Saturday, March 09, 2002
Data Management. I am not an IT professional. I am, however, a knowledgeable (and demanding) user of IT services and have a keen appreciation of the tools that are made available by technology. The adage that a craftsperson knows their tools is applicable. I first want to share a collection of documents that introduce databases and data warehouses to any reader who does not routinely work with either (i.e., network support, technical writers and others in IT who know only the bare fundamentals). The first set of documents is in a Zip archive that contains four PowerPoint presentations that introduce database and data warehouses at a basic level.
The next document is a data mining tutorial, which will lay the groundwork for a more in-depth set of PowerPoint presentations about data mining and online analytical processing, which is a business intelligence specialist's most powerful tool set.
For the more technically inclined I've put together a collection of PowerPoint presentations about modeling and schemas that cover the basics, and discuss star vs. snowflake schemas, and get deeper into multidimensional databases.
General Interest. I have more to share than database-centric documents. One of the better presentations I've read lately is Building Business Intelligence Systems, which is an excellent overview of the issues you need to explore. Be aware that this presentation was designed to showcase a specific vendor product, but that does not diminish the value of the message and information in the first seventy-five percent of the document.
Another vendor-specific document that contains excellent information that can be applied in a vendor-neutral environment is eContent Management. Not all data is neatly housed in a data structure, and the overview of challenges that is provided in this presentation is invaluable.
Some Things Just Don't Fit. In parting I want to share three documents that do not fit the theme of this entry:
- eLearning Standards, which is surprising because the document was put together by Cisco, which most of us associate with networking and routers. A little research revealed much about Cisco, such as the company has a sophisticated customer relationship management approach, and is heavily involved in distance learning and other initiatives.
- On Enterprise Integration is more slanted towards Mike's Zachman Framework theme in Postcards from the Revolution, but with a little imagination and vision you can see how the data mining and OLAP topics I addressed above relate to this PowerPoint presentation. It's all the more valuable if you're an architect who is visualizing a big picture that includes business intelligence, CRM and knowledge management.
- I included Overview of the Internet and Data as a "101" presentation you may find useful as a tool for educating your end users.
Friday, March 08, 2002
Manifestations. Kate Hartshorn's recent entry in Postcards from the Revolution is one of the clearest explanations of competitive intelligence I've read. Her supporting material on competitive intelligence, knowledge management and intellectual property law is overwhelming. Coincidently I was also reading about competitive intelligence earlier this week and want to contribute one more document to the impressive collection that Kate has shared: Applying Business Intelligence.
Directions. Mike has taken both weblogs into a direction that neither of us planned when we started this one and Postcards from the Revolution. This weblog was going to be a jumbled collection of documents and links that we wanted to share as we came across them in our research. Postcards from the Revolution was intended to be our soapbox from which we were going to preach professional improvement. Instead, both have become showcases for themes. The current theme in Postcards is the Zachman Framework, and the coming theme here is going to be policies, processes and procedures. That theme is good for a week of Mike's entries because he has much to share in the way of knowledge and experience on the topic.
Architecture. Some of the material I've amassed this week will support Mike's and Kate's entries. In particular, architecture, which plays nicely into Mike's Zachman Framework topic. The Action Guides for the Enterprise Architect, which I downloaded from Bredemeyer Consulting site, blends process and systems architecture into a coherent approach. Another source of architecture information that takes the same approach is Enterprise-Wide IT Architecture (EWITA).
Business Issues. Regardless of how deep we get into the nuts and bolts of technology we need to remain constantly aware of the business aspects. IT exists to enable business processes and to support users. Period. To that end I have four documents that will refocus attention on business issues:
- Winning the E-Race
- Making a Business Case for E-Commerce Project Selection
- E-Commerce Success Models
- Quality of Experience
- CMMI Explained, a PowerPoint presentation that clearly explains the Integrated Capability Maturity Model, and the differences between the CMM and CMMI.
- CMM Assessment Findings, a PowerPoint presentation showing CMM assessment findings and key practice trouble spots. Forewarned is fore armed.
- CMM Tutorial in PDF format - for anyone who is new to the Capability Maturity Model.
- Statistical Process Controls and the CMM, which is a PowerPoint presentation about a critical success factor for organizations striving for CMM levels 4 and 5.
Project Management. When projects are correctly managed careers light up. Ed Yourdon's 246-slide PowerPoint presentation titled, Managing Internet-Time Projects has advice that can propel you into the fast track. If, on the other hand, your career is looking shaky because of a project gone sour, Nightmare on Project X is a PowerPoint presentation that shows how to get projects back on track. It might just contain the redemption you're seeking.
Odds and Ends. I'm going to end with two documents that don't fit anywhere else: Introduction to Erlang B and C, which is essential to managing queues. You'll need to thoroughly understand the concept behing Erlangs if you model help desk staffing, telecommunications capacity and any other model that involves queues (including how many checkers are required in a supermarket for a given number of shoppers). If you're in QA you'll appreciate the two PowerPoint presentations on regression testing. They cover the process of regression testing, and how to prioritize regression test cases.
I'm off to enjoy the sun and the rest of the day.
Thursday, March 07, 2002
Catalyst. The reasons why I want to discuss process models are:
- Linda and I frequently write about, or make reference to, processes in both of our weblogs. To many readers the term process may be too abstract. It's time we clarified this by providing definitions and approaches that we use for process analysis, design and implementation.
- There are direct relationships among policy, process and procedures. Many practitioners focus on process and procedures without taking into account the fact that policy governs process. In the same manner that a direct relationship exists between policy and process, there is also a direct relationship between business imperatives and policy. I want to portray those relationships in future entries.
- Standards, both de facto and de jure govern the continuum of policy-process-procedure.
Prelude. I've gathered material that will accomplish two things: (1) give background information about domain specific processes, such as supply chain management, software process improvement, etc., and (2) provide common standards and techniques. The material is diverse and is more valuable when studied to see how the embedded processes were derived. To be sure, it will take careful study to accomplish that; however, if you're feeling ambitious you may want to see how the processes, models and standards in the material fit within the Zachman Framework described in the last three Postcards from the Revolution entries.
The background material is as follows:
- Supply Chain Management, which is a Zip archive that contains seven PowerPoint presentations. The presentations cover a full range of topics, including: Supply Chain Operations Reference Model (SCORM), supply chain process mapping methodology, metrics and the integration of supply chain and customer relationship management.
- Software Engineering Standards and Processes, including documents on software process improvement, software configuration management, CMM and SQA.
- ISO/IEC 12207 Software Life Cycle Processes, consisting of a PowerPoint presentation and MS Word document describing this important international standard.
- Software Development and Implementation, an esoteric and eclectic collection of documents covering development processes, technology management, Oracle Financials tips, and E-business scalability. There is something here for everyone.
- System and Software Selection Techniques. An interesting collection of documents about the processes for selecting an IS architecture, business applications and integrating commercial off-the-shelf software.
Wednesday, March 06, 2002
Being Rational. Although I've discussed the Rational Unified Process (RUP) in previous entries, I have some PowerPoint presentations that tie the RUP to architecture:
- Introduction to the Rational Unified Process
- Software Engineering Best Practices (based on the RUP)
- Architectural Analysis within the context of the RUP
- Subsystem Design using RUP techniques
- Describing Distribution about modeling the distribution decisions of the system in the Deployment Views
Another of my passions is project management. I'm always on the lookout for best practices, documents, forms and templates and new techniques. I've zipped up two new discoveries, the Department of Energy project management guide, and a project planning questionnaire, both of which are in MS Word format. These project management artifacts can be tailored to your specific organizational requirements. Walker Royce's excellent book titled, Software Project Management: A Unified Framework. If you're working with the RUP you'll want this book. I personally found the approach and techniques to reflect best practices in software project management, and recommend this book regardless of whether or not you're using the RUP.
Other Topics. I'm going to take a shotgun approach and share a few links and documents that I discovered earlier in the week. These are random and loosely related, so there is sure to be something for everyone:
- Solving the Measurement Dilemma (How EVA and the Balanced Scorecard Fit Together), will provide insights into the challenges and issues faced by the business process owners that we IT professionals support.
- IT - Business Relationship is an article that discusses strategic information system evolution. The source of this article is Enterprise Works, which has a large number of interesting articles on IT/business topics. As an aside, I am currently reading Information Systems Success Measurement, which is a nine-essay book edited by Edward J. Garrity and G. Lawrence Sanders (both of whom authored some of the essays), and can recommend this book without reservation to anyone who is interested in the subject.
- Method 1-2-3 is a site that describes a fairly straightforward project life cycle called Method 123, and contains a repository of free artifacts, an example of which is the Change Management Process in MS Word format.
- XLink, XPointer and XPath at the Social Security Administration is a 48-slide PowerPoint presentation that combines the RUP and XML topics.
Tuesday, March 05, 2002
Another resource is Security Architectures for Large-Scale Distributed Collaboratory Environments. Combined, these two documents will provide QA practitioners with ample background information for developing test strategies that include security.
We live in a connected world, so understanding network security testing is a skill that QA professionals need to add to their knowledge base. I have a network design guide in MS Word format that will get you up to speed in network technologies if you need to understand more than the bare basics. An additional resource is The Art of Network Testing, which Mike reviewed on Amazon on 16 September 2001.
More specific security issues which all IT professionals should understand include internet vulnerabilities. Architects and QA should be aware of these exposures so that designs and test strategies can proactively address them at all stages of a system's life cycle. By reverse-engineering Modeling Internet Attacks you can see what needs to be designed into a system, as well as what needs to be tested before the system is deployed. You can use the same strategy by using the materials I provided earlier today in Postcards from the Revolution about database security.
Another area that needs attention in all phases of the system life cycle is Denial of Service Attacks. The PowerPoint presentation on DoS attacks is a good starting point. There is a new twist on this type of attack called Distributed Reflection Denial of Service reported and documented by Steve Gibson.
Idea Generator. I'm always looking for ways to succinctly convey information. While browsing DARPA's site earlier today I came across one of the best examples, which is shown on a project summary page. The project itself was of little interest, but the way it's summarized is nicely done. What I especially like is the Quad Chart format that captures the entire project in a single visual quadrant, with the other three quadrants for new ideas, impact and schedule. It's compact, conveys an incredible amount of information and is more effective, in my opinion, than ten or fifteen PowerPoint slides. I've archived three example quad charts for three different projects. Take a look and judge for yourself.
Network Test Tools and Simulators. The tools listed below are free, but you will be required to fill out a request form before you can download them. The form is used for internal project justification purposes. After you complete the request form(s) you will be immediately given a link to download the tool. Also note that many of these tools are provided as source code (usually C or C++).
- ABRtest, an implementation tool for conformance testing the ATM ABR Service Rate Control.
- PNNItest, for Private Network-Network Interface (PNNI) Routing Interoperability Tests.
- APROPS, a Private Network-Network Interface (PNNI) Simulator.
- ATM/HFC Network Simulator.
- NISTnet, which is a general-purpose tool for emulating performance dynamics in IP networks. The tool is designed to allow controlled, reproducible experiments with network performance sensitive/adaptive applications and control protocols in a simple laboratory setting.
- Integrated Services Protocol Instrument. ISPI is an interactive, integrated tool for measuring the performance of quality of service (QoS) sensitive data streams while conducting experiments with emerging Internet resource reservation protocols and real-time network services.
- IP Security Web Based Interoperability Tester.
End Note. Outsourced software development is a reality. I am not going to open Pandora's Box by expressing my opinions on the problems in the US software industry, but am going to share a whitepaper I found titled, Applying Software Quality Assurance to Outsourced Software Development.
Monday, March 04, 2002
Many of the debaters also seem to come from small company/small-to-medium client environments--the wild, wild west. The issue seems to boil down to professional standards, or the lack thereof.
There are professional standards, which Mike mentioned in some of his posts. I think the most promising professional organization is the International Council on Systems Engineering, which has technical standards committees and working groups, and international influence. They are organized and are actively promoting professionalism in their community. So it can be done. I just don't think it is going to get done by a group of independent consultants.
Interestingly, Mike mentioned in a different discussion thread that the US was being left behind because of quality and professionalism issues. Naturally there was a lot of heated push-back about that. A little research on my part yielded the following fact that deflates the naysayers' arguments: a Canadian organization called CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) is taking the initiative by establishing professional standards and a certification called I.S.P (Information System Professional). The CIPS mission statement is strongly worded and shows both national leadership on the part of Canada and an example of how to go about establishing professional standards and certifications:
CIPS, through the work of the Certification Council is dedicated to establishing a registered and regulated information systems profession in Canada as well as to establishing the groundwork for a fully licensed profession. The council works to determine, develop and maintain the integrity, credibility, and competence of individuals active in the IT field.I've made a CIPS presentation available in PowerPoint format if anyone is interested in the history and a summary of objectives.
I came across four PowerPoint presentations that augment recently discussed topics here and in Postcards from the Revolution:
- HIPAA Readiness for those who are in the health care industry.
- ebXML Update.
- XML and E-Business.
- Internet Commerce: Understanding Payments, Security and Storefronts.
Sunday, March 03, 2002
Statistically Speaking. Testing and quality require knowledge of statistics, and ready reference to this dry subject is a good resource to have close by. I recommend bookmarking the Engineering Statistics Handbook, which will always be available as a reference if you can connect to the web.
If you're doing statistical analysis with a spreadsheet you will soon run into limitations. You may want to obtain a copy of Dataplot, which is a free, public-domain, multi-platform (Unix, Linux, PC-DOS, Windows NT, etc.) software system for scientific visualization, statistical analysis, and non-linear modeling. The price is certainly right.
The "M" Word. Yes, it stands for Microsoft. Manisha Saboo of eRunway shared two links that will be of interest to anyone who is in a Microsoft-centric environment, either by choice or by necessity. The first link is a page devoted to Load Testing Tools for Windows DNA Solutions. The second link is to an article titled, Why Microsoft.com Believes in Testing the Web. It's a well-written article. Given the ongoing stream of patches coming from Microsoft's application and operating system folks perhaps they can learn a lesson from their dot com brothers and sisters.
Compliance. The 28 Feb 2002 issue of LWN.net has an update of the NuSphere/MySQL issue that is the first court case to test the validity of the GPL. This is a clear signal to anyone who is developing open source software. If you are an open source developer you should check Lineo's GPL Compliance Tool.
Other Testing Resources. Data Network Penetration Testing is a short whitepaper in MS Word format that adds to the QA body of knowledge by providing guidance for conducting penetration tests.
Testing Software Product Lines is just what the title implies. Software Test Performance Benchmarking in MS Word format is an interesting whitepaper that will provide ideas about test process improvement.
I'm including A Risk Driven View of Electronic Contracting because I forgot to add it when I wrote my previous entry. This document can be used as an assurance tool for electronic contract transactions.
End Note. If you're looking for test tools and artifacts try QA Downloads which is an excellent repository for QA professionals.
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