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Archive for October, 2008

Dinosaurs or Cockroaches

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

I have been looking at the mainframe market (yes, those IT dinosaurs that were supposed to be finished in the 1990s). It turns out that plenty of the beasts are still around. Mainframes still host around 70% of the world’s business critical data. That means that even if you are using your bank’s web front-end, there is a good chance that one of the tiers in the application still resides on a mainframe.

Not only are mainframes alive and well, so is mainframe software. CICS, Cobol and so on - they are still in use at many, if not most, enterprise data centers - and they won’t being going away anytime soon. Q32008  IBM System z hardware revenues increased 25% year/ year, with double digit revenue growth in all geographies. MIPS (capacity shipped) grew by 49 percent. And thats just hardware. I couldn’t find any recent data on the mainframe eco-system-but here is a chart I found for the 2004 server market eco-system:

$50B - the market may have changed in the last four years - but I am guessing it is still an impressive number. Given the way this technology is quietly hanging around even with some many trying to kill the market - I think we should call mainframes cockroaches rather than dinosaurs.An added benefit - mainframes are actually a “greener” alternativs to using a plethora of open systems…

The new uses of these existing, legacy systems (e,g, Web Interfaces, SOA, RSS and ATOM feeds) is putting demands on the systems that they weren’t originally designed for. That along will the dwindling number of mainframe skills available - leads me to the key question of how is all this legacy infrastructure and applications going to be managed and maintained…

Individualized Behaviors, Social Dynamics and Collaboration

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I was reading an article on Gartner’s “four disruptions that will transform the software industry“. While I was reading it occured to me that three of the four disruptors have the same core - there is a new type of user out there, and they are becoming more vocal about having more control over the tools and applications they use. As John and Claire-Marie Karat wrote in our article ”Affordances, Motivation and the Design of User Interfaces” - “There is a paradox in human behavior that is valuable for designers of applications to keep in mind: Everyone wants to be in control, but nobody wants to be controlled.” This basic truth is driving the “Rise in New Technologies and Convergence of Existing Technologies” disruptor especially around SOA, device portability and mashups. It is also driving the other two disruptors “Change in Software User and Support Demographics” and “Revolutionary Changes in Software and How it is Consumed”.

I think that everyting Gartner says is true - but it isn’t that futuristic - just extrapolating from the trends we are seeing now in early adopters. As William Gibson wrote “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.  What I think they are missing is that software is going to have to evolve to support a new type of work, not just a new type of worker. Most of todays packaged apps are around to support the highly strutured processes of the “old enterprise”- and I put BPM tools in that bucket. The next generation of enterprise software is going to have to provide much better support for knowledge work processes. Lotus Notes, MS SharePoint and Wikis are a start in providing support for collaboration - but not for the tacit interaction (or human processes) - which include individualized behaviour and social dynamics. Enterprises are going to need tools for the 80% of human centric business processes that are currently handled through ad-hoc use of email and documents - a Human Process Management System. As you know from my previous posts HPMS’ will be extensions of the way people use email and documents today as their basic framework for tacit interactions (or human processes) with a focus on traceability and flexibility rather than control.

Human Process Management and Exception Handling

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

I read an interesting blog post by Ross Mayfield today on email overload. It mentioned something that  I have been thinking about for a while - handling exceptions in structured processes (especially B2B). It had an interesting pointer to John Seely Brown and John Hagel’s book The Only Sustainable Edge that most employee time is not spent executing process, but handling exceptions to process. That meshes well with other things I have read and seen from experience.

The key point for me is that as process automation (through BPM and other applications) becomes more pervasive for standard processes, mechanisms to support human handling of exceptions will become more and more important (since that is where employees spend their time) - which means Human Process Management will come to the forefront.