Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

By Date: May 2013


In an ideal world a corporate IT department would run a standardized, secure environment that fulfills all user requirement. The members of the CIO office are well respected and often invited, since when they turn up, things start moving. Also everybody loves the flying cars they use for transport.
In reality most IT departments are caught between a rock and a hard place. Under the (justified or not) pretext of standardization (read: saving cost for the IT department) and security IT departments got used to say no or demand outrageous sums of money. When I was working for a bank (and there are quite many on the list) the customer relations department wanted a website to share information with their high net client, something you can use a Domino easily for. The IT guys jumped in and proposed a high availability architecture that had to have a hardware appliance for SSL management. Naturally that blew any budget. I challenged them and they declared: we must make sure it is secure, so I asked them what they think the customer relationship officers do now, sending eMail of course! They looked a little puzzled and declared: " our computing guidelines don't allow confidential information to be send via eMail, so there isn't a problem". So I asked them: what do you think will happen when a billionaire customer calls and says "eMail me that information"? Out through the window go your guidelines
So the trinity of "can't, won't, charge you arm and leg" let to the rise of an interesting animal lurking in the dark: ShadowIT
It is lurking in the dark
The server running on that spare laptop, the pluggable harddrive for backup etc. Even more in software: that word processing macro, the spreadsheet running reports, that little PHP site, that student tool combining CSV exports from the inner sanctum of corporate IT. Interestingly no IT department dares to challenge it, but they should. ShadowIT leads to incompatible data, fragile combination of information, duplicate entries and so on. But of course weeding it out only drives it further away, high into the cloud. The only way to cut it out: fulfil user needs as envisioned when IT was invented. In short transform from " Gibts nicht to Geht nicht, gibts nicht (from "you can have that" to "impossible is impossible")

Posted by on 30 May 2013 | Comments (1) | categories: Business

Don't try this at home!

Domino has a refined security system, so the java.policy file can be a real PITA. So you would be tempted to write a few lines of LotusScript and run it on a scheduled agent, so on the next server restart that pain goes away. Of course you wouldn't write code like below which lacks any error handling.You also would not hide this code from your admin people who would want an impact study and your firstborn for any change they make. So instead of doing all this you wait until there is a proper configuration setting for this.
Option Public
Option Declare

Sub Initialize
    Dim s As New NotesSession
    Dim inikey As String
    Dim secFileName As String
    Dim stream As NotesStream
    Dim policy As String
    Dim beginString As String
    Dim endString As String
    Dim permission As String
    Dim beginPos As Integer
    Dim endPos As Integer
    inikey = "NotesProgram"
    beginString = "grant {"
    endString = "}"
    secFileName = s. Getenvironmentstring (iniKey, true )
    secFileName = secFileName + "jvm/lib/security/java.policy"
    permission = "permission java.security.AllPermission;"
    Set stream = s. Createstream ( )
    Call stream. Open (secFileName )
    policy = stream. Readtext ( )
    beginPos = InStr (policy,beginString )
    If beginPos < 1 Then
        'We don't have any so we abort
        Exit sub
    End If
    Dim firstCut As String
    firstCut = Mid$ (policy,beginPos )
    endPos = InStr (firstCut,endString )
    If endPos < 1 Then
        'The file is borked
        Exit Sub
    End If
    Dim allGrant As String
    allGrant = Mid$ (firstCut, 1,endPos )
    'Now the check
    If InStr (allGrant,permission ) < 1 Then
        'We need to update the file
        Call stream. Truncate ( )
        Call stream. Writetext ( Mid$ (policy, 1,beginPos+ 7 ), EOL_NONE )
        Call stream. Writetext (permission, EOL_PLATFORM )
        Call stream. Writetext ( Mid$ (policy,beginPos+ 7 ), EOL_NONE )
    End If
    Call stream. Close ( )
End Sub
As usual YMMV

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Posted by on 21 May 2013 | Comments (10) | categories: XPages

Enterprise 2.0 and weight loss - siblings separated at birth?

This blog entry is inspired and largely translated from this German article authored by enterprise consultant Andreas Schulze-Kopp. Having gone through some personal transformation (final results in November) myself, I found Andreas' comparison of Enterprise 2.0 initiatives and weight loss programs intriguing.
The tasks are comparable: alter habits, break through the mould of old behavioural pattern (a.k.a processes in business lingo) show enough determination and will power to see it through. While Andreas provides an " Augenweide" I'll offer (only) a mindmap. (Buzan's own iMindMap ditched their Linux development, so I'm switching to XMind).
Enterprise 2.0 and Weight loss

Change of habits

Without rethinking habits and processes neither a social business project nor the latest, greatest diet have any chance for sustainable success. Change is inevitable and needs to be embraced openly. Don't commit the folly presuming to get it right the first time, so even the change process needs adjustment, change changes. As with the diet: Start moving!. Without movement both your weight loss and your social business initiative are dead in the water.

Process cleanup

Once you got rid of old habits, your procedures and processed need to be adjusted or terminated. There is no more space for the sugar bomb in the freezer or the Monday morning spreadshit in the inbox. You drink green tea and the latest figures are either in the Social CRM or in your openly shared files.

Will power

The key ingredient! Without the unwavering will to see it through both can't be sustained. Unavoidable setbacks and negative experiences can be offset by determination. The determination to continue even if initially you lost a few pounds only, despite feeling hungry and moving a lot. The determination to see the project through even when the initial project acceptance isn't stellar and contributions stay sparse.


A life style change (induced by a diet) and an enterprise 2.0 project must be backed by the conviction to do the right thing. If I'm not convinced my willpower will wafer and I soon find myself crafting excuses to exit. Senior management must be a role model and participate authentic in the enterprise 2.0. Employees have a fine BS radar and "lip-service only" participation of senior management will result in lip-service only imitation and ultimately failure.
Will power is fuelled by conviction and conviction needs to be fuelled by vision. Where do I want to be: "Envision you look into the mirror and you love what you see". Or to use Antoine's words: " If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea".

Patience and endurance

Rome wasn't built in a day, real change in shape and organisation take time. In a time where the cadence of most organisations is determined by their quarterly reports, patience is a rather rare commodity. The temptation is great to increase the pressure to see results now, only to face a backslash shortly thereafter. Behaviour and understanding are no simple switches that can be flipped, their fundamental changes need to be practised and settle in

The Jo-Jo effect

Easy goes, easy comes (daily mourning of a "diet pro"). Changing your shape, personally and in the enterprise requires permanent changes in behaviour and attitude. A short term, high effort, fast paced program can't sustain (even if lots of organisations think so), once the effort fizzles out (typically replaced by another corporate wide initiative) old habits resurface, old processes get reinstated and goals get abandoned. The organisation bounces back to old habits. Changing habits takes time, allocating to little of it dooms any project.

The support group

Working out, moving, doing things different makes more fun in the right company. Members in a group motivate, compete and catch each other. The same is true for the enterprise 2.0 projects. Group dynamics will require skilled leaders. This is where your social champions become crystallisation points for the social transformation.

Counting vs. quality

Remember (or ask one who remembers) how counting calories in the last diet sucked big time. It feels like being restricted. A good diet rather improves on the quality and variation of food, so portions can shrink. The same applies to the enterprise 2.0 space. If all that is cared for are numbers, employees feel additional pressures and will time and again prove their creativity in gaming the metric - not the result you are working for. Focus on quality!

The tools

There is a whole industry catering to weight loss candidates - as there is for enterprise 2.0. If running is your weapon of choice, you should have good shoes. Measuring vital signs makes sense too, you don't want to waste effort (too low) or kill yourself (too high). The same applies in the organisation. Tools on their own have no effect (think sport shoes in the closet), but with the other items in this little list they can make success easier. Pick them well and in line with your goals (having "share" in the name doesn't make it social by default).

This list by far isn't complete and you are welcome to add your own thoughts

Posted by on 14 May 2013 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

Modernizing Notes applications - lessons from the trenches

Not only since mobile first became fashionable corporations are trying to ditch the Lotus IBM Notes client - for various reasons.
These efforts were branded " modernization", " web enablement", " mobile enablement" or if a competitor had a word " migration". Initially there was hope that this would be a short, painless and automated process (the upgrades, not the migrations that is). But reality taught a few facts that you need to consider:
  • A Rich Client is based on RichText, a browser client on HTML. There is no 1:1 mapping (otherwise one format would be superfluous), only some approximation (just ask Ben about it). Much more: there is no 1:1 mapping of the event models and APIs. So any automation would lead to incredible hacks
  • The Notes client's and Domino server's LotusScript runtimes are, while dated, incredibly robust and forgiving. The amount of OMG code I've seen in Notes applications (including my own ) tops any other platform.
    Still that code gets the job done and out of the way. However that doesn't translate into another language in an automated fashion, but rather demands the repayment of quite some technical debt
  • Code that gets a client with one user huffing and puffing can't simply be expected to run for hundreds or thousands of users on a single server
  • Users expect web (and mobile) applications to be fresh and modern. If Jack Sparrow couldn't find the fountain of youth, how can an automated tool do that?
    This is a clear conflict of interest between the users ("shall be modern and fresh") and the ones paying for it ("make it work in a browser, fast & cheap") - a classic for Why enterprise software sucks
    John D. Head clearly outlines expectations and possibilities for modern user interfaces. Teamstudio provides a nice set of modern mobile controls (that even work offline for a fee)
  • The amount of Notes applications mostly get underestimated greatly. Use a scientific method to create evidence
So damn if you don't, damn if you do? Not quite. In an approach Peter calls Asymmetric Modernization you step back from the tree to see the forest. Instead of looking the usual Notes way " application-by-application", see the sum of the applications and wipe them out, all of them modernize them all in one go (it is called economy of scale).
Nathan and Peter share a video, the modernization of the nifty-fifty, a recent case study and the service offering. Go check them out.
The biggest issue I see with this approach is the usual cautious stand in IT today:" let us do one (insignificant) application first and see how it goes. Then we linearly extrapolate and get scared" That is the total opposite of Asymmetric Modernization, so it will require clever persuasion to get a project approved.
As usual YMMV

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Posted by on 09 May 2013 | Comments (5) | categories: XPages

CRM & Sales Tracking

IBM is ditching Siebel CRM in favour of SugarCRM. Cloud based CRM was made popular by Salesforce while Zoho wants a share of the pie too.
All to often CRM offers or is used as sales force automation tool, which it is not (only). But what makes a good CRM? It needs to provide access to anything that relates to a customer. Doh - that's what the name claims.
Wide view of customer relationship management
In larger organisations CRM typically is understood very narrowly as sales tracking tool, the broader definition as outlined above gets covered by a combination of Portal on the front (a.k.a glass level) and master data management ( MDM). Smaller organisations don't have that luxury. There an integrated system makes most sense.
Now guess on what platform those have been built. A little selection (in no specific order and not complete): As usual YMMV

Posted by on 05 May 2013 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore