Posts Tagged ‘EUD’

Programming with soldering irons

June 21, 2012

The last time I can remember seeing a programmer with a soldering iron was a long time ago in the hay days of micro computing in the late 70’s. A picture of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in a garage having built the Apple 1 micro-computer. The component parts totalled a few hundred pounds, and the machine sold for $666.66. At this level the cost made this a niche phenomenon, however a handful of very successful entrepreneurs emerged out of this era.

So moving fast forward to 2012, Raspberry PI foundation http://www.raspberrypi.org have launched a $25 computer running Linux, has sockets for Ethernet, HDMI, USB, RCA Video and SD Cards. At this price and capability this is unlikely to be a niche phenomenon, indeed February this year more people were searching for Raspberry PI than they were the world’s most famous pop artist, Lady Gaga ! On launch the interest in Raspberry Pi flooded their website and had to be taken down, and the first batch these was sold out in 1hour.

So is this just about a cheap computer to surf the internet on your TV and to do your basic home computing tasks like word processing on? Well by the time you add a keyboard, mouse and decent memory card the cost will be very close to a low android tablet, so this isn’t the reason to buy one.

The target market for Raspberry Pi Foundation is the education sector where it is hoped these devices will encourage children (11years+) to learn programming which in turn should produce more developers from university. At this cost it is hoped that schools / parents can afford to provide a platform upon which kids will want to learn to program.

However the bulk of the demand I would say will come from techies that want to build low cost solutions that require compute power and software applications. Home automation projects are likely to be popular: creating a solution that allows you to switch lights and other things on/off remotely via the internet. Solutions that require integration with other hardware such as a GPS or camera will also be popular.

Already projects looking to create their own weather balloons, remote controlled robots, music studios and many more have started ahead of people actually having the kit in their hands. So you can see more idea’s here http://www.raspberrypi.org/forum/projects-and-collaboration-general/the-projects-list-look-here-for-some-ideas .

It is early days but to me it’s obvious the options and therefore opportunities for innovation are going to be huge, some will be very practical, some will be fun (for example the guy that created a device that allows him to feed his dog via the internet, some will be useless but in all there will be lots of new ideas using these devices in the coming years.

The next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates is amongst our children already so the time is right to get in the queue for your piece of Raspberry Pi.

AppInventor to drop out of school

February 3, 2011

Something odd is happening. While children have never been more involved in computing, fewer and fewer young people are studying technology.

 Any parent of young children will be able to regale you with tales of their offspring multitasking with various devices and apps. The modern, younger generation has grown up only knowing a technology-enabled world and they are a product of that interaction.

 However, that high level of interactivity has not created a rise in interest in the academic side of IT. Just 4,065 students were awarded computing A-levels this year, compared with 4,710 this time last year – a drop of 13.7% (see further reading, below).

 The jury is out on what such developments mean for the UK: while companies continue to offshore certain technology tasks, a core of highly-skilled technicians must exist in the UK. So, how can we get kids interested in the behind-the-scenes coding that supports their multi-tasking lifestyle?

 One possibility comes in the form of Google’s App Inventor, a system that claims to enable non-coders to develop Android software. Instead of writing code, interested individuals visually design the way an app looks and use blocks to specify software behaviour.

 The plus point, at least as far as getting junior programmers on board, is that App Inventor is easy to use. Code is simply snapped together to allow basic events to take place.

 That, however, is also part of the problem. As developers become more adept, the limitations of snapping blocks together – in comparison to being able to write code – become exposed.

 As Darien Graham-Smith concluded in a recent review of App Inventor for PC Pro (see further reading: “Anyone with the programming nous to make full use of App Inventor’s abilities will surely prefer a language that doesn’t force you to pedantically assemble every function, procedure and event out of multicoloured blocks.”

 Google acknowledges App Inventors’ educational route, paying deference to MIT’s Scratch project. But while the system is driven by an educational perspective, it remains restricted by its approach. In fact, Graham-Smith believes App Inventor could actually drive people away from programming unless the Blocks Editor improves.

 The system is, in short, a nice attempt to get people interested in the finer elements of programming. But successful apps are inherently much more complex than pushing Lego together.

Further reading:

 http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2010/08/19/242454/A-level-results-mark-39worrying-trend39-for-IT.htm

 http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2010/09/07/googles-app-inventor/

 http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/about/

Take your IT department forward by putting end user development at the front

November 19, 2010

Here’s a wake up call for the IT department – end-user computing will definitely become dominant; it’s just a matter of time.

 Proof comes in the form of modern business practices. Increasing numbers of executives are now saying that time to market is absolutely critical. A slow moving organisation is one that loses.

 For many firms, the ability to move quickly is underpinned by technology. The pace of change and centrality of IT to contemporary business means every organisation, whatever the sector, relies on technology to help maintain information flows and to help its employees deal with customers.

 Such reliance should be good news for the traditional technology team. But there’s a significant catch. The business wants to make changes and add products quickly. Technology, as the underpinning structure, should be set up to create speed.

 Unfortunately, this simply is not the case for many businesses.  The integral nature of IT to business processes means that line-of-business executives have to go through IT when they want to make changes.

 In many organisations, the traditional cycle of IT delivery is far too slow. One step forwards – in the form of the business’ recognition of the need to create a new product offering – is often several steps back for the IT department.

 Rather than being able to respond with agility to business need, IT development takes place across an elongated cycle, where each change needs to checked, re-checked and checked again. Businesses, if they are going to be agile, need to stop such lethargy.

 Focus remains on the IT department – and the focus has to be on technology because it is at the core of modern business practice. But smart executives are beginning to ask what can be done so that business change can swerve round the elongated cycle of IT delivery.

 For technology workers, such transformations might seem like a coup d’etat. But there is no need to be scared. IT workers that embrace the change and help the business move towards end-user computing will not be overthrown.

 Your role should be at the higher level, helping the businesses to understand how web interfaces – the new desktop – can be used to help executives avoid the traditional IT cycle of checking and testing.

 Employees want to be able to create instant changes to text that can help inform customers. They want to be able to manage data using their own business rules, creating drop down lists of crucial information.

 Permissions need to be granted and re-granted; workflow needs to be easily manageable, so that the business can use the web to drive agile processes. True agility comes in the form of end-user development.

 And the forward-thinking IT department will recognise it needs to help drive the end-user revolution, not hold it back.


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Providing structure through model-driven development

November 10, 2009

When you think of end-user development, you might think of IT taking a back seat as the business defines the type of applications it uses. That approach is all well and good in theory, but what about practice?

While employees might have loads of great ideas about the type of tools that could help the business work more efficiently, they are unlikely to have the requisite knowledge of programming and standards.

And unless you have the right background in place, users will not be able to create the applications that can make a real difference to day-to-day operations.

At that point, you should consider a turn towards model-driven development (MDD) – a design approach that allows your technology team to assert their presence, while providing a structured guideline to help end-users gain the software they really need.

The key to MDD is ensuring the building blocks of a business problem are understood before users take action. While MDD should aim to allow the business to create applications, the approach should rely on IT specialists using programming techniques to create the underlying components.

Open and vendor-neutral, MDD – also known as model-driven architecture – is based on the Object Management Group’s (OMG’s) established standards, including unified modelling language (UML) and the meta-object facility (MOF). OMG’s model-driven approach separates business logic from the underlying technology and allows the business to create platform-independent applications.

Rather than being created in general-purpose programming languages such as COBRA, XML, Java or .Net, MDD is created in a domain-specific language that is dedicated to a particular business problem. The break from a reliance on a particular technical flavour means users can specify the applications they require and then work with the IT team to create tools.

Such independence means underlying technology can be updated without affecting the business aspects of an application. Likewise, such platform independence means the business can generate the applications it needs without fear of a potential impact on underlying code.

So, what does the emergence of MDD – with big companies, such as Microsoft, backing its development – mean for the future of development? If the IT organisation creates applications in-line with the business specific-demands of MDD, the answer is simple: software that can make a real difference to business operations.

 

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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

http://www.cbronline.com/news/software_project_failures_hit_5_year_high_220609

http://www.cio.com/article/495306/Recession_Causes_Rising_IT_Project_Failure_Rates_?page=2


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What will happen to the in-house IT professional?

August 25, 2009

The new generation of all-knowing users are the future of your IT department, using development tools – such as spreadsheet macros, process models and collaborative wikis – to create winning applications.

As a recent Forrester report suggests (see further reading, below), such business people do not want to be developers; they just want to get things done. And in a new age of collaboration and consumerisation, taking development into your own hands is sometimes seen as the quickest route to usable apps – especially in a slow-moving corporate leviathan.

It sounds like a double-headed winner: businesses get to implement software quicker and users get the applications they need. But not everyone is smiling. After all, what does the rise of end-user development mean for existing IT professionals?

The simple answer is professionalism. While it is great that users can help the business create the applications they need, such users are unlikely to be skilled technology experts.

Just like ‘Sunday morning mechanics’ can run a simple oil change for their car on the drive way, significant problems and modifications are likely to require the skilled intervention of a specialist engineer.

As the Forrester report suggests, end-user enthusiasm can lead to poorly designed, insecure and unscalable applications. The problem is then inherited by the application development professionals, who are left to pick up the pieces of bad business practice.

Do not let it get to this stage. Continue to embrace end-user development because your internal customers know what tools they need and their interaction with collaborative technology means they are only likely to become more IT-savvy.

Rather than letting users develop applications in isolation, IT professionals should take on a new management role, helping end-users to hone their contributions so that the business receives usable and scalable applications.

IT professionals have untapped skills, such as the ability to understand the technical rules that underlie business processes. Marrying such professionals with end-users will allow line-of-business employees to work with freedom and without fear of compromising established best practice.

In short, technology professionals need not fear the upsurge of non-technical development. Well-schooled end-users will allow for the development of technical tools that hold real value for the business.

The process will also allow IT professionals to engage with individuals across the company and prove the benefits of the much-maligned technology organisation.

Despite the rise of end-user development, the role of talented technology professional is more indispensable than ever.

 

Further reading

 http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,54191,00.html


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Making BrITain Great Again

August 5, 2009

Making BrITain Great Again – Well done Stephen Kelly of Microfocus for putting his foot forward for IT in the UK ! At last some recognition that IT has a key role in growing our economy and that we should not resolve ourselves to losing such an important skill set to the rest of the world. The industry needs to embrace this opportunity with two hands and support this initiative as some politicians have. What is good about this manifesto is that it start at the grass roots of bringing more skilled professional through academia into the industry right through to startups and at the very top level the role of large IT companies. Some of my observations from speaking to our “target market”: Students selecting a career still perceive IT as a “geek” career whilst the biggest shortfall is in people that can translate business into IT solutions. This is a role that requires both business awareness and IT awareness, people in these roles are typically paid a premium and a role that is not normally offshored or outsourced. Manchester University has recognized this and created a combined business / IT course, but more has to be done about raising awareness. In the world of startups these companies rely on venture capital at all stages of their growth. However many Venture Companies actively encourage the outsourcing of product development to ensure their “investment” is being spent wisely. Enhancing the government R&D Tax Credit and making it easier for IT Companies would make a positive difference to relying solely on venture capital. Speaking to a number of startups often the barrier to the R&D Tax Credit being claimed is the simple definition of “innovation”. Questions should be asked as to why VC’s are more risk averse in the UK than the USA and what can be done about this? The manifesto also addresses one of the key issues of “growth”. We have great software innovations here but crossing the pond generally spells the end for many of these companies are they exhaust their hard earned venture capital and profits in trying to break out of the UK. We have to look at more ways we can help companies become global successes, afterall you can only name less than half a dozen companies in the UK that can claim Global success.


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Disposable software

July 13, 2009

So, you have finally taken the plunge and given your end-users more power to create useful applications. The job, however, is far from done. 

A criticism often levelled at end-user development (EUD) is that IT managers are putting the responsibility for creation in the hands of non-technical specialists. The result could be developments that are hard to maintain or inflexible to change.

 Such criticisms would be fair enough if your business allowed users to create bespoke applications that cannot be updated in-line with wider organisational transformation. But what would be the point of that approach?

 A well thought through EUD approach allows line-of-business employees to create tools easily and certainly quicker than through in-house development that relies on traditional programming.

 In the current economic climate, quick and easy development is likely to curry favour with your demanding boss. More importantly, the approach is extremely cost effective.

 As a rule, many companies tend to hang on to technology for too long. Take the financial services industry, where many firms rely on bespoke banking systems running on legacy code.

 But an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ policy can have a damaging long-term effect. While many of the systems still run effectively, it can be very difficult to modify legacy technologies.

 The legacy mode of engineering often relies on outdated skills, meaning firms find it extremely difficult to retrofit code into modern architectures. The issue has become increasingly pertinent, with such outmoded systems looking cumbersome in comparison to much off today’s web-enabled infrastructure.

 Putting development tools – such as spreadsheet macros, process models and collaborative wikis – in the hands of your users is likely to help you create winning applications that could improve your current technology set up.

 While IT professionals are likely to have an idea of the broad sweep of tools that could help employees work more effectively, users will have an exact knowledge of the types of interface that could help them make the most of business information.

 The inherent nature of EUD means applications can be configured easily, thrown away at the end of their useful life and new applications redeveloped quickly.

 Such an approach means that with careful guidance and well-defined rules, your employees can use EUD to develop applications cost-effectively and in-line with changing business demand.


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What is the marketplace asking for?

May 11, 2009

There are a lot of people with their heads in the clouds. Proof comes in the form of the recession, with many so-called experts suggesting the financial situation is far from horrific.

Prominent business leaders remain hopeful, with some suggesting the upturn could come by the end of the year (see further reading, below). It is time to get real.

Such sentiment is dangerous because the worst is still to come, with other stories emanating from the media elucidating quite how dire the situation has become.

The Times reported recently that the UK is expected to be the worst hit of the major EU economies, with the British jobless total set to hit 2.55 million by the end of the year.

It also noted that consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers has told its clients to ensure their business can bear a 5% decline in the economy during 2009.

Smart IT leaders have already realised that the downturn is here to stay. Don’t expect an upturn by the end of this year. Next year will also be hard and we might not see the much-desired green shoots of recovery until 2011.

In such an economically constrained environment, how can small companies focus on development processes that lower costs and meet specific business issues?

UK IT trade body Intellect believes that when the upturn comes the technology industry will be at the core of new growth opportunities. And the entrepreneurial nature of Britain’s small businesses will help drive innovation.

Such opportunities will rely on small firms establishing the right approach to technology. The best-placed firms will look at how automation can remove cost from the business and improve efficiency.

Entrepreneurial spirit comes from a desire to give talented workers the power to create and innovate. Technology is clearly no exception to this rule and you should investigate how your valued employees can become end-user developers.

The devolution of IT development power will give your firm the flexibility to meet the changing demands of clients. Remember that what the marketplace is asking for right now is smart, flexible processes.

Small businesses have an inherent advantage over their larger, slower-moving rivals. Enjoy the opportunity to change.

Further reading

A way out of the recession?
http://www.mad.co.uk/Main/News/Articlex/8ecb83dde88f41048a60635e5ed54408/Marketers-can-lead-way-out-of-recession.html

World in grip of great recession
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article5880559.ece

IT industry reviews innovation support
http://www.publictechnology.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=19310

Time for a virtual reality check

March 31, 2009

Regular readers will know my passion for end-user development (EUD), a means for giving more power to the business to create useful applications.

Line-of-business employees now have the knowledge and tools to produce their own useful applications. And while EUD might have seemed a ‘nice to have’ several months ago, it has quickly moved to a ‘business must have’.

A heady mix of limited cash, increased consumerisation of IT and fast-changing business priorities mean the trend is catching on. But despite the benefits of EUD, there is one potential downside – applications designed by end users might not work across multiple environments.

A tool that works fine on an individual’s desktop might not install successfully across the corporate network. And if an application is to help boost business efficiency, it will have to work for many users in many different circumstances.

But do not be too concerned by the potential downside, because a good EUD tool will overcome such concerns. One possible route to success is model driven architecture (MDA), a software design approach for the development of software systems.

MDA is a platform-independent model that allows end-users to separate design and architecture issues. The result should be de-coupling and the easy transference of applications across multiple environments.

Despite the promise of MDA, some concerns remain – notably that the approach relies on incomplete technical standards and that its forward-looking method is too realistic for many real-world situations.

For EUD to become de facto, technology and business teams need to know the resources to help develop applications are easily are at-hand. And virtualisation provides another method for EUD, a cost effective solution that allows your IT team and your end users to run and test multiple applications.

Virtualisation allows IT managers to partition existing resources to run multiple versions of an operating system. The approach could be your best friend during testing times.

If you’re thinking of moving to EUD, don’t be put off by the thought of needing more resources. New applications might suggest the need for new hosting environments and large scale testing programmes. But such fears are misplaced.

Rather than having to retrofit applications, IT leaders can use the easily deployed resources of virtualisation to run a potential solution across multiple end-user desktop environments.

Companies continue to look to virtualisation, despite wider cost constraints – analyst Gartner says spending will increase by 43% this year, from $US1.9bn in 2008 to $US2.7bn.

Most of you will have already seen some of the benefits of virtualisation at an infrastructure level. Now it’s time to start thinking about how the approach can be used to create useful applications in challenging times.