After my previous blog, I re-discovered JP Rangaswami’s Confused of Calcutta blog (although he should consider using the newer name, Kolkata). What got my interest was the series of blogs on the ‘Facebookisation of the enterprise’.
In the first part – The Facebookisation of the enterprise – he describes how a business
“needs to look a bit like Facebook. Responsible for identifying, authenticating and permissioning people, making sure that appropriate controls are in place from a privacy and confidentiality perspective. Responsible for providing an environment, a platform, for people to congregate electronically. A marketplace, a bazaar. A place where people converse with each other, share their interests, identify inventories, discover prices, negotiate, trade. A place where the things that need to be recorded get recorded, as in everyday life.
This is reflects the world that Generation M, or Millennials experience through technology and social interaction (read this to learn about generational theory). As they move into the enterprise, how will they change the world of work to match their attitudes and expectations?
In the new world, the worker would have the choice of device, platform, and applications. It would also mean that IT and HR would lose their traditional control over the employee.
In the second part – More on the Facebookisation of the enterprise – he discusses how IT would need to operate to support this work environment by providing:
- simple self-service signup
- a set of directories and tools to classify and filter them
- a range of communication and scheduling tools
- a platform for development
I think something else should be added – access to a library of in-house and external applications which the worker could use to do get their job done.
While the Facebook analogy is a bit far-fetched, if not revolutionary, it’s a good place to start thinking about the direction in which IT should be moving.
I read with much interest Don Dodge’s predictions for 2010 and the new decade. I find predictions a bit of a waste of time – when you look are what people predicted for 2009, about half came true, which is what a random selection would give. However I was struck about the prediction on future computing and mobile computing.
“Your cell phone will become your primary computer, communicator, camera, and entertainment device, all in one … I think in the near future there will be docking stations everywhere with a screen and a keyboard. You simply pull out your phone, plug it into the docking station, and instantly all your applications and data are available to you … Your phone will have enough storage so you can decide which applications and data are stored on your phone, and which will be in the cloud.”
When I look at what I can already store on my cellphone, this prediction seems quite plausible. But if people store applications on their phone, which they will presumably choose themselves, and if they decide to use the cloud to select their preferred applications, how will this impact the role and responsibilities of the company IT function? Their role of deciding what applications are suitable for the organisation becomes irrelevant, but they still have to ensure application and data security and integrity.
”Mobile phones are clearly the next computing platform … Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley says Mobile Internet usage is bigger than most people think, and it is exploding.”
Application developers will have to re-consider the presentation layer for a different user interface and experience, and will have to assume that the mobile interface will be the preferred or default one, rather than as a side issue.
Where I do have a problem is the predictions about cloud computing and mobile bandwidth:
The explosion of reliable broadband bandwidth, virtualization technology, cheap storage, memory, and servers, has made Cloud Computing the obvious choice for the next decade … Why buy servers, hire IT admin to manage them, buy operating system licenses, application licenses, pay 20% maintenance fees every year, worry about security updates/breaches, hassle with asset management, etc., when you can just “pay as you go” with cloud computing resources? …
The new 700Mhz wireless spectrum became available in 2009, and will be built out over the next decade … Cell phones will see the same explosion in bandwidth in the coming decade, which will enable new applications and uses.”
This is a simplified view of the world. Firstly, business applications for even small and medium businesses are getting more complex. I’m not talking about simple accounting or CRM solutions, but the complex applications to manage orders, receive and dispatch inventory, schedule and manage manufacturing operations. It isn’t as simple as paying and starting, as the “pay as you go” mantra likes to make out. It may well be that business hands over the management of the application infrastructure to a cloud provider, but every successful business has a particular way of working that is different to others, and that is unlikely to be assisted by a standard enterprise application.
Secondly, the comment about mobile bandwidth is US-centric. Developing countries like South Africa are constrained in all sorts of bandwidth (Internet, radio, cellphones) because they have been already allocated to developed countries years ago. That is not to say that cellphone bandwidith will not significantly increase. What Don fails to note is that the growth of the mobile Internet will probably come more from developing regions like Africa than the US, as reported by Opera and Google.
However you look at it, the next decade is probably going to redefine the way we use, consume and interact with computing resources.
I have used this title because I’m not sure whether new entrants to software development realise what a difficult and stressful job project management is. It seems that some people think that being a project manager (PM) is a ‘cool’ job because they have watched the reality TV program The Apprentice where in each program ‘project managers’ are appointed to manage each week’s activity.
I have been involved in various software and ERP projects on and off for close on 10 years, and unless things are going very well, I found that being a PM is a tough job.
If you want to get an idea about project management, follow the über-PM blog – Glen Alleman’s Herding Cats. He can get quite technical at times, especially concerning US defense and aerospace requirements, but has some great points. He points out the the key to managing a project is the following:
- how do you evaluate what DONE is;
- how do you determine where you are along the way to getting to DONE.
Here are his immutable activities of project management – “immutable because in the absence of these activities in some form, there is no management of the project”.
When I first started as a PM, risk wasn’t an issue we really focused on – if a project went over time or budget that was a problem for the business, IT’s job was just to deliver. But these days, that attitude has changed radically (and for the better). To understand the risk management process, here is a diagram I got from Glen’s blog.
Mary Gerush at her Forrester Blog noted the skills that software project managers need to have in order to succeed:
- a solid understanding of the business;
- a solid understanding of technology;
- a strong foundation in project management practices;
- most importantly – an amazing array of updated soft skills.
One of the critical soft skills is an understanding of psychology. Projects are all about people – whether it’s the people on the team, or dealing with the stakeholders of the project (the business sponsors). I know some PMs who are very good on items 1 to 3, but fail badly on item 4.
Finally, for a light-hearted look at what project management, here is a great analogy – Five Parallels Between Golf and IT Projects. The ones that stand out for me are:
- it looks simple but is not;
- a very small error can lead to major problems;
- it’s remarkably easy to second guess others – it’s easy to be an expert, with hindsight;
- it’s very difficult to sustain a consistent level of performance.
Are there other aspects of project management, which I haven’t covered, which could be used as a PM primer? In some industries, project management is now taken seriously; banking I know is one (aerospace and pharma are others, I believe). But in too many small and medium businesses, which is where my experience has been lately, the concept of project management still isn’t very well understood or appreciated. The question is – where and how to start the process of education?