Saturday, March 16, 2002

Service Levels and Processes. I found an interesting whitepaper on FMEA for IT (FMEA is Failure Mode, Effects and Analysis) that is in line with facilities management research that Mike and I conducted a few years ago. This paper sets forth an excellent framework for service level management, specifically with respect to reliability and availability.

Manageability is another aspect of reliability and availability that is important to those of us who specialize in service level management. Manageability usually comes with a steep price tag, so the IDC whitepaper titled Business Case for Investing in Manageable Systems is a valuable document that will give you ideas about how to justify the right level of manageability to meet service level objectives.

I've put together two archives of presentations and documents on service level management basics and service level performance metrics from resources I've gathered in recent research. This information is useful to all IT professionals, including applications delivery and software engineering folks because at some point the products that are designed and developed are going to be placed into service as business-enabling tools.

Two additional documents that are of narrower interest are Service Quality for Financial Institutions, which is a high-level view of unique requirements (with little specific service level management information), and Using SAP R/3 for SLM. This paper's primary theme is SAP R/3 in supply chain management. However, it goes into detail about supply chain management, service level management, service level agreements and business maturity. Although the paper does not directly address IT service level management, it does contain a wealth of ideas, especially about workflow.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Competitive Intelligence Defined. Competitive intelligence is one of those terms that mean different things to different people, with many definitions based on misconceptions. One of the best definitions I've found is What Competitive Intelligence Is and Is Not.

Framework for Competitive Analysis is an MS Word document that provides a structured approach to CI, and Process to Define Intelligence Needs adds more structure to the art and science of competitive intelligence.

Mining Competitive Intelligence from Public Sources. By some estimates 90% of the information needed to perform an in-depth assessment of competitors is publicly available. What is required to obtain this information is knowing where to look. Also be aware that if you can so easily learn about your competitors they will probably learn much about your organization with the same ease.

Who Are You Assessing? Conducting competitive intelligence operations requires executive level commitment, funding and resources. You cannot [cost-effectively] watch everyone. The whitepaper titled Identifying Adversaries will help to identify the scope of your research.

Sources. The best starting point is Hoover's Handbook of American Business 2002, or if your scope is international, Hoover's Handbook of World Business 2002 is the place to begin. You will also want to bookmark Hoover's Online. One well-written article on competitive analysis is titled What Are Your Competitors Up To?. This article is aimed at recruiters, but the information is applicable to marketing analysts, members of benchmarking teams and product developers.

I urge corporate communications and legal departments to also be familiar with this material because there is latitude for implementing effective countermeasures. As a competitive intelligence specialist I know only too well that many companies make more information publicly available than is necessary. Look at it this way: your competitors are almost certainly expending money and resources to learn about you. Developing a business case for countermeasures may reveal a surprisingly large ROI.

Transformations. Information does not equal intelligence. It needs to be transformed into raw and processed intelligence (see Mike Tarrani's 28 February 2002 definitions of raw and processed intelligence in Postcards from the Revolution).

A document that addresses the information-to-intelligence transformation is Business Intelligence for the Finance Industry. Although this document is focused on the finance industry the concepts and approach can be used in any industry sector. Another source of valuable information and key indicators is a company's investment in information technology. The whitepaper titled Value Implications of IT Investments gives insights on how to interpret competitor information technology spending.

When competitive intelligence in turned inward it's called business intelligence. The same framework and processes used in competitive intelligence gathering and assessment can be used to evaluate your own competitive position. The whitepaper titled E-Commerce Internal Intelligence shows the value of business intelligence techniques when applied to e-commerce solutions, while Realtime Business Analysis provides a broader look at the value, factors and issues of internal intelligence. An interesting paper that looks inward is Agency Theory Online Analysis. This document is a case study that illustrates the value of web-based online evidence as research tactic for business intelligence.

Challenging Exercise. If you want to test your skills at analysis and developing intelligence from information read Information Technology for European Advancement. Place you findings within the context of European Union initiatives and develop conclusions. You may uncover interesting insights and trends.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Secrets Revealed. If ever you wanted to know who we (me, Linda and Kate) are, our backgrounds and professional interests, visit the TEAM Zarate-Tarrani Capabilities page. You'll also notice a name you may have seen mentioned here, Marcia Hopkins. I hope to entice her into posting here one of these days.

Process Artifacts. As soon as I complete pending work that has priority I'll return to my topic about processes. In the meantime I have some relevant documents to share that you'll find interesting: Experience Factory Model is a 96-page manual describing the PIE Experience Factory Model. This model is of interest to process analysts, knowledge management specialists and software engineering process group members. The model fosters continuous learning in a software engineering environment with emphasis on organizational process control and change.

Defining Software Processes is a PowerPoint presentation that provides an excellent comparison of the ETVX and IDEF0 models that I discussed in prior entries. Another presentation that covers the ETVX model in detail is titled Process Action Team Processes. In a future entry I'll be discussing process action teams in more detail, so this presentation will serve as an introduction to this powerful and proven model.

The final document, titled Business Process Innovation (Data Analysis) discusses an important aspect of process design and/or improvement.

If your interests are focused on software process improvement see my latest entry in Postcards from the Revolution.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Exciting Documents. Although I am pursuing my Oracle Certified Professional training by day, I continue to research topics of professional interest in the evenings. I recently discovered a few treasures that will excite anyone in concerned with outsourcing and service level management:Ending Thoughts. As you can see, there's a lot of activity surrounding service level management. A year ago the service management total body of knowledge was somewhat limited and relatively static. It now seems that keeping up with the emerging and competing initiatives, and the rapidly growing body of knowledge is going to take effort. In my opinion this represents a major step forward, and I would rather struggle to keep up than to witness the apathy with which this important discipline was treated in the past.
News. My web page is completed and available for viewing. There is still much content to add, but none of the pages are under construction. They are in a state of evolution, and more content will be added in the coming week.

Technical Topics. I want to share three resources that build upon those I've posted in my past few entries:

My Role. If you've been reading this weblog or its sister, Postcards from the Revolution, you've probably noticed that I'm taking a more active role in developing and publishing content. Mike and I are in the process of developing a new web site that focuses on business and competitive intelligence, which will tie together my entries in the weblogs and broader material about those topics. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Time and Again. My time is becoming precious, which means that I am only going to be making brief entries here and in Postcards from the Revolution for the next few days. However, I do want to continue adding content to augment the topic I started about processes, which will give more background information. I also have some interesting documents that address Oracle capacity and performance planning that will be of interest to DBAs and production support staff, as well as to software test professionals.

Process Documents. The first set of documents is a Zip archive that contains materials on balanced scorecards. This relates to processes by providing a structured means of measuring the important elements of business and IT processes. Balanced scorecards can be applied to a single business or technical process area, or rolled up into an enterprise level view of how well you are doing.

A document that will be helpful in the development of process improvement initiatives, which relate to both balanced scorecards and process design is the process improvement impact questionnaire (in MS Word format). The questions in this document can be tailored to your organization's goals and objectives, and is a solid foundation from which to proceed towards measurements or improvement initiatives.

Evolving Business Process Reengineering from Art to Engineering is a gem. This MS Word document covers processes in depth, and is a wealth of information about process analysis and design, and reengineering approaches. A companion document, Organizational Impact of IT-enabled BPR, contains case studies of IT-enabled business process reengineering initiatives. The key word is IT-enabled. I am a staunch advocate of business-led BPR initiatives in which IT plays a supporting role. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that fact that IT [in general] has a poor track record of managing projects or demonstrating an understanding of business imperatives. That isn't the case in all IT organizations, but is still the rule rather than the exception.

IT-Specific Topics. Two resources that are related to IT technical processes are:

  1. Zip archive of ISO 9000, CMMI and software supportability documents.
  2. Document in PDF format that describes a high availability model for SAP. The connection between this document and IT processes requires a slight stretch of the imagination, but the connection is there if you carefully read through the paper.

Oracle Capacity and Performance. If you are an Oracle DBA, or are involved in Oracle capacity and performance planning or conducting database stress testing you'll find the Oracle Capacity and Performance Methods document collection to be invaluable. This Zip archive contains documents and spreadsheets on: SQL performance, 3-Tier capacity and performance, the Ratio Modeling Technique and other performance and capacity planning techniques that are specific to Oracle databases.

As a performance and/or capacity analyst you already know that queuing modeling is a recurring activity. This MS Excel queuing analysis spreadsheet will make your job a little easier. If you have a Palm-based PDA you can put it to work with this queuing analysis application.

End Note. Kate Hartshorn is posting more frequently here and in Postcards from the Revolution. I, for one, appreciate the information that she is sharing and her insights into topics that are illuminating.

Monday, March 11, 2002

Process 101. This is the first of a series of entries that will cover policies, processes and procedures. In this weblog I'm going to concentrate on processes and procedures, and cover policies in Postcards from the Revolution when I launch my series on the Tarrani-Zarate Information Technology Management Model. In that series I will also be reviewing Mike Sisco's IT Manager Development Series, which is a 10-book collection of professional guidance that covers every facet of IT management. This series and the model that Linda and I developed are closely aligned.

The tie-in between policies and our model is at the business imperatives/business requirements layer.

Our Approach. Linda and I both use a process model that is called Entry-Task-Validation-Exit (ETVX) model. This model is similar to the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process model that is an integral part of total quality management (TQM).

The similarities between the two models include: a structured approach that ensures correct input into a process, documented tasks (procedures), validation checkpoints and defined action. In the case of the ETVX process the sequence is linear and it's designed to take a process trigger or input, perform a series of tasks to produce something or transform the input, check the finished product against quality criteria and exit criteria. If all of the quality and exit criteria are satisfied the process ends (until the next triggering event or arrival of entry criteria), and if not, the discrepancy is corrected in the task phase. It then goes back through the validation phase, and either exits or is reworked until all quality and exit requirements have been met.

The PDCA model differs in subtle, but important ways. The plan and do phases are nearly identical to the ETVX entry and task phases. However, the PDCA check phase is designed for continuous improvement and measures whether or not quality is being achieved within upper and lower control limits defined in statistical process control charts. The most common charts are X-bar (mean) and R (range) charts. If there are indicators that a process is drifting out of statistical control, even if quality requirements are met, an action is initiated to investigate and rectify the root cause. One such indicator is more than three data points above or below the statistical mean in an X-Bar chart.

From the comparison there are key differences between the two models despite surface similarities:

  1. PDCA is preventative through the use of statistical process controls, while ETVX is inspection-based.
  2. PDCA is cyclic and designed to support continuous improvement by constantly measuring and comparing, while ETVX is sequential and only loops back into the task phase for rework.
  3. PDCA has early warning indicators built in, using trends to spot processes that are drifting out of control that can be remedied before quality is compromised. ETVX depends on the validation phase to spot out of conformance processes and has no mechanism other than rework to deal with quality problems.
This of course begs the question, why not use PDCA? Among the reasons why ETVX is used include:A Twist. Linda and I add a wrinkle to the traditional ETVX model by adding controls and constraints. These two elements were heavily influenced by the IDEF0 functional process model.

Definitions. Before proceeding I want to provide definitions of terms that you'll see in all subsequent entries:

Examples. A starting point is the ETVX summary, which describes the basics of the model and includes our additions. I also have examples of how the ETVX process was employed in projects in which Linda, myself, or both of us developed solutions based on the model:End Note. I'll be expanding on the ETVX model in particular, and processes in general in future entries. I'll also be providing related information in Postcards from the Revolution, so be sure to check that weblog as well.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

In Praise of Process. I'm going to lay the groundwork for Mike's forthcoming entries on process. Tom Gilb's Process Out, Quality In presentation in PowerPoint format, with an accompanying MS Word document shows the direct relationship between process and quality. These documents are essential reading if you're serious about quality and want to understand how to design processes to assure it.

It's impossible to implement effective processes or achieve true quality without metrics. This simple, immutable fact is reinforced by Serious Metrics Pay Off, which is a short PowerPoint presentation about the value of metrics.

If processes need metrics, it's axiomatic that they also need documentation. Process assets is a PowerPoint presentation that discusses the value of process assets in the form of policies, procedures and guidelines. This presentation is a nice lead-in for Mike's future entries, and a great resource for anyone who is involved in implementing CMM.

If you read this weblog or its sister, Postcards from the Revolution, you know that we never stray far from the CMM as a topic. The PowerPoint/MS Word combination of documents about software capability evaluations and capability models discusses the use of the Software Capability Evaluation (SCE) V3.0 appraisal method and how to tailor an appraisal to multiple reference models. The models discussed in this slide presentation and accompanying document are the Software Engineering Institute's (SEI) CMM for Software V1.1 and the EIA/IS 731.1, Systems Engineering Capability Model (SECM).

Along the same lines, the two PowerPoint presentations and PDF file that address getting to CMM Levels 4 and 5, and productivity statistics provide insights about the difficulties of attaining software process capability maturity. The information can also be applied to other process models and benchmarks, making this set of documents especially valuable source material to anyone who is involved with process improvement initiatives.

A comparison of IEEE/EIA 12207, CMM and ISO 9001 discusses models and processes that relate to the previous document set about Levels 4 and 5.

I've also posted related information in Postcards from the Revolution in the form of documents that discuss security processes.

Laura Brown, author of Integration Models: Templates for Business Transformation, is now publishing a newsletter. Her inaugural issue covers a wide range of topics, all of which will be of interest to IT professionals. I also recommend a visit to Laura's web site, especially the pages devoted to integration models and data warehouses.

She is one of my favorite authors, and her book was among the top four that I read in 2001. You can read reviews Linda and I wrote on Amazon during June 2001 if you want more details about Integration Models: Templates for Business Transformation, or you can visit Ms. Brown's Books and Articles page for an in-depth look at what's between the covers.

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