Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Changes at Sun - Division between IT & the Business

I was reviewing the blog a bit at the weekend and I realized that it has become something of an RM & ECM blog. That's fine, but the title of the blog is Doing IT Better, and this element of the scope has been lost a little over time. So expect more posts on broader 'improvement' topics than in the past.
I am writing this particular entry on a flight to Minneapolis and have just seen the headline on the Boston Globe that Scott Macneally is stepping down at Sun. I have seen Scott speak quite a few times, and know many who know him (though I have not personally met him).It has to be the right move for Sun, but it must be shockingly hard for him to do this.
Sun has some great technology and I have worked with different groups there many times over the years and still do work with them now. I have huge respect for Sun and the products and services they produce. I have immense respect for Johnathon Schwartz, the new CEO (whom I have met and personally like) and I really hope that with Scott's departure, people like Johnathon can push things forward and get things to start to go Sun's way for a change. The reason this resignation touches me so much is that Sun is in some regards the antithesys of where I come from. They are an intensly geeky firm, that produces outstanding technology. But relating that technology to the business has not been their strength over the years, frankly they have been very bad at this. It was a situation that Oracle (whom I also know well) and IBM faced too, but both handled the transition far, far better.
If we take my stakeholder slide of a couple of posts back, both Oracle, IBM & Sun have always resonated well with the IT departments - but now the has long gone, to survive or thrive you have to resonate with a far wider group of stakeholders. Sun is starting to do this now, and the open software policy around Solaris 10 and JES in general is work that is taking Sun in the right direction. I have faith in the long term viability of Sun, but there is a lesson there to all tech firms....
You don't have to offer business consulting (ala IBM) but you do need to design products that meet real business needs, and you need to sell these products not just to the IT department, but across groups of stakeholders. In many cases Tech vendors don't need to do this alone, they can do it with the help of firms like Wipro or Accenture or McKinsey - but one way or another things are tightening and if business value is not perceived projects will go on indefinate back burners.
In the industry analyst firms there is a backlash against technology and Sun has been on the receiving end of much of this vitriol. But there is a need for outstanding technology, and even though I regularly tell people that technology has matured to the point where you can afford to be an early adopter without considerable risk, all technology is not equal. Sun technology (like that of Oracle) is top drawer stuff and remains the benchmark - but the need to articulate benefits to the business have been difficult to execute on.
There is a bizzare irony that many firms are running old hardware and software at extremely high costs, and flatly refuse to swap out or migrate to newer and considerably more cost efficient and powerful hardware and software arrays. Partly this is due to sharp tactics in the era with that result that there is a lack of trust for tech vendors, who now truly do provide much lower cost options (migration costs included) but cannot get the ear of the business.
For example if you are running 5 or 6 year old hardware and Solaris 6 then there is literally no techical or cost logic to not moving to new hardware and Solaris 10, the savings would be immediate and dramatic. But many just don't see it and fail to make the move. Likewise people spending $400 per seat on a traditional ECM tool that they will almost certainly under use and will fall into neglect when there are $50 options available that are just as good (if not better) is baffling. But when we reduce it all down to the essence - the business still doesn't understand IT, and IT is just as terrible at understanding business needs as they always have been. That is why I am a business consultant with an arts background working in the high tech sector, with my passion to bridge this gap. But despite everyone recognising its there, so few really attempt to tackle it.
Look at the ROI calculations that came out of every analyst firm from Gartner at the top to Aberdeen and Butler at the bottom of the heap in 2001/03 period. Papers were published claiming 200% ROI - they were and remain complete and utter rubbish. (click the Paul Strassman link on this blog to know exactly why). No business person in their right mind would believe any such rubbish - yet in fairness it was IT's attempt to talk business language (even though it failed) - the business attempt at managing IT in this same period was to outsource it overseas (a good thing for Wipro!) - but between these two camps sit piles of failed projects, and billions of dollars in underused, underperforming, incorrectly utilized technology - ultimately with both sides blaming each other for the mess...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why IT projects go wrong...

Last night I gave a talk to a small but select group of the IEEE at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington. The theme was why projects fail, and how to increase your chances of success.
If I say so myself it wasn't a bad presentation and as is often the case, when you speak in public you recognise the importance of certain things more than when you simply 'knew' them....That may not make sense, but what I am trying to say is that when one articulates an idea into the open it becomes real - a fact of sorts - rather than simply a thought.And that was the case last night, for me at least.
For those interested ping me a message and I will share the slides I used with you. But for this post I just wanted to focus on one key area that I knew to be important but that came out with clarity last night. How to measure what success actually is..We looked at the fact that many projects that fail - only do so through the eyes of one or two sets of stakeholders - and actually succeed through the eyes of others (see slide above).

It seems we gather together views of various stakeholders (though typically not thoroughly enough or broadly enough) but do not then measure our progress against each of these groups on an ongoing basis. We always need to recognise that we cannot keep everyone happy all the time, but my suspicion is that some failed projects were in fact pretty. successful, but that we measured success too narrowly. If I get the chance or time I will write this up more thoroughly and post as a stand alone piece.

Also to say that I got the draft of the article for Intelligent Enterprise off to the editor yesterday (phew!). It should become the cover feature of June's edition - and for those of you who do not currently read or subscribe to this magazine I highly recommend it. AIIM coming up soon, if you are to be there drop me a note and we can say hello.

Monday, April 17, 2006

ECM Canada Style

Well more glamour in the world of ECM. Last week I helped out at another of these CIO events in Toronto. The location was incredible - The Canoe restaurant on the 54th Floor of the Dominion building. And Riesling from the Niagra Falls region was very nice indeed.

The theme of the conversation again focused immeditaely on compliancy and the need to manage all the business records produced within an enterprise. So no big suprises there. But some of the areas of discussion that had not come up at the other events were:

  • Managing IM & Voicemails as business records
  • Difficulty in getting funding for ECM projects
  • Balancing between the need to collaborate and the need to restrict access to content
  • Encryption of Content

One of the areas of discussion that most interested me was around destruction of emails. A number of those present had instigated policies that automatically destroyed emails after 90 days. This is not an uncommon policy, but I am very torn as to wether it is a good policy.The way I see it is that eMail is running out of control and I can completely understand why people would go down this path, but..... Are you in the process destroying business records illegally? Have you really destroyed all copies of the email - or are there copies floating around the network or hard drives that you are unaware of? I would not recommend this approach to email management unless there was an accompanying RM or Retention policy enforced in parrallel.

The other area of interest is IM and Voicemails - at the end of the day they are both sets of electronic data bundles that are defacto business records. Yet most people seem to assume that they do not need to be managed. In fairness little work has been done around this topic, but surely its about time that technology vendors and bodies such as ARMA & AIIM started working on solutions?

On the topic of getting funding for ECM projects, I agree its very hard; but then again I don't think you should be getting funding for ECM projects. But you should be looking for funding for projects that add value to your business, ECM is simply a tool used in this solution process.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Three biggest trends?

Looking across our business and complementing that with discussions with clients and analyst and consultant friends it seems that the three biggest trends in our neck of the woods these days are:-

  • Next Generation Web Content Management
  • Imaging and Capture
  • Volume ECM for the masses

Missing from this list is collaboration, digitial asset management, record management and all the other components that make up the plethora of technologies we call ECM.

Taking a closer look at various projects we see so many clients looking to the next stage of their unstructured data adventure. They are finding that paper and forms are just as much part of today's business as they were 5 or 8 years ago when the industry predicted a sharp decline in paper and forms.

They are finding that fancy web sites are no longer good enough, customers are demanding fully functioning portal environments where they can work and interact.

And lastly they are finding that traditional DM tools have not scaled eiher technically or price wise to entire enterprise deployments. And the basic housekeeping of electronic admin needs to be urgently addressed.

I could also argue that Record Management is in fact booming, but there are few major RM projects on the go, rather major imaging, ECM and WCM projects are starting to accept that RM is a defacto piece of the bigger puzzle. Convincing anyone that collaboration tools or digital asset management is a 'must have', remains tough.

In large enterprises we are seeing the dawning realization that WCM and DM are part of the same content lifecycle. In other words as more transactional and complex web sites are built, they cannot exist as ivory towers - but need to be integrated into and become front end element of DM & Workflow processes.

Yet we still see consultants in the industry coming from one camp or the other (WCM or DM). Lisa Welchman's podcasts recently touched on this topic more effectively than I can. And though I think this is often a very good thing, as structuring a DM repository is quite a different skill set to building a website, increasingly we are going to need those who major in both.

Some personal flavour - I am writing this from the back of a stretch limo at midnight on my way home from Boston airport. This is not my normal mode of transport - I booked a regular car as mine is in the shop. Quite bizzare, funky lights and the tinkling of champagne glasses as we roll through the New England countryside.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Request for Help

I am scheduled to deliver a track keynote at the AIIM Expo in Philadelphia next month on the future of ECM. The idea of the session is to look at where things might be in 10 years time - so real future gazing.
I have a lot of thoughts on this already and have been talking to some people who's opinions I respect but would love your thoughts too!
Please comment here or email me direct if you prefer - but what do you think will still be with us in 10 years time, what will be gone and what will be new?
I am just as interested in business practice and process as well as techology. And my focus is probably more on document and records management than web cm - though maybe you believe it will all be one by then :-)
Seriously, don't hold back, any and all contributions much appreciated and will be acknowledged!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Something for the weekend

Three quick things in this tidy up post - one I am co-hosting (if that is the role) another CIO round table event in Toronto this evening. I will be extremely interested as to how these attendees differ or compare with those at the previous events in Beverley Hills, New York and Atlanta.

Second - I spotted what I thought was the funniest (though unintentional) headline I have seen for a long time in a press release from Hyland " Enterprise Content Management - the backbone of a paperless environment ". You would have figured that by now people would have learned to avoid the paperless or less-paper office concept like the plague.

Thirdly - I read what I think is probably the oddest 'analyst' report on the topic of WCM & ECM I have ever read (and I have read some corkers in my time), so odd is it that it is worth a mention. The report from Butler group - link below - was clearly written by someone who has little grounding in the topic, and had no basis to write on the history or development of the software. Why this annoys me so much is that after being an analyst myself for so long, I know that far too many take the words of 'analysts' as gospel. Tread with great caution when taking advice from analysts!