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Posts Tagged ‘IT’

The QA Mindset

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quality button

Michael Lopp, writing over at his fantastic blog Rands in Repose:

My first job in technology was a QA internship. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I tested the first release of Paradox for Windows at Borland.

As an intern, I started by following someone else’s QA test plan – dutifully checking each test off the list. After a few weeks, I knew my particular area inside and out. A new build would show up, which I’d install via 3.5-inch floppies, and in ten minutes of usage, I’d have a sense – is this a good or bad build?

In QA, there is a distinct moment. It comes once you’re deeply familiar with your product or product area; it comes when you’re lost in your testing, and it comes in an instant. You find a problem, and because of your strong context about your product, you definitely know: Something is seriously wrong here.

Anyone in the IT/software industry will relate to this. Before MIPRO, I worked in product management and strong QA employees were absolutely invaluable to releasing on time and with full functionality. Sadly, QA is often cut when crunch time rolls around, and in my experience, that’s a gigantic mistake.

My concern is that the absence of QA is the absence of a champion for aspects of software development that everyone agrees are important, but often no one is willing to own. Unit tests, automation, test plans, bug tracking, and quality metrics. The results of which give QA a unique perspective. Traditionally, they are known as the folks who break things, who find bugs, but QA’s role is far more important. It’s not that QA can discover what is wrong, they intimately understand what is right and they unfailingly strive to push the product in that direction.

I believe these are humans you want in the building.

Exactly. A good QA engineer is worth every penny.

CIOs and CMOs Working Together: Makes Sense, but Didn’t See It Coming!

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I recently did my rounds with my customers in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.  Nothing like spending hours and hours driving on Interstate 75.  Yup, just me and about 900,000 semi trucks.

Simply put, my primary job responsibility at MIPRO is to sell consulting services to implement the PeopleSoft suite of applications.  As most of our loyal blog readers know, I’ve been at MIPRO almost since day one of our doors being open for business.  Since I’m a bit ‘old school’, I see value in continuing to meet with former clients even though they may not have any significant business for us in the near future.  I enjoy listening to their experiences with past implementations, conferences they have attended, organizational changes within their company or even personal topics such as vacations or kids heading off to college.  There truly is value in staying in touch.  But, that’s a blog topic for another day!

This past week, I met with one of our customers and he was bringing me up to date on a recent org change.  He is in IT and has overall responsibility for the PeopleSoft environment.  His boss is the CIO who reports to the VP of Operations.  The big change is the CIO and VP of Marketing now report to the Executive VP of Operations and are colleagues!  Didn’t see that coming!

But the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense — doubly so in our world of digital marketing.  Not sure how many other companies are organizing in this fashion, but I think this company will gain competitive advantage in their field with this new organization and how it works together.

This isn’t just my observation, either: there seems to be a change in the air, and it’s becoming more pronounced every day. Here’s Mark Fidelman, contributing to Forbes, in a post entitled IBM to CMOs and CIOs: Work Together or Become Irrelevant:

Few skilled positions, if any, are further apart than the CMO and CIO. The former is known for being creative and extroverted, the latter technical and introverted.  Yet an IBM 2012 State of Marketing Survey concluded that this unlikely couple must learn to work together or their organization risks becoming less competitive. In other words, both CMO and CIO will increasingly become less effective apart – but more effective together.

“What’s becoming clear is that in order to stay relevant and remain competitive in today’s uber-digital and social world, the CIO and the CMO must work together. Today and in the future you’ll see this connection grow tighter than ever before,” said Jeff Schick, VP, Social Software.

But like any two people with opposing perspectives, common ground is hard to come by. Each must give a little to get along and timely communication must be made a priority.

Smart companies are not just thinking about this, but actually making it a reality.

Amazing what can happen when companies decide to break down traditional silos.

 

 

Doing “IT” on the Cheap

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A Clear And Present Danger

How often does it happen that an organization moves from an old legacy ERP type system to a new, up-to-date ERP system and it fails to meet expectations and to improve system and business process efficiency?

Too often!

One of the primary reasons is that the project is way underfunded for the scope and somehow management has decided that there is no need for the costs to be what other successful companies have spent and they set forth to “do it on the cheap.”  Major strategic projects, such as a new ERP implementation or major ERP upgrade, which are underfunded, under staffed, and given an unrealistic time frame to complete, almost never work out.

Cutting corners and saving money on such strategic projects, which are a foundation for the company to support how they manage the business,  may not be the best idea.  The ROI is to be realized after a powerful system is implemented successfully and everyone’s expectations are met.  Doing it right means:

  • More cost upfront on the project, but also a maximized ROI for the long term, as in 10 to 15 years, every year.
  • Significantly higher system performance and business process efficiency realized, every year.
  • Smooth transition from the old to the new system.
  • Easier Business User buy-in and happier end users from the get-go.
  • Much less maintenance and support costs, every year.
  • Minimizing the need for customizations and making future upgrades easier and cheaper.

Given that most organizations do have to deal with finite budget limits on such projects, the best strategy is to plan what scope you can do, within the limits, while “doing it right.”

A Best Practice would be not to take or introduce unnecessary risks, which seldom work out.  Most often one cannot do all of the scope that one would like to do in Phase 1 due to the budget and time available.  What you can do to is develop a long-term, phased-in roadmap, based on business priorities, where the key stakeholders will be able to see when their needs will be taken care of.  OK, they may not get the new system functionality this year, but they will be happier to see that it is at least on the list to be done next year, or the year after.

With new technology, it is often said that “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  If you choose to do it on the cheap, you are most likely going to find out what you don’t know the hard way — and sooner, rather than later. What you may save on the front end, you will likely pay the piper for many years to come.

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Mainframe, Distributed, Personal, Cloud: Back to Where We Started?

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My days of selling ‘high tech’ products date back to the mid 80’s.  Since some of our blog readers were only 2 years old then, let me detail what our computing world was like.

CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) was the product.  In order to do a demonstration of our CAD application, we had to reserve mainframe time from home office which was in Denver, Colorado.  The app ran on a PDP 11, quickly upgraded to a VAX 11-730.  WooHoo!  We would pray, yes literally pray, when the customer showed up for the demo in our office that the appropriate time change was taken into consideration as we were in Detroit and that NO ONE in the rest of the company was doing anything on the mainframe.

We were loaded with a whopping 2 MB floppy disk drive.  We proudly demoed how we could rotate a 2D image on a 19 inch monochrome screen.  Notice I didn’t say how long it took, just that we could do it!  We sold some of these monster machines.  It took massive amounts of real estate to house the mainframes that stored the information.

Then, along came Apollo workstations. Remember those? Ever hear of those?

Well, we were absolutely astounded that we could now ‘network’ several workstations together using token-ring technology.  Most of the data had to reside on a Storage Module Disk Drive (a whopping 300 MB) which was the size of a washing machine.  But, the fact that we could send data from one workstation to another was, well, amazing.   Sun eventually took over the market, but Apollo was the trailblazer.

Then came the PC.  (I think I’ve now caught up with most of you and your generations!) You all know how the PC started bulging with applications, data, capabilities – but it was a personal device even though it had huge towers and disk drives under our desks that stored and processed the data.  As the market matured and miniaturization came into full force, the laptop gave us mobility and much more memory capability. Hardware-wise, that’s still the focus today. I don’t know too many people buying desktop towers anymore.

But even further, now we put stuff in the cloud!!  My non-techie friends and I want to know where this cloud is.  Doesn’t it seem like we’ve reverted right back where we started?  Putting data into massive storage devices sitting in real estate…somewhere. This might seem basic to younger students of IT history, but for those of us who lived the transitions, it’s very interesting to see things come full circle (ideologically speaking)!  We used to laugh that someday CAD/CAM and other apps would be running on our wrist watches.  Our prediction wasn’t too far off – they just run on our phones instead.

My point?  I shake my head and laugh at folks who complain about speed of search engines or downloading an app (for a more humorous take, here’s comedian Louis C.K. observing that everything today is amazing and nobody’s happy).  I think back to the days of having to make a reservation days ahead of time in order to do the same thing.  Just imagine what your kids will tell your grandkids about the slow technology they grew up with.

Amazing.

Thus endeth my reverie. Happy new year, everyone!

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2012 IT Budgets, Salaries on the Rise

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Carolyn Duffy Maran, reporting for NetworkWorld:

The outlook for IT budgets is solid, with 83% of survey respondents reporting that their 2011 IT budget was greater than or equal to their 2010 IT budget. This figure compares to 48% reporting stable or growing IT budgets in 2009.

Similarly, 85% of IT executives are predicting that their 2012 IT budgets will be greater than or equal to their 2011 figures. Only 65% of respondents made this prediction two years ago.

Another positive indicator is that IT budget allocations will remain steady in 2012, with internal staff expected to receive the largest share of the pie at 37% of spending compared to 38% this year.

Also note the outlook on outsourcing, forever IT’s boogeyman in the closet:

The SIM survey indicated no plans by management to increase offshore outsourcing, which has been a fear among IT professionals over the years. CIOs reported that they spent only 2% of their 2011 IT budgets on offshore outsourcing and 3% on domestic outsourcing. For 2012, they are projecting the same level of investment for offshore and domestic outsourcing.

And finally, don’t underestimate this surprising finding regarding cloud computing spend:

One surprise finding was that CIOs are not planning to allocate a significant amount of their IT budgets to internal or external cloud computing services. Although cloud computing was listed as one of the top applications that CIOs are investing in during 2011, they are spending only a tiny amount of money in this area: an average of 6% of their 2011 IT budgets on internal cloud projects and 5% on external cloud efforts.

Emphasis mine. Interesting that despite all the marketing and the buzzworthiness of cloud computing, the pursestrings are still on hold. Maybe it’s a value realization thing — that cloud, while promising, can’t be presented to the C-level in terms of actual ROI yet? Maybe it’s the backlog of IT services that have been neglected over the past few years, so cloud is hot, but not as hot as things that have been on the to-do list for 24 months?

ERP salespeople, take note: there’s still unmet demand out there. Enterprise cloud/SaaS salespeople: your challenge is to prove that the cloud is now, the value is real and time time has come for private clouds.

What’s your take?

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Something to Consider: Multiple PeopleTools Upgrade Options

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I recently engaged a new prospective customer who is interested in upgrading PeopleTools to version 8.5.  One of the primary reasons for this client to undertake the PeopleTools upgrade is to preempt an inevitable upgrade to HCM v9.1, as they are currently on v 9.0 MP3.  What’s motivating them to upgrade HCM?  It’s a story we’ve all heard (and maybe told): their current version won’t be supported by Oracle past the end of next year.

With this in mind, it’s obvious that the client is starting to look at their overall PeopleSoft environment on a global scale, the implications associated with an upgrade,  and is giving serious consideration to long-term approach from an implementation standpoint.

This view was the catalyst for me to present flexible options for the PeopleTools upgrade.  Without knowing how the client might respond, I recommended the possibility of using a “lab” approach to complete the project.  In other words, an off-site implementation methodology where they might realize some cost savings as opposed to an in-house development effort.

It turns out that the client used this approach the last time they upgraded and responded that they would like to see this as an option in the proposal.  More importantly however, the client views this method as a “knowledge transfer project that will help us gain the skills to better augment the next upgrade project.”  And it’s not the first time I’ve heard that, especially as it relates to PeopleTools and companies not having the resource bandwidth or expertise to do a PeopleTools upgrade internally.  In fact, it’s why we offer an affordable, high-value PeopleTools upgrade packaged service [PDF] that has been a success with quite a few clients.

Regardless, more and more folks are looking at upgrading PeopleTools, usually as a sub-consideration for a larger PeopleSoft upgrade project.  If this sort of thing is on your roadmap and you want to talk about it, don’t hesitate to drop me an email.  I’d be happy to chat.

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The Future of IT Jobs Lie in Three Types of Roles

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Interesting take on the future landscape of IT jobs, as seen by Jason Hiner over at ZDNet’s Between the Lines.  Hiner says:

More and more of traditional software has moved to the web, or at least to internal servers and served through a web browser. Many technophobic Baby Boomers have left the workforce and been replaced by Millennials who not only don’t need as much tech support, but often want to choose their own equipment and view the IT department as an obstacle to productivity. In other words, today’s users don’t need as much help as they used to. Cynical IT pros will argue this until they are blue in the face, but it’s true. Most workers have now been using technology for a decade or more and have become more proficient than they were a decade ago. Plus, the software itself has gotten better. It’s still horribly imperfect, but it’s better.

So where does that leave today’s IT professionals? Where will the IT jobs of the future be?

His take is interesting and fairly difficult to argue, especially in light of the emerging trends of the last 7-10 years.  Hiner sees the following roles moving taking the IT limelight in the future:

  • Consultants
  • Project Managers
  • Developers

Hiner’s entire piece is worth reading, and you should.  But independent of that, over the course of our daily conversations, we find very much the same changes, challenges and trends.

It ain’t your daddy’s IT department anymore.

What’s your take?

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On Oracle’s Intention to ‘Chrome’ Its PeopleSoft Browser Story

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If you’ve paid attention to our recent post in which we discussed the newly-unveiled PeopleTools 8.52 Release Value Proposition, then maybe you noticed that Oracle stated its intention to support Chrome as a browser.  This is interesting, not only because Chrome is the new browser darling of the alpha nerd set, but also because it’s pretty enterprise-unfriendly: Google releases new Chrome iterations very aggressively.   Nonetheless, Oracle seems to know there’s a ton of momentum behind it.

Here’s Mark Hoernemann on The PeopleSoft Technology Blog explaining PeopleSoft’s rationale:

Currently, we’re looking at adopting a minimum version of Chrome 10, that’s very likely to change with Google’s aggressive release schedule.   Look in My Oracle Support under Certifications when 8.52 goes GA later this year to see what the minimum version actually is.

We weren’t looking for additional browsers to add to the mix, just to see how big we can make the testing matrix, that’s for sure, so why did we make the change?  Customer input and market share were two big reasons.  As companies process external resumes and university students look to sign up for classes, more and more are looking to use Chrome.  One can find market shares all over the board depending on where you look and what you want to see.  However, the adoption rate of Chrome has been impressive any way you look at it. Wikipedia tracks multiple sources following Chrome’s adoption rates and they range anywhere from Net Applications’ 12.5% to StatCounter’s 19.4% as of May 2011.

I know a great many people who use Chrome in an enterprise environment.  Not every organization supports it, and certainly there will be application incompatibilities, but very quickly Chrome has become The Real Deal in the browser landscape.  Kudos to the PeopleSoft browser team for recognizing and supporting this.

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Riffing on Online Banking Security Considerations

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The following issue caught my attention and I thought I’d research it in a little more depth as I think it’s important to anyone who does their personal banking online.  With the adoption of online banking and its associated convenience comes the risk of identity theft and potential loss of personal funds.

Recently a major US based bank was hacked and customer information was compromised.  This breach exposed personal information of 200,000 North American customers, leaking customer names, account numbers and contact information.  No social security numbers, date of birth or bank card security codes were compromised — in this case.

The obvious financial and social  engineering angles are that hackers can sell this information as well as use it to trick bank tellers into believing that they are the customer.

Banks provide reassuring boilerplate language on their web sites and customer agreements that expound the safety and security of your money and ID…but what does this really mean?  By definition, it can only mean against threats and techniques that are known.  It cannot possibly cover operations or tactics that are unknown to the bank’s IT security team.  As most everyone knows, information security is a cat-and-mouse propositon: there is not static snapshot.  There is no absolute safe state.

The most prevalent technology used in online banking to protect your data is called 128-bit SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption and the most widely used method for securing internet transactions available.  What this means is that from your browser to the bank’s computer system, a “secure pipe” has been built that is difficult for hackers to break into.  However, once a malicious hacker is in the bank’s system and engaged in the transaction — once he’s ‘inside’ — this technology doesn’t cover the security of the transaction or the files stored in the virtual “file cabinet”.

Banks are having a hard enough time these days as it is.  The smart financial institution invests heavily in doing what it can for online customers before its safety reputation takes on irreparable water.  The old axiom in security is that the upside of security violations is that it teaches the defending team about new attack vectors.  That’s fine and well, but it doesn’t take too many ‘lessons’ of this nature for a bank’s customers to lose all faith in its online operation.  And if that happens, there’s no way to be competitive in the modern banking market.

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Who Causes More IT Headaches?

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CIO.com’s Kristin Burnham outlines a Forrester Research report that details whether Gen Yers or Gen Xers are more problematic to a smooth running IT department.  Despite how the question is positioned, it turns out they’re not as dissimilar as one may think:

You’ve heard the Gen Y stereotypes before: They’re lazy workers, exude entitlement and have been reared on social technologies that they bring into the workplace, whether IT departments like it or not.

A new Forrester Research (FORR) report sheds light on the latter issue,headache finding that Gen Y workers actually are not much different than Gen Xers or in some cases, even Baby Boomers, when it comes to their views on technology. Businesses should consider and rely more on this Gen Y group of employees when implementing policies and technologies, Forrester advises.

Among Forrester’s findings:

  • Gen Y believes their technology is better than your technology.
  • Despite this, Gen Y is no more likely than Gen X to bring the tech to work.
  • While Gen Y likes their tech better, they’re still satisfied with the tech they use for business.
  • Gen Y embraces the IT department.

Very interesting findings, especially the rationales behind each.  Read the whole piece over at CIO.

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