IT Strategies from Window NT 3.51 to the Cloud Era – Part 2

How do we get strategic IT?

That’s a hard question to answer. I can only give you my take on the subject. It’s far from complete but it addresses the way I look at it and how I try to do my part in achieving this. This is part 2 of a series on IT Strategies. Just some musings. You can find Part 1 here:

Merely leveling the playing field or value adding instrument?

Knowing what you have learned already, take a good look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and the Return on Investment (ROI) of the technology you own. You might wonder if any of those expensive IT systems are ever going to live up to all their potential. Can you easily pin point some real and substantial business benefits from your technology investments? We sincerely hope you can. Or do you have the “feeling” that most of that capital computing power is just sitting there idle and is hopelessly underused?

Use IT or lose IT!

Even in this day and age, it never ceases to amaze us how many routine and repetitive tasks are still done manually. IT can do two major things for your business. One is to improve physical operations by making them more efficient and the other is to reduce logical operations by automating as much of it as possible. If IT is not doing that, something is wrong. Why on earth are people reduced to mere (and rather slow and unreliable) biological processing units within the IT systems they work with? This not only wastes productivity but also leads to many avoidable errors that are not only time consuming to clean up but are often untraceable. The point is that you don’t want it to be like this and you need to fix it. This is not a question about wanting your technology to deliver value to your operations but needing it to do so. Not using your IT’s potential is literally squandering vast amounts of money. No business can afford to do that so you’ll either have to deal with that issue or risk losing funding for IT. Which means you’ll be even worse off. Any chance of ever recuperating the money you invested in technology has gone and funds to compete and get ahead of your competitors can only be dreamt of. This is not a good situation to be in and even harder to get out of.

Let’s face the fact that IT very often sucks at delivering value. That’s not technologies fault directly but it’s how we use it, or rather, abuse it. Business doesn’t know a thing about what IT can or can’t do and what’s the real cost of that. IT often is run by IT managers and CIO’s that are busier entrenching themselves in vast layers of expensive and often overly complex hardware and software. The IT industry itself is a willing accomplice. They really like to sell all that stuff and services as they love the color of money. They are partners in crime and hide that painful fact behind change management, methodology religion and an air of “we are keeping the sky from falling down”. But how do they explain it takes 14 days to restore a file server to service, that it costs 3 to 6 times more for enterprise IT to do than the market will bear? I’ll give you a hint, partially because the need to hire consultants to do their jobs. Why does it take over 4 years to consolidate to a new mail system in big government agencies? What happened Look, in corporate life a lot of what’s been doing done is bull shit and exists only to create career opportunities, to inflate ones importance and (they hope) ones wages. They built extremely expensive, large, complex systems that are hell to touch, let alone, change, improve or replace. People all follow their own time limited agenda’s and build up an extensive technology debt that will wreck a business sooner or later. But no one, not in business or in technology wants to acknowledge that. When you do bring it up and try to evangelize better ways you’re a bit of an annoying person rocking the boat. Hey, what we don’t need 10 consultants, a 20 person project team and 2 years to add a sub domain to Active Directory? What do you say? Our home build MIS that took 2 years and a couple of million € could have been bought for 3000,00- € with 80% of the features. That must be some real important report content that only our system can produce I bet! You think I’m joking? I hope you think that because you’re all doing it right and are not in an industry that will collapse by doing what I described above. Fast forward 10 to 15 years. What will “the cloud” have done to your little empire? Ok perhaps you’ll be retired by then, what if you’re 45 and a fake IT professional, developer or heaven forbid a fake consultant? Yeah you’ll call it age discrimination at the unemployment office, I’m sure, but what good will that do you really? But even then the true fakers will thrive. Never, ever forget that if the organization is large enough perception outperforms reality and, guess what fakers experts are at? Right! The most “reliable” consultants seem to work for organized crime these days (Consigliere). Make a mistake in that field of endeavor or don’t deliver and you find yourself standing on a piece of industrial plastic in the bosses office looking down the biggest and blackest hole you’ll ever see. And that shiny sliver of light at the end is most likely a Winchester Silvertip® Jacketed Hollow Point. They don’t buy crap services, only results.

Now What?

Now given all this, how the hell do we make IT a strategic asset? Well let’s first go and make sure we get a functional IT environment and then go for tactical, operational and strategic value. Just focusing on the strategy is not enough and even dangerous. The operational aspect is very important as well and you really do need both. To achieve strategic IT you really need to have an IT that’s functional. In the end you also need context, knowledge, skills, hard work and a “getting things done” attitude. Please do not think you can by this as a product or a service. You can only achieve an IT strategy by hard work and dedication. Trying to use recipes or methodologies without context is doomed to fail. It just doesn’t work. Unfortunately so many organizations really do that. Why? Because to many bad consultancy firms are milking those tools for the cash cows they have become. Look consultancy firms live by cheap personnel (to them, not to you) that get their jobs done by following guide lines, boilerplate documents and such. They couldn’t survive without them, the methodologies and processes are their life line. So when those don’t work they’ll sell you more of the same because that’s all they can handle and know. They don’t really care about your business. Essentially they are what are giving methodologies a bad name. They are used to let mediocre firms with mediocre or even incompetent personnel survive. Stay away from them. They have a hammer and they’ll use that tool everywhere for every job so basically they are frauds. This often continues way to long on because so much money is involved no one even dares to tell the truth anymore. Have you ever wondered why most over certified “BIG” corporations are hated and despised by their customers? They are over organized, to many weird processes. On paper all is well to perfect but in reality it doesn’t work anymore. This is probably the reason why we’re losing so many jobs in the West. We’re too expensive for the limited productivity we have and are burdened by the cost of dysfunctional methodologies. Are the other areas better? Nope they are cheaper, hungry for a better life and willing to make a real and prolonged effort.

Invest In Solutions & People

Basically what we’re saying is to stop buying technology and instead start investing in solutions. Solutions are built with technology. But there is more to it. Used correctly, technology can be a lot more than just a means to an end. The solutions built with technology must become an instrument that provides operational, tactical and strategic advantages to your organization. This means that IT will then realize its true potential.

So here is where your ICT staff (external or internal) can and must really differ from other commercial ICT providers or personnel. That piece of hardware and the operating system running on it is more to us than just a means to sell even more services, hardware and software. To us, it is the very basis of working solutions to real business issues. That’s the attitude we have towards addressing your problems. This requires knowledge, experience and dedication to finding the best approach for your organization.

This means that often you don’t have to buy yet more or new technology and software to solve problems. The best hidden secret in IT seems to be the value and opportunities that are available within most systems. It’s time for you to find them and be pleasantly surprised by what you what you already have but are not using. Use the money saved here to differentiate you in the market and be competitive. To achieve this you need knowledgeable people who care about the business.

Select your vendors and consultants with care. They should have one goal and that is to help you solve existing problems cost effectively and as a result deliver value to your company. They should not have the goal to sell only products or time to fix – perhaps even only perceived – problems. Think about it, you do not want to buy consulting hours, a dual CPU server or a body to fill an empty cubical. You want to buy a solution to an existing need. Of course we do work with vendors and other consultants in order to help you, but they have to agree and comply with our approach. If not, that’s a collaboration terminating event. It’s this attitude that helps us provide outstanding services. Yes we keep up to date on technology advances in our field of expertise, yes some of us are certified but we do not sell you acronyms and titles instead of skills. We are certified because we are experts, not vice versa. Most of all we are interested in learning about your business needs and matching them to satisfying solutions. Good consultants and IT Professionals will always seek the best way to help you. They will do this even when this means hiring others to do the job. If not, they are body shops who have only one goal, renting out people at daily rates. Walk away from these. They will never produce the results needed. Likewise, people just writing strategy documents, enterprise architecture designs and practice methodology religion that doesn’t improve or even relate to the realities in the field is nothing more than wasting money. They who do that are frauds. Why do I call this a “religion”? Because they only promise things later when you’re a good boy and when it never delivers you must have sinned against the methodologies? Oh please … enough already! Typical bullshit form people with no real field experience and knowledge, let alone the context to achieve something with methodologies.

A Vision on Realizing Solutions

Today anyone in the world with the right skills, attitude and motivation can provide services that result into high quality information technology solutions for any small, medium & large sized businesses around the globe. Fast internet connections in combination with secure remote administration tools have made this possible, especially when you realize that many technology implementations are being replaced by “good enough” services on the internet. Well, what good clients, employees and managers have in common is that they take their automation and computing needs seriously. However, they don’t always have the resources or know-how available to make the most of their investments in technology. By providing the necessary advice, assistance and implementation, technologists can add value to a company instead of delivering just another cost factor that merely levels the playing field. Solutions may range from single server systems over organization wide infrastructure roll outs to hybrid cloud implementations but the principle remains the same. We offer the knowledge and experience needed to make technology work for the business. A properly implemented IT solution can provide tactical, operational and strategic advantages in the market place. It makes you more competitive. To achieve these goals we rely on a number of key elements in any successful professional relationship.


All long term business relationships are based on mutual trust. Trust is not given away for free, it needs to be earned. You will need to establish a trust relationship between business and ICT in order for them to be your counselor and guide for current and future technology needs.


Technology is a tool, a means to an end. Good IT offers to help your company use the tools it has or requires to their fullest potential. The business needs are important and IT should care about finding the right solution that the organization. An IT strategy must show commitment to work according to your needs and budget to find the right level of services and technology for your company. This needs to be done at a pace you can sustain. The goal is to add value to your business, not to extract money from it and waste time performing unnecessary tasks. On the opposite side, IT advisors must be honest and be able to walk away from organizations and managers who are not capable of being professional and have no real desire to improve. Only time and money can be wasted in such a situation. The money can be replaced. Our time cannot so it should never go to waste.


All technology can and will fail at some point in time. Such events can result in lost data, lost time and lost revenue. Providing a business with a well-designed infrastructure however, will help you avoid such risks. This, in combination with excellent troubleshooting skills, facilitates recovering from such “disasters”. Keeping IT systems running smoothly requires a proactive approach consisting of maintenance and periodic auditing of the systems. The result of this is the reliability needed in order to prevent unscheduled down time. In the cloud era the ones responsible for all that change but the essence remains the same. Be advised however that everything can and will fail. Unbreakable does not exist. The differentiator is how we prevent it and how we deal with it when it occurs.


You have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing someone to help you with your computing needs. Experience is one of the distinguishing factors, as is commitment, know-how and the ability to develop a vision about a company’s IT needs. This attitude provides guidance to organizations, so they can enjoy the benefits of well-designed computing systems without draining vast amounts of capital from their financial reserves.


Understanding technology is paramount to providing a great service. You cannot design and build something you do not understand. The correct mix of hands on experience, knowledge of complementing technologies and design skills, combined with continuous training is what enables IT Pro’s to optimize your technology investment.

Isn’t this going to very or prohibitively expensive?

This remark always provides for an opportunity to convince the person of the real value ICT can add. I have always made a genuine effort to position the IT solutions I design as qualitatively superior in both our approach and in the results we deliver. But that doesn’t mean they are overly expensive. Within our area of expertise, we will always seek to find the best and most cost effective solution that is viable to that particular business need. We will customize that solution to “tailor fit” the environment, but only if and when required. If IT is prohibitively expensive somebody is not doing their job right.

This, in my opinion, is a great way to provide an outstanding service and results; the value of which is reflected in the investment costs. How can you expect strategic IT and its implementation to be cheap? Good value for money, yes, but cheap, no. Now, some companies will never pay the rates and price needed to achieve this. Sometimes, in many ways, they are totally correct in not doing so. The most likely and best reason is that they do not need our services, i.e. it is just not worth it. For them IT is nothing more than a necessary and valuable commodity. The unfortunate reason is that our services can’t help them. Some simplified examples might help to clarify this. A lawyer who uses his laptop for writing reports and printing them out is not going to pay us 150 Euros per hour for setting up his free e-mail in Outlook, and he’s absolutely correct in not doing so. However, an organization that needs an effective, secure and rock solid virtualization solution will appreciate the benefits of good design and is willing to make that investment to achieve results. Until the day arrives the cloud does that better and more cost effective.

Costs for ICT and rates for personnel are not dictated by the complexity or the lack of complexity in an organization’s environment. Rates are established based on knowledge and the value IT brings to your business. An environment’s complexity only dictates how much time we will spend designing, implementing and/or supporting it, not how much time or solutions are worth. In the end you are engaging skills and knowledge, not time. Smart managers and IT architects simply refuse to compete with “low cost, low skill” operators who can only follow generic guidelines (if even that) and are stumped when “it doesn’t work”. But since you are reading this there is most likely a reason why you are looking beyond those players. You are interested in high quality strategic, tactical and operational ICT! So there you have it. It is the combination of skills, aptitudes, work ethics and intellectual capital that enables IT professionals to offer quality services that amount to added value and competitive advantage for your business. In the end, isn’t that what you want for your organization?

Think of any solution like a triangle. The three sides of the triangle have the following characteristics that can all be a quality by itself or combined together, depending on the circumstances.

  • Cheap
  • Fast
  • Good

However be advised that the three sides combined together almost never materialize in real life. So you’ll have to pick two of them and, more or less, sacrifice the third. Which combination is needed depends on the issue at hand. Do not fool yourself into thinking that Information Technology is something that anyone can do by just reading a book, following some courses or owning a PC. It takes a tremendous amount of time, dedication and a sustained effort to become and stay competent and ahead in the world of IT, far beyond a 9 to 5 job. So realistically, if you expect this kind of expertise to be available at low ball rates or for free, perhaps it is time to take another look at the triangle and reevaluate your position on this. This is true in a mainframe, client server, web, Service Oriented Architecture and cloud world. The environment, technologies, tools and solutions change and we have to change with it.

Final Thoughts

It is important for both management and employees alike to realize that choosing a dynamic and scalable IT infrastructure solution in combination with a flexible and integrated development platform is very important. It provides one of the pillars for the successful implementation and support of the business strategy. Today this is no longer an opinion or a choice; it is a fact of doing business.

This means that these choices are as much a part of creating competitive advantage as any other strategic decision. The need to provide long term backward compatibility, support for current and new technologies, facilitate agile development and allow easy deployment and maintenance throughout its life cycle are paramount. All of this has to be done in an effective, efficient and affordable manner. These considerations are valid whether we are looking for a single line of business application or an entire infrastructure solution. Do realize solutions are fluid. There is no permanent solution, just the best solution at that moment for a certain period of time for that particular situation. That situation might be unique or it might be more common than muck. Much care must be taken not to build up an unsustainable technology debt and to keep working on reducing any non-managed debt present.

To end, never make the mistake of thinking that having a strategy is enough. You need the right people, the skills, the attitude and the guts where and when they are needed to execute your strategy. In essence it is never easy and it takes a lot of hard work. Plans and ideas that are not executed are worthless. Beware that acknowledging this must result in more than lip service to this vision. You must act upon it, translate it into plans, and provide leadership and guidance to achieve an IT strategy that will produce results. Money and tools are no substitute for solid skills and motivation. But those are subjects for another discussion. So for now, stop faking, study hard, work hard and build real good solid IT!

This is part 2 of a series on IT Strategies. Just some musings. You can find Part 1 here:

IT Strategies from Window NT 3.51 to the Cloud Era – Part 1

Because hope don’t float!
This is part 1 of a series on IT Strategies. Just some musings. You can find Part 2 here:
Not many people I meet in businesses seem to be able to define “ICT strategy” without playing some sort “Bullshit Bingo” I’ll give you my opinion. During my years in IT I’ve read and thought a lot about the value of what we design and build. What you’ll find here stems from well over a decade of reading, thinking, working, discussing and helping to develop IT Strategies with colleagues, businesses and consultants whilst exploring ways to deliver value through ICT. One thing I should perhaps add that I have never been in a sales role, so this is not from an account manager’s perspective. But I do recognize and accept that everyone whatever his or her function has a “sales” role in order to be allowed to execute ones proposals. I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people over the years who have helped shape my vision on IT. There are so many voices and opinions, some I agree and some I disagree with, that have influenced my ideas, that in the end all of what you read here is a collection of all those opinions combined with my interpretation of them. Part 1 is about where IT strategies fit in and why they are. Part 2 will address my opinion on how to achieve them.


The reason you hear more and more about strategic IT and commodity IT in recent years is due to the attention cloud computing is getting in the media. One of the main forces driving the cloud computing business is economic pressure and the need to provide affordable, scalable IT in a commodity market. Combine this with the “discovery” of business and IT alignment by main stream management and the “strategic” plans will flow abundantly. They’ll almost certainly throw in an “IT needs to learn it’s here for the business needs”. What does that really mean? That management is not capable of using IT for its business needs and allows money to be wasted. Whose responsibility is that? What if they let the same happen between financials and sales? In my humble opinion main stream business managers urgently need to make the effort to learn about the realistic use and benefits of IT. A divide between business and IT is a manmade artifact and not something natural, it is a result of management failure. Bar the stereo type nerds, I see more efforts of IT managers & architects to think business minded than by main stream management in thinking about using IT as a true competitive differentiator. Once the words economy and competition are in play you start talking strategies, just like the military. That’s not a coincidence. Take away the niceties and business is a non-lethal form of warfare. I guess that’s why “The Art of war” was or is such a popular book in top business circles. Just do an internet search for “The art of war business strategy”. The correct definition of what strategy means is out there in plain sight for all of to read and learn.

So why is it that when talking about strategies, ICT related or otherwise, you rarely get a solid response that truly addresses the subject? People seem to mistake simple long term planning and goals for strategies. Plans are used to realize strategic goals; they do not define a strategy. A strategy is what you will do to out flank your competitors to gain an advantage. That advantage, in today’s world, means being different and good. It is almost certainly not about being the best. What is best depends too much on the unique situation of every organization, its specific needs and circumstances at that moment in time. It’s indeed all rather fluid and dynamic, so “best” is very time limited. Anyway you’d better have something that differentiates you from the competition in a positive way. Otherwise there is no compelling reason to become your customer.

Why is having a unique approach and being good at it so important? Being the same as anyone else makes you plain, a commodity that’s readily available. If on top of that your customer’s service sucks, you’ll start losing customers as no one is willing to pay for that. This drives down prices even more and robs you of all potential benefits of any unique selling points you might have. That is far from competitive. Unless your aim is to become king of low priced, bulk delivery for a product that doesn’t require services whatsoever that’s a bad strategy and even then you will have to be better than your competitors in that particular playing field. You have to stand out somehow.

Also, a strategy has to be correct and honest. False assumptions, self-deception, faking and lying as in “methodology religion” will make you lose all professional credibility with your personnel and investors. Once you’ve sunk to that level there is little or no hope of ever recovering from that position. You really cannot get away with faking a strategy.

So what is “my” strategy as an infrastructure guy in a business world to make sure that we are different and good? Well, you already read the appetizer, now read on to find out. And believe me, you need to find out! Way too many business & IT strategies are esoteric boardroom level documents that have little or no correlation with the reality in the trenches. They are made to have some checkboxes ticked on an audit report or are actually just plans with not strategic content what so ever. Sometimes you really wonder why they even bother making them. At least they could have avoided wasting the time and effort.

Defining how the ICT strategy relates to the business strategy

Before we can define what makes a good ICT strategy we need to talk business. It needs to be a part of the strategic business plan or you shouldn’t even bother having one. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t have a high quality business plan made by and supported in actions by knowledgeable, passionate, driven, motivated and hardworking management, walk away. No good ICT strategy will ever come from such a situation. Buying technology cannot fix organizational problems. Please repeat this last sentence at least three times out loud. You need to hear it and let the message sink in! In such a situation having an IT strategy is the least of your problems.

We already stated that a strategy is about distinguishing you from your competitors. This can mean many different things depending on the circumstances. Better products, the same product but with better services, cheaper but good enough for its purpose, etc. Be brutally realistic. If what you do does not set you apart from your competition in a positive way, you have no strategy or have been ill advised on what constitutes a strategy. The fact that “no one else does what we do” is not a strategy, it will not last! The fact that people are obligated to use your services by law is not a strategy. It might be a short term advantage, but it creates no good will with your customers, especially not if your services or products are mediocre or bad. And please be more than just be the odd one out, sure you’re different but that’s not the different you’re looking for.

You must also realize that strategies have a limited shelf life. Sooner or later your competitors will realize what your strategy is and if it works they will start copying it. More often than not they will add some improvements having the benefit of 20/20 vision through hind sight. This means that, over time, what was once a distinguishing solution that gave you a competitive advantage becomes a mere main stream commodity. Now please realize that being a commodity does not mean irrelevant or useless. Power, heating, fuel, telephones, e-mail, storage, file servers… are all commodities we cannot do without! But in the commodity sector you will compete by being different in pricing, quality of services and added value. Only when technology becomes a blast from the past by significant advances or changes in science it becomes economically useless. Think steam engines … but … retro does exist and come backs do occur. Windmills any one?

I know the cloud hype recuperates just about everything that is delivered can be over the internet and is service oriented but please realize that not all commodities are or will be services.


Given the fact that strategies are far from long lasting entities, what does this mean for an IT strategy? Simply put: speed and agility are of the essence. We must be capable of moving fast and decisive. There is no time anymore for years of thinking, contemplating and testing. The long term vision must still exist and it is extremely important, but it is not the same as a strategy. To reap the benefits of long term thinking one needs to survive long enough to be around! 15 year long term strategies are doomed. These are day dreams. A bit like the Maginot Line the French build for over a decade but was utterly useless as its concept was out of date by the time World War II broke out. Long terms visions are realized through several sequential and adaptive strategies. As you can see in the figure with time strategic solution becomes a commodity and a part of the IT infrastructure that needs to be maintained. A good strategy takes this into account so that the strategic solution can evolve into an operational and tactical commodity instead of a very expensive drain of resources.

One could say that all IT can be found somewhere between following states:

· Strategic: Technology that differentiates us in support of (new) business strategies. This is what makes us more competitive, that adds value, because it’s unique and innovative.

· Commodity: Stuff we need but no longer adds competitive advantage. It does provide tactical or operational benefits and you can’t do without them. Make note, strategic commodities exist, oil is a prime example, water another one. So commodity is not a synonym for low value, it just doesn’t add value in itself or no longer serves as a differentiator.

Everything else, whether it is cheap or expensive, subsidized or self-sustaining are frankly technology hobbies (not in the picture). Where are the value and the profit? Management should avoid this. The best thing that can happen here is that you actually learn something building & maintaining it or use it as a lab for creative innovation. But that’s not a hobby anymore … that’s a dream job for engineers.

Tell me what an ICT strategy is already!

An ICT strategy supports the business initiatives that provide a competitive advantage to an organization in such a way that it does not become a pain in the ass over time. Only incur technology debt where and when needed and manage it carefully. But how the hell does that materialize in reality you must be wondering by now? Well it is the combination of creatively building, deploying, operating and using solutions that deliver value by making you more competitive. Solutions scan be realized using standard software and hardware, with custom build applications or a combination of both. Whatever the case … the solution requires very knowledgeable people, serious skill sets, a mind driven by curiosity and the need for results.

People buy results, not services or efforts. This is one of the big mistakes in the thinking of many modern so called service driven companies. They fail to provide good services, let alone results. They are in effect just low cost / low value operators. If you provide services they need to be there to produce the results. Otherwise you are, for all practical purposes and intent, lying which will come back to bite you. Take note however that too much service is financial suicide. Don’t cater to individual and unique needs unless that is your core business.

Since solutions are custom build on development platforms and infrastructure it is critical to realize that the choice of platforms and infrastructures can mean the success or failure for an organization since it directly relates to its ability to compete. Yes, once again, the reason for having a strategy in the first place!

The most common issue we see when dealing with an IT strategy is that many organizations have no clear picture about what they do, how and why. They just seem to do “stuff” and expect of rather hope that hard work and effort will help them realize their goals. But without clear and well defined goals there is no way of achieving them. Efforts and hard work alone will not produce results. Customers do not pay for hard work, they do not reward efforts. That was something that worked in kinder garden but fails in a business environment. Remember, customers pay for results. You cannot buy a product that will deliver these out of the box.

So what must an ICT strategy achieve?

Since we have seen that strategic solutions eventually become commodities, any combination of infrastructure, platforms and solutions must work well during their entire life cycle. Decisions that focus only on strategy might lead to the implementation of the latest and greatest technology. This can lead to very divers, esoteric and heterogeneous environments with very high integration & support costs. It also incurs the cost of finding, retaining and maintaining good developers and engineers with knowledge about such systems.

On the other side of the equation one can not only worry about keeping short- and long-term support costs low. This will lead to missing out on the business benefits that new technologies can bring. In the end finding the right balance between these two is very important and failing to do this will be very costly in financial repercussions, lost opportunities and failed projects. This ends in the downfall of the organization since it becomes irrelevant in the market and has no more means to support itself.

Custom build solutions do not exist in isolation. They need to run on an infrastructure, connect to other systems, be able to be secured etc … This is called integration and if this is overlooked it can become a financial burden that negates the added value of an IT solution and make it a cost instead of an asset. For example “Best of breed” has often failed in the sense that is did not deliver enough value to justify the high cost of acquisition, maintenance and integration. The real killer here is the efforts and thus cost involved in integrating all these. Even if you do get it to work it is often in a way that negates good practices, reduces security and incurs a high, cumbersome administrative overhead which is error prone and expensive. It does make a good revenue stream however for “consultants”.
This is part 1 of a series on IT Strategies. Just some musings. You can find Part 2 here:

The Architect Virus. Professionalism, Career, Status, Narcissism & Entitlement

What’s with this “Architect” virus going around? Why does everyone want to be one? Is it because of status, narcissism, entitlement, money? No really, why?  I know some architects who work very hard and earn just as much or a little more than most other professionals. Their responsibilities and stress levels are a few notches higher than most however. What about status? That’s just bragging rights. Sure you can inflate you’re résumé or LinkedIn profile a bit with that but that’s about it. You don’t need to be an architect for that. Just call yourself “Senior Master Enterprise Technology Architect”, no need to do anything more than to type it in. Inflation, that’s what it is. Once you needed like 10 to 15 years to become senior at anything. Now 4 years out of school you’re a senior consultant with years of experience. So now we need some more titles to make the distinction I guess. Entitlement? Are you that good? If so how come no one sees it?

OK, so you have big dreams of being an architect. Do you have the skills to go with them? Prove it. Start working as an architect. Act like one, work like one and maybe one day you’ll even become one. Being an architect is not a title, it’s not about how many post grad training you receive or master classes & conferences you attend. It’s not a pay scale; it’s not a promotion or a status. None of these things define an architect, let alone make you one.  It’s all about what you do and achieve. It’s about results and value. Hell, you can have three PhD’s and two Post-doctoral Certified Guru certificates hanging on your wall. Those are all fine, but tell me what your value to the business is? How do you hold up in a passionate discussion with industry experts?

An architect is someone who is capable of designing, building, implementing and supporting medium to large, more of less complex systems in such a way that they function well and that are not or do not become a burden to the organization that uses them. In that respect, my mum used to be a great “domestic architect”. She had a very small budget, big needs for her family and like a true engineer she created very workable and productive solutions with very little money using the resources at her disposal. Al lot of people today couldn’t hack that effort. No way. Did she moan and complain? Occasionally, but most of the time she was working and making sure everyone was taken care of and got all they needed. She never got any status or money for that. No bragging rights, she found satisfaction in doing a great job. She also got some respect.

Why do some people act like spoiled brats? Frequently in direct contradiction with their ambitions. I see this in job applicants, and people on the job at the places I work. There is nothing wrong with ambition, earning your fair share, being rewarded. But all too often people expect this up front. Instead of earning they are into getting mode. That just doesn’t work. You don’t get a job, you don’t get a pay check, you don’t get respect, and you don’t get knowledge. These things are earned, not given. Now there are and will always be bad bosses, exploited employees, dysfunctional organizations and such but please don’t be a narcissistic entitled brat. Don’t complain about problems, help solve them.  Trust me, if you really work in a dysfunctional place beyond repair you need to leave. Run! But if you stay … that’s your decision. Perhaps that pay check and benefits are not that bad after. Or are you, contrary to your ego, not convinced that some other business will pay big bucks for you added value? Whatever the reason is, start doing your job. That is what earns you the paycheck & benefits. Moaning and groaning can be an outlet to vent some steam but it doesn’t solve anything in the end. Don’t give me “It’s not my job”, “That’s not my responsibility”, “My boss should do this and that”, “Someone ought to do that”, “This should be fixed”. Don’t moan when you’re constantly going on about being a great professional, too good to waste your time on the lowly work and are “working on becoming an architect”. It’s bad enough for someone who’s just doing enough to prevent being fired, we can really do without the gripes from someone who claims he’s going to lead. There’s an old army saying: “Shit flows down, gripes flow up”. Your team doesn’t care if you think you ought to be paid more and deserve more gratitude or demand more status.

You’re probably an engineer or a likewise highly educated professional with an above average wage. What do you expect? That they pay you that wage to whine about issues and that “someone” must fix them. Wake up sun shine. That is your job!  Do you really think that the high end wage and great benefits you’re being paid is just to show up and find that the company is running perfectly already? Nope, you’re there to take care of those problems and work towards a better organization. Are you doing that? Are you really sure about that sport? Why on earth do you expect to be patted on the back, made compliments and expect status promotions and raises for sitting around complaining? Take responsibility and build that better organization, that better infrastructure, that better team or that better application. It’s your job, your responsibility. When you’re always in the “what is in it for me” mode, taking care of number one, are you really doing your job?

Leading a team, being a go-to person also means thinking of the team. You need to look at the needs in function of the plans for achieving results, the desired out come and what the team needs to get the job done. If you don’t, you let everyone down. That’s why I am disappointed that the first time people are given the opportunity to put together a conference delegation based on the above mentioned specifications and they do the following: send your themselves. They didn’t make a plan for the team; they didn’t ask around or discuss the needs and plans. They just pocketed a conference or training. “Hey, I’m not being paid to take care of that. My boss should”. Perhaps your boss is drowning in work. Perhaps he could have used some help. Help you could have provided, proving you’re capable of helping the team, supporting your boss and take responsibility”.  If you can’t even get that right, how on earth do you think someone will ever listen to you, follow your lead or give you a promotion? It won’t happen, never, ever. They are just advertising their own short comings for the job they claim they aspire to do.

So do your job well and good. Your job satisfaction will increase, people will notice what you can achieve and will start working with you with greater confidence, enthusiasm & results. Working hard & smart generally leaves you a richer & experienced person. And perhaps, not guaranteed, you might get a raise for that. But even if you don’t your job life will be a much happier one. If that’s not enough for you … well there are plenty of organizations that will hire you and pay you the big bucks if you have such good and in demand skills that deliver outstanding results.

All of this can be summed up in one sentence. Instead of expecting to get things because you think you’re entitled to get them start earning them by working for it. In the long run, what do you think will work out better? Assume the role & responsibilities, do the job before the title and the raise. And no that does not mean you have to work yourself to death. But 9 to 5 coasting never made anyone an expert. Here ends the career lesson.

Why I Find Value In A Conference

For those of you who are attending a high quality conference I’m going to share some tips. It’s great to be able to attend a conference. Not because it’s in a great city and you’ll get to dine out at night, but because of the opportunities it provides us to learn and grow.

So what is the value of such a conference? Well, it is about the communication with peers and guru’s. The conversations you’ll have and the exchange of taught and ideas. The technical information you’ll gather, the products and techniques you’ll see. All of this will help you to direct and focus the way in which you approach your job, run your projects, plan and realize your visions and ideas. A conference, if done well, is nothing more or less than a technical education in the business of ICT and how to do things and make it work, results versus efforts wise. On top of that you get to interact and share ideas with your peers. You can’t ask for anything more.

Conferences cost a lot of money, time and energy. After all when you’re attending you have no income or the boss pays you while you’re not in the office creating value. On top of that you have to pay for the hotel, flight, daily expenses and the conference fee.  So why would we do this? There’s a global crisis, there’s a European crisis, there’s an XYZ crisis and there is economic doom and gloom all over the place. Not to mention all the results of that downturn … cutbacks, redundancy, foreclosures, failing businesses, unemployment, etc. The conference scene is not immune to a recession. Conferences are canceled, scaled down, attendance drops.  The competition from blogs, on line, free or subscription based content, pre views, beta’s, web casts, computer based training can be felt as well, as has been the case for many years. Conferences need to fight to maintain high standards of technical content for an ever more demanding and skilled public in a very rapidly changing world and IT scene. But still, a conference done right is an investment worth making. It is an investment in knowledge. In return we get all of the above mentioned in the previous paragraph and that is why I attend them. They make me a better “Technical Architect”. That is try I really put in the effort to get the funds, create the opportunity and reserve the time to go. The benefits of a conference, if done right, cannot be denied.

What is the right way?  Well first here’s the wrong way. Don’t go there or learn how to use delegates in .NET or to build a Linq to Wmi query. It’s not just an ordinary classroom. Do not go there to nag about some issues you had or have because you’re too lazy to do research and read help files, readme texts, TechNet or MSDN. Do not go to complain about how hard it is to find information and study.  Do not go because of the great location, you will see nothing of it 🙂 unless you use it as a vacation. Maybe some USA people deserve to do this but heck I’m from Europe and I get my fair share of holidays. Also, take any frustration, denial or ignorance about the lies of instant gratification and careers success you might have had when you bought product X and it didn’t just improve your live after clicking “Next” somewhere else. Results and successes come from an enduring effort, which is a fancy word for hard work. They are not a right, a perk or let alone guaranteed (yeah some vendors and people lied to you, get over it). If you cannot search study and learn on your own get out of ICT now. If you need support for every issue or new item and expect someone to be there to help every step of the way you’re in trouble. It takes time, dedication and a great deal of effort to become and stay proficient in IT. Even then you’ll know about failure, setbacks, troubles and mistakes. Life & work is not a commercial.

Go to a conference for the big picture, the architecture, the networking with peers, the possibilities and the dreams. Expand your knowledge and views on how to make the pieces work and interact. The focus of the conference is on tying it all together, learning new and better ways, discovering possibilities which all equals to yet more stuff to learn and more work to do. At the booths manned by industry experts or representatives do give feedback about the product and offer to send some more details about certain real problems you might have come across. But be nice and polite, don’t be a jerk. Would you feel compelled to help a jerk? Techies are people, really!

Don’t run to sessions like a mad man without a plan.  Know why you are there and how to get what you’re after. If this is your first conference, everything will be new and fabulous (I hope). You can’t attend enough sessions. You are torn between the choice of sessions and tracks. You’re full of new ideas immediately and overwhelmed with even more just after that. So for all you newbie’s, get your act together and prepare a bit or it will turn into chaos. Write down ideas, insights and possibilities to pursue. What about you conference veterans? Have you’ve been there, done that?  Have you have seen it all before? Not really, and we all know it.  It’s all about lifelong learning. Conferences are about being in a stimulating environment where you “marinate” in the professional IT community for a week. Learn from and with the people attending. Not only during sessions. Lunch with them, have a coffee with them. Immerse yourself in this explosion of IT and business. Think about the new stuff, use your imagination, and write down ideas. Cross check your plans. Calibrate you insights.

The role of the conference is get you thinking about stuff and gives you a chance to talk to each other about that stuff. Interact! It is the essence of a conference. Ask questions both in public and in private. Talk to attendees, to experts, to vendors. See what they are in to, need, tried, where they succeeded and failed. Find out what they have to offer. Talk shop, talk IT life, and make that connection with the others attending in whatever role. There is a wide world out there much bigger, larger and perhaps tougher than your own little world that is driven by results and built on efforts. Those folks have professional and business experience in all of the subjects being discussed. Pick their brains! Get some new insights and ideas. Yes I know some vendors act like 2nd hand car dealers and yes I’ve met people who don’t know their own products. But that doesn’t rule out the need for and benefits of communication and interaction, those where just the wrong people, just move along. Oh and don’t forget to get a bunch of extra business cards you got out of the drawer. Also keep in touch with people you meet. Send a follow up mail, a tweet, a blog mention. That’s how you expand your knowledge network. If you get to go to a conference, enjoy it and make sure you arrive early and leave late. There is no value in missing a part of the experience to save some time or some €/$ bills.

I don’t implement all the ideas I return home with from conferences. But I have them written down in mails, scraps of paper, txt files, One Note scribbles etc. I tend to pour them into a word document during and after the conference. Form that I distill my plans, my vision and my roadmap.  I will present those to management, colleagues, partners and customers and offer them solutions based on my perception of what business needs we can satisfy with technology. The stuff I’m working on now was born as ideas 12 to 18 months ago. Those ideas are tested and checked over time, they ripe and then they become plans. I find a conference a great place to do that.