Skyscrapers versus Clouds

image credit: Wendy
The last few days I spend at the Gluecon conference covering many aspects of cloud computing. It were inspiring two days and you can find many presentations on SlideShare.

I'm a great believer in cloud computing and we are currently on an inflection point were cloud computing is reaching mainstream adoption. Cloud computing does not only effect the way we deliver solutions to the market and their related business models, but requires a change of anything we do. Moving from a traditional software vendor into a cloud computing provider is almost a cultural change. To illustrate this I came with a little metaphor of Skyscrapers versus Cloud, both are reaching up in the sky, but very differently.

Traditional software vendors can be seen as skyscrapers, they have a good view on their surrounding, but with a limited reach. The building structure has a solid foundation, thick walls but isn't very movable and flexible. There is usually only one entrance with probably heaps of security representing a closed environment and when several companies want to collaborate there first need to be a lot of top floor board meetings with legal representation. The building has a fixed size a symbol for a limited number of customers, database sizes, etc. Everything needs to have a dimension.

Clouds on the other hand float around, they move into all kind of places, can start small and have the possibility to grow into unlimited size. When moving  around they might bump into another cloud, but the nature of the cloud makes this a soft bump and a natural merge of activities The cloud isn't closed, it's easy to enter and easy to get out. The laws of physics are different for a cloud, the laws of the game are changing.

When moving to the cloud, it's not about the technology, it's about the adoption of the new rules of the game. Be open, share your insights, think in unlimited resources, customer and no barriers. It's a new world and start to participate to become aware.

Cool and Extremely Useless

Sometimes you run into something cool and extremely useless at the same time. It doesn't surprise me actually that this one is Japanese. It's just a visualization of a parade of you twitter followers.

It even puts you on a pedestal.

You can watch the whole parade or try for yourself at the IS Parade site

Scrum full circle

Image credit: Conor Lawless
A long time ago in the days I still wrote code I already created software solutions in small incremental steps. I wanted constant feedback on my performance and challenged myself to have constantly demo-able software. Later when I moved into coaching and managing roles I always told engineers to make small steps at the time. Create visibility so others can help you shaping your solutions.

This was also the time when Scrum started to appear and although at first it seamed an exotic way of creating software it started to attract my attention. I became an evangelist at my employer, especially when some projects had some planning issues. This is already quite a while ago as can be seen in my life stream by the favorited videos 'Agile vs. Waterfall: A Tale of Two Teams' and 'Scrum et al.' on the subject.

This resulted to a first implementation at Exact Research and later in the Asia Development Center. Today it's slowly moving thru the whole organization creating better predictable plannings and better motivated teams. The implementation now further sells itself based on the initial results.

During the implementation we had support and coaching by Rini van Solingen. His expert knowledge helped us refine the process. Recently he also started to adopt scrum at his employer iSense and this included selling scrum based projects. For the sales team he developed a workshop and asked me to participate. I was asked to be/play the customer that needed to get convinced by the sales people. It was fun not being the evangelist, but showing some resistance. The gals and guys did great and it didn't matter how much I tried, it was impossible to resist them. For me this was the 'scrum full circle' experience.

Sometimes a step back is necessary to move forward

I live in Delft, a nice small historic town in the Netherlands. The small, cute, pretty but on the west side of town disturbed by an elevated railroad track. It's build in the 60's and was a symbol of progress, because now the trains could now cross the city without having to disturb traffic.

Long time ago the trains would run at street level along the canal. Filling up the canal and elevating the train tracks created room for the expanding number of motor vehicles.
Now 50 years later train traffic has increased significantly, creating more noise pollution and there is demand for more tracks to facilitating the growing number of trains. The city of Delft for a long time discussed building a tunnel. This year the build has finally started. 
Building a 2.3km long tunnel through the center of a historical town is not easy. It's an engineering challenge and is going to cause quite some disturbance. I'm living next to the construction zone and for at least the next 3-5 years it's going to effect my life. This is going to be a lot of construction noise, It will be harder to reach home, I've to deal with constant rerouting of traffic and detours, I'll have parking problems, my apartment will unsellable and probably a lot more hassles I'm not aware of yet. This is the price we pay for progress, because when the project will be done it's going to be great. No noise from the trains, a great new city part and lots of other city improvements and the value of my apartment will recover. 

In my professional life I'm busy with progress in business software, or better how can businesses benefit from Information Technology. Right at this time 'cloud computing' it going to be a major technology shift necessary to provide us with the next phase of progress. Like the train tunnel it at first only looks like a big disturbance related to business models, security, conversions etc. However it's a phase that needs to be accepted. Those jumping in first will also resurface first and be the fist to enjoy the benefits. 

Some pictures on the mock-up for the tunnel I made a while ago.

User Experience - You are not the user!

Being a User Experience ambassador I regularly do presentations on the subject. When addressing a development team I often use a slide telling: It's all about the user... You are not the user. .. neither is your boss. This to put emphasis on doing proper user research instead of assuming to know the user.

Recently Exact moved into a fantastic new building, designed based on the latest standards and convenience to create a great inspiring workplace. After the move I felt almost instantly at home as if I've been working here for years. However there are a few small details that I've difficulties getting used to and I started to question the design.

To prove my point I did a little survey by tweeting 2 pictures 'push or pull?' and 'push or turn?' and waited for responses to prove my point.

Push or Pull?
Push or Turn?
The results came in and most answers where NOT what I expected. For most people the interaction with these two products was clear and intuitive.

User Experience, It's all about the User.... and I'm NOT the user!  Always do your User Research just to make sure.

Rethink - Refocus

Image: Swamibu 
The first 3 months of this year have been extremely busy. I took on some additional responsibilities, I spear headed some new initiatives and got involved in far too many side projects. I was running from meeting to meeting without having time to rethink any of the ideas and findings. I was busy but delivered too little and even neglected this blog. I could not go on with this pace and it was necessary to refocus and make clear choices.

With Exact I moved into a great new building. It's open, transparent, facilitates collaboration and especially encourages casual communication. I notice that during a normal day I've much more opportunities to talk to various people. This inspires, motivates and generates more ideas. However focus is required to make sure the ideas get realized.

As of now the majority of my meetings, brainstorms and inspirational sessions will be dealing with only two topics.
1. The research work related to communities, new forms of social software in a business environment and alternative services driven business models. After many years it's now time to start the delivery.
2. User Experience, not as an expert but as the facilitator to embed this into the overall design process and establish as a strategic discipline.

If you want me to participate in meetings, discussions and brainstorms on other topics, expect more often a NO. It's not that I don't want to do it, but it's just that results can only be achieved with focus and determination. When doing too many things you start to see blurry.

I also commit to more regularly publish articles on this blog.