Gamification

OVERVIEW:

People who have not heard the term “gamification” before perceiving it to be about games but this is inaccurate. In order to address this misperception, Deterding and his team researched the various uses of gamification and came up with a definition that states gamification as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts.” (Deterding et al.) We can see from this definition that gamification distinguishes itself from games by implying that while games are for fun without real-world implications but gamification has implications in the real world. Broadly speaking, gamification continues to be applied to various areas of business, technology, and society.

For this research paper, the focus is on the business and technology aspects of gamification. This leads to the definition by Gartner that states gamification as “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.” In this definition, game mechanics refers to the points, badges, and leaderboards that are applied to computers, smartphones and wearables and experience design refers to gameplay, play space and storyline(s) to motivate people to change behavior. What this means is that gamification is used to change the norms, attitudes, and habits of people and organizations from a current state to a future state through today’s technologies.

For organizations, gamification is looked at from a strategic perspective in the following ways:

  1. External Purposes: Organizations use gamification externally for customer engagement. The idea is that if customers are more engaged then this can create customer loyalty. This customer loyalty can lead to brand awareness and consequently more products and services being sold. In this sense, organizations use gamification as a sales and marketing tool that is often applied using websites, online communities, mobile devices, and other digital devices.
  2. Internal Purposes: Organizations use gamification internally for employee engagement. The idea is that if employees are more engaged then this can help achieve various organizational objectives. Thus, in this sense, organizations use gamification in hiring, training, product enhancements, innovation, performance improvement and change management that is often applied through technologies in the organizations.

Initially, when gamification started to pick up steam in 2010, organizations were only interested in its external uses up until 2013. However, Gartner states that this started to change in 2014 where now organizations are interested in using gamification for external and internal purposes. This change is using gamification is reflected in Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle wherein 2014 gamification moved to Trough of Disillusionment from 2013’s Peak of Inflated Expectations. By simply looking at the 2013 and 2014 Hype Cycles one might think that gamification’s days are numbered. But a closer look reveals that organizations are beginning to understand how gamification can be used to not only increase the bottom line but also how it can help them transform themselves.

Thus, in a nutshell for our purposes, gamification for organizations is the use of game design thinking to change behaviors internally and externally through technology.

2013 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle
Figure1: 2013 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle
2014 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle
Figure 2: 2014 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle

BACKGROUND:

The idea of using gamification for external and internal purposes is not new. One of the earlier applications of gamification can be attributed to the Cracker Jack company who more than 100 years ago introduced the idea of having a toy prize in its boxes. While basic but it worked and soon other organizations started to follow the same route. However, currently, gamification implies making real-world activities more game-like through the use of technological advancements. In order to understand the current view on gamification, we have to look at a few significant events that have occurred over the last 40 years. These include:

  • In the 1970s, the invention of the microprocessor that led to the PC revolution
  • In the 1980s, the development of the first massive multiuser computer game called Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) created by Richard Bartle at the University of Essex in England
  • In 1984, Charles Coonradt explored why people were more engaged at sports and recreation activities that at work which led to the following 5 principles of making work more game-like:
    • Clearly defined goals
    • Better scorekeeping and scorecards
    • Frequent feedback
    • A higher degree of personal choice of methods
    • Constant coaching
  • In 2002, the Serious Games Initiative was launched that brought together the private sectors, academia, and military to develop battlefield simulations for training
  • In 2010, Jesse Schell’s presentation goes viral and starts to resonate with the business community.

Today, the video games industry is a $70 billion industry. Over these last 40 years, it has figured out how to keep people engaged and motivated for longer periods on time. During this time we have seen the explosion of computer devices being used and the creation of the Internet that has given rise to video games that can be played simultaneously online with many users. From a business perspective, some of Coonradt’s principles have been used for creating performance reviews and loyalty programs. As time passes we will see technology and business fields coming together for gamification purposes.

EXAMPLES OF GAMIFICATION IN ORGANIZATIONS:

The Good Examples:

Gamification can be beneficial for organizations that know how to correctly and thoughtfully use it for internal and external purposes. Following are some examples of where gamification was used to produce positive results for organizations:

  • Increasing System Usage and Engagement: Salesforce sells Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription services to organizations. One of these subscription services is the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service in the cloud that is mostly used by the customer’s sales staff. In order to increase the adoption of the CRM services with the customer’s sales staff, Salesforce turned to gamification by creating a game called Salesforce’s User Hunt for Chicken. In this game, game mechanics such as status changes were used to motivate sales staff to use more of the CRM services features. In one case, the customer’s sales staff compliance in using the CRM service increased by 40%. This example shows how gamification was used to create a win-win-win scenario where (1) the customers’ sales staff wins since they become more aware of how to utilize the CRM service to its full potential by using its features, (2) the customer wins since their sales staff is using the features that they have already paid for and (3) Salesforce wins since it creates opportunities for itself to stay competitive by keeping the customer’s sales staff reliant on their CRM services.
  • Increasing Customer Interaction: Dodgeball was the predecessor to Foursquare that used check-ins for events. It was sold to Google in 2005 but after four years of getting a very little traction, Google decided to shut it down. Foursquare, on the other hand, took the check-in concept and used gamification to gain traction. They did this by using game mechanics such as badges and perks to incentivize users to check-in. Today, Foursquare is one of the most popular applications in the world. It has 50 million registered users, 1.9 million listed businesses and it has crossed 6 billion check-ins. This example shows how gamification was used to enter and dominate a market by creating value for the users in the forms of perks.

Bad Examples:

Gamification can be detrimental for organizations that don’t know how to correctly and thoughtfully use it for internal and external purposes. Following are some examples of where gamification produced negative results for organizations:

  • No Value for Users: Google’s social network is called Google+. Google+ has 300 million users who spend an average of 7 minutes per month on the social network. In order to increase the time spent on Google+, Google decided to use gamification. Thus, Google decided to use game mechanics such as badges to give to Google+ users who read Google News. The problem with this approach was that it was not clear what value these badges provided to the users since they were private and added no value to the search being conducted. This example shows how a half-baked attempt at gamification resulted in creating something that users did not find appealing.
  • Lack of Proper Cost-Benefit Analysis: Marriot was interested in recruiting and training associates for its management program. In order to do this, they turned to gamification by creating a game called My Marriot Hotel. While the initial idea was not bad but as Kevin Kleinberg states in his article, the amount of money spent in creating this game versus the number of people who would actually become managers at Marriot seems to be miscalculated. This example shows gamification is not a remedy for management’s lack of foresight into the actual user base versus the amount of money spent on gamification.

RISKS AND CHALLENGES: 

Gamification as an emerging technology has its risks and challenges as any new technology would have but since it is heavily dependent upon people either as players/users or game designers, it needs to consider areas of human psychology and motivation as well. Following are some of the risks and challenges of gamification:

  • Points Obsession by Players: The competitive nature of gamification in organizations can result in players being too obsessed with the points, badges, statuses rather than understanding why the game is being played in the first place (e.g., training, change management, innovation, etc.). The main question to ask here is, “How do you prevent players from becoming obsessed with just collecting points?”
  • Manipulation: Gamification has elements of manipulation in it either by the game designers and/or by the players themselves. These are discussed below:
    • Game Design: A game with a predefined agenda to change behaviors can be considered by some to be manipulation by the game designers. The main question to ask here is, “How do you avoid manipulation baked into gamification that is based on the game designer(s) biases?”
    • Players: The competitive nature of players can result in them creating the system that is supposed to be equal for everyone. The main question to ask here is, “How do you prevent players gaming the system?”
  • Regulatory and Legal Issues: Depending upon the nature of gamification in the organization, there might be laws and regulations that the organization needs to abide by. If careful attention is not paid, this can result in fees and fines. The two main questions to ask here is, “What are the federal, state and local regulatory concerns that need to be considered?” and “Are there any laws/rules that are applicable nationally and internationally?”

While the above questions are not a comprehensive list but it is a starting point when organizations are thinking about how gamification can be used externally and internally.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Based on research done on gamification, its examples, its risks, and challenges, I recommend the following:

  • General Recommendations: Following are some general recommendations that should be considered for both external and internal uses of gamification:
    • Clearly defined goals: For organizations and players, it should be clearly stated what the gamification initiative is intended to accomplish.
    • Not a Panacea: While there is great promise in gamification for organizations but it should not be considered an answer for everything. Blindly applying gamification without thinking through organizational repercussions can be a recipe for disaster.
    • Measure, Measure, Measure: Gamification is used for organizational improvements whether it is used for external purposes or internal purposes. Since it is about organizational improvements, its progress needs to be measured, feedback should be obtained from its users and should be updated as needed.
  • External Use Recommendations:
    • It is about Values: When using gamification, organizations need to understand that it is not a one-way street but a multi-way street where value needs to be created for everyone involved.
  • Internal Use Recommendations: When using gamification, organizations need to create a balanced approach between intrinsic considerations and extrinsic rewards. This balanced approach should include understanding the organization in terms of Strategies, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution (SPICE) factors as shown below:
SPICE Factors
SPICE Factors

CONCLUSION:

As we have seen throughout this research paper, gamification has implications across many different aspects of an organization whether it is applied externally and/or internally. Due to the continuous improvements in technology and our desire to be better, there will always be new business models where gamification can prove to be useful. Here organizations have a choice of ignoring it as a passing fad or getting ahead of it to understand how it can help them transform themselves. Thus, gamification will continue to be an emerging technology regardless of where it stands in Gartner’s Hype Cycle.

References:

  1. Sebastian Deterding, Dan Dixon, Rilla Khaled, and Lennart Nacke. 2011. From game design elements to gamefulness: defining “gamification”. In Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments (MindTrek ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 9-15. DOI=10.1145/2181037.2181040 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2181037.2181040
  2. “Gamification – Gartner IT Glossary.” Gartner IT Glossary. Gartner, n.d. Web. http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/gamification-2/
  3. “Gartner’s 2013 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Maps Out Evolving Relationship Between Humans and Machines.” Gartner’s 2013 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Maps Out Evolving Relationship Between Humans and Machines. Gartner, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2575515
  4. “Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Maps the Journey to Digital Business.” Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Maps the Journey to Digital Business. Gartner, 11 Aug. 2014. Web. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918
  5. “About Us.” About. Foursquare, n.d. Web. https://foursquare.com/about
  6. Shaw, Elizabeth. “Elizabeth Shaw’s Blog.” Gamification: Defining A Shiny New Thing. Forrester Research, n.d. Web. http://blogs.forrester.com/elizabeth_shaw/11-06-30-gamification_defining_a_shiny_new_thing
  7. Werbach, Kevin. “Coursera – Gamification.” Coursera. Coursera, n.d. Web. https://www.coursera.org/course/gamification
  8. Krogue, Kevin. “5 Gamification Rules From The Grandfather Of Gamification.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2012/09/18/5-gamification-rules-from-the-grandfather-of-gamification
  9. “Getting past the Hype of Gamification.” PwC. PwC, n.d. Web. http://www.pwc.com/us/en/technology-forecast/2012/issue3/features/feature-gaming-technology-acceptance.jhtml
  10. Palmer, Doug, Steve Lunceford, and Aaron Patton. “The Engagement Economy.” Deloitte Review. Deloitte, n.d. Web. http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/Insights/Browse-by-Content-Type/deloitte-review/c7cee86d96498310VgnVCM1000001956f00aRCRD.htm
  11. Stanley, Robert. “Top 25 Best Examples of Gamification in Business.” Clickipedia. Clickipedia, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. http://blogs.clicksoftware.com/clickipedia/top-25-best-examples-of-gamification-in-business
  12. Kleinberg, Adam. “Brands That Failed with Gamification.” – IMediaConnection.com. – IMediaConnection.com, 23 July 2012. Web. http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/32280.asp
  13. Khan, Arsalan. “5 Factors for Business Transformation.” Arsalan Khan. WordPress.com, n.d. Web. https://arsalanakhan.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/5-factors-for-business-transformation
  14. Khan, Arsalan. “5 Questions to Ask About Gamification.” Arsalan Khan. WordPress.com, n.d. Web. https://arsalanakhan.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/5-questions-to-ask-about-gamification

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Information Security

The term information security is used to describe the practices, methodologies, and technologies that are used to protect information physically (e.g., locked doors, security guards, etc.) and in cyberspace (e.g., firewalls, anti-viruses, etc.). In order to accomplish this, we determine information confidentiality (e.g., who can access the information), information integrity (e.g., is the information from a reliable source) and information availability (e.g., would the information be available in time to people who are authorized to use/see it).

According to Gartner, by 2015 the spending on information security around the globe would reach $76.9 billion. To put this number into perspective, this amount of money is close to what the US Federal government spends on technology in one year. By looking at this, in the near future, more money would be spent on securing personal and organizational information than actually creating information systems. But despite the importance of information security and its effects on individuals and organizations, very few people understand the kinds of threats that are out there. Security threats are always evolving and in the digital century, geography is not a limitation. Individual and organizational information can be potentially compromised from a local intruder to someone sitting on the other side of the globe. Thus, before you can mitigate information security risks, understand what is out there. Here is a non-exhaustive list of how information security can be compromised:

  • Adware – Pay to remove advertisements.
  • Bacteria – Overwhelms computer resources by making copies.
  • Botnets – A network of compromised systems.
  • Bots – Derived from robots and refers to automated processes.
  • Buffer Overflow – A program goes beyond the boundary of the buffer.
  • Clone Phishing – Legitimate email resent with malicious link/attachment.
  • DDoS – Multiple systems attack a single target.
  • DNS Attacks – Determine types of devices in the network.
  • Easter Eggs – Hidden code in the software to show control.
  • Emerging Technologies –Security is not considered in new technologies.
  • Evil-Twin Wi-Fi – Impersonates an access point (e.g., router).
  • Exploits – Vulnerabilities in scripts, servers, browsers, routers, computer networks, devices, software, and hardware.
  • Hardware Attacks – Exploits system bus, a peripheral bus, chips, power/timing, interrupts and RAM.
  • Human Error – Unintentional legitimate errors caused by people.
  • ICMP Scanning – Identify open ports (e.g., port 81).
  • Keylogger – Track keystrokes when logging on to legitimate sites.
  • Link Manipulation – The destination link is different than what is displayed.
  • Logic Bombs – Performs some action when certain conditions are met.
  • Malware – Malicious code.
  • Masquerading – Pretends to be authorized access.
  • Metamorphic – Code that modifies itself.
  • Network QoS – Service interruptions and performance issues.
  • Old technology – Outdated technology that is too costly to replace.
  • Pharming – Redirecting web traffic to a fake site and more sophisticated.
  • Phishing – Emails/instant messages asking to click a link/attachment, sign up for some kind of service and/or take you to a site that looks legitimate.
  • Phone Phishing – Call to ask for information.
  • Polymorphic – The same underlying code used for multiple purposes.
  • Rogue Wi-Fi – Compromised wireless access points (e.g., routers).
  • Script Kiddies – Amateur use of scripts developed by professionals.
  • Social Engineering – Psychologically manipulating people.
  • Spear Phishing – Directed toward specific individuals or organizations.
  • Spyware – Typically free software that collects information about you.
  • SQL Injection – SQL code is entered into the input fields of a database.
  • Trapdoors – Secrets in the code that allow access to the system.
  • Trojan Horses – Impersonates another software, prompts to install software and prompts to go to a certain site.
  • Viruses – Adds code to an uninfected copy of the host program in the network and then replicates itself.
  • VoIP Attacks – Software and hardware exploit in Internet telephony.
  • VPN – Only as secure as the most unsecure system in both ends of the network.
  • Weather – Mother Nature and lack of disaster recovery.
  • Whaling – Attacks directed at high profile individuals and organizations.
  • Worms – Copies itself across the network, runs by itself and does not need a host.
  • Zero-Day Exploits – Vulnerabilities in software unknown to anyone.

Now that we understand the potential risks that are out there, let’s look at what motivates people to do this. While there are many theories in what drives human motivation, for our purposes we look at the following two frameworks used by the top clandestine organization in the world. These frameworks are:

  • MICE looks at human motivation in terms of Money (e.g., cash, stocks, insider information, etc.), Ideology (e.g., religion, patriotism), Coercion or Compromise (e.g., blackmail) and Ego or Excitement.
  • RASCLS looks at human motivation in terms of Reciprocation (e.g., feel obligation to repay), Authority (e.g., prestige), Scarcity (e.g., supply vs. demand), Commitment and Consistency (e.g., trustworthy flip-flopper vs. untrustworthy but consistent), Liking (e.g., share same attributes) and Social Proof (e.g., correct behavior).

In order to understand the complexities of information security and motivations behind it, let’s ask the following questions:

Today

Tomorrow

Who is responsible for information security?Who should be responsible for information security?
What happens when information is compromised?What should happen when information is compromised?
Where is information security a priority?Where should information security be a priority?
When is information security thoroughly reviewed?When should information security be thoroughly reviewed?
Why information security was compromised in the first place?Why information security would continue to be compromised in the future?

When you are asking the above questions across all levels of the organization, keep in mind that information security is not something that you just “bolt-on” at the end but in fact, it should be a top priority at every juncture of your organizations. Thus, information security spans across people, processes and technologies and simply paying lip service do not help anyone in the long run.

While there are many laws, regulations, and guidelines to safeguard information but they do not mean much if you cannot apply them across and within your ecosystem of vendors, partners, suppliers and any external entities. In short, information security is a collective effort that requires organizations to be self-aware from the lowest ranks to the highest executives.

Information Security Views
Information Security Views

References:

  1. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2828722
  2. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol.-57-no.-1-a/vol.-57-no.-1-a-pdfs/Burkett-MICE%20to%20RASCALS.pdf

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5 Questions to Ask About Customer Experiences

According to Forrester®, “to be truly competitive your company must become customer-obsessed; you need to have deep knowledge of and engagement with your customers.” The need for the organization to be obsessed with the customer revolves around data and engagement. Data-level obsession encompasses collecting as much information as you can about the customer so that the unique needs (e.g., Amazon buying preferences, Facebook habits, and likes, etc.) of the customers can be met. This information can be gathered directly from the customer (e.g., surveys, account signups, etc.) and/or can be obtained by analyzing trends (e.g., census data, inventory depletion data, etc.) Engagement-level obsession encompasses providing services to the customer that can be person-to-person (e.g., customer service, social media, etc.) and/or can be person-to-technology (e.g., corporate website, kiosks, etc.). As technology becomes commonplace and continues to get cheaper, more and more organizations are moving towards combining their data and engagement obsessions to provide a seamless experience for the customers. Customers are becoming smarter and while at one point price was one of the major factors of customer decision-making but now the quality of products and services is becoming very important.

For organizations, customer experience revolves around maximizing the potential of its people, processes, and technologies. From this perspective, customer experience is not only about the customer but also about the organization as a whole. Thus, in order to understand the holistic nature of customer experiences, organizations need to assess the current customer experiences and determine what future customer experiences should entail. This starts by asking the following questions:

TodayTomorrow
Who serves your customers?Who should serve your customers?
What avenues are being used to make the life of customers easier?What avenues should be used to make the life of the customers easier?
Where do customers experience your organization?Where should customers experience your organization?
When do customers engage with your organization?When should you be available for the customers based on their needs?
Why customer experience matters?Why customer experience is becoming the next currency?

When you are asking the above questions, keep in mind that organizations that know how to leverage its people, processes, and technologies and who are open to exploring new paradigms of customer experience would be far ahead of the game. These organizations are not only obsessed about customer experience but create executable strategies that enhance the experience for internal and external customers.

In conclusion, customer experience is more than just external-facing activities. Customer experience is about trust; trust that you would have the most competent people for representing your organization; trust that your business processes are as efficient as they can be; trust that you would use technologies to enhance and not exploit the lives of customers; trust that you would provide the best products and services to your customers; trust that you would safeguard customer information with the utmost security and privacy; trust that you would be professional even when customers have decided to leave your organization for your competitors and trust that you would not monopolize customers’ choices even if yours is the only a handful of organizations who can serve these customers.

Holistic Customer Experiences
Holistic Customer Experiences

References:

  1. Winning in the Age of the Customer
  2. 5 Factors for Business Transformation

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Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) Migration Case Studies and Lessons Learned – A Critical Review

Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) is a framework that allows business processes to be highlighted to deliver interoperability and rapid delivery of functionality. The benefits of SOA include reuse of generalized services, reduce costs and better business and IT alignment. If done correctly, it helps an organization respondent to ever-changing business needs efficiently. If done incorrectly, it can create bureaucracy and silos. This article evaluates the decisions, assumptions, and conclusions made by the research paper, SOA Migration Case Studies and Lessons Learned.

In the research paper, two research and evaluation methods are used to assess different cases for SOA. The first method is the Case Study Method where the researchers develop a theory and based on that theory they develop criterions to select the case studies that will be assessed. This Case Study Method is shown below:

Case Study Method
Case Study Method

The second method uses a customized version of the Evolution Process Framework (EPF) to evaluate SOA. This customized version is called EPF4SOA and the phases involved in the evaluation are shown below:

EPF4SOA Phases
EPF4SOA Phases

With the research and evaluation methods in place, the research paper goes on to assess three multibillion-dollar organizations that have been around for at least 50 years. These organizations have legacy systems that have become archaic and thus they are unable to respond to rapidly changing business needs. Keeping these limitations in mind, these organizations go on the path to extract as much functionality from these legacy systems as possible by creating SOA services that could be used in the organization. Based on the EPF4SOA, the research paper goes on to claim that for effective SOA migration, organizations need to have a strong business case, services design, technology selection, SOA governance, and education and training.

As we read this report, it seems obvious that the researchers have done a good job of evaluating these large organizations from the finance and telecommunications sectors and in highlighting the lessons learned on SOA migrations. However, this research has made some decisions and assumptions that need to be understood. Firstly, in the Case Study Method, there seems to be an element of confirmation bias when the cases being selected are based on an initial theory. This confirmation bias can lead to selecting cases that fit what the researchers are looking for rather than selecting cases and then determining what theories can be derived from those cases. Secondly, the research looks at organizations that have been around for a long time and by their very nature are most likely to have legacy system issues and make the assumption that other organizations would have the same issues. Lastly, the research report alludes to that SOA can help in business and technology alignment but does not take into account strong leadership and organizational change management capabilities that are needed for SOA migrations.

Keeping the above in mind and carefully reading the case descriptions, we can extrapolate that there might be some potential challenges in the cases being presented in this report. These potential challenges are explained below:

  1. SOA is not only an IT concern: One of the lessons learned in this report indicates the need for a strong business case for SOA developed by IT in order to get management support. The fundamental problem with these lessons learned is that it automatically puts the burden of implementing SOA across the entire organization on IT and takes it away from the business side’s responsibility and involvement with SOA. While IT is responsible for creating SOA services but the business has to work collaboratively with IT. Business has to understand how the organization came to a point where it became difficult for quick system changes and how to avoid situations like this in the future. Thus, SOA is not only an IT issue but an organizational endeavor that involves all parts of the organization as well.
  2. Organizational processes need to be reevaluated: One of the cases mentions the presence of too many point-to-point integrations that are reducing the ability of the organization to be more agile. While this might be the case but there is a bigger perspective here that is missing. This perspective revolves around organizational processes in place that led to this in the first place. These organizational processes not only entail IT but also the business side. It seems like in this case IT would do what businesses ask them to but there has to be some mutual understanding that the requests have to be understood holistically. Even after a SOA migration, if these organizational processes are not optimized they might still result in ad-hoc requests from the business leading back to point-to-point integrations.
  3. A long-term view on legacy systems is needed: The cases in the report indicate that replacing the legacy systems was not an option since it would be costly to do this. While in the short-term this seems like a good idea but in the long-term, there are issues with this approach. These issues entail the constant “patching” to upgrade underlying hardware and software in addition to overburdening legacy systems where new services are being added on top of systems that should be replaced rather than being continued to extend their end of life. While for some organizations it might not be possible to replace legacy systems altogether but there should be a plan to retire these systems with new systems eventually.
  4. No measurements mean no ROI exists: While some organizations in the research report did measure SOA migration ROI but that was done after the fact. So, if the organizations were not measuring pre-SOA how would they know if what SOA migrations promised is what the organization was able to achieve. Herein lies the problem where quantification and justification are made to show SOA being a success without doing the due diligence before embarking on the SOA journey.

In addition to the above-identified problems, the research report does not put enough emphasis on the importance of governance that is needed for SOA. Let’s explore what is governance and why it could be one of the differentiating factors in SOA migrations.

Governance: Governance is the policy of how things should be done and provides a framework in which business processes can operate under regulatory, time and other constraints. Thus, governance is an organizational responsibility even for SOA and not only an IT one. In order to accomplish this, a governance board should be set up that consists of a cross-functional team from both IT and business. Additionally, governance should not only include the overall organization and management of SOA activities but also the creation of success and failure measurements. These measurements should be used to actually determine the state of SOA within the organization instead of people doing vaporware measurements that have no grounds in reality.

In conclusion, while the research report is interesting in its own right but it should not be taken as the only lessons learned for successful SOA migrations. Based on a few cases these lessons learned cannot be applied across various organizations such as smaller organizations, governments, and nonprofits but should be taken with a grain of salt. The lessons learned should be a start but not the bible for successful SOA implementations. A successful SOA implementation will depend upon context, processes, technologies, and people since broadly speaking SOA is an organizational change management journey.

References:

1. SOA migration case studies and lessons learned

Does IT Matter for Internet and Internet Technologies?

In his article, Nick Carr argues that in the current business environment Information Technology (IT) does not provide any strategic advantage but it is merely an operational necessity. He equates IT to a commodity much like electricity and mainly talks about IT infrastructure becoming a commodity. Let’s explore this in the context of the Internet and Internet technologies:

The Internet:

The Internet is a network of networks that connects varied computers via switches to allow transmission of data across multiple networks using Internet protocols. Some of the popular uses of the Internet include email, instant messaging, browsing the World Wide Web (WWW) to name a few. In today’s society, the Internet has become an important tool for individuals and organizations to conduct their business. It seems like the use of the Internet has become so ubiquitous that individuals and organizations don’t even think about it and assume it to be always available but does that mean the Internet has become a commodity. In this context, I would agree with Nick that the Internet has now become very similar to a commodity since we are all accessing the same Internet despite the mediums by which we access it.

Internet Technologies:

Internet technologies include browsers and search engines that help us navigate the WWW of the Internet. From Nick Carr’s perspective, these Internet Technologies are commodities and do not provide any strategic value. I disagree with this claim and here is why:

  1. Browsers: Currently browsers are used to browse the WWW and used internally by organizations to access their corporate systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relation Management (CRM) systems via a web interface. Thus, the security and privacy capabilities of these browsers become paramount in safeguarding the organizations against malicious attacks. While from the surface it may seem that these browser issues are operational in nature but from a closer inspection we can understand their strategic importance. For example, if an organization chooses one browser over another browser that has less security then the organization becomes vulnerable to exploits of that browser. These exploits can entail simple hacking attacks on the siphoning of organizational data. So, the selection of a browser is not just an operational activity but I believe it to be a strategic necessity.
  1. Search: A McKinsey report, The Impact of Internet technologies: Search, indicated that web search provides value that includes the creation of new business models. An example of this would be price comparisons where users can essentially compare prices of what they are buying (e.g., airline tickets, hotel rooms, etc.) from various vendors on one website. This price comparison is not only useful for users but for corporations, this could also be used to determine if they are competitively priced. Since making your organization competitive is also a strategic consideration thus search capabilities are important for the organization’s future.

In conclusion, the oversimplification and lack of understanding of how the nuances of technology can affect organizations strategically are not only unsettling but also ill-informed. IT is not just one thing and by saying it is and cherry-picking the data to show this can lead to unintentional consequences.

References:

  1. http://hbr.org/2003/05/it-doesnt-matter/ar/1
  2. http://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_service/high%20tech/pdfs/impact_of_internet_technologies_search_final2.ashx
  3. http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/25/5431382/the-internet-is-fucked
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