Now IBM’s getting serious about public IaaS

IBM has been talking a good cloud game for the last year or so. They have clearly demonstrated that they understand what cloud computing is, what customers want from it and have put forth a variety of offerings and engagements to help customers head down this path – mostly through internal cloud and strategic rightsourcing options. But its public cloud efforts, outside of application hosting have been a bit of wait and see. Well the company is clearly getting its act together in the public cloud space with today’s announcement of the Smart Business Development and Test Cloud, a credible public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering. This new service is an extension of its developerWorks platform and gives its users a virtual environment through which they can assemble, integrate and validate new applications. Pricing on the service is as you would expect from an IaaS offering (and free for a limited time). If you are testing with IBM software you can either bring your licenses or check out the equivalent instances from their service catalog. There’s even a new version of Rational Software Delivery Services for shops familiar with Jazz.

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Developing The Discipline of BPM

As some of you may already be aware, I joined Forrester Research a little over a month ago. Some will wonder why, after many years of plowing the independent field, I decided to join the competition. Well, I don’t feel I have joined the competition.

I know it sounds a little sickly, but I feel like I have finally come home. I got so used to working by myself, I forgot what it was like to have colleagues. I really came here to help build a business that caters for the needs of Business Process Professionals. I have known Connie Moore for about 17 years and we have been erstwhile collaborators throughout that time. Clay and I had been exploring partnership opportunities before he joined Forrester.

My first experience inside Forrester was to attend “Starting Blocks” - a 3-day program where the Executive Team come in one at a time, to meet with all new employees that had joined the organization since the last program. What a fantastic eye-opener that was. Here we had the thinkers and strategists sitting down and engaging in a dialogue - exploring what they were doing and listening to feedback - quite an unusual behavior, and a reflection of the culture of the organization.

Now I work in Connie’s team, bringing my own perspectives and capabilities - complementing the skills already here. My research focus could be summarized as follows:

“I am specializing in the methods, approaches, frameworks, tools, techniques and technologies of Business Process Management (BPM), Business Process Improvement, Business Transformation and Organisational Change; with a special emphasis on an outcome-based, customer-focused approaches.”

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A Tale of Two Cities: Two Approaches to Making Cities Smarter, Part III

This post is the third in a three part series on Smart Cities. Best to start with Part I.

Two Approaches to Making Smart Cities

As with most things in life, there are a number of ways to approach smart cities. One way is to start from the ground up. A new city is born - a clean slate - to be made smart with the necessary infrastructure for its connected systems to communicate and collaborate to create an efficiently running city. A recent article in Fast Company, highlighted a number of smart cities projects that essentially started from the ground up - or, in one case, from the mud flats up. The most widely written about start-up city is Songdo. The concept was launched as a vision of the South Korean government and eventually, through the work of a real-estate developer and Cisco as the IT infrastructure provider, has become a reality - although the city is not expected to be complete until 2015. Songdo and other start-up cities have become one answer to the nagging concern about increasing urbanization.

Reconciling the rapid urbanization in China with the observation of one World Bank official that "Cities are expensive to retrofit and modify once they are built," start-up cities just might be one answer to China's urban needs.

China's "start-up" smart city: Meixi Lake

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A Tale of Two Cities: Two Approaches to Making Cities Smarter, Part II

This is the second in a three part series on Smart Cities. Best to start with Part I.

Urbanization in China Sets the Stage by Defining the Need

According to the World Bank, China's urban population was 191 million in 1980. By 2007, it was 594 million, excluding migrants. About half of China's population now lives in cities, and that trend looks likely to continue particularly as the government relaxes restrictions on internal movement institutionalized in the strict hukou system of residential registration.

And, bigger cities face bigger challenges to meet the needs of their burgeoning populations:

  • Infrastructure and jobs. Between now and 2025, it's likely that another 200 to 250 million people will migrate to China's cities, adding to an existing mobile or migrant population of about 155 million. Providing infrastructure - housing, roads, hospitals etc. - and jobs for this anticipated inflow of people poses major challenges. With new changes to the hukou system, this migration into cities could be even greater.
  • Energy. Urban residents use 3.6 times as much energy as rural residents; suggesting that energy use is far from its peak. In China, energy intensity (consumption of energy per unit of GDP) is 7 times that of Japan and 3.5 times that of the United States, and over 70% of electricity use is coal-produced.
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A Tale of Two Cities: Two Approaches to Making Cities Smarter, Part I

This is actually not a tale of two specific cities but of two types of cities, or “smart cities” as the new moniker goes. It will appear in three parts.

Defining Smart Cities 

“Smart” has become the adjective of choice among tech vendors to describe solutions that capture, synthesize and analyze the vast amounts of data being produced by computing and networking systems. Forrester defines Smart Computing as: 

a new generation of integrated hardware, software, and network technologies that provide IT systems with real-time awareness of the real world and advanced analytics to help people make more intelligent decisions about alternatives and actions that will optimize business processes and business balance sheet results. 

What does that mean in layman’s terms?  Every system can be smarter if it can learn from and act on the data it produces. 

A city is a “system of systems” making the potential for efficiency exponential as all of its systems interact.  Therefore, a smart city is:

A city that uses technology to transform its core systems – city administration, education, healthcare, transportation, public safety, real estate, utilities and business — enabling them to capture, analyze and act on the data they produce.

As a result, a smart city’s systems can optimize the use of and return from largely finite resources.  It can, in other words, “do more with less.” Using resources in this smarter way also boosts innovation, a key factor underpinning competitiveness and economic growth.

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From The Field: The First Annual Canonical Model Management Forum

Early last week, I attended the first annual “Canonical Model Management Forum” here in the DC area. A number of government agencies as well as several of the major banks, insurance companies, credit-card operators, and other private-sector firms attended the meeting. There was one vendor sponsor (DigitalML, the vendor of IgniteXML), and the meeting was hosted at a CSC facility. There were a number of presentations by the attendees about their environments, what had motivated them to establish a canonical model, how that work had turned out, and the important lessons learned.

But What Is A Canonical Information Model?

In the first day of sessions, I heard a number of definitions of canonical modeling, but most were similar to Forrester’s:

A canonical information model is a model of the semantics and structure of information that adheres to a set of rules agreed upon within a defined context for communicating among a set of applications or parties.

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Interest In Business Architecture Heats Up

When I was searching for input to my first business architecture research report titled “Business Architecture’s Time Has Come” in October of 2008, I had a hard time finding true business architecture practitioners to participate in the study. To be sure, there were lots of EAs thinking about business architecture, but very few really doing business architecture.

Earlier that year I had facilitated a group discussion about the current state of business architecture at an EA conference. There were more than 30 people in the room, and the discussion was lively. Much of the first half hour focused on what business architecture really meant and how it should be applied. There were a wide array of positions and some very impassioned exchanges. To shift the discussion to more practical areas, I asked “Who has an active business architecture practice?” To my surprise not one person in the room raised their hand.

What a difference a year makes. Our 2010 research shows that 40% of organizations now have an established business architecture program. And most of the rest are working toward creating one. For a large majority of EA teams the question has shifted from “When should I start my business architecture effort?” to “How do I get business architecture moving?” Forrester’s 2010 EA Forum had a track dedicated to enterprise business architecture. I presented or facilitated three business architecture sessions that were all heavily attended with lots of active participation. Some of the interesting ideas that surfaced during forum discussions were:

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Predictive Processes Demand Unified BAM and BSM Stack

Business processes don’t execute only at the application layer. Just as thought processes aren’t entirely divorced from the synaptic firings of the underlying neurons.

Most business activity monitoring (BAM) tools I’ve come across only operate at the business level. In other words, they are geared to monitoring, tracking, correlating, visualizing, and analyzing those metrics that come from business process management (BPM) platforms, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and other application platforms. That’s essential, but it’s only half the battle of process optimization. To deliver the promised service levels, BAM dashboards should integrate closely with business service management (BSM) dashboards, thereby mapping application services to the underlying server, storage, network, and other infrastructure components. In this way, IT can provide full-stack visibility, provisioning, and control over every component that affects every step of every business process. If you need a deep drilldown on BSM, check out the excellent research by my colleague Peter O’Neill, who specializes in this area.

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Why is Forrester so jazzed up about Business Capability Maps?

I recently published a sample business capability map for insurance firms as a way to illustrate many aspects about the description and use of this business architecture methodology. One of the readers of this report commented “It seems the business capability maps provide value as a complement to existing methodologies” and referenced Strategy Maps and Business Process Modeling. This made me realize that I should explain more how Forrester sees capability maps as more than a complement – and why we, along with many of our clients are so ‘jazzed up’ about this methodology.

A bit of background: Forrester views capabilities as stable elements of a business model, where the dynamics of a firm are reflected in the business goals for the capability, and the processes, functions, information and other assets which are how a capability is delivered. A capability map describes all the capabilities, and the relationships between them, which an organization needs to have as part of their business model to achieve outcomes. Think of Sales as a simple example, where there are business goals and associated metrics for Sales, and processes, functions, information and people assets necessary for this capability to be delivered. And Sales has a relationship to Fulfillment, to Customer Service and to Marketing.

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Tech Dots And Process Connectors

I recently completed an interview with the VP of patient management for a large healthcare organization. When introducing herself, she said that her responsiblity is “connecting the dots”. I asked her what kind of dots, and she said “We have a software application for everything we do -- I must get them talking to each other and this is a challenge.” I asked her what the role of IT. Her answer was “they do a good job of maintaining the applications, but not so much on cross-functional processes”.

Is this an unusual situation? Obviously not. A recent Forrester survey of 141 organizations shows that in 78% of organizations business executives -- not IT -- drive process improvement initiatives. I assume that most of these initiatives are about “connecting the dots”.

I think that IT decision-makers can do a lot more to improve business processes, in particular cross-functional processes. Acting as agents of process improvement, they need to re-focus their teams from supporting tech platforms to optimizing cross-functional processes. As one  of these change-agents pointed out in a recent interview  “ No single functional department owns end-to-end order-to-cash. IT can help a company see something that is hard to see”.  (see this report)

Working with several IT decision-makers, I developed a few recommendations for change-agents who aim to increase the business orientation and efficiency of their organizations:

  • Focus on business enablement through service orientation
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