Sunday, November 23, 2008

S2 Muses on the technology potpourri i.e. SOA, Cloud Computing, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Mash-Ups

Today world is filled with the next big wave of technology solutions, frameworks and panacea. But as we are seeing with the financial sector creating fancy instruments, complex deals don't take away the inherent risk and complexity of the situation. The same applies to the technology market. From client server to now SOA the technology market has been churning these solutions like crazy and yet the situation has not fundamentally changed.  For everything that Larry Ellison from Oracle says, this quote is a gem (was said in reference to cloud computing)

"The software industry is more fashion driven than ladies apparel!!!"

Recently on a Gartner blog, the State of the SOA was summarized in a letter which highlighed the following

"To the CIO, CEO, CFO, CTO and shareholders,

As a result of the following I can now only deduce that SOA is a failure and any attempts at SOA will result in failure. Under my direction:

* I have failed to associate our SOA initiatives with our business needs, therefore I cannot show any value for the hundreds of services we have created ,
* I have failed to properly create and support an SOA Center of Excellence, Steering Committee or Competency Center,
* I have failed to enlist the executive staff as true supporters and evangelistscfor our SOA efforts.
* I chose to buy an ESB prior to truly understanding our SOA infrastructure needs (In reality this wasn’t my fault, the vendor said it was super duper necessary)
* I have failed to provide my developers incentives to reuse artifacts,
* It was not my responsibility to follow what was going on next door where there was a separate team dealing with BPM, I mean they are two different initiatives,
* I firmly believe that SOA is nothing more than fancy CORBA or COM.

Despite all of the things I have NOT done, SOA has failed. My additional failure to recognize and implement best practices that have been proven successful in many other companies worldwide also play into the failure of SOA.

Oh well, we should move on and try something new. On the bright side 70% of our initiatives fail anyway. The failure of SOA is SOA’s fault not mine.

Thanks for understanding and I’d like to declare in advance that Cloud Computing, Virtualization and SaaS will be failures under my direction as well.


All I can say is the need to go back to fundamentals like the financial services sector and solve the underlying business problem (process or otherwise). So next time you hear about SOA, Cloud Computing just remember it is not about IT but business.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

S2: Review of White Tiger

I am not much of fiction reader but took some courage when I bought the book 'White Tiger' by Aravind Adiga.  Well for starters it is written by an Indian. Well let me correct myself. Aravind is a journalist and author, who holds dual Indian and Australian citizenship. The White Tiger, won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Quite an achievement for your first novel. Back to the novel. I am not a fiction reader so the very fact that I was hooked on to the book is a reflection of some good writing by the author. Let me clarify, I  could relate better with the story since I come from India. I  not only associated myself with the overall concept but literally visualized the characters in my real life from India. Yes it shows the inequality, political corruption, greed, disillusionment  within the story but there is a lot of truth and substance to that. The rawness in description of certain settings and encounters between the protagonist and the cast of characters add more realness to the story. Its a must read for anyone who comes from Northern part of India and a good read for everyone else.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Zero Sum Game : Debate Continues

My last blog on stock market was commented to remind me of the fundamentals of capitalism and that I was drifting to the dark side. Further I was reminded of the following


Stocks on the other hand represent ownership in a company. Value is created as the company's value increases. Yes there are speculative runs on stocks that are not based on the underlying company value, but they are always corrected. In the end the value of the company is reflected in the value of the stock. By investing in the company you are providing much needed capital to increase productivity and create more value.


Well stocks represent ownership. Correct! Organizations create value.  Correct! Stock market prices these organizations values. Correct! However the very fact that pricing the true value or judging the potential value becomes an issue. yes the market pundits say that the collective group wisdom establishes the right market price. Without getting into a debate on that the stock market in this process creates two parties. The first party who anticipates that the stock is over priced and the other who thinks otherwise. Subsequent to the initial IPO (for the most part), the subsequent trades and transactions are based on continuous betting on the potential movement of the stock market value. And there starts the zero sum game. Stock markets are definitely a mechanism to create a market of willing investors for the initial offering (may that's where it creates a value for the organization). However at that time and subsequent to the initial IPO event  the average investor is not aware of the information to adequately price a stock and subsequently follows biased set of information to make ill conceived decisions. I am sure that the market correction in the recent months (Dow now sitting below 7500) makes every one reassess that the theory of acceptable multiples of P/E. Regardless the average player in this market is definitely playing with odds stack against him or her and more than likely is working against a similarly handicapped investor on the other side.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

S2 Muses the Stock Debacle : A Zero Sum Game has no winners...

A lot has been made about the recent Dow Jones crash in the last 30-45 days. I as like millions of others has observed and come with  their own theories of this debacle (wasteful spending on wars, poor credit market, sub prime mortgage mess. But instead of thinking and justifying the events in retrospective, I  thought and  tried to analyze the crystal ball from a different perspective. It stuck me!  Stock market is a zero sum game.  By making that statement, I am challenging the premise that does stock market really create value? Because behind every transaction (profit or loss) there are two parties that offset each other ( one who sells more than the intrinsic value of the stock wins and the one who buys it is a looser).  So technically there is no real value being created but a steady amount of movement of cash in different hands  and hence giving a perception of wealth creation. The reason this is difficult to recognize this basic phenomenon, is the macro representation of the economy that there is  potential growth involved and hence the potential upside movement of the stock. I am sure the converse is true in the bear market.  I think the sooner we realize that stock market was created as a a mechanism for ensuring easy and cheap credit and not a value/money creation manufacturing plant the better of we all will be. Yes there are economist pundits that will belly this whole theory and tell me that this is a typical myth of the common man but I thought i wanted to challenge the so called  day trader champions (you will make millions of dollar by following the technical analysis) who imply there is someone out there who is on the receiving end of this strategy. Also in the midst of all these transactions, the financial service companies eat their brokerage fees. Wow, on top of not creating value, we have just reduced the pie every time. In my mind the only thing that counters this zero sum equation  is that future holds more potential than the current or let me say future is not the same as present and hence the potential of change. What is the time horizon? Where is the present ending and future beginning is a debate in itself  but for now the next time you think you cracked the stock market movement and hence made a buck or two (thousands and millions for the big league) remember there is someone sitting on the other side of the world or coast loosing the same amount.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Long Time Coming: World has Changed

It has been only 3 months since I wrote my last blog entry and the world seems to have been turned upside down. I would have assumed that to be the case after presidential elections in November but the financial markets had a plan of their own.The financial market mess has shaken everybody from their ill conceived idea that we are going to always grow, and there is enough room of growth in the global economy. Not to say that the financial market mess is a contradiction to that assertion but definitely has gotten the world  to a grinding halt and make it reassess its modus operandi.  These last 3 months are going to be historical since they are going to be referenced in numerous writings, books and case studies for ages to come. The unflappable Alan Greenspan the most widely recognized messiah of free markets finally succumbed and finally admitted that he was wrong in his understanding  of the self regulatory power of free markets. Let me correct myself. He said he was partially wrong. Either way, the Adam Smith school of thought has had a foreclosure and the Keynesian school of thought is the hottest commodity in the market. Sure there are plenty of prescriptive articles being published, smart authors catching on with writing books (from pen to print in 30 days) claiming the deep understanding and dissection of the whole mess (in fact more account of unfolding of events) and tons of new lines of business(America is creative with it service economy) addressing the financial mess( consultants to manage your debt, avoid foreclosure and of course numerous law suits on the Wall Street companies and executives). Also it is funny and ironical that the 'Socialism' word has been picked up  in the media  like crazy whether it is the unfortunate branding of Obama policies as socialism by Sarah Palin and /or the bail outs being termed as big socialism efforts. I guess it is going to be debated ad nauseam for the next couple of years. But what does it mean for me as an individual? Yes my tax money is going out to saving these banks and investment houses as some one will say, yes my future is more unknown than before and yes, I will be struggling to assess the impact of all of this on my mind set towards spending, investing and self growth.  But I have to say one thing I will definitely cherish(cherish may not be an appropriate word) that I have experienced this in person. I was not living around the Great Depression and was too young to understand and decode the Black Monday in 1987 but this time around I have had the capacity to see and observe the the apocalypse.  Tough times ahead for each one of us and during tough times, we need to work as a team. I am sure someone will say this is leaning towards socialism but even the capitalists cannot deny that after all 'Man is a social animal' and that is is what makes us different from the rest of the animals.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Sad Day: Randy Pausch is no more

Randy Pausch, the professor whose “last lecture” made him a an inspirational speaker died Friday (July 25th) at his home in Chesapeake, Va  after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer . He survived 6 more months than what the doctors told him so. And he did it in style, living every bit of it and sharing his ideas and thoughts in more than one way. Truly inspirational talks!! It made me realize that never give up one's passion and life is brief so enjoy it and relish every second . For those who are not aware of him, do listen and watch his last lecture; you will sit back and ponder and rethink yourself. I guarantee...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Managing Budgets and Costs: Life on the other side

In the last few days I had to send emails out as the head of my business unit to manage and control costs. Least to say it was a very interesting feeling as I send the email out. Previously when I used to receive this email from my boss, I used to get sometimes flustered, sometimes found it unacceptable and totally inappropriate. I am sure similar reactions must have been discussed by my team as well.  It is a natural reaction. The  few weeks have been an eye opener in terms of costs and managing budgets. These things are very trivial when looked in isolation but quickly add up to the bottom line. It is funny, as I read in light of the oil prices surge and impact on airlines, that the airlines  are trying to reduce  costs in creative ways. For instance, they are reducing the amount of water they carry in the aircrafts. Their cost reduction economics say that if they reduce the overall weight they carry by 25 pounds they save 440,000 per year. Now for a  given flight it might be an insignificant amount but it is a reasonable cost savings in tough times for the airline. I am sure  there are other ways of wasteful expenditure that can be controlled but sometimes is not seen in the same priority order as others would assume. Anyway, I am quickly learning the dark side of accounting and finance which has given me a new perspective on things. I cannot fully say it is the right guidance framework though the Wall St. and financial world will tell me it is a numbers game. All I am doing is playing a balancing act as of now before I either become a part of the dark side or quit the responsibility.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Status Reporting: To be or not to be

The recent weeks there have been conversations and discussion around Status Reporting. Both up and down the organization food there seems to be an inherent distaste for the status report. Sometimes it is around the content of the status report, sometimes frequency and sometimes the very existence of one is questioned.  It made me think and ponder. So I did some reading and came across this perfect write up that summarizes in my mind how some of us feel around status reports and growing organizations. Thanks to Rands in Repose blog for the following paragraph


There are two organizational inflection points which drastically change communication within the organization. The first change occurs around fifty or so people — this is the moment when, if you’re an early employee, that you first see someone in he hallway that you do not recognize.

This is troubling to you because, until that point, not only knew everyone on a first name basis, but you also knew what they were about… what they were responsible for… what floated their boat. Now, there’s an unknown quantity in the building.

This awkward, but necessary evolution of the organization, passes. You accept the fact the company is growing and you decide to focus your attention just on your group… who cares what those schmoes over in the support group are doing, anyhow? You’ve got an engineering organization to build.

The second organization inflection point happens somewhere around two hundred… two hundred and fifty. The problems identified during the first inflection point are serious problems now. Fiefdoms have been created in your organization and they’re not talking to each other. What made your organization great early on, great communication, is still going on.. it’s just going on inside of each of your organizations and not across them.

Executives in these larger organizations may be the first to recognize this when they’re meeting with these different organizations and get the impression these individuals teams don’t work for the same company.


The context of this is at the end of the day communication is required to know what is happening in the organization. There is no better solution than a status report. Period.

So now comes the question around frequency and content of the status report. Two things are important in my mind. Producing a status report should not be a long drawn out process. The reason it ends up being is because as the information flows through the different levels it takes a change in format and style. Also after some time people don't take them seriously and it becomes a copy paste process.

Is there a solution or a fit all for this problem pool. I don't have a great answer but if people continue to be serious about thinking status report as a reflection of their quality of work, I think we can make this whole issue on status report more effective.

Like Churchill said, it's a horrible system but the alternatives are even worse. Why? Cause we don't have a good way to deal with decision making in complex systems.

Gosh , I need to complete and update my status report :)

Doing Increasingly More with Increasingly Less

As the US economies goes through a tough time and borders on the edge of recession, every organization is required to do a lot of soul searching of their business plans and their operational model. As experienced economists fantasize and visualize the world through their ideal world models the  and seasoned politicians shmooze their their way with grandiose plans, what does an individual employee do as his part to support the organization. That's where the individual team member,developer, tester, middle manager and everyone can act like an entrepreneur.

What I've always believed in is that under ALL circumstances, we need to do increasingly more with increasingly less. Period.

This is not a call for beating one self up with more workload, more stress and less available time. It's just the opposite. On the contrary it is a mechanism to get through tough and trying times where one needs to trust the gut and follow the smarts and that is one can do more with less. That's what our American spirit is all about. It creates winners that produce better stuff using fewer resources.

This is a call for evaluating every small decision you make through the lens of operational and financial efficiency. Will developing a small utility help me operate more efficiently than the way I do today? Does it save time or rework for me? 100's of decisions by individual team members actually contribute to the success of any undertaking. By wearing this lens of operational and financial efficiency they can not only contribute to their immediate teams but also establish the spirit that yes we can do increasingly more with increasingly less.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

S2 Appreciates Quiet Strength

I have been intrigued, motivated and impressed reading the book from Tony Dungy. This was a very powerful inspirational book from one of the well respected and revered coaches in the NFL. The most apt statement that has been resonating with me which I find most suited and apt to day to day work place environment is the following

Whatever it takes....

No excuses ,No explanations

Today's high stress, pressure projects (no different, no less than the NFL game time pressure) warrants to embrace this mind set. The theory is simple that there are no excuses and no explanations (justifications) and every team member needs to do whatever it takes. Yes there are the independency champions but nothing is more involved and interdependent than winning an NFL game. 53 people playing in different sets(offence, defense, special teams) contribute to winning the game. The offence can turn over the ball and put defense in a bad situation or the special teams can make the starting position for offence miserable. But there are no excuses, no explanations every individual has to do whatever it takes to win the game. The results may not be immediately available but this is such a fundamental mind shift that the long term benefits of this are immense.

I just hope, I can spark that in my team and as someone said charity starts at home so I need to embrace this first in letter and spirit.  So I will do whatever it takes to succeed excuses and no explanations. The results may not be immediate but they are going to improve over time period.....

Monday, March 10, 2008

S2 Muses: Leading Indicators of Project Success

I think one of the industry wide pain point is the continued lack of success of large complex IT projects. Post mortem reports galore, lessons learned plenty, infinite measurement points but the guaranteed success  remains elusive. This makes me ponder what could be a leading indicator of a project success. A lot of the metrics are after the fact analysis like schedule slip, cost overruns, defect rate etc. For me a leading indicator will be pointers that identify critical aspects of the project even before a project is started. Well for example the need for a leader or a project champion. Increasingly in organizations the project champion is stripped of all powers to make some tough decisions or the project champion is constrained by a consensus decision making process. The need for a consensus decision making points to  a lack of well defined vision, goal of the project. Also if a project has a long life cycle it has little chance of complete success. More than likely at the end of the project battle will emerge a wounded tired bloody survivor and not a victorious soldier. Anyway I would like to listen for these leading indicators. For one of them I believe is to establish before the start of the project that there will never be a increase in the budget and /or a change in the timeline once started. The only thing that would happen is a trade-off requirements.

Monday, March 03, 2008

S2 : Life is lonely on top

The last month has been least to say eventful. There have been a few changes in my workplace and I have been a part of the roller coaster ride. I guess we are still going through the bumpy ride though I hope we are no longer in for any flips or deep drops. Well you never know since as you go up the food chain, the air is thin, its lonely and things happen. There are more procrastinators than well wishers. There is little to gain but a lot to loose.  Yet, I chose to go for the ride up the top since I wanted to experience the phenomenon. I hope in my attempt to perform, I do the right things.  It may not be the desired final outcome and applauded by the world but it will be an honest and sincere attempt to do the right things. The first thing is to have a participative process of decision making. People construe participative decision making sometimes as consensus based approach but that is not the case. Participative decision making requires active participation from the right stakeholders in a decision (from top to bottom) but final decision making lies with the person in charge.  It implies that the rational and the approach behind the final decision is understood by all the participants I recognize my limitations and limitations of my position in the overall context of the organization but I see that as typical of any situation of life. My self grade will involve assessing myself how well I did within those constraints. The second aspect is to have the right team around me. The key aspect of any team is trust and the ability for the players to line up behind the captain and support each other in the most productive way.  People may think they are supporting and very participative in the organization activities but that is not the case. One should read the five dysfunctions of the team for an eye opener.  Star performers of the past assume that they are not to perform day in day out. On the contrary, the star performers are expected to perform at the same high level day in day out. Like any professional team,a star performer gets the necessary limelight when the team does well and gets severely dinged when the performance takes a nose dive. Well all it warrants is a lot of soul searching? Do  I have that team? Maybe or maybe not but I believe that I need to trust the team first before they can trust me. I have to give them my vote of confidence before expecting them to trust me. I am ready to do that. However if things don't change for the good in the immediate future there will be changes in the team or if need to at the captain level? The expectations are high, challenges galore and odds stacked up against me. However I have trust in my God, my skills and my team.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

S2 Muses: Star Players and Dysfunctions of a Team

I believe this is often discussed, spoken and written subject on the subtleties of team dynamics. You don't appreciate the phenom till it impacts your bottom line. An analogy from the world of sports. The indian cricket team has all time star players who will be remembered in the cricketing history books. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid are recognized, established stars and they continue  and continue to deliver stellar individual performances but the Indian team fails to reach any greatness. They are medicore at best sprinkled with real bad and glory days. That points to  the inherent difficulty in assessing the complexity of the solution. (Note : the indian team has come together as a team to back one of their players who has been recently banned showing some unified spirit). Who is responsible for the team to act/play like a team? The obvious answer lies in the team leadership which is the coach and captain. However, I believe on the contrary that it is the resposibility for each and every individual player. Better said than done. The team's cohesiveness and coherene is orchestrated by the mastero and he needs to be constantly engaged in ensuring that players are alinged since a single player who is not mentally and goal wise aligned can ruin the show.  Yes, we do tend to sack captains and coaches whenever a team fails without addressing the root cause. This is not necessarily bad since it is better than not making any change or making changes that just do lip service and hope for a miracle to rescue the ship for yet another time.

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