The cloud isn’t the problem–Part 5: Server huggers and a crisis of identity

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Cloud
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Hi all

Welcome to my fifth post that delves into the irrational world of cloud computing. After examining the not-so-obvious aspects of Microsoft, Amazon and the industry more broadly, its time to shift focus a little. Now the appeal of the cloud really depends on your perspective. To me, there are three basic motivations for getting in on the act…

  1. I can make a buck
  2. I can save a buck
  3. I can save a buck (and while I am at it, escape my pain-in-the-ass IT department)

If you haven’t guessed it, this post will examine #3, and look at what the cloud means for the the perennial issue of the IT department and business disconnect. I recently read an article over at CIO magazine where they coined the term “Server Huggers” to describe the phenomenon I am about to describe. So to set the flavour for this discussion, let me tell you about the biggest secret in organisational life…

We all have an identity crisis (so get over it).

In organizations, there are roles that I would call transactional (i.e. governed by process and clear KPI’s) and those that are knowledge-based (governed by gut feel and insight). Whilst most roles actually entail both of these elements, most of us in SharePoint land are the latter. In fact we actually spend a lot of time in meeting rooms “strategizing” the solutions that our more transactionally focused colleagues will be using to meet their KPI’s. Beyond SharePoint, this also applies to Business Analysts, Information Architects, Enterprise Architects, Project Managers and pretty much anyone with the word “senior”, “architect”, “analyst”  or “strategic” in their job title.

But there is a big, fat, elephant in the “strategizing room” of certain knowledge worker roles that is at the root of some irrational organisational behaviour. Many of us are suffering a role-based identity crisis. To explain this, lets pick a straw-man example of one of the most conflicted roles of all right now: Information Architects.

One challenge with the craft of IA is pace of change, since IA today looks very different from its library and taxonomic roots. Undoubtedly, it will look very different ten years from now too as it gets assailed from various other roles and perspectives, each believing their version of rightness is more right. Consider this slightly abridged quote from Joshua Porter:

Worse, the term “information architecture” has over time come to encompass, as suggested by its principal promoters, nearly every facet of not just web design, but Design itself. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the latest update of Rosenfeld and Morville’s O’Reilly title, where the definition has become so expansive that there is now little left that isn’t information architecture […] In addition, the authors can’t seem to make up their minds about what IA actually is […] (a similar affliction pervades the SIGIA mailing list, which has become infamous for never-ending definition battles.) This is not just academic waffling, but evidence of a term too broadly defined. Many disciplines often reach out beyond their initial borders, after catching on and gaining converts, but IA is going to the extreme. One technologist and designer I know even referred to this ever-growing set of definitions as the “IA land-grab”, referring to the tendency that all things Design are being redefined as IA.

You can tell when a role is suffering an identity crisis rather easily too. It is when people with the current role start to muse that the title no longer reflects what they do and call for new roles to better reflect the environment they find themselves in. Evidence for this exists further in Porter’s post. Check out the line I marked with bold below:

In addition, this shift is already happening to information architects, who, recognizing that information is only a byproduct of activity, increasingly adopt a different job title. Most are moving toward something in the realm of “user experience”, which is probably a good thing because it has the rigor of focusing on the user’s actual experience. Also, this as an inevitable move, given that most IAs are concerned about designing great things. IA Scott Weisbrod, sees this happening too: “People who once identified themselves as Information Architects are now looking for more meaningful expressions to describe what they do – whether it’s interaction architect or experience designer

So while I used the example of Information Architects as an example of how pace of change causes an identity crisis, the advent of the cloud doesn’t actually cause too many IA’s (or whatever they choose to call themselves) to lose too much sleep. But there are other knowledge-worker roles that have not really felt the effects of change in the same way as their IA cousins. In fact, for the better part of twenty years one group have actually benefited greatly from pace of change. Only now is the ground under their feet starting to shift, and the resulting behaviours are starting to reflect the emergence of an identity crisis that some would say is long overdue.

IT Departments and the cloud

At a SharePoint Saturday in 2011, I was on a panel and we were asked by an attendee what effect Office 365 and other cloud based solutions might have on a traditional IT infrastructure role. This person asking was an infrastructure guy and his question was essentially around how his role might change as cloud solutions becomes more and more mainstream. Of course, all of the SharePoint nerds on the panel didn’t want to touch that question with a bargepole and all heads turned to me since apparently I am “the business guy”. My reply was that he was sensing a change – commoditisation of certain aspects of IT roles. Did that mean he was going to lose his job? Unlikely, but nevertheless when  change is upon us, many of us tend to place more value on what we will lose compared to what we will gain. Our defence mechanisms kick in.

But lets take this a little further: The average tech guy comes in two main personas. The first is the tech-cowboy who documents nothing, half completes projects then loses interest, is oblivious to how much they are in over their head and generally gives IT a bad name. They usually have a lot of intellectual intelligence (IQ), but not so much emotional intelligence (EQ). Ben Curry once referred to this group as “dumb smart guys.” The second persona is the conspiracy theorist who had to clean up after such a cowboy. This person usually has more skills and knowledge than the first guy, writes documentation and generally keeps things running well. Unfortunately, they also can give IT a bad name. This is because, after having to pick up the pieces of something not of their doing, they tend to develop a mother hen reflex based on a pathological fear of being paged at 9pm to come in and recover something they had no part in causing. The aforementioned cowboys rarely last the distance and therefore over time, IT departments begin to act as risk minimisers, rather than business enablers.

Now IT departments will never see it this way of course, instead believing that they enable the business because of their risk minimisation. Having spent 20 years being a paranoid conspiracy theorist, security-type IT guy, I totally get why this happens as I was the living embodiment of this attitude for a long time. Technology is getting insanely complex while users innate ability to do some really risky and dumb is increasing. Obviously, such risk needs to be managed and accordingly, a common characteristic of such an IT department is the word “no” to pretty much any question that involves introducing something new (banning iPads or espousing the evils of DropBox are the best examples I can think of right now). When I wrote about this issue in the context of SharePoint user adoption back in 2008, I had this to say:

The mother hen reflex should be understood and not ridiculed, as it is often the user’s past actions that has created the reflex. But once ingrained, the reflex can start to stifle productivity in many different ways. For example, for an employee not being able to operate at full efficiency because they are waiting 2 days for a helpdesk request to be actioned is simply not smart business. Worse still, a vicious circle emerges. Frustrated with a lack of response, the user will take matters into their own hands to improve their efficiency. But this simply plays into the hands of the mother hen reflex and for IT this reinforces the reason why such controls are needed. You just can’t trust those dog-gone users! More controls required!

The long term legacy of increasing technical complexity and risk is that IT departments become slow-moving and find it difficult to react to pace of change. Witness the number of organisations still running parts of their business on Office 2003, IE6 and Windows XP. The rest of the organisation starts to resent using old tools and the imposition of process and structure for no tangible gain. The IT department develops a reputation of being difficult to deal with and taking ages to get anything done. This disconnect begins to fester, and little by little both IT and “the business” develop a rose-tinged view of themselves (which is known as groupthink) and a misguided perception of the other.

At the end of the day though, irrespective of logic or who has the moral high ground in the debate, an IT department with a poor reputation will eventually lose. This is because IT is no longer seen as a business enabler, but as a cost-center. Just as organisations did with the IT outsourcing fad over the last decade, organisational decision makers will read CIO magazine articles about server huggers look longingly to the cloud, as applications become more sophisticated and more and more traditional vendors move into the space, thus legitimising it. IT will be viewed, however unfairly, as a burden where the cost is not worth the value realised. All the while, to conservative IT, the cloud represents some of their worst fears realised. Risk! risk! risk! Then the vicious circle of the mother-hen reflex will continue because rogue cloud applications will be commissioned without IT knowledge or approval. Now we are back to the bad old days of rogue MSAccess or SharePoint deployments that drives the call for control based governance in the first place!

<nerd interlude>

Now to the nerds reading this post who find it incredibly frustrating that their organisation will happily pump money into some cloud-based flight of fancy, but whine when you want to upgrade the network, I want you to take take note of this paragraph as it is really (really) important! I will tell you the simple reason why people are more willing to spend more money on fluffy marketing than IT. In the eyes of a manager who needs to make a profit, sponsoring a conference or making the reception area look nice is seen as revenue generating. Those who sign the cheques do not like to spend capital on stuff unless they can see that it directly contributes to revenue generation! Accordingly, a bunch of servers (and for that matter, a server room) are often not considered expenditure that generates revenue but are instead considered overhead! Overhead is something that any smart organisation strives to reduce to remain competitive. The moral of the story? Stop arguing cloud vs. internal on what direct costs are incurred because people will not care! You would do much better to demonstrate to your decision makers that IT is not an overhead. Depending on how strong your mother hen reflex is and how long it has been in place, that might be an uphill battle.

</nerd interlude>

Defence mechanisms…

Like the poor old Information Architect, the rules of the game are changing for IT with regards to cloud solutions. I am not sure how it will play out, but I am already starting to see the defence mechanisms kicking in. There was a CIO interviewed in the “Server Huggers” article that I referred to earlier (Scott Martin) who was hugely pro-cloud. He suggested that many CIO’s are seeing cloud solutions as a threat to the empire they have built:

I feel like a lot of CIOs are in the process of a kind of empire building.  IT empire builders believe that maintaining in-house services helps justify their importance to the company. Those kinds of things are really irrational and not in the best interest of the company […] there are CEO’s who don’t know anything about technology, so their trusted advisor is the guy trying to protect his job.

A client of mine in Sydney told me he enquired to his IT department about the use of hosted SharePoint for a multi-organisational project and the reply back was a giant “hell no,” based primarily on fear, uncertainty and doubt. With IT, such FUD is always cloaked in areas of quite genuine risk. There *are* many core questions that we must ask cloud vendors when taking the plunge because to not do so would be remiss (I will end this post with some of those questions). But the key issue is whether the real underlying reason behind those questions is to shut down the debate or to genuinely understand the risks and implications of moving to the cloud.

How can you tell an IT department is likely using a FUD defence? Actually, it is pretty easily because conservative IT is very predictable – they will likely try and hit you with what they think is their slam-dunk counter argument first up. Therefore, they will attempt to bury the discussion with the US Patriot Act Issue. I’ve come across this issue and and Mark Miller at FPWeb mentioned to me that this comes up all the time when they talk about SharePoint hosting to clients. (I am going to cover the Patriot Act issue in the next post because it warrants a dedicated post).

If the Patriot Act argument fails to dent unbridled cloud enthusiasm, the next layer of defence is to highlight cloud based security (identity, authentication and compliance) as well as downtime risk, citing examples such as the September outage of Office 365, SalesForce.com’s well publicized outages, the Amazon outage that took out Twitter, Reddit, Foursquare, Turntable.fm, Netflix and many, many others. The fact that many IT departments do not actually have the level of governance and assurance of their systems that they aspire to will be conveniently overlooked. 

Failing that, the last line of defence is to call into question the commercial viability of cloud providers. We talked about the issues facing the smaller players in the last post, but It is not just them. What if the provider decides to change direction and discontinue a service? Google will likely be cited, since it has a habit of axing cloud based services that don’t reach enough critical mass (the most recent casualty is Google health being retired as I write this).  The risk of a cloud provider going out of business or withdrawing a service is a much more serious risk than when a software supplier fails. At least when its on premise you still have the application running and can use it.

Every FUD defence is based on truth…

Now as I stated above, all of the concerns listed above are genuine things to consider before embarking on a cloud strategy. Prudent business managers and CIOs must weigh the pros and cons of cloud offering before rushing into a deployment that may not be appropriate for their organisation. Equally though, its important to be able to see through a FUD defence when its presented. The easiest way to do this is do some of your own investigations first.

To that end, you can save yourself a heap of time by checking out the work of Richard Harbridge. Richard did a terrific cloud talk at the most recent Share 2011 conference. You can view his slide deck here and I recommend really going through slides 48-81. He has provided a really comprehensive summary of considerations and questions to ask. Among other things, he offered a list of questions that any organisation should be asking providers of cloud services. I have listed some of them below and encourage you to check out his slide deck as it is really comprehensive and covers way more than what I have covered here.

Security Storage Identity & Access
Who will have access to my data?
Do I have full ownership of my data?
What type of employee / contractor screening you do, before you hire them?
How do you detect if an application is being attacked (hacked), and how is that
reported to me and my employees?
How do you govern administrator access to the service?
What firewalls and anti-virus technology are in place?
What controls do you have in place to ensure safety for my data while it is
stored in your environment?
What happens to my data if I cancel my service?
Can I archive environments?
Will my data be replicated to any other datacenters around the world (If
yes, then which ones)?
Do you offer single sign-on for your services?
Active directory integration?
Do all of my users have to rely on solely web based tools?
Can users work offline?
Do you offer a way for me to run your application locally and how quickly I can revert to the local installation?
Do you offer on-premise, web-based, or mixed environments?
     
Reliability & Support Performance  
What is your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity strategy?
What is the retention period and recovery granularity?
Is your Cloud Computing service compliant with [insert compliance regime here]?
What measures do you provide to assist compliance and minimize legal risk?
What types of support do you offer?
How do you ensure we are not affected by upgrades to the service?
What are your SLAs and how do you compensate when it is not met?
How fast is the local network?
What is the storage architecture?
How many locations do you have and how are they connected?
Have you published any benchmark scores for your infrastructure?
What happens when there is over subscription?
How can I ensure CPU and memory are guaranteed?
 

Conclusion and looking forward…

For some organisations, the lure of cloud solutions is very seductive. From a revenue perspective, it saves a lot of capital expenditure. From a time perspective, it can be deployed very quickly and and from a maintenance perspective, takes the burden away from IT. Sounds like a winner when put that way. But the real issue is that the changing cloud paradigm potentially impacts the wellbeing of some IT professionals and IT departments because it calls into question certain patterns and practices within established roles. It also represents a loss of control and as I said earlier, people often place a higher value on what they will lose compared to what they will gain.

Irrespective of this, whether you are a new age cloud loving CIO or a server hugger, any decision to move to the cloud should be about real business outcomes. Don’t blindly accept what the sales guy tells you. Understand the risks as well as the benefits. Leverage the work Richard has done and ask the cloud providers the hard questions. Look for real world stories (like my second and third articles in this series) which illustrate where the services have let people down.

For some, cloud will be very successful. For others, the gap between expectations and reality will come with a thud.

Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

www.sevensigma.com.au

www.hereticsguidebooks.com

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The cloud is not the problem–Part 1: Has it been here all along?

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Cloud
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Hiya

I have been meaning to write a post or three on cloud computing, and its benefits, challenges and eventual legacy. I’ve finally had some time to do so. This series will span over a few posts (not sure how many at this stage) and will focus mainly on SharePoint. In short, I think the cloud is a shining example of innovation, combined with human irrationality, poorly thought out process with a dash of organisational dysfunction. In this first post, I will give you a little cloud history lesson, through the eyes of a slightly jaded IT infrastructure person. To that end, I will try and do the following throughout this series:

  • Educate readers to some conceptual aspects of cloud computing and why it matters
  • Highlight aspects to cloud computing that are current being conveniently overlooked by proponents (and opponents)
  • Look at what the real challenges are, not just for organisations utilising it, but for the organisations providing cloud services
  • Highlight what the future might look like from a couple of perspectives
  • As always, take a relatively dry topic and try and make this entertaining enough that you will want to read it through 🙂

So let’s roll the clock back a decade or so and set the scene…

In the beginning…

In the height of the dotcom boom of 2000, I took a high paying contract position for a miner-turned-ISP. You see, back then it was all the rage for “penny stock” mining companies – who had never actually dug anything of value out of the ground – to embrace “The interweb” by becoming an Internet Service Provider. Despite having no idea whatsoever about what it entailed to be an ISP, instantly they would enjoy at least a fiftyfold increase in stock price and all the adulation of those dotcom investors who actually believed that there was money to be made.

Lured from my stable job by the hubris-funded per-hour rate and a cooler job title, I designed and ran an ISP from late 1999 till late 2004, doing all things security, Linux, Cisco and Microsoft. Back then, the buzzword of choice was “hosting”. Of course, the dotcom bubble popped big time and the market collapsed back to cold hard reality pretty quickly. Like all organisations that rode the wave, we then had to survive the backwash of a pretty severe bear market. Accordingly, my hourly rate went down and our ISP sales guys dutifully sold “hosting solutions” to clients that were neither useful nor appropriate. The best example of this is when someone sold a hosted exchange server to a company of 300 staff with no consideration whatsoever of bandwidth, security and authentication (remember that this was the era of Exchange 2000, immature Active Directory deployments and 1.5/256 megabit ADSL connections).

We actually learnt a lot from dumbass stuff like this (and we went through a seemingly endless number of sales guys as a result). By the end of the journey, we did some good work and had a few success stories. The net result of riding the highs and lows of the dotcom boom, was my conclusion that if you had a public IP address and a communications rack with decent air conditioning, you were pretty much a hosting provider.

Then in 2004 I took a different job with a different company. They hired me because they had just acquired a fairly well-known “hosting provider” who had gone through some tough times. I was tasked with migrating the hosting infrastructure – and the sites hosted on it – to the parent company premises and integrate it with the existing infrastructure. So imagine my shock when on day one, I arrive onsite to see that the infrastructure of this hosting provider was essentially a store room, full of clone PC’s with panels removed, sitting in a couple of communications racks, with a cheap portable fan blowing onto it all to keep it cool and with no redundant power (in fact one power cord was sticky taped to the floor and led out the room to the nearest outlet). As it happened, some very high profile websites ran on this infrastructure.

This period I describe as “my bitter and twisted days” as I had a limited time to somehow migrate this mess to the more robust infrastructure of the parent company. This was the period where I became a bit of an IT control freak and used to take a dim view of web developers who dared to ask me a dumb question. I also subsequently revised my view of hosting. I decided that if you had a public IP address and a comms rack with completely crap air conditioning, you were pretty much a hosting provider. After all, when you access a website, did you ever stop to consider where it physically might reside?

…and henceforth came “the cloud”

Before SharePoint 2010 came out, I used to do talks where I put up the SharePoint 2007 pie and asked people what buzzword was missing. Many hands would rise and the answer was always “cloud”. Cognisant of this, I redrew Microsoft’s marketing diagram to try and capture the essence of this this new force in enterprise IT. I suggested that Microsoft would jump on the cloud big-time with SharePoint 2010. How do you think I did? Smile

 

image

As it turned out, Microsoft for some reason opted not to use my suggested logo and instead went with that blue Frisbee with fresh buzzwords to replace the 2007 ones that had reached their saturation point. Nevertheless, the picture above did turn out to be prophetic: The era of the cloud is most definitely upon us, along with the gushing praise that often accompanies any flavour of the year technology.

Now in one sense, nothing much has changed from the days of web hosting. If you have an IP address with a webserver on the end of it, you can pretty much call yourself a cloud provider. This is because at the end of the day, we are still using the core ingredients of TCPIP, DNS, HTTP, communications racks and supposedly good air conditioning. When you access something in “the cloud”, you have no visibility as to the quality of the infrastructure on the other end. For all you know, it could be a store room being kept cool with a dodgy fan and some sticky tape :-).

But while that’s a cynical view, its is also naively simplistic. Like all fads that come and go, things are always changed as a result. The truth is that there has been changes from the days of web hosting that will change the entire face of IT in the coming years.

The major difference between this era and the last is the advancement in technology beyond those core ingredients of TCPIP, DNS and HTTP. Bandwidth has became significantly cheaper, faster and more reliable. Virtualisation of servers (and services) not only gained momentum, but is now a mature technology. My own evidence for this fact is that I haven’t put SharePoint web front end servers onto non-virtualised infrastructure for a couple of years now. Add to that the fact that the tools and systems that we use to build web solutions are now much more powerful and sophisticated. As a result, “cloud” applications now reflect a level of sophistication and features way beyond their web based email origins. Look at Office 365 as a case in point. Microsoft have bet big-time on this type of offering. I’m sure that most architectural diagrams currently drawn all over Microsoft whiteboards for SharePoint vNext, will be all about reworking the plumbing to create feature parity between on-premise SharePoint and it’s cloud based equivalent.

It’s interesting stuff indeed.

Now, perhaps because I had an ISP/hosting ringside seat,  I could see all of this happening way back in 2000 – more than a decade ago. Not only could I see it, I experienced the pain of early adopters trying to do it (witness the example of the hosted Exchange 2000 “solution” I started this post with). But a decade later, cloud based infrastructure now realises the sort of capabilities that I was able to foresee in my ISP days. We have access to unlimited storage and scalability. With it, I can save massive time and effort to get complex systems up and running. In this fast-moving age we find ourselves in, being able to mobilise resources and be productive quickly is hugely important. Recognising this, companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft leverage their incredible economies of scale, as well as the sheer depth of technical expertise to make some rather compelling offerings. Bean counters (i.e. CFO’s and CIO’s with tight budgets) suddenly realised that the cost to “jack-in” to a cloud based solution is way less costly than the traditional manner of up-front costs of hardware, licensing, procurement and configuration.

The cloud offers minimal entry cost because for the most part, it is based on a pay-for-use model. You stop paying for it when you stop using it. Buying servers are forever, but the cloud is apparently not. Furthermore, the economies of scale that the big boys of the cloud space offer, usually far exceeds what can be done via internal IT resources anyway. This extends past sheer hardware scalability and includes security, reliability and performance monitoring. As a cloud provider customer, you will not just expect, but assume that companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google can use their deep pockets to hire the best of the best engineers, architects and security practitioners. Organisational decision makers look increasingly longingly at the cloud, in the face of internal IT costs being high.

Even the most traditional on-premise IT vendors are getting in on the act. Consider SAP, previously a bastion of the “on-premise” model. Their American division just shelled out US$3.4 billion to buy a cloud provider called SuccessFactors (3.4 billion = 50% premium to SuccessFactors share price.) Why did they do this? According to Paul Hamerman (the bold areas are mine).

“SAP’s cloud strategy has been struggling with time-to-market issues, and its core on-premise HR management software has been at competitive disadvantage with best-of-breed solutions in areas such as employee performance, succession planning and learning management. By acquiring SuccessFactors, SAP puts itself into a much stronger competitive position in human resources applications and reaffirms its commitment to software-as-a-service as a key business model.”

If that wasn’t enough, consider some of Gartner’s predictions for 2012 and beyond. One notable predictions is that by year-end 2016, more than 50 percent of Global 1000 companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud. Closer to home for me, I have a client who has a ten-year BHAG (known as a Big, Hairy Audacious Goal). While I can’t tell you what this goal is, I can tell you that they have identified a key success metric that currently takes them around 12 months to achieve. Their BHAG is to reduce this time from 12 months to 4 weeks and achieve this within a decade. Essentially they have a time-to-market issue – similar to what Hamerman outlined with SAP. By utilising cloud technology and being able to procure the necessary scalability at the click of a button and the swipe of a credit card, I was able to save them one month almost straight away and make a massive inroad to their organisation-wide strategic goal.

So it seems that in the rational world of key performance indicators and return on investment, and given the market trends of large, mainstream vendors going “cloud”, it would seem that we are in the midst of a revolution that has an unstoppable momentum. But of course, the world is not rational is it? If it were, then someone would be able to explain to me why the US still uses the imperial system given that every other country (save for Liberia and Myanmar) has now changed to metric (yes my US readers, the UK is actually metric).

The irrational road ahead…

In this first post I have painted a picture of the “new reality” – the realisation of what I first saw in 2000 is now upon us. While this first post might sound like gushing praise of all things cloud, rest assured that this is not the case. I deliberately titled this post “the cloud is not the problem” because we are going to dive into the seedy underbelly of this brave new cloudy world we find ourselves in. My contention is that cloud computing is an adaptive challenge, which by definition, questions certain established ways of doing things. Therefore it has an effect on the roles, beliefs, assumptions and values behind the established order. In the next post or three, we are going to explore some of the less rational sides of “the cloud” at a number of levels. Furthermore, the irrationality often tends to be dressed up as rationality, so we have to look behind the positive and negative straw-man arguments we are currently hearing about, to what is really going on. Along the way I hope to develop your “cloud computing strawman argument” radar, so you can smell manure when its inevitably dished out to you 🙂

The general breakdown of this series will be as follows:

I’ll start by chronicling my experience with Microsoft’s new Software as a Service (Saas) offering: Office 365, as well as Amazon’s Platform as a Service Offering (EC2). Both are terrific offerings, but are let down by things that have nothing to do with the technology. From there we will move into looking at some of the existing roles and paradigms that are impacted by the move to cloud solutions, and the defence mechanisms that will be employed to counter it. I’ll end the series by taking a look at the cloud from a longer term perspective, based on the notion of systems theory (which despite its drop-dead boring sounding premise is actually quite interesting).

Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

www.sevensigma.com.au

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Share2010 – A new kind of SharePoint conference

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Having spoken at the odd SharePoint event over the last three years or so, I’ve always lamented on the lack of a purely business focused SharePoint conference. Whilst the conferences I attend do cater for non technology oriented topics – particularly the best practice conferences, there is usually an equal or greater proportion of content aimed at the nerdier aspects of SharePoint.

Sadly though, nerds don’t often sign the cheques. Those who do sign them, are rarely interested in deploying SharePoint via Powershell, or why sandboxed solutions are a good thing or not. They are looking for the ways and means to take SharePoint (the enabler) and work out what the hell SharePoint is enabling and to work out if it has done so properly.

Some time back, via a reference from Kristian Kalsing, I received a call from the organisers of the forthcoming Share2010 in Sydney, asking for feedback on what I would like to see in a good business focused SharePoint conference. In speaking to Steve from Eventful Management and his team, it was clear that something unique was in the making here.

Fast forward several months and after a whole lot of market research and round-table discussions from SharePoint customers (including a couple of our clients), we have a conference that puts many critical topics close to my heart, front and centre, namely governance, user engagement and adaption, business process automation and workflow; information architecture; collaboration; document and records management; resourcing and support; social networking; ROI; security and so on.

I am honoured that I was also asked to participate as a speaker at this conference, along side the likes of Dux Sy, Erica Toelle, Andrew Jolly and Michael Sampson. You will find that speakers from this group have one thing in common: Their focus on the softer areas of SharePoint. There are also speakers from some of Australia’s leading organisations (and some international ones too), who will share their trials, tribulations and lessons learned. This is real problem/real solution type stuff and I am seriously looking forward to being part of it.

I’ll be involved in the initial festivities on the Sunday evening, conducting a special interest kickoff session called SharePoint Governance Home Truths. This session aims to present a lot of my work in a more relaxed, entertaining manner and hopefully, set a good tone for the rest of the event.

I will also be running a special event on Wednesday called “Microsoft SharePoint Governance f-Laws: Handy Hints for Those Who Question Business as Usual”. I am really excited about this. Developing the content for this session has been a labour of love for me since November last year – and is a kind of magnum opus of everything I have learned in my IT and non IT work. I have been very fortunate to work on some very large and complex non IT projects and worked with some amazingly talented people in the areas of project management, cognitive science, facilitation and community engagement. I can absolutely guarantee you that there will be many aspects to this session that would not have been seen before in one place in this distilled form. I am super excited about delivering this in full at Share2010 – there simply could not be a better conference for this type of workshop.

By the way, I used elements of this material in the SharePoint 2010 Governance and Information Architecture course that was developed for the Microsoft NZ/3Grow Elite Program. The feedback from that course speaks for itself.

The outcomes to expect for attendee of this session are:

  • Understand the SharePoint governance lens beyond an IT service delivery focus
  • Develop your ‘wicked problem’ radar and apply appropriate governance practices, tools and techniques accordingly
  • Learn how to align SharePoint projects to broad organisational goals, avoid chasing platitudes and ensure that the problem being solved is the right problem
  • Understand the relationship between governance and assurance, why both are needed and how they affect innovation
  • Understand the underlying, often hidden forces of organisational chaos that underpins projects like SharePoint

There is a large amount of content and activities in this session that has never graced CleverworkArounds. In fact, if I ever get around to posting some of the content, I could blog for months. But more importantly than the content, you will have a lot of practical tools to leverage as well. Attendees to my session will receive a CD containing end-to-end governance artefacts ranging from IBIS maps, goal alignment and performance framework outputs, envisioning workshop sample outputs, Information Architecture mind-maps, BPMN diagrams, wireframes, user engagement tools, ROI calculations and more.

As it happens, I collaborated on a lot of this stuff with Erica Toelle, so it is terrific that she is speaking at the event and her “Don’t reinvent the wheel” talk should not be missed, as well as her Tuesday keynote. If I ask her nicely, she might just pop a few of her goodies onto the CD as well!

You can register here, for this unique event, and let’s hope that there are many more to come. There is opportunity for one on one meetings with speakers like myself as part of the deal.

Thanks for reading

 

 

Paul Culmsee

www.sevensigma.com.au

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SharePoint ROI Slide Deck and Sample Scenario worksheet published

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Hot off the press (okay – well SlideShare magic),  I’ve just posted by Best Practices Conference slide deck for the "speak to your CFO" session, along with the ROI spreadsheet for the PMIS scenario that I used during the demonstration. Like the "wicked problems" slide deck, slideshare conversion isn’t quite there, so just contact me if you want a pptx version.

…and the spreadsheet. Just remember you scary MBA and finance types. I *know* this is a simple sheet and you can pick all sorts of holes in it. It is really for training and guidance purposes only. (Therefore see the obligatory "don’t come crying to me if this gets you into trouble" disclaimer below).

THIS CODE IS PROVIDED UNDER THIS LICENSE ON AN “AS IS” BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WARRANTIES THAT THE COVERED CODE IS FREE OF DEFECTS, MERCHANTABLE, FIT FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NON-INFRINGING. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE COVERED CODE IS WITH YOU. SHOULD ANY COVERED CODE PROVE DEFECTIVE IN ANY RESPECT, YOU (NOT THE INITIAL DEVELOPER OR ANY OTHER CONTRIBUTOR) ASSUME THE COST OF ANY NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION. THIS DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY CONSTITUTES AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THIS LICENSE. NO USE OF ANY COVERED CODE IS AUTHORIZED HEREUNDER EXCEPT UNDER THIS DISCLAIMER

Use at your own risk!

 

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