Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Career Q&A on Enterprise Architecture

Career Questions from an online forum: 

Q1: How can I transition from enterprise architecture to business consulting?

My response:  

Interesting question; I say interesting since many people from consulting move to corporate EA.
For this response, I will assume you are a corporate EA with some consulting background. While moving to Business consulting you will need to
  • Highlight expertise in functional domain - This could be expertise in domains like Finance, Supply Chain, HR or others that you may have worked on
  • Emphasize your consulting background - e.g consulting with projects and programs in your organization.
  • Demonstrate flexibility to learn and think on your feet
Message me if you need further inputs.

Q2: What positions can being a Java technical architect lead to?

My response:
Sorry to sound clich├ęd but it really depends on where you want it to lead. Let us look at two main kinds of jobs:
  • Consulting firms - A Java Technical Architect could grow into a senior Architect, Senior consultant or relationship manager, engagement leader etc. Along the way, you could pick up other technical skills in Big Data, AI etc etc
  • IT Shop at an organization - Let us assume, you join as a Java Technical Architect at a large bank. You could continue to grow in the technical track (towards Enterprise Architecture) and expand into other technologies being used in the organization, or grow in the management track
As I said earlier, it really depends on where you want your job to lead to.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Q&A: Even when Indians are killed in racial attacks by Americans, why are they still mad to settle in the USA?

The recent incident in Kansas involving two Indians, when one American fired seven bullets at them after yelling “get out of my country,” is raising a lot of question among digerati.

Following on an earlier question - "What are your thoughts on the shooting of Indians in the Kansas pub?" - my response to another question that came up online:

Even when Indians are killed in racial attacks by Americans, why are they still mad to settle in the USA?

Let us take a balanced view here.
Yes, there are ethnic and racial undercurrents in America. One might also encounter sporadic incidents of violence and hate-crime, like the recent “Kansas shooting,” that can be extremely jarring. However, these incidents are too few and far between to significantly impact daily lives of residents and Citizen.
I have lived in over a dozen countries across three continents and have heard of and read accounts of racism or xenophobia in most places. This said, I haven’t personally encountered - knock on wood - racism or xenophobia in my travels.
Even taking into account the few of its problems, America continues to be the strongest and most vibrant economy in the world. It is still the land of opportunities. It is not surprising to see people waiting for years in the immigration queue to migrate to America.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Q&A on EA: Is there any website that compare Enterprise architect modelling tools?

Here are a couple of questions from an online forum and my responses:

I am comparing Sparx System’ Enterprise Architect, Software AG’s ARIS, and MEGA HOPEX. Already search on the web with no good result. Is there any web or blogpost that compate these tools in terms of their features? I am looking for UML, data modelling, BPMN and TOGAF support.

Websites and blogs comparing EA tools are going to be subjective (and may be biased on a tool or domain). The better question to be asking is about fitment of tool/s vs your requirements.
Years ago, I lead an Enterprise Architecture survey (link), the outcome of which was interesting: An Observation that Visio is by far the most popular and common "tool" to document Architecture. Others like Powerpoint and even Word are prevalent too.
This was true even in organizations using EA tools (like the ones you named). The situation is no different in 2017. We continually have a similar debate on tools at my organization, a global 1000 company that has teams across the globe, and have a “best of the breed” approach for specific BDAT requirements.
Why? Many EA tools are really good “Swiss Army Knives,” but need a lot of support and inputs from SMEs and the different domains before they can enable insights.

The requirement you state are very broad “UML, data modelling, BPMN and TOGAF support.” So, I am assuming that you are looking for "tools" to document an EA Journey in your Enterprise; perhaps for a transformation program?
I am also assuming that you work for a large organization - since EA tools require an investment in dedicated infrastructure and support (in addition to licensing costs)
The scope of an EA, especially in a large organization is broad and will cover EA domains (BDAT), functional domains and platforms. For a broader documentation of your landscape and some BPMN and UML support, you could leverage some of the tools you mentioned. However, some domains will require specialized tools. For instance, data-modelling is a very specialized activity, best done with specific tools (Comparison of data modeling tools - Wikipedia ).
Assuming your EA modeling requirements are well defined and you have the executive support, you should evaluate toolsets for distinct requirements, especially if your organization also has invested in major ERPs (e.g SAP shops will prefer “Solution Manager”) or SaaS solutions (e.g

(you may message me if you need further guidance or consulting inputs on the way forward)

I have been working as solution architect and organization required us to take care of EA function as well that was not present earlier. So far we have established EA repository and started using Archimate framework but I want to dig in further to add more value to business.

A few “tips” for you (not necessarily in order of importance)
  • Learn – preferably undergo formal training and certification – in a formal Architecture framework like TOGAF or others that is used in your organization
  • Learn and try to engage stakeholders in other BDAT domains. As you are from a technical background, breaking into the “B”usiness Architecture is the key to success. This assumes you have some exposure to Information, Data and Technology architecture in addition to Application Architecture.
  • “B”usiness Architecture in some organizations may be the domain of Business Analysts, Business Process consultants etc. Try and engage with them, especially as needs of transformational programs arise
  • Engage in Transformational programs. This will give you necessary exposure to the tactics involved in “strategy realization” and also help you engage with stakeholders.
  • Continue to engage with external forums – Q&A groups like this, Linkedin Forums etc, and also other face-to-face forums in your city or region. This will help you contribute to the community and learn with them

Friday, February 24, 2017

What are your thoughts on the shooting of Indians in the Kansas pub?

A question came to me online on the wake of  "Kansas man charged with killing Indian in possible hate crime" 

What are your thoughts on the shooting of Indians in the Kansas pub?

Early in President Obama’s presidency, he tried to defuse tensions between the Black and White community that came to a boil when a Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, was arrested on suspicion of breaking into his own home.
President Obama invited the professor and the white police officer who detained him for a Beer at the withe house.
(Image: NYT Blog)
This was a symbolic act by the first Black president America has elected and was much lauded by the media and got a lot of press.
A lot of water has flown since then. And in the 7–8 years since, Americans haven’t become more tolerant when it comes to race relations. Black Lives Matter -movement came much later!
Assume the current US President invites the Indian “victims” of the hate crime and their shooter for a Hyderabadi Kabab and Biryani lunch at the White house.
(googled Image)
Would Joe-and-Jane-Six pack American suddenly become emphatic towards Muslims and South Asians?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why is the Indian government concerned over proposed H1-B visa changes?

My response to a recent question that came from a reader: 
Why is the Indian government concerned over proposed H1-B visa changes?

The Indian media, along with Indian Techies are closely watching the actions of Indian Government with regards H1. You are probably referring to the recent meeting between US Congressmen and Indian officials in India: “PM Narendra Modi counsels US Congressional delegation to rethink Fortress America - Times of India

I don’t wish to simplify an overly complex issue, but the reason for Indian government to be monitoring this closely is because it impacts people (jobs), remittances and taxes.

A basic 101 on the business model: India and Indian IT shares a 360 relationship with Americans and American IT. H1 Visas are a necessary tool for Indian service companies to operate. They send people on short and long-term deputation – to gather requirements, engage with clients, explore new business etc. The people sent onsite support the operations offshore.

A few reasons for Indian government to be concerned
  • Employment and remittances:
    • Indian IT employs 3-5 million professionals. Many are well paid (by Indian standards) and any external factor that will impact jobs in this sector is closely monitored by the government
    • By some accounts, Indians are issued the majority of H1 Visas. Visa holders travel overseas and contribute in remittances to India
  • Business and Tax revenue
    • Indian IT service firms contribute a sizeable amount in taxes (directly and indirectly) that benefits the Indian government
    • US market accounts for 50-60% of revenue generated by Indian IT Service firms. This is billions in revenue (across the industry).
Indian Government is not alone in voicing concerns lobbying foreign governments. American government regularly lobbies on behalf of its industry – for example, when Boeing has a deal to sell Dreamliner’s or when a country X is trying to establish nuclear power plants and is calling for bids from American and European suppliers.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Advice on strategy: How do I price a SaaS product when there's no competitive product but demand exists?

Here is a recent query from an online forum, and my response:

How do I price a SaaS product when there's no competitive product but demand exists?

We have built a product which already got traction. Microsoft is using it on pilot basis and loving it Now a big corporate (USD 110 B) wants it and having several test runs and has finally reached price discussion phase. We didn’t plan SaaS but that’s the way forward so any suggestion on pricing it?


This is a great dilemma for a startup or small business to have. So, let us begin with a few facts and make a few assumptions
  • Demand for the solution exists
    • The product/solution is being used by Microsoft (a marquee client to have)
    • A $110 bn big-corp wants it after test-runs
  • You are making the assumption that there is “no competitive product,” which may be true.
    • However, you need to research further if an alternative solution or workaround exists in the market (e.g current ways of working may include manual effort, which your solution automates).
Suggestions on the way forward
  1. Estimate the “value” of your product to the end-user/client organization. e.g
    1. What would it cost for them to build and support the product
    2. Estimate the cost of manual workaround/alternative?
  2. Use the estimate against your internal cost benchmark (what did it cost for you to build and market the product?).
    1. Add an estimate of your annual cost of maintenance and support.
    2. Aad a reasonable margin on top of your costs.
  3. Other factors
    1. Does this product give a the end-client a competitive advantage or productivity gains?
    2. What is your current strategy: using the marquee clients as “case studies” to go after other clients, or use them as a cash-cow to generate ROI?
    3. Are you willing to walk-away if negotiation fails?
Use data from 1. 2. and 3. to plan your strategy and begin negotiations.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Infosys, dust off the slogan “Powered by Intellect, Driven by Values”?

Years ago when I worked for the software services giant, Infosys, the corporate tagline was “Powered by Intellect, Driven by Values.” It perhaps symbolized the quintessential Indian middle-class values of service and sharing, values that prompted the founders to share the wealth they created by giving away stock options, grants and ESOPS to hundreds of early employees. This story was the stuff of corporate legends in the nineties through 2000s.
The founders took turns running the business, and had an astute sense of the market and a handle on public relations, at least in India. Of course, the company was a media darling and could do no wrong. Occasional incidents involving employees or its executives – like the Phaneesh Murthy scandal or investigation over H1 Visa-fraud – were shrugged off as one-off.
The co-founder-CEOs, vested with millions in stock grants and options, had little need or interest in begrudging “pay and bonus” of a fellow co-founder. They didn’t feel the need to voice their opinion in public, especially since they also enjoyed a seat at the board. This was also a time of tremendous growth at the company. The founders and employees who joined early were happy: their stocks and options were rising with the tide of offshoring.  
As a former-employee continuing to hold a percentage of his net-worth in the company’s stock, I try to stay updated on the news about the company: Infosys continues to be in my list of RSS reader searches that I periodically browse. Fast forward to present day Infosys where there seems to be a nexus of forces at play.
  • The pace of growth in the business of offshoring has slowed down considerably. The industry is bracing for headwinds in key markets - thanks to Mr. Trump in North America and Ms Theresa May in Europe – and clients of offshoring services are taking a wait-and-watch when it comes to big technology investments. The stock market is beginning to discount the valuations of Indian software service firms.
  • The board-of-directors of the company now consists primarily of non-founders. (ref: Infosys) The venerable Narayana Murthy stepped down as Chairman of the board in 2015, though his opinions continue to be quoted as gospel by the media. After all, the “promoter & promoter Group” still hold about 12.75% of the total number of shares which gives them a significant voice. (ref: Infosys holdings)
  • A couple of years ago, the board selected Vishal Sikka as the first outsider CEO to lead the company. After Mr. Sikka took charge, there was a large-scale churn of senior executives.
The latest series of headlines seem to be centered on “governance” of the company, primarily on the multi-million-dollar compensation being offered to the CEO, and a large exit package for its former CFO. (ref: NDTV summary) The jury is still out on Mr. Sikka’s scorecard and performance during the past couple of years. By many accounts, the company hasn’t done much worse (or better) than peers in the business of offshoring IT Services.
In a public company, small shareholders like me are generally inclined to trust the checks and balances in the system. And that the board of directors elected by the majority of us are executing on their fiduciary duty. This goes to the heart of corporate governance.
As a passive stakeholder, I left shaking my head over this “controversy” surrounding the company, wondering if this is a case of a storm in a teacup orchestrated by the media-and its founders founder (ref Prabal Roy’s writeup ). Or if the smoke blowing out of Electronics City is an indicator of a major fire. Either way, it is perhaps time for Infosys’ board to dust off the slogan “Powered by Intellect, Driven by Values,” and focus on re-communicating its values.