Thursday, June 09, 2011

The cloud according to Steve

The Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is not something I annually look in anticipation towards - not being an iOS developer or a Mac user.

This time was different; not because a visibly ailing Steve Jobs presented a keynote but because of the content and focus

  • Another version of Mac OSX Lion was displayed - the move towards a unified look and feel and more tips from iOS reared their head including multi-touch gestures
  • iOS 5 - not just another iOS update but a semi-revamp of the platform to give it features that were available through either disparate applications or functionality available on competitor platforms (e.g. notifications)
  • iCloud - the real shift and insight into Apple's evolving business strategy to take on Amazon and Google and where my interest was really drawn.

The full keynote can be viewed at:

I'll let Mr Jobs himself explain iCloud in the keynote rather than reiterate the details. Fundamentally, universal sync across iOS devices and cross compatibility of applications (this includes Mac OSX by the way and in the case of photos and document sharing, windows PCs as well).

Of course, there are plenty of cloud sync services but by 'seamlessly' integrating into the iOS devices and offering it for FREE, Apple is, in my view, looking at increasing its install base. More of your data will now reside within Apple's cloud with them 'managing' your file storage for you,

Where I see the threat to Google particularly, is the real integration with the devices and the 'it just works' capability. Google Docs may offer some of that functionality but not in a real offline mode - the prerequisite for the web is removed and for a lot of users, I believe, the stigma of having your data in a common cloud. Additionally, since the data is manipulated through the applications themselves, there is a richer usability compared to Google Docs.

I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg - I see the real killer application being in sharing of data - particularly photos and potentially videos using the 'Photostream' service, where data is viewed in the cloud rather than stored on the physical device. I'm sure there are stats but in my mind the majority of online usage, certainly on social networking sites, is sharing of photos - rather than upload photos to Flickr or Facebook, if Apple now allows me to give restricted and potentially timed access to albums to my Friends and Family directly from an iOS device (without needing to upload and take the effort) I can't think of many users who would say no. It may not be around the corner, but I'd be surprised if it isn't on the horizon.

iCloud then becomes your 'working' directory in the sky....

This might not eventuate as a service, but I would be surprised if it didn't... I wonder if this is patentable!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Business of You - Introduction

I always thought an MBA would provide the skills to become a successful manager or more recently, an entrepreneur - but I never thought it would be a significant personal development tool. Of course much of this naivety probably stemmed, in hindsight, from a personal bias against the 'soft, fluffy, HR stuff'. While an MBA does focus on the skills that managers need to develop such as greater self efficacy and empathy to their staff, this wasn't where I saw the personal development skills or tools resting. All those provided frameworks, but in specific contexts... e.g. business models and discussions on customer value propositions were related to organisations and businesses, intrinsic motivation and assessment of efficacy was linked to personal development.

I personally saw an opportunity to leverage tools outside of their context to provide a wider breadth and depth of tools. If I may...and I only do so because a 10 minute Google search didn't reveal anything similar to this in terms of an available webpage or blog.
But first a primer on the business model:

Part 1 - Business Model Primer
In broad terms, a business model describes the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers, and captures either economic, social, or other forms of value. The business model defines how an organisation meets its 'fundamental objective' - the raison d'etre. While there are many frameworks to represent a business model the most commonly used ones include:

Model 1
WHO: The audience or market to whom the product/service/function etc is being provided - the 'customer'.
WHAT: The product/service/function itself that is being provided - the 'product'.
HOW: The mechanism through which this delivery is achieved and the differentiators or competitive advantage - the value proposition.

Model 2
This is tied to the concept of Business Model Innovation - the creation or reinvention of a business.
The business model is considered to consist of four interlocking elements that together create and deliver value.

Customer Value Proposition:A successful business, in this instance, is defined as one that create's value for its customers by doing a job that meets a fundamental problem or need for them. Clayton Christensen refers to this through the phrase: 'What job did you hire your milkshake for?'. He explains this better than I ever could in a video about disruptive innovation.

Profit Formula: The profit formula defines how the organisation creates value for itself - how it makes a profit. This often consists of:
  • Revenue model.
  • Cost structure.
  • Margin model (How much does each transaction need to net gain to cover the cost structure and meet profit targets?).
  • Resource Velocity (How much revenue and how quickly needs to be generated per dollar of assets and per dollar of fixed cost?).
Key Resources: The key resources or assets within the organisation required to deliver the value proposition. This focuses on elements that create value for the organisation and customer.

Key Processes: The key processes that allow delivery in a successfull, repeatable and scalable way. This also includes rules, norms and metrics.
With a couple of frameworks for an organisation business model in place, what does this mean for an individual? More in the next post.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Friday, September 03, 2010

Enterprise Architecture Development - Preface

Following on from my last post (many, many months ago...), a corollary to ‘What is Enterprise Architecture?’ is often followed by ‘I’ll have one of those...’ and in the case of clients ‘so how long will it take and how much will it cost...’. The more important question in my opinion is ‘What am I getting? and ‘Is it what I really want?’.

A number of frameworks and methods exist for achieving this, depending on the provider. Every consulting organisation has it’s own ‘proprietary’ framework for enterprise architecture, referenced to an open model such as TOGAF. All unique, yet so, so similar to each other. The deliverables and processes may have different names but fundamentally they strive to achieve the same objectives.

These key objectives of developing an Enterprise Architecture are related to the need for blueprints.
Of course, to truly be usable across the enterprise, these blueprints need to span across various aspects of the enterprise. In most architecture framework, four major layers within an architectural model are often described and combine to provide this holistic view.

Business Architecture. The focus of this layer is to describe an organisation in terms of its business context. This is based upon the organisation’s vision, mission and values which in turn drive the strategic objectives and key business drivers. From a contextual perspective, the architecture describes the value chain within the organisation and encompasses the structure and core functions of the organisation. These core functions in turn help derive the core business capabilities required to be serviced by IT systems.

Information Architecture. While the business architecture can be thought of as describing high level business functions and processes, associated with these processes is a flow of information across the organisation. The information architecture describes this flow of information (which may be structured or unstructured and be through electronic systems or hardcopies) along with their usage.  The architecture also describes the consumers and producers of this information both within the organisation and between the organisation and its key stakeholders e.g. customers, suppliers.

Application Architecture. Having described the key capabilities and the information that is transacted through these processes, the next key step is to describe the systems that provide the IT capabilities to fulfil these business processes and flow of information.  The portfolio of software applications in terms of their business functionality, technical structure and integration (relationships between them) is represented within the application architecture.

Technology Architecture. This describes the core infrastructure components and protocols used to support the business and the subsequently, the portfolio of software applications. Additionally, it includes the management and monitoring required to maintain and support the technical environment.

Two other elements that are often implicit are Security and Governance.

Security deals with the management of the information and systems that facilitate the business capabilities. It also provides key enabling functions such as authentication and authorisation to systems and auditing and logging of information.

Governance is an aspect that is sometimes omitted. It’s emphasis is on the management of the processes and systems and the ongoing mechanism to ensure alignment of business and IT.

Based on the objectives to be achieved and the specific business need, the approach and areas of focus may differ. Ideally, an enterprise architecture should be developed top-down ensuring business alignment as each of the layers are progressed. However, it is often the case that certain layers of the model will require a stronger emphasis and level of detail. For example, if the focus is on information management within the organisation, the Information Architecture would be developed in detail with the business architecture layer defined with sufficient detail to facilitate this but not necessarily the same level of detail as the information architecture.

Irrespective of the layers of focus, the general approach to developing an architecture often consists of the same key steps – discussed in further posts...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Enterprise Architecture

I often get asked 'what I do for a living?'.. to which, the response 'Architecture & Strategy' or 'Enterprise Architect' often draws several responses ranging from blank looks, puzzlement and a change of topic... 

In some rare circumstances however, this is followed up with 'so what do you EXACTLY do?'...
While a 'vague' answer may do with colleagues and friends, it's often a completely different story when the question is asked by a client to whom you are selling the service offering...

So.. what is 'Enterprise Architecture'? 

The definition according to MIT is 'Enterprise architecture is the organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model.'

The Open Group (TOGAF) goes one step further to define why an organisation needs an enterprise architecture:
'The primary reason for developing an enterprise architecture is to support the business by providing the fundamental technology and process structure for an IT strategy. This in turn makes IT a responsive asset for a successful modern business strategy.'

While all of this provides a definition or explanation - it still does not tangibly (in my opinion) demonstrate the need or the value of Enterprise Architecture. Particularly when the audience is not architecture or even technology focused, this presents an even greater dilemma.

A good way to explain most ideas is through tangible examples of practical application. Often samples of architecture and its benefits can be utilised to describe the value and outcomes that may be achieved for an organisation through enterprise architecture. However, every business operates slightly differently and the drivers and jargon used within one industry may not necessarily resonate with another.

While searching for this elusive 'easy to understand and communicate' definition, I came across one such popular and widely used example.
The 'Winchester Mystery House' is a well-known Californian mansion that was built under the guidance of Sarah Winchester, the widows of the fun magnate, William Wirt Winchester. 
Some key facts of the house:
  • 38 years of construction with 147 builders and 0 architects
  • 160 rooms - 40 bedrooms, 6 kitchens, 2 basements, 950 doors
  • 65 doors lead into blank walls, 13 staircases were abandoned mid construction and there are 24 skylights in the floors
  • No architectural blueprint exists
  • Winchester never had a master set of blueprints, but did sketch out individual rooms on paper and even tablecloths
While this seems like a rather interesting fact and a potential tourist attraction in the Californian region, it importantly highlights the need for a plan/blueprint/architectural approach. In essence, an enterprise architecture provides for an organisation what Winchester didn't have - a master set of blueprints.

In this case, the master set of blueprints links the key business goals and strategy to enablers, in the form of an organisational structure or the IT environment (including the applications and systems).

More to follow...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Indian Premier League – An English reaction

Browsing the web I was intrigued to find that an Indian domestic Twenty 20 competition should dominate headlines in England – but then this isn’t just another Twenty20 competition.
With headlines like ‘ECB must stop Twenty20 becoming road to India’ and 'Cricket in turmoil as IPL puts future of Tests in doubt', the doomsayers are plenty for a country already renowned for their ability to whinge and complain.

Quotes such as:
Money has done a lot of talking. Couldn't be better? Don't believe it. The game is hurtling towards a crossroads and not only might it struggle to know which way to turn, it might also have little choice in the matter. One country, India, is setting the pace and plotting the direction.
India is dictating where world cricket should go. This has been a fear of English cricket for a long time and for years before the IPL. A group of countries should never dictate terms and this is what the subcontinent will do. Heaven forbid that a core group of countries (India and the subcontinent) dictate to other countries (England and Australia) what should happen in World cricket.

This train of thought continues:
Vibrant though the game might be in three countries – England, Australia and India – there are profound concerns that most of the power, influence and, crucially, money will all belong to India.

Cricket is a democratic game and no single country or group should every wield power over the others. This will be akin to a key group of countries dictating and determining the direction of the world game. Not in a game like cricket.
Of course this was never a worry in the 80s when England and Australia dominated World cricket. When Lords was the seat of all cricketing power and the head of the ICC was ruled by the colonial rules of the game. When the subcontinental ‘colonies’ towed the line and were but mere pawns in the game.

There is even thought so far to thing that the IPL will foresee the end of test cricket:
Test cricket, the blue riband version of the game, is under impending threat. In six of the 10 countries where it is played, it is virtually unwatched most of the time by live audiences, while in a seventh, Zimbabwe, it has not been played for almost three years and may never be again.
Obviously this is the fault of the IPL and Indian cricket. Let’s evaluate the health of cricket in the test playing countries.

  • Zimbabwe – even in the healthiest of conditions Zimbabwe cricket is the least of the worries for the former Rhodesia. I doubt any damage the IPL could do could surpass that already done.
  • West Indies – leave Test cricket, any cricket is struggling to stay afloat in the former powerhouse of world cricket mainly due to their own undoing. If anything, the IPL may revive some interest in the game. Of course, the money involved could never be compared with but if nothing else young West Indians may revert back to cricket in a hope to get to the IPL and in turn produce some stars for West Indies cricket.
  • Bangladesh – I would venture to guess that when they could most Bangladeshis would watch their team – be it Test match or One Day international. The game may not be thriving but then cricket is in its infancy in Bangladesh. With no Bangladeshi players involved in the IPL, the impact on cricket in Bangladesh may be as great as a couple of Bangladeshi players lifting their game to be picked for the IPL – surely that couldn’t hurt their test chances.
  • New Zealand – In this rugby mad country, cricket is merely an interruption to proceedings. Except for a group of cricketing tragics, cricket does not form the core sporting appetite and will never have the following that it garners in other parts of the world. While there have been several defections to the rebel ICL league, the IPL mainly has retired cricket stars and with the seriousness afforded to Test cricket in New Zealand as it is, the IPL’s impact may be a major as making a few of the players a bit heavier in their bank balance.
  • Sri Lanka – Any form of cricket is followed with a passion in Sri Lanka and with their recent test win in the Carribean things can only look brighter for the longer form of the game. As with most subcontinental countries, the passion for cricket in Sri Lanka is such that the IPL will never eclipse thje love for the national game.
  • Pakistan – Heading down the Zimbabwe route, the fact that cricket even rates a mention is a surprise and the only escape from the harsh realities of the country. With the recent ban of Shoaib Akhtar the road for the revival of Pakistan cricket seems rather long. Any damage the IPL does will be far outweighed by the damage already done to the national game from a combination of the Pakistan Cricket Board and current and former players.
  • Australia – Cricket will always be strong in Australia and the pride in the national team can never be overshadowed by anything as trivial as the IPL.
  • India – Any cricket be it trivial will be swallowed by the Indian cricket fan and the appetite for cricket knows no satiety in that one form of cricket will never overshadow another in India. While the IPL may be hugely popular, the intensity of an India-Australia Test series can never be outmatched by an IPL game.
  • England – English cricket is a game run by those from a bygone era with gentleman donning their whites and sipping their tea with a crumpet or two. The launch of Twenty20 cricket was in fact in England where it was treated as a circus predating the real proceedings. The traditions and roots of colonial times are never to be questioned. With all due respect to English cricket, crowds are not drawn to local games due to the quality and formats used. A revamp may be required in English cricket, but the IPL is not even remotely the instigator for this change. At least with the IPL, English players may get a chance to play cricket rather than sit in the rooms while the rain pours down…

The fear of the unknown and something new (especially from the former colonies and the east) has gripped English cricket. Kerry Packer’s World Cricket was viewed differently as it wasn’t stemmed from the East.

The basis for the fear is ‘a local competition that draws international players from Test playing countries for sums of money’. Inconceivable? I can think of one such competition that has been running for years with no impact to the global game – County Cricket… but then that’s English.

Cricket Wrap-Up - India vs South Africa Test 1, New Zealand vs England

A very good friend of mine had been kind enough to share his views on the recently concluded New Zealand - England cricket series and the ongoing India-South Africa cricket series. I'd like to thank him for sharing some of his views and insights into the series.

India vs South Africa
India versus South Africa - great test match. Good on Sehwag with 319, and a pity he didn't get closer to Brian Lara's record. That must be some battingwicket, because everybody is scoring good runs. However, I think SouthAfrican bowling attack came back well on 4th day, and it headed to a draw. Could'nt see a result. There is very little in both teams - both on top of game. I think South Africa will get better as Test series goes on, so India will need to be at their best. I am picking South Africa win this test series. They have the all round package, unless Kumble and Harbhajan Singh can tweak some magic.

New Zealand vs England
The ultimate difference between the New Zealand cricket test team andEngland cricket test team is that their batsmen went on to make 100's. There is a mental block in New Zealand batsman to go and get a bigscore, and over 100. Only Taylor may 120 in Hamilton, and I think he has a lot of class. Fleming always looks the goods but never goes on wtih it, Jamie How is a good prospect - plays like a test bastman, and sadly Matthew Sinclair and Matthew Bell are all at sea in their games at the moment. Vettori, in the last three years, after Mark Richardson has been our best batsman and he bats at number 7.
Never really fan of Geoffrey Boycott as a batsman, but in a test match,like Dravid you dig in, work at your game, and try to score a 100. I thought Monty Panesar bowled a really teasing line and New Zealanders and they did not know how to play him too well. Played across the line, and got out, and didn't read him too well. Now, we are off to England, and that is going to be a great test series, but you've got to say England looks the favourites.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Team India 2.0

India have won the Commonwealth Bank series by comprehensively outplaying Australia in both games of the finals series – beating the top ranked team in the world in their own backyard. What is more they have completed their victories in a thoroughly professional manner putting to rest all the demons and controversy off the field.

Actions speak louder than words and in the end it was this young Indian side led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni that let their bats and the ball do all the talking – in fact the ball really talked in the hands of Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma.

A fairytale ending to the series for a young Indian side missing it’s superstars – barring Tendulkar, written off before the series even began and coming back to stun the World Champions and not only win but do so with style. Less than six months ago, this young Indian team was lifting aloft the World Twenty-20 final – which spurred amongst other things the Indian Premier League but more importantly a new era in Indian cricket.

Kudos to the players and coaching staff – but also to the selectors for retaining their faith in youth and moving forward with the transition to a core team for the next world cup. Indian cricket looks to be in good hands with no shortage of players having also just won the Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia.

But with Indian cricket, one never knows – for there are countless players who burst onto the world cricket stage only to disappear out of even state cricket into retirement and beyond…never to return.
Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of the end.