Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Reflecting on "HIDDEN BRAIN" The Ventilator: Life, Death And The Choices We Make At The End

This week’s podcast of Hidden Brain really hit home for me. The episode raises intriguing questions about end-of-life decision. Shankar Vedantam's narrative takes us  through the question "The choice was always, do you want to see tomorrow?"

The episode takes us through the journey of a family grappled with the same question. Over the decades, they talk deeply about the choices they would want to make in the face of an incurable illness or terrible injury. But when the time came to act on their beliefs, they discovered a question they hadn't considered. What if the seemingly rational choices you prefer when you're healthy no longer make sense to you when you're actually confronting death?

The questions around life, living and the reluctance to embrace the inevitable death even when it is staring you in the face are topics that I have been reflecting on since my father was paralyzed and eventually spent the last 8 months of life needing 24 X 7 care and support just to see another day; a day that may not be better than the one gone by.

I also began to appreciate how rational people react when facing the inevitable end. My dad was a proud and active veteran who had spent his early retirement years traveling around with my mother. He continued to be upbeat, even when facing the of debilitating effects of Parkinson’s.

What will happen to me after I die?

Would we be better prepared to embrace death when it inevitably comes calling, if we can answer this question? It is a question that humans and philosophers across civilizations and generations have pondered. Religion, spirituality or even the study of history and anthropology doesn’t give a clue into death and what lies at the other end. And if there is something in that ‘black hole.’

Humans don’t have the answer since the dead cant tell us what’s on the ‘other side’. And while the living can be certain that death isn’t reversible, we don’t have an assurance that the unknown we pass onto is going to be any better. Hence we take comfort in the status quo, and the certainty of life as we continue to live.
Of course, not all of us are destined to face this question. For many, death may be sudden, abrupt or untimely; leaving only the survivors to come to terms with death.

I have often wondered about the reason why people like my dad, and the protagonist of this podcast, Ms Stephanie Rinka want to struggle to live.

It is the will to struggle through the ailments and live to see another day, or is it the fear of the unknown finality of death that keeps them hanging by a thread?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Career advice: What does the career path for an Enterprise Architect look like?

Here is my response to a recent question "What does the career path for an Enterprise Architect look like?"

Looking for a “career path” for an Enterprise Architect is like seeking inputs on a strategy or roadmap; it really depends on various factors. I say this because:
  • Enterprise Architects in Consulting firms - EA’s in consulting firms bring in depth in one or more technical or functional domain and play and advisory or program manager role for their clients. Consulting roles require frequent travel and moving from one client to the next. Some individuals may work in consulting roles for some time before they decide to take on a permanent role as technology or functional manager.
  • Enterprise Architects working for large organizations generally come with years of experience in their respective domains.
    • Some EA’s continue to grow and contribute as EAs, and may be happy driving large multi-year transformations in their organizations. I know a few EA’s who happily retired as senior EA in their organization.
    • Some EA’s may take on managerial role in their organization and pursue the Director, VP, SVP, CIO/CTO track
  • Some EAs may continue to switch between consulting and FTE roles every few years as opportunities arise
As you can see, an EA’s career path really comes down to an individual’s preference and personal circumstances.

career advice: Will a TOGAF certification be helpful to move from a developer role to a software architecture role?

Here is my response to a recent question "Will a TOGAF certification be helpful to move from a developer role to a software architecture role?"

TOGAF is a broad body of knowledge that covers BiDAT dimensions of architecture
  • Business Architecture
  • Data Architecture
  • Applications Architecture
  • Technology Architecture
Those working in Software Engineering and Application Development will benefit from knowledge of some of the TOGAF topics.

Now, back to your specific question - as a software developer, if you are looking to complete a TOGAF certification in order to move to an application or software Architect role, you may be better off focused on other vendor/technical certifications focused on Technical Architect roles.

Look around your organization’s technology landscape and identify technologies like SAP, Microsoft, IBM, SFDC etc and consider Architect level certifications in those domains. Those certifications will provide you an opportunity to move towards and architecture role.

However, after you have gained sufficient experience in one or more technology or functional domains, if you plan to pursue a career in Enterprise Architecture, TOGAF certification will help.

Also, check out my earlier blog on this topic Career advice: What is cost of TOGAF 9 certification? What are the job opportunities in Bangalore?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Why is dual citizenship not appreciated in India where a largely migratory global labour market exists?

The above question came to me via an online forum that raises an interesting question: Should India allow Dual Citizenship? My response:

Some of us might think of immigration as a simple, linear movement of people from one country to another. And those of us who muse about ‘dual citizenship’ probably don’t appreciate the complexities of politics and policy issues involved.
Issue 1: Politics and regionalism: Indian subcontinent is highly divided and parochial. Some of the regionalism is a legacy of ‘divide and conquor’ left behind by British rulers, which the country hasn’t been able to move ahead from. Political leaders across states continue to nurture this mindset. Examples - Mumbai for Mumbaikars || 2008 attacks on Uttar Pradeshi and Bihari migrants in Maharashtra|| Andhra passes Bill giving 75% job reservation for locals || Migrant labourers targeted in Kodagu
  • The concept of “largely migratory global labour market” exists only in pockets. Many migrants who move overseas often return back ‘home’ during a downturn
  • Some states like Kerala are already struggling to accommodate returning NRIs “The Kerala government has sought special grants to the tune of around Rs 50 billion from the 15th Finance Commission. The state government said it has raised claims for grant funds, including Rs 15 billion for rehabilitation of Keralites who are returning from Gulf countries following the crisis there.” (ref: article)
Given this political context, imagine this problem: how and where would a India accommodate a diaspora of 15.6 million IFF they suddenly decide to ‘return home’ en masse? Would an NRI of Bihari origin be easily assimilated in Kashmir or a North Eastern State? Should such folks be allowed to vote? What would happen to the local vote banks? It is probably easier for Indian policy makers to restrict those who acquire foreign citizenship from holding an Indian passport.
One of the keynote speakers at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in 2017 that I attended was the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa who proudly showed his OCI card to the audience
Issue 2: Complexities of Policies - At the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the policy discussions around citizenship were front and center.
  • Imagine this scenario: If India offered dual citizenship, folks like António Costa could migrate back to Goa and run for elections there too. What would Goanese feel about this?
  • Descendants of Indian colonial slave workers to get OCI cards - As a policy maker, imagine if all such ‘descendants’ of Indian origin living in Fiji, Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, Singapore, and even Sri Lanka begin asking for Indian Citizenship?
  • What about 2nd or 3rd generation ‘people of Indian origin’ living in Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan? Should they also be offered a dual/Indian citizenship, especially if some of their siblings or other relatives migrated over to India generations ago?
  • Check out the report “Assessing India's PIO and OCI Schemes - The Ministry of External Affairs” that highlights some of the issues and challenges
As a policy maker, one would aim to be fair and equitable to the entire class of eligible people. But as a class of people, the millions of Indian diaspora doesn’t fall into a neat little pattern. ‘Dual citizenship’ would raise more issues than one can fathom.

Bottomline: The current OCI policy is more than a simple compromise towards dual-citizenship. It gives a practical option for people like me who want the ability to stay connected with their motherland. Check out my blog post What’s it like to give up your Indian citizenship and accept American citizenship?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What does the CCD founder’s death tell us about corporate culture and pressure?

First things first, condolences to the family of VG Siddhartha, a remarkable entrepreneur of our time. [VG Siddhartha death Live Updates: CCD owner's body to be taken to Chikamagalur for last rites]
VG Siddhartha founded and ran several successful business ventures and is best known for his role in the growth of Café Coffee Day (CCD).
The CCD story was a quintessential desi story of our time and B-school students around the globe learnt from the case study. Harvard business school - Coffee Wars in India: Café Coffee Day Takes On the Global Brands || IIM - Exploring Brand Associations in the Indian Context: Cafe Coffee Day || IBS - Cafe Coffee Day's Expansion Strategies| Strategy Case Study || DSIM - How the Man from Bangalore Brewed a $200 Million Success Story? || Others on Google Scholar
Given the success of CCD and Siddhartha’s business acumen in creating a brand and franchise from ground-up, most of us are wondering what went so wrong that he had to take his own life? While the media and digerati speculate, here are a few thoughts on running a business in India
  • The topic of taking on debt, (Good Debt vs. Bad Debt: What's the Difference?) is perennial staple in B-schools and among business leaders and consultants. Good debt is exemplified in the old adage "it takes money to make money." However, when a business faces headwinds, the debt can turn “bad” very fast, and can be lethal.
    • In a letter released before Siddhartha, wen missing, he had said that "tremendous pressure" from other lenders had made him succumb to the situation.
  • Businesses periodically undergo financial stress. Some of the stress rubs on the founders, owners and business leaders.
    • For example, another charismatic Indian entrepreneur Kiran-Mazumdar-Shaw was quoted saying “The hopelessness he seems to be indicating in his letter on financial stress is a real problem. And the way the stakeholders of the financial sector are dealing with business and dealing with entrepreneurs seems to be what the problem is.”
  • Fates of Business, government and society are intertwined in India.
    • Fate of many business leaders are closely aligned with their political sponsors. The government (ruling party) of the day uses IT raids as a tool to control/manage opponents. This can be exacerbated when there is some impropriety and business leaders think they can skirt some regulations or rules.
    • VG Siddhartha was the son-in-law of S. M. Krishna, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, Indian Minister for External Affairs and Governor of Maharashtra. In a recent letter, Siddhartha alleged ‘harassment’ from Income Tax authorities (Decoding VG Siddhartha's letter: What's the 'harassment' from tax authorities CCD founder faced?)
Fight-or-flight response
Psychologists who study human behavior describe the fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) as a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Human reaction to crisis is highly subjective. Some high-flying business leaders like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya chose flight, by literally flying out of the country when faced with financial doom.
In Siddhartha’s case, he seems to have Fought back for a while, before taking Flight to a lethal extreme.

[reposted on Quora]

Friday, June 14, 2019

Here’s why Indian government should let the automotive sector shakeout

In the past decade, Indians have fallen in love with their automobiles, but recent media reports indicate that this honeymoon may be drawing to an end. The love for cars and bikes has led to tremendous growth in the automotive sector, which is visible around us – most neighborhoods have swanky new dealerships and petrol stations, not to mention chock-a-block traffic that we see all around.

Based on recent reports, a segment of automotive-sector is already calling for government handouts, which the media seems to be echoing.  However, when one looks at urban roads clogged with traffic, one wonders if a bit of shakeout or even the disappearance of a few automotive brands wouldn’t be a bad thing for urban India.

While living in America, I was acutely aware of how cars were an essential part of suburban life. During visits back home, I would continue to be astounded by the increasing traffic density, and the variety of automobiles on narrow roads: compact, convenient Marutis had given way to a range of SUVs, midrange and luxury cars. On relocating back to India, I began to use my dad’s old Maruti to run errands before I exchanged it for another compact car – a KWID. I was seriously looking for an EV but the only compact one in the market is overly priced and the reviews weren’t flattering. Our car is primarily used for a few family trips, shopping or to run errands around the neighborhood. For much of our daily commute, my wife and I depend on local buses, auto rickshaws, Ola and Uber.

Shouldn’t the government step in to help the automotive sector?!

According to reports from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the Indian auto sales in April declined by almost 16% compared to last year. Almost half a million passenger vehicles worth $5 billion, as well as 3 million two-wheelers valued at $2.5 billion are lying unsold at dealerships.

The sector employs around 32 million people across the country, and any slowdown is bound to impact jobs and local communities. However, the slowdown comes after years of stellar growth, and there may be little sympathy for auto manufacturers or dealers that have been profiting from the boom.

While taxes from auto-sales account for a percentage of its revenue, the government might be reluctant to bail out an industry due for correction.

An Argument against bailing out the automotive sector

There are several reasons why the Indian government and policy makers should refrain from stepping in, and just let the market forces run the course:

  • This slowdown and declining sales may be attributable to consumption fatigue: There are only so many cars Indian roads can accommodate, and Indians aren’t as prone to swapping their old cars to newer models as western drivers are. Incentivizing consumers to continue to artificially fuel demand is just going to delay the inevitable slowdown.
  • Parking wars in residential areas are all too common, and most neighborhoods are already saturated with a high density of cars. Most smaller apartments and houses in Urban India haven’t provisioned for parking spots, forcing residents to park on narrow roads nearby. The 25-30 feet wide roads designed to accommodate just two cars passing each other get jammed when cars are parked alongside too. A radical proposal by Karnataka’s Dy. Chief Minister asking potential car-buyers to demonstrate availability of available parking spot while applying for registration was quickly buried after it was leaked to the media.
  • The last mile challenge in commute is overblown – Living in a Bengaluru suburb, I have comfortably been commuting by BMTC’s AC buses to a tech-park about twenty kilometers away. This means that I have to walk a few hundred meters to a bus stop near my house and another 750 meters inside the tech park after I get off the bus-stop in front of the sprawling complex. During the past year, I occasionally miss the door-to-door convenience of commute that driving would afford, but I would miss the benefit of 3-4 kilometer walk; not to mention the stress-free commute of sitting in an AC bus.
  • Car ownership no longer a millennial’s dream - Ride-sharing, Ola, Uber and easy access to public transit have led to a segment of millennials refraining from vehicle ownership. While some find public transit and ride-share convenient, a few millennials are also making a statement – that life without cars shows they are environmentally conscious.
  • A slowdown will test the resilience of the industry, especially foreign auto-giants that have been profiting from the boom. The market forces will also be a litmus test to identify the multinationals that are here for the long haul.

The economic impact of the slowdown in the Indian automotive industry is being scrutinized in public forums. However, the Indian society is not as addicted to cars and automobiles as Americans and other westerners are. There are certainly more modes of transport in urban India. If the bulk of Indian middle class consumers have decided that they want a fewer cars, more power to them.

The Indian automotive industry has been focused on satisfying the demand for traditional vehicles, and perhaps got a bit complacent. There is hardly any domestic innovation in emerging areas like low-emission and electric-vehicle technologies where the rest of the world is moving towards.
A shakeout in the industry might force a few players to seek opportunities in that neglected sector that is due for a growth. Fewer cars on crowded Indian roads wouldn’t be a bad thing after all. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Enterprise Architecture Roadmaps: reconciling across enterprise domains

I was at an industry forum where the discussions focused on strategy realization and roadmaps and some of the challenges with digital strategy execution. While discussing the challenges, many were in agreement that Business leaders are generally well versed in capabilities of IT, and the promise of digital tools and techniques.

Strategy realization involves executing on pre-defined roadmaps, and aligning business processes with appropriate technologies and platforms. In an earlier blog post, I described the process of reconciling Architecture Roadmaps across an organization. (link). This involves bringing together views from across functional and regional domains that coexist along with Business, Information, Data, Applications and Technology (BIDAT) areas. In addition to BIDAT, Architects also need to align across IT Services and digital backbone domains, each with distinct strategic drivers, business sponsorship and execution strategies.  A brief description of each of these along with some of the implications on EA roadmaps follow.

No alt text provided for this image

Enterprise-IT - services for internal consumption

Many large enterprises have moved towards a shared services model to centrally support systems and processes for business units and functions that may be globally distributed. IT, along with selected functions like facilities management, HR, finance and production may be managed within the shared services organization.

The enterprise-IT in a shared service will be designed to support internal operations in organizations with thousands or tens of thousands of employees. . These employees will need consistent processes and systems to support business operations, sales, support clients, manufacture and distribute goods in regions across the globe.

The enterprise-IT systems and processes must be continually supported, enhanced and upgraded. A large ecosystem of Enterprise IT application vendors with a variety of tools and technologies offer services for business verticals.

Implication: Senior executives closely watch the SLAs, metrics and cost of operations of enterprise-IT platforms and processes. The costs of operations can influence the organization’s bottomline, and so can productivity gains from transforming some of the processes and systems.

Digital Backbone

In many organizations, the growth engine is driven by distinct capabilities or intellectual property aligned with its core competency. In some organizations, the digital backbone may be called the “engineering” or “technology” capability. At a manufacturing company, the digital backbone will include R&D behind design of products and services. For a media company, it will be the newsroom operations supporting reporters and journalists. At a petrochemical company, the digital backbone will include innovation that drives its geo-information, GIS and drilling capabilities.

Systems and processes to manage core competency have evolved with emerging digital technologies and tools; and these are also likely to be most impacted by digital disruptors in the marketplace.

The past decade has seen entire industry segments and companies disrupted by digital innovators. Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted taxi services and public transit systems around the world. A decade ago, low cost online-only brokers disrupted full-service brokerages. Similarly, advances in electric vehicle technologies are being watched by the entire transport segment dependent on internal combustion engines - from automobile companies to oil drillers.

Implication: Technologies that enable the digital backbone are generally customized to the organization’s business processes and can be the engine for growth. Transformation of an organization’s digital backbone can impact the top-line, improve market share and sales, and transform its business model.

Architecting in the Enterprise: Impact on roadmaps

In most of the large enterprises I have worked with, there is a line in the sand when it comes to managing Enterprise-IT services and the organization's Digital Backbone. The platforms and systems are managed and operated independently, but there is value in working across the silos.

Many of the tools, technologies and services are interchangeable across these business units. For instance, a cloud hosting strategy may be applicable across these BU’s. Similarly, the organization will have a better negotiating leverage by consolidating licenses for infrastructure, network, databases and other technology services. Knowledge of Design and development skills may also be interchangeable across the organizations.

The organization’s culture may dictate the level of collaboration across enterprise-IT services and the organization's Digital Backbone.  An effective way to bridge the divide without being constrained by the culture is for technology leaders to continually reconcile Architecture Roadmaps as described in an earlier post. The reviews and reconciliation should be consultative, although some aspects - like external vendor inputs or Technology Debt (link) - may have to be directive.