The Big Data Deception
February 10, 2013
You can’t go to a conference, read a blog (ahem) or open a tech mag without someone talking about Big Data these days. Now I’m as excited the next person whenever new techniques, approaches, tools, frameworks, whatever come along, but equally, given our industry’s penchant for hype, it’s important to keep one eye out for denuded emperors keen to show off their new wardrobe or vendors with sales targets to hit. About three seconds after it was announced that Barack Obama had won the US election ...
The Estimation Game
April 05, 2009
In trying to put down some words on project estimation I’ve had to come to terms with an internal contradiction which I guess goes all the way back to the origins of software engineering. Logic tells me that because the ultimate goal of a software project is a series of machine instructions that perform some useful task, and because at the lowest level these are almost wholly predictable in their nature (strange microcode bugs notwithstanding, although these are far more rare than they used to be ...
Was that Tactegic or Stractical?
March 08, 2009
You’ve been assigned to a project. The requirements are well understood and they make sense. The team is capable and the project manager reasonable. The one thing you don’t have, because we never do, is time. This is a project with a David Beckham date. The David Beckham date is a term I use for an immoveable launch target. I once worked on a project where David Beckham had been booked to do the release publicity. That pretty much fixes when you need to be done. Firstly, he isn’t going to be abl ...
Planning the Plan
January 25, 2009
Wherever you are in the world and whatever business you are in, 2009 is going to be a tougher year than usual. If you aren’t at the pointy end of the economic downturn then your customers will be. For a lot of IT departments that’s going to mean less to spend. For the lucky ones without budget cuts there’s going to be a higher expectation of return on that spend. As it’s January, and the start of a new year, I thought an article on planning what to do with those budgets might be both useful and ...
Brewer's CAP Theorem
January 11, 2009
On Friday 4th June 1976, in a small upstairs room away from the main concert auditorium, the Sex Pistols kicked off their first gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall. There’s some confusion as to who exactly was there in the audience that night, partly because there was another concert just six weeks later, but mostly because it’s considered to be a gig that changed western music culture forever. So iconic and important has that appearance become that David Nolan wrote a book, I Swear I Was ...
The Event-Driven Architecture
December 07, 2008
Michelangelo famously said that he didn’t just take a piece of stone and sculpt it into the shape he wanted, but rather he believed that every hunk of rock already has a sculpture inside and the job of the sculptor is simply to remove all the pieces that aren’t it. He added that the way to distinguish between that which should go and that which should stay is to “obey intellect” and understand that even the greatest of artists cannot conceive of anything more beautiful than that which already exi ...
October 28, 2008
In Anger Management and the Enterprise Design Debt I took Ward Cunningham’s excellent Technical Debt Metaphor and applied it to the enterprise. I proposed that all those little bits of debt from each project get wrapped up and become a kind of currency to aid communications with the business. The notion of Enterprise Debt is important for two reasons: It is very real. Just because most businesses ignore it doesn’t make it go away. Like real debt, it gathers interest and hampers business ...
February 12, 2008
A few years ago I did a long freelance stint for one of the big oil majors. In the last week of my tenure there I found myself sat in a presentation on their new IT strategy. Interesting stuff, perhaps, but with my exit only days away, I confess I wasn’t paying all that much attention. The presenter was making the point that the following year would be all about getting the foundations right for business growth, and to make sure this initiative got the appropriate attention from the executive sp ...
January 03, 2008
Imagine you are a team manager for NASA and you’ve been given the job of hiring a group of people to build a space ship that can take humans to Mars. You’re going to need aeronautical engineers, physicists, material scientists, software experts and all manner of extraordinarily clever people. People who know stuff about stuff you probably could never understand. Even after extensive filtering your waiting room is packed full of candidates (after all this is a name-in-the-history-books glamorous p ...
Reality Street ain't got no Vision
November 29, 2007
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece rather grandiosely called The Death of Architecture, insisting that, because the future can be thought of as something of an illusion, a determined focus on immediate results will get you further in your technology life than putting great efforts into what we lovingly call strategy, especially architecture strategy. Today I want to put that focus into perspective by elaborating on how the illusory qualities of time and strategy can make the immediate more productiv ...
The Death of Architecture
November 16, 2007
If you looked for places on the earth to experience unusual clarity of thought I don’t suppose the island of Aruba would make it to your shortlist. I recently got back from a trip there to watch my brother-in-law get married, but if you’re not from the North or South Americas then you probably haven’t even heard of it (it being a very long multi-hop flight from everywhere else). I certainly hadn’t and had to fly there from London via Miami. Fourteen hours in the air, plus six or so hours hanging ...
A Loose Coupling Strategy
October 18, 2007
When tactical or political pressures mean you can’t rewrite or restructure your applications in line with a best-practice architecture, or apply strategic measures with much effectiveness, then you don’t have many options to make an architecture function meaningful. One approach that I have employed with some success is to apply a refactoring strategy to legacy applications with the aim of creating a situation that supports the ‘right’ kind of change later. The majority of refactoring affects th ...
The Business Alignment Fallacy
September 19, 2007
I did a Google search for the phrase “business aligned” recently and got more than 54,000 page matches. I thought the figure would be much higher; there’s hardly a presentation or initiative these days that doesn’t mention it in somewhere. The theme of Business Alignment is a constantly recurring one, designed to keep you on your toes in case you were thinking that IT was all about.. well.. IT. But what is Business Alignment? Is it possible? What would it look like? As you may have guessed from ...
Kill Your Children
August 14, 2007
A classic sign of inexperience in creative endeavour (or perhaps any undertaking) is the inability to ‘let go’ of your best ideas. Rookies, will come up with a concept, lovingly craft their baby, and refuse to be budged even as the world around them changes. Despite market forces, advice from experts, they continue to add ever more baroque extensions to their now irrelevant core, never questioning whether their foundations are still appropriate. What often results is largely unintelligible and di ...