Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Oracle OpenWorld: SOA Governance Panel

For those of you attending Oracle OpenWorld, please come to my session on Monday the 12th at 4:00pm in the Golden Gate 3 room of the Hilton Hotel. I will be participating in a panel discussion on SOA Governance best practices. Based on the pre-call sessions I had with the other panelists, it should be a very informative session. While you’re at the conference, stop by the conference bookstore and pick up a copy of my book. Thanks to my publisher for making it available.

Oracle OpenWorld Opening Keynote

Disclaimer: I’m attending Oracle OpenWorld courtesy of Oracle.

The keynote began with Scott McNealy reminiscing about Sun technologies, including bringing James Gosling on stage to talk about Java. James joked that he’s never worked for a software company before. To me, this felt more like a eulogy for Sun than a message to rally the troops behind Oracle.

Next came John Fowler to talk about Solaris and Systems. John stated that Sun is now #1 in “all world record key commercial benchmarks”: OLTP, Oracle BI EE, Oracle Hyperion, SAP, PeopleSoft Payroll, Java App Server, Web/Network. He also spent a lot of time talking about the FlashFire server and the new Sun Storage Flash array and the performance and efficiency gains that are coming. This was a much better conversation, probably since they had a product announcement…

Next up, as introduced by Scott, was the “Oracle of Redwood City,” Larry Ellison. He started out with the ad he posted after announcing the acquisition of Oracle in response to how IBM was going after Sun customers. He emphasized how they are going to increase investment into Sun hardware and increase their contributions and investment to MySQL. He then switched into attack mode aiming at IBM and which was faster for OLTP: IBM or Sun. He showed that IBM’s world record TPC-C benchmark with 76 racks of gear against 9 racks of Sun’s latest technology including FlashFire. The results: 25% more throughput for Sun, 16x better response time for Sun. He took a dig at IBM and their power consumption stating that “their microprocessor is known as ‘power’… now we know why.” He then showed a new ad that is going to run that will create a challenge: If they can not run an Oracle database application at least twice as fast on Sun hardware, they will give the challenger ten million dollars. He wrapped it up by inviting IBM to enter. Scott then wrapped the keynote up with some thank you’s and a statement that “the drinks are on Larry.”

In my opinion, this was a rather awkward opening keynote. As I said before, it felt too much like a farewell speech for McNealy, and not a ‘get the crowd excited about the conference’ keynote. I would have rather seen Oracle take the lead and talk positively about Sun, and then give Scott a bit of time to reminisce, rather than the format that was used.

Conferences for Enterprise Architects

Brenda Michelson asked the blogosphere, “What does a ‘would & could attend’ IT conference look like?” In her post, she suggested some items that are ones that are required for establishing initial interest (i.e. things that make us say, “I would like to attend that), including credible speakers, compelling topics, peer interaction, immersive experience, participatory programs, etc. She then called out some constraints that come into play when answering whether or not we could attend. Those constraints include cost, proximity, dates, etc. The premise is that the finding the right intersection of attributes creates the “would & could attend.”

First, let me describe why I attend conferences. I don’t normally use conferences to learn about new areas. Instead, I go to conferences to extend my knowledge in an areas. Sometimes it may be an effort to go from “100-level” knowledge to “200-level” and sometimes it may be in areas where I know a lot, and I’m just hoping to find some nugget through sharing experiences. Given that, the conference sessions that interest me the most are almost always ones that involve a panel of practitioners. By practitioners, I mean corporate IT employees and not consultants, analysts, or vendors. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think that consultants, analysts, and vendors have anything good to contribute, it just means that their presentations have less potential value for me. While any speaker should view the effort as a marketing opportuntity, it obviously has more of an impact on the bottom line for consultants, analysts, and vendors. A practitioner must understand that their speaking does have an impact on recruiting efforts for their employer, however, it’s typically not a primary concern and unlikely that anyone is tracking the number of recruiting leads that came out of the speaking engagement. The practitioner is there to share best practices and hopefully engage in conversations with peers about their efforts in the same space. Unfortunately, these are frequently few and far between.

Other factors that come into play on the “would” portion are the agenda. I’ve never attended an “un-conference,” and I think this would be a bit more difficult to pull off in the EA space than it would be in the general development space. I’m not against the concept, but I think you need to have a very strong base of people committed to ensuring that conversations on interesting topics will happen. My experience with items in the middle, like birds-of-a-feather sessions are similar. Unless there’s someone in the discussion committed to keeping the conversation going, the sessions are duds. At the same time, there’s a risk that such a person becomes the sole presenter. A facilitator that ensures discussion, rather than presentation, happens is critical. I’d err on the side of having defined topics, pre-planned questions, but then structuring the sessions in a way to allow lots of time for interaction. Here, the moderator/facilitator is key. If the audience isn’t willing to participate, the facilitator must fill the time with relevant questions. This is a big risk, because for every 1 person I find that is willing to share experiences, there are probably 10 or 20 who are only interested in receiving, whether due to their own personality, level of knowledge, restrictive information sharing policies of their employer, or one of many other reasons.

The other challenge with all of this is that someone needs to pay for all of this. Practitioners don’t have a marketing budget to fund IT conferences like a vendor, consultant, or analyst firm might. As a result, I think you’re more likely to find these type of conversations through local user groups, however, the issue I have with those is that they always occur during evenings, time which I spend with my family. I’d rather be doing this during my work hours, as these conferences are work-related. Addditionally, unless you work in a very big city, there may not be enough participants to sustain the discussion. I live and work in the St. Louis metro area, and there are still many large organizations here that don’t have an EA practice, so sustaining something at a local level would be difficult. Therefore, I’m willing to sacrifice some portion of the conference time to allow vendor, analyst, or consultant presentations that would offset the costs to me. That being said, I’d like to see at least 50% of the sessions be from practitioners, and I’d be willing to give up frills (meals, conference schwag, evening entertainment, etc.) to keep that balance.

As for other factors, location, dates, costs, etc. all of them have been less of a decision factor for me. Obviously, in today’s economy, the cheaper the better, and it’s always nice when I can consider bringing my family with me and let them be entertained by the area while I go learn things, but it usually all comes down to whether or not I’m going to learn something and have some facilitated interaction with my peers. By the way, I also think that so-called “networking sessions” where they group people at a meal according to their industry vertical or some other attribute don’t cut it. While, you may have a good conversation about the weather at the conference site or current events, and may meet some nice people, they’re unlikely to result in information sharing relevant to the conference topic unless someone steps in as a facilitator.

Note: I just read James McGovern’s response to Brenda’s post, and I like his idea of a “Hot Seat” question. I would have no problem being asked questions without knowing the questions in advance, with the appropriate restrictions on discussing intellectual property and keeping questions on the topic at hand.

Gartner EA Summit: Managing the Migration to Your Future State Architecture

Presenter: Scott Bittler, Gartner

Another presentation from Scott, this time over breakfast. The bulk of this talk was focused on the importance of what he termed as “Next State Architecture.” If we have the future state and current state architectures documented, the challenge that exists is if we can’t achieve the future state architecture in one step. If that’s the case, then there’s a gap in the prescriptive guidance needed for project teams. If they know they can’t get to the future state, and don’t have guidance on how they should move from current state, they’re likely to stick with what they know. Good advice.

There were some specific nuggets outside of this core topic that I also wanted to call out. First, he said that the most important EA deliverable is principles, because it’s those principles that lead to consistent decision making. The talk wasn’t focused on this, so he didn’t go into depth, but some examples of these principles would be good. I definitely see the importance in these and agree with his statement. I’ve been in many situations with two (or more) compelling options where we seem to be at a stalemate. The principles need to assist in getting decisions made.

Second, I liked the fact that he said that EA’s role is to provide prescriptive guidance so that appropriate choices are made on projects and programs. This emphasizes the point that I was hoping would be made in his governance talk yesterday. Provide the policies, and anyone can make the right decisions.

Finally, the last comment he made was that with the advent of EA-focused web sites, etc., any team that claims ignorance when confronted with non-compliance (“I didn’t know I was supposed to do that”) is unacceptable in this day. Here, I disagree. I make extensive use of RSS feeds in my work so that I get information pushed to me, but I know many of my colleagues do not. A web site is still a pull-model, and there’s very few people that I know of that have the discipline to regularly check common web sites. EA has to be accountable for the communication effort and ensuring that it gets pushed out to the people who need it. Putting it on a web site isn’t enough. So, this one I disagree with. I think if EA is serious about achieving compliance, then they should be serious about pushing the information out. Create a formal communication plan and execute it.

Gartner EA Summit: Effective Governance, Best Practices

Presenter: Scott Bittler, Gartner

This presentation got me on my soap box. This talk took the traditional approach to governance, framing it around decision rights. In my opinion, this is too narrow of a scope and leads to the typical review board approach that contributes to the negative connotation most project staff have around governance. A focus on decision rights always jumps to some kind of an exception process, or better stated, a situation where there is a project that is not compliant with the architecture. The problem I have with this view is that these decisions assume that the project was knowingly out of compliance. More often than not, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the project team isn’t aware of what “in compliance” is, makes decisions based upon their knowledge and context, and only when (and if) someone else who has some other context comes into the picture, does a discussion around “decision rights” even enter the mix. When that happens, it’s usually too late in the project, and the schedule wins. What’s the real source of the problem here? It’s not a problem with decision rights, it’s a problem with not providing the people making the decisions the knowledge they need to do it right. What’s even worse in that if we didn’t even find out about the non-compliance, the focus is misplaced on inserting a checkpoint/review instead of actually getting the project team to make the right decision to begin with.

Put another way, how fast would you drive on a road that has no speed limit signs posted? If everyone was speeding, is the right answer to put police officers out there every mile, or is the right answer to post speed limit signs. Unfortunately, with projects, we’re doing the former. We stick more police out in the form of big review boards, but we still haven’t bothered to give the teams the information they need to do things right.

Instead of focusing on who has authority, focus on what the policies are that state what the “right” thing to do is, and enable the people that are must make the decisions to make them properly, rather than taking away their ability to make decisions by requiring them to guess which decisions must be escalated up the ladder to the person who is deemed the authority. The person who is the authority shouldn’t be making decisions, they should be making policies and enabling the decision makers.

The session is now over, and I want to point out that his recommendations slide did have a bullet point encouraging lots of proactive communication on the architecture. I also want to add that there was good content in the presentation, especially the brief discussion on federated governance across business units near the end, I just wish he had emphasized his recommendation on proactive communication (and introduced the concept of policy as part of that) in the earlier slides instead of so much focus on review boards and waivers. I caught him after the presentation and told him about my book, hopefully we can continue the conversation. He’s not on Gartner’s blogroll yet, so I’ll have to hope for some offline communication on the topic.

Gartner EA Summit: Case Study from Health Care Service Corporation

In this session, Bernadette Rasmussen, Chief Enterprise Architect at Health Care Service Corporation, gave a case study discussing their efforts to establish a future-state architecture. The highlight of this session for me was the fact that a deliverable of their future state architecture was a formal communication plan, and then the actual communication activities articulated in that plan. This included large presentations for lots of people, DVDs containing an overview, development of on-line training, formal communication to senior IT leadership (who in turn had them communicate it senior leadership outside of IT), and more. I’ve had the opportunity to work on one enterprise-level effort with someone who was passionate about communication and had us develop a similar plan, and I think it was a huge contributor to the success of the effort. Developing the artifacts is one thing, but if people don’t know they exist, they won’t get used.

Gartner EA Summit: Cracking the Code of Business Architecture

Presenter: Al Newman, Director of Architecture Services at Allstate Insurance Company

Al discussed Allstate’s journey on the path to establishing a business architecture practice at Allstate.

He walked us through an eight step process:

  1. Define business architecture
  2. Secure executive sponsorship
  3. Develop a framework
  4. Secure an initial engagement
  5. Build an engagement team
  6. Creating a competency center
  7. Build out infrastructure
  8. Formalize the operating model

Two highlights that I wanted to call out. First, he’s emphasized the need for an engagement model. I’ve seen too many teams, whether formally on the org chart or not, that don’t have an idea on how either the team members or the artifacts that they may create will be utilized within project efforts. In the IT organizations I’ve seen, the work gets done in projects, period. Architecture teams that don’t have people formally allocated to projects need to figure out how their artifacts and/or staff will be utilized in those projects.

Second, he emphasized the need for business architecture in making solid project decisions. I couldn’t agree more, and have a chapter discussing this in an SOA context in my book. In the context of SOA, one question that gets asked is “How do I build the right services?” Asking this question after a project has been initiated is already problematic as the project establishes scope boundaries, and changing those requires more effort than it would have if those discussions were had during the project definition process.

Gartner EA Summit in Vegas

I will be at the Gartner EA Summit in Vegas on Thursday the 11th and Friday the 12th, including being a panelist on EA and SOA on Friday morning. Introduce yourself to me there and perhaps you will get a discount code for my book. Offer open to attendees only.

SOA Consortium Podcast on SOA Governance

I’m pleased to announce that my “soapbox derby” presentation from the September meeting of the SOA Consortium is now available in podcast form from the consortium’s website (basic registration required to download). I thought the “derby” format worked very well, with all of the derby participants given 15 minutes to present, followed by a discussion from the meeting attendees. It kept things brief and to the point on a narrow, but important area. I had just completed my book, so naturally I talked about governance. Give it a listen, as well as the other excellent presentations from Victor Harrison of CSC, Mike Kavis of Kavis Technology Consulting, and Britta Schatz of Penn National Insurance.

SOA Consortium Soapbox Derby

Just a note of thanks for Brenda Michelson and the SOA Consortium for a great meeting and the opportunity to participate in the Soapbox Derby. It was a bit like an un-conference in that the participants were free to talk about anything SOA-related for 15 minutes, followed up by 15 minutes of group conversation. I’m pretty sure that these will likely be posted as a podcast, but I hope they decide to repeat this effort at another meeting. We had some great conversations around governance, actual project experiences, organizational change management, SOA and model-driven architecture, EDA, and more. I think it could easily be a great draw again at a future meeting. A great part of organizations like the SOA Consortium is the opportunity to share experiences with fellow practitioners, and I thought the Soapbox Derby was a great way of doing it. I encourage my fellow practitioners to keep an eye out for the next time they do this and take the time to share for a few minutes.

SOA Consortium Meeting: Jeanne Ross

I’m here at the SOA Consortium meeting in Orlando. The first speaker at the event was Jeanne Ross from the Center for Information Systems Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management. They had recently completed a study on SOA adoption, and she presented some of the findings to the consortium. If you’re not familiar with Jeanne Ross, I thoroughly recommend two of her books, IT Governance and Enterprise Architecture as Strategy. I continue to refer to some of the concepts I learned from these books as part of my day-to-day job.

One of the interesting takeaways I had from Jeanne’s presentation was the information on the value companies are getting out of reusing services. What the study has found is that while there is definite measurable value that comes out of reuse, in many cases that effort comes at a very significant cost, a cost that often usurps the value generated. This made me think about a discussion that I frequently have with people concerning “enterprise” services versus “non-enterprise” services. In these discussions, it’s always been a black-or-white type of discussion where my stance is that we should assume a service has the potential to be an enterprise service unless told otherwise while the stance of the person I’m speaking to is frequently the exact opposite. It turns out that neither of these positions is the right way.

If you took my old stance, the problem is that you incur costs associated with building and operating a service. If that service doesn’t get reused, you won’t recoup that cost. If you took the opposing stance, you avoid the initial cost, but then you’re at risk of incurring an even higher cost when someone wants to reuse it. To maximize the value that you get out of your services, we need to find something in the middle. There does need to be a fixed amount of cost that will get sunk into any service development effort, but it needs to be focused on answering the question of whether or not we should incur the full cost of making it an enterprise service with full service lifecycle management, or if we should simply focus on the project at hand and leave it at that. I’m going to give this topic more thought and try to determine what that fixed cost should be and hopefully have some future blog entries on the subject. In the meantime, if you have ideas on what you think it should be, please comment or trackback. I’d love to hear more on how others are approaching this.

SOA Consortium Meeting

I will be attending the SOA Consortium meeting next week in Orlando. As Brenda announced on the SOA-C blog, I’ve agreed to be a soapbox derby participant.

I haven’t yet decided which soap box I want to climb on. There’s the obvious and likely SOA Governance topic, given my new book, but I’ll have to find the angle that can stimulate discussion. I could talk about how just because the media has shifted discussions toward WOA and other shiny new things, doesn’t mean that SOA should be put out to pasture. It’s safe to say that I will be talking. In my role as an enterprise architect, I understand that it is my job to have an opinion and provide direction. There’s nothing that drives me nuts more than a meeting where everyone knows something needs to be done, they may even agree on what needs to be done, but no one wants to step up and do it. There’s a soap box for you right there!

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to attending one of the face to face meetings for the first time. I’m especially looking forward to the keynote from Jeanne Ross on SOA adoption and value. If you’re going to be at the meeting, please at least stop by and introduce yourself.

Comments on TUCON 2008 Podcast

Dana Gardner moderated a panel discussion at Tibco’s User Conference (TUCON) on Service Performance Management and SOA. There were some great nuggets in this session, I encourage you to listen to the podcast or read the transcript. The panelists were Sandy Rogers of IDC, Joe McKendrick, Anthony Abbattista of Allstate, and Rourke McNamara of TIBCO.

First, Sandy Rogers of IDC commented that what she finds interesting “is that even if you have one service that you have deployed, you need to have as much information as possible around how it is being used and how the trending is happening regarding the up-tick in the consumption of the service across different applications, across different processes.” I couldn’t agree more on this item. I have seen first hand the value in collecting this information and making it available. Unfortunately, all too often, the need for this is missed when people are looking for funding. Funding is focused on building the service and getting it out the door on-time and on-budget, and operation concerns are left to classic up/down monitoring that never leaves the walls of IT operations. We need to adjust the culture so that monitoring of the usage is a key part of the project success. How can we make any statements on the value of a service, or any IT solution for that matter, if we aren’t monitoring how that service is being used? For example, I frequently see projects that are proposed to make some manual process more efficient. If that’s the value play, are we currently measuring the cost of the manual activity, and how are we quantifying the cost of doing it the new way? Looking at the end database probably isn’t good enough, because that only shows the end results of processing, not the pace of processing. Automated a process enables you to process more, but if demand is stable, the end result will still look the same. The difference lies in the fact that people (and systems) have more time available for other activities.

Sandy went on to state:

They (organizations) need a lot more visibility and an understanding of the strains that are happening on the system, and they need to really build up a level of trust. Once they can add on to the amount of individuals that have that visibility, that trust starts to develop, more reuse starts to happen, and it starts to take off.

Joe picked on this stating “that the foundation of SOA is trust.” No arguments here. If the culture of the organization is one of distrust, I see them of having very slim chances of having any success with SOA. Joe correctly called out that a lot of this hinges on governance. I personally believe that governance is how an organization changes behavior and culture. Lack of trust is a behavior and trust issue. Only by clearly stating what the desired behavior is and establishing policies that create that behavior can culture change happen.

Anthony provided a great anecdote from the roll-out of their ESB stating that they spent 18 months justifying its use and dealing with every outage starting with someone saying, “TIBCO is down.” In reality, it was usually some back end service or component being down, but since the TIBCO ESB was the new thing, everyone blamed it. By having great measurements and monitoring, they were able to get to root cause. I had the exact same situation at a prior company, and it was fun watching the shift as people blamed the new infrastructure, and I would say, “No, it’s up, and the metrics it has collected makes me think the problem is here.”

A bit later in the podcast, Joe mentioned a conversation with Rourke earlier in the day, commenting that “predictive analytics, which is a subset of business intelligence (BI), is now moving into the systems management space.” This sounds very familiar…

Rourke also made a great comment when referring to a customer who said “their biggest fear is that their SOA initiative will be a victim of its own success.” He went on to say:

That could make SOA a victim of its own success. They will have successfully sold the service, had it reused over and over and over and over again. But, then, because of that reuse, because they were successful in achieving the SOA dream, they now are going to suffer. All that business users will see from that is that “SOA is bad,” it makes my applications more fragile, it makes my applications slow down because so many people are using the same stuff.

That was a great point. SOA, if it is successful, should result in an increase in the number of dependencies associated with an IT solution. Many people shudder at that statement, but the important thing is that there should be those dependencies. What’s bad is when those dependencies aren’t effectively managed and monitored. The lack of effective management results in complicated, ad hoc processes that give the perceive that the technology landscape is overly complex.

This was one of the better panel discussion I’ve heard in a while. I encourage you to give it a listen.

Gartner EA: EA and SOA

This is my last post from the summits (actually, I’m already at the airport). This morning, I participated in a panel discussion on EA and SOA as part of the EA Summit with Marty Colburn, Executive VP and CTO for FINRA; Maja Tibbling, Lead Enterprise Architect for Con-way; and John Williams, Enterprise Architect from QBE Regional Insurance. The panel was jointly moderated by Dr. Richard Soley of the OMG and SOA Consortium and Bruce Robertson of Gartner. It was another excellent session in my opinion. We all brought different perspectives on how we had approached SOA and EA, yet there was some apparent commonalities. Number one was the universal answer to what the most challenging things was with SOA adoption: culture change.

There were a large number of questions submitted, and unfortunately, we didn’t get to all of them. The conference director, Pascal Winckel (who did a great job by the way), has said he will try to get these posted onto the conference blog, and I will do my best to either answer them here on my blog or via comments on the Gartner blog. As always, if you have questions, feel free to send them to me here. I’d be happy to address them, and will keep all of the anonymous, if so desired.

Gartner EA: Case Study

I just attended a case study at the summit. The presenter requested that their slides not be made available, so I’m being cautious about what I write. There was one thing I wanted to call out, which was that the case study described some application portfolio analysis efforts and mapping of capabilities to the portfolio. I’ve recently been giving a lot of thought to the analysis side of SOA, and how an organization can enable themselves to build the “right” services. One of the techniques I thought made sense was exactly what he just described with the mapping of capabilities. Easier said than done, though. I think most of us would agree that performing analysis outside of the context of a project could provide great benefits, but the problem is that most organizations have all their resources focused on running the business and executing projects. This is a very tactical view, and the usual objection is that as a result, they can’t afford to do a more strategic analysis. It was nice to hear from an organization that could.


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.