Tag Archives: software

Interesting stuff from January 7th through February 18th

The periodic round up:

  • IT as Manufacturing – Commoditisation, modularisation and small bets … this is a long way from “IT as we know it”, but right where it should be (even if it DOES upset a few large vendors :) )
  • How is social business like urban traffic? – Stowe Boyd again exploring the benefits of subordinating personal productivity to network productivity, drawing parallels with research into traffic management that indicates that forcing drivers to think more selflessly (and not seek the most personally efficient outcomes) actually improves traffic flow. So too, at work we may be collectively better-performed if we think less of our personal productivity and more of our network’s.
  • Alain de Botton’s 10 Commandments – for Atheists – Is religion required for morality? Atheists would contend not, and de Botton’s list is a good start for developing /nurturing our morality independent of a belief in gods … “We are holding on to an unhelpfully sophisticated view of ourselves if we think we are above hearing well-placed, blunt and simply structured reminders about goodness. There is greater wisdom in accepting that we are in most situations clunking and rather simple machines, with only a few moving parts and in want of much the same firm, basic guidance as is naturally offered to children and domestic animals. ”
  • America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead – An interesting, and somewhat disturbing look at what lead has done to society, and still is. It’s probably not the whole story, but the statistics suggest it’s a large part of it … and there’s still plenty of petrol-related lead in our soil, and still plenty of old places with lead paint.
  • Why IT Should Be on the CEO’s Agenda – Is enterprise architecture’s time about to arrive? Now economic observers are beginning to notice that just thinking seriously about IT isn’t enough – there has to be a bridge between the CEO and IT’s strategic potential. Enter the enterprise architect. As this article says: “Enterprise architecture can be understood as a change and transformation framework to provide open and flexible business architecture for change management under conditions of high uncertainty.”


Follow up on Progress Software

As he promised, @neilwd sought some clarification from Progress Software Corporation (PSC) around their decision to divest most of their middleware products, and posted the subsequent update to his original post. Some of the key points (remembering that this is now third-hand):

Firstly, Bates and Smith were very clear in saying that the company needs to find a space where it can be truly different for a profitable market segment, and use this to drive growth. It’s focusing on what it calls “Application Platform as a Service” (aPaaS) and at this point, its intention is to get to be the “number 1 provider of application development and deployment platforms in the Cloud”.

My PoV: it’s a worthy goal, in an interesting (exciting, even) marketplace. There’s certainly some upside here if PSC can execute (see below for more on that).

The current enterprise IT middleware business (combining the business from Savvion, Actional, Sonic, et al) just isn’t providing enough of a growth engine for shareholders;

My PoV: I’m cherry-picking a little here, but this to me seems a key point – PSC is emphasising a shareholder view over any concerns its customers may have, which strikes me as (to use the Australian vernacular) “arse-about” if you’re interested in a long-term future (i.e. anything longer than 3 – 6 months).

and the company’s leadership also feels that Progress has struggled to focus sufficiently as it’s been fighting on a large number of fronts.

My PoV: this could be a fair point – the current PSC product portfolio is fairly broad after a decade or so of acquisitions, and may require some pruning. 

My take is that if Progress can execute on the plan it shared with me, then it could do something really interesting – particularly for small and medium sized application vendors. But I also think it’s got a hell of a task ahead of it to get all these additional products – all of which are built for on-premise installation – and re-engineer them sensibly for PaaS. What’s more, because things are moving so fast in the PaaS world, I think its window of opportunity might prove very tight to squeeze through.

My PoV: Aha! the execution problem rears its ugly head – this was my initial reaction … the new products don’t actually exist yet, or at least not in the required form for this strategy – how long will it take to get to market in any sensible shape? This makes the whole announcement sound like a premature exclamation; both the new product development AND the divestment strategy should have been further progressed before making it.

Secondly, although Progress plans to divest the product businesses as laid out above to help it focus much more clearly, it’s currently looking at ways it can continue to make use of some of the Savvion technology in combination with OpenEdge – so it can continue to offer what it currently calls OpenEdge BPM (particularly of interest to its ISV partners).

My PoV: Oh oh … now we’re getting mixed messages, and muddied waters. Do they want to divest the middleware kit, or not? How would any cross-licensing/partial carve-out of functionality work, and how much does that affect the value of the middleware assets?

the company is prepared to go on record to say “While [the] intent is to divest the Savvion (BPM) and Sonic (ESB) products, [Progress is] committed to supporting features that are essential for building and deploying agile, next generation applications.”. This is something that anyone interested in the future of OpenEdge needs to watch carefully.

My PoV: more mixed messages – at this stage I would guess that any potential purchaser of the middleware products is getting confused, and possibly walking away.

Third, Progress is going to try to find buyers for its divested product lines as soon as possible; it understands that while there’s uncertainty in the market about what will happen next, those businesses could very easily freeze. Its business plan does assume some short term revenue decline as part of this strategy shift, but my view is that nevertheless Progress needs to work very quickly and diligently from here on

My PoV: agree completely; in fact I’d go further and suggest that these product lines may already be dead in the water, or at least drastically written down by the marketplace. I hope I’m wrong, for any number of reasons, but … Neil’s

advice to any nervous customers using the to-be-divested products is to keep a very close eye on where those products go. Your strategy could be affected if a key technology you rely on ends up being owned by an outfit primarily concerned with milking maintenance revenues.

… or someone with a competing product, in which case they could disappear without a trace.

Again, while I appreciate that PSC has some disclosure obligations around share price-sensitive information, this seems half-baked. This additional information does nothing to alleviate my original concerns, and adds some ambiguity around PSC’s continued use of some of the middleware in its new direction. I also see no compelling argument for the divestment other than PSC’s lack of confidence in its own ability to execute on the PaaS play while hanging on to its existing portfolio, and I see a very unsettling effect on customers at a point when they really need to keep customer belief high.

In short – I like the new direction; but don’t think product divestment is necessary to accomplish it. I DO think the divestment, and the way it is being handled, damages customer relationships (damage that will linger) in favour of shareholders (who will have forgotten all about it in a month’s time).



Interesting stuff from February 19th through February 23rd

The periodic round up:

  • What Makes The Most Creative Teams? – Somewhere between “complete strangers” and “have worked closely together for years” is a sweet spot for collaborative innovation; where the overhead of building relationships is done, and the team hasn't settled into groupthink yet.
  • Why Love Matters More (And Less) Than You Think – Written around Valentine's Day, this is neither romantic or un-businesslike, but a continuation of Umair's ideas about living a better life, and creating a better economy as we do.
  • Google Transit: A Search Giant Remaps Public Transportation – One of Google's un-heralded map applications may be one of its most useful, and becomes more so as more data is made open by transport operators and municipalities. Never used it? Maybe you're driving too much :)
  • Privacy in the Age of Big Data – A balanced discussion on the privacy cost: public benefit trade-offs we make (wittingly or not) with the increase in data collected and aggregated. The data domain under discussion is one (health care) where both privacy concerns and public benefit are magnified … some interesting points made about personal control over data, too.
  • Now Every Company Is A Software Company – and the reason is the explosion of data: “Big data can get us to business at the speed of thought … But the reality is that most companies do business at the speed of the weekly meeting.”
    Companies in all industries are finding that software and the data it manages are becoming core to their business, rather than a back-office prop.
  • Social Business – or whatever happened to Enterprise 2.0? – Possibly the most balanced, nuanced, and comprehensive look at the structure of Enterprise2.0/Social Business I've seen in quite a while. Key point – it won't work too well if you haven't got Enterprise 0 and 1 working as well.

Interesting stuff from December 19th through January 23rd

The periodic round up:

  • Knock, knock, it’s the future (Building 59) – What’s behind SOPA/PIPA is a small group of large businesses whose business model is disappearing. Like Kodak, they are trying to ignore the future. Like Kodak, they may find that it is an exercise in futility and the road to failure …
  • A New Style of Work – This is not only pretty much how I work these days, it’s also the future for more and more of us. As conventional “careers” disappear into organisational restructures, those who can will trend towards the “distributed” working style. When you get there, give me a call – there’s a few of you I’d be happy to work with again :)
  • How Pursuit of Profits Kills Innovation and the U.S. Economy – … or any other economy for that matter. So outsourcing makes you profitable – what happens when somebody else does everything for your business? What reason do you have for it existing? This is one of the insidious results of a fascination with economic profit to the exclusion of other types of value, and also of only using percentage-type measures. Making your customers’ lives better will keep you in business longer and better than just chasing internally-focussed profit measure.
  • The Rise of Developeronomics – Know any good software developers? Invest in them. Whether you realise it or not, your company is a software company, regardless of what you are making as a product. And those tame developers you have?: “In most non-software companies, developers have so far accepted a sort of second-class-citizen status despite their increasing scarcity and increasingly critical roles. That is about to change.” Developers – the new kingmakers …
  • The City Solution – How to handle a rising population? Urbanise … National Geographic on the benefits of big cities
  • Don’t Break the Internet – Stanford Law Review – A reasoned view of the dangers inherent in SOPA and PROTECT-IP which also points out the irony of the USA taking censorship on the internet further than the repressive regimes it has criticised in the past


Interesting stuff from April 18th through April 21st

The weekly round up:

  • It is getting ridiculous – The story of an Australian PM and Treasurer giving themselves whiplash holding to both sides of an argument that is based on a folly in the first place. "We need to cut Government spending because the economy is at full capacity, and more would be inflationary" AND "We need to cut Government spending because the economy is weakening and tax revenues are down" … I'm getting dizzy. Unfortunately the Opposition is just as clueless, so there is no sensible political debate
  • How Can We Measure Currencies like Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility? – Explores the availability (and desirability) of alternative metrics (currency) for non-financial outcomes like environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Some interesting projects/tools mentioned here, including the UN's Earth Dashboard project (http://earthdash.org/ – would like to see this get to the web)
  • Norms, Values, Working Agreements, Simple Rules – Groups can be created by others, but this post affirms that group will only become a team if they develop so themselves – you can' "make" a team with a set of rules, or by bringing people together. A team forms when the group accepts objectives, establishes its own norms and ground rules, and forms itself around them.
  • Oracle licensing: just say no – If you're using Oracle products, you may be interested in reading this advice on licensing and keeping it close at hand next time you speak with your account manager. Oracle's maintenance fees run at about 95% profit, and often represent "empty calories" for the customer …
  • Why Social Really, Really Matters – A slightly different perspective on why "social" matters in business. Working from the perspective that initiative, creativity and passion are by necessity voluntary, unleashing the potential of the people within the organisation means allowing self-determination and empowerment for employees, rather than subjecting them to the "organisation of misery".