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Monday, February 22, 2010

Finally a rationale discussion of Cloud Computing

Through attending a webinar hosted by Safari Books Online from author, David Linthicum, titled “Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise,” we find that most of the Cloud Computing discussions take on the overtones of the Mac vs PC debate. Those who are in favor of Cloud Computing and Software as a Service view it as the answer to all problems and anyone who disagrees with them is a luddite or worse. Those who are against Cloud Computing point to any failure as a reason why the whole movement is flawed. As consultants who advise clients on the topic, we have been searching for a more rational discussion of the pros and cons.

David Linthicum presented several valuable slides in the webinar. The first slide that was useful listed seven criteria to be used to determine when Cloud Computing is a fit. Those criteria were:
  • When process, applications and data are largely independent
  • When points of integration are well defined
  • When a lower level of security is fine
  • When the core internal architecture is healthy
  • When the web is the desired platform
  • When cost is an issue
  • When the applications are new

The next slide listed the criteria for determining when Cloud Computing isn’t a fit. Those criteria were:

  • When process, applications and data are interdependent
  • When points of integration are poorly defined
  • When a high level of security is needed
  • When the core internal architecture needs work
  • When the application requires a native interface
  • When cost is an issue
  • When the applications is legacy

David also provided a 17 step process for implementing a cloud computing initiative.

We have found this to be one of the few objective and balanced assessments of Cloud Computing and recommend that you read his blogs and book. His book is available on Amazon and he has a blog at

Friday, February 12, 2010

SIFTing Through Your Technology Choices

There are many factors that must be taken into consideration when buying new technology. It's important to have a checklist or framework to use in order to be confident that you are making the "best" decision. The SIFT framework can be used for purchasing technology and helping you to organize all of the factors so that alternative choices can be compared. Suitablity, Investment, Functional Fit, and Technology are all critical factors in determining the best solution. To read more CLICK HERE to download article.

Other tools to help you in your software selection are the 20th annual Distribution Software Guide and 4th annual Manufacturing Software Guide.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Documenting Your Current Process is a Waste of Time and Money

Documenting your current processes can be a waste of time and money.

When we are preparing the project plan for conducting a selection project, one topic that is always discussed is whether the client needs to document the existing processes before starting the selection engagement. We believe that the answer to this question is “NO”. Let me explain why:

Our research indicates that clients who engage us to assist them with a software selection have know for at least two, and more likely three years, that they need to replace their software. The decision to replace software requires a significant amount of time and money.

During this period of dissatisfaction, various workarounds are added to address the weaknesses of the system. This includes external applications that are bolted on or developed in-house, applications that are purchased and not integrated, workarounds developed using Excel spreadsheets and more. In other systems we see comment field crammed with actionable information since this is the only place that users have for storing this important information. Unfortunately, if users have not read these instructions or follow the instructions errors will occur in handling orders. To prevent this from occurring more ad-hoc systems or procedures are implemented.

Investing significant time and money in documenting and flowcharting doesn’t result in a better set of requirements. At the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group, we have developed process outlines that reflect the standard process flows that the most new ERP packages will follow. We use these outlines to conduct interviews with groups of users to aid us in developing the requirements for a new ERP package. Typically users like to tell us what their software doesn’t do and how hard it is for them to get the right job done on time. These process indexes help us to keep the focus on the process and not the flaws of the current system.

Having a flowchart of the existing system only helps us to understand how dysfunctional the existing system is. It doesn’t help create the vision of the future state of the business. This doesn’t occur until they see demonstrations of new systems and the capabilities that are available to them. Only then can they start to understand the value of the new processes incorporated into the new software.

So if you know your current system needs to be replaced, start by documenting the requirements to achieve the future vision and do not document the past that you want to replace.

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