Sunday, June 29, 2008

Books I've read lately and will recommend

The Euro Cup finals is on right now, howver it is half time now so I figure I'll kick off this post before the game resumes. A friend asked me to recommend business books to read, he's the JD type and works for an Insurance company, so I'm guessing he wants to know what other people read and I'm probably the closest person to other people that he can come up with ( he's entire family and friends are JDs ). Anyway here is my list:

Business Strategy/Excecution
- Innovator's Delimma (C. Christensen)
- Innovator's Solution (C. Christensen)
- Crossing the Chasm ( G.A. Moore)
- Information Rules (C. Shapiro, H.R. Varian)
- Seeing What's Next (C. Christensen et al)
- Blue Ocean Stategy ( W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne)
- Competitve Strategy ( M.E. Porter)
- Freakenomics ( S. D. Levitt, S. J. Dubner)
- The Long Tail (C. Anderson)
- Enterprise Architecture as a Strategy (J. W. Ross, P. Weill, D. Robertson)
- Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (R. Charan, L. Bossidy )

- Leadership and Self Deception (Arbinger Institute)

- Financial Intelligence (Karen Berman, Joe Knight, and John Case)
- Ahead of the Curve ( J.H. Ellis)

Software Development
- Microsoft Secrets (M. A. Cusumano, R. W. Selby)
- Agile Project Managemet with Scrum (K. Schwaber)
- Agile Estimating and Planning (Mike Cohn)
- Applied User Stories ( Mike Cohn)
- Software Project Survical Guide ( Steve McConnell)
- ShipIt! (J. Richardson, W. Gwaltney Jr.)

- Bootstrap ( K. L. Hess )
- The Art Of The Start (Guy Kawasaki)

I'll add more titles in the future.

Happy Reading Bro!!!!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Taming Off-line Content

In my posts on the long tail of enterprise content it appears I neglected to address the issue of content stored on the desktop, flash drives and other storage devices (off-line content) of employees. Although it is difficult to assess the value of these content, I believe that, for the most part, these content simply extend the long tail to the right of the curve. The challenge with this situation is still the same as for any content in the long tail: how does the organization ensure that content that meets its criteria for risk (or other value attribute) is placed under control of the designated systems. However, content stored on an employee's chosen device, outside of the control of the enterprise content management system, presents an additional challenge for discovery, retention and destruction. Locating this content when the time comes to take action, such as destruction, can be a problem. Think about a document that an employee as copied to their flash drive for "safe-keeping", if the organization is required to retain this document for 3 years, how does the organization ensure that all copies of the document including the one taken off-line is destroyed at the end of the retention period?. The organization can certainly define policies for document handling and also block port access to prevent external storage devices from been attached to company issued computers etc. It may also consider blocking e-mail with attachments and locking down computer hard disk so nothing can be stored on it (good luck with that one!).

Gaining Control: Self-Containing/Describing Content

So far organizations have managed to get a good handle on content sent as e-mail attachments (at least somewhat), however there does not appear to be an easy answer for off-line content without doing something so drastic that any productivity gain an organization had anticipated is largely eroded. The more I think about this issue the more I'm convinced that the silver bullet (if there was ever such a thing) is to have content that can tell you everything about itself. Content that can carry around with it more just its metadata (e.g. author, department, type, age etc) but also information such as: (1) its access control list; (2) the application that was used to create it (not just the mime type or document extension); (3) what business processes it participates in; (4) what organization owns it and (4) what organizations are allows to read it etc. These metadata must be persisted with the content and readable by any operating system and/or application software.

The implementation of this concept will require cooperation by leading vendors in both application and operating system software and standards organizations. Existing technologies such as XML, DRM contain aspects of what is required to implement this concept but portability of DRM solutions today remains an issue for various reasons. WinFS, a technology from Microsoft (MSFT) has some of the critical operating system support needed for this, it has however had its own share of problems. XML is really not self-describing especially because to consume a piece of XML you must first understand its structure and the relationship between the elements to get any meaning out of it.

In any case, while we wait around for the industry to provide the necessary infrastructure support for true self-describing content, organizations can either reward employees for not taking content off-line or punish employees who do so. I'm not advocating either approach to solving the problem, just a suggestion.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What will Microsoft do next? Future of ECM Software Industry

The nature of competition in the ECM industry is changing, the disruption of the industry by SharePoint is well under way. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 is really the first version of the SharePoint technology that you can even begin to consider as an ECM product/solution/platform and I expect Microsoft will use the same evolution strategy it has used to successfully compete in other areas to compete in the ECM software market by offering a controlled migration up the ECM software technology trajectory.

Advanced Functionalities
I expect Microsoft will continue to improve SharePoint and move it up the ECM software technology trajectories. It expected to offer improved Business Process Management (BPM) and Compliance features will provide potential beachheads it will use to advance upstream. In addition, it will continue to provide Application Programming Interface (API) support so third-parties can develop/integrate off-the- shelf and custom workflow packages for specific industry verticals. With respect to compliance functionalities, it is expected to provide deeper integration between its records management features (which still needs improvement) and Microsoft Office Outlook application/Microsoft Exchange Server. Most knowledge workers spend a significant amount of time working in Microsoft Office Outlook compared to any other desktop product, this integration will put Microsoft right at the hub of the content transaction flow, a critical point to enforcing retention policies.

Visual Studio Integration, Training and Certification
With its unsurpassed experience with Developer tools, it is expected to provide deeper integration into Visual Studio and .NET platform for developers. This integration will include tools and platform technologies to support authoring on its ECM platform, which will, amongst other things, lower the skills required to create complex work flows. In addition, it will offer training and certification programs for developers and administrators which has the net effect of reducing the total cost of ownership of SharePoint technologies.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server versions
As Microsoft moves SharePoint technologies up the technology trajectories with Advance functionalities, it is expected to maintain its low-end products to prevent low-end market disruption by another vendor. It already offers a free version that ships with the Windows Operating System - Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) - and will probably offer a Professional version for Departments and an Enterprise version for Corporations. SharePoint in the future which will allow organizations to integrate and manage all of its SharePoint deployments. These versions will not only satisfy the needs at the different levels of the organizations, it will also include functionalities for corporations to deploy enterprise-wide policies that can be applied to all MOSS deployments such as the central content repository for all content regardless of which sharepoint version is used to store the content.

Will incumbents pull pushes? It is hard to tell, if the way they have responded to the threat of SharePoint todate is anything to go by, the following lessons learned from the effects of networks and positive feedback in railroad gauges summarize what I expect:

"Those left with the less popular technology will find a way to cut their losses, either by employing adapters or by writing off existing assets and joining the bandwagon"

I don't expect EMC, to put up a strong challenge as MOSS becomes dominant in the Enterprise. At the core of its business is really information storage and regardless who wins, as long as the content is stored on EMC devices, EMC will be a happy camper. IBM will certain give a good fight but again, IBM has demonstrated that it will sell anything the customer wants as long as it can make service dollars from such deals. I expect both to continue to invest in sustaining technologies such as Adapter to MOSS or move their products to serve niche markets. Their value network and cost structure will make it extremely difficult for them to launch any meaningful defense against a competitor such as Microsoft. But then, this is the technology industry afterall and there is nothing to say that these companies won't happen on their own disruptive technology or some yet to be named startup won't disrupt the industry.