow ourselves the opportunity to “hang out” with people who are really different from us occasionally. This may mean “different” because they have different areas of expertise (see my first paragraph), personalities, personal backgrounds, employment histories, motivations, hobbies, etc. Me being a conservative preacher’s kid from the Bible Belt, I must admit that I learned a great deal about Object-Oriented Analysis and Design from a guy who liked to hit strip clubs in the evening after work. :-) (If you’re reading this - you know who you are... and thanks for the great mentoring!) Therefore, I recommend developing personal relationships with people on all extremes.

I have gotten similar bursts of inspiration when reading material that is off-the-wall or outside my area of expertise. I had some frequent flier miles on an airline I don’t travel very often that I used to subscribe to some different magazine than I normally read. I found the following to be particularly “different” from my usual fare to get creative juices flowing:

Technology Review: MIT's Magazine of Innovation – This one has lots of stuff on all the cool gadgets, cool ideas, cool projects in corporate research labs, etc.

Fast Company – This one is really focused on business, motivating people, and what makes people tick. Incidentally, I first heard of this magazine during a talk given by the head of IBM Research at an IBM conference in Toronto I attended several years ago.
I can’t prove it but I think learning to play a musical instrument or learning a foreign language will also “wire” your brain to be more creative, though probably most effective if done when young.

I will end my post with a list of links which you may find thought provoking and examples of the outside-the-box kind of thinking I’ve been talking about.

Fast Company Dec 2004 The 6 Myths of Creativity

Fast Company Dec 2004 What Makes Beautiful Minds

Johns Hopkins Feb 2005 Changing Their Tune (entrepreneurship in the field of classical music?)

Wired Feb 2005 – Revenge of the Right Brain

Here’s a book I will admit to only partially reading as it is very long, but it provides a fascinating look at how we mentally name and categorize things in our native language. The book is called Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. The title comes from a classification in Dyirbal, an aboriginal language of Australia. Imagine a culture where the terms women, fire, and dangerous things are thought of as "going together" ? :-)

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Dangers of Wikipedia

It seems that I am seeing references to Wikipedia everywhere these days. The idea of tapping the expertise of millions of volunteer experts around the world to create an immense online encyclopedia is intriquing indeed. No doubt there are tons of useful information which we might otherwise not have available to us were it not for this information-age repository of knowledge. But... how do we know if the informaiton is correct? What if the volunteer was in error. What if they were just showing off?

The dirty secret is that it does happen. See a Boston Globe article "The Wiki Effect" which describes how one prominent free speech advocate found he had been listed as a suspect in the assasinations of both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. As it turns out, the man who posted this assertion which was freely available to all for months eventually admitted it was all a hoax designed to dismay a co-worker.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Forget Business - I/T Alignment ?

I found an illuminating post on I/T Architecture that proposes a view about Enterprise Architecture which is counter to the prevailing “business – I/T alignment” winds. This post called “Why Enterprise Architects should eschew IT / Business alignment“ in James McGovern’s blog “Enterprise Architecture: Thought Leadership” advocates approaches which are no doubt heretical to some – but makes points that have worried me for some time.

Here are some provocative quotes to get your attention:

“The phrase, IT should align with the business is commonly heard in magazines such as CIO. I have blogged sporadically on the fact that this form of hype is actually detrimental to the health of the enterprise.”
“Enterprise Architects that embrace agile methods understand that there is a chaordic balance and attempting to make everything predictable is not only limiting the possibilities of greatness but in many situations futile. Predictability as a system quality is further championed by folks who don’t write working software for a living and instead focus in on comprehensive documentation. These folks encourage practices such as Six Sigma, Eight Omega, CMM and other efforts without focusing on the real problem space; lack of innovation.”Predictability causes mediocrity. Enterprises that desire to be predictable buy the same software as their competitors, are rare to implement technology within their vertical first and prefer to let other enterprises work out all the bugs. “
“I am firm in my own belief that the recent practice of vendor consolidation may be the decline of the IT enterprise as many within our profession have outsourced their architecture via Powerpoint to vendors whose sole competency is commoditizing solutions and promoting them to your competitors.”

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Do You Want Out of Your Arranged I/T Marriage?

I had gotten pretty far behind in my reading and decided to take some time to thumb through some of the trade magazines I’ve been avoiding for too long. Inside the November 2005 issue of Java Development Journal, I stumbled across something which got my I/T Architect antenna twitching.

You see, there is a side of us architects that thinks that if only our clients or organizations would devote some more resources to creating Enterprise-wide shared components, shared infrastructure, shared services, etc. life in the land of software development would be sweet. Great project success would happen in parallel as multiple teams reaped the benefits of all the smart decisions previously made.

Well Yakov Fain was able to burst my bubble and return me to reality in his article “Arranged Java Marriages” where he compares the uneasy relationship between the masses of Java developers and the architects who are tasked with centralized creation of reusable components or services or any other kind of software asset. As this arranged marriage progresses from honeymoon to adding children to fighting over the family budget, all is not always well. These arranged marriages usually take place in a culture where divorce is not an option, too.... or at least frowned upon. So the trick is, how do we architects live peaceful, productive lives with our programmer “spouses”?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

How to Write Unmaintainable Code

More chuckles: How to Write Unmaintainable Code

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hillarious Look at Implications of Outsourcing

I ran across a great article that will really make you think about the concept of outsourcing and the potential impact on ourselves, our work habits, the economy, and the world. You'll get a chuckle reading this very non-technical, non-I/T treatment of outsourcing through the eyes of a magazine editor. Check out My Outsourced Life by A. J. Jacobs of Esquire Magazine. Warning, there is a small amount of off-color language and a bit of male chauvinism, too. Its worth reading and a lot more fun than that the latest thought leadership on business-I/T alignment or J2EE vs. .NET web service compatibilty issues.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Forward Thinking Employer Wants Me to Blog !

Check it out: IBM to workers: Blog away
Report: The technology company is encouraging its workers to publish to the outside world.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Will IBM Create an Open Source Version of DB2?

A friend passed me this link which says IBM is considering an open source version of DB2:

Wow! What would that do in the on-going battle with Oracle for market share?

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Facinating Look at Intellectual Property Law

I stumbled across an interesting blog which talks about all kinds of topics related to intellectual property law and the impact of pirating and open source communities. Check out PHOSITA:::an intellectual property weblawg , a "blawg" (legal blog) blogging intellectual property legal issues of interest: patent, copyright and trademark law.

One article seems particularly interesting:
Engines of Growth - Report of the Economic Contributions of the US Intellectual Property Industries.

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Scourge of the I/T Architect's Universe

Many companies basically have little or no budget allocated for infrastructure enhancements for the common corporate good. Instead, everything is lumped into the budgets of various projects. Usually, no one project can absorb the entire cost to establish a new infrastructure across the enterprise. And... the individual project managers feel it is to their advantage both NOT to rely on someone else’s project for infrastructure critical to their project success and NOT to promise to help out someone else’s project infrastructure.

Nobody wants to be dependent on someone else successfully executing their project to be successful on their own. At least if they don’t have to. Project managers call that a dependency. Nobody wants to spend “extra” money on infrastructure out of their pot of money, even if that would be being a good corporate citizen.

Project-based funding models tend to focus most attention on the short-term requirements of the business. If it is on a screen presented to a user, it is important. If it affects the response time when going through user acceptance testing, it ranks high. If it provides extra flexibility that nobody realizes a need for yet, it rates pretty low in priority.

As each project manager optimizes their individual projects and short-term agendas, they sub-optimize the entire corporation.

The result for us poor I/T Architects? We would like to apply our intellect to enterprise-wide projects with a big impact across many high-visibility projects, this opportunity is all too often denied us by the project-based funding model. We are deprived of the chance to really play the role of an Enterprise Architect. We see that there is a better way or a better approach but it is unattainable.

Our only recourse I fear is that we as I/T Architects simply have to get better at selling the benefits of shared infrastructure, shared services, and Enterprise Architecture in general to the business types who basically don’t care what happens “under the covers.” After all (and perhaps rightly so) they usually control the budgets. We have to stop looking at this as crossing over to the dark side... the dark side populated by purveyors of marketing “fluff." It is something we have to master to have the funding for those “big impact” projects we believe in.

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How do you define SOA?

Malte Poppensieker has a nice dicussion of the problems of coming up with a really good definition of Service-Oriented Architecture.

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Still More Good Words on Intellectual Property Issues in the New World Order of Open Communities

Irving Wladawsky-Berger says it much better than I could. Check out out Supporting Innovation in Open Communities to read observations about the talent present in self-organizing groups of people with a purpose and how they might attract "the attention of those who view it as a competitive threat and might want to use IP as a “FUD” factor" and attract the attention of "those who are looking to enrich themselves by claiming IP infringements. "

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Royalty-free Linux Patent Sharing

An interesting development in the continuing saga of Linux and whether Linux users are open to patent infringement lawsuits. IBM, Sony, Phillips, Novell, and Red Hat have joined forces to form the Open Invention Network (OIN) to create a company for sharing Linux patents, royalty-free.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Role of the Business Transformation Architect

As our friends in the emerging I/T hot beds like India, Brazil, China, Eastern Europe, and the Philippines demonstrate they have excellent programming skills, many of us I/T folk in the US or Western Europe are frankly nervous about “What’s left for us?” “Will we eventually train our emerging market friends into taking our own jobs away?”

Perhaps I have been shown the answer to this perplexing and politically charged question. Have you ever heard of the job title “Business Transformation Architect” by any chance?

I had the good fortune to listen in on a conference call last week led by Douglas McDavid, an IBM Business Transformation Architect and Member of the IBM Academy of Technology on the role of the Business Transformation Architect and how this new role is developing into a formal career path in IBM. With his permission, I will share a few insights which I hope will be of interest to you.

Some quotes...

There is a well known gap between clients’ desire to solve business problems (enter new markets, gain competitive advantage, reduce costs..) and IT’s ability to enable required business solutions.

Industry outlook & trends indicate the need for new skills to achieve success in the business transformation domain:

Tighter alignment between business & IT is essential to execute on complex business transformations. This requires a blend of business and technical design skills and the ability to partner with business owners & IT executives” – Information Week

“IT needs new skills to accomplish the transformation to service oriented IT. IT can not expect to insert pure techies & geeks into business discussions & gain any stronger connection with the business.” – Forrester

The need for dedicated attention to detailed and rigorous architecture of business is apparent

  • On demand business requires synergy between business and technology
  • Valued business results require focus on business changes that work together with modular and flexible IT applications and infrastructures.
  • Clients increasingly demand small, incremental steps toward transformation.
  • There is increased interest in standardized architectural frameworks.

Business is largely a human social system that is intangible and invisible. Software is also intrinsically complex, malleable, abstract and invisible.

Information technology can be a jumbled mess, but architectures and patterns can help make sense of it. Business can be a jumbled mess too, but architectures and patterns can help make sense of it as well. The job of the BTA is to focus on how these architectural viewpoints come together.

BTAs may have (or work with people who have) some or all of the following specializations -- analogous to an IT Architect working with technical specialists

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Legal
  • Strategic Management
  • Operational Management
  • Organizational Change
  • Knowledge Management
  • Learning
  • Marketing
  • Product Development

(me - In a previous post, I talked about how good I/T Architects are “Pi-Shaped”)

Good Business Transformation Architects are “I-Shaped” and can be grown by adding business knowledge to architect skills or by adding architecture skills to business consultants.

(In the above chart EA=enterprise architecture and CBM=Component Business Modeling)

Business Transformation Architect Role Defined (partial)

  • Identify and advise on the On Demand characteristics of a Client Enterprise
  • Distinguish the differentiating from the non-differentiating parts of a Client Enterprise and advise on how to proceed with each
  • Recommend the actions necessary to prioritize and improve the On Demand characteristics of an Enterprise to deliver short and long term client value
  • Advise on coordinated business and technology transformation initiatives to Differentiate and improve Product Leadership, Operational Excellence and Customer Intimacy within a Client Enterprise
  • Bridge the gaps between business executives and IT architects to help the enterprise document its operational business design based on sound principles and standards.
  • Perform Business Design
  • Perform Capability Analysis
  • Perform value placement.
  • Perform organizational design and job role selection.
  • Lead business process change.
  • Perform requirements maintenance.
  • Design the total solution delivery environment.
  • Perform selection of business modeling tools
  • Perform business implementation.
  • Keep abreast of Board Room topics
  • Architect Solutions using business architecture components.
  • Architect Solutions using process change.
  • Architect intra and Inter enterprise solutions
  • Architect Solutions using organizational change
Now that you’ve heard more about it, do you see “Business Transformation Architect” on your next set of business cards? Those of us who are now too expensive to write programs anymore may need to embrace the idea.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Ellusive Goal of Business - I/T Alignment

Here is a quote from an insightful article called "The Business Of I.T. Is Business
Six keys to lasting alignment with your business partners."
from Susan Cramm at

"To tackle alignment, CIOs must first accept the fact that IT's business counterparts will always want more for less, without delay. CIOs need to learn how to balance the limited supply of IT services with the seemingly infinite demand in a way that is acceptable to the business. This is done through strategy and governance practices that force the business to acknowledge limits and say no to themselves. IT capacity constraints (which are more often people-based than money-based) can be relieved by designing technologies and organizations that "flex" as business volume and project demands ebb and flow. "

I really like that "say no to themselves" part. However, I fear that business users restrain themselves like I say "no" to another chocolate chip cooke. :-)

Check out the article.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Do Peer Pressure and Vendor Products Define Your Enterprise Architecture?

Muli Koppel has an interesting discussion on Enterprise Architecture and the not-always-positive influences of vendors and social pressure to conform to what other people have already said is the "best". Here's a couple of quotes I like:

"[they] keep building things, making things that are sticky and where YOU basically brand yourself: 'I am a Google person', or 'I am a Yahoo Person', an 'AOL Person', or a 'Microsoft Person' and that's really how it's shaping up".

If architecture is reversed-engineered from an existing portfolio of technologies, paradigm shifts wouldn't be possible."

"So what I usually do while digesting new technologies, is to reverse-engineer their architecture. And if my existing architecture is equal or better – I am not engaging myself in any technological change whatsoever. But, if the pure principles behind the new technology are better than those I employ, well – that's usually an exciting moment."

Check out his blog article "Mind the Gap."

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Vendor-Neutral I/T Architect Certification

Nearly every major software vendor has some kind of certification program to help identify people who meet a certain minimum set of standards in regards to a particular type of skill in I/T. Microsoft, for example, has many different ones including Microsoft Certified System Engineers, Microsoft Certified Database Administrators, and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer. See their certifications page for a complete list.

Sun has another group of certifications which are well known, particularly in the Java community including Sun Certified Developer and Sun Certified Enterprise Architect. See their Java certifications page.

And my employer IBM has a long list of product-focused certifications including things like IBM Certified System Administrator - WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment V6.0 and IBM Certified Associate Developer - Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software V6.0.

All of these technology certifications have one flaw, if you want to call it that. They are tied pretty closely to a vendor. Some are even tied to specific release levels of a particular product of a particular vendor. What about us I/T Architects whose value to the application development process is not really dependent upon whether I’m using IBM or BEA application servers? Does my contribution vary depending on whether I’m using version 5.0, 5.1, or 6.0 ?

What you may find yourself wanting is vendor-neutral, externally recognized certification that is not tied to a particular technology company or version.

The project management community seems to have this problem solved already. They have one of the most widely recognized certifications of this type. You may have heard of the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute.

Well... all you architects out there who have been having certification envy of our project management friends, you no longer have to wait. The Open Group which pushes I/T standards and its vision of “Boundaryless Information Flow™” has started an I/T Architect Certification Program which should become similarly well recognized and valued.

And.. if you happen to work for an employer who has their own internal I/T Architect program (IBM is one, HP is another I think) and they get their program certified by The Open Group, you will be able to stake claim the externally recognized Open Group I/T Architect Certification as well. This should play well with future clients or employers.

No more certification envy! Parity with Project Managers! I/T Architects Rule! (sorry, couldn’t resist)

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Crisis in Time, Talent, Trust and Transformation

I received a great presentation the other day entitled “Four Crises for Business: Time, Talent, Trust, and Transformation” by Peter Andrews at the IBM Executive Business Institute. While this is not exactly an I/T Architecture issue, I think the issues he brings out will show up in the business drivers and business requirements of our I/T projects. We're certainly affected by the these issues in our work environment.

With his permission, I will share a few quotes from his work that I think will resonate with I/T architects.

At a high level, there are no surprises. Executives have been putting the challenges of globalization, cost-cutting, disaster planning, shortened product lifecycles and attracting and retaining the best employees onto their top ten lists for years. Politics, the world economy, technological advances, investor impatience, natural disasters and other drivers of change have been pushing business hard for decades. Once mighty companies have lost their footing, and many have fallen....

Everyone is working harder, but are we doing anything differently? Are radical changes in direction even considered?”....

Consider four crises that thematically sum up our difficult times, and then consider what might be done about each:

The Crisis of Time. Douglas Adams said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Most of us have far too many deadlines whooshing by and it doesn’t inspire feelings of affection. Take a poll of your team and see how many of them feel like their task lists are longer and someone has been stealing minutes, if no hours, from their clocks.”....

....progress in interruption management systems are all on the way to help. Think of the effort your business puts into cost cutting and see if you can do the same thing for time cutting – at the level of individuals, as well as teams. But first, think wisely about what you and your colleagues will do with the time savings, and hold onto the time for those purposes. Even if those purposes include taking a deep breath or daydreaming.”

The Crisis of Talent. “Great people make a great company ..... But there aren’t enough great people to go around and we don’t use them well. Part of the problem is scheduling (as can be seen in the Crisis of Time), but part of it is just finding and training them. How do we know who the great people are when our measurements have been reduced to revenue numbers? How do we expose and develop talent when training is just a cost number? How do we get talented people involved in the right projects? How do we keep talented people engaged and motivated? How do we keep them at all?....

And don’t forget training, which may need to take on new characteristics as those who have learned as much from online multiplayer games than from classroom instruction begin to enter the workforce. ....

The Crisis of Trust.

Half of all strategic business relationships fail to meet their objectives, .... Confidence in management is dropping. In a survey of 13,000 employees at U.S. companies, Watson Wyatt Worldwide found only 39 percent trust their senior leaders. And every time a deadline is missed or an offhand comment is misconstrued, a virtual team starts to strain its seams....

And yet, eBay, where most buyers and sellers never meet face-to-face, has an estimated US$23 billion worth of transactions each year. This is possible because the company provides over a dozen trust enabling/establishing services, including security, payment escrow, user agreements, a privacy policy and, most importantly, the input of peers. Feedback, stars, rating the raters – it’s all part of a reputation management system that allows the community to vouch for the individual. Similar clusters of technologies can provide a basis for trust across the organization (and, not incidentally, give your team access to talented unknowns).

The Crisis of Transformation.

You can’t anticipate everything, but you have to be ready for anything. Scenario planning and good backup systems can help with disasters, of course. But flexibility will be demanded of almost all businesses in a world where global outsourcing breaks down barriers and shifts value, where challenging regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley in the U.S. require more accountability, where the viability of channels changes and the ability of companies to cluster into well-positioned virtual corporations creates new, vital competitors....

Intriqued? Check out Peter Andrews' class on Business Futures at the Executive Business Institute... and take your C-Level with you.

Some of my more random thoughts on this. That means don't blame Peter if you disagree me on this. :-)

  • I am certainly a victim of “time-cutting”, time wasting, and interruptions. I bet you are too.

  • I wonder what the cure is. Will it be “interruption management” systems? Part of me would like to go back to the days when someone in my position had a secretary. A real person who would run interference for me. But, realistically that is nostalgia. I can’t envision that scenario happening. I also wonder if I’m culturally ready to turn over my calendar, phone, email, etc. to an electronic secretary with a mission to keep me from being interrupted.

  • Will companies start measuring how interrupted their employees are? Will we be getting software requirements for those interruption management systems in the near future to try to squeeze more hours of productivity out of employees? I wonder if I could articulate the benefits of such a system to someone who actually had budget authority to fund it?

  • “Training is just a cost number” More nostalgia. I remember when I was almost expected to go into an online catalog of training classes in various cities across the country and pick a couple classes a year. These were real classes in nice facilities in nice cities with real teachers and real labs and real whiteboards. Those were the days! Now they want us to do everything in some kind of virtual classroom via the internet. Airfare and hotel ? Forget it! And why do I, a person who makes his living on computers, hate the idea of a virtual classroom. I kind of like chatting with the other students on breaks and over lunch. I learn something there too. Is there a way to at least partially reproduce this under today's cost constraints?

  • Undiscovered talent / Un-Nurtured Talent - As a senior I/T Architect it is part of my job to develop talent. In the consulting business this is viewed as increasing our capacity to deliver solutions to our clients. Frankly, as I practice it today it is more gut instinct, Golden Rule, and taking advantage of mentoring opportunities as they present themselves. Is this enough? What if I don’t meet those programmers working in romote places face-to-face and don’t have impromptu white boards sessions? What if the time of day that I am all energized and in the mood to play coach and mentor, those remote programmers have already been working all day on their timezone and want to go home?

  • Trust - Here I can see some real business requirements and some real value. Imagine looking to see how many stars someone has earned before deciding to use them on your project. Would I really take a “talented unknown” on the basis of their intranet “star rating”? Imagine looking to see how many stars a boss has before accepting a position. Imagine if I could earn a bonus from my stars! And how do we prevent everyone giving each other good grades and the resulting “trust inflation” because nobody wants to be the bad guy.

  • Transformation - I am reminded of all the process choreography discussion that goes on around Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). Imagine all those ovals on the whiteboard with service names inside them. Imagine if there were really readily available providers for all those ovals. The company would only exist to wire together or choreograph the process, consisting of these services.

  • Could I make more money selling process choreography software?

  • If this is for real, how many of us I/T Architects are going to quit our jobs and become entrepreneurs? Anybody ready to create your own company to provide one of these easily plugable services? Want to be in the business of providing the service in one of those ovals on the whiteboard?

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Will State Income Taxes on Telecommuting Put a Damper on Geographically Dispersed Application Development?

My friend just showed me a an article from the Nov 1, 2005 Wall Street Jornal, Page D-1 entitled "Telecommuters May Face New Taxes." Apparently, the US Supreme Court, by not choosing to review a case, will let stand a New York decision to tax the income of a Tennessee man who was working for a New York-based company via telecommuting. He was only in New York 25% of the time but was taxed on 100% of his income. (This may also be an issue with Tennessee not having a state income tax.)

I think the impact of this decision (or is that non-decision?) will be huge! If you've got a team of programmer spread around the country, will your software project team members soon be facing new state income taxes? Will staffing decisions on new projects now have to consider which state tax telecommuters? Will talented programmers quit because of sudden cuts in take home pay? What about all those global teams? Will states start trying to collect taxes from non-US citizens doing application development work from places like India, China, Brazil, and the Phillipines?

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Adversity as a Career Builder?

I read a post at Fast Company called "The Value of Rough Seas." There is a quote in there which got me thinking about whether we really have to participate in some really rough projects to advance in our confidence, skills, and credibility.

"A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner." -- English Proverb

Certainly, being on a rough project is like combat sometimes and just surviving the experience is a real boost to our confidence on the next project.

However, do we learn just as much when we are lucky enough to be on a project where the leadership is truly competent and the big panic that we brag about surviving was avoided completely? Is there a temptation on some people to enjoy the adrenaline rush of the pressure cooker project a little too much?

As I think about it, we probably gain a lot more visibility on the pressure cooker projects. The pressure certainly helps us remember what NOT to do or what part of a project estimate NOT to short change. I probably makes us better reviewers of other people's designs and other people's estimates.

In some sense, these are really more like project management and risk mitigation skills. And.. these are not necessarily the first skills that come to mind when doing word association with the phrase "I/T Archtiect."

I suspect we might actually learn about the technical aspects of one architectural decision over another in the relative calm of a saner project schedule that allows for some give and take between mentor and protogee.

I guess it depends on the critical success factors of the project. If the delivery date is all that matters to the client, they won't be too impressed with all the extra flexibility you built in which dragged out the date.

But all of this is part of the "art" of being an I/T Architect I think. We have to learn how to judge what the real criteria for success are. True success may not hinge on architectural elegance... though it might be more fun if it was. We have to judge what we have to do to be "done" and declare victory.

Another way of looking at it is the whole tactical vs. strategic struggle. We often want to pursue the really elegant, strategic solution. We often have very tactical clients. In this case, we have to balance how much elegance we have time to work into the tactical solution.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, October 28, 2005

IBM Proposes to Donate Part of Rational Unified Process to Open Source Community

IBM's Rational Division Proposes Major IP Donation to Open Source Community
— RUP is a software process platform that has guided some 500,000 developers around the world in projects ranging from small-scale product development to large industrial-strength systems, according to IBM. It comprises what IBM says is 'a vast collection of methods and best practices for promoting quality and efficiency throughout software development projects.' Now IBM proposes to donate a subset of the platform to the Eclipse Foundation.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Irving Wladawsky-Berger Blog

I highly recommend the blog of Irving Wladawsky-Berger for his "observations, news and resources on the changing nature of innovation and the future of information technology." If you don't know, he is Vice President of Technical Strategy and Innovation at IBM.

I am particularly fond of a post of his entitled The "Outside-In" Enterprise which describes how technology can alter the balance between what is done inside and what is done outside a corporation. Hint - more can now be done outside corporate boundaries.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Are you Pi-shaped?

I once heard a very senior I/T Architect in IBM talk about how the best I/T Architects are Pi-shaped. I wish I could remember his name but let me try to explain his remark.

Imagine if you will, that all possible skill categories make up the horizontal axis across the top of a big skill rectangle.

  • Java
  • J2EE
  • Database
  • Middleware
  • Object-oriented analysis and design
  • Legacy system integration
  • Networking, Firewalls, Load balancing
  • Security
  • Manufacturing industry
  • Banking industry
  • Insurance industry
  • Facilitation skills
  • Project Management
  • etc.

Now imagine that the vertical axis of this big skill rectangle from top to bottom represents the level of skill

  • The 30,000 foot view, the business executive summary view
  • The 10,000 foot view, the I/T executive view
  • The 1,000 foot view, the first level I/T manager who remembers programming view
  • The 500 foot view, the programmer or DBA view
  • The 100 foot view, the view of the guy who reads all the manuals for fun
  • The 10 foot view, the view of the guy who wrote the low-level device driver code

You can image that each person has some combination of horizontal breadth of knowledge as in "I know a little bit about a lot of things." and vertical slices of expertise as in "I know how every layer of this technology works from concept to low-level coding and performance tuning."

This wise I/T Architect's opinion was that the very best I/T Architects are Pi-shaped as in the Greek letter Pi. He said all good architects have a broad spectrum of knowledge across the top layers of the skill rectangle. Yes, I know nobody knows everything, but through their experience they have seen almost every type of technology applied to a variety of business situations. He said they also have at least a couple of vertical slices where they have the ability to take a "deep dive" into extreme levels of detail. Hence, a "Pi-shaped" I/T Architect. Even better if you can be a three-legged or four-legged table.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WebSphere Community Edition

IBM recently announced a new member of the WebSphere product line called WebSphere Community Edition. What sets it apart is that it is a free download. Anybody who wants to use it can get it for free, play with it, build something with it, and prove their idea has value without ever having to pay IBM anything. If after proving to themselves the software developed on WebSphere Community Edition has value and they are afraid to go into production without support, they can then purchase one of three levels of support.

This WebSphere product concept sounds great for small companies and even "skunkworks" organizations inside big companies. They can try out something "under the radar" of all the bean counters. They never have to go beg anybody for funding for this software until they know they have proven their idea works! Then they can go into production without making any modifications to their code with IBM support behind them.

What does it mean to have IBM support behind a product based on open source software? As far as I can tell it means that if a bug is found by a customer paying support in the open-source components of WebSphere Community Edition (in this case Apache-Geronimo I think) then an IBM developer will address the problem, hopefully create a fix, and then this fix is contributed back into the open source world. Essentially, by buying support you ensure somebody is out their working the bug list with a sense of urgency.

The more I think about this, the more I think this is a great idea.

  • No cost of entry
  • Easy to try out and prove an idea works before begging for $$$ from the bean counters
  • Easy to abandon an idea without looking bad to the bean counters
  • When you're ready to go public and do real business, you get to sleep at night with IBM support behind that open source code.

I think this concept will sell!

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


I have decided it is time for me to jump on the blogsphere bandwagon. My employer, IBM, actually encourages employees to blog now on the premise that the company will win in the long run. Back in 1997 when other companies were trying to figure out how to keep employees off the internet during work hours, IBM was encouraging employees to "get out on the net." IBM views blogging in much the same way today. Here is a quote from the employee blogging guidelines "it is very much in IBM's interest – and, we believe, in each IBMer's own – to be aware of this sphere of information, interaction and idea exchange."

So here I am. I plan to post as I am inspired to do so by events or as I get information I think is worthy of sharing. My topics will be:

  • Software requirements gathering
  • Software design
  • Software construction
  • Software development environments
  • Software testing
  • Object-oriented analysis and design
  • Java
  • J2EE
  • WebSphere products
  • Hints & tips in general
  • What it means to be a consultant (whether as an internal employee or someone who is brought in from the outside like me)
  • Vendor hype
  • Political contraints on the solutions we recommend
  • Selling your idea to decision makers who can fund it
  • Building credibility as an I/T Architect
  • Middleware
  • Databases and database tools
  • Methodologies
  • Technology trends

So welcome again. I guess I will put on my seatbelt and try to enjoy this journey into the uncharted blogsphere. Your comments are welcome.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.