Archive for October, 2009

Now is the time to find a competitive advantage

October 20, 2009

“The choice is no longer whether to do SOA or not do SOA. It’s how to do it,” said Gartner research vice president Paolo Malinverno at the analyst’s recent Application Development and Integration Summit.

With Gartner estimating as much as 80% of large enterprises already use SOA to become more efficient (see further reading, below), how can you use service orientation to create a competitive advantage?

The short answer is presentation, the oft-too forgotten area of SOA. Many businesses working on service orientation still forget to place enough emphasis on the presentation layer, which is your front-end interaction with the client. It is a surprising – and frankly baffling – oversight.

In a tough economic climate, it will be tough enough to keep hold of cash-poor customers – and when it comes to grabbing new clients, your IT budget might not stretch to heavy spending on technology. The answer to such problems is simpler than you might expect.

Too many firms still struggle with complexity. When times are tough and the business needs more information quickly, many IT leaders turn to technology, adding additional layers of systems and processes.

The approach is nothing short of madness. Cash is already tight – and if you are struggling to find something, why add more and more layers that will only further obfuscate the issue at hand?

Aim for clarity, not complexity. SOA can help you make best use of your existing resources, avoiding the necessity to splash out on new IT kit. More specifically, now is the perfect time to look to at the SOA presentation layer.

Such a focus will allow you to focus on your interaction with your clients and improve business services, without upsetting existing back end systems. An open presentation platform – like our edgeConnect technology – will allow you to manage a complex array of channels, providing continuous improvements in customer service.

Finding an SOA presentation layer model that works means you will be able to quickly roll out an approach for each local market that integrates existing components, from back-end systems to front-end interfaces.

Get your service-oriented strategy right and you will also be able to create an easily repeatable configuration for new business practices. Rather than developing new systems for new initiatives, your winning configuration should be applicable for a range of business processes.

Fast, agile and easily repeatable, successful companies are concentrating on the SOA presentation layer because it gives them an inherent competitive advantage in the fast-changing information age.

Further reading



WYSIWYG is dead go with the flow

October 12, 2009

Since the birth of window based user interface (MAC, Microsoft Windows) application designers have adopted the What You See Is What You Get approach to creating User Interfaces. Visual Basic was one of the early tools to provide a canvas onto which a screen can be drawn by simple drag and drop of screen elements on top of the canvas. “Property” sheets allowed these controls to be specialised/designed further for example change font, size, captions etc. This paradigm of development has since stuck with us, and this post questions whether this is right and whether this is the future?

Most corporates have started to standardise front end screens to be developed in browser technology for the right reasons such as; cross platform, ease of distribution, zero install. As expected tools vendors have provided good support for browser application development. However does the WYSIWYG paradigm apply? Should you still create browser screens in the same way as desktop applications?

Browser applications typically use a “flow layout” whereby the screen layout changes according to the size of the browser window. This is very useful because users could have different screen sizes, or browser settings (e.g. lots of toolbars) or even be viewing the application on a mobile device. Using a flow layout means that screen layout will change according to the users browser window size, thereby automatically handling each of the differences above.

Using this approach however means that creating a screen using a drag and drop approach onto a canvas does not necessarily give you a view of the final screen layout, hence you have to question whether now WYSIWYG is the right development paradigm for browser applications.

Another issue is that different browsers sometimes interpret the browser differently, causing screens to appear in differently across different browsers.

There is also the issue that “look and feel” is actually separated from the screen code into a style sheet, and a screen may be presented using different syle sheets, Hence displaying a form could be drastically different depending on the stylesheet used ( some great examples of this can be seen at ).

With the above in mind is it time for a new approach? Perhaps using a more “real time design” approach. With such a tool, users would create screens and then run them to see how they would be rendered in different browsers, devices and screen sizes. With the proliferation of devices a multi-channel approach is becoming core to many organisations, and in such a world screen sizes will vary greatly, a new approach is required for creating screens because now the paradigm has changed to What You See Is What You Might And Most Probably Wont Get.


Project failures can be good news

October 5, 2009

When it comes to software development, the latest research from the Standish Group presents very little in the way of good news. Failures are up and projects are considered less successful.

Just 32% of all projects deliver on time and on budget, with required features and functions (see further reading, below). Standish estimates that 44% of software projects are late, and over budget, and another 24% fail and are cancelled prior to completion, or delivered and never used.

The figures do not make impressive reading for IT executives, especially at a time when the business is putting pressure on the technology department to deliver more with less.

One thing is for certain; the current economic climate definitely does not help. Standish suggests the recession has helped push IT project failure rates higher and estimates that as much as 20 to 25% of failures during the last two years could have been caused by the economy forcing project cancellations (see further reading).

The upside is that IT departments are being persuaded, or even forced, to re-evaluate technology initiatives. Projects that might previously have stumbled towards completion are being canned as a result of the recession.

Good IT can help users work more effectively and efficiently, saving the business time and money. Bad technology is a money pit and too many IT executives end up pouring good money after bad, attempting to fix projects that do not provide a usable interface.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. While new economic realities help executives cull costly IT projects, remaining projects will still regularly fail to meet user expectations, as the Standish report confirms.

For your remaining projects, look for specialist approaches and tools that can help ensure your projects run in-line with user demands. An agile development approach will help you to make such tests on an iterative basis.

edge IPK offers such a strategy, its Early Visualisation Approach (EVA) provides an agile development lifecycle that allows business analysts to focus on online and offline front end applications.

Supported by the edgeConnect platform, which enables much faster entry points to development than traditional tools, analysts estimate EVA can reduce development cycles by as much as 85%.

With project failure rates rising and IT executives struggling to justify the cost of technology initiatives, investing in an iterative development approach could be your must successful decision of the year.

Further reading