The premise of this book, for most anyone, is painfully boring: planning out and project managing the installation of COTS software. This is mostly lumbering, on-premises ERP applications: those huge, multi-year installs of software that run the back office and systems of record for organizations. While this market is huge, touches almost every company, and has software that is directly or indirectly touched by almost everyone each day (anytime you buy something or interact with a company)…it’s no iPhone.
If you’re in the business of selling enterprise software and services, however, Beaubouef’s book is a rare look inside the buyer’s mind and their resulting work-streams when they’re dealing with big ol’ enterprise IT. As a software marketer, I read it for exactly that. I was hoping to find some ROI models (a scourge of my research). It doesn’t really cover that at all, which is fine.
There’s a core cycle of ideas and advice flitting in and bout of the book that I like:
- COTS software will do, you know, 80% of what you like. The rest is customizing it through configuration, your own code layered on-top, or getting the vendor to add in new features.
- The more you customize the software, the harder it will be to change. But, the less you customize it, the less it creates differentiation for your business processes.
- Most of the problems and challenges you’ll encounter, though, will be human based.
- Much of these human problems are about managing the requirements process to make sure the software is matching the needs of the business.
- Process-wise, to do this we like to take on a waterfall approach (try to specify everything up front, implement it all, then verify if it works). This results in a lot or risk of waiting for that final verification to see if it works and you were right about matching the COTS implementation to business needs.
- Instead, and iterative approach that focuses on learning and honing the COTS/business match-up seems like a good idea.
- Role-wise, getting someone(s) who have a tops-down view of the business process and enough technical understanding to map that to the COTS project is a really good idea, though hard to put in place.
While the book focuses on on-premises software, the overall thinking could easily apply to any implementation of a large IT-driven, vendor provided system: SaaS would work, and to an extent the kind of infrastructure software we sell at Pivotal. As the points above go over, the core thrust of the book is about managing how you make sure your IT is actually helping the business, not bogging down in its self.
If you’re pretty vague on what you should do in these large IT initiatives, you could do a lot worse than read this book.
Microsoft helping out ABB with some cloud ‘n’ IoT fun:
The most significant of these is a new alliance with Microsoft, whose Azure public cloud has been chosen to underpin ABB’s cloud, IoT and digital services across the ABB group. The companies will also work together on projects and services, although the extent of this will emerge over time. ABB also announced an internal reorganization and the appointment of a chief digital officer. All of these moves are part of ABB’s Next Level strategy, now in its third iteration, which sets out targets and priorities aimed at maintaining or increasing growth, profitability and value.
The agreement with Microsoft will help ABB offer cloud-based digital services across all its divisions. Functions such as monitoring, analytics, control, billing, forecasting, machine learning and many others will be delivered via applications and services hosted in Azure by Microsoft.
It has annual revenue of $35.4bn (2015) from operations in 100 countries, supplying switchgear, breakers, substations, generators, uninterruptible power supplies and power electronics, as well as management software.
“We do discovery on a small chunk and then development, and then while that’s going on, we’re starting discovery on the next small chunk, and so on and so forth,” Smith said. “And then when the development is done, we loop back and we do user testing on that piece that’s done. But we don’t release it. That’s … one of the differences between agile and the way we did it. At the end of the phase we release everything.”
Also, some fun notes on consolidating legacy systems and resistance to going agile.
Growth, in terms of customers and revenue, appears to be significant. About 34,000 companies use Puppet’s software to automate data center operations, with 6,000 added last year, Kanies said. The company is approaching $100 million in annual sales and is expanding its headquarters in Portland, Ore. In January, it secured $22 million in financing from Silicon Valley Bank to fuel further expansion.
And then a stray container momentum/penetration number from Forrester:
Stroud sees promise in Puppet’s container support, despite his observation that only about 8% of companies are using containers for production workloads. “It gives current Puppetized work the ability to be containerized,” he said.
I skipped a few years, but I’ve been to most of the DellWorlds. It’s fun to be back this year now that Dell has fully scooped up EMC and, thus, Pivotal. I’m giving a talk on Wednesday, Oct. 18th, at 2:15pm along with my pal Richard Seroter, slides above.
There’s a few other recordings and shenanigans going on as well. Hopefully we’ll get some Pivotal Conversations episodes going, if not a new Coté Show episode too.
Gap’s Philip Glebow goes over their use of Pivotal Cloud Foundry, including things that worked well and need improvement. His list of the supporting tools they use – like APM and data virtualization – is handy as well.
- (~2:30) Fast deploys: “We can deploy changes faster than people can really consume them.”
- (~18:00) Developer morale: “We could really push something in five minutes… and developers love it, you click the commit button and there you go.”
- (~19:40) [Poor transcription by me] On the danger of changing too fast: …generally we want to have a little bit of control into what goes into that production environment… but we don’t want to change so rapidly so that users are confused… There’s also a little bit of cultural change that we need to go through… ((too rapid of change is jarring)) …and as we bring that capability forward, we want to be sensitive to those concerns.
- (~23:58) Overview of their pipeline and testing.
(~26:29) [Poor transcription by me] Typically we’ve organized out teams around sort of domain concepts – so we have a pricing team – then there’s several squads, then that squad is responsible for optimization – price, packing the stuff, etc. That’s how we’ve organized the teams, two pizza teams, we’ve tried to that. Also, distributed teams… sometimes that’s a little bit complicated.
By changing its development practices and investing in a private cloud platform as a service, there have been clear benefits to the business. “Historically it would take two or three days for a deployment to go to production, with lots of manual production. Now with the apps in the garages we can do it on the basis of Cloud Foundry within minutes.”
Using Apple Watches to assist waitstaff is interesting, but sort of over kill.
I’d assume they’d still need to take orders which probably works best with paper (or just memorizing), or at best a tablet or phablet. The watch is not very good for reading and gathering information: it’s better at taking quick actions, just getting quick info like the time or current temperature, and small notifications.
Still, any new use case people come up with is interesting:
Second, the use of the Apple Watch adds an interesting layer to day-to-day hospitality practices. Guest notes within reservations are nothing new, but employing a dynamic, real-time system to make sure that the people who need to read the notes actually do read the notes is a major step. The Apple Watch, for its… shortcomings, is arguably less intrusive than a mobile phone or larger screen, and can be checked far more discreetly. I can’t speak for restaurant floor managers, but from this side of the keyboard, this seems like an efficient technological upgrade.
Another interesting tidbit buried in the Eater piece: soon, ResyOS will support the ability to add other diners to a reservation so the restaurant has a clearer picture of everyone at the table — great news for couples who keep track of which reservation profiles have all of the “good notes.” (We all do that, right?)
Tyler Cowen suggests that we shouldn’t be freaked out by the emphasis on quarterly returns. Many public companies companies blame making quarterly numbers as a reason for short term planning, versus long term (one assumes) innovative strategies. The pieces suggests that that short sightedness may have a reason:
In information technology, the average life of a corporate asset is about six years, in health care it is about 11 years, and for consumer products it runs about 12 to 15. Very often it is hard for a company to plan its operations beyond those time periods, as the U.S. economy is no longer based on durable manufacturing machines. Production has shifted toward service sectors with relatively short asset lives, and that may call for a shorter-term orientation in response.
And, throw in all the “change or die”, digital transformation stuff and who knows what tomorrow will look like? As a counter, re-jiggering a company to be “digital” can take time. But, as Coleen suggests, investors don’t always seems to punish that (I’d add, if they have faith in management and the culture of the company):
Equity markets do not seem to neglect the longer run. Amazon has a high share price even though its earnings reports have usually failed to show a profit. Possibly the market judgment is wrong, but it’s hardly the case that investors are ignoring the long-run prospects of the company.
Further more, if I doesn’t work out:
If public shareholders are placing too much short-term pressure on their companies for a good quarterly earnings report, companies have the option of boosting their value by going private, as has been the trend. By 2012, the number of U.S. public corporations was less than half what it had been in 1997, in part because many companies went private. This is possible evidence that there have been problems with corporate short-termism, but on the other hand it shows that a market response is possible. Good governance is a scarce resource, and it may be that markets concentrate it in the places that need it most.