Monday, August 14, 2017

Enterprise Architecture 101: Digital Strategy Execution enabled by an ARB

A while ago, I had blogged a Pulse article about Digital Strategy Execution (ref link). This is a topic I continue to observe and reflect on since organizations continue to execute their corporate digitization strategies.

The Editor at Cutter Consortium reached out to me asking if I could expand on the topic, especially in the context of Architecture governance. This viewpoint - Digital Strategy Execution via Architecture Review Board (ARB) - was recently published as an executive update by Cutter Consortium.  I realize the report is firewalled, so for those without access to Cutter’s subscription, here is a detailed summary. I have also posted some of the diagrams from the report in a slideshare (link)
Enabling digital strategies requires CIOs, Enterprise Architects and IT leaders to engage with business stakeholders. Such engagement of IS with business stakeholders must be governed by the organization’s processes, operating model, and technology governance to ensure robust, scalable architectures. The resultant roadmaps should also be governed by a well-functioning ARB.

Digitization and Information Systems

There are lots of discussions and viewpoints on ‘digital strategies,’ and they must be contextualized for an organization. Examples of such user stories include medical insurance companies motivating consumers to video-chat with doctors, auto insurers offering “usage-based insurance” after analysis of driver data from devices on cars, and banks minimizing foot traffic at the branches while enhancing digital transactions. As an enterprise architect responsible for governance at a multinational organization, I had an opportunity to review several digital transformations. Most of them seem to fall into three distinct categories (see Figure):

  • Lights-on digitization (a.k.a IS led digitization)
  • Digital excellence
  • Customer-centric digitization

    Most lights-on digitization efforts - like migrating application platforms to cloud hosting, introducing new software as a service (SaaS), enhanced data management, automation of existing processes etc - are driven by IT leaders, who should take the opportunity to align these with other transformations.

    Technology and business leaders continually scan the external landscape for new and innovative solutions. Digital excellence initiatives include the introduction of innovative vendor solutions that can drive business growth. Examples include use of blockchain technology, tools to analyze big/unstructured data; speech recognition and interactive voice response (IVR) enabled processes, and incremental use of virtual assistants and transcription or translation services.

    Customer-centric digitization programs aim to enhance digital engagement with the company’s customers, business partners, vendors, suppliers, and other third parties. These initiatives require strong business insights and are generally sponsored and steered by senior executives. IT leaders facilitate ideation and technology foresight, and ensure seamless introduction of these solutions.

    Customer-centric digitization might also be designed to address threats from digital innovators. For instance, the travel and hospitality industry is reacting to disruptors like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Innovations in robotics, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence–driven planning and modeling are beginning to disrupt the existing ways of working in manufacturing industries.
    In the report, I expand the context of Architecture Governance (figure) and execution that requires executive support and an operational cadence. Digital strategies and roadmaps continually evolve and change in response to economic conditions, changing customer preferences, competitive pressures, and external market forces. Therefore, the basic design of an ARB should be simple but extensible. Please feel free to review the references:

    Thanks for reading! 
    Please share your views on Digitization & Governance. You may Like, Share, Tweet and Comment below to continue this conversation | Reposted from my Linkedin Pulse blog |

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    30-60 Children die at Gorakhpur Hospital: Musing on the heartlessness of business, administration and politics

    Reading about the shocking incident at a hospital in the Indian city of Gorkhpur sent a shiver down my spine. Parents of the kids with various ailments who were admitted at Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital allege that oxygen supply for the patients was turned off as the vendors’ bills for the supplies had not been paid by the state government.

    Initial media accounts published notifications received from vendors - Pushpa Sales Pvt Limited, the company which supplies liquid oxygen to the Hospital. According to letters from the vendor, Pushpa sales had decided to stop supply of oxygen cylinders to the hospital since its bills hadn’t beenpaid for past supplies (link):  
    # “The delay in payment is reaching six months… in case of further delay, the entire responsibility would be of BRD Medical.”
    # “We would be unable to continue supply… in case of non-payment of dues… it would not be our responsibility.”

    Pushpa’s managers probably approached this as yet another business transaction: A vendor threatening to or actually stopping supplies when past bills are overdue is a common business practice. It is shocking to imagine how the managers didn’t stop to think that the supply of the ‘goods,’ (oxygen cylinders) would literally lead to life-and-death consequences.

    The incident has generated a huge political storm with the media and digerati weighing in. While parents allege lack of oxygen supply as the root cause, the hospital administration is taking cover under obscure medical records by stating ‘each case of death is unique and different.’ (link)

    Having lived and worked in a dozen countries around the globe, I can understand - but still not empathize – with the constraints under which middle-managers operate. Unpaid bills of over 40 lakh rupees -nearly US$80,000 as the media reports indicate - is not a small amount by Indian standards. One can guess how a middle-manager at Pushpa Sales might have been under tremendous pressure to have the bills cleared. Perhaps his job was at stake too, and he decided to stop supplies to ‘threaten’ the hospital administration as a last resort.

    Similarly, hospital administrators are also business managers accountable for Profit and Loss and general operations and surely must have tried to ‘resolve’ the impasse. In all this, did they stop for a minute to think: the ‘goods and supplies’ in question are oxygen cylinders destined for a children’s ward were helpless, innocent children might actually DIE if they didn’t receive the intake of oxygen? Post mortems and review of records will eventually unearth the truth, but by then the attention of the media and digirati would have moved on. The hapless parents will be left behind trying to reconcile the loss, eventually attempt to come to grips with it.

    As a father who lost a child years ago, my heart goes out to the grieving parents. No parent should have to go through the tragedy of burying a child. It is just not right.  

    Ref: Aditya Mohan

    Human lives are too precious to be squandered because of corporate greed and ineptitude of hospital administrators. 

    Wednesday, August 9, 2017

    Why do educated folks fall for internet hoaxes? The saga of Harshit Sharma

    Yesterday I had posted a set of Q&A about “technology addiction” but it seems the social impact of technology hoaxes go deeper.

    Hindustan Times has an article about a youngster and his family falling for a rather unsophisticated hoax: a 16-year old being offered a multi-million rupees job opportunity by the tech giant Google. (ref: Google job that wasn’t: 16-year-old diagnosed with ‘confusional psychosis’, parents affected too)

    Harshit Sharma with his mother Bharti Sharma and father Rajinder Kumar Sharma on the Chandigarh-Delhi highway on Monday August 7.
    Harshit Sharma with his mother Bharti Sharma and father Rajinder Kumar Sharma on the Chandigarh-Delhi highway on Monday August 7.(Anil Dayal/HT)

    The hoax got amplified late last month when the Department of Public Relations of Chandigarh Administration in India issued a Press Release that claimed (link)

    “After completion of his training he will get remuneration of 12 lacs per month. He went for online interview through video conferencing and was selected on the basis of posters designed by him while doing class 12th under the supervision of his teachers.”

    The PR instantly went viral and was picked up by mainstream media and Digirati: the story of an Indian high-school graduate getting a multi-million-rupee job offer had the right element of intrigue and Cinderella like aspect to it.

    The reports and bloggers blindly echoing the story didn’t pause to think if this was too good to be true. After all, the guy, Harshit Sharma, claimed to be an ‘average student’ and didn’t have other past success or other credentials. A Hindustan Times article claimed:

    A Chandigarh student has been selected by the internet giant Google for icon designing.
    Harshit Sharma, who completed Class 12 from the Government Model Senior Secondary School (GMSSS), Sector 33, this year, will be leaving for the US in August.
    Selected for Google's special programme, he will be trained initially for a year. During this period, he will receive a stipend of Rs 4 lakh per month. On completing the training, he will receive Rs 12 lakh per month. The information was released by government officials on Saturday. They said Google has told him to join by mid-August.

    By internet standards, this wasn’t even a rather elaborate prank. A quick call to Google confirmed the story was a hoax. So, why did Harshit, and more importantly his educated parents - Harshit's father is a high school principal - fall for this? And, why did they play along when media came knocking?

    And in a rather sad end to the saga, the family is now seeking help for the ‘confusional psychosis!’

    The lesson here is obvious: there are an innumerable variety of hoaxes, pranks and tricksters on the web. When it comes to the internet, check and double check, especially from the source. 

    Tuesday, August 8, 2017

    Recent Q&A on IS Careers, Architecture and Software Engineering

    A few recent questions I answered in a forum online

    How does India compare with the United States of America as far as software industry is concerned?

    Thanks for asking this interesting question. I have enjoyed an interesting career in the vibrant software and IS services industry in the past couple of decades, and got to live and work in a dozen countries across three continents.

    “Software industry” is a broad term that includes the business of innovating and developing software solutions and the use of software to enable business services. A brief review of India vs US ‘software industry’ from a few angles

    • Talent pool: With hundreds of thousands of Computer Science and Engineering graduates, India has a much larger talent pool compared to the US.
    • Cost and wages: The cost of living in India is lower than in the US and correspondingly, cost of software services are lower.
    • Corporate spending on IT: Data from analysts (like Gartner) indicate that companies spend anywhere between 3- 5 % of revenues on IT. Taking this reference, multi-billion dollar, Fortune 500 and other American companies which have larger revenues spend much more on IT than their Indian counterparts.
    • Government services: Federal, state and local government agencies in the US spend a lot on software and software enabled services for their citizen. Government services in India including Central and state government services continue to mature as awareness grows
    Note: this is an oversimplified response to a broad question


    Why is technology so addictive? How do you get over an electronic gadget addiction?

    What is Technology? Per Wikipedia

    “Technology is the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, and the like, or it can be embedded in machines which can be operated without detailed knowledge of their workings.”

    Therefore one can argue,

    Most technologies are not addictive. Most technologies are benign tools, intended to aid humans
    Technology is a broad area that includes Information Technology and IT enabled tools like smartphones, cellphones, laptops, tablets etc (I emphasize the tools since most of the ‘addiction’ conversation is around these tools)

    When the iIpad came out videos like this cute kid playing with ipads and magazines went viral

    One can extend ‘technology addiction’ to the addiction for Selfies, which is a real issue. Just yesterday, there was a news about an Indian Man Trampled To Death By Elephant In A Quest For Selfie

    Of course, Addiction to certain tools is a serious issue “When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life” - Webmd

    Sunday, July 23, 2017

    Recent Q&A on IS Careers, Architecture and Software Engineering

    Here are a few recent questions on IS Careers, Architecture and Software Programming that I answered

    most programmers learn online or from book without degree so why the salary is high or better than other hard jobs ?

    for example reporter salary is average 47k dollar while programmers 84–100,000 dollar
    Ever see a duck ‘floating’ in a pond, seemingly calm on the surface

    What don’t you see? The duck is really paddling furiously to stay afloat.
    Programming may not sound hard. And, as a matter of fact, much of the programming activity involves applying ‘logic’ in a structured way. … almost like the seemingly calm duck floating in the pond.
    What you don’t see the programmer do is furious paddling -
    • Understanding cryptic requirements
    • Creating mockups and clarifying user needs
    • Trying to visualize a solution to a real-world problem
    • Debugging pieces of code, integrating it with rest of the infrastructure and making it run
    While we are at it, let’s set the record straight.
    • Not all programmers are “without degree.”
      • Many programmers and analysts - especially the high-paid programmers making $80–100K+ do possess 4+ year college degrees.
    • Learning to program may sound easy, and some self-taught programmers are indeed good.
      • However, most programmers who learn from online sources or from books may already have a background in computers (e.g A Java programmer learning .Net or the vice-versa)

      How do I get a job in US with 3 years of developer experience?

      With 3 years of salesforce experience and 4 years total development experience how can I apply for H1 Visa or how I apply in US companies for recruitment.

      Most companies look for persons who already have H1 visa. Is there way to get job on merit and not by spending money.

      To get placement from existing company in India for H1 is also tough as many people are already in queue. 

      In the current economic climate with Trump administration closely watching issuance of visas, most employers are cautious. You have answered your question partly

      • Most companies look for persons who already have H1 visa. Is there way to get job on merit and not by spending money.
        • Don’t fall for ‘consultants’ who charge candidates to sponsor their H1 visas. Not only is it illegal, it is also going to be futile since the visa may be invalidated
      • To get placement from existing company in India for H1 is also tough as many people are already in queue.
        • Yes, it is tough and one will have to ‘stand in the queue’ patiently

      Don’t just wait for a ‘US visa’ opportunity.
      • Continue to work on good SFDC projects
      • Enhance your skills with experience and certifications.
      • Seek other opportunities to travel to other countries and expand your horizon!

    Friday, July 21, 2017

    Big G's move in India: Google IT Consulting in India to compete against IT giants like TCS, Infosys

    There is interesting news about the move by Google IT Consulting to expand its practice in India.
    Reports claim that Google IT consultancy for large businesses will head for a new revenue source in India.  Mohit Pande, Country Head – India, Google Cloud was quoted by BusinessLine saying,
    “We have invested significantly into professional services in India. These are consulting services, change management services for the customers where we work with them to solve some of their most complex problems.”
    “India assumes a lot of significance for us. It is a large market where public cloud is set for huge amount of growth. I also think because of the environment in India where internet services are getting better, data are getting cheaper,” Pande said.
    Given the growing importance of India, Google may also set up an Advanced Solutions Lab in India, which so far is only in Mountain View, California, Pande indicated. The lab will be an extension to Google’s Professional services in the country.
    Image result for google consulting

    Google's parent Alphabet is worth almost half-a-trillion dollars, and the firm also generated $900 million revenue in India last year. The company has invested over $30 billion on its cloud platform in the last three years globally. This includes investments in setting up cloud data centers across the globe, one of which is scheduled to come up in India.
    Google is now investing heavily in India for its cloud offerings, in particular its public cloud offering termed Google Cloud Platform wherein companies can rent compute and storage capacity from Google.  Google will offer consulting in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to large enterprise customers. 

    Small step for Google, Giant leap for offshoring IT Services

    This move by big-G could pit the big-tech company against offshoring giants like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and also against multinationals like IBM and Accenture. These software services companies have been struggling to evolve business models to address the risks from visa restrictions and protectionism in the west and also need to quickly re-skill their folks on newer technologies. (Ref - my blog on reskilling).

    Indian software services companies are under tremendous pressure to continue to show growth in a slowing global market that is also experiencing increased protectionism in the west. Old linear growth model of hiring more ‘freshers’ and taking larger application development and maintenance contracts has reached a plateau. CEOs and boards of Services companies are hard pressed to explain newer game-plans to their shareholders. Slowdown has and the haphazard layoffs (link my blog) also adversely impacted the morale in the Indian IT sector.

    Bottomline: Software services companies have grown large 'cloud service practices' with System Integration offerings around Amazon's AWS, Microsoft's Azure and also Google Cloud and other platforms. Wonder if these offerings will take a hit when Google expands the services business. 

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

    Tips on Reskilling to leverage emerging IT and Digital Transformation opportunities

    My blog (link) on layoffs and the offshoring IT Services last week seems to have touched a nerve: LinkedIn analytics indicates nearly 100K views and thousands of shares, likes and comments. The post also echoed murmurs in the industry that tens of thousands of existing employees – folks hired and trained on ‘other,’ ‘older’ technologies – are either un-trainable or possess ‘obsolete’ skills.
    Mid-career professionals seem to be caught in a bind. During better times, when voluntary attrition was running at 20-25%, re-training and reskilling wasn’t such a big deal. A java, .NET or ABAP programmer could easily switch employers rather than stay on bench. Similarly, project managers with a strong background in the fundamentals of SDLC gained in a SAP program could easily move to manager another Oracle or SaaS platform integration project.
    Business headwinds and a lack of foresight have caught IT service firms off-guard, and many executives are pointing to re-skilling challenge as a reason for excess bench at their organizations.
    IT professionals seek structured inputs and guidelines, but when it comes to reskilling, much of the learnings are empirical. Added to this is the challenge of business change. Most ‘training plans’ defined during annual performance reviews end up being nebulous. Changing business drivers, shifting budgets and project requirements take precedence, pushing training plans to the backburner.

    How to reskill? Show me a roadmap

    Those looking for a reskilling plan or roadmap are not going to find one. However, there are sufficient clues that one can gather by just looking at the tech landscape. Periodic review of technology journals, blogs and engaging in online discussion forums can give insights on some of the emerging trends. Similarly, attending technology seminars and conferences are a popular way to network with peers and stay updated. Some ideas on retraining follow:-

    On the job shift

    On-the-job retraining is perhaps the most common and preferred mode. Employees of service firms may gain insights on demand for specific technologies by observing the bids, proposals and projects from clients. Likewise, those working for end-user organizations may have an opportunity to observe proposals from their business partners.  
    A couple of years ago, the global manufacturing company I worked for embarked on a major Salesforce CRM rollout. The program started with a small footprint in a single region but soon gathered momentum. Dozens of consultants and analysts from an implementation partner were engaged to support the company’s core team. It was obvious to IS team members that aligning with that global SFDC rollout was a long-term career enhancing move. Folks began to seek formal and informal opportunities to contribute to the program. Some got to attend SFDC training, and even the global Dreamforce workshops.
    A similar story repeated when the organization began a program to migrate platforms and systems to the cloud (refer: my blog on AWS)
    An awareness of such opportunities – a new project or technology rollout – is just the first step. To make the shift, one may also have to address practical challenges including office politics (you may or may not be ‘invited’ to the new project), or the fact that you are really good at your current job (your manager may not be willing to release you to join the other program).

    Incremental skill building vs. a Strategic Shift

    Reskilling and moving up the career ladder may sometimes feel like a ‘random walk’ but in reality, one either is building incremental skills or making Strategic Shifts.
    The most efficient (and easier) way to re-skill is by incrementally building on one’s experiences in a technical platform or domain. Retraining on newer capabilities or a complementary vendor product may involve some effort, but can be seamless. For example, SAP consultants will be motivated to get certified in “SAP HANA 1.0”. Likewise, Microsoft and Java consultants may stay updated on developments in .NET or J2EE space. A few years ago when organizations began planning to move their application platforms to the Cloud, infrastructure and platform engineers were quick to recognize the shift and began learning about the fundamentals of public and private cloud hosting and vendor offerings like AWS, Azure etc (my blog )
    Individuals with expertise in a domain or technology may opt for a Strategic Shift by re-skilling in a completely new domain or technology platform. Sometimes, the shift may not involve another technology but rather be a move from technical to program management stream or the vice versa. I use the term ‘Strategic’ loosely since such shift may also be dictated by personal goals, market demand, employer’s needs or other external factors. For instance, when vendors like Informix (Database), BaaN (ERP) and Peoplesoft (HRMS) began losing market-share, hundreds of programmers and consultants who had specialized in these platforms began evaluating their options. Some quickly shifted to allied technologies while others moved across domains and roles.

    Training and Certifications

    Online discussion forums and career groups regularly address questions on ‘significance and value’ of certifications. Many engage in vocal discussions on rhetorical questions like “Is a PMP/TOGAF/ITIL/Black-Belt/etc certified Project Manager/Architect/Lead better’ than someone who isn’t certified?”
    The reason for such questions are obvious: There are a vast array of certifications of a variety of topics from vendors and other industry groups to choose from. Acquiring a certification or credential can amount to a significant investment, especially when combined with focused training sessions, time for study and self-learning; not to mention the cost of certification exam itself.
    Questioning the ‘value’ of certification is moot since headhunters, recruiters and hiring teams frequently use certifications as filtering key-words. An awesome Program Manager’s resume may not get past the initial screening if ‘PMP’ were used as a filter. (This is just a practical reality, not intended to trigger a debate on the merits of PMI’s certification credentials.). It is obvious that training and certification opportunities should figure in a reskilling plan.

    Reskill in a context: building on fundamentals

    Tech employers are reporting an increasing demand for skills to enable Digital transformation and to leverage innovations in Big Data analytics, integration and visualization, robotics, IoT, Artificial Intelligence etc. While there is some demand for specialists, the demand is greater for folks who are grounded in the fundamentals of IS deployment in a corporate landscape. These are the folks with a strong background in software development lifecycles who can design, customize, integrate and enable such digital platforms.
    Let us take the example of big-data, analytics and visualization which figure among the hottest new technology trends (link). I recently led a team to define the architecture for ‘Digitization of Agronomy’ enabled by big-data and analytical modeling. The Agronomists and data scientists had a good understanding of the kind of data they needed for visualization, and to address their ‘what if’ modeling. They helped identify the disparate data sources inside and external to the organization, and were aided by a few specialists who had gained expertise in tools like Qlik, MongoDB etc. This turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. The larger effort was to design and operationalize the required Data repositories, and integration of data flows across the disparate sources – activities that the existing IS teams were well versed in. (link – case study highlights)
    Bottomline: Tech executives and employees need to stay grounded on the fundamentals of IS while planning to re-skill.

    Thanks for reading! Please share your views on reskilling, and click on LikeShare, Tweet and Comment below to continue this conversation | Reposted from my linkedin blog |