Sunday 28 December 2008

Signs and portents

I've heard people say that there is an old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times". Well that certainly describes the end of 2008 and now 2009.

It started with what was described as the credit crunch. This came about from the slow realisation that house prices can't keep rising perpetually and that lending money to bad risks could lead to some losses.

What is happening now is far greater than that. I've wondered for sometime what would happen to a Western society where much of our identity is coupled to our job (see the title of this blog), but in business we're constantly striving for efficiency and fewer people. I've also wondered how it is that the few in the West still (apparently) had much of the worlds wealth when much of the production and skilled work was making it's way to India and China. I've wondered how it's possible for many of the highstreet chains to continue their old business model when so much business was going to online stores, in particular ones like that take advantage of certain tax rules. Further, we've all been waiting for the house price crash.

So now we're seeing a great financial quake and it's hard to see now where this will all end. High street institutions are already falling. Mass redundancies loom and for those with jobs pay cuts are almost inevitable. The houses we own are coming down in price to something more affordable/reasonable/scary. The US Dollar and Pound are falling. Countries around the world are taking short term and necessary steps to protect their interests.

So now the west borrows money from previously poverty stricken countries to continue our way of life - but for how long? What does it mean for England? How will the world look in a few years from now?

Related to this previous post.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

posting from a google phone

Posting from a g1. I note the rich editor doesn't work but interesting none the less. Now to work out the android api.

Friday 5 December 2008

How to Define a Problem - wikiHow

Whilst the inspiration for this article was Einstein and a perception of how he solved problems it's actually a very good article about how to think. Well worth a read.

How to Define a Problem - wikiHow

Saturday 18 October 2008

Organising google apps with multiple domains

I've been trying out google apps team edition using my domain. I decided recently it would be useful to have a more neutral domain I could use so that friends and family could have an account that I could manage - quite a few regularly forget passwords and such so me being able to reset them would be a good thing.

I made a domain alias for but it didn't quite have the effect I wanted. The email forwards and thats about it, and don't forward to slightly irritating. I now face the possibility of deleting my current google apps and starting afresh on the new domain - will look at mail migration (easy - help topic available) and migrating documents etc.

Mildly irritating - would have thought this would be easy.

Monday 13 October 2008

Is Information Systems Architecture all about the money?

Originally this was going to be a post about how IS Architecture and design decisions in general fundamentally came down to money. You may measure it as value for money, benefits realisation or cost avoidance but it's money all the same - even Enterprise Architecture is all about realising the benefits of being a large enterprise. The post is still about that but events have somewhat overtaken me...

Now the post is a little different. We're in interesting times already. There is less money around - banks are failing, governments are buying into banks and already keynotes speeches are changing tone

So now more than ever IS Architecture is all about the money. There is money around but getting hold of it is going to need a very strong case and cost profile. Underpinning any successful IT project in the near future will be a keen eye on costs and strong leadership driving towards the benefits. 

Another post from ongoing seems very relevant: Tough Times Agility

Busy and interesting times ahead...

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Tuesday 8 July 2008

The art of The Big Picture

For me getting a good Big Picture up front is key to the success of any project involving new or significant change to Information Systems. The Big Picture comes in to parts. First there is the picture, the document that we would call The Big Picture. This document need not be a rigorous diagram, although a UML context diagram would be a good start.

Key properties of a good Big Picture document
  • The principal systems should be present
    These should be described in business terms.
  • Where it is customer facing the key channels to market should be represented
  • Key points of interaction between humans (staff, customers) and the Systems
  • Each stakeholders interests should be represented
    If a key stakeholder looks after a call centre - make sure the call centre is represented. If a key stakeholder is responsible for leads sourced via email - have this in the diagram.
  • Communication between items on the diagram should be represented.
  • Some narrative should be given where the purpose of a system or communication isn't immediately obvious.
  • Any phasing or early deliverables should be highlighted.

This probably provides 60% of the value of the Big Picture. The other 40% is derived from the story line surrounding the document. The document is intended as a mnemonic and point of conversation. It is the conversation around the picture that fills in the gaps.

So the Big Picture say this:
  • I've covered all the angles
  • Your specific concerns are addressed and you can see them here, here and here mr. stakeholder (for each stakeholder)
  • Here's the names of everything involved and how they fit together

The surrounding storyline says this:
  • Here's how it will all work when we're done
  • Here's how we're going to address all your concerns and what we'll use to do it mr. stakeholder (for each stakeholder)
  • This is how the general case will be addressed in this model
  • Here's the storyline on how exceptions will be handled

This conversation is typically much harder to capture in a document. Typically it is formed in the mind of the Information Systems Architect as they capture the requirements, examine the existing systems and draw on personal experience to build the big picture document. Frequently, they challenge themselves with exception cases to test their model but never get exactly the exception case offered in the presentation. As a result many of the story lines around exception cases are answered on the fly - with a good knowledge of the domain and a good Big Picture this should be bread and butter to the IS Architect.

So the Big Picture is a document which acts as a mnemonic and provides comfort to stakeholders that they are being cared for. The Big Picture is also the storyline that accompanies the document that sells the concept and brings to life what it means for the stakeholders.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Creativity and problem solving in design

A pet interest of mine is problem solving. My Masters was in machine learning and adaptive computing and I keep an eye on developments in automated reasoning in general. I'm also reading through Dr Edward de Bono's many publications on the topic of thinking.

My intention is to put together some thoughts here on the following topics:
  • The importance of representing the problem
  • The BIG picture
  • Creative thinking, problem solving and design in IS Architecture
  • Is architecture all about the money?

Monday 9 June 2008


My name is Craig Beattie. I'm a Software Architect but actually what I do is help my clients to understand their IT Systems and their typically very complex set of requirements in order to find a good solution and as a result they're able to invest appropriately in technology to support their goals.