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Every once in a while, you run into an individual or an organization with an acutely mechanistic view of software development processes. “Mechanistic,” in this context, means that processes are like machines: you wind them up and let them go. As long as they continue to operate, good things will result. This misconception echoes a similar view of political systems that is alternately harmless and dangerous. In “The Place Of The Independent In Politics,” James Russell Lowell warned that too many Americans had lapsed into a view of the Constitution that it was a “machine that would go if itself.” “I admire the splendid complacency of my countrymen,” Lowell said, “and find something exhilarating and …

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It took home improvement retailing giant Home Depot about a week before it finally confirmed it had suffered a data breach. Home Depot first reported the possibility of a breach on 2 September 2014, but did not actually confirm the hacking until 8 September. During that time, the company made somewhat vague statements that it was still carrying out an investigation to determine whether or not its systems had actually been compromised. Based on the company’s recent press release confirming the breach (see “The Home Depot Provides Update on Breach Investigation“), it appears that Home Depot’s internal IT security team was unaware that its payment data systems had been compromised. Instead, it looks as if …

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From the beginning of data processing in the 1950s, an "us/them" dynamic has existed between business and IT organizations. Since then, attempts by CIOs and business executives to cross the cultural barriers have met with varying degrees of success. Organizations intent on building trust and partnership between business and IT face these challenges: IT’s culture and processes. The IT organization’s relationship with the business is IT-centric rather than business centric. Business accountability failure. When the IT function is IT centric, business management does not understand its role or responsibilities in the partnership. Both the business and IT sides are responsible for applying IT effectively throughout the organization. CIOs are not providing the leadership. The CIO …

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Oct 072014
 
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There are very few more pressing issues in management today than cyber security. Notice that I didn’t say IT management; I said management. When the hacking of a major US retailer (Target) leads to the loss of billions of dollars in stock value and sales and the removal of not only the CSO, but the CIO and ultimately the CEO as well, stockholders, investors, and customers take notice. Organizations worldwide depend increasingly on information and communications technology to operate and manage 24/7/365, and wireless devices, BYOD, social media, and the like all combine to make the jobs of those responsible for cyber security exponentially more difficult. Like the Dutch boy and the dike, security people worldwide have …

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In a recent post, I talked about the value of playing a game about Agile portfolio management. The game showed how, over time, stable Agile teams are more productive than ad hoc teams of even the highest performers. As a result, Agile turns on its head the way many people look at portfolio management: rather than feeding teams to projects, portfolio management should feed projects to teams. This example shows one of the many virtues of serious games, their ability to help us make sense of important principles about the operation of systems. Our brains struggle with systems thinking, so anything that can help us move beyond our cognitive limitations is a good thing. Some …

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As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality, the volume of data that will be generated by the multitude of connected devices, machines, and processes — in the consumer, business, and industrial worlds — is expected to be massive. In short, the more devices and machines that get connected, the more data that is going to be generated. Achieving some kind of business value from this massive data reservoir will require the use of big data storage and analysis technologies that can scale to meet the constantly increasing demands placed on organizations. These include: NoSQL file systems NoSQL databases High-performance relational analytic and in-memory database appliances Hybrid relational databases with embedded MapReduce Streaming analytics …

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As mobile computing has made sophisticated, digitally-mediated interactions possible in both personal/consumer and business-like capacities (BYOD) – the market and the challenges associated with it have exploded. Taking a step back to when the technologies that underpin mobile computing and networking were developed, it was assumed that each user had some level of expertise, that the use cases were quite limited in scope, and that the overall numbers of users were constrained. Fast-forward to present day, the massive scale of mobile computing adoption, the broad scope of supported use cases, and the “naive” user base has created a number of serious issues that the IT industry must grapple with now. Chief among these problems is …

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Dedicated Teams And The Agile Portfolio Management Game

Dedicated teams are critical to the success of Agile projects, both in the short-term (this particular project) and the long term (the queue of future projects. A serious game on which I’ve been working shows this principle in action better than any words I’ve used to communicate this point. I started working on the game because a lot of people struggle with the notion of dedicated teams. Even in cases when Agile has achieved a foothold in the organization, and everyone’s happy with the results, many people outside these teams may not understand or appreciate how big a difference team cohesion makes. There’s a difficult cultural shift from seeing teams as collections of individual “resources” …

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In the Kansas City Star recently, an educator posted an editorial that suggested all students graduating from college these should days should be “job ready.” The educator argued that the current college curriculum was defined for the “gentlemen” of the 19th and 20th centuries, but this is the 21st century, and the cost of higher education has skyrocketed and what with the pace of technological change, the shrinking of our job markets, and the new educational options (online courses, etc.), our colleges, universities, and institutes have to radically reduce their costs and produce “job-ready” graduates. Now, I have to admit that institutions of higher education in the US have many problems. They are beset with much more competition for …

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Data Hacking: No Day at the Breach

This week's top news stories include stolen credit card data at Home Depot, hacking of Apple’s iCloud that revealed, well, revealing photos of the account holders. And it’s only Wednesday. The latest issue of Cutter IT Journal, “Data Hacking: No Day at the Breach” addresses data security, which, according to Guest Editor Ken Orr, is a problem "No matter how large or small our organizations are, we cannot just wash our hands of [it] — there is too much at stake.” Orr continues, “There are very few more pressing issues in management today than cyber security. Notice that I didn't say IT management; I said management. When the hacking of a major US retailer (Target) …

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