Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Curse of bad communications.

The curse of electronic communications

The image above, at first glance, is about balance.  In this case it is about my two passions on bad communications.  The first is arrogance and the second in ignorance.  The twin curses as it were.  Both are bad and way too many of us hide behind it.  I will forewarn the readers of this post that this is a rant.


Let me deal with arrogance, especially in the Technology field.  It manifests itself in two forms.  The first is the thought that since I know more than you in technology then I must be better and therefore treat all lesser mortals with disdain.  The second flavor is that since I know Technology I must know it all.  Both these conditions can be found when people speak with acronyms and double speak.  When you read an email from a technology person and you want to “bitch slap” them it is likely their arrogance shining ever so brightly.  I have on occasion, printed the email (environmentalists stay calm) and sat down beside the individual to ask them to read the email to me.  Now I am a big guy and this effect is always powerful.  My point gets made very fast.  You wouldn’t speak to me like this in person so why are you putting it in an email.  As you can tell, I do not tolerate this and we as a collective shouldn’t either.

This is also witness by short terse emails by support people that just take for granted that everyone has been ordained in geek speak.  My theory is that if you can’t explain it in real paragraphs with real sentences then you are the idiot and should take a lesson on proper communications.  I blame this on incessant email and text messages for this.  Our youth may have their own “text” language but as a society is it lessoning the human factor.

Email has no tone and sorry smiley faces don’t really give the professional polish I expect from my staff.


This one is more passive aggressive and to some it is well hidden but just as nefarious.  This manifests itself into, “I am not in IT so I don’t know”.  I didn’t ask you to be in IT I asked you to think.  Just because an IT person asks you a question like “so how do you do an expense report” doesn’t mean they are looking for pseudo code to build you a new system.  They just want to know from your perspective how to fill out an expense report.  Here is another form of ignorance that really gets under my skin.  We in the technology field are constantly expected to know how other areas work.  I really encourage this for it provides for better systems.  So if I am expected to know your world then you might want to pause and have some respect for mine.  Yes I know some of us are weird and geeky but hey if I am showing you respect how about giving some back.  Most of us learned this simple rule in kindergarten.  Share the love people.


It comes down to this.  When you are writing an email, remember the person on the other side is a person and not just blank two dimensional text characters.  Treat an email as you would a stranger on the street.   Be polite, sincere and more importantly respectful.  If you are asking for help, be kind and respectful (notice a theme).  If you are providing assistance be polite and respectful and give an answer that is written in the language of the recipient.

Say thank you and mean it.

Many a relationship has been lost on bad emails.  Yes, we all have to breathe and remember people have bad days.  We also have to get over ourselves and stop thinking email is actually real, effective communications.  Treat it as business letters conveying a message or request.  Yes there is a difference.

Sincerely and respectfully


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The business reason for virtualization

The Infrastructure Framework and why the business should care.

This post will focus on the business reason for virtualization.  There are many technical reasons but these technical discussions only mire the bigger business needs.  Many firms and organizations grew their Information Technology departments out of other departments and/or specific projects.  Organizations that are funded by project typically have been forced to bind their Information Technology to the project office. These would become the seeds of the many silos we in the Information Technology industry have been forced to deal with.  But what does an organization do to address this unrelenting reality.  The first is to identify it exists and then adapt your future rollouts to support a different operational model.

The organization is entrusted to deliver the best programs and services they are capable of.  Information Communication Technology can be seen as either the cost center or the opportunity enabler.  This decision is left to the organizational leadership.

If the leadership chooses a “Cost Center” approach then there is little one can do to break free of the silos.  For the initial apparent high costs of Information Technology are never a true reflection of the value they can bring.   The best defense for this is asking your accounting group to stop using a spreadsheet for the cost of licensing is too high.  Paper and pencil is cheaper.  We would not ask this of a mature accounting group.  Yet, every day we are asking the same of our technology groups.  They are being asked to deliver more with less and no acknowledgement that Information Technology is a mature and valuable group.

If the leadership decides that Information Technology is in fact an opportunity enabler then the organization has to understand how that Information Technology group can bring the best value.

The leadership needs to follow the path of many successful organizations.   The first step is to clearly articulate the organizational goals and problems from a holistic approach and NOT just from a departmental (silo) approach.  This is the toughest step.  The leadership must elevate the Information Technology group to the decision table. This elevation is not to defer the decision to the Information Technology group but rather the contrary.  By bringing the Information Technology group to the table they become trusted advisors and can bring insight in your organizational solution definitions.  It can be that easy.

But how does Information Technology bring value to the organization from within their domain.  That is done by pragmatic deployment of solid networks that interconnect the departments heterogeneously.  Next they deploy a technology platform that is solid, stable, robust and flexible.  Once these underpinnings are in place the organization is now open to any and all open standards based applications.  These applications can be boxed, custom built or a combination of both.  The organization should be focused on solutions (why) and not the vendor (how). 

What do you do with all your legacy issues?  In the past this was the major stumbling block for breaking free.  The issue of obsolete hardware, fractured networks and lack of focus that is evident in the most organizations’ Information Technology Strategy needs analysis is not unique.  These challenges are being faced by many organizations.   The good news is that there is a way out of the issues without having to abandon those functions that are working.  The answer is in server virtualization and network consolidation.

The path for which you may want to consider is one of bringing all the networks to a solid and safe central place.   By leveraging equipment today that has capital costs but very little monthly maintenance costs and NO monthly operational costs the organization can grow as needed without having to find new sources of funding.  The second and most important piece is server consolidation.  Many organizations have been forced by vendor licensing and performance models to deploy many servers to achieve small incremental advances.  This strategy helped the vendors and only added to the complexity of support.  The two major players of server virtualization of VMware and XenCitrix have solved this problem.  The current conservative rate of server consolidation is 10 to 1.  That means 100 servers can consolidate into 10 physical boxes.

The advantages to Server consolidation are many but I will list a few.

  •          Reduced footprint
  •          Ease of management
  •          Exploit entire computing power (memory, CPU and disk)
  •          Hardware is now a commodity
  •          Can have as many logical servers as hardware will support.  This is supportive, especially, of Microsoft’s one server per role model.
  •          Backup and recovery is now simplified
  •          Ongoing hardware costs are dramatically reduced
  •          Ease of testing new versions of software
  •          Single place for all storage
  •          Takes less room
  •          Grow as needed
  •          Grow quickly
  •          Grow simply
  •          Allows for departmental independence without having to have physical independence
  •          Share costing model

·         Information Technology becomes a working service department.  Can charge out time and resources to other groups to be included in funding envelopes.

·         Considered “insourcing”.  The Information Technology group becomes the “go to” group and trusted advisor to all because they are spending their time and efforts delivering value and not fighting fires.

There are other factors as well but the basic approach is to consolidate and then leverage. This solid network with a server consolidation platform gives any organization the platform and foundation to implement any solution.  This is called the infrastructure framework.

The solution framework now becomes an exercise in connecting people with content and applications instead of the hardware and networking nightmare it has been known to be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Privacy and Security -- A primer

Privacy and Security
What an odd picture to describe privacy and security -- or is it?

The picture is of a person and that person is in protective garb.  Can you indentify the real name of the person, the  purpose and the location?  No?  This picture is in the public domain of the Internet and is freely accessible to all viewers.  Yet, I will prove it has protected the identity of the person even if the digital image is not secured.

What is Privacy?

Privacy is the protection of personal Identity.  It is that simple.  The owner of ALL personal data is the actual person themselves.  The rest of us are just custodians of that information.  It is not just an Information Technology problem or solution.  The information technology industry gets measured by a double standard in both privacy and security; however, all custodians have the same responsibilities and accountabilities.  The advent of the free flowing Internet has increased awareness and complexity but not the underpinnings of what privacy and security really is.

Privacy IS about;


Your family
Your community

It is about:

Your rights as an individual
Your rights as a community
Your obligations as a custodian of personal information

There are 10 principals to Privacy Policy and all must be adhered to safeguard the individual.  Most organizations would pass the acid test but great care must be done to ensure all elements are being addressed.

The 10 Principals are;


1.   Accountability -- An organization is responsible for personal information under its control and shall designate an individual or individuals who are accountable for the organization's compliance with the following principles.

2.   Defined Purposes -- The purposes for which personal information is collected shall be identified by the organization at or before the time the information is collected.

3.   Consent -- The knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate.

4.   Limiting Collection -- The collection of personal information shall be limited to that which is necessary for the purposes identified by the organization. Information shall be collected by fair and lawful means.

5.   Limiting Use, Disclosure, Retention -- Personal information shall not be used or disclosed for purposes other than those for which it was collected, except with the consent of the individual or as required by law. Personal information shall be retained only as long as necessary for the fulfillment of those purposes.

6.   Accuracy -- Personal information shall be as accurate, complete, and up-to-date as is necessary for the purposes for which it is to be used.

7.   Safeguards -- Personal information shall be protected by security safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.

8.       Openness -- An organization shall make readily available to individuals specific information about its policies and practices relating to the management of personal information.

9.  Individual Access -- Upon request, an individual shall be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure of his or her personal information and shall be given access to that information. An individual shall be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.

10.Challenging Compliance -- An individual shall be able to address a challenge concerning compliance with the above principles to the designated individual or individuals accountable for the organization's compliance.

What is Security?

Security is the actual protection of the personal information itself.  Modern technologies today have more than surpassed the security tests.  From Networks, encryptions, and security architecture the ability to secure is there and people should take comfort in this. 

So why are we seeing so many security violations.  Well in fact we are not seeing security violations we are see privacy violations.  When we hear of credit card information being obtained from recycled computers we are in fact witnessing a violation of principal number 7 which is Safeguards.  The custodians of the personal information did not take safeguards to ensure continued security. 

There is, today, a technology to solve any and all security issue.  Yes the hackers and crackers (there is a difference) can break the codes and that is why security is fluid and ever evolving.  Security is a never ending challenge and everyone must be diligent.  When it comes to protecting identity all of us should be alert and conscientious.  When I speak of Security I always refer to two realisms.  The first is, “locks keep honest people out”.  This refers to preventing, truly, the accidental breach.  The second truism is “people do not break into Fort Knox to steal corn flakes”.  This last one refers to the level of security you have should be equal to and/or  greater to what you are protecting.  Privacy is the top of the food chain on this one. 

In conclusion

Privacy protects identity and security protects the private information. They must work hand to hand to truly be effective.  Referring back to the picture above, yes I am the person in the picture.  But what is my name for it is not Buchi.  The armour I wear protects my person against my assailant’s harm.  Where was the photo taken and why was it taken is the mystery? 

Privacy and Security should not be complex, for if it is, then the human element will likely breach it by writing down the password or leaving the keys to the camp under the carpet.



Wednesday, April 8, 2009


New company logo

Just posted it to brag.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

From Data to Wisdom

The evolution of data

The following graphic is used to demonstrate the evolution of data at a holistic level.

In my storied and eventful career I have been both the savior and the victim of Business Intelligence. The battle has raged for years and the real victims are the customers who are trying to figure it out. Over time and after many scotch on the rocks I started to piece the pieces together.

To truly explain, I have to go back to the beginning.

Data Level

Is the simplest to explain, it is the raw 1's and 0's or the smallest information store. This could be someone's first name, location, city, postal code. An individual information component. For those spread sheet users, picture this as a single cell.

Management Level

You may know this layer as Content Management, Information Management or Document Management. They all mean the same at this data maturity level. When you take the raw data and start to draw relationships then it becomes information. For example: the city name is related to the city description file. The invoice detail is related to the invoice header by the same common invoice number. The content is related to a press release, the documents are related to a case file. Once you establish the relationships then information emerges.

Knowledge Level

You may know this layer as Knowledge Management. I was originally stumped on this term until I dug deeper. What I found was this. Once you take your information and start to see patterns emerging then you have knowledge. Patterns become key. When you can take different sources of information and established predictable patterns then the user has knowledge at their finger tips. Knowledge is power. You start to really work the results when solid proven patterns emerge predictably. When unpredictable patterns emerge you have data mining and that is even cooler information, but I digress.

Wisdom Level

This is the final layer and it is based on applying principals against the patterns. Like in life, this becomes the challenge. There a many people in life with the all the knowledge but do not practice a principled life and by definition are not very wise. Like most things in the Information Technology arena we are standing on the shoulders of giants. It takes time and experience to apply principals to knowledge.

In Conclusion

Data becomes information after relationships can be built and maintained. This information comes in the form of document management, content management and information management. Once this has been established, patterns emerge. Once this is done successfully, Knowledge Management is the outcome. Lots of work is being done in this regard.

The outer level, bring together all this information in clear patterns and applies principals. These principals are in effect wisdom. This is the newest area of work in data evolution. An example of this principled approach to data is this example. “A car has a flat tire and it will not start”. Data, information and knowledge tell us to repair the flat tire, however wisdom tells us to get the car started first. Without the car starting the tire conditions have no bearing on movement. I find both in society and technology we spend too much energy on the flat tire.

The more connected and the deeper our understanding the easier it is for us to reach the wisdom level.