Monday, September 18, 2006

De-Nerding Your Geeks

It seems that everywhere I am reading another article in some trade rag about the need for technology people to have "soft skills" and be able to communicate with non-techies. Here's a quote from a particularly good example that I stumbled across from the Australian version of It goes so far as to quote one frustrated CIO who said 'Forget the technology skills, give me business skills and I'll teach them the technology'.
"I don't know what exactly happened, but when the program director came back he was very concerned about the project. I had expected him to be pleased," Setty, now chairman and chief evangelist for US-based Cignex Technologies, says. "I asked him what he was concerned about."

It turned out that program director had asked programmer whether he could make some changes to the program, and if so, how long they would take. Programmer, thrilled at this unexpected chance to flaunt his ability, had launched into an elaborate rundown of the work involved. As a result, program director got intricate details of child and parent windows and other jargon the intensely non-technical director could only translate as gobbledygook. That led program director to two misguided but deeply disturbing conclusions: the team was doing something like rocket science, and there was great strife ahead. "I asked him for a simple change. Now it looks like it will take three days and there is a risk to the project," the program director complained to Setty.

Setty soothed program director's ruffled feathers and assured him his team could indeed make the changes with little risk. That left program director with just one question: "Are you sure you've got the right team for the job?"

Of course, hardly anyone sees today's CIOs as geeks: most CIOs long ago discarded their white socks and sandals for the business suits that gave them passage to the executive suite. But the best laid plans of CIOs can and do often "gang" astray when the geeks who work for them slip their restraints and rub shoulders with - and the sensitivities of - non-geeks of influence within the organization.

Too Many Egos, Too Little Time

"My organization has plenty of people with massive egos that need to be soothed," says one CIO. "If they're having trouble with the computer I can't send some punk into the office who mumbles, won't look them in the eye and grunts, or next thing I know they're on the phone saying: 'I'd like to be treated with respect. I tried talking to him but he couldn't even be bothered answering me'."

So having expelled every last shred of geek-hood from their own bearing, CIOs must now find ways to start purging any symptoms of same from their staff.

"One of the biggest things that geeks have to learn is how to communicate with a non-geek," Setty says. "It's so important. The reason is, the budget most of the time lies with the person who is not a geek: it's with the CFO or a line of business manager. Typically at that level IT staff can't go down to the details of how exactly the software works. These managers just switch off if the geek starts explaining why this 'thing' happens," he says.

Many CIOs have become so sensitive to these difficulties that finding IT staff with business skills is becoming a major preoccupation, says Gartner Executive Programs managing vice president Mary-Anne Maxwell. "CIOs know IT staff need those business skills, and it's getting to the point that a lot of them are now saying to me: 'Forget the technology skills, give me business skills and I'll teach them the technology'. Over the long run that is more important than hiring a person who has a particular outlook on a technology that day."

For more fun reading, check out: CIO | De-nerding Your Geeks

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Microsoft Patent Non-Assertion Covenant for Web Services

Interesting post by David Berlind at Microsoft patent non-assertion covenant is remarkable | Between the Lines |

"Microsoft has issued a declaration — something it calls the Open Specification Promise — that it won't assert certain Web services patents it holds (or may hold in the future). Martin Lamonica reports:

Microsoft is pledging not to assert its patents pertaining to nearly three dozen Web services specifications–a move designed to ease concerns among developers by creating a legal environment more friendly to open-source software….The software giant published on Tuesday the Microsoft Open Specification Promise (OSP) on its Web site."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Living on the Bleeding Edge for Fun and Profit

"Let’s start by acknowledging that bleeding-edge has negative connotations for a lot of people. Just think for a minute about the imagery. Bleeding edge evokes danger. ....Engage in that battle, and you might survive, but you’ll get bloodied in the process. ....But my conversation with a couple of IT executives has me thinking about an alternative vision for the bleeding edge.....until you start messing around with new stuff, you can’t answer the question about whether it might provide a competitive advantage or suggest a new business model.....The implication here is that even a company that is uncomfortable adopting a new technology until someone else works out the bugs can’t really afford to wait to check it out. The bleeding-edge might be your competitive edge. And it starts to look smart, rather than dangerous."

Death of the Packaged Application?

Judith Hurwitz says that SOA could result in the end of packaged applications as we know them. Check out SOA and Unintended Market Consequences - Weigh In - weighin - CIO

SOA Anti-Patterns

I stumbled across this article in developerWorks which was very timely for me. The antipattern I'm most worried about right now in my current project is "Chatty Services". I can see how it would be very easy to "fall into this trap" if we try to implement the same level of application-to-application interactivity as we currently enjoy between a user and a web page. Check out SOA antipatterns by Jenny Ang, Luba Cherbakov, and Mamdouh Ibrahim.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Evils of PowerPoint

Scott Mark's blog also pointed me to this gem. Check out: .NPR : Edward Tufte, Offering 'Beautiful Evidence'. I'm sure we've all experienced "death by PowerPoint."

"Tufte's most recent book, Beautiful Evidence, is filled with hundreds of illustrations from the worlds of art and science. It contains historical maps and diagrams as well as contemporary charts and graphs. In one chapter alone, there's an 18th-century depiction of how to do a cross-section drawing of how a bird's wing works, and photos from a 1940s instruction book for skiing.

They all demonstrate one concept: Good design is timeless, while bad design can be a matter of life and death.

He's an outspoken critic of PowerPoint presentations, saying they oversimplify and can stand in the way of communication. Far too often, he says, the bells and whistles of PowerPoint are used as a crutch by people who don't have anything to say."

Cultural Diversity for I/T Architects

I found myself appreciating Scott Mark's reaction to his first visit to China. I had a similar reaction to India two years ago. Take a look at Application Architecture for the Enterprise: China and the Swarm

"China is amazing in many ways to me. For one thing, it's an incredibly pedestrian society. It's lightweight and limber at the lowest levels. Buildings are literally flying up all around Shanghai, and yet you see the bricks arrive on site via handcart and bicycle basket. I can't imagine the amount of goods in China that are hauled around by individuals rather than machines. Is that inefficient, or the product of a behind society? I don't think so. I think it's amazingly limber and responsive. The West is in the process of trying to discover or re-discover the swarm. China is the swarm."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

WebServices and SOA Security

I had the good fortune to complete a second week of SOA-related training in Pittsburgh last week. (See also The Many Flavors of IBM ESB Implementations). One of the instructors was Tony Cowan, a frequent contributor on IBM's developerWorks website. I was particular interested in his discussion of security in SOA implementations. I would like to point my readers to a series of four recent articles on implementing web services security on WebSphere Application Server Version 6.x. These four articles seem to have lots of good security-related information for those of us who aren't security experts, regardless of whether you are a using WebSphere Application Server or not. (This is especially true for part one, which Tony wrote.) Check out:

Introduction to security architectures
This article introduces various IBM® WebSphere® Application Server Version 6 Web services architectures, considering them strictly from a security perspective.

Using Username Token and SSL
In Part 2 of this series on Web services security, you'll learn about one of the most common ways to secure a resource: using a user name and a password. You'll learn about the UsernameToken Profile and how to use it with Web services using IBM WebSphere...

XML encryption and digital signature
In Part 3 of this series on Web services security, learn the steps required to implement XML Digital Signature and XML Encryption in a Web service using IBM® WebSphere® Application Server and IBM Rational Application Developer.

Using the LTPA token
Learn how to use the Lightweight Third Party Authentication (LTPA) token to secure a Web service using IBM WebSphere Application Server V6 in Part 4 of this series on Web services security.

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