The benefits of an Agile Enterprise Architecture

It is perhaps true to say that the effectiveness of Enterprise Architecture varies from organisation to organisation, and it would appear that the differentiating factor in the success of practices is the level of acceptance from senior management teams.  Organisations which value the contributions enterprise architecture can make in aiding business decisions where IT is a contributing factor, can reap the benefits of a joined up approach when realising institutional goals and ambitions.  Let us not forget that enterprise architecture is not just about IT, it’s about bridging the gap between the services which IT can provide with the needs of the wider organisation and the strategic direction it is taking.  Continue reading

Interim IT strategies: IT-as-a-project

The phrase ‘IT-as-a-project’ doesn’t naturally come to mind when you think of how to go about managing IT.  It has been born out of the experience of project managers as they have progressed through organisations.  It has become an almost religious experience for those caught in its grip.  The ethos revolves around the need for all change to be a project.  Projects become the IT organisation, its life, actions and structure.

IT-as-a-project

IT-as-a-project has benefits:  a known cost, a direction of travel (though simple) and an approach generally agreed with finance and the business.  It also allows costs to be understood and fixed annually.

This can be useful:  during transitions of senior staff, or as temporary constructs when moving IT to 3rd parties.  Long term though, it has some serious constraints:

  • Each project, as a temporary construct, is inherently selfish.  Using Agile badly increases this selfishness.  Selfish behaviour within a business is rarely sustainable.
  • Your organisational maturity may not allow or expect over-running projects and project costs.  Projects, especially poorly run Agile projects, are running risk around cost vs scope.  It’s common for projects to just stop when the funding finishes.
  • The medium and long term cost of IT becomes uncertain.  Projects seem to take over the IT day job and the function of IT seems to get lost.
  • A form of Ponzi scheme is often formed.  New projects feed the legacy and failings of older projects and the interoperability, security and governance problems selfishness causes.
  • Significant loss of competitive edge.  As a selfish construct, IT-as-a-project is not looking at the bigger picture, not looking at doing the right thing overall, just what is right for each project individually.

So, should you take IT-as-a-project as your IT strategy?  It comes down to two simple thoughts:

  • Are you looking for a simple strategy that only needs to be effective short-term ?
  • Are you prepared to accept the cost and risk of the medium/long-term impact?

 

Read about the everything-as-a-service model here.

Trust overt or covert challenge?

Is it better to trust someone that you can see openly challenging you or is it better to trust those that hide the same actions?

It’s quite a simple question with some very interesting observations.  I’ve seen a range of approaches and it’s fascinating to see how many people are trapped trusting those who are covertly campaigning against them.  They seem to do this because they fear challenge and don’t observe or recognize the covert action.  They can not or do not see how people can be manipulated to ensure that the perpetrator is not obviously the instigator and how deflection is the gift of a deceiver.

Perhaps this is the accepted nature of politics; but it does not have to be so.  It is perpetuated by the thirst for power or influence; and the perceived need to prevent challenge, to prevent criticism and a very real fear of failure.

But I have had the privilege of working with some very intellectual and very wise Continue reading

EU-US (not quite enough) Privacy Shield

The EU-US Privacy Shield agreement is due to replace Safe Harbour. The agreement intends to provide Europeans with a level of protection against exploitation of personal information, but with the basic premise based on American companies self-certifying their compliance with the agreement, many Europeans have a right to be skeptical.

EU-US Privacy Shield

There was great hope that the self certification elements of the old Safe Harbour agreement would be dropped in favour of an audit and assessment carried out by the EU, but in the proposal to date, it looks like any audit of a self certification would have to be done jointly between the EU, the ombudsman and the US FTC. Not an easy task and likely to put off all but the largest cases of breach or compromise of personal European information.

Continue reading

Bimodal IT – the future of the IT service?

It’s the latest buzz word to hit IT – Bimodal – and yet it perfectly described the problems faced by most modern and digital orientated businesses:  the ability to be agile and innovative whilst providing all those standard services that are required to keep the IT world running.

I’ve discussed a number of models with a recent focus on everything-as-a-service (XaaS), but the catchier and more complete Bimodal model brings together both my thoughts on buying as-a-service (for the BAU and keep the lights on functions) as well as the creation of innovation units dedicated to providing the business change and creativity to be competitive.

I certainly watch with fascination as the momentum behind Bimodal IT builds to become the standard functioning model of any modern IT service.

End Game: final gasps of the American Empire?

Is this another marker of the end of the empire? The American Empire? Like Rome and London, the final years of empire were highlighted by religious and political extremism pushed forward as the demand for change overtook the old ways.
Romes spiral of destruction started with ever more extreme political actions to keep the population and the wealthy in under control; and the evangelical embrace of Christianity whilst retaining devotion to expired gods.

In the UK, socialism and solidarity threatened the political elite. They were forced to embrace things that were good for people and not just the few; and a fiercely Christian system to had to concede that population gave up on religion – perhaps preferring science and logic.

So now in America, the quasi democratic system that allows you to choose between two parties of almost similar views promoting people from the same pool of political Continue reading

It is easy to be deceived in business – are you trapped in a bubble of unreality?

Just a muse today:  I do seem to be meeting a stream of false prophets at the moment.  People dedicated to saying ‘yes’ to whatever you say, people dedicated to making you think that you are right and that the world is amazing because of you.  Often with scant regard for the real world their goal is to elevate you into a bubble of unreality.  From this position you can do no harm to them (but also no good for you).

Some of these false prophets think they are politicians – spending their lives spinning yarns to the point of disbelief; some are light-hearted and are interested in you; but many are using this as a deception to cover their own troubles and limitations and to defraud you of the opportunity to help the real world (and yourself).

In business it is so easy to be enticed into these good news messages.  Seriously good managers are able to spot and mitigate against these people, but others suck it up and pat themselves on the back and worship these people as idols.

So my tip for the day: Take a step back and think about your business environment. Is it all as rosy or bad as you think? And what incentivises your team: your customer, the future, innovation; or is it padding nests, personal agenda or political ambition.

Simple question, simple answer: 18″ for both front wipers.   I got fed up of attempting to search the web for the size of wiper blades after another muddy bath destroyed the rubbers on mine, so thought it would be worthy of note.

Anyway, these are the ones I purchased Bosch SP18 Super Plus and for the rear you need 13″ ones.  Links above are affiliate links.

Bury Castle Circular Walk #bodminmoor #cornwall

Fantastic walk covering starting on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor, walking through high banked single track roads, woodlands, upper reaches of the River Warleggan and up to the spectacular Bury Castle.

Woodland Walking to Bury Castle

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Cloud First Strategy: being an intelligent customer

The Cloud First Strategy

Part 4 – Being an intelligent customer

It’s a long time since IT underwent any real structural change.  Like many other administrative parts of the business, they are formed into a self contained unit based on one of a number of very similar organisational building blocks.  It’s like looking through a book of 1980’s housing plans – all very similar, all designed without the context of whats around them and all without concern for a sustainable future.

These copybook IT structures work for the old powerhouses of IT demand but are distant from the dreams of dynamic and flexible digital businesses.

Poor quality, low value

bitternessThe jokes about poor quality, low value, cheap IT provided by in-house teams are a result of a culture of pushing down price at the expense of quality and value; and the business often reduces budgets in line with their perception of the service.  It is a self fulfilling prophecy that IT seems to be determined to perpetuate.

Moving the culture

The difficulty now is that people spend more of their lives in the digital world.  They know how to use the digital world, they know how it works for them and they know what would help them.  Long gone are the days where IT knows best.

Imagine just the simple things – you want to get hold of someone.  Depending on how close you fit into the ‘digital native’ stereotype, the chances are you would send a message – text, Facebook, Skype, iMessage.  Your conversation would be disconnected and you would pop-in and out of interacting with it.

In business through we still seem to assume that the telephone, face to face meetings and email is the only answer.  We do this partly because we like to divide work and personal life and clear separation helps, but also because there is a control culture coming from IT inspired by the cost/value/quality argument and the need for a quantitive evidential trail.

The legend goes that to control cost you must actively manage the value and quality; and if you own all the knowledge no one can question you through fear of being shot down by an evidential trail of ‘I told you so’.

This culture of fear, accountability and control appear in the digital world, but they are self and peer managed.  Knowledge loosing it’s power.  Freedom of expression, innovation and sharing become the seat of power.  Look at the power of WikiLeaks: highly valuable and classified information became worthless overnight.

The requirement to share as part of the digital business world is a great threat to the old power bases within IT (and other parts of the organisation).  Traditionally these power bases have relied upon their knowledge being locked away into a ‘dark art’.

However, there is no place for this in digital business.  Everything-As-A-Service is the enabler to change the culture of old traditional locked-in IT.  Those services with dark art documentation (or lack of) and even more dark art maintenance (with overtime) are moved into the cloud.  Provided by professionals, documented by professionals, managed by professionals.

The opportunity of change

Changing the profile of the in-house team is also an opportunity to reinforce this cultural change.  A move is required from hands-on to a shared knowledge model.  The move is often called the ‘intelligent customer’.

Despite moving into a world that embraces revolutionary change, everything-as-a-service also requires a level of interpretation.  Not only to allow the business to choose wisely, but also to manage the supplier base and support business change.  The focus shifts to the relationships, to better understanding the business and to ensuring that sustainable business can be created in the digital world.

org chat for service led it

The example organisation chart for everything-as-a-service appears to remove ops, help desk and many of the traditional part of IT; but they do still exist.  They are provided by 3rd parties under the guidance and support of the in house team.

The in-house team guides and steers the direction of the suppliers to best meet the needs of the business.  They introduce targets for suppliers that are mutually beneficial, achievable and allow the business to flex and change.  They create an atmosphere of IT being guided by the business and not the technology.

This is stepping back from the coal face and focusing on what actually matters:  making business work in the digital world.

Know what to keep and what to move

Be caution though, poor quality managers often move the difficult things to 3rd parties.  They do this because it’s easier than attempting to solve the problem themselves (often the motivation behind outsourcing).

The foundation of everything-as-a-service is based on moving out the commodity IT elements but keeping the highest institutional value items.  This is where IT add their real value to the business.

By moving the commodity elements of the IT service to 3rd parties, the shackles of old IT are gone and IT is released to work with the business for the business.

Simple rule of thumb:  if it’s a commodity IT element, then get a 3rd party to do it; if it is requires high levels of organisational or customer knowledge then it’s going to be better done with in-house teams.

Key targets when moving to create an intelligent customer function:

Culture
* Move from fear, blame and power led cultures
* Knowledge is something to be shared not hidden
* The business knows how to do business, so let IT facilitate business needs
* No fear of failure, innovation or sharing

Working practice
* Customer first
* Taking ownership, listening and spending time understanding
* Embrace change and innovation

Cost vs Value
* Understand the impact of low cost on quality and value
* Let the business choose and let them be honestly informed
* Create a clear and open cost model with no hidden costs and no fake savings

 

 

Cloud First Strategy: Read the next article Part 5 – How to measure success, go to the  INDEX or go back to  Part 3 – Moving from legacy support to supplier management

Boxcryptor Review – safer cloud storage?

With the demise of Safe Harbour rulings, your online life has become a little less secure – is Boxcryptor the answer to the security needs of Cloud based storage?

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Blu Biscuit

Welcome to the household Blu Biscuit.

Cloud First Strategy: Support and supplier management

 

 

The Cloud First Strategy

Part 3 – Moving from legacy support to supplier management

Hardware and software become largely irrelevant as the key question becomes, “does this service meet the business need?”  The burden of complex supporting systems is moved to 3rd parties as part of the service they provide.  Help desk/technical support for the product also moves to the 3rd party.

supplier-management

With XaaS IT, ‘service management’ becomes a much less complex place to be. IT must move to act as the intermediary between the customer and the suppliers.

  • Manage multiple small suppliers and contracts
  • Maintain compliance and regulatory integrity of the IT service
  • Be trusted by the business, the IT team and the supplier community

Traditional IT teams must change.  They must transition from ‘service management’ to become ‘supplier management’, they must move away from their focus on technology to contract compliance and supplier relationships.

Example of the differences

Traditionalist IT people struggle to understand this concept, so let’s kick off with an example from a traditional service management function:

  • Help desk, call handling and 1st line support
    • Purchased for millions and supported by legions of staff.  Vast hidden quantities of money and effort are poured into bespoke and unique help desk systems.   All this for those ‘important’ help desk stats.
    • IT seems unable to work without its help desk and the unfathomable way people are expected to interact with it.
  • System monitoring
    • Another area tainted by the bespoke.
    • Multiple monitoring systems, plugged into master monitoring systems reporting to other monitoring systems.
    • Usually visually impressive, the stats and thresholds used are tweaked by IT who spend endless hours perfecting the meaning of red, green and amber.
  • Configuration management
    • Caught in a legacy trap, where IT consider people as a liability and risk.
    • People often go out of their way to remove monitoring, auditing software from their devices due to privacy concerns or because the tools stop people working effectively.

Now, compare that to the XaaS world:

  • Contracts include support and maintenance
    • Point services and solutions will include the whole life cost including the cost of support and maintenance
  • Pay by results
    • 3rd parties paid on results.  The business should not select based on the background technology.  The supplier should be chosen on merit and ability to meet the business need – technology is their problem.
    • Results = what your business values
    • Little point defining metrics that are irrelevant, unachievable or introduce undesirable behaviours.
  • Contracts designed to be flexible
    • Scale up and down; match peek times of demand, reduce at lower times of demand.
    • Agile.  Stick to 2 + 2 years.
  • Clear costs, known risk

XaaS Org Chart

The often traditionally bloated supplier management function does not even appear in the everything-as-a-service XaaS IT org chart.

org chat for service led it

Clearly this is a idealistic interpretation, as the need for help desk type services still exists, but they are provisioned by 3rd party experts and work for the supplier management function.

Is Xaas Outsourcing?

Outsourcing has sat in this territory for quite some time.  But the aims and goals of outsourcing are different to those of XaaS.  You can see my thoughts on the difference here.  Suffice to say, XaaS is surgical in nature, outsourcing is, by comparison, a shotgun approach.

It is likely that outsourcing is chosen by default as it resolves, in one hit, many of the problems experienced by poorly performing IT teams.  This though is created by an accidental slight of hand from IT:

IT support tend to work under the illusion that their IT service is unique and requires unique systems for support.  They talk about, document and create bespoke systems to maintain the mystery (their job and role).  This naivety helps to perpetuate the deception that IT is complex, impenetrable and poor value.

The more difficult the problem the more likely outsourcing is used to solve it; the more likely outsourcing is the more complex and bespoke IT make their systems; it’s a vicious circle that only culture can change.

There are plenty of reasons to keep internal teams, not least for the latent organisational knowledge; but often poor or out-of-date IT management skills push outsourcing as a quick fix.

Cultural change

One core aim of this approach is to fix the overly bureaucratic systems installed by management to create statistics, measurements, and controls.  The culture created by these systems often pushes the business to question why ‘help’ is included in ‘help desk’ and pushes IT staff to close calls as quickly as possible.

There is no need to create an IT team that everyone hates.  It is possible to design a service that meets the needs of the business in an affordable and sustainable way.

The goals of supplier management in XaaS

So you’ve decided the everything-as-a-service XaaS is the way to go, how do you convince your existing service management staff that supplier management is the way to go?

That’s not an easy one.  Those that embrace change are likely to be evangelised by the opportunities presented; others will struggle and may need to stay in their comfort zone through TUPE to 3rd parties.  TUPE may sound cold, but in the surgical world of XaaS IT, people can be moved into organisations that best fit their skills or ambitions.  This is no outsource shotgun.

Something you should do for every part of your organisation is to set key goals.  These should compliment and reinforce your vision for your IT organisation and should help people understand your intent and strategy.

Top 5 goals for XaaS supplier management:

  • Enable the digital workplace
  • Engage with customers, listen and take ownership
  • Form a sustainable relationship with the suppliers
  • Provide feedback to suppliers and customers
  • Create a sustainable and open financial model for IT services

Take note of the keywords here:

  • Ownership: alone taking ownership will increase the positive perception of IT.  It will create a shared sense of purpose, a shared need and a shared driver to help the business.
  • Sustainable: emphasises the need for practical and maintainable relationships, finances and business services.  This reduces the knee jerk IT management style prevalent in some areas.

 

Key take away points

Whilst brief, the paper aims to discuss the theory of everything-as-a-service IT and it’s impact on a traditional service management function.  The proposed move away from service management will scare most IT traditionalists and excite the visionaries, so please take these few points with you:

  • Service management in its current format is not sustainable and requires significant revision
  • Move to engage, listen and take ownership
  • Form a sustainable working relationship between business, customers and 3rd parties
  • Create a culture of change, innovation and partnership

 

Cloud First Strategy: Head to the INDEX, try the next Part 4 – being an Intelligent Customer or go back to Part 2 – How to manage change

 

Plymouth University apprentice shortlisted for IT Apprentice of the Year award

Scott WalkerI’ve pushed the apprenticeship scheme at Plymouth University for some time and took on Scott Walker to work in my IT Architecture team.  A former car mechanic, Scott moved from Carlisle down to Plymouth.  For Scott to be short listed for IT Apprentice of the Year is great news!

  • Scott’s has created over £650,000 of potential savings for Plymouth University and averted £7million of potential risk
  • Scott excelled in driving forwards a city-wide project to connect 100 businesses to super-fast broadband in collaboration with Plymouth City Council
  • Completed 2 Year NVQ Level 3 in less than 1 year
  • Heading for a Distinction in BTEC

The recruitment process for is often tricky, but from the first moment that the panel met Scott, it was obvious that we’d found someone special…  his motivation, confidence and professionalism far exceed his years.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen Scott’s ability grow exponentially.  It will be a bittersweet day (for his colleagues) when Scott’s Apprenticeship is complete.

He is a trusted colleague and an inspirational person. I wish him every success for not only this but every venture that he undertakes in his career.  I have no doubt in his continued success.

 

Strategy & Architecture apprentice shortlisted for an award

Adrian Hollister, Head of Strategy and Architecture, Plymouth University

Congratulations to Scott Walker who has been has been shortlisted for IT Apprentice of the Year at the UK IT Industry Awards.

The UK IT Industry Awards 2015 benchmark outstanding performance throughout the UK computer industry and focus on the contribution of individuals, projects, organisations and technologies that have excelled in the use, development and deployment of IT in the past 12 months.

Being shortlisted for one of these prestigious awards from Computing and BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, is a major boost for Scott’s career prospects and the IT apprenticeship scheme.

Scott has to attend a Finalists Judging Day in Reading on 25 September and the winners will be announced at an awards dinner on 18 November.”

 

So congratulations Scott Walker and all fingers crossed for a win!  To find a little more from Scott himself, head on over to the Plymouth University Strategy and Architecture blog.

Everything-as-a-service XaaS vs Outsourcing

XaaS vs Outsourcing: It’s a theme brought up at alt-c this week and something that most people are confused about: Outsourcing and everything-as-a-service XaaS are not the same things.

They may be used to achieve the same results but when you compare the intent of each they clearly show their differences.

inout-20090408-123024

Whats the difference between XaaS and Outsourcing?

XaaS is granular, focused and can be applied surgically to key areas that need attention.  Outsourcing is expensive to negotiate and apply.  It takes time, introduces additional cost of purchase and sale and implies a reduction in flexibility – details are lost or hidden in contractural obligations, service level agreements, the transfer of assets, liabilities and risk.

  • Outsourcing tends to apply to larger elements of business.  Whole teams or departments moved.  The impact to IT itself is structurally significant.
  • XaaS tends to apply to surgical strikes.  Moving clearly defined elements to a 3rd party.  The impact to IT is small and can be managed over time.
Which is best? XaaS vs Outsourcing

That’s going to depend on your organisation, neither may be suitable.  To help you decide in the XaaS vs Outsourcing debate, think about the following Top 6 reasons…

Top 6 reasons to go XaaS
  • Focus on business need
  • Speed and Flexibility
  • Standardised, transparent pricing
  • Access to global high skill resource pools
  • Improvement in image
  • Increase in competitiveness
Top 6 reasons to Outsource
  • Pass risk/staff to 3rd party
  • Create a structured framework of IT services
  • Focus on core business
  • Long term stability
  • Access global high skill resource pools
  • Known cost framework

 

Find out more about Everything-as-a-service XaaS or look me up on LinkedIn.

£3K grant for high speed Business Broadband

If you have a business (even home based) you can get connection vouchers for up to £3,000 to cover the cost of installing high speed business broadband.  The voucher scheme can be used against a package from one of the registered suppliers in the area.

If I read it right, you can put multiple vouchers together from businesses on the same premises.  This could enable business parks or multi-occupancy offices the ability to collaborate on the cost of a much bigger internet pipe.

business broadband PCC logoThere is a page for Plymouth with the specialist providers listed.

Seems to be a rather overlooked opportunity for business to make the most of some free money to give them high speed business broadband.  So, make the most of it now and apply as soon as you can!

 

Cloud First Strategy: How do you manage change in XaaS?

The Cloud First Strategy

Part 2 – How to manage change

General change and projects need to be self funded.  I’m going to say that again – they need to be self funded.  The cost of IT should be the cost of the provision of the known service.  The unknown cost of change is given to the business to empower them to choose the priorities and provide the flexibility to select services not provided by IT.

IT should not be scaled to provide endless change and project support, but should be scaled to be the technical conscience of the business: facilitating change, translating business need to technical deliverables, engaging 3rd parties and providing an oversight into the IT elements of change.

Think SME not 3rd Party

Engaging with a 3rd party for delivery does not force you down the consultancy route.  Think of the SME approach – dynamic, agile, best of breed skills to best of breed solutions. 

Suppliers will thrive in this environment if they are allowed to part of the team and part of the journey.  The relationship with suppliers must be sustainable and based on trust between both parties.  Suppliers must be able to make a viable and sustainable profit and should run open book integrated into the IT accounts.

Remember: there is little point engaging with a supplier based on the lowest possible cost.   Underbidding suppliers run the risk of attempting to make up the money with change control, delivering a valueless service, or withdrawing from the contract.

It may even be viable to export any existing delivery team via special purpose vehicle (SPV) to allow them to work more dynamically, realistically with efficiency and energy.

Moving to an SPV could also be a quick enterprise that moves money around the balance sheet and reduces the headcount numbers.   An outsource may also achieve the same result, but costs will need to be carefully controlled and understood – change is often used as a source of profit in such enterprises.

Move away from bespoke code

Poorly executed Agile and similar methodologies often create swathes of poorly documented bespoke code.  With projects being self funding the sustainability of the solution must include on-going run costs.  Bespoke may be cheap to write, but it’s not cheap to maintain or support.

In the SPV model, the SPV is incentivised to pursue efficient, sustainable delivery models by owning the maintenance of the code and solutions.  Inefficient, undocumented, or poorly designed solutions will be financially and materially expensive to support and maintain.  The SPV will quickly have to become more efficient or loose contracts to 3rd parties.

The back catalogue of legacy and bespoke code created using agile or similar methodologies is likely to follow this SPV.  A contract for maintenance and support must be provided and at a fixed, but sustainable cost.  The risk owned by the SPV with clear incentive to reduce and remove the costly bespoke code elements.

Compensations drives behaviour

The move to SPV or outsource must have effective incentives for the staff and SPV.  The business may need consistency for a number of years after the structural change or the business may require immediate cost savings, either way, the team moved into the SPV must be motivated to achieve these goals.  The SPV route is a great way to move constrained exec’s out of the core and give them the flexibility to excel as a commercially driven arms length body. 

What about general day-to-day change?

It would be fair to assume that in the everything-as-a-service model there is strong reliance upon the need for the contracts with 3rd parties to include the cost of maintenance and support change.  These elements are needed to ensure that services are compliant with regulatory and security standards and to ensure that services can continue to interoperate.

The contractual obligations of 3rd parties should also be extended to allow the IT team to plan and organise change between the various solutions and 3rd parties.  This is standard IT practice, but here the intelligent customer becomes more relevant.  It requires a strong understanding of enterprise architecture, governance, the contractual commitments and a timetable of key business events and priorities.

Remember that purchasing on cost alone will fail in this model.  Whilst this is not unique to this model, purchases do need to be made on value to the business and support the everything-as-a-service model.  Excellence is required in supplier and contract life cycle.

Allow the business to change direction

Once in a while the business will need to change direction.  To scale up or down.  To create a new branch or brand; or to remove a few.  IT should not constrain the business from doing what it needs to do.  The contracts put in place with 3rd parties should be designed to allow the business high flexibility.  

Services procured could be based on metrics key to the business:  the number of products, staff or turnover.  This variation of the standard usage model often applied by suppliers may require significant negotiation and contractual skills.  Not all 3rd parties will be keen to work differently, so careful and pragmatic selection is required. 

Key take away points

Change is embraced as part of the everything-as-a-service IT model through the use of 3rd parties that are incentivised to be more performant, flexible and cost efficient. 

How to manage change in XaaS IT:

  • Cost of change is given to the business to empower them to set priorities
  • IT must not constrain the business from doing what it needs to do
  • Use dynamic and agile 3rd parties for delivery
  • Remove bespoke code by accounting for whole life cost of services

 

There is an opportunity to move existing delivery teams into a special purpose vehicle (SPV):

  • Allow radical reduction in delivery headcount
  • Allow constrained exec’s to flex their wings
  • Facilitate cost reduction through the removal of bespoke code
  • Facilitate competition with 3rd parties

 

Cloud First Strategy: Read the next article Part 3 – Moving from legacy support to supplier management go to the  INDEX or go back to Part 1 – Impact on the IT organisation

Cloud First Strategy: theories about the everything-as-a-service model

The Cloud First Strategy:

Practical theories for using everything-as-a-service XaaS

Adrian Hollister, Digital Transformation, August 2015

By now it should be clear that buying IT the old way has long gone:

tin + software + installation + maintenance + staff + training + management + support tools = expensive + slow + poor value

Cloud has been coming for some time, but it’s the everything as-a-service (XaaS) element of Cloud computing that is so compelling.  Removing the need for expensive and all consuming IT departments, thinning them down to an intelligent customer layer.

So what does that mean in practice?

 

Part 1 – Impact on the IT organisation

As cloud based services are being adopted the approach and model of the IT department needs to change.  Services move from local data centres to the cloud, storage moves to the cloud, telephone to the cloud, even network controllers and authentication are moving to the cloud.  Office365, Skype, BYOD (bring your own device), Dropbox, etc. That natural convergence of IT services doesn’t leave a lot for IT does it?

There is plenty of value IT can still deliver, just in a different way.  No longer about flashing lights, complex help desk systems, and the mysteries of poorly documented services; the IT team can now focus on delivering real business value.

But IT has seen a number of organisational models already in widespread use today, so let’s do a brief comparison:

  • Centralised IT.  The most commonly used model.  Line of business are beholden to a CIO who controls the pace and priority of change.  Attempting to be a compromise and usually perceived to be driven by cost and technology not business value.
  • Decentralised IT.  Usually with this type of model, each line of business has their own IT Director.  Priorities are set at board meetings controlled by the line of business (LOB) and facilitated by the CEO.  Multiple IT teams, development teams, help desks and support models.
  • Federated IT.  IT services are owned by a number of parties and the LOB may choose not to use the central IT service.   It is quite common to see this after a merger or change and is usually short lived.  Complex arrangements of interlinked services, support and development teams.
  • Service led IT.  A core set of IT services are provided from the centre but are provisioned by 3rd party.  CIO focus is shifted to adding value to the business, away from commodity IT provision.  Move from developing code to buying services.  This is the core to everything-as-a-service (XaaS) led IT departments.

The service led model is a variation of the ‘intelligent customer’ approach taken when business move towards a heavily outsourced model.  They key variation is that contracts in the service led IT model are numerous, short and with pinpoint focus.  Creating the opportunity for numbers of smaller, specialised and high value businesses to apply.

This creates a level of competition and introduces flexibility to end failing contacts early and pursue new ideas when the business needs change.  This also shifts the work that the IT department needs to do, from a hardware and bespoke solution focus, to one of managing their customer and their suppliers.  In this approach, the organisational model looses ‘IT support’ but gains ‘supplier management’.

Being commodity, the help desk also goes, replaced from a specialist supplier; and perhaps this commodity element is the big differentiator.  Anything that is not a core function of the business and is readily available to procure from a 3rd party should be considered commodity IT and provisioned by expert 3rd parties.

The delivery function also losses out.  Without the need for vast quantities of bespoke code the delivery teams can be paired down to a core set of PM, Architects and developers for legacy code and integration maintenance.   It’s important to note that all change in this model has to be self funding.

Example everything-as-a-service XaaS org chart

Org chart for cloud first strategy

Change is not quite so difficult with as-a-service

Any new model or approach is going to be difficult: there must be a clear strategy for IT.  Not only a sense of what is needed today, but also tomorrow; and that strategy must be understood and agreed with the business.  The change however, can be quicker than a re-organisation with staff being redeployed in new roles or moved (TUPE) over to suppliers.  As such the impact on the organisation and staff will be low compared to traditional reorganisation methods.

The financial considerations will also be different to a traditional reorganisation.  Moving head count into supplier contracts will reflect good on in-year savings and savings may be had by purchasing more efficient services, returning floor space and reducing risk.  Costs are also likely to be moved towards a standardised monthly fee, giving the business good visibility of often hidden IT costs.  Finance will thank you for being able to plan clearly and provide consistent and open costings.

The approach to contracts needs to change.  By using short 2 year or 2+2 contracts the business can choose to change provider.  This will help the agility of IT provision to meet the changing needs of the business.  Some may be tempted by cheaper longer term contracts and for some core services this may be appropriate, but it will limited your ability to grow and shrink to business demands.

There is a significant change in culture, from employment of vast teams of developers, support, help desk and technical specialists; the IT function needs to move to professional supplier and contracts managers and experts within EA, Security, BA and relationship management; and more importantly, projects and business change must be self funding.

By moving to a self funding business change programme, IT wont change things for IT’s sake.

IT for IT’s sake

It’s the bane of any business – IT doing the best thing for IT.  Techies wrapped up in their technology, their brand or the latest toys.  There is a place for this, but not in the provision of core IT services.

A pragmatic as-a-service model will force IT to move away from looking at technologies and brands and force them to think about what services can be used to meet the business need.  It will force a move away from bespoke development to commercial off-the-shelf software and services (COTS).

  • COTS – remove the need for developers to create endless unsupportable bespoke code.  There are specialist applications and services that are likely to meet the majority of the business need.  Start here and be flexible with expectations.
  • Software as-a-service (SaaS) – remove the need to worry about the platform and the supported software layer.  Just get up and running with the service provided.  Flex to need.
  • Platform/Infrastructure as-a-service (PaaS/IaaS) – remove the need for people to touch or play with hardware, brands, upgrades.  Why do this in house, when you could be using industry experts who do this day in and day out.

It will be a substantial shock to the IT traditionalists.  By taking a step away from the coal face of technology provision IT can work closer to the business; for the business; delivering real business value.

The move towards Cloud and as-a-service is inevitable.  Will IT be able to keep up with the pace of change?

 

Key take away points

This is a big subject area that I’ve condensed into a couple of pages, but even if you do not have time to go through the text, here are my key take away points:

 

The value of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) led IT

  • Vastly reduced in-house IT team – keep just the experts
  • Vastly reduced in-house IT footprint – services in the cloud only small on-site d/c
  • Focus on relationships with the business – IT only exists to support the business
  • Clearly accountable IT costs – no hiding project, development and support costs

 

5 core rules of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) led IT

  • Focus on being the intelligent customer
  • Drive innovation and business value
  • Commodity services should be provisioned by a 3rd party in the Cloud
  • Restructure the organisation to focus on business value
  • Document, plan ahead and agree your strategy

 

Cloud First Strategy:  Read more:  Part 2 – How do you manage change in an XaaS IT model?

Carnival Float for St Neot Cornish Fairy Queen

Well, it’s been a hectic few weeks getting the carnival float together, but it is finally completed!   It’s looking darn good I have to say.  So here we are in Liskeard where we came first in the Fairy Queens category.

St Neot Carnival Fairy Queen

 

Not long after we have visited Lostwithiel carnival where we came second.  Brilliant to see the Rotary club running these events so well.  The streets were completely lined with people and the atmosphere was amazing.

St Neot Carnival Float

Another weekend and another carnival.  Does the party ever end in Cornwall?

Innovation is difficult, but game changing.

At times of corporate difficulty, it’s often the innovation and the speculative research that is first to be dropped. Yet, it is this very innovation that businesses need to survive and evolve beyond their situation.

We all know innovation is difficult, often consuming more effort and resources than available and often returning no results or dead ends. But the occasional flash of brilliance creates a game changing and lucrative shift if adopted timely and wholeheartedly.

We all know that innovation is not always successful. Painful lessons must be taken from the likes of Nokia.  A brilliant innovative and leading edge company that was over taken, not by a feat of technical genius, but by marketing innovation. With it’s focus on technology, Nokia sleep walked into technical dead ends, whilst the market just walked away into flashy packaging and branding.

So innovation doesn’t just have to be a product. It could be a business process; it could be new people; or a new way of working. Each could be the differentiator that pushed a business beyond its competition.

Innovation does usually equate to risk, either through change or divergence, so it’s not easy to capitalise on innovation.  It takes clear vision, entrepreneurial spirit and luck.

Take Amstrad as the example.  In it’s day Sir Alan Sugar took the business to dizzying heights through the home computer boom.  His engineers found a product that he could market and sell with great profit.  The business grew throughout the 80’s.

Sir Alan Sugar struck lucky through his early products, but this was just luck.  Stuck like Nokia, he continued to seek that spark of differentiation from his engineers; but with his competitor’s focus shifting to price the market moved on.

So it takes a little luck to be successfully innovative.  It takes good clear vision to deliver upon that innovation.  It’s takes entrepreneurial spirit to deliver them both.

Superfast Rural Broadband – is it really impractical? #ruralbroadband #the5percent

It will always be impractical to implement superfast broadband for every household, especially for those with rural broadband.  But why?

Roughly 5% of houses will not be covered by real superfast broadband.  This is commonly because they are geographically dispersed, have long lines to the exchange or have no BT fixed line service.  All of these premises, people and businesses are stuck in a time warp drying up their ability to use the digital world and preventing growth of smaller businesses.  The internet is now so pervasive, I would argue that it is far more important than traditional telephony, especially when it comes to  inclusivity of our society (leaving people behind), and inspiring the next generation.

High speed Internet is essential for our society going forward.  If we are to compete with the likes of the asia block, we must invest and bring real superfast speeds to every household.  Aiming for 100Mbit for each household should be a minimum; and not in 10 years but we need to start working now.

A world of connected devices, Internet of Things, real free sharing of information, open honesty from governments, financial transparency, all of these rely upon an open and inclusive Internet.  As the barriers between countries become lost into an electronic world, we should be at the forefront, the pioneers, the innovators.

But we are stuck in the international slower lane, and told that fixed telephone line is not always the answer to super fast internet.  We are told this as the 5% left are expensive, complicated or just not profitable to service.  Let’s first think of the alternatives:

  • Mobile providers are now slowly distributing faster data services, but for the 5%, they are not going to be anywhere near the top of the list of telecoms masts to upgrade to 4G.  When we can’t even get good mobile internet coverage on the train, how are we going to expect good rural coverage?
  • Satellite broadband services are available – offering up to the ‘slow’ end of the superfast spectrum (10Mbits), they are very expensive; bandwidth limited and they introduce large time lags making it virtually impossible for computer gaming and time sensitive security applications (VPN’s etc).
  • There are also a few wireless initiatives, but these are few and tend to focus on ‘slow’ speeds for defined communities (such as villages) and still backhaul over BT fixed line network.

In essence, whilst there are a few alternatives, none of them live up to a sustainable and high quality service that we have come to expect over the BT fixed line network in towns and cities.

If the answer is the fixed line network, there are a couple of scenarios that should be considered:

  • UK plc should invest heavily into this fixed line service to upgrade all lines to FTTP.  This will help bring us inline with our international competitors, allow the country to aim higher, facilitate home working and create a platform for sustainable business innovation.
  • UK plc should bring the fixed line network into public hands, take the cost/risk away from a public company and return an asset to the country.  Whilst some may consider this to be BT’s crown jewels, it is essentially run as a separate entity, it would allow BT to fairly compete and grow it’s business base.

The risk here is that the R&D investment BT has made into the broadband network would get lost.  That spark and driver for innovation forced by competition may be lost.

  • Perhaps the compromise is the formation of a UK Openreach – a publically owned shell organisation that distributes contracts to 3rd parties for the provision of a fixed line network.  This would have to ‘own’ the local loop connection from exchange/green cabinet; but not the back haul to the ISP’s network.  This should not stop at just BT though; Virgin Media’s fibre network etc should also have to give up their wares to competition.
  • Amend the universal service obligation to focus on broadband and Internet speeds and not calls – after all, mobile or IP telephony is simple with sufficient speed to the Internet.

What ever we do though, we cannot afford to lose world class technologies companies like BT. There needs to be enough incentive to be creative, exciting and excellent in their use of technology; innovative enough to provide them with a business platform that is sustainable; and produce companies that are internationally competitive and world leading.

Long term review of Tea Pigs

teapigs-logo-300x67

It’s been quite some time now since I wrote my original review on Tea Pigs, so it’s about time I revisited that review.    So I’m still a big fan of the Redbush tea – the Rooibos crème caramel is still part my daily routine, especially when working late into the night.

That smell of the caramel with the Redbush is just amazing.  There are quite a few others now jumping onto this band waggon now – with Redbush flavours popping up all over.  Even the big brands are starting to introduce options.  But even their vanilla flavours have nothing on the Tea Pigs crème caramel.  So if you like your Redbush tea’s, give it a try.

On the run up to Christmas they have introduced a couple of new tea varieties.  I’ve tried out many of them, but my favourite two are the Apple and Cinnamon and the sweet ginger.   Clearly the Apple and Cinnamon has apple pie and christmas written all over it.  The smell and taste put you in a right spirit; and there is a genuine and wonderful apple taste with a good lingering hint of the cinnamon.   It’s just one of those drinks that seems to evoke memories of warm evenings and the festive season.

Sweet Ginger is not something I would have traditionally looked to try.  Ginger can be too strong a flavour and not something I would instantly think of for a tea; but this is not harsh at all.  It’s wonderfully warming and calming.  Perfect for the festive season, it makes you want to sit around a warm fire looking out at snow falling.  I take this in my flask on the way to work and the number of people on the train sniffing the air to gulp in a little more of the smell is amazing.

Tea Pigs have now launched a ‘subscribe and save’ option that allows you to put in a regular order for a little bit of discount off your third shop.  I’ve given this a try for the regular stuff and will report on how well it goes later.

It’s great to see the numbers of boutique tea shops growing and I certainly won’t stop trying the competition, but for my day-to-day tea requirements, I’m still shopping at Tea Pigs.

A person with a dream and vision is more powerful that a person with facts and a budget

 

A person with a dream and vision is more powerful that a person with facts and a budget

I know this has been doing the rounds for a while, but it always makes me think.  Can be thought of on many levels, but this is most clearly demonstrated with religion – people give their lives and those of other people to perpetuate that dream and vision.

Let’s hope that these visionaries use their influence to perpetuate tolerance, understanding, and a sustainable future for all.

Recipe for Marrow Chutney

Marrow ChutneyHere is our version of Marrow Chutney – it has a little bit of bite, but nothing to worry the kids and quite warming for a winters day.  There is nothing complex about this marrow chutney recipe and uses up the last of the marrow from the garden.  You can also use Courgette if you have them spare.

So, let’s start with the ingredients…

1.5 Kg of Marrow (we also use Courgette)
Salt
250 g shallots
250 g cooking apples
250 g sultanas
20g bruised root ginger
4 teaspoonfuls of spice mix (see our simple blend below)
120 g brown sugar
1 pint (about 570 ml) vinegar

Our simple spice blend is as follows:

2 tablespoons of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons of white mustard seeds
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of coriander powder
1 tablespoon of turmeric

First step is quite simple and ideally needs to be done the night before.  Chop, peel and de-seed the marrow – what you want is some small cubes – about 1cm or so.  Put into a colander in the sink and sprinkle liberally with salt.  This will help to remove water and take some of the rather bitter taste out.  We usually do this last thing at night and leave covered until the morning.  Don’t skimp on the salt as it will be washed off.

Salted Diced Marrow

Next step is to do the washing.  You want to get rid of all of the salt, so wash carefully.

IMG_4595

Put your marrow in a large pan and start to add all of the other ingredients.  Apples and shallots need to be cut into similar sized chunks and added.  Our spice mix is simple, but you can use something like pickling spice if you wrap it in muslin and take out at the end.

IMG_4598

 

With all the ingredients added, bring to the boil slowly.  Remember there is quite a bit of vinegar in here, so this is going to be a little bit smelly.  Keep the lid on and slowly simmer until completely cooked with a thick sauce.  You can stir as you go along and this certainly does help even out the contents, but don’t over do it.

Spicy Marrow Chutney

 

Allow to cool slightly and put into steralised jars.  Best to use hot jars and lids, add hot contents and leave to slowly cool.   Once the marrow chutney is cold store in a cool dark place.  A good larder or top of the fridge is ok.   Remember to put a label on it – especially the date.

iPhone 6 launch but nothing too interesting

After all the hype of Apple Watch, big screens and iOS 8, the launch of new Apple products went ahead last night.  I just can’t help being underwhelmed.  Big screens to catch up with the competition, NFC support to, err catch up with the competition and an iWatch to catch up with the competition.  I’m not sure there is enough there to make people want or need to upgrade.

Still, I’ve no doubt that Apple will do what they do best – they will make it easy to use, make it pervasive and perhaps more importantly create an unstoppable frenzy of consumer demand.

Repairing Discovery 300TDI Auto Cruise Control

Just a quick guide here on repairing the most common problem with Discovery 300TDI Auto cruise control – the vacuum hose.  These rubber hoses seem to quite easily perforate or crack over time and it’s very easy to fix.  Firstly, if the cracks are small and near the joins just cut the hose and reconnect.  This only works if you have enough hose.  In my case the hose has already been cut too short and is actually just dangling in the engine bay.  So a quick trawl over to ebay found new silicon hose cheap enough.

I’ve purchased some silicon hose – 5m of 5mm internal diameter and 10mm outer.  This gives 2.5mm of wall which should be enough.   5m is overkill too, but it leaves about 1m for the toolbox.

Discovery 300TDI Auto Cruise Control Vacuum Hose - simple tools required

Tools required are very basic – a good knife, some pliers and some nice hot water.

First off, I’m starting at the auto speed controller unit thingy (I’m guessing there is a real name for this unit).  The hose here for me has already cut by a previous owner, but clearly this was too short and didn’t reach the t-piece.  So that’s a timely reminder to measure twice and cut once 🙂

So, taking the old hose off (very easily in my case), I use this to measure the length of new hose required.  Remembering in my case that the hose was too short, so I’ve added to the length (best to measure long and cut back later if your not sure).  Using the hot water to warm the silicon doesn’t seem to make any difference, but as a homage to the old rubber hoses and to make me feel better I’ve done it anyway.

Discovery 300TDI Auto Cruise Control Vacuum Hose - hot waterWith one end connected to the Auto unit, I warm the other end going to the t-peice.  Once connected up it’s time to look at the longer pipe.  Remove from the T around the bulkhead and into the aux battery/jack area.  Here the pipe dives under what would be the battery tray and into the pump.  The pump is not easy to see and whilst it can be removed, I’m not looking to waste time.

Drilling off the jack mounting plate to gain access to vacuum pump

 

So with that thought, I’ve drilled the rivets holding the pump base into place and removed.  This gives just enough access from the top to do the job and I can replace later if needed.  Removal of the old hose shows that it was completely perished and not even connected to the pump.

Now use this pipe to measure a new length – as always a bit longer is better and remember it can be cut back later.  I’m starting by connecting at the pump end.  On the right hand side of the pump are two projections – your aiming for the back one, slightly shorter.  Push it on as far as you can and give it a tug – it should be a secure fit.

Discovery 300TDI Auto Cruise Control Vacuum Hose - to the pump

 

The picture above shows the red silicon hose that I’m using and just visible through the left hold is part of the pump.  Now route the hose back around the bulkhead using the clips where available and trim if required at the t-piece.

Discovery 300TDI Auto Cruise Control Vacuum Hose - T piece connected

 

Connect to the t-piece and you should have replaced most of the hose.  There is one more that goes through the bulkhead into the drivers footwell, but this one is in good condition for me and I’m stopping at this point.    So final picture from me shows a little more of the engine bay and the new red silicone hose.

Discovery 300TDI Auto Cruise Control Vacuum Hose - complete

 

So did it fix the problem… oh yea 🙂  fully working Cruise Control now on my 300TDI Auto!  Simple fix and only 10 mins of my day used.

Just found a nice guide to the rest of the system – it can be found on Landyzone here.

 

Minions offers some amazing walks

Minions is perhaps not on the top list of Cornwall destinations to visit, but it should be.  This small and sleepy village hosts a whole bunch of Cornish archeology – mining being the most obvious.  The views are stunning and it’s only a few miles to walk to the Cheesewring (cheese ring or Keuswask for some) and the Hurlers (stone circles).  So if you are near Bodmin Moor have a look and bring your walking boots as most could walk around all day.

Old Mine Workings near Minions

Old Mine workings

The Cheesewring / Keuswask

A view of Cheesewring / Keuswask

Saving energy with LED replacement MR16 Bulbs

LED lighting is moving forward at a pace at the moment and prices are dropping quickly.  7dayshop have started stocking ‘Ecolight’ branded MR16 bulbs running at 5W.  These are produced in China but are made by the Daewoo group, so at least they meet EU standards.

MR16 24 LED 5W 12V Bulb

 

So, from first looks, they are the typical multi LED configuration and as the ones I’m testing are ‘warm white’ the LED’s are the typical yellow colour when not turned on.   It’s also good to see that the packaging in minimal with no plastics, just recyclable card/paper. The specification of the bulb is good on paper too.  They are 12V MR16 bulbs consuming 5W putting out 370lm of light (about the same as a 40W halogen).  They have a 120 degree projection angle, so are good all round lights.

In line with most LED based bulbs, they are IP44 rated and A rated for energy consumption.  At a hefty 50,000 hours of lifetime, they put all but the most expensive halogens into the shade.  Perhaps one downside is that they are not dimmable.  Not too much of a problem for me, but if you like to change the intensity of your lighting then you will need to look elsewhere.

Installation is a simple as removing the old bulb and installing a new one.  Retrofitting these into an existing installation may cause you problems though.  Some traditional 12V inverters don’t work at such low power consumption levels and you may need to replace them with an LED driver.

So if your MR16 LED bulbs are flickering, you will need to find a lower power constant current driver.  I’ve switched to a Halolite unit, but there are plenty out there to be found.  This will impact your total price as these units are not cheap, so if immediate cost saving is your goal, you may need to look to alternative forms of lighting.

ecolight led mr16 light pattern

The light pattern is good and unless filtered, it’s difficult to see the LED’s.  The Ecolight MR16’s are bright with a warm light – something of a departure from standard halogens that seem quite cold.  I’ve replaced 6 35W halogen bulbs with 6 5W LED bulbs, so my consumption levels have dropped from 210W at 12V to 30W at 12V.  Quite a substantial reduction.  The light levels are higher and with the new drivers installed, flicker free.

Overall, these are an excellent way to reduce the total power consumption, increase the general light levels (compared to 35W MR16 bulbs) and offer a warm light alternative to cold halogens.   If your goal is to save money though – the additional cost of constant current drivers may push this to a long term cost saving measure only.

St Neot Carnival 2014

outrageous grannies at st neot carnivalvisiting carnival queen st neot carnivalpirates! st neot carnivalst neot carnivalkernow pipe band st neot carnivalugly sisters st neot carnivalamazing kernow pipe band st neot carnivalwinning at the tombola st neot carnival

Great picture taken by my 11 yr old daughter Hattie at the Eden Project yesterday #edenphotocomp

Yet another amazing day out at the Eden Project in Cornwall.  So much to see at the moment and some completely scary dinosaurs.  All mine got the bravery stamp :).   Hattie had some fun with the phone though and took a million pictures, her favourite is this lovely green lizard that walked past her!

Eden Project Chair Eden Project You Are Here  eden project med dome

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