Sunday, May 29, 2011

Attributes of a Product Manager...

My fellow blogger wrote about "Should Architects aspire to be Product Managers?" in which he recounts talents like being able to interact with customers, understanding the revenue model, being able to understand and articulate how the technology maps/ aligns with the business strategy, being able to work with a cross-functional teams and so on (8 attributes in total).   Strikingly, softer skills of "passion" and "focus" were called out on at least a couple of occasions, two key characteristics , in my opinion shared with the consummate  architect!!

Not only do I completely agree with the list my colleague outlines but from experience I can also testify these as key qualities of an good Product Manager.  In addition, I have found the following two attribute in a couple of "great" Product Managers with whom I have had the pleasure of interaction.  I wish to highlight these qualities as well.  

Hence, at nine and ten I propose these abilities.   Please read "Should architects aspire to be Product Managers?" for the other eight!!

- #9 - Ability to differentiate between what is core to the product offering and what is not - guarding against diluting the sweet spot of the product.

- #10 - Good understanding of competition and what differentiates this product from competition and if the product is at risk of loosing ground against competition.

Often times, I find Sales Account Managers touting their product as the end all be all elixir that addresses my every need.  By contrast, a Product Manager has to be pragmatic about presenting their product's capabilities and pain points that it was designed to address.

Thanks for listening.  Please let us know if you agree!!
Surekha -

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Innovation - Incubator for "rogue" applications (continued)

Welcome to the "Architect 2 Architect” blog, Mahi!  Awesome first post as well!  I am using an unconventional mechanism to reply to your intriguing blog post “”.

I am in complete agreement with you on both your dilemma about introduction of “out of compliance’ business solutions into the main stream enterprise technology stack and with your observation that the architect community is in fact at odds with the business in terms of  the value prop assigned to these so called "rogue" solutions. 

First of, a quick comment on why architects approach these “rouge or disruptive technologies” with skepticism!  Architects fear lack of interoperability standards in the new technology, the solutions’ inability to scale, or that there are security loop holes.  Architects are also right in verbalizing the business concerns in the pre-production phase which are the very QoS concerns that would plague the business users once the “rogue” solution is in production!!  What an irony!  Your proposal of having access to these “isolated incubator environments” helps architects in vetting out these concerns without interfering or negatively impacting mission critical business systems.  Also, as you propose if this team is made up of a “segment of the enterprise architecture team”, it insures that the architects stay open minded and in touch with both the new age technologies and the business needs!!  

Some other benefits of having the architecture community engaged in these “technology incubators” would be that the solutions are created in somewhat of an extensible manner.  In addition, architects can use scientific analysis to insure that the technology being introduced through the “rogue” solution is interoperable.  If not, the architects can employ mitigation strategies and architecture principles such as loose coupling (i.e. of data and business logic) to insure that the solution is able to scale to meet business growth projections.    

Key success criteria for investment in this type of a incubator test bed or an innovative technology SWAT team would be that these technologies/ innovative solutions are adopted as “standards” in time and brought into the main stream. This prevents the enterprise from becoming peppered with too many one off solutions and technology stacks which would end up eroding the initial benefits of speedy adoption.  Furthermore, processes need to be put in place to identify when an incubator can be promoted to become a first class citizen of the enterprise. 

Clearly, leading technology companies and technology solutions providers have recognized this need.  Case in point is the high uptake of technologies that deliver situational apps and "mash ups".   The innovative idea of Incubator environments can be used to offer disruptive technologies and solutions a “fast path” to production while offering predictability; demonstrating that speed to market and enterprise readiness need not always be competing goals but complementary ones indeed; which in turn put architects and the business on a common platform.  

Fellow architects, please join in and tell Mahi and I if you have in fact implemented the concept discussed in these two related posts! Surekha -

Innovation - Incubator for "rogue" applications

We, Architects, always have heartburns whenever we talk/think of a system that does not exactly fit into Enterprise Architect and it’s standards. I always struggled with such systems mostly because every time we talk about integration and information/data consistency across the systems this so called “rogue” application becomes yet another system to deal with. And that potentially makes it very difficult because it is not built based on the same Enterprise Architecture Standards rest of the Enterprise subscribes. What’s interesting is, often, business loves such systems.

Few months ago I read a paper (I will try and find the bookmark again) on Gartner that talked about the same topic but had a different spin on it. That got me thinking whether the cause of “heard burn” is simply a matter of being on the same page with business in terms of their expectations from such “rogue” systems. I think these “rogues” are probably an area where Enterprise Architecture should start showing more leadership. When I look around actually many successful & large software corporations such as Microsoft, IBM et al. are taking this approach already under the umbrella of “Technology Innovation”. And I know many IBM Distinguished Architects are behind such successful Technology Innovation Programs.

These so called “rogue” or “innovative” applications may do some of these things, when there is quick “business value/gain”

- How about building few quick PHP based applications in a Java shop
- How about leveraging open source at an Oracle or Microsoft or IBM shop for certain capabilities in a not-so-open-source-friendly corporation
- How about leveraging some of the controversial technologies
- How about introducing web services for a batch-friendly shop
- How about deploying “cloud” for a got-to-be-my-own-data-center friendly infrastructure team
- etc etc

How about a segment of our Enterprise Architecture teams or a Technology Innovation teams (could be partly virtual team) drive such things?

How about using these as opportunities to challenge in-place Enterprise Standards and use as “evolution” for these standards, especially because, we, EAs usually are focused so much on Governance and Consistency we ignore the opportunities to improve.

In short,

Rogue ideas –> Architecture Incubator Platform for these rogue apps –> Technology Innovation Platform that business sees value in –> Force these apps out of incubator once they prove it’s business value into Enterprise Architecture platform –> I believe that’d result in better Business & Technology alignment

Monday, May 9, 2011

What is the definition of a strategic partnership with a vendor?

In this post I try to outline a few features of what I would consider a strategic partnership with a service provider or a technology vendor.  These are thoughts that I have distilled from years of experience (good and bad) with my vendor partners. 

Hence this aspect of doing business cannot be overlook and not the least of these is the "cost" of doing business.

Here are a few key attributes, not necessarily in any particular order of preference.

1) the strategic partner relationship has to go beyond a transactional one to that of a more long term one
2) the strategic partner has to have skin in the game - they have to be measured with your success criteria - they can succeed only if you do
3) the strategic partner has to be willing to "share" their technology roadmap with you
4) the strategic partner has to allow you to re-shape their technology roadmap to meet your needs
5) the strategic partner relationship has to include making their test labs, test gear, professional services personnel available to you to expedite a critical path technology prototyping effort or to help test out a strategic technology concept

In summary, I would like to add that a healthy strategic vendor partnership is key to the success of not just a project or a business area (line of business) but also making IT a strategic partner for the business - especially in capturing lost business opportunity with the strategic and timely use of technology - key for this "always connected" social networking world!! 

I am curious to hear from you about your experiences to this effect.
surekha -