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Reinventing Brands for Generation Y June 14, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, brand, Chaos, Collaboration, Edge Thinking, generationy, Social Software, Web Culture, Weblogs.
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It’s becoming apparent over the last couple of years that participative architectures or Web 2.0 will bring seismic changes to IT, the workplace and the way companies engage with their target market using their brand.

Here are some good indicative links, Dion Hinchcliffe’s Five Techniques for Using Web2.0 to Reinvent the Customer Relationship, Deborah Eastman of Biz360 recorded a podcast with podtech.net about measuring the impact of blogs and mainstream media on the value of the brand.

I like this article about Enterprise Valuenetworks. It’s important, because in IT we tend to think that implementing process oriented applications is all about analysis, the old fashioned way top down bottom up etc, I’ve covered all the grounds.

Yeah right, the problem with this approach is that you tend to have the most important bits falling through the crack because, people oriented activities do not lend themselves to data modelling or use case modelling for that matter. Meaning we invariably exclude these fuzzy processes. An evident effect might be corporate sites rarely deliver any incremental value to the brand.

Why ? We forget real people in all the mad rush to encapsulate process automation on sites or brochure-ware. participative activities are random and amorphous.

Generation Y and their younger sibling that have grown up with social networking platforms such as facebook and myspace to define their identity will subsequently engage emotionally with companies or brands that identify with their outlook on life and provide positive aspirational means to express these identity.

These values could be social, fashion or health related. If these were the case, I can imagine a situation in the future where businesses that provide quality syndicated feeds related to my lifestyle will get more of my attention. The feed content might include Blogs, Videos and forums. These content might also be user mediated.

So the Advertising model we have today will surely go away. Why waste your money advertising to folks that aren’t interested. RSS feed subscriptions may one day become the real measure of brand value and loyalties. If businesses spend more time providing really valuable content that encourage user feedback and participation you’ll be onto a winner. I’m not talking about posting a Nike shoes video advert on a site for customers to watch. Feeds might be the best indicator of group intention.

It’s exactly what Lego are doing now with Lego Factory. If I can design my own Lego bricks to order, I’d be more inclined to value the brand and pay more attention to their message board.

So think about it, is it not better to empower your customers to have a real say in your products? rather than a feedback buttons on your site. If any industry needs it more than any other, I think banks could do with a human face. For too long in this industry, the computer has been saying yes or no….. Here’s my mind map of what’s wrong and how to put it right.

UserExpectations

Paradigm Intelligence – A Manifesto for Enterprise IT May 12, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Absolutism, Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, Edge Competencies, Edge Thinking, Microsoft, Paradigm, ParadigmIntelligence, Politics, Social Software, Web Culture, Weblogs.
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Finally, my PSP, Metal Gear Acid and a Spanking New Sony MDR-NC50 noise cancelling headphone turned up yesterday from my insurance company eSure. They're not going to replace the stolen laptop because of the cost of a T42p over £2000.00, they're going to send a cheque for £1500.00 better than nothing I guess. I've actually not had much time to look at the gear been busy with start-up related work. I've actually missed the PSP a lot. It was my replacement for the Radio. Even the freebie iPod Video I got from signing up for a new phone plan can't match it. All that trouble of Synching with iTunes before I listen to a podcast is annoying. At least with the PSP I can stream Podcasts over WIFI !!

 Anyway, for the past week, I've been thinking about a way of describing why Enterprise IT just can't handle or understand Web 2.0, this is a follow up to my previous post about Dynamic Languages. I stumbled on this link, What is Web 2.0 ? a poll of readers of the Register. Honestly, I've found the feedback in the poll fascinating. For a lot of people struggling with every new thing/buzzword under the sun I can understand.

Fundamentally, we have a problem with how we as humans process information or things we come into contact with. I think it's all about Paradigm Intelligence, the ability to stay above the fray in your respective perspective, mind map or profession and see things from the other camps perspective. It's a very rare skill indeed. Our attitudes and behaviours all flow out of our paradigms using our self awareness and rose tinted glasses to examine them. The last bit paraphrasing what Stephen R Convey said in his book. What's even more striking is the ability to see through the waffle and identify the excellent opportunities to redefine your existing paradigm for the better. All we get today is reactive language judging by the comments in the poll above.

We all talk about emotional intelligence, no one really talks about Paradigm Intelligence, if an Ulster Protestant can see things from the perspective of his Catholic Ulster-bretheren and vice-versa then they're paradigm intelligent.

This morning I was listening to Dr Moira Gun's Technation Interview of Dr Amartya Sen it suddenly struck me that India is perhaps the best example of a nation that is exhibiting Paradigm Intelligence tendencies. The UK is also an excellent example in parts. I especially like what Dr Sen, a Nobel Prize laureate of Indian background said about radical Islam plays on fear to whip up hatred against the West. I've therefore come up with a series of phrases to describe what it means to be Paradigm Intelligent and otherwise.

  •  Paradigm Intelligence is recognising that social networking and participative architectures present an opportunity for IT to engage real users and re-energise enterprise architecture,
  • It's not reacting negatively to every thing even though it starts up looking like another buzzword, it's your job to identify the substance,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not your race, colour or creed taking over your common sense and appreciation of another person or their culture,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is there for everyone to see in a Nation with a Sikh President, an Italian Born female party leader and a Muslim Prime Minister,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not scare mongering and acting in a protectionist manner when a foreign company attempts to take over a crown jewel,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not voting on tribal lines and blind ethnicity as is the case across Africa,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not blindly buying everything from IBM, SAP, MSOFT or any other supplier for that matter regardless of the stupidity of your judgement, Who told you no one ever got fired for buying from these guys. Well, some day you will !!
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not sniffing at Dynamic Languages and calling them crap and chaotic, I've been there, I was once guilty of this !
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not rubbishing everything from Apple, okay most of it is good albeit every Apple product is hyped to death, (Guilty)
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not Blair and Bush invading Iraq without a plan B,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not Pastors or Religious leaders being brazenly richer, rotund and looking healthier than their congregation in third world countries,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is most certainly not putting street signs and council leaflets into ethnic languages in an English speaking country. Thank you Mr Council official we don't need you wasting tax payers money. If you can't speak English go back to wherever you came from.
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not DRM'ed music and films, hey guys, we're not kids your epoch, era or whatever type of control you're imposing will not last,
  • Paradigm Intelligence is being pragmatic about using whatever tool is best for the job in the context of IT as opposed to being dogmatic and bigoted. (Very difficult one, I'm guilty of this sometimes).
  • Paradigm Intelligence is not believing everything you hear or read in the Fox News, Mail or the Guardian (UK Newspapers, masters of polarised views),
  • Finally, Paradigm Intelligence is understanding the relevance of open source bazaar software development approaches in delivering really useful solutions that end users use for play and work.

If you can think of anymore, go ahead and add your own or write about it. The more you ask yourself are my paradigm intelligent looking at this issue, the more likely that you'll be able to understand things better and not get too arrogant about your reactive clouded absolutist views. Remember, no one, is totally, paradigm intelligent !! 

Context of Use for Dynamic Languages April 30, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Chaos, CMS, Joomla, PHP, Python, REST, RUBY, SOA, Social Software, Web Services, Weblogs.
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The last few weeks have been quiet on the blog but very busy for me workwise. I had a few customer projects to put into production and also complete hand over. Last Friday was my last day at Consider Solutions. Been fun working amongst friends the last 3.5 years or so. Will miss you guys.

I’ve started up a project with some friends; I’ll share details of what we’re doing on the blog in due course. You get to a crucial age when you feel I really want to make the difference in your own little way. I’m @ that stage right now.

This post been nagging away in my mind for several weeks, Richard Veryard blogged about it a few weeks ago The Lightweight Enterprise. I’d already written up a draft on my stolen laptop.

We have two camps in application development today, the dynamic scripting languages camp and the enterprise class application development camp. Without Dynamic Languages like PHP, Ruby and Python, we probably will not have the amount of innovation we have on the web today. Just think for a moment, WordPress and Typepad are both written in PHP so they’re enterprise class content management systems are they not? On the other hand Enterprise IT is slow cumbersome, standards obsessed, reflective and worse stifles innovation. We’re so full of contempt for Dynamic Languages because we think we can’t control it. I’m transitioning between these two camps all the time, until I discovered the Power of PHP and Ruby I was an enterprise bigot. Now, I have a more pragmatic view about all things software related. I’ve always used Jython for light coupling, PHP and Ruby are simply awesome!

I’m building our company website in Joomla at the moment, I’ve used Documentum, Media surface and Interwoven Teamsite. Joomla and Mambo are more elegant and easier to use. Besides, you can create enterprise grade websites in these tools even if I hate to admit it. Better still, they’re free, loads of free templates available for them. So where does this leave our bigoted view of superiority of so called Enterprise Grade Architecture/Software? Maybe locked into a bitter fight for deals with fortune 500 companies. Leaving the door open for mass market adoption of so called open source alternatives.

I think what So Called Enterprise Software vendors need to do is recognise that you can’t stifle innovation for long. I think the best way of opening up Enterprise Applications and Architecture to participation is to recognise a context of use for Dynamic Languages.

For example, if all application server vendors, enterprise service bus and BizTalk(Whatever MSOFT App Server is called), have out of the box Runtime support for as many scripting/dynamic languages as possible, you then empower developers to use whatever tools are available to develop rich web applications. All these bigoted views we have about what language is better will cease. Who cares what language, who cares if you use REST or SOA? As long as end users adopt the application and it scales, that’s all that matters. It really isn’t that hard to do this. My last project used Jython referencing Java APIs provided by the platform.

If you’re in a big enterprise, turning your nose up at Dynamic languages, you do so at your peril, you’ll be out of a job soon believe me. The world of software will start to revolve around free software and software as service in less time than you imagine. Only the vendors that tolerate innovation and open up their platforms will survive this shake out.

If you’re in a command and control enterprise, your developers are all spending their spare time getting up to speed with Ruby and PHP. Yet when they come into work you say thou shalt only use Java or C#. You’d better smell the coffee before it’s too late.

How about developing reusable services/components that can be used by all languages using REST?

If you Mr/Mrs Enterprise follow this approach you can then force your software vendor to provide a runtime environment for scripting languages. It then becomes easy to loosely couple services in your enterprise and harness available skills to build any application.

The question of scale will disappear why? If you use REST to couple a PHP based application front end to a backend SAP, BEA or Siebel CRM everyone is a winner, the application scales (hardware is cheap with dual core and virtual servers, you get more from your CPU investments) structured languages and dynamic languages bigot let’s all get together and make the end users happy. That’s our job!

Stuff I’m Working On, Mash-UP SOA for the Intention Economy March 17, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Apple, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, iTunes, Mashup, Mashup SOA, Microsoft, SOA, Social Software, Web Services, Weblogs.
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I feel vindicated that Ray Ozzie was on the Gillmor Gang articulating some of what I’ve been saying again, on the Gillmor Gang (WIKICalc Gang) that there is value in Web 2.0 beyond media content, Podcasts and shared calendars. A full expose on this will come later, been reading Doc Searls article here on Intention Economy Great read. It’s pretty much describing some of the ideas I’ve been working on and articulating, it’s called Collaborative Services Description Language – I’ll describe it as an extension to Web Services Description Language and BPEL. However, CSDL goes beyond mere description of network services and simply wiring plain old business processes in a sequence for execution. If you’re wondering why not just use Business Process Execution Language, (BPEL) It’s because we need to get away from the straight-jacket of Business Processes described only in the context of IT Users alone and UDDI directories and allow for web mash-ups by real users to happily co-exist with business applications that have a social context of use. So maybe we extend BPEL !!! As long as your grandma can interact with it, that’s okay!

Think of a software agent that’s using underlying messaging workflows and rules engine on an ESB to connect multiple websites together to fulfil a composite transaction. So a Super Paypal might be the one that mediates the payment between intermediate sites that are part of this multi-step transaction.

So CSDL from an architecture perspective describes discrete events and services that any end user can easily orchestrate from a SOA or Mash-Up perspective, the important thing here is you allow chaotic services to happily co-exist with Business Processes. Loosen up that nasty straight jacket in Enterprise Applications which is really engineering user disconnect from enterprise applications. The most important thing is that some recognisable icon needs to exist to allow users interact with services in a fool proof manner from their browser. This icon, like the RSS feed icon that you, the end user can configure a personal agent. Okay, we’ve got enough acronyms to worry about, the important things is let’s provide a standard way of doing it.

For example, find me the cheapest multi stop flight to Hawaii from Paris, Book a Sea View room at my stop over hotel in Florida, Create a Watch List Agent that notifies me of any location on my specified route where I can watch Bon Jovi live or similar bands from liveplasma This mash-up spans a typical user browse session. In fact, it could be saved as a “Personal Holiday Agent” that other’s can clone or consume for a Service Bookmark Site!!! Imagine, this can complement the Lonely Planet Guides; you can just clone the experience. This is possible using Enterprise Service Buses with their messaging capability and routing capabilities but we need to build interaction services on top of them to make them useable. So where the money exists on the Web is not Attention Economy, it’s the Intention Economy, we’ll happily part with our hard earned cash if anyone can give you an experience or service that can take the burden off you !

  • The browser UI Interaction can be completely written in
    AJAX whatever given the interactive nature of these services,
  • Provide for a standard interface that describes these first class objects and their properties Forums, WIKIs, Blogs, Documents, Media Content, a Tag-able Content from an abstract perspective, therefore, If company a ships over the wire a WIKI objects and all it’s properties from IBM to MSOFT, Oracle or BEA’s collaboration platform, the stuff is created without any problem,
  • Give semantic meaning to user interaction/transactions in a social network context, as well as making it meaningful to computers and competing social networking or collaborative platforms,
  • Provide a unified social networking services or so called mash-up SOA,
  • Allow different platforms to exchange collaborative data/services in a structured manner,
  • Combine SOA Services and Social Network Services(Web 2.0) transparently from an end user perspective,
  • The primary aim of CSDL is to provide a means to unify the semantic web and provide a Create, Read, Update and Delete invocation mechanism in XML
  • Enable a standard metaphor to organise bazaar applications,

So whilst everyone is focussing on Apple and iTunes, calendars, Digg, Newsvine, and Flikr. They’re really missing the whole point. Web 2.0 is the first time we really made an effort to empower end users, yet everyone is wetting themselves on shared calendars. Its companies and services that provide a compelling service and infrastructure around helping us spend our money in a way we feel good those are the real winners in this new world.

I thought, I’d have time to walk through the XML Schema tonight, However, I’m struggling to stay awake now. Will post later. Goodnight.

Architecting e-WorkPlace Applications for Participation March 10, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, eMail Management, eWorkPlace, Mashup, Mashup SOA, SalesForce, SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
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I’ve had a very busy last few weeks practising what I preach. Before I launch into my muse, a friend asked me why I don’t go deep and dirty into technical details on the blog. If anyone else is wondering, it’s because I also have a business audience trying to understand our thought process as it relates to application design, expressed in a way they can grasp(Even though sometimes, I forget about this). So I’ve been integrating Salesforce.com into a Global Marketing Collaborative WorkSpace for an Investment Bank in the City.
In summary, the sales guys use salesforce.com to create sales opportunities on the road with multiple devices, (Micro View). Managers and sales support team use their Global Marketing Collaborative team rooms to review, approve and discuss the macro issues related to each specific marketing request (behind the corporate firewall).
The integration piece is relatively straight-forward, I call it “Right Coupling” Salesforce generates an email of the captured opportunity in simple xml tag name value pair format as each request is being created.

Each unique request is sent by email to a specific context in the Global Marketing Workspace. The context, in each case, is a regional dashboard of Marketing Requests RFP e.g. Japan. A Jython scripting event is subscribed to each context listening for incoming emails. The event is simply a “Search Agent” looking for anything that matches specified criteria.
The Jython event picks up the incoming XML name value pair metadata in the email and creates a team room for that specific opportunity using the values in the email as attributes.
The team room includes a discussion forum, document templates and task list. All cases are viewable in a dashboard. They can be sorted/filtered by status and whatever else anyone fancies.
This simple integration solves a problem most companies might be facing today when faced with integrating several applications that on the surface have similar features. As an architect, you need to pay attention to the following:-

  • Context of Use – What categories of users love using a particular application and why? You simply can’t implement new technology for technology sake. It also applies to design patterns. If email is sufficient use it.
  • Macro/Micro View – It’s important to appreciate where detail and summary information needs to reside. In this case, it was obvious that it needed to be in SalesForce.com The managers only need access to summary dashboards, sales support need access to emails, tasks, documents and everything else related to the case.
  • Confidentiality – Even though On Demand platforms are brilliant at what they do, there is a segregation of duty between externally hosted applications and internal applications. In the case of banks and pharmaceutical, it’s easy to tell what belongs where.
  • Creating a Context for Exception Management – Very few companies pay attention to exception management when implementing applications. This is where the most value is created and significant knowledge about process exists. A collaborative environment is better suited for managing the conversation thread around any exception that relates to that opportunity. Think of forums, WIKI, and Document Templates Library.

Why am I writing about this? I’m a big fan of top heavy command and control architecture, reference architecture name it as James McGovern described it in a recent post. However, what I’ve come to appreciate in my entire career in IT is that creating an inclusiveness culture in application design invariably makes them pervasive. You will quickly realise a return on your investments in these assets. I’m not talking about machines when I say assets, I mean people. People in companies increase the value of the brands. You need their collective assets, Organisational Memory to give meaning to your business. It therefore follows that you need to architect for participation. An environment where thoughts and ideas can flow sits comfortably with command and control applications such as ERPs, CRMs and Sales Force Applications.
For this customer, it would have been easy to say use an ESB/Web Services/SOA whatever to mediate the messaging between the two platforms however, as with everything else in our sphere of work, a pragmatic approach might often be a better approach. It’s also possible that the customer wants to move to a more secure alternative that assures guaranteed message delivery.
Everyone including moi knocks emails. As you can see in this example, email is not only a powerful medium of communication; it’s also a low cost and effective integration mechanism.
When architecting enterprise applications, think about barriers of entry for end users. User adoption and user participation invariably decide how pervasive any application is. Our mission now is to take SOA beyond UDDI directories to become browser icons. My next post is on Collaborative Services Description Language. (CSDL) an idea I’ve been working on that I believe will enable end users to compose and orchestrate services from their favourite applications. (At least that is the hope). I would also call it a unified service interface for social networking. AKA mash up SOA!

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Approaches To SOA. No! There is a Third Way. February 24, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, Mashup, Mashup SOA, SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
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I was passed a link to a Gartner Report report (Sorry you need to have an account to view the report) recently by my CEO, Dan French. The Gartner article claims there is a process war being waged by a “Top-Down Brigade” who are process centric, that see SOA as a framework that underpins the notion of representing business processes in composite applications, that access functionality decomposed into a set of services. The other group, “Bottom-Up” camp are essentially the integration brigade. They see SOA as an improved way for creating interfaces between application. I think I’ll describe this category as adaptive vendors or companies that started off flogging EDI, EAI, Web Services technologies. You might also include Application Server Vendors trying to move up the food chain with so called Enterprise Service Buses.

The article also goes on to compare the two camps as the battle between the purist versus the pragmatist, the value generator versus the cost saver and the Business Evangelist vs IT implementer.

Even though the two camps have good points they still don’t get what SOA really means. Rearranging the Powerpoint Diagram is not enough. I have to take anything Gartner says with a pinch of salt. I don’t respect any company or bunch of analyst for that matter that constantly rig their reports based on which vendor pays the most tip. If they don’t rig or be easily swayed by particular vendors, how the hell does a bunch of unrelated APIs by any vendor suddenly become Enterprise Service Bus or Enterprise Content Management Hence, I call it the “Magic Quadrant Syndrome” I’m glad I’m not the only one that is suspicious of Gartner, James Governor has also bemoaned the problem caused by groups like Gartner and their “hommie” relationship with vendors. If you want any evidence of rigging, checkout this post and the threaded comments from a few years ago. Funny enough, I think the most lucrative job in IT might be Vendor Qualification and RFP/RFI Consulting. I think I’ve decided to go into this line of work!

The challenge that is facing us today is missing in this whole arguement. Where is the third way? I’ll repeat this again. Until SOA grafts on collaborative social networking services it’s going to stay in IT. Hard core processes locked into SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft are meaningless. The word process drives me nuts. Even when they’re broken we persist with them. No wonder creativity is dying in organisations today.

SOA needs to bring that mash up revolution outside the firewall inside the enterprise and into our homes !!!. The Process Brigade need a social context. e.g. make mash ups become services in SOA, The fact that an activity is undefineable doesn’t mean it can’t be called a process. If you’re looking for good examples, you only need to look at Government Department IT Projects. Total waste of our taxes. There is no real process in government departments. All they really manage is exceptions. How can an exception become a process. You’re more likely to need to converse with a human being somehow to resolve most exceptions. The Bottom Up Brigade need to recognise that Integration for it’s sake is useless unless the integration brigade delivers the services into pervasive end user technologies forget it. A possible reference platform for this mash up is already out there checkout ServiceMix Talk about being Open Source and built from ground up to be Service Oriented. A word of caution, just like App Servers were plumbing so are platforms like ServiceMix. However, the potential exists to build something pervasive on such an open platform. My ideal reference services architecture looks like this. I think this is a starting point.

nextgen-eWorkPlace.GIF

Next Generation Services Reference Architecture

Here’s a checklist of the Third Way:-

  • Focus on Context of Pervasive Use not UDDI, RSS didn’t become useful overnight. It wasn’t until the word didn’t matter that it had a context of use.
  • End User Presentation Services will drive adoption of SOA technologies. How? By infiltrating everything they do at play, at school and at work.
  • Manage Chaos. Social Software and Mash-up needs horizontal and transparent means of control especially behind the corporate firewall. Remember, there can be Order in Chaos. SOA can be just that. If you focus on what people can’t do you’ve already lost the battle.
  • Build Trust not suspicion, Security Groups in Enterprise IT are out of control. They’re stifling innovation.
  • The word SOA Governance in SOA is being abused. So is the word compliance!
  • Aggregation Services are not as useful as they seem. If they were useful enterprise portals will not be Graveyard Portals today behind your company firewall.
  • Focus on multiple channels of interaction, e.g. email, fax, sms, etc can be service oriented as well. If I can orchestrate in Blackberry or iTunes you’re on to a winner.
  • Mash Up SOA needs an appropriate orchestration language similar to RSS, Something users can click on, browsers can orchestrate, what ever, I call it Collaborative Services Descriptive Language. (CSDL) a possible combination might be a more useful version of BPEL, I’m not comfortable with all the implementation examples I’ve seen so far because it’s not expressed in a typical grandma Josie or Uncle Harry’s context of use.
  • Uncle Harry, for example would like to create a multi step mash up service that monitors the cheapest and best locations based on specified criteria for his next cruise holiday. Think about car hire, guide, villa, golf, flights etc. These types of service need to be available for end users. Not some lonely sandal brigade UDDI Flunkey kicking tyres at an Order Process Orchestration!!!.
  • If you can’t affect the price of fish forget it. Metaphorically speaking.
  • I passionately believe in the vision above hence, I’m diligently going to pursue this vision with or without any help until I see it come to pass.
  • We need a Mash Up SOA Icon like the Universal RSS Icon, The RSS icon now easily recognisable, SOA needs to become like that!!!

Epistemic Arrogance – Opportunities and Threats in Software Development February 10, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Absolutism, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, Magic Quadrant Syndrome, Mashup, Mashup SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
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It’s not often you listen to a podcast two or more times except, it’s a music mix. I found myself replaying an excellent podcast by Nassim Nicholas Taleb titled What Do We Know – The Scandal of Prediction from the IT Conversations Feed. I listened to the podcast several times today as it brings to the fore something I often remind myself. We’re prone to making assumptions and are more conservative than we’re prepared to admit in the software business.

I like to ask myself frequently what do I not know? What I don’t know now might be relevant in affecting a significant change in my design pattern or an accepted architectural orthodoxy. Therefore, I cannot make a prediction that what I know now is the only and best answer for the problem. I guess, that’s why I’m not hung up on any specific software platform. It’s also meant, I’ve worked on several platforms in my career. We can’t afford to be arrogant about what we think we know.

Once, we’ve come up with a design pattern or architecture, we think job done and there’s not much else to add. The edge thinkers are more or less excluded once the mainstream conventional thinkers have had their say. It’s this predictability that makes the Magic Quadrant by Gartner and such likes a bore. Once Fortune 500 companies have looked at it and decided the supplier based on analyst predictions end of story, innovation isn’t coming from anywhere else.

The freshest thing about the social networking phenomenon is the ease with which ideas can be shared, learned and debated. I’ve never known a time when application development was such an innovative activity. As an Architect that specialises in Collaborative Technologies and Web Applications Development it’s fascinating to see that finally, we can eliminate the “limits of scale” of organisational intelligence as described by Tom Gruber the inventor of Intraspect now owned by Vignette.

It’s with this in mind that the edge part of my brain didn’t like Web 2.0 and SOA as mutually exclusive technologies or what ever you wish to call them. The collaborative part of my brain and the Enterprise Architecture part tell me that SOA is meaningless unless it has a social context and is a means to this social end. That end is as a consumable service beyond UDDI Directory to end user at home and at work in anything from cars to Media Players.

Social Networks are viral. SOA can become viral and useful in an organisational and Web 2.0 context. I’ve been working on an Idea I can only describe here as the Collaborative Services Description Language (CSDL). I’ll develop this in another post. There is a fantastic opportunity for IT to finally become a “necessary good”.

SOA must become pervasive. Our conventional thinking right now means we’re building Enterprise Service Buses expecting UDDI to be relevant beyond the IT department. I think not. Right now, were building or thinking more of hard core business processes. Very little attention is paid to exceptions to the process. These classes of activities that fall through the design crack are actually the ones we need to be conscious of the most. They are the ones that end users will most benefit from. It’s also where the social context exists. They are very coarse grained e.g. Dispute Resolution Team Room between suppliers, an Ideas Generation, Document Approval Process, Brand Management, Drugs Discovery, etc.

These class of processes are not best served by hard edged SAP, eCRM type applications such as salesforce.com, it’s only possible to create such applications using a class of platforms that have agile written all over them.

Would it not be nice if we had a common language that allows Business Processes and Collaborative Work Processes to be orchestrable and re-useable regardless of CRM, ERP Platforms. This means, a create Team Room or Document Approval Request can be propagated from SAP to the e-WorkPlace application bundling the meta data associated with the request, an event message to the SIP compliant platform, a bunch of documents and video files associated with for example, an Invoice in Dispute into an RSS Feed. SOA patterns sometimes describes it as Workflow Automation. I think this is a cop out. Oh It’s too amophorous lets leave it out !!

Folks lets stop the bigoted arrogance of our conventional thinking, we got work to do.

Next Generation e-WorkPlace January 26, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, Social Software, Web Services.
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I’ve been reflecting on how much work Place applications such as portals, intranets and ERPs need to evolve in the Web 2.0 era. I’ve discussed this with a few folks already and we’re all agreed that Enterprise Applications are fundamentally broken. We’re applying the same design and implementation approaches whilst Vendors jostle to make sure their strategy and application portfolio align with silly analyst magic quadrants. Think for a moment, all those PowerPoint’s vendors show you about their platform architecture. They’re essentially a bunch of acquired technologies the collective APIs is just an assembly of chaos. Several folks such as Danah Boyd and Ross Mayfield have discussed related issues on their Blogs.

Basically, The Integration of Process with Technology is one we’ve battled with for several years using more and more technology name it ERP, CRM, Portals we’ve done it. I don’t think we’ve made a good stab of it as an Industry. We have a saying in my company that business efficiency and group productivity are currently being inhibited in most organisations because group communication and coordination is extremely inefficient. Might sound like baloney at first. However, just think how many times you’ve tried to locate important documents or perhaps the multiple versions of these that currently exist in your company? How can you work effectively if the simple things aren’t at your finger tip? And we really think this is the information age? It’s more the misinformation age!

We’re overwhelmed by technology and software, email is like turning on the hose pipe and sticking it in your mouth, presence aware technology means constant interruption, desktop search tools are proliferating, filing content in X Drives, Document Management or Content Management is a Joke. Then some smart guys called Blackberry think we need more of it and then you really are drinking from the Atlantic. How about sleeping with the fishes?

A good summary of the issues we confront is well summarised by John Seely Brown and John Hagel they assert that “while 95% of IT investment goes to support business processes (to drive down costs), most employee time isn’t spent on process – but exceptions to process”. We can therefore conclude that Value creation should focus on the people in the process!

What does this actually mean? If you reflect for a moment about all the Web 2.0 Social Software stuff why is user adoption on these applications so huge? Why for example are most employees spending time on websites beyond their corporate firewall rather than spending time on internal applications? Hmm, all that wasted money on the portals, SAP and Siebel.

In my opinion applications we build and deploy for users behind the firewall are rarely successful because they lack social capital. Most folks are very informal in their use of technology. Why is it that informal mediums such as Blogs, WIKIs, Flikr, iTunes and MySpace are doing so well? Lack of social capital means usability deficit. Pile all that flash streaming media into your portal and syndicating content from Yahoo doesn’t make it useable. It needs to evoke a sense of commune for it to be adopted and useful. Technology should be an enabler for building social capital. Control is now in your face and flexibility of use is a secondary issue. The Security group in most organisations effectively veto or design end user applications.

The new class of workplace applications need the following

  • Social Capital – allow for a sense of shared purpose and a sense of belonging,
  • Trust Building – Users must trust information in the workplace behind their corporate firewall, every opinion should be valued, If you don’t trust the information, usage of the application is difficult to sustain.
  • Shared Resources – Exchange of ideas and intellectual properties across the organisation is only possible if this is encouraged organically.
  • Relationship Nurturing – Cost of developing relationships is extremely high because of the hierarchical nature of organisations. If someone is difficult to approach to validate some information they’ve posted or shared what is the point of using the information.

The new class of workplace applications that need to replace our portal metaphors needs to be built on a combination of Web 2.0, bittorent and SOA. They’re not as mutually exclusive as you might think. When RSS/RDF came out years ago, it didn’t have any real context of use apart from news feed aggregation. Think how far we’ve come with the semantic web. Who cares about XML when using Odeo or iTunes?

New workplace applications need to remove the limits of scale of organisational memory. Imagine when you go to work and need to work on a document. You don’t know where it’s stored in the organisation but you’d like to use the document anyhow. If I use Live Plasma as my analogy, so you search for some content and navigate to the item of interest using an interactive map metaphor which shows you a cluster of related content. I call this the “See Also Metaphor” or content targeting as is the case with highly personalised websites like Amazon.

In summary, SOA, Web 2.0, Bittorent, Portals, Personalisation and Collaboration need to be used to create a new class of applications types that will make the workplace user experience richer, highly personalised and interactive. Bittorent is perhaps the most underestimated technologies of the lot. Imagine saving a document and not caring where it’s stored. Essentially, Filing, Classification and Archiving of content shouldn’t be in your face. I believe Bittorent will replace or subsumed in existing database technologies in the future. I expect Enterprise Services Buses to graft on Bittorent Technologies to provide content filing and routing services.

SOA currently lacks a human interface and a business context. A business context exists for SOA if SOA approaches are used to provide development and runtime mechanisms for Web 2.0 services. Work Process applications such as ERPs and CRMs will need to evolve quickly or keep pace with social network applications. It’s easy for Portal, CRM and ERP vendors to implement SOA interfaces; it’s another thing altogether to acquire social capital. I’ve knocked up a picture to summarize these ideas In Flickr