Monthly Archives: May 2011

Pass the Secret Sauce, please


Is it just Americans that say this? What is it ? Well for most of us its the HP bottle of tomato ketchup or spicy hot chilli sauce we use in our favourite curry dish on a Friday night. For technology however, the analogy of a bottle of ‘Secret Sauce’ can take on many different connotations.

It could be you as a person, or it could the product you are selling, or the way you deliver a service.

The great thing about it is that it engenders some form of mystery and furtiveness that makes the person you are talking think “Jez, this guy has something to offer – I had better listen because he has the Secret Sauce ”.

For many of us we think of Secret Sauce as perhaps our USP Unique Selling Point – but lets consider this:

  • Do you really have anything that we can call Secret Sauce? ( be honest )
  • If not, why not?
  • Do your competitors have Secret Sauce?
  • if so, how did they get it?
  • Can we create some Secret Sauce?
  • Do we have the ingredients and skills?
  • Do we know someone who has?
  • Can I get trained to develop my own sauce?

Deliberately I avoid making technology an ingredient of the Secret Sauce. Why? Well for sure there is some clever innovative code development buried deep inside technology, but there is such an open collaborative industry at work these days, that having any ‘Secret Sauce’ is increasingly difficult to maintain. Look at mobile technology. Secrets perhaps but pretty much everyone is doing the same thing. Look at cloud. Ditto. Look at storage. Ditto. And so on.

OK so its not the products, What is it? Well in my view its largely through the people you know, and how you can work together to build something unique or different. You may have a small window to claim that you have Secret Sauce before someone leaks onto Twitter or your competition just reads your web site or something like that.

So it makes me think that as we all talk and sell technology that we too often overlook whether our conversation contains any clues or references to our own personal ‘Secret Sauce’, and whether we consider this important enough to help us close the business or whatever we are talking about.

Pass the Secret Sauce please – my Bacon and Egg sandwich is going cold Smile




Corridor of uncertainty

You have a fantastic proposition. The innovation is awesome in your deal. The business benefit is dripping with lower costs and improved service. The improvements to service and security are outstanding. So why are you uncertain that your bid will not get signed off.


According to Gartner, the CFO is the big news in major IT decision making. Their recent 2011 CFO Study reveals some compelling statistics that add weight to the concern that there really is CFO lurking at the end of the metaphorical corridor of uncertainty.

So did you know that a CFO in 21% of the time will directly authorise an IT investment, and that over 50% of the time, the CFO will collaborate with the IT Director to make the decision.?

Over 45% of IT units reports directly to the CFO

And that CFOs are increasingly focused on IT investments that significantly demonstrate COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

So when you think about Cloud Computing bear in mind the above factors. The corridor you may have to walk down may be a long and arduous one, but if you have done your homework and feel confident that when you knock on the CFO’s door, then you should be OK. Right?

Of course the hard bit is making sure all the people in the corridor of uncertainty are not displaying the same financial traits of the CFO. What do I mean? Well in my fictitious corridor above, it is very likely that the CFO has driven into each of the other people occupying the corridor, the need for financial prudence and governance.

Don’t be complacent and think that because you ‘have the ear of the CIO or Security Officer’ that your bid will go through swimmingly. Picture the corridor of uncertainty and make sure you know where you business case will end up. Now do you feel so confident?

Cloud computing offers many technical advantages and contains some amazing innovation and service opportunity, but if it lacks the punch of a strong financial business case, it might as well be made of chocolate.

Have you ever tried to pour tea from a chocolate teapot?

Have a good day



Borderless – where is it the edge?

People talk about Borderless Computing. What do they mean?

Well forgetting the national boundaries and legislative considerations in the EU or elsewhere in the world, the concept of Borderless Computing has been occupying my mind. Why? Well the amount of people who now rely on computing resource on devices that sit comfortably outside the borders of any corporate network is reaching prodigious extent. Two schools are in potential conflict with one group demanding the panacea of instant anywhere access, whilst the other screams for locks on all network ingress points with deep dive inspection of all our bits and bytes. Who is right?

image image

Of course all our bits and byes whizz round the stratosphere at the speed of light and don’t have to stop and be checking over before traversing another national boundary ( OK with a few notable exceptions and legislative restrictions – such as China and Safe Harbour ).

What is happening is that the edge of the network is moving further and further away from the traditional edge of the network e.g. the firewalls, the branch office, the remote dial in VPN user. Now people are running devices that seamlessly access line of business applications in corporate datacenters ( or clouds ) without concern for how they do it.

So tell me something new Brummie.

Well the concept of cloud rushing about and above us in the atmosphere carrying our email, documents and communications, really does define the borderless network. The people who ‘worry about cloud computing’ however, have the unenviably task of laying down information compliance and regulation for how data is to be transmitted, secured, audited, backed up and protected.

Now given that cloud is a given and that by implication, borderless computing is here to stay forever. But what top questions do we need to ask ourselves as part of a ‘Conscious strategy’ for cloud or any other IT infrastructure decision.? Here’s my stab of 5 teasers.

  1. Can Mobile Devices Access My Network Transparently and Securely?
  2. Can My Network Deliver Protection From the Premise to the Cloud?
  3. Do I Have a Consistent Access Policy Architecture Across My Network for all Users and Devices?
  4. Can My Network Optimize Performance of Applications Anytime, Anywhere?
  5. Is My Network Ready for Current and Future Regulatory Requirements?

My point? Well we spend so much time on what is going on in the datacenter through virtualization, automation, provisioning, orchestration and so on, that we often fail to realise that we are only doing all this heavy engineering to provide a platform for borderless networking ( or more relevantly, people who access our systems from anywhere).

Reminding ourselves when talking about cloud and strategy therefore must always keep the extent that borderless computing will define our conversation high up on our agenda. Consciously.




SME–a new meaning

We have all met them. SMEs. No not Small to medium enterprises. I mean Subject Matter Experts.


They are the guys who have deep technical knowledge of a particular discipline, based on significant exposure to the design, build and commission of complex technology solutions. On the flip side they can also be experts in their field which spans multi-disciplines and technology sectors.

Whichever way they come at you they are recognised by their peers as being an expert ( whether they can stand up in a court of law as one is another debate of course ) .

So you then take ‘cloud’ as a mix of technology, business, architecture, and service delivery and throw your ‘average’ Subject Matter Expert into the ring. What do you get? Lots of them. Why? Because cloud is exceptionally complex ( unless you are just swinging your email up to a public cloud provider for a flat fee).  This inherent complexity is totally understandable, and you would expect it. You wouldn’t expect heart surgery to be performed entirely by one ‘heart SME’. It is a team, and consists of multiple SMEs.

However, and there is always an however. The state of play today – 25th May 2011 – means that there is a gap between the cloud SMEs and the customers. This gap is being pushed open by Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt (FUD), and the concerns that cloud is a solution looking for a problem.

What is needed therefore are SCENARIO MATTER EXPERTS. These people are those people ( few and far between ) who at heart are technologists, but also business orientated souls. These SMEs can describe the scenario for a cloud decision that commercially and technically stacks up. They can do this on their own without the plethora of architects and engineers sufficient to represent the true business value from a cloud strategy.

When do you know when you meet one of these SMEs? Usually because of their questions and approach. They talk a different language to most and are less precious about what you have today in technology terms but more interested in business stakeholders’, and painting the scenarios that meet the bottom line requirements for these stakeholders. You will usually find them in the board room not the datacenter, nor clustered around a table with techies.

These SMEs will give you back business context in their business case, representing the options ( including what a do nothing approach looks like ), and can articulate the scenario in commercial and service language.

Is cloud changing the role of the Subject Matter Expert? Do we no longer need these guys? No not at all, but i think that the Scenario Matter Expert is needed also. Can one be the other. Absolutely.

My point? Businesses expect people to be ‘expert’ at talking and designing scenarios that meet their requirements. This requires open and wide spread knowledge coupled with the capability to identify the deep dive aspects ( and the people who have that knowledge ) . Cloud is really testing us to be able to articulate in this manner.

I spoke earlier in my blog about the IT Experience Clock Being Reset. I believe this is the case.



Composite & Attribute – Meaty Words


Don’t you just love some of the words we use in our technology landscape? Well here are two rich meaty and spine tingling words that are now becoming mainstream in our every day lives. Really? Ok so a bit melodramatic but its my blog so i get the use the words – ok!

Look at my image above. Can you imagine going to see a firm of solicitors with the name Composite & Attribute. Now this is a firm that means business.

The cloud as we are all learning is made up of many distinct components ( COMPOSITES ) such as storage, networking, security, service, contracts, business process and so on. Composites in other walks of life can be very complex, such as construction and science. Technology is not far behind and despite the ‘light switch’ vision, there is a lot of composite parts that make up the whole.

Now for Attribute. Each aspect of the cloud paradigm is made up of objects, elements, documents and so on. Whether these reside locally, in your cloud, in someone else’s cloud or on your mobile device, there will be a specification that defines these objects and so forth ( ATTRIBUTES).

Drilling further there are the attributes that define what cloud means in itself such as multi-tenancy, elasticity, self service and so on.

My point? Both of these words are proper meaty words that define and shape how we describe the characteristics of our cloud discussion. They don’t work well with the fluffy marketing hype out in the ether. No, instead they help give the discussion some balance and structure. They let you quantify and give value to the cloud discussion. They will let you attach cost and outputs, and establish the service definition.

In my humble opinion should be in the vocabulary of everyone involved in selling cloud services.

So when the day comes and you are looking for someone to represent your cloud discussion, you wouldn’t go far wrong commissioning someone like COMPOSITE & ATTRIBUTE.


Even if it was free – Part 2

So the first part was very focused on the free nature of mobile phones apps. Topical considering the Apprentice on BBC the other night, and the news re Skype. Both in different ways highlight the problem with free technology. The Apprentice was all about developing mobile phone apps and selling them for a few pence, and the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft highlights the world of free internet based telephony and collaboration.

        image                   image

The context here is that even if technology was free ( or a few pennies or dimes ), people would still not deploy it. Lets dig in  a bit.

We all know technology alone doesn’t make everything fine. it is the skill of the people, the environment, the characteristics, the commitment and the desire to make it succeed. This is all well worn territory that people real out every time a major IT project stalls or fails to deliver.

But I see this problem being magnified by the ‘free’ nature of the modern and ubiquitous nature of today’s  technology environment. Everywhere you look you see stories which suggests that all you need to do is switch it on, and you are then connected and totally productive. On the other side of this ‘coin’ we have the cynicism and governance of people who are wiser and responsible around value for money, effort, support and impact to the individual or the business.

Honing in on the corporate world for a minute, this conflict is now a mainstream problem. Cloud of course does have this ‘free’ tag about it, with the media and vendors representing cloud as a commodity like water that you can turn on and off and pay for what you have just used. Of course cloud computing isn’t free, but can you imagine if it was? Would people just say ‘now its free I’m going to use it” Of course not.

So imagine that you are trying to sell cloud. It isn’t going to be easy. Why? Because despite all this hype, there is a real value attached to making a cloud decision. People aren’t going to do it simply because you have a ‘great price’ or ‘story’ to tell. It will help of course, but asks yourself this question.

‘If I made all my products free ( or a few pence ) would people buy them.’

Now track back, and think of all the reasons they would give you to explain why they wouldn’t bite your hand off. Prepare a list of responses. Doing this will be a good tactic and discipline. Remember value is rarely judged by conscious people in the price. They have their eyes wide open and will have a number of subtle and complex reasoning ‘gates’ that they go through. Cost is just going to be one of them. The clue is in the Consciousness. Knowing this can really help you.




My new word !

There is that wonderful phrase – “keep your enemies close” – which so elegantly describes the business strategy of not pushing your enemies away, but in fact keeping close to them to learn, digest, enhance and improve your own position at their expense.

In the technology world this is ever more meaningful as vendors compete ( and collaborate ) to ensure they are winning market share. So we now see a portmanteau of two words – Friend and Enemy – FRENEMY.


Although it seems Frenemy was first used in 1953….where has it been for the last 50+ years! I love it, because more than ever, the vendors have realised they need to be friends ( and enemies ) and anyone looking up to these vendors need to realise that this ‘love ( hate )’ tussle is taking place.

Why? Because if you don’t then you can easily be lead by one vendor too far or not enough, and ignore what other vendors are doing. I’m not saying its a trust thing, but more commercial prudence, and a realization that vendors’ need to be friends more than enemies in today’s harder climates.

Will leave you with this thought.

A very popular vendor ( call them x ) was often criticised that they were losing share to another vendor ( call them Y). However, what people didn’t realise was that Vendor X actually encouraged people to buy vendor Y’s products because it enhanced their own product portfolio because to use vendor Y’s product you need a good slice of vendor X’s products too!

Thought for the day? Don’t be anal about vendors. Be grown up and realise that to be successful you need to keep you Frenemies close.


Cloud or Strategy? Which way round


So Ok we are all smart people. Right?

Which picture is correct?

It isn’t as easy as you may think as it calls into question your view of what Cloud and Strategy actually means.

Leave it with you.




A strategy meeting..where is everyone?

I had a bit of fun the other week with my image of a cloud strategy meeting  (,

A bit of fun of course, but with the serious undertone that I suspect a lot of people are having meetings about cloud – especially private cloud – without any clear idea of what the purpose and outcomes are supposed to be.

So today I’m thinking of another type of cloud meeting ( or any strategy meeting really )  where you find yourself the only person at the meeting. The image above perfectly sums it up to me.

You know the kind of meeting I’m on about! It’s where there are loads of people in the room, yet you feel like you are sitting on a stool in the middle of the field for all the good you are doing. What I love about this image is that the guy ( who could be myself ) is staring wishfully into the distance at the clouds heading his way. Sums a lot of things up!

Is there a message in this post. Absolutely not. It is a picture of a man sitting on a stool in the middle of a field staring up at some clouds. If you think it is anymore then good for you!


Originality and the search box


Yeah we all have it.

As I got the end of the particular text I was reading ( lets say it was my son’s homework for  context ) I fired up the old Google search box ( or was it Bing – ha ), and took the first sentence of his appraisal and pasted it right into the search box. Bingo! In front of my eyes were the exact words attributed to some professor or similar student sitting their on the WWW winking mischievously back at me Smile

Of course it may not have been by son, and I may be using him as a agent provocateur to create the context for this post. Of course, knowing my son it could have easily applied to him. I taught him cut and paste well!

But going along with the story I pulled my son up on this blatant ‘rip off’, and asked him to explain why he thought originality of thought was not a thing to be admired and sought after. Other than a shrug of the shoulders, he commented that ‘everyone does it so what’s the problem”.

Wikipedia has originality as…..

Originality is the aspect of created or invented works by as being new or novel, and thus can be distinguished from reproductions, clones, forgeries, or derivative works”

Well my problem is I fear for the lack of originality in the technology world today. Sure we are in a fast moving, always on, in your face, 24 7 digital world, and we don’t have time to be original. Just take a look at the The blogosphere that we are participating in right now. How much original content is out there. I reckon less than 10%. The rest is reused and reworded text that others have posted.

Its hard being original. Really hard. Often there are no prizes for being original of course,  and too often people who try to be original are often cast as ‘freaks’ or ‘weirdos’. To many people its better to conform, and follow the pack and use cut and paste because its ‘safer’; and it makes you ‘more credible’. Cut and paste is the perfect tool for this.

Of course if you are describing something very specific and without ambiguity then using ‘boilerplate’ text is acceptable, as it gives you credibility and a reference point. But do you find people stretch this a little and apply the ‘the bigger the document the better’ rule? Ugh.

So we are all on the clock when writing something that we have borrowed following a search query. Remember – the person reading your ‘hard work’ may be poised with the copy and paste and a search box, and be imminently calling to label you as a ‘fraud’, ‘lazy’ or ‘devious’.