Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I watched the new iMac launch yesterday and it left me thinking, "why not". I am working with a University that has just agreed to outfit some of their labs with iMacs. The reason, because it can run Windows seemingly as well as a Dell. This has got me thinking, "Are the iMacs pointing us to the future?"

My father went to work for GE back in the late 60's/early 70's after getting out of the Air Force (I promise this is relevant). One of the perks of the job was that he always got to bring home the latest appliances because that was the section he worked in. I remember when the side-by-side refrigerators came into fashion. There were a lot of factors that pushed it. 1) More and more food had preservatives in them and didn't need to be refrigerated so there was less space needed to store cold food. 2) Families grew smaller and didn't need as much storage. 3) The average house wasn't even close to the square footage as it is today so space mattered. People saw that they could get rid of their old freezer and refrigerator and get a combination that fit in the same amount of space as just one of their old appliances.

So how the heck is this relevant? Well I think it shows a trend that people often apply to only computing technology. That is individuals want less physical things that can do more functions. Look at cell phones, Phone + PDA + Camera + GPS device. Part of the problem in my opinion though is that different OS's are better for different types of activities. I think Vista has proven that for me because I bought the Home Premium and it is still just Windows. I know there are a lot of cool things underneath Vista, but at the end of the day even with my $600 vid card for my on-line gaming fix, it still isn't better than the Wii for gaming. Some of that is hardware but a lot of that is simply OS. The new iMac though showed me that hardware is no longer the factor with a single chip set, multiple OS's can be ran on a device. Wouldn't it be cool to have a single computing device that was good for business applications and great for on-demand media and great for music composition and great for gaming. Wouldn't it be cool to have a cool new smart phone that also was a great mobile gaming device (I am talking DS or DS lite cool not Live Search club cool). Well I think the iMac is showing us that this is and should be possible.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Quick update on the gaming console crow

Even though I took a shellacking from my friends about the PS3 comments, it is proving to be correct with one twist. Microsoft is gaining the most share, Sony is bombing (so much so they have already lowered their price before the holiday season) and Nintendo is gaining all of Sony's share minus a bit to MS. I suspect to see Nintendo drop their price by the holiday in a surprise move, but not too surprising since they are the only company to make money off of their system. I then see the xBox 360 and PS3 following suit and for Sony yep that will be the second price drop in a year.

It is all about the data

...but the question is where to start. I can't tell you how many times I go into an account and they have no idea of the data models that are behind their systems or if the models they have are adequate or factual. I would say it is fair to say that most IT organizations view modeling as a nice to have still. It should not then come as a surprise that most applications are still deployed as a stove pipe within the organization. See to truly integrate systems you must have a good understanding of each system. I am not talking about an arbitrary pump of data to fill out a form either when it comes to integration, but I am talking about true data reliance when we finally achieve these service oriented architectures we talk so much about. Here is the most common excuses I hear from IT about modeling when we go into do IT master planning.

1) We have too many systems and too much legacy data
2) Modeling takes more time than it is worth
3) The users won't put in all of the data required so we have bad data
4) Not all systems require it because we are not integrating all systems
5) We have some systems that we cannot customize

I understand and can empathize with individuals that if you have never done it and have a medium size IT infrastructure, the task can be daunting. However, it is not just one large task and can be split up into several bits. Here are the first two that I suggest.

1) Catalog your current models and objects

Objects in the models are things such as employees, customers, locations and orders, for example. Once there is a good grasp of these objects, the group should pick one. I usually start with employees because it is the easiest place for people to grasp what kinds of data they would want to know about an employee or to have a way to uniquely identify them as they move from system to system.

The next two steps are to then determine what will be the "main" system that houses the authoritative data set for this object (Active Directory, an ERP system, a Customer Service system, etc...) and what systems this object appears in. It is not necessarily the case all of the time that there will be a main system, but if possible it make the data integrity easier.

Once the group goes through that exercise they should be able to rinse and repeat for all objects. Once they have all objects they should be able to go back and build out the models for all of the systems. Not always that easy but it gives them a good foundation.

2) Begin to change the user input

I love the "The users won't put in all of the data required so we have bad data" excuse. I tell the groups if a customer filled out an order or a contract but didn't put their name, the company name or a signature would you except it? There is no reason to accept partial data if there is a good business reason why full data needs to be captured.

Some of this behavior is caused by the fact that not all of the information is integrated. For instance, I know as a user if I put in a unique identifier on a form (e.g. e-mail address) there should be no reason why a company shouldn't be able to pull my address from their data banks if I had put it in before. Users will get really tired of filling in long forms and view it as a work detractor instead of something that is helping them.

Take that one object that the group identified above and start to change the input of that object to match the model you want and force the data integrity. If you start off a little bit at a time the users will get use to having to put in data of a certain format without it seeming too overbearing. Gradually introduce the rest of the input for objects until eventually you have a system that logically makes sense and you are ensuring that you are capturing the data to run that system.