9 Step Guide to Delivering a Successful Solution

The aim of this post is to produce a repeatable guide to designing an endpoint solution, where the endpoint is the interface to consume information.

Step 1 – Understand the Business

  • Survey your user base
  • Speak to a range of business units
  • Speak to people in different geographical locations
  • Meet with peers in industry verticals and share information online

Understanding the business is more than just being in a business or industry segment for a period of time.  People and practices change, getting to grips with what is happening around you will help you judge and meet demand.

The knowledge you gain will help you add value to the conversations you have.  If you add value people will want to engage with you and are going to trust you when you present them with a solution.

Step 2 – Define the Requirement

It’s important to document the first conversations with the customer or business unit that is seeking a solution.  Gathering the initial information in a format you are comfortable with works well but it’s important to send your notes back to everyone in the meeting in a format everyone can access and understand.  Keep to bullet points and get agreement that you understood the needs and responsibilities of everyone in the meeting.

Step 3 – Engage Relevant Partners

Knowing when and where to use a value add partner is a critical component in the success of any project.  Be prepared to share knowledge but make sure you set the agenda.

Step 4 – Scope What You are Going to Achieve

Scope out the aim, this is the ultimate end goal and break down the project into objectives.  Understand and communicate who is responsible for each objective and seek approval from the project owner that you are moving in the right direction.

Step 5 – Demo and Mock up a Solution

A visual representation is always a great way to present your solution back to the business.  If you have the ability to customize a standard demo environment this will help with quick changes and allow for a repeatable approach.

Step 6 – Request Feedback

If you are struggling to engage the business further the demo is a good point to ask for feedback.  Bringing partners back in at this stage for comment is always worth while but as with any partner engagement it is important to control the agenda.

Step 7 – Deliver Solution Overview

After analyzing the feedback put together the final solution proposal and overview. At this stage you should be able to provide a cost model or enough information to the project management team to organizing costing.

Step 8 – Seek Acceptance

When the solution overview has been delivered seek acceptance from the business and look to confirm the next steps on the engagement.

You should now be at a point where each party engaged understands what the final outcome will look like, what it is going to deliver and who is going to manage and cost the delivery.

Step 9 – Stay Engaged

Throughout the project stay engaged during the process.  It’s important to be there at any kick off meetings to make sure those picking up tasks have access to you during the project.

Flipping the Workplace

Recently I’ve been working in the education space, it’s something I recommend for everyone at least once.  The challenges are numerous, educators are innovators and it is interesting dealing with the technical demands of a user base heavily influenced by consumer trends.

It was the university sector that first introduced me to reverse learning or flipped learning.

“The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates. (Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching).”

Further reading – Flipping the classroom – The Economist

With the ability to access information from almost anywhere people are seeking to plough through the noise before they enter the office. In exactly the same way a flipped classroom has students viewing the information before they come together, a flipped workplace lets staff digest the knowledge they need before they meet to work on an outcome.

Martin Dursma, VP Citrix Labs and CTO Office Chair delivered a presentation at Citrix Synergy titled Taking One Step Beyond with other Citrix CTOs he covered some interesting long term technology trends.

Many mirror what is happening in education; organisations trying to mobilse their workforce to slow down the need for additional office space, the medical sector responding to instant information availability and device trends and engineering and construction firms taking information out to the field for instant feedback and collaboration.  Each of these examples is changing the demand on the traditional workspace and enabling people to flip the way they work.

IT professionals and departments need to be enablers and leaders of this approach to working and not the blockers or luddites.

Maybe its time to go back to class?

Are Mirco Apps Changing Everything?

I come from a desktop / application background, I’ve spent most of my IT career working with one flavour or another of Citrix’s XenApp platform (I’ve been through all the name changes) and am currently employed by Citrix as a Systems Engineer in Australia.  To that end I’ve spent a lot of time working with apps; in the early days that meant hacking them as best I could to squeeze them onto a multi-user platform.  This kept me extremely busy however in reality was always a marginal activity, in that most applications were being installed onto desktops.  I saw a major change with my involvement in the launch of an “e” project in 1999; “e” stood for electronic and the company I was working with started investing heavily in creating web front ends to all applications.  The end result was that vast numbers of apps were rolled out onto MetaFrame because users wanted the full application and the business wanted to centralise. (I say business but it was in fact the IT division’s idea).  The end result for me was that I saw the business demanding fully functional applications and the impact of that project has stuck with me ever since.

I often sit with customers today and one statement I hear myself saying again and again is “do you have a desktop or application problem?” The point I am trying to highlight is that maybe we can solve the issue they have raised by pulling out the applications that require attention.  And not look at reworking their desktop strategy. After all it’s the apps that are important?

Recently I found myself again pondering this scenario and so I tweeted “It’s all about the apps, always had been always will be” and this generated a number of responses.  The first that came back was from @bramwolfs “I think it’s all about the data not specifically the apps..” Which immediately had me thinking there was little way out of this; data exists and is manipulated by apps, my focus has always been on the apps and that is where I make my money so that is where I placed my bet.  @KBaggerman highlighted a blog post titled “VDI OK What’s Next” by Stephane Thirion a Citrix CTP (@archynet) talking about desktops versus applications and applications versus data.  He makes some interesting points about the relationships between data and applications and the importance of data.  I can only agree however I would add that as some apps sole purpose is to collect and create data it is hard to define and almost irrelevant to consider which came first or which is more important, both are a requirement.

More interestingly he talks about user habits and the requirement of a desktop operating system, he also talks about the rise of mobile apps or micro apps; i.e.  apps created for a single purpose that do not require interaction or workflows with other applications and therefore do not require a desktop operating system.

This to me is an interesting area of development and I believe we are seeing two forces at play; the rise of SaaS and its adoption and the influence of the iPad and tablet.  Firstly SaaS is entering every workplace, I was recently  hosting a CIO round table discussion and every CIO was focused on SaaS and in fact the most interesting comment was “every app I deliver I now have to compete against a SaaS app, that is the way I have to think.” And you know what I think he was right; if you enforce a monolithic set of apps onto a workforce and it is not meeting the needs of a business unit then you can bet within days that business unit will be hunting out an alternative and swiping their credit card when they find something they like. Secondly the iPad factor, all apps on the iPad have single functions, I book my travel, check my email, look at website and knock over blocks with very upset birds.  Each app performs well and every day I use them I am breaking the habit of having to work within an operating system.  And therefore every day that operating system becomes less relevant to me.

Can we drop the operating system, no there are too many applications built for that platform. Is the desktop operating system becoming less relevant, yes however this has to be taken into context, just take a look at how many Windows 7 licenses have been sold since release.  But I do think that the mico app aided by the choice and availability on offer from SaaS vendors is accelerating change.

UPDATE  If you want  to read some interesting points head back to  “VDI OK What’s Next” by Stephane Thirion and join in or have a read.

Cloud Architecture is Different

During the day two Super Session at Citrix Synergy Barcelona, Sheng Liang, CTO of the cloud platforms group at Citrix, took the stage to discuss a number of interesting concepts.  One that stood out for me was when he highlighted differences between cloud architecture and enterprise architecture.  He stated that cloud architecture is different from enterprise architecture and that this  fact is missed by many.  At first glance this statement falls into the obvious category however like most simple concepts they only become obvious once stated and laid out in front of you.

I visit server rooms and data centres on a regular basis and it is becoming common for these to be described as company X’s cloud.  However if the environment has been built using the same principles and architecture as the last data centre then the environment will never scale correctly or offer services the way a true cloud can.

Sheng Liang outlined five areas of consideration:

  1. Enterprise architecture scales up server clusters, cloud architecture scales out server farms
  2. Enterprise architecture assumes reliable infrastructure, Cloud architecture expects infrastructure to fail
  3. Enterprise architecture is high cost, Cloud architecture is low cost
  4. Enterprise architecture is IT Mgmt-centric (1:100’s), Cloud architecture is autonomic management (1:1000’s)
  5. Enterprise architecture uses proprietary vendor stack, cloud architecture uses open, value added stack
Its definitely time to rethink that data centre build, to think automation and to resist the urge to monitor each server CPU and IO response time.  Switches will fail, servers will overheat but services will be delivered on time at a cost never seen before by the business allowing rapid scale and mobility.
Bring it on.

Watch the session here Citrix Synergy Live

 

Windows 8, Touch me Now!

There have been a number of blogs about the Windows 8 Metro look and feel, some positive some negative.  In my own experience if you use the OS from a touch enabled device the experience is good, try using a mouse and it is frustrating.  No doubt it will be possible to switch between interfaces however what I would like to see is the intelligence in the operating system to detect the type of device you are using and then present the interface based on the result.  Between devices if the user choices and settings can be synced then I think Microsoft will have a real winner.  In my opinion leave it up to admins to decide who gets what and when and force users to use an interface they are not happy with and the operating system will be rejected.