Well it's the end of 2010 already!
It's been a busy year at Memia: Our software consulting practice has worked with growing number of New Zealand software businesses providing architecture, technology strategy, software development management and board advisory services. Meanwhile our Google Apps and SaaS implementation practice continues to provide a one-stop shop for SaaS implementation and customisation services for diverse businesses throughout the region. Sincere thanks to all of our customers for your business during 2010 - we look forward to continuing to work with you during 2011 and beyond!
2010 has seen continued major changes in the information technology landscape: key themes of this year have included:
The next year is looking like producing even more change, and at Memia this thinking has really permeated how we look at technolology strategy. We have come to feel at ease with exponential technological change, and in 2011 we will be re-focussing our work with our customers to develop robust strategies which take account of the dynamic and ever-faster-changing technology landscape. (See my recent blog post for more details).
It's also been an eventful year in terms of natural disasters as well: in April, I became stranded in the UK due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland, and ended up being (I think!) the first Kiwi to make it back home after flying the long way back via Vancouver (and directly over Iceland). Then at the beginning of September we, along with the rest of Canterbury, were amazingly fortunate to come through the 7.1 Earthquake unscathed. As I said in my email around the time, Christchurch can be very optimistic about the future - but let's hope for a quieter time next year.
So.... as it's this time of year, I thought I would share with you some of the books and other media that I have enjoyed this year - both at work and personally. All of these are recommended gift ideas - either for yourself or a friend! Click here to see the list on Amazon.
I also invite you to download our 2010 Christmas Card PDF (previewed above) and print out if you are so inclined - this way saves on postage stamps, carbon emissions, ink and trees! (And no, we haven't yet reached the stage where we just Tweet "Happy Xmas Everyone!" and be done with it, but it's not far off...)
Memia's offices will be closing down over the holiday period from next Friday 24th Dec, returning to work on Wednesday 5th January 2011. During this period we will be running a skeleton support operation via the usual email and mobile contacts.
Best wishes for Christmas holidays, Happy New Year and we look forward to catching up in 2011!
Ben, Rob and the Memia team
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
NZ IRD gets Cloud Computing WRONG WRONG WRONG http://bit.ly/e1d8s0
...this in reaction to an open advisory notice from the New Zealand IRD (Inland Revenue Department) on using New Zealand businesses "using Cloud computing services to store business records in electronic form".
The key phrase in this advisory is:
The failure to keep the books and documents in New Zealand as required by the Inland Revenue Acts is an absolute offence under section 143 of the TAA. A person convicted of this offence is liable to a fine."In my opinion, although the advisory does raise some serious issues about disaster recovery, business continuity and data sovereignty, it's clear to me that the law - or at least this interpretation - needs to change urgently. Otherwise NZ inc. will be unable to reap the substantial economic benefits of a 21st Century IT model, and will carry this backward-looking legislation like a dead weight while everyone else in the world runs on ahead...
It seems to me that the IRD's position boils down to a largely mistaken understanding of technology risk: it assumes that data placed in trust with an (almost inevitably higher priced) on-shore provider is less at risk of loss or security leakage than data placed in trust with an industry-leading international vendor. As a technologist who has been working in the cloud space for over 4 years, my professional opinion is that this is plain wrong: the IT and security maturity of international scale vendors far exceeds the capabilities of our domestic players, who even now sometimes have extremely scary moments. I also think that these international vendors are far better at understanding their own commercial risks around reputation management and know that if they screw up, they're dog food.
Therefore, any risks that the IRD is thinking of must be non-technical, non-commercial and hence political in character:
Yes, NZ Inc. would be at high risk if both (sigh...) the internet pipes were shut off by overseas governments / terrorist organisations. But then so would NZ Inc if there was a shipping blockade or international sea pirates. At a base level, what fundamental difference is there between shipping containerloads of milk powder internationally (subject to shipping and customs inspections) and shipping cable fibre loads of data back and forth (subject to CIA inspections, natch...)? - other than the value of the items being shipped, carbon emissions involved and ongoing ecological vandalism caused by intensive farming, but hey....
(See also recent commentary from IDC on how this DIY IT position is unsustainable even in the public sector, the NZ Government's own open-ended advice on using offshore ICT providers and a recent article that quotes a DIA manager saying "the government may have to make sacrifices in such treasured concepts as privacy and sovereignty, so that public sector organisations can take advantage of the “convenience” of the cloud" Some consistency is required!)
Several other counterarguments spring to mind immediately:
- Firstly: precedent - I seem to remember from my time working for a large multinational that all of their primary financial record keeping systems for all of Asia Pacific (including NZ) were certainly not based in NZ - in fact, their superstar CIO was proud of trumpeting the cost reductions from globalization of their IT consolidation from 90 datacentres down to only 6 worldwide.
How does a small NZ business renting a SaaS solution to get the same economies of scale as a major multinational differ from that multinational in terms of data domicile? Not a lot.
- Secondly: With hardly a week going by without NZ's new government signing another free trade agreement, this is surely a directly discriminatory policy against NZ businesses getting the best value service from offshore.
Rod Drury and co at Xero were onto it immediately (impressive internet media management as always) with this delicately worded blog post: Working with the IRD on cloud computing. Given that Xero are market leaders in this space, and also that they host with Rackspace in the USA, their whole business model (and that of all c.20,000 of their NZ customers) was suddenly deemed illegal by some bureaucrat, no wonder.
Fundamentally: IT and data management risk are just normal business risks to be managed by commercial businesses. The IRD seems to be saying that in fact, they know how to manage IT risk better than business owners and professional IT managers. That is wrong.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Anyway, getting away out of it is a great opportunity to take the mind up out of the day-to-day and reflect on the bigger picture. I managed to spend a fair bit of time thinking about the wider trends behind what's we've been seeing in our business over the last year, what our customers have been seeing, and what the implications are likely to be going forward.
Cloud uptake by in-house IT
When I set up Memia in mid-2008, I was pretty convinced that cloud technology was on the cusp of rapid mainstream commercial uptake by in-house IT departments. However, as it turns out - in our home market at least - the inertia of the embedded on-premise model and residual concerns on security, reliability and usability have slowed down the pace of adoption I expected. Whereas we've seen our early adopter customers gain major improvements in reliability, productivity and collaboration - all at a fraction of the cost of traditional do-it-yourself IT - they are still the minority who have dipped their toe in the water. CIOs, generally a risk-averse bunch, are still waiting for greater industry uptake - and, dare I say it, have a vested political interest in keeping an army of "IT guys" feeding and watering servers rather than culling their empire. Plus, many larger IT organisations have 3-year-plus sunk investments in IT infrastructure which they're not going to write off immediately due to accounting rules. As a result, my experience over the last year has been that SaaS and cloud have only really been compelling for micro and small businesses where there is a compelling focus on cost. That said, the impression I'm getting now (coming out of the recession) is that cloud computing and SaaS is now a broadly accepted paradigm in many medium-sized organisations and next year will see many more CIOs taking the plunge - whether they are pushed into it by their boards or not.
Cloud impact on Systems Integrators
Meanwhile we are observing many of the "Services 2.0" predictions made by Narinder Singh of Appirio (2 years ago!) back in Dec 2008 coming true with uncanny accuracy: where previously on-premise Systems Integrators would have aimed for $10-$15 of services revenues for every $1 of software licences, the new model allows for only $2-$4 - if that. The old labour-intensive, sales-intensive one-off custom integration model just won't be sustainable going forward. SIs have to turn into scalable SaaS businesses themselves selling "integration as a service" if they're going to survive. Again, my impression is that today's established SI's are sleepwalking towards a revenue cliff and haven't quite understood the new disruptive cost models and capabilities of the competition. I'm constantly amazed hearing about local organisations who are building their own data centres and server farms even NOW! Guys, have you *seen* Amazon's pricing? What is it that you can do better??? The infrastructure game is a race to the bottom which will be won by the players with the biggest economies of scale and the best technology. The only question is when, not if. I give it 3 years max.
ISV Migration to the Cloud
Meanwhile in the ISV space again we're seeing a considerable interest now in the SaaS model. Working with our ISV customers over the last year has given us a detailed understanding of the new risks, challenges, pitfalls and yet major opportunities of moving to the SaaS model. Basically, if you want to run a long-term, scalable software business then you *must* offer a multi-tenanted SaaS offering as soon as possible, period. However, the trick is to know how to do this while keeping your existing on-premise customers and without cannibalizing your existing market.
The key "table stake" of playing in this space is to get your technology strategy right: to support both on-premise and multi-tenant SaaS simultaneously using the same codebase, to support multi-channel mobile access, and to build a new 24/7 IT operations capability. And yet this is really difficult to achieve. CTOs are increasingly nonplussed as the landscape is changing so dynamically and at an ever faster rate, with technology adoption cycles and investment lifespans getting ever shorter. A year ago, who would have anticipated the rise of Android to shipping over 200,000 units per day? The trend for bring-your-own consumer devices (iPads, iPhones) into the Enterprise? Microsoft's apparent dead-ending of Windows Mobile and Silverlight? (Where IS Microsoft going, anyway...?). Perpetual "nearly there" HTML5 support? Google's lurking in the background of the Enterprise space and who knows what they're doing either...
Just how does a CTO in 2011 correctly understand what's going on out there, and then plan technology strategy accordingly?
The Accelerating Rate of Technology Change
The biggest impact on my thinking this year was reading Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near back in May. Even though it was written back in 2005, and in many ways should now be superceded, it is an extraordinary, outspoken, visionary book which is highly relevant to today's technologists. The key theme underlying the book is simply this: technology change - according to many objective measurements - is not linear but accelerating exponentially. Just because our cultural inheritance brings us up to assume that things will continue to change at the same rate as currently, the fact is that they are getting faster. And faster. Put another way, there will be as much technological change between 2000 and 2014 as during the whole of the 20th Century. There will be the same amount again within the next 7 years after that.
Absorbing this fundamental understanding has a profound effect on how one thinks about the future. Whether or not you can bring yourself to agree with Kurzweil's extrapolation of the Technological Singularity (when machine intelligence capability exceeds all human intelligence capability), as happening around 2045, he still maps out the many potential changes in IT, robotics and nanotech over the next few decades which have to be taken account of when developing tech strategy now. (Amazing meme: 1 human brain = approx. 1016 computations per second (cps). In 2045 there will be approx. 10 billion (109) humans on the planet => 1025 cps in total. If Moore's law continues at it's current rate, this would be the equivalent of just $1000 of computer processing capacity!)
So, the major landscape changes we've been seeing over the last years can be understood as just the continuation of aeons of accelerating change. Fundamentally: CTOs need to underpin their thinking with this knowledge, and understand the corollary that product investment lifespans and adoption cycles will be ever shorter going forward.
At Memia, this thinking has really permeated our way of looking at strategic engagements, and we have come to feel at ease with exponential technological change. Nay, wildly optimistic at the opportunities it brings! In 2011 we will be re-focussing our consulting offerings to work with our customers to develop robust strategies which fundamenally take account of the dynamic and ever-faster-changing technology landscape.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
So, the resurrected Mayor Bob Parker announced last week an Architectural task force led by "Architectural Ambassador" the eminent Ian Athfield: see http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/canterbury-earthquake/4129202/Row-grows-over-rebuilding
My personal thoughts:
- I love futuristic architecture (see the video above). I used to live in central Edinburgh and loved the historic buildings there too, but I always felt that the "heritage" of a place often stifles innovation and preserves an obselete past in aspic. The fact that everything is built to be (relatively) temporary here in NZ is actually quite enabling. (Unfortunately the down-side of this is too many lowest common denominator strip malls and big-box retail sheds...)
- We need one or more landmark "phoenix" buildings which commemorate the earthquake event and the optimism that we now feel in Canterbury to rebuild with confidence. We should leverage Christchurch and NZ's eco-image as well, and deliver a world-class eco-building cluster as an example for the rest of the world. In fact, let's make the Chch CBD an architectural theme park! Let's get our own Sydney Opera House out of this.
- The CBD needs more technology businesses: instead of building an "innovation park" out on some anonymous industrial estate near the airport, let's make the whole CBD an innovation zone, and a new type of technology campus in itself: let's get citywide wi-fi, hot desks and rent-by-the-hour office facilities. The majority of cloud-based tech businesses which we deal with these days need only a desk, a wireless internet connection and a good laptop. (And educated capital, natch, but that's another post...)
- The ability to renew some of the uglier older buildings in town (now that the Post Office has been transformed into CCC's new HQ: in my opinion that building, amazingly regenerated inside, really gives the city a renewed confidence), check out the practice of adding Building Skins http://buildingskins.blogspot.com/
- Ultimately everybody realises that this is an opportunity to add to Canterbury's international brand as a modern, thriving and vibrant (ok, niche) business centre, and to continue to provide commercial and community facilities which attract more inward investment and skilled migration. Lots of landmark buildings please Mr Athfield!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
First off: libraries. My wife is currently a student at University of Canterbury, whose libraries were devastated by the quake as shown in these shocking pictures: http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/photos.shtml
So the questions I'd be asking are: how much money is available to rebuild a library, and how should it be best spent?
- Renovate or completely rebuild the building
- Buy a load of new shelves
- Purchase a library-full of replacement books
- (Not to mention chop down forests, use litres of ink, ship the books from A to B and pay someone to catalogue them and stack the shelves....)
- AND: the knowledge in the book is out of date the moment it's set to paper
- Ensure that all study materials are published online from now on
- Provide campus-wide free wifi
- Subsidise all students to buy a tablet with e-reader software (see http://www.androidtablets.net/ for some examples)
- AND the knowledge is updated without needing a reprint, plus everyone gets accessible wireless internet access to carry around with them.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I was out in central Christchurch until 11:30pm on Friday night for my wife's birthday, and then 5 hours later the parts of town where we'd been were under a pile of rubble after Saturday morning's 7.1 richter scale earthquake. (#eqnz and #nzeq on Twitter). It was an incredible jolt and went on for nearly a minute (felt longer!) - but due to the time of day, amazingly there have been no fatalities. We have been so lucky. My kids have been progressively calming down as the severity and frequency of aftershocks have reduced steadily over the weekend. We're still getting regular jolts, but hopefully that's the worst of it over.
The Civil Defence, Police and volunteers seem to have done a superb job of managing the crisis - mayor Bob Parker in particular has been excellent in the media: competent and empathetic.
After a few hours during Saturday morning without electricity and water, normal utilities have been restored to most areas of the city and things are past the initial emergency reaction and into a second phase of damage assessment.
At Memia, we currently have no access to our offices in Cashel St due to the emergency cordon, but our team will be working online during the first few days of the week at least. Also, Tuesday is the Software Summit at the Grand Chancellor hotel - currently happening as planned, to my knowledge.
One item in particular: if there are any businesses which are without email and other IT systems due to the earthquake, we're here to help. If you need an emergency solution for your business email (eg to your team @yourdomain.co.nz), we can get email flowing again usually within hours implementing Google Apps standard edition. If we can help out just get in touch 027 344 6808 and there's no charge. (You will need access to your DNS records).
So - I'm looking forward to getting Christchurch up and running again. Hopefully the Twisted Hop is still standing as well! ;-)
Friday, August 27, 2010
Exciting news from cornerstone Memia customer Letstrade International who announced the start of their beta programme starting in October. Access will be free to Xero users during the beta period.
Letstrade provides a powerful Sales, Procurement and Inventory solution for businesses of all sizes, and has been (beautifully!) designed from the ground up to meet the needs of today's complex trading operations. Take a look at the video below to see a bit more info on the product and go to http://letstrade.com to sign up. Also, take a look at Xero's blog post Be the first to try Letstrade.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
When we started the business two years ago, I blogged about Memia's earliest Cloud Services IT architecture and how we were "eating our own dogfood" trying to ensure that all our IT was delivered "as a service" on demand.
Things have moved on considerably since then:
- The choice of quality SaaS applications has increased massively, together with the ability to integrate one application with another to build joined-up solutions.
- The performance and reliability of the internet, especially the mobile internet, has improved considerably - just for example this evening at home we had two hi-res YouTube streams coming down our suburban ADSL pipe at once without a single frame slipping: even 9 months ago this was unheard of in bandwidth-scarce NZ. (Kudos - finally - to @telecomnz for getting the engineering right).
- Perhaps the biggest change, however, is that SaaS solutions are now more widely understood and acceptable to business owners and IT managers, together with providing the critical mass of functionality to be a compelling value proposition.
Based largely around the Google Apps and Xero core platforms, this suite of applications provides a full range of functionality required to run a large number of service and trading business processes:
- Email, Calendar and collaboration tools
- Office productivity: documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing
- Task management
- Contact Management and CRM
- Sales opportunity pipeline management
- Support case management
- Sales process automation
- Time-based billing
- Job-costing and quoting
- Job-based workflow
- Invoicing and accounting services
We're also pretty excited about an upcoming customer application in the Xero ecosystem launching later this year for Inventory, Stock control, Purchasing and Sales processes - watch this space.
So, we're happy to be evangelical about how much this combination of apps works well together. But best of all, the combined pricing for all of these applications running together works out according to the table below (NZ$ ex. GST):
- Google Apps Premier Edition
- Xero "Large" Edition
- Workflow Max
|No of users||Cost per month||Annual cost||Cost per user per month||Cost per user per year|
A full suite of business applications for NZ$31 per user per month!?!? If it sounds too good to be true then get in touch with us at Memia and we will help you run a TCO comparison with other solutions you may be evaluating: you may well be happy with the results.
Rob is based in Christchurch, New Zealand with over 10 years of professional I.T. experience. His career includes QA management at financial software leader Sungard Avantgard and extensive consulting in software testing, website development, and internet marketing strategies for customers throughout New Zealand. Rob will be working with customers to help them make the most of internet platforms such as Google Apps, Xero, Workflow Max and CapsuleCRM (more about this combination soon....). He enjoys working with other people in business to improve efficiencies and help drive more revenue by using 21st century internet technology.
Outside of work, Rob is the licencee and chairperson of the Moa Kids Community Early Learning Centre in Redcliffs, and enjoys kite boarding during the summer months.
Welcome to Memia, Rob!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
(8 July 2010) Clarus Ltd, Christchurch's leading IT and Business Consulting firm, recently rolled out the Google Apps suite of productivity tools to all of its staff and contractors, in a bid to significantly reduce their IT spending on email, calendaring and document sharing applications. Clarus were dissatisfied with how much they were spending to rent hosted Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Sharepoint solutions, and were looking for better reliability and, above all, better value for money solutions for their staff.
The solution came in the form of Google Apps, Google's flagship platform for business productivity and collaboration. Google Apps is a full integrated package including Business Gmail, Calendars, Documents and Spreadsheets, Shared folders, Sites (eg intranets, team sharing) and many other features. Google Apps is accessible securely and reliably across the internet needing just a standard web browser, and costs only $69+gst per user per year for the premier edition with all features enabled. Google Apps is in use in over 2 million businesses worldwide, including New Zealand Post and Tait Electronics in New Zealand.
Clarus engaged Memia Cloud Consulting, Christchurch's leading Google Apps experts to plan and implement the Google Apps migration. "The whole process took less than 3 weeks from the initial meeting" said Edwin Dando, Clarus Managing Director. "The transition from our old Email system to the new was seamless - our emails just started arriving into Business Gmail minutes after we flicked the switch. While we have had some teething issues with user training requirements for those staff who are used to traditional email and office programs, generally our team is more productive and more mobile than ever." Clarus staff and contractors now have access to their Google Apps account from wherever they are working: at a customer site or out and about on their iPhones.
According to Edwin, the whole migration to Google Apps is saving Clarus hundreds of dollars each month compared to their previous solution: "Memia did exactly what we asked them to do: the ROI of this project has been less than 6 weeks.".
For more about Clarus Ltd see their website: http://www.clarus.co.nz
For more about Google Apps, click here
Get started with Google Apps todayComplete our online application form and a Memia consultant will contact you shortly to discuss your requirements.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Google Apps reduces IT costs and empowers today's employees. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, and more - NZ$69+GST per user per year when you buy from Memia, and you can try it free for 30 days.
Memia has been providing Google Apps consulting services to our customers for some time now, including: a full implementation service, solution architecture and integration, training and support. We enable our customers to get up and running with Google Apps rapidly, to radically reduce IT costs and improve staff productivity, and to leverage the Google Apps platform by adding other SaaS applications from the Google Apps Marketplace.
We look forward to growing our Google Apps practice from our base here in Christchurch, and helping many new and existing customers to improve their productivity and reduce the cost and complexity of their IT.
For more details of Google Apps Services from Memia, see our website: http://www.memia.com/googleapps.html . If your business is ready to get up and running with Google Apps now, or your would like a free Demonstration, please fill in our online form (itself powered by Google Apps) at: http://www.memia.com/googleappsform.html
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Next Thursday 22nd April it's a "double Ben header" with Cloud commentator Ben Kepes and myself presenting to NZCS on the topics "The Cloud in 2010: After the Hype" and "21st Century CIO".
Summary below - see http://www.nzcs.org.nz/events/canterbury/130-The_Cloud_in_2010_After_the_hype! for more details.
22 April 2010: 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
1st Floor Conference Room
165 Cashel St
The NZCS Canterbury Branch invites you to join in the stimulating discussion that Cloud-watchers Ben Kepes of Diversity and Ben Reid of Memia will be generating when they present on the state of "the Cloud" in 2010.
Free for NZCS members, inexpensive for others.
The Cloud in 2010: After the hype!
First, The Cloud - A Post-hype Reflection. Cloud Computing analyst and commentator Ben Kepes tiptoes through the tulips of what is happening "in the Cloud" in 2010.
Late 2009 saw almost every vendor producing "cloud-specific" marketing material and tailored cloud offerings. In an IT world where almost everything is offered "as a Service", where the Cloud is seemingly the panacea for hunger, disease and early balding and where traditional business models are falling by the wayside - profit? Who needs profit?
Then, a big question from Ben Reid - 21st Century CIO: All your IT is in the Cloud - now what?
The founder of New Zealand-based Memia Cloud Consulting will present on the immediate future of IT management for businesses of all sizes, given the current momentum towards placing IT solutions in the Cloud. What if all your systems were cloud based? First, is it possible? What will be the differences for IT managers when there are no servers or software left to manage? What will be the practical impact on running your organisation's IT and what new techniques will the CIOs of the future need?
Monday, January 18, 2010
- Mar 4 2010: CloudCamp Sydney http://www.cloudcamp.org/sydney/2010-03-04
- Mar 26 2010: CloudCamp Wellington http://www.cloudcamp.org/wellington/2010-03-26
- Apr 1 2010: CloudCamp Melbourne http://www.cloudcamp.org/melbourne/2010-04-01
- Apr 8 2010: CloudCamp Perth http://www.cloudcamp.org/perth/2010-04-08
"CloudCamp was formed to provide a common ground for the introduction and advancement of cloud computing
Through a series of local CloudCamp events, attendees exchange ideas, knowledge and information in a creative and supporting environment, advancing the current state of cloud computing and related technologies. As an informal, member-supported gathering, we rely entirely on volunteers to help with meeting content, speakers, meeting locations, equipment and membership recruitment. We also have corporate sponsors that provide financial assistance with venues, software, books, discounts, and other valuable donations. To become a member, simply register. Anyone may attend a meeting, there are no fees or dues."
Hope to see you there...
"By 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets. Several interrelated trends are driving the movement toward decreased IT hardware assets, such as virtualization, cloud-enabled services, and employees running personal desktops and notebook systems on corporate networks.
The need for computing hardware, either in a data center or on an employee's desk, will not go away. However, if the ownership of hardware shifts to third parties, then there will be major shifts throughout every facet of the IT hardware industry. For example, enterprise IT budgets will either be shrunk or reallocated to more-strategic projects; enterprise IT staff will either be reduced or reskilled to meet new requirements, and/or hardware distribution will have to change radically to meet the requirements of the new IT hardware buying points."
For the rest of Gartner's predictions see http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1278413
Sunday, January 10, 2010
The business principles we've used to guide our Technology architecture are pretty simple:
- Minimize total cost of ownership
- Opex not Capex where possible - we're a startup!
- Ensure an acceptable level of data security (In particular protection of IP)
- Ensure an acceptable level of usability for staff
- Our priority is to deliver working, tested, software, monthly - we need our IT collaboration services to be available 99.9% of the time at least. However, we can survive the odd outage.
- Content over style: documentation associated with software development does not need rich desktop publishing features.
- Generally we find our team are more productive when they are colocated in the office for core hours every working day
- Trust our staff to uphold security policies and procedures
- Bring your own laptop and softphone (each staffmember / contractor gets a monthly allowance to provide and support their own equipment - this is the 21st century everyone has their own laptop, why double up?)
- Cloud for everything. No servers anywhere in our business
- HTTPS and, where necessary, certificate-based authentication for all internet-based communications
- Everything in a browser. (Where possible: most IDEs, application runtimes don't allow for this. There are some examples such as Heroku (Rails) and Force.com are getting there, although that's not so practical yet).
- Wireless internet only
- Work remotely outside core hours if you want (Note: this has implications for Business continuity = go home and work from there!)
- Think of the trees before you print anything - collaborate electronically and round a projector where possible
- Skype is "good enough" for non-sales conference calls
- All integration, system, performance, load and UAT testing is done on Cloud IaaS (either Amazon or GoGrid). Once the testing has finished we wind the virtual servers back down and stop leaking $$$
This means we've ended up with an infrastructure technology architecture that looks (simply!) like this:
...that is, the only capital expenditure on IT Equipment required was:
- Wireless routers (in our case these came free with our ADSL line but we upgraded to our own for better reliability)
- Wireless multifunction printers
- A projector for each meeting room
- PSTN phones (only used for free local calls - looking at getting rid of these as we never use them for business!)
Abstracting up a level from the networking and infrastructure technology, we've developed a reference services architecture for an software development organisation, shown in the diagram below. This basically enumerates all of the input technology services (ie excluding sales, marketing, HR, real estate) which go into delivering a working increment of the software on a monthly iterative cycle, together with associated artefacts like project management reports and requirements documentation (the output services).
The input application services are divided into two main categories:
1. Collaboration and productivity applications
We have become solid users of Google Apps for collaboration as a team - Google Sites especially is a great way for the team to post content and documentation for the rest of the team to collaborate on together. We also use it for our requirements documentation and our BAs work directly with customers to get Use Case and UI screenshots right. It meets most of our requirements, and the real-time collaboration beats client-side productivity tools hands down. We also use Skype for conference calls and, for the most part, it's ok. (And we're at the end of a long thin pipe under the Pacific Ocean here in New Zealand!)
2. Software development applications
Depending upon what the target application technology is that's being developed, you can mix and match on the software dev apps. (For example for developing ASP.NET applications developers will generally use Microsoft's integrated Visual Studio and Team System toolset, installed on cloud IaaS, but for Ruby on Rails for example you could use Netbeans or Aptana for the IDE, GitHub for source control and then choose your own flavours of continuous integration and defect management).
What I'm still on the lookout for is the best SaaS requirements management tool - any suggestions?
Fundamentally, our experience is that this technology model *works*, and furthermore it *scales*. It cuts the technology costs of running a software development organisation to the bone, and provided that the business in question is satisfied with the security and reliability of using services in the Cloud provides easily the best value solution.
So this is how you design and operate IT for a software development business. How many other industries does this model apply to....?