Monday, September 7, 2009

Walter Cronkite for CIO!

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories

The "5 W’s" serves as one of the most basic formulas in journalism (police investigation and research too). The power of “Who? What? When? Where? Why? (And How?)" stems from the fact that each question requires a factual answer that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.

How many botched projects, misinformed acquisitions, and over hyped technologies could have been nipped in the bud had the original proposals been subjected to this most basic journalistic benchmark?

Who specifically are the stakeholders? (people who care) Whose job responsibilities will change? (not at all the same as stakeholders)

What exactly will change for each of the stakeholders and those who will see their day-to-day tasks change?

When will these changes occur (as steps within a process flow and/or in what sequence)?

Why will any of the participants “opt-in” or cooperate? What’s in it for them?

How exactly will proposed changes be implemented? How will the proposed technology set all of this in motion?

New technology promises all kinds of life-changing opportunities – but the distance between technology and adoption is much more than “the last mile” of a vision – it’s the difference between vision and victory.

A case in point – we have been focusing on bringing “runtime intelligence” to market – a genuinely unique approach to application monitoring. What makes our approach unique is that it is designed to “serve the selfish interests” of two communities that have historically had very different priorities and worldviews. By serving a much larger constituency, we are able to drive higher adoption, increase collaboration, and solve “unsolvable” problems for the very first time.

Typically, applications are monitored by EITHER developers OR operations. Developers are mostly concerned with debugging and general usability issues. IT operations will often focus on performance, security, and licensing. In fact, BOTH groups of stakeholders suffer from their respective isolation from one another. For example, a software vendor wants to build features that are of value to the widest possible set of users – a single company (operations) only cares about their own parochial needs (and they don’t want to pay for “over engineering”). The software vendor worries about piracy and IP theft – operations worries about sensitive information loss and operational risk. This (and many other) inherent conflicts between developers and operations management undermine both groups' agendas and impede their success.

Runtime Intelligence may be the first solution that addresses application developer demand for near real-time visibility into adoption and usage in the field while simultaneously helping operations automate their IT policies and reconcile application investments with business performance.

Our breakthrough is, in large part, due to a our focus on making sure we have solid answers for the 5W’s (and 1 H).

"And that's the way it is."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Are developers just big babies? The good ones are!

In her latest book, The Philosophical Baby, Alison Gopnik points out that babies are far from self-centered, myopic beings. In fact, they exhibit all of the characteristics (both good and bad) of adults. In fact, they are in some ways superior. Babies, Gopnik would assert, have malleable, complex minds and a drive for discovery, and are enthralled by every subtlety that surrounds them.

Gopnik compares babies to the research and development department of the human species, while adults take care of production and marketing. Like little computer scientists, babies draw accurate conclusions from data and statistical analysis, conduct experiments, and are even capable of counterfactual thinking (the ability to imagine different outcomes that might happen in the future or might have happened in the past).

In short, babies can
· Observe their environment and absorb salient facts,
· Connect consequences that stem from the events they have observed,
· Predict future outcomes based upon the previous observations and their consequences,
· Develop a vision for the future – develop predictions based upon “what if” scenarios based upon hypothetical (versus observed) events and consequences.

(The fact that babies have these innate characteristics is consistent with the evolutionary perspective on creativity that I already discussed in my earlier entry Software as Fiction)

So why are good developers just big babies?

Good developers move beyond the strict functionality of the code that they write – they move beyond higher order concepts of system quality – they even move beyond caring about and optimizing their work to maximize the value of the code they write. They have the ability to imagine wholly different worlds where the underlying assumptions, constraints and, by extension, their criteria for success may be completely different. This is what we call a “market disruption” like the Internet, cell phones, etc…

In short, good developers can
• Unit test (observe)
• Profile applications (consequences)
• Calculate business impact and mitigate security risk (predict)
Develop a vision for the future – develop predictions based upon “what if” scenarios based upon hypothetical (versus observed) events and consequences.

This is why its always good to let developers have some play time (and some milk and cookies too)