SAMO

SAMO was a graffiti tag used by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Al Diaz in New York in the late ’70s, standing for same old…

Which brings me to the following sponsored  and for me rather frustrating article in the Guardian today: http://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-guardian/20160601/282162175468841 – headline ‘It’s time for CEOs to trust their tech teams’.

I’m not going to comment in detail, just going to quote some of the comments made by participants in the seminar that informed the article:

“We have found that the biggest challenges facing digital transformation are: business culture; ways of working; and ensuring that there is a connection between business and technology”

“there is no such thing as a technology project now they should all be business projects”

“Companies should be asking ‘I want a collaboration platform to do X’ not ‘I want to use Slack'”

“We need a transformation in how companies deal with data…loses count of the number of times people say they can’t work out which data matters because it’s too difficult”

All very laudable, couldn’t agree more – I’ve agreed frequently in the past, sometimes with myself, so why change now – but not exactly what you might expect in a newspaper. I suppose what I’m getting at is – we know what the problems and challenges are; would be nice to see a little more about solutions. Rant over.

Advertisements

Microservices Architecture – oh no, not another one?

Haven’t blogged here for a while ‘cos nothing much has captured my attention…but when something does capture your attention…

As mine has been by a tweet from the Open Group on Microservices Architecture, linking to a piece by Eric Knorr on Infoworld and through to another by Martin Fowler. I may be ‘behind the curve’ (gah!) here but this seems to be some interesting stuff.

Martin starts his piece with ‘”Microservices” – yet another new term on the crowded streets of software architecture’ – hence oh no not another one to add to the business, enterprise, technical, service-oriented etc architectures that are crowding the landscape.

But this seems to be some interesting stuff.

You’re best left to read the articles for yourself as they put it much better than I can, but just a few teasers from/prompted by Martin.

  • Componentisation via services – not a new idea, but not one that’s been fully realised either – even at the business architecture level, we want components! & not having to keep on reiterating those massive, monolithic, ERP-style software renewals…
  • Organised around business capabilities.
  • Products not projects – ‘You build , you run it’ (Amazon). 
  • Decentralised governance – use the best tools for the job. If they don’t want to dig a hole, don’t make them use a spade!

Well, got me thinking anyway…

Digging a hole with Enterprise Architecture #entarchs

Some Sunday morning rambling & a couple of old Dilbert cartoons which may be pertinent & should at least be a amusing…

dilbert2

So, you know the scenario. You’re in there with the senior management team & they want an answer to the question: why should we invest in this thing called Enterprise Architecture?

& the answer is: I dunno; or, you tell me; or maybe, you shouldn’t.

Because they are, of course, asking the wrong question. They should be saying: how do we improve our customer experience? Or, how do we reduce the cost of procurement? Or, how do we decide what we could target as shared services? Or…a thousand other critical business questions. To any or all of which EA may be part of the answer.

But you’ve been invited along to a meeting to explain why they need EA. So you’ve come to the wrong meeting.

& because they’re asking the wrong question, you’ll probably have to give them the wrong answer.

& you can’t directly tell them they’re asking the wrong question. Well, go for it if you feel like it. After all, they’re only senior management…

There’s a lot of discussion in EA circles about how exactly do we sell EA to senior management? & the answer is, of course, you don’t.

You don’t sell someone a spade if they don’t know they need to dig a hole. At least, I hope not – don’t want to be in the snake oil business. So senior management need to know what problems EA will solve, or what new opportunities EA can open up – they need to see what bigger better hole they can dig (themselves into?) with this shiny new implement (maybe not the best analogy, then, but you have to start somewhere).

So EA isn’t always the answer – it depends on the question, & you have to make sure the right questions are being asked then you can make sure you have the right answers.

So in that meeting, you need to get them to ask the right questions – ‘I dunno’ may be a pretty good first answer – followed by, you tell me what you need to do, & then I’ll tell you if EA can help you do it. Or, maybe not…because…

If you’re an Enterprise Architect, you might think EA is always the answer, or at least part of it – & I agree, you’re probably right. But the best way to test a hypothesis is to assume that you’re wrong – & maybe the customer doesn’t really need to dig a hole, at least, not until they’ve chopped down that tree. Great thing about EA is, it’s more like a Swiss Army knife than an axe or a spade – but if the customer only wants to dig that hole or chop down that tree, some kind of multitool might seem like overkill. So, find that hole that needs digging, use EA to help it get dug, & then…

dilbert1

#fote13 Future of Technology in Education 2013

October 11th, Senate House, University of London, for this year’s FOTE. Random commentary:

Morning

Nicola Millard/Customer Experience Futurologist, BT: Clouds, Crowds & Customers. @docnicola. Customers. Students = consumers? The ‘Why can’t everyone be as easy as Amazon?’ syndrome. Critical: reduction of effort in things that have to do but don’t really value. Can we be as easy as Amazon to do business with? What is easy – what is business. Easy: reduce cognitive effort (finding stuff); physical (going places); emotional (frustration); time (ubiquitous impatience). Easy impacts vfm. Omnichannel customers – how do we manage customers who skip around channels. Link app, website, phonecall, email, F2F? How? Crowds. Collaboration – used to be called cheating. Ref: the prosthetic mind. No longer send naughty child to their bedroom, just where they want to be – <but wasn’t that the case years ago? Need to be very clear on what is really new, & what just appears new but fundamentally isn’t…definition of new?> Clouds. F2F can’t be replaced. <but who says it can/should be?> Seeing incredible flexibility in workspaces <but are most people seeing this? Again, have been hearing this for years…>

Alicia Wise/Director of Universal Access, Elsevier: Open Access: Challenges, Possibilities, Future Outlook. Developing business model. Rapid rise in R&D leads to rise in research, need for easy way to get it all out there <paraphrase!> Research = increasingly interdisciplinary; internationally collaborative & mobile; big data intensive.

Gwen Noteborn/Researcher, Maastricht University: Webcasts in Education: Mythbusters! Head of edl@b. Using mediasite/sonic foundry. Video collaboration software…The truth about webcasting! Is knowledge lost in translation? Research found not. Appreciation of/connection to teacher may be. Afraid seems to be just churning out a bunch of research results – most of findings intuitively available anyway. Will online recording replace F2F? No – social aspect. <Well, no, not comparing eggs with eggs, chalk & cheese, apples & pairs & all that – should have learnt from myth of TV replacing cinema – they are different things!>

Q&A: I only have one so far that I really won’t ask – “So, what else is new?”

CIO Fireside Chat. Yousuf Khan/CIO, Hult International Business School (Chair); Adrian Ellison/Director of IT, UWL; Richard Maccabee/Director, ULCC; Heidi Fraser-Krauss/IT Director, York; Cathy Walsh, Principal & CEO, Barking & Dagenham College. RM: trends – tensions between IT & T&L perspectives? HFK: can do technology change, but behavioural change hasn’t happened. <Doing Digital> AE: does Cloud change behaviours? <IT Governance/Weill & Ross – ‘to encourage desirable behaviour in the use of IT’> Staff – have encouraged behavioural change in students without changing themselves. CW: modelling value-based behaviours, senior management walking the talk. HFK: deliver systems, don’t think about what the person at the other end is doing, enough. AE: be sure that you really have senior management (& other) engagement. How do we decide what technology to choose? CW: not about technology. HFK: only interested in what it can do for me, just want it to work. <Useful, usable, & used> What’s exciting? HFK: ease of use. AE: gap between choice of tools/new students & tools in use in HE. HFK: death of email? Can twitter/facebook replace? What can? CW: simplicity & openness. Open access. HFK: easy & just works = requirement. AE: technology & stress. Stress – when delivered without ease of use. RM: factors for success. Formula for change: dissatisfaction with status quo, vision of goal, tangible first step. Advice for changemakers: AD – engagement & communication. SAMO. HFK: the way we see the world isn’t necessarily how recipients of solution see the world – solve their problem, not yours. Shouldn’t assume you know. CW: communication. Don’t just engage with one set of stakeholders. RM: humble & brave; single-minded & flexible. Avoid bunker mentality. Q&A: should we be less flexible? RM: in danger of losing flexibility but need to deliver services. Tricky balance. Innovation: management & staff blame each other for lack of innovation, but technology has changed everything, how do we shift? IT role to tease it out & play it back. <probably management want efficiency & staff want effectiveness> CW: senior management humility, again walk the talk, don’t take themselves too seriously, senior management disconnected = huge blockage.

Afternoon

<insert photograph of woman in blue lycra bodysuit & wig>

Technology in Education – The Case Against/Lindsay Jordan, Senior Lecturer, University of the Arts. The Cup Song from PitchPerfect – wasn’t expecting that…demonstrates how great the internet is for short bite-sized focused bits of learning. Then piano! – not learnt on internet, impossible (?) & also parentally not self-motivated. Some loss when not in an F2F environment. So what’s the difference? With F2F:

  • Space for the purely social. Time off task. Architected social spaces.
  • Forging (forcing) relationships, very hard to hide.
  • Reduced flexibility/reduced choice. Flexibility about when & where do stuff is not always a good thing. How to focus in the age of distraction.
  • Very hard to resolve problems online.
  • Online communication can bring out the worst in people. Lack of presence makes it easy to be a bit rubbish. Alone Together – Sherry Turkle.
  • Eventedness: synchronicity, uniqueness, movement, difference, aesthetics. One night only.
  • Sacrifice/commitment

How do we bring it back? Harvard – SPOCS (Small Private Online Courses) not MOOCS. Interventions in physical world.

Interesting stuff!

Revolution – Include Me!

Martin King/Head of IT services at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College (EHWLC). Enabling the disconnected to get online – here comes everybody. Biodiversity versus monoculture – education fosters the latter. Average is not normal. <but Steve Vai is not a great guitarist imho> Anyone can play guitar? Mmmm – yeah, but…anyone can learn how to play guitar, not the same thing. A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work unless it’s open – Frank Zappa. What happens with technology mediated culture? Exponential effects of network connectivity. Different, anyway!

Research data – bothersome burden or treasure chest? Kevin Ashley/Director, Digital Curation Centre.

Data deluge will oustrip the ability of technology to deal with it. Data must be recoverable to be reused.

A game of two halves – afternoon much more interesting stuff. & that’s me done & off down t’pub…

Combating Qualification & Academic Fraud Summit 2013 – Johannesburg 18-20 September 2013

image

3 days in a very hot Johannesburg with attendees from agencies, institutions and companies from across Africa – South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, Mozambique, Swaziland, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, to name just a few…

Day 1. Starting off, very much about the problems, not the solutions.

Sebastin Charidza/Zimbabwe School Examinations System. Understanding the Trends of Academic & Qualification Fraud – the African Experience. Qualifications are so important that it’s a matter of qualifications by any means necessary. Under investment in systems & development. Insecure printing. Some electronic marking – less effective at detecting malpractice. Certificates & after sales service <where DARE – Digital Academic Records Exchange – & HEDD – Higher Education Degree Datacheck – come in>. How do you make your certificates tamper proof? Liberation style silence – telling on someone doing wrong is itself wrong.

Mike Hill/Graduate Prospects. Degree Fraud – A European Experience. UK = European capital for bogus institutions. More key now students pay – protects investment of genuine graduates. HEDD (Higher Education Degree Datacheck) = UK solution for online institution & qualifivation verification.

Rosh Maharaj/PC Training & Business College, South Africa. Cross Border Education & Fraud. Refs distance education/e-learning. Major plagiarism problem with PhDs. Parents will do anything to get children qualifications, especially overseas – BAMN. What are students actually doing with their mobiles? <What are students actually doing without their mobiles?> Most anti-social device ever invented. IT solutions – what about hacking? <but more secure than on paper?> Polluting labour market. Overseas qualifications seen as tickets to cross border transnational mobility & labour markets in industrialised countries. E-learning/technology/distance learning introduce new cheating opportunities. Systems with high levels of coursework provide opportunities. Cheating undermines the value of assessment data as an indicator of student learning.

Overall, great start off group of presentations.

Shariffa Miller/CEO Khulisa Business Consulting. Detection & Investigation of Academic & Qualification Fraud. Run through of what to look for in document fraud detection. Use of policies & procedures. National legislative frameworks can help – SAQA etc. Diploma mills proliferating globally.

SF Nyathi/University of Namibia. Academic Fraud, Quality Assurance & Accreditation Regulation. Major springboard for fraud = developments in IT <so solution = developments in IT then?> Clear definitions of academic fraud. The internet is now the leading vehicle for academic fraud <like the internet is the leading vehicle for everything else information based = leading vehicle for information fraud>. Simply, makes it easier. Possible approach to solution: more formative, less summative assessment; alternative approaches to assessment. Strategies: development of reliable information systems listing accredited HE institutions etc <HEDD again> very important ref internationalisation, information on accredited institutions by nation. Academic fraud serves to produce functionally illiterate workforce – gap between education & certification.

Followed by interesting discussion – hard to track who said what – one interesting thought in relation to work going on to combat plagiarism & credentials fraud as they are currently surfaced, referenced to MOOCs etc (fairly close paraphrase I hope): ‘…we may be trying to create solutions for a future that won’t exist’. <Interesting that sychronises with BBC item about FutureLearn, UK HE MOOCs collaboration>

Sunil Kumar Burra. Academic Integrity & Online Resources for Faculty Development. Definitions again. Lots of definitions…Global problem. Potential of internet. Green! Basically, the internet is a major part of both the problem & the solution.

Day 2.

Claudia Naidoo-van der Merwe/MIE Background Screening. Analysing the Benefits of Qualification Verification in Curbing Academic & Qualification Fraud for Recruiters. MIE (Managed Integrity Evaluation) Owners & operators of the National Qualifications Register (NQR) – holds qualifications for biggest South African institutions. 3.1 million qualification records, 30 HEIs – largest in southern hemisphere. Fully integrated with institutions – mirror images of databases. Empowering emerging economies with sophisticated tools. Launching African Qualifications Register (AQR). 14% of CVs ‘contain risk’ – occurrence increases in recessionary times. Fully automated electronic verification services greatly reduce risk. <How will this be affected by new South African Data Protection laws?> Asked the question – planning to be fully compliant with new laws, consent of all parties central to services. How does it work – upload spreadsheet of qualifications data. Generally 2 week turnaround time. Check that institution is legitimate & that student did obtain the qualification – whether the award itself is accredited/legitimate etc is handled by eg SAQA. Can go as far back as institutions are able to provide electronic records.

Joe Samuels/SAQA. The Role of SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) in Combating Fraudulent Qualifications. What is a legal qualification in South Africa? Accredited & registered provider; registered qualification – on national qualification framework; authentic documentation. Also: is the person presenting the document who they say they are? Figures: 11.8 million learner qualification achievements on database. 19,713 accredited providers. Data must be submitted to SAQA. Low levels of fraud in verifications made with SAQA – around 1%, zero in relation to foreign qualifications – as against 14% with MIE – why is this? Shift from paper orientation to paper/electronic verifications – must have both! Groningen Declaration on promoting global student data mobility – SAQA = signatory as digital student data depository for South Africa – must link with other countries.

Alwyn Hoffman/NorthWest University. Protecting the Integrity of the Educational System Through the Authentication of Training Certificates. Digital signatures initiative – funded under government THRIP (Technology & Human Resources) Programme. Problem: physical documents are easy to modify. So – using PKI infrastructure. Size of conventional cryptographic keys problematic for small electronic data carriers – so using Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) instead of RSA. Have produced digital signature small enough to fit on QR code or RFID tag to enable verification of offline paper documents. Smartphone = logical choice for verification. Have developed complete prototype.

Again, very interesting sessions & good to see what’s happening over here in the same arena as DARE/the HEDD & similar initiatives in other countries.

& that’s about it for today – & tomorrow is for me & Paul Naylor from Graduate Prospects to deliver our workshop on DARE, the HEDD etc. – so multitasking won’t stretch to blogging whilst that’s in progress. & then it’ll be goodbye Johannesburg, back to the airport & home.

It’s the Services, Stupid!

So, time to bang on about this one again! – but it still seems pertinent.

I’ve just been reviewing the draft UCISA ‘Strategic Challenges for IT Services’ document in the light of the developing UCISA Enterprise Architcture Community of Practice, whilst also being in the middle of an internal restructuring, which includes IT Services, and also working on the reintroduction of a revised IT Governance structure which includes revamping the way we manage projects, programmes and our Enterprise Architecture.

In relation to all three areas, it has come home to me very forcefully (again!) that taking an approach that looks at the services the business, the people, require, rather than the systems that ‘might’ support those services, is critical.

So, briefly taking these areas one by one:

  1. UCISA ‘Strategic Challenges for IT Services’. Not published yet, so I won’t say too much, but there are references to senior management – and others – still thinking that if you put in the right systems then job done, without looking at people, processes, data etc. It’s the services, stupid!
  2. Lots of institutions restructure services, and in truth it’s usually a cost-cutting exercise, whatever other guise it may travel under – and if costs need to be cut, there’s nothing wrong with this. What is wrong, though, is to focus on the cost-cutting – and this relates to other services/functions, not just IT; the focus should also be on defining what the critical services are that need to be delivered, and then identifying efficiency gains within that context. Find out which services are essential, which really bring value, and prioritise them. Reminiscent of the days of Business Process Reenegineering, and the limited value to be extracted from perfecting the wrong process…it’s the services, stupid!
  3. In revamping our programme/project management approach, we’re coming across IT project proposals without a clearly defined service that the IT delivered will support. Part of the problem is, of course, that above the infrastructure level, there’s no such thing as an IT project (and maybe not even there); there’s also (see point 1.) also a kind of lingering view that if you get the right system the services (people,processes) will look after themselves. They won’t! I think we’re getting beyond this, but it’s still hanging around…it’s the services, stupid!

Clearly (to me anyway!) an Enterprise Architecture approach is key to addressing all of the three areas referenced above; but the key to an Enterprise Architecture approach is to start with what the business needs – services!

 

 

UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice Start Up Meeting

2nd May 2013: a group convened at Liverpool John Moores University to discuss the setting up of a UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice (EACP).

Following work by Luke Taylor & the UCISA-CISG, & commissioned by the UCISA Executive, the objective of the meeting: to baseline where we were up to with EA, and work out how this Community of Practice thing was going to operate, as it’s a bit of a new departure for UCISA & those previously involved in the JISC EA Practice Group. Representatives from 8 institutions, JISC InfoNet & the Open Group, and facilitated by Richard Chapman, of Richard Chapman Consulting.

This is a picture of where we started:

EA0213

I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of the day, as that will come out in due course, but just wanted to highlight a few things that were key or of interest for me.

  • Baselining EA. Various people were not surprisingly at various stages, although there were common themes: how to keep up momentum, how to convince the business, how to get resources. Participants were asked to come up with ‘twEAts’ (140 characters about EA on a postit – thank you David Rose of the Open Group for that one, bit close to our great Prime Minister’s comments about what too many tweets make…). These got quite zen-like in parts – particularly this offering from Patrick O’Reilly/Bolton: ‘the curate has a fresh egg, but no eggcup, spoon and is waiting for a chance to eat’. I thought we might have invented Zen EA – but then discovered this: ‘Zen and The Art of Enterprise Architecture (Open Group Conference Newport Beach 2013)’ – although I may be being a little unfair, having not viewed it in detail, at 83 slides, some of dazzling complexity, I’m not sure this is in the spirit of Zen, or even EA…
  • Building a Community of Practice. Lots of interesting discussion on this, which will be rolled up in a wiki & considered further – but for me, the main issue was around leadership. The key objective of the EACP is to become self-sustaining – to not need a leader, or a Chair, or single person or even small group who keep it all going – leading to the usual leaders/followers scenario. Seems like a kind of variation on situational leadership – the idea that there is no one best leadership style, but that leadership is adaptive to the situation – which in some situations may mean following. So perhaps we have situational leadership & followership as well. For the EACP I would envisage a scenario where individuals would either lead or follow depending on the situation – which I think is what I’ve just said. Or to sum up, ‘We are all leaders now’.

Which is about all for the moment – the EACP is a work in progress & progress on this first day was excellent, we have actions, ideas for how to work, deadlines & all manner of good stuff, including the all important hash tag (#UCISA_EA) – so thanks to all the participants & also Richard Chapman for his great facilitation, kept us almost both on time & under control!

Also worth a look at Dave Berry from Edinburgh’s post on the same event.

& here’s a picture of where we finished:

EA2013b