Thursday 25 February 2010

Middleware Software Market Overview by Forrester

Forrester has published a report on Dec 30, 2009, providing an overview of middleware software market. It has reported total market size for middleware software at $25 billion plus for year 2008. The middleware software includes business process platforms and legacy transaction servers (e.g IBM CICS, Oracle Tuxedo, Natural/Adabas etc). As per the report, IBM is market leader with 18.7% market share. It is followed by Microsoft (16.3%), Oracle (13.8%) and SAP (5.4%). These top four vendors cover 54.2% market share. Software AG, TIBCO Software and Progress Software are the leading three independent vendors focused on a middleware portfolio. Their market shares are 2.2%, 2.1% and 1.4% respectively. Red Hat is only holding 0.2% market share though "usage" share for open source software could be more.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Diamond’s Business Design 2010 Study

Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, Inc. has published 12-page report on their site, based on its survey of 174 business leaders. It has revealed a couple of interesting findings:

  • 57% of firms have market penetration as primary objective while only 16% firms have indicated innovation as primary objective.
  • Only 6% of surveyed managers feel they are focused on changing only the processes they view as most important in accomplishing their objectives. Almost half the respondents (46%) confess that the economic crisis has caused them to spread themselves too thin.

The authors have concluded that year 2010 will be a year of increased competitive intensity. The firms will try to hold on to their current market share while stealing customers from the competition.

Near the end of the report, the authors have made following three recommendations:

  1. Review your growth portfolio to make sure you have the right capabilities and investments to support a market penetration or innovation strategy.
  2. Conduct a scenario-planning exercise that can help to foster organizational agility and better planning.
  3. Create a growth team comprised largely of line executives who can help close the thinking/doing gap and focus the organization on profitable growth.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Using Mind Maps made easy

Mind Map is a well-known graphical method to take notes. Instead of taking notes linearly so that they are read like an article, taking notes using mind map as shown in the figure has many advantages.

By arranging all information around a central theme, mind map provides a visual representation of the information, which is more intuitive to understand. They boost the recall of the information presented thus maximizing the retained learning. More importantly, since the ideas are presented in a radial, graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps help adopt a brainstorming approach to planning and organizational tasks.

To use mind map, all what you need is a paper and pen. But it becomes tedious when the mind map becomes bigger and bigger. Particularly, when you use mind maps for brainstorming, using paper and pen constraints your idea generation ability. During brainstorming we tend to get many new ideas, which require us to frequently reorganize the mind map. Doing it using paper and pen makes the mind map look messy. Also as we keep on adding new ideas and information, the mind map starts collecting more and more clutter, thus stifling further idea generation ability.

Using the software tool can help overcome these problems. By using software for creating mind map, we can add/delete ideas quite frequently without making the mind map messy. Also the software can provide a view where some branches can be collapsed or expanded thus giving non-cluttered view of the mind map.

There are quite a few mind-mapping software products available. Notable examples of commercial products include Buzan's iMindMap, MindManager (formerly known as MindMan) and XMind Pro. There are free software alternatives too. FreeMind is the one that I personally use for creating mind maps. It's easy to use and provides quite a good feature set. XMind is another free software product that can be considered.

Armed with a software product, you can effectively use mind maps thus increasing your productivity in learning and brainstorming!

Wednesday 10 February 2010

What is Knowledge?

While searching for the answer to this question, I came across following useful definition of knowledge. Tom Davenport, who is considered to be the authority on Knowledge Management has defined Knowledge as "fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information". This definition tells us the following:
  1. Nature of knowledge, which is fluid and sometimes causing some degree of difficulty to exactly identify its scope
  2. Composition of knowledge, which are comprised of experiences, values, information, and insights
  3. Purpose of knowledge, which are creating new knowledge and sharing/transferring existing knowledge
Taking it further, Knowledge Management (KM) can be defined as managing identification of knowledge, creation of knowledge, transfer of knowledge and sharing of knowledge. A Knowledge Management System (KMS) is the one that can facilitate these management activities. Needless to mention, KMS is necessary for effective KM but is no way sufficient for the same!

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Creativity & Team-building Workshop for Secondary School Children

On Sunday December 10, 2009, four of us, Mona, Manish, Vinod and I had an exciting experience in facilitating a Creativity & Team-building Workshop for Secondary School Children residing near IIT Bombay. Four of us volunteer with an NGO called Asha, which works towards providing education to underprivileged children. Asha Mumbai chapter runs a center near IIT Bombay to provide tuition to underprivileged children who study in nearby schools but do not receive enough quality education in schools.

Being working professionals, we always found it difficult to commit to teaching either on weekdays or on weekends for an extended period of time. Hence we decided to conduct a day-long workshop where we could teach something useful, which is not covered in the curriculum.

On the workshop day, we started at around 10 am. We had 26 children from fourth to ninth standards as participants. We started with "Name Game" for which we wrote 20 adjectives on blackboard. We made all children sit in a circle and asked each one to tell his/her name by adding the most relevant adjective to it. Since initial few picked up the easy ones such as good, tall and perfect, we asked others to pick up other adjectives such as courageous, enthusiastic and cooperative. We found that the children had difficult time to pronounce the long words but they were equally enthusiastic to give a try. Interestingly, we ended the session with the same activity to check the effectiveness and we received descent feedback.

The second activity involved formation of 5 teams out of 26 children. Each team was given a packet consisting of 10 stationary objects (e.g. eraser, sharpener, etc). This activity, called as "Name the things", required each team to write names of all 10 objects on one A4 sheet. Two teams won the competition by scoring seven out of ten. We took this opportunity to write down all ten names on backboard and asked each team to learn all these ten names by heart. It was interesting to watch children helping others in their teams learn these words as we tried to emphasis the importance of teamwork to them.

The third activity was quite simple. We gave one jigsaw puzzle to teams and asked them to identify the picture once completed. The children found this activity quite easy though there was intense competition among teams to complete the jigsaw at the earliest! The next activity was equally easy. We had prepared 25 chits containing 4 letter-words (no pun intended!) with last two letters swapped. The teams needed to write the correct words on given A4 sheet. This activity had a simple objective of adding/reinforcing 25 words to the vocabulary of the participating children.

Now came the time for lunch! We had arranged for vegetarian biryani and raita for all children. As we served food to them, they patiently waited and then jumped on the food altogether once we finished the initial serving. After lunch we gave them 15-minutes break so that we could quickly clean the classroom and get ready for next activity.

The post-lunch activity was for boosting the creativity of children. Trophy building, as it was called, required teams to make a trophy out of 10 sheets of A4-sized paper. We first gave them one sheet to draw the trophy that they intend to make as a team. Though initially the children were seen clueless, quickly during team discussion they came up with enough ideas. Out of five teams, only one team couldn't make the trophy that could stand by itself for at least 30 seconds. Nevertheless all the trophies demonstrated high creatively among participating children.

The final activity was a Team Drawing Competition. We gave a drawing sheet to each team with one pencil and one eraser. We mentioned 26th January as the theme. We also told them that each team member had to contribute during the drawing exercise. With only one pencil and eraser, the team found it quite difficult to coordinate their actions and we had to cool off quite a few heated arguments. Nevertheless, each team completed the drawing and then got crayons to paint the same. At the end of this activity, we had five colorful drawings, out of which we picked up one, which was not only good-looking but also was result of excellent teamwork. We took this opportunity to advise children on how team work is important and how it can help bring out excellent outcome such as winner drawing.

It was 4 pm by then and we had to conclude the workshop. Most of the children were quite engaged and wanted next activity to start. Since time was constraint, we repeated the first activity, which also helped us assess its effectiveness and served as good wrap up. The children
bid farewell to us with a question on when we will meet again. Given our constraints, we chose not to promise anything though we promised to repeat this workshop for other children supported by Asha Mumbai.

My notes from "The IT Consultant" book

“The IT Consultant” book is an excellent resource for any IT professional aiming to become IT consultant. Written by Rick Freedman, this book provides a commonsense framework for managing the client relationship. It provides a wealth of ideas, tips and information that any budding IT consultant would find useful. I have prepared my notes using mind map technique and shared here as an image in this blog.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

SAP Software Licensing Model

On its web site, SAP has made available easy-to-read 16-page document that helps develop basic understanding of SAP Software Licensing Model. You can find the link at http://www.sap.com/solutions/licensingmodel/. This guide is applicable only to SAP Business Suite, SAP BusinessObjects software, and SAP NetWeaver. Let me share my notes here.
  • SAP offers perpetual software licenses for which up-front payment is needed at the time of purchase. Additionally, SAP offers maintenance and support services for a recurring fee. Typically the annual fee for maintenance is calculated as a percentage of the software contract value (maintenance base). The annual fee is due from the first month after delivery and must be paid in advance.
  • SAP licenses its software through a combination of package licenses and named user licenses. Package licenses entitle a licensee to deploy and use the specified software functionality provided that the appropriate users accessing the functionality are licensed as well. Named user licenses are generally not tied to a specific package license but are valid across all package licenses.
  • Package licenses are priced based on key business metrics such as orders processed, contracts, gross written premium, number of patients treated, and so on. In some cases, package licenses are priced by technology metrics, like the number of CPUs in a server environment. In the case of CPUs as a license metric, the first core of a processor is counted as a full CPU while every additional core is counted only half. The licensed software product can only be used up to the licensed amount of the respective business metric.
  • SAP offers two user types: "SAP application users" and "SAP platform users." The latter are users that access SAP software exclusively through non-SAP applications that have certified integration with SAP applications. For each user type, SAP offers a number of user categories that are suited for different user roles. The default user category is the professional user. All other user categories, such as employee or limited professional, are suitable for specific usage scenarios only.
  • SAP uses different licensing principles when SAP software is accessed by a technical interface or a non-SAP application. License requirements are based on the utilization of the software functionality independent of the technical interface that is used to access functions and data.
  • Any package license includes unlimited rights for nonproductive use of the licensed software, such as development, testing, training, or creating backups. However, all users accessing the software for such purposes (for example, developers, system administrators, and trainees) need to be licensed as named users.
  • SAP software may be delivered with detailed customizing settings and master data that have been preconfigured to meet the requirements of a specific industry sector or country (SAP Best Practices packages). The right to use SAP Best   Practices is included in the respective package license. Maintenance does not include delivery of new versions of SAP Best Practices. 

Agility Paradox

We tend to believe that to become innovative and agile, the companies should not have standardized processes. In other words, we tend to believe that standardized processes stifle the innovation. Dr Peter Weill, Chairman of the MIT Sloan School of Management's Center for Information System Research (MIT CISR) disagrees. In an interview to Wall Street Journal, Dr Weill has talked about agility paradox – the companies that have more standardized and digitized business processes are faster to market and to get more revenue from new products. Dr Weill's proposition is backed up by the extensive field research done by MIT CISR so it has to be taken up seriously. And if you think through it for a long time then you will also agree with Dr Weill. I did!