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September 28 2012

Four short links: 28 September 2012

  1. Mobile Content StrategyMobile is a catalyst that can help you make your content tighter without loss of clarity or information. If you make your content work well on mobile, it will work everywhere. Excellent presentation, one I want to thump on every decision-maker’s desk and say “THIS!”.
  2. Math at Google (PDF) — presentation showing the different types of math used to build Google. Good as overview, and as way to motivate highschool and college kids to do their math homework. “See, it really is useful! Really!” (via Ben Lorica)
  3. Tizen 2.0 Alpha Released — Tizen is the Linux Foundation’s mobile Linux kernel, device drivers, middleware subsystems, and Web APIs. (via The Linux Foundation)
  4. Explaining WebMaker Crisply (Mark Surman) — if you’ve wondered wtf Mozilla is up to, this is excellent. Mozilla has big priorities right now: the web on the desktop; the web on mobile; and web literacy.

April 07 2011

Four short links: 7 April 2011

  1. The Freight Train That is Android -- Google’s aim is defensive not offensive. They are not trying to make a profit on Android or Chrome. They want to take any layer that lives between themselves and the consumer and make it free (or even less than free). [...] In essence, they are not just building a moat; Google is also scorching the earth for 250 miles around the outside of the castle to ensure no one can approach it. (via Fred Wilson)
  2. Group Think (New York Magazine) -- Big Idea tomes typically pull promiscuously from behavioral economics, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology. They coin phrases the way Zimbabwe prints bills. They relish upending conventional wisdom: Not thinking becomes thinking, everything bad turns out to be good, and the world is—go figure—flat. (With Gladwell’s Blink, this mania for the counterintuitive runs top-speed into a wall, crumples to the ground, and stares dizzily at the little birds circling overhead. This is, let me remind you, a best-selling book about the counterintuitive importance of thinking intuitively.) A piercing take on pop science/fad management books.
  3. Product Design at GitHub -- Every employee at GitHub is a product designer. We only hire smart people we trust to make our product better. We don’t have managers dictating what to work on. We don’t require executive signoff to ship features. Executives, system administrators, developers, and designers concieve, ship, and remove features alike. (via Simon Willison)
  4. Linus on Android Headers Claims -- "seems totally bogus". I blogged the Android headers claim earlier, have been meaning to run this rather definitive "ignore it, it was noise" note. Apologies for showing you crap that was wrong: that's why I try not to show weather-report "news", but to find projects that illustrate trends.

February 23 2011

Interim report card on O'Reilly's IT transformation

report cardLast year O'Reilly Media committed to a new journey: An IT strategy was adopted with the intent to transform the way technology was delivered to support the goals of the business. It was equal parts ambitious and essential.

We're more than six months into the execution of that strategy and it's clear there is still significant work to do be done to realize the benefits. Some things have gone really well and some areas continue to challenge us. In this blog I'll share and grade our progress to date.

While continuing to have success in the marketplace, O'Reilly Media recognized that supporting the future needs of the organization would require a rethinking of how IT was delivered. Motivated by the same growth factors as many businesses, O'Reilly Media required more innovative solutions, delivered with greater speed, and at the right cost.

Working closely with leaders and other key stakeholders across the O'Reilly Media businesses resulted in an IT strategy that was agreed upon in the fall of 2010. The strategy was based on four major pillars:

  1. Governance
  2. Architecture
  3. Strategic sourcing
  4. Hybrid cloud

I discussed the four pillars in a previous post.

Here's how we've done in each of these four areas:

1. Governance

There's one indubitable truth to all IT organizations: demand for services always exceeds supply. Try as you might, it's an appetite that can't be met. One of the core goals of IT governance is to ensure — with so many competing demands — that the right things are being prioritized and addressed. Responding to the person who screams loudest is not an IT governance strategy.

In reality, governing priorities require a process that is well understood and supported across all teams. It's also considered a burden, albeit an essential burden I would argue, and can meet with considerable resistance. I wrote about the difficulty in implementing IT governance here.

At O'Reilly Media I am really proud of our progress with IT governance. I do recognize that some of the progress is back-office and not immediately apparent to our end-users. I'm confident that will come in time. All the essential components of IT governance are in place and it is fully operational. The process begins at ideation and runs across decision-making right through to implementation. Today we have a fully agreed upon IT roadmap of projects that stretches to 12 months and soon we will have a view of the next 18 months. It's a process that has enabled us to move forward with essential projects such as business intelligence and author tools. Bravo!

The grade for this area reflects the fact that the full process is only recently functional and it is still not in a state where most people who interact with IT can see the full value. What we have to do is refine the process, make it much more agile and lightweight where it makes sense, and demonstrate results that clearly show it is the right way to align technology with business goals.

Grade: B-

2. Architecture

O'Reilly Media, like most businesses, runs a collection of complex systems that support its operations. And like most businesses those systems have evolved over time as needs dictated. Unfortunately, unless there had been a grand master plan back at the beginning, things work because of brute-force efforts at integration; not because of a well thought-out multi-year architectural plan. That's no criticism of our business. It's just the way things have happened for most organizations.

An enterprise architecture approach aims to reverse this trend and take the long view. It means ensuring that IT is designed and aligned to support the goals and strategies of the business. To do this, the structure and processes of the business must be well understood and documented.

In O'Reilly IT, our first step was to create a new position to lead our architecture strategy. The solutions architect role was filled and that person is now beginning to describe the next steps and create milestones in the difficult but highly rewarding journey ahead of us.

There is much to be done, such as creating an architectural review board to govern standards and make critical design decisions; to fully enumerate an IT service catalog; and to integrate an architectural mindset into solutions development.

I'm going to assign this a lower grade. It's not a reflection of the challenge and our success to date. It's merely an appreciation of the level of effort ahead of us.

Grade: C

3. Strategic Sourcing

While acknowledging the concerns people have over strategic sourcing, it's an area of our strategy that everyone easily understands. Strategic sourcing is about identifying and applying talent from wherever there is a viable source, at the right cost and at the right time. Done correctly, it should also result in internal staff working on higher value work.

Strategic sourcing is also a way to convert IT from an organization that when capacity gets tight, must resort to saying "no." If you want IT to be an enabler, it can't also be a roadblock. Strategic sourcing turns the situation from a "no capacity" problem into a discussion about investment. If it's really important, capacity can be purchased. (I'll discuss this specific subject in more detail in a future post.)

I've said it many times; strategic sourcing is not an equivalency of outsourcing. Strategic sourcing might mean using existing staff, and even skills that are available in other parts of the business.

In this area we've made good progress. We've completed a full project using a combination of existing internal employees and a newly identified off-shore company. We've also hired several US-based contractors using new talent placement vendors. Our existing team has found our strategic sourcing efforts to be complementary to our efforts and indeed our internal work is being elevated to higher-level value.

Strategic sourcing is now part of our project on-boarding process. Some process remains to be completed. But we're aggressively moving forward as the business gets more confident in our ability to supply capacity, and as we see an improving economy that is showing signs of a tightening supply of full-time talent.

Grade: B

4. Hybrid Cloud

O'Reilly owns several data centers in addition to utilizing a colocation facility. It's an organization that has historically allocated a physical server for each application. Maintaining and supporting this infrastructure is costly, high effort, and a distraction from the higher value work that we could be doing.

That said, a private cloud strategy that predates the existing strategy had been in place for some time, and some applications had moved into an internal virtualized infrastructure.

Our hybrid cloud strategy proposes to quickly identify application candidates to move into the public cloud or replace with software-as-a-service equivalents, and as appropriate, move the remaining applications to our private cloud.

On paper, hybrid cloud for us seems obvious and straightforward. O'Reilly Media has the risk posture and ambition for such a strategic move. However, it's clear now that we've faced unanticipated obstacles.

The key issue is that the resources you need to do the heavy lifting are often the same resources that need to maintain and support the existing infrastructure. It's a classic chicken and egg paradox. You can't make progress on reducing the overhead of the legacy infrastructure when you're consumed with maintaining that infrastructure. In addition, we wanted to hire a person to lead our cloud strategy and soon learned that such talent is scarce at best.

So what have we done? We identified a person on the existing team to lead our cloud efforts (although we have to wait until he finishes a high-priority infrastructure project) and we've had to queue up some critical maintenance projects in advance of our cloud migration work. We are also in the process of identifying external partners to help us implement our cloud solutions.

On balance this means we haven't made the progress we've wanted. We're deeply committed to this strategy and are now optimistic we'll make significant progress soon. You can read more of my views on cloud computing here.

Grade: C-

Overall, I've been generally pleased with our progress. A lot of work remains and it will be some time before staff across our businesses experience the benefits of this strategy.

We're still in the deep fog of change. We're experiencing a combination of talent changes (new people joining us and some legacy staff exiting), expected process growing pains, and some strategy implementation bumps.

Change is tough and can be frustrating for both end-users and IT staff.

In my view, implementing our IT strategy is like changing the wings of an aircraft in-flight. We're making considerable change but at the same time we can't disrupt the services and projects that are already underway. To this end, I am deeply grateful to the O'Reilly IT team as we haven't skipped a beat. We continue to deliver a considerable volume of value to the business while fundamentally changing the very nature of how we deliver that work.

In addition, it's also important that we've continued to get support for the changes across the business. Those that see the changes are very pleased and others remain patient.

If you're going to succeed with your IT transformation, you've got to keep the business on your side.

Being CIO can be a tough gig. But seeing positive change and how, when done right, technology can empower people and teams to do amazing things, is exhilarating and reminds us of why we do this work.

Photo: Report Card by Mark Gstohl, on Flickr


December 27 2010

Four short links: 27 December 2010

  1. emscripten -- LLVM to Javascript compiler. Any code that compiles to LLVM can run in the browser (Python, Lua, C++). LLVM is open source virtual machine that Apple bought into (literally, they hired the developer).
  2. 30 Lessons Learned in Computing Over The Last 10 Years -- Backup every day at the minimum, and test restores every week. I don't think I've worked at an organisation that didn't discover at one point that they couldn't restore from their backups. Many other words of wisdom, and this one rang particularly true: all code turns into shit given enough time and hands. (via Hacker News)
  3. What Your Computer Does While You Wait -- top-to-bottom understanding of your system makes you a better programmer.
  4. How to Visualize the Competition -- elegant graphing of strategy. (via Dave Moskovitz on Twitter)

November 23 2010

The four pillars of O'Reilly's IT strategy

This week I delivered the detailed framework for a 3-year IT strategy for O'Reilly Media, Inc. The strategy is the culmination of several months' work to fully understand the current state of the business and the vision for its future. Together with the goals for growth, the strategy focuses on many of today's common IT requirement, such as: delivering more for less; increased agility; greater access to decision-enabling data; and improving customer service. It also directly addresses stress points in the existing technology environment and forms the basis for the IT organizational design required to support future business goals.

As I wrote about in a previous blog, it was essential that the context of this strategy consider O'Reilly's culture of innovation while introducing the right level of predictability. Too much of either unmanaged innovation or codified predictability could limit our ability to grow and, in my view, be a recipe for IT failure.

While there is considerable depth and breadth to the strategy, I will share the simplified, four core concepts on which it is formed. Each is essential to move us forward. I'm not giving away any secrets here, as these are all fundamental concepts. But, it does achieve my objectives of being highly transparent in our thinking and for providing ideas to others.

The four pillars of our IT strategy are:

1. Governance

IT governance is all about making smart choices in allocating scarce technology resources and being accountable for the resulting performance of those decisions. These choices include those that consider cost, risk, and strategic alignment. While governance almost always exists in some form -- i.e. without it being explicit, somehow decisions get made -- maturity and predictability of process will really only be achieved by clearly understood and agreed upon governance processes. We'll focus on the right quotient of governance, lest it stifle and suffocate the things we do really well.

2. Architecture

As systems become increasingly interdependent and a small change in one application can have significant downstream impacts, it's no longer possible to take a narrow, single-system view of solution development. New requests must be handled with an end-to-end process mindset. Introducing new capability will now require an architectural perspective that considers qualities such as reuse, standards, sustainability, and data use. Over the medium- to long-term, smart architecture can lead to higher-quality solutions and reduced overall costs.

3. Strategic sourcing

Contrary to popular belief, strategic sourcing does not automatically equate to either staff reductions or outsourcing. Sure, unfortunately for many organizations this is the way it has manifested, but for many others it is about creating flexibility in identifying and temporarily acquiring talent from wherever it can be provided when it is needed. That talent may be internal, for example: Is there someone outside the IT department but within the business who can help with a project on a temporary basis? But it could also mean quickly finding a scarce development resource in Argentina. We'll use strategic sourcing as a supplemental talent management approach to developing and supporting technology solutions.

4. Hybrid cloud

Historically, many organizations, including O'Reilly Media, built and hosted their own IT solutions. There's often good reason to do this, particularly those systems that use proprietary innovation and are essential for market differentiation. Outside of this category, IT has become increasingly commoditized -- i.e. basic services offer no competitive advantage but are essential to core business functions (think of email or file storage as examples). Utilizing more commodity-based IT products and services enables the IT organization to elevate its value proposition: to work on the most complex business problems and be a true enabler of business growth. At O'Reilly Media we'll continue to build out our internal cloud infrastructure and pursue more external cloud capability and software-as-a-service solutions.

We're under no illusion that making significant progress in all four of these areas will be easy. There's a level of change management that will challenge us in new ways. But we'll gauge the pace as we progress and make corrections as necessary. To me, inherent to our strategy is the capacity for flexibility. It's not possible to get everything right, but it is essential to quickly correct when things go wrong.

I'll continue to report on our progress and I welcome your feedback.


April 10 2010

GRITtv 20100402 » Blog Archive » Creative Movements for Change in Palestine (~13 min)

by admin - This week was the 34th anniversary of Palestinian Land Day, and also a day for awareness of the growing boycott, divestment, sanctions movement. Land Day commemorates the deaths of six peaceful activists in a demonstration, and today we talk about activism and its ability to make change. - Remi Kanazi, a poet and activist, and Phyllis Bennis of the Insitute for Policy Studies join us in studio to discuss the ways that art, nonviolent protest, and pushes for creative boycotts are changing the way Americans look at Israel and Palestine.

April 06 2010

Küchenradio - Interview mit Daniel Schmitt von Wikileaks über das Projekt, geplante Veröffentlichungen, Infrastruktur und - sehr interessant gegen Ende des Tracks - einer umfassenden Medienkritik.
Reposted fromtheRoot theRoot viakrekk krekk
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