Doing more with less – IT and the Economy

For many IT departments, 2009 is turning out to be the year they’re doing more with less. At more, with a lot less. With a lot more uncertainty. I believe that there’s going to be more pressure on organizations and on IT organizations than we’ve ever seen.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities, and perhaps they are the opportunities that we’d choose, but I believe there’s an option here for some companies to turn a the crisis into an opportunity to reexamine what they’re doing and look for new opportunities. I think the organizations that are willing to work and take risks now, will be the ones gaining benefits down the road.

To help stimulate a discussion (if not the economy), it’s worth calling out a few ways in which organizations can manage (or even reduce) IT costs while retaining (or even increasing) functionality.

One of the first ways is to make sure you’re working more closely with the business–when it comes to everything from application development to maintenance to governance. In fact, you can start by stopping–it’s a good time to clear the decks and realign priorities and value to the new economic landscape. Start by working more closely with business leaders, sharing the projects you currently have, and their priorities, and then work with business leaders to determine which ones are most critical.

One potentially practical tip for stepping back and savings some resources or money might be in temporarily (depending on business requirements) agreeing to reduce services levels, for example, on select systems or applications. Perhaps an organization could reduce service levels by increasing the amount of time the help desk has to respond to requests (say from 2 hours to 4 hours) or lengthening the amount of time IT has after a disaster to get systems (or selected systems) back on line.

Of course, any changes like these have to be a joint decision with the business. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea for all IT groups to take a step back and make look for opportunities to save or cut back on resources and spending where they can–as long as those cuts or savings are aligned with business needs.


Using SOA to Create Better Compliance

Okay, okay, so SOA isn’t easy. And no one (well, perhaps auditors, governments or shareholders) like compliance. But good compliance can make SOA easier to implement–at least that the gist of Jaimin Patel’s article in Computer Technology Review. Patel, director of business development at WebLayers, a company that focuses on automating SOA, Mainframe and SDLC governance, makes a number of good points in his recent article on “Breaking Down the Barriers to Compliance through SOA.”

In fact, you have to like his opening paragraph–

“Why is it that when we hear the word compliance we tense up anticipating that we’ve done or are about to do something wrong? Perhaps it’s the widespread misperception of the role that compliance plays in the organization. Or maybe it’s because we’ve experienced challenging or even unsuccessful attempts at enforcing compliance at various levels in the company.”

In my experience, compliance does make people tense up–it make both IT and business people cringe a little. Often times talking about compliance is like someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard–it’s jarring, and instantly your mind turns to other things you would like to be doing, or other places you’d like to be.

But Patel’s point in the article isn’t just that compliance is unpleasant–it’s that compliance may actually be easier than you think. From his perspective, if done right, there’s no need to actually tense up after hearing the word compliance. No need to protect your ears from the chalkboard sound.

Instead, he argues, a SOA infrastructure can actually be the enabling connection between IT and business:
“Successful organizations will tell you that the speed and efficiency of implementing and enforcing compliance is directly proportional to the health of their IT infrastructure. Ideally, a standards-based service oriented architecture (SOA) can be the bridge that enables IT to meet business goals. In this case, the goal is compliance.

With SOA as the foundation, a company can move from a weak IT infrastructure that doesn’t support business goals to an organization that has a more flexible architecture that ensures adherence to regulations and policies required by both internal and external forces.”

Okay–so that doesn’t necessarily mean that SOA (or compliance) is easy–but he does make a good point that when an organization has a strategy plan that encompasses SOA and compliance, they can work synergistically to enable each other. The end result? A far better connection between business and IT, and corporate goals that are being met, instead of being ignored.

“By driving compliance and governance across lines of business through an SOA, companies can ensure greater consistency and reuse of best practices. These capabilities become increasingly more important as the SOA evolves and new policies are introduced.

Ensuring a successful governance solution requires analysis, tracking, and improvement of enterprise policies and architecture as a company’s initiatives change and evolve. A policy-based approach to SOA governance will help establish strong auditing and conformance mechanisms that limit corporate liabilities, ensure business continuity, and reduce integration costs and complexities.”


Rational Decision Making

In his blog, The IT Governance Evangelist Steve Romero from CA brings up a great point about decision-making. From his perspective, decision making is the heart and soul of IT governance.

“What decisions are made, who makes them, and how, are the essence of Governance.”

And now that the economy is significantly tougher than it’s been in recent memory, most corporate decisions are more critical than they’ve ever been. To help organizations make better decisions, Romero has come up with a couple rules for rational decision making:

– First, be clear on the objective.

– Second, be sure you can measure the result of your decision.
Of course, in his blog, he goes into the details for each point. Suffice to say that if you can’t answer either one appropriately, you’re not going to have a governable solution!


Find SOA Success With SOA Registries

No matter what I do, I never seem to be able to create an effective filing system for myself. Whether I’m reading a book, surfing the Web, or browsing the newspaper, I’m constantly coming across items of interest that I’d love to be able to file away and reference again in the future. Problem is, whenever I try to do that, I end up with either a manila folder full of torn-out clippings, Post-it Notes, and scribbles that are too hard to decipher, or I have piles of stuff to be filed for later. Either way, identifying, categorizing, filing, searching and accessing important information is somehow a task that seems to elude my best efforts.

Luckily, I’m not implementing an SOA system around my office or house. Because if I did, such haphazard approaches would doom it to failure. In fact, that’s why registries are so important to a solid SOA implementation. They help organizations achieve one of the key goals of any SOA system: reuse. At their most basic, SOA registries provide a standardized way to store, search and retrieve information on services. Essentially it’s a dynamic catalog of information on SOA services, typically building on standards such as UDDI. SOA registries are also an important component for facilitating SOA governance.


Secrets of SOA Standardization Success

In general, it’s hard to get things right. Well, maybe not hard, but it definitely takes more work (or at least more focus) to do just about anything right. Unless you have superhuman abilities, like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps — but I guess it’s taken even him a huge amount of work to win all those gold medals, even with his great natural abilities.

It’s the same with SOA development. Doing SOA right requires a lot of hard work and some dedicated focus. Doing it well also usually requires that organizations standardize their SOA development efforts and processes. So doing SOA well is a long-term process, not a one-time accomplishment.

That’s why over the past few weeks I’ve been spending time interviewing a wide range of IT and business executives to learn their secrets for standardizing SOA development and achieving SOA success. Here’s the top five recommendations:


Maximizing User Experience and Perfomance

What’s happening? Unfortunately, that’s a question I ask (well, okay, I think it) a few times a week as my laptop seems to go into “zombie mode” — some background service or process suddenly decides it needs to jack up its CPU usage, and I’m left sitting and twiddling my thumbs waiting for a simple Microsoft Word document to open up. Lately this has been happening to me because of some problem with my iTunes Outlook synchronization process, which after upgrading to the latest version of iTunes suddenly decided that it never finishes — it continues to take up to 40 percent CPU utilization even after the synchronization is done. Such problems with PCs and applications can occur for hundreds (or thousands) of different reasons and with different causes.


The Next Steps for SaaS

A few months ago, I wrote about some of the variations that organizations should consider when it comes to thinking about software-as-a-service (SaaS). Traditionally, many organizations have thought about software-as-a-service as something that allows organizations to simply connect to a network (or “cloud”) and access data, applications or services dynamically and remotely.

Want to learn about security architectures for SOA? Attend ebizQ’s upcoming webinar. Learn more.

A key poster child for such an approach has long been Since it’s summer, and there’s a bit more space for spreading out (hopefully on the porch, with lemonade, in a hammock) and considering new ideas, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the topic of my previous column and delve a little deeper into new approaches for software-as-a-service.

Endeavors Technologies is a good example of a different approach to software-as-a-service, with impressive capabilities in the application virtualization and streaming areas.


Best Practices for Business Intelligence

Sometimes thought control isn’t such a bad idea. And by thought control, I don’t simply mean a “big brother,” Apple computer, 1984-type situation, but a situation where people’s thoughts are influenced (yes, I guess that’s a nicer word) by certain knowledge. Influenced (perhaps educated) so that they have the information to make better decisions and take the best actions at the right time.

The goal of any good business intelligence implementation is to reflect the model of an organization’s business and enable employees to use that model to analyze, answer and decide important questions or decisions. As I noted in my last column, BI solutions can be particularly helpful for organizations during turbulent economic times because they can help companies answer questions about their business (what’s most profitable? What is the impact of making these product changes? What products or service are our customers buying?), and then help them change to adapt to the new business requirements.


BI as a Boon to Business: Now More Than Ever

When times are good, it’s easy to let things slide a bit. For example, last year was a good year for me — my family was healthy, I had steady work, and things were good financially. I didn’t have to worry too much about the day-to-day details of what I was doing — everything was working well and there weren’t any worries.

This year is a different story. Luckily, my family is still healthy and things are good in terms of business, but I’m feeling much more impacted by our nation’s economic challenges — much more so than I was last year. Gas costs a lot more. Food costs a lot more. And the prices for the rest of the services we consume and products we purchase are going up as well.

The result? Like many people, I’m looking for ways to save money. Carpooling the kids to baseball. Consolidating what would have been multiple individual errands last year into single, better planned excursions this year. Saying no to selected purchasing. Making sure we eat all the leftovers and use all the food in the freezer before purchasing new groceries. When you stop to examine things, there’s usually a fair amount of ways to save money and/or identify new ways to make some additional money (yard sale, anyone?).


Doing Risk Management Right

There are some things that I don’t want to end – a great book, an exciting movie, a nice bottle of wine. But there are other things that I would prefer that never came up-dental emergencies, gutter cleaning and answering telemarketing calls. Neither of those lists is exhaustive, and I’m sure you have your own personal favorites.

However, I’d guess that for many business and IT managers, risk management would be something they’d want to add to that second category. Unless you enjoy ruminating on disasters, spending large amounts of time or resources planning for events which may never happen, or just have dark and pessimistic side, risk management isn’t fun.