Google and Internet Advertising

February 19, 2009 Comments off

I often ponder what it would be like BG. Before Google. How small and confusing the world would be if we couldn’t find the answer to all our questions after a few short keystrokes. In today’s world, understanding how to find information quickly is the most important skill.

What does Google get for this?

Google pioneered a new form of search advertising that is more effective at driving conversions (customers buying something) than any other method of advertising. It is effective because when a user conducts a search, unlike watching TV or even viewing a webpage, the user has provided intent to discover a product or service.

When I’m watching Hero’s, have I shown intent to buy a new car?

When I’m reading the newspaper, have I shown intent to buy groceries?

When I search Google for appliances in Minneapolis, I have shown intent to find (and perhaps buy) appliances in a specific city.

Last week, I, along with my study group, prepared a delivered a presentation on this topic to the Management of Technology program at the University of Minnesota. Below are my slides from that presentations. Enjoy!

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US Government Spending on IT Services

February 16, 2009 Comments off

I recently conducted an extensive case study of the US Federal Government’s spending on IT services as a part of my graduate studies. It includes a summary of the market, how it is segmented, and opportunities for expansion. Here is a snippet from the report:

Market Overview
The market for IT services in the US Federal Government is over $68 billion in 2009 and continues to grow at 5% annually. IT demand from the government is segmented between two very different concerns:

  • Defense information and intelligence systems
  • Line-of-Business application deployments

These concerns, and the skills required to deliver them, segment this market as shown in the figure below. Defense suppliers specialize in the design and deployment of the advanced custom systems market segment, which is over $32 billion in revenue annually. The handful of suppliers competing for a single buyer of services creates a monopsony and significant cooperation between the suppliers.

US Government IT Market Segmentation

US Government IT Market Segmentation

The commercial IT market for Line-of-Business applications, which primarily serves the civilian agencies of the government, has a far larger customer base that includes companies around the globe. This creates intense competition on cost and efficiency in the delivery of these standard services.

I am offering up the report free for non-commercial use to anyone who finds this interesting or valuable. If you find inaccuracies in the report, or if you would like to discuss this topic further, please leave a comment!

You can download the full report here. Enjoy!

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People Need to be Part of the System Design

February 2, 2009 Comments off

As the recent outage at Google demonstrates, including people in the design of a system is often overlooked in technology focused organizations. In that particular example, Google left the ability for a single user to take then entire system down by adding “/” to the blocked site list. Why would this ever need to happen?

More generally, IT organizations need to recognize the importance of people in our architectures. What good is a password if people will write it down? What good is a workflow if people are still printing and signing forms? What good is an ERP system if the numbers are still manipulated by hand?

Every project should include not only a technical understanding of what is being implemented, but also an understanding of the business processes and people that will operate in the system — both users and administrators.

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Google Search Problems created from Stopbadware.org Error

January 31, 2009 17 comments

Every result from Google search this morning is being marked that “this site may harm your computer”. This error appears to stem from a stopbadware.org outage. It is not clear what has caused the outage of stopbadware.org, but hopefully they will release news soon.

In 2007, Google partnered with stopbadware.org to check for malicious content on the web and alert users. It appears that the implementation of this integration was not tolerant of errors.

Several other sites from Google, including their help sites, are running slow this morning.

Update: As of 9:24AM CST, the error appears to be resolved on Google’s search result, although stopbadware.org is still offline.

Update 2: The Google blog gave an explanation of the error. The list of bad URLs that Google imports from stopbadware.org accidentally included the “/” URL, which blocked everything. The source of the problem was human error.

As the commenters have noted, the outage of stopbadware.org was a denial-of-service from the massive Google hits, although it appears they were still the origination of the error.

Update 3: The Google blog has updated its statement around the cause of the error, clearing stopbadware.org of any fault. Google has taken responsibility for adding the “/” URL to the malicious site lists.

Google Blog

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Categories: News Tags: , ,

Building an IT Standards Framework – Part 1

August 19, 2008 Comments off

When we set out on the journey towards an Enterprise Architecture two years ago, we had very few documented “Standards” in the organization.  We saw this as one of our key issues to reduce the complexity of our IT operations and simplify the enterprise architecture.

What is a Standard? For every 3 experts we asked, we got 4 opinions.  We chose to define a standard as the top level record for any information regarding the process, practice, implementation, or use of a technology.  Specifically, a standard would fall under one of the following types:

Technology Standard
Defines the use case, capabilities, and implementation constraints of a particular technology

Process Standard
Defines a business or IT process flow, checkpoints, inputs, and outputs.  This is technology independent.

Design Principle
High level principle that guides the use, implementation, and design of processes and technologies.

Target Architecture
The desired target state of an architecture.  This involves both the technology and process aspects of the architecture, and governs the direction that changes will occur in those systems.

How do we create, approve, and govern standards? To begin defining and documenting standards in the organization, we created the Architecture Standards Council (ASC).  The ASC was composed of eight representatives from the relevant technology and business backgrounds and was responsible for the review and approval of standards.

The creation of these standards was left to individual teams or projects when the need arose or was forced upon them.

Governing the use of standards was left to Enterprise Architecture.  Each project architecture was reviewed and measured based on its compliance with the documented standards.  If no such standard existed, or one was violated, EA would refer the project to the ASC for approval.

This process has been running for a year at this point and has been received with moderate success, but we have room to grow.

What lessons did we learn?

  • [GOOD] Putting the control of standards (and their deviation) outside the boundaries of Enterprise Architecture was a good decision as it increases the feeling of inclusion for the rest of the organization.  It also prevents Enterprise Architecture from being perceived as an “Ivory Tower”.
  • [GOOD] Creating a single organization and process for review, approval, and governance of all standards across the organization leads to better communication between groups.
  • [BAD] ASC does not have the time commitment to define and flesh out new standards, leaving that role up to projects.  This slows down the execution of projects, forcing them through extra beaurocracy.  We need to have a process to submit a request for a new standard to be defined outside of the restrictions of a current project.
  • [BAD] Standards were not analyzed on the ROI of their compliance, nor were they reviewed by the IT Management team.  This led to the creation of unfunded mandates from the ASC, expensive tasks for projects and teams with no funding to execute them.

What’s next? I am currently defining “ASCv2” to address these problems.  In the next post I will outline the next iteration of my Standards Framework for the organization.  Stay Tuned!

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Categories: IT Governance Tags: , ,

Enterprise Service Bus and Data Access Frameworks

July 31, 2008 Comments off

I am currently involved in an IT Project to build an Inventory Availability application for our partner’s to allow them to query each others inventory for a particular model or part.  This relatively simple effort has expanded into a number of questions on the role of web services, b2b communications, and an enterprise service bus.

We are planning on implementing an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) in the next 6-18 months, and it is complicated to define what exactly we should, and should not use it for.  Allow me to elaborate, below is the architecture of the Inventory Availability application.

High-Level Architecture

High-Level Architecture

The communications with are partners are currently handled by our B2B Integration tool, but we foresee migrating this functionality to the ESB when its deployed.  This will involve including in the ESB the knowledge (via a connector) to understand and use the XML format provided by our partners over FTP.

We also have a local database where we keep inventory history.  We want to use a data service to pull information from it, but does it make sense to build that service if the ESB can understand the database directly?  Could we (Should We) use the ESB itself to translate the XML requests into SQL requests for the database as we would translate an XML request into a call to a legacy system?

For a mid-sized IT department (with a relatively immature SOA practice), I don’t think it makes sense for to draw distinction between the service layers that handle ESB, B2B Integration, and Data Access.

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Government of IT Governance

July 29, 2008 Comments off

Effective IT Governance is critically important to the success of an Enterprise Architecture Program.  Governance provides the mechanism to align the delivery of IT projects to the enterprise strategy defined through EA.

In modeling the IT Governance process in my current organization, we looked for inspiration from middle school Civics, the US Government Model.  We separated the duties of IT Governance into Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

Civic Governance Model

Civic Governance Model

The Legislative portion of IT Governance includes our representatives with the business units to determine the business’s requirements and priorities.  The “lower house” is the Standards Council to set the detailed technology standards used for delivery.  This has been very good for us in putting the standards approval body outside of Enterprise Architecture, it removes the “Ivory Tower” perception that often comes with an EA team.

The Executive branch is responsible for the delivery of solutions that meet the business priorities and technology standards.  This consists of the approval bodies in Change and Project Management.  This puts the burden of enforcement away from Enterprise Architecture into existing and established governance bodies.

The Judicial branch in this model is the Enterprise Architecture Board itself which reviews the architecture of all solutions to guarantee alignment with the strategy and standards of the organization.  It acts as the “conscience” of the organization to do the right thing the first time.

There are also a number of checks and balances between the three branches, such as EA Chairing the Standards Council.

I am spending quite a bit of my time in this space lately, working to mature the IT Governance processes.  So far the government model has worked quite well for us as both a guide for the process structure and as a convenient way to communicate the process out into the organization.

Have any other Enterprise Architecture programs implemented a different take on the governmental model?

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