Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cub Scout Badges as Digital Badges

I'm looking at implementing Digital Badges for Scouting Canada badges. The interesting part is many of the features for distributing and hosting the digital badges related infrastructure and features are available with Mozilla Open Badges and Scoutstracker. Using these existing platforms and approaches is a good idea, so I reached out to Dakemi Communications the maker of scoutstracker. The contact was successful and, to make a long story short, I need to write a few user stories regarding the use of digital badges within scouting.

  • Scout - this can be a person who has earned badges in any of Cub Scouts (8 - 10), Scouts (11 - 14), and/or Venturer Scouts (14 - 17). These badges collectively show the beginnings of mastery in many areas, and are well assessed for completion. 
  • Leader - this is a person (or group of persons) who has evaluated and awarded a badge.
  • Observer - this is a person interested in looking at a Scouts badge accomplishments. This could be a potential employer, a college or university, a volunteer organization, a friend or associate, or anyone interested in looking at a scouts badge accomplishments. 
User Stories:
  • As a Scout I want to display my scouting accomplishments (badges) in my social media like facebook, tumblr, linkedin, Etc...
  • As a Scout I would like to display all the badges I have earned since beavers, and be able to organize the badges into themes across all my scouting years.
  • As a Scout I want to organize my scout badges as clusters to show the themes of my scout accomplishments alongside with my other similar (non-scouting) accomplishments.
  • As a Scout I want to review the digital badges of someone I admire or someone further along the scouting path than myself. I want to identify the accomplishments of another, so I can follow a similar learning journey.
  • As a Leader I want to see the scouts have recognition for their accomplishments (both online and off).
  • As a Leader I want to assign badge completion and award through information technology.
  • As a Leader I want to support the scout in promoting their accomplishments while not wearing their scout uniform.
  • As a Leader I want to display my Scouting accomplishments in Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • As an Observer (employer) I want to review a persons accomplishments to assess their character and work ethic.
  • As an Observer (parent) I want to encourage my child to have a healthy and strong online persona.
  • As an Observer (associate / new friend) I want to view a persons background.
  • As an Observer (friend) I want to have fun with other friends in sharing our personal accomplishments.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Key organizational items to grow Enterprise Architecture

I am increasingly thinking about what needs to be in place for an organization to be successful with Enterprise Architecture (EA). What I am focused on now could be considered pre-EA items, I believe good architecture can begin (and bring value) at any time within an organizations life-cycle. I also believe EA will be more effective if supported, and initiated, with the following items in place;
  • Project Management Office (PMO) - good project management goes a long, long way to ensuring project success. What is also important for EA in relationship to a PMO is how well the project portfolio (PPM) is managed. And how early in the project discovery the architect is engaged. The earlier the better.
    The Project Portfolio Management bicycle.
  • A strong voice at the senior management table - for enterprise architecture to have an impact across the organization it needs an advocate and technically knowledgeable voice in the senior management group. This will increase the success (and reduce the costs) for all IT initiatives.
  • Processes that encourage (even force) engagement by ALL project stakeholders - early engagement by ALL stakeholders is good! Seek them out! enough said.
  • A mindset to reduce duplication wherever is reasonable - look broadly across the organization and identify IT process, software applications, infrastructure, and practices that are duplicated. Work to reduce this duplication. Sometimes... different business domains have different requirements and duplication makes sense, this should be the exception.
I do recognized there is much much more to Enterprise Architecture, but I believe these are a few of the important practices that need to be in place sooner than later when encouraging a solid enterprise architecture practice.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Enterprise Architecture Elevator Pitch

"The Enterprise Architects business value is in building success through good design. This will vary from place-to-place (project-to-project), because the IT history, context, and organizations maturity will change. In the end, it is about improving an organizations return on IT investments through broad and intelligent information system design and proven architectural practices."

Ask the recipient(s) of the pitch to go for coffee...

BING - door slides open, pitch ends...

So what do I mean by those above three sentences?
  1. Business value, building success, good design? - properly designed IT architecture provides a set of technologies (process, features and infrastructure) that eases (and if I may be so bold, guarantees) project success. Project success (particularly when the project is aligned with strategy) adds business value. And the value comes through; being on schedule, staying to budget, shipping reliable systems, enabling business agility and innovation, being repeatable, streamlining process, providing information for decision making.
  2. Vary from place-to-place, history, context and maturity will change? WTF? - a good enterprise architect sees beyond the technology and recognizes that every business has a culture, and this culture is influenced, and perpetuated, by the organizations history, the context of the current architectural decision making, and the technical maturity of the organization (in particular, the senior personnel).
  3. In the end, return on investment, broad and intelligent design, proven practices? - the enterprise architect needs to prove influence over the end product of working software and systems. If they can't show how they add value in measurable ways, and have this as traceable, people will struggle with seeing the enterprise architects value toward the IT investments. The enterprise architects work needs to been seen as working across the organization, if there are groups left out, the technical debt created by an outlier and having to bring alignment will counter the savings attained through the good architecture. The practices need to be repeatable by other architects, this shows maturity, and maturity reduces chaos.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How does the network see your personal brand?

Branding is important. It provides an external (or public) theme for endeavours; business endeavours, professional endeavours, organizational endeavours. Personal branding has become increasingly important in the networked age where the communications technology (read: Internet) reduces the barriers to promote and communicate brand, even personal brand.

How klout perceives me... https://klout.com/prawsthorne

I have gone through my personal branding exercise a few times in the past, and what I now find most interesting is what the feedback loop in my network sees as my brand... when I traverse the keywords/themes that myself and Google+, LinkedIn, Klout, and other social media have tagged to my respective profiles I am left with the personal branding of; Technology, Architecture, and Education. And my network brands me much stronger in the technology and architecture realms than the educational. I know this branding assessment is somewhat a self-fulfilling prophecy as I have been the one who has joined the groups, followed and friended the people and organizations, blogged about subjects, added keywords, created profiles, contributed to discussions, attended events (online or otherwise), etc, etc... but there are also data analytics going into all this. So by giving a broad sweep over ALL my connections to the network and paying attention to the keywords getting bubbled to the top by the network and the related analytics should give you an idea of how the network sees you.

How my linkedin endorsers perceive me... 

Am I OK with this? Absolutely!

Having a brand of; Technology, Architecture and Education? Does my data analysed network perceive the brand I would like to be perceived with? Absolutely! Most of my professional life, over the last 15 years, has focused upon enterprise and solution architecture. I am a technologist first, with proven successes in architecture. I am also an educator with experience as college and university faculty with a number of technology projects in the edtech realm, where I have increased access to education using technology innovation and solid architectural approaches.

How do you create, alter, and promote your personal brand?

This is where it gets interesting. How do you create, alter, and promote your personal brand? This is what I believe are the steps toward branding yourself;
  1. What would you like to be? What is your personal brand? Create a vision for yourself.
  2. Be that person. Even if you are not there, yet, be that person as best you can given the real world constraints.
  3. Set up a Personal Learning Network (PLN) in the subject areas of your personal brand. Read, research, participate, engage, become.
  4. Also use traditional approaches to learning, this will also help with building expertise and grow your network.
  5. Write and engage with the social network, be broad with your use of tools. It is amazing what you can learn online with a well designed personal learning approach.
  6. Be very public with your learning. Also leverage your existing expertise and blog and engage. Curate wikipedia pages or other knowledge bases in your chosen subject area. 
  7. Wherever you participate be sure your personal profiles are up to date within that social media.
What if you are already an expert and have an established personal brand?
  1. Keep going. Engage the communities and social media, share your knowledge.
  2. Push your life-long learning, add to your personal knowledge. Write about your learning, it is one of the best ways to commit the new knowledge to long-term memory.
  3. Continue to curate your shared knowledge across knowledge bases.
  4. Be a guest blogger and seek out opportunities to write for popular sites.
  5. Participate in online learning forums and MOOCs.
  6. Don't forget that publishing is not only written. There are many ways to share; YouTube, Slideshare, Google Docs, Podcasts, etc... be sure to attach the correct keywords.
  7. Tweet, Message, Promote... all good.
What if you want to alter your personal brand?
  1. Saturate your network with the content (created and/or shared) aligned with your brand change.
  2. Be very public with your learning toward the brand change. 
  3. Publish your existing and growing expertise.
  4. Participate as broadly as possible.
  5. Find the related online communities, engage.
  6. Curate the subjects within your this new subject domain.
  7. Create and add valuable new content.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Major Chords 4 Bass with Tabs

As the family band grows and improves I put together this one-pager for some of the major chords on bass guitar. I helps the boys as they pluck around with the bass, it adds another OER to the space, it helps me to deepen my understanding of the bass. All good.

Click this link for listing of major chords with tabs for bass

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Business value and reducing IT duplication

Duplication of features is where I consider one of the easiest areas of IT architecture (enterprise or otherwise) to reduce cost and increase the business value of investments in IT and related technology architecture. In general, I take the view that architecture pays for itself (and then some) when brought into, or given greater influence toward, an organization. This post focuses on architectural duplication, the idea being that an organization has software systems or technical infrastructure that are duplicates of one another. Any piece of information technology (IT) has costs; these costs start at the decision making around acquiring (or building), and continue into implementation, and then exist over the life-cycle of the IT item. Some say the cost of maintaining software is as high as 80% over the life of a piece of software, either way maintaining software (bought or built) cost money and having duplication of systems or features increases these costs unnecessarily. I believe that any architect worth their salt, and working in a medium size organization or larger, can easily pay for their salary simply by reducing duplication and optimizing implementation to reduce licencing costs.

Identifying and reducing
What is the best way to identify duplication? Start with creating an inventory of all software and systems (yes, surprisingly not every organization does this). Make sure this inventory crosses all silos of the organization. Do the follow-up, talk with all stakeholders responsible for software, infrastructure, and related licensing. Create a spreadsheet, diagram, database, or whatever works best for you to visualize all the software, systems, etc... make sure you have a good written description of each. Be sure you can discuss the diagram in a vocabulary that each stakeholder understands. If you can get a sense of cost associated with each, get that information... reach out to the help-desk to get information of which systems require the greatest support, look into the ongoing data entry (duplicate or otherwise) costs, find out how many simultaneous users each system has, gather licensing costs. With all this information you should be able to identify duplication across the silos and within the software features. There will be duplication that can be "easily" removed or licensing schemes that can be adjusted.

Regardless of the cost in doing all this work, it will be less than the savings collected from reduced duplication and over-subscribed licensing.

-- If you want assistance with this or similar IT architecture initiatives feel free to contact me;
Peter, the pragmatic architect.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Identifying the business value

Architecture or Enterprise Architecture can have a positive impact upon a business from many directions. The maturity available from architectural frameworks and processes (TOGAF, Zachman, Etc.) can assist greatly in bringing business value and increase an organizations nimbleness in aligning strategy with technology (innovation and otherwise). How you get started in improving the architecture / enterprise architecture is important. I have found that its about aligning the conversation of business value with the vocabulary found in the traditional architectural domains to make progress and technical improvement within an organization. Each organizations relationship to technology, and related processes, is different depending on its history with technology and how the technology has grown within the organization. This is a very important aspect of being successful with architecture, regardless of how mature an organization is in regards to architectural processes.

It's important to determine an organizations history and relationship to technology and architecture.

Meeting face-to-face is really important
Many technology people often defer back to emails, designing, documenting, coding, configuring, etc... and they could do well to meet stakeholders in more personal, and conversational, environments. Its about identifying the stakeholders and having the conversations. Having an understanding of each stakeholders history with technology, where they see the value, and the maturity of their technical vocabulary is the best place to get started when beginning a solution or enterprise architecture initiative. Knowing where each stakeholder sees the business value in a technology initiative is the best place to start.

When having stakeholder conversations be sure to have the EA domains and sub-domains in mind, take notes, get a good sense of each stakeholders knowledge within each domain. Where do they see the greatest value and the opportunities? As an architect to what level of technical vocabulary do you meet each stakeholder?

Now the business value can begin to be identified, using a shared vocabulary across the project, so architecture and related processes can support the strategy to build the value.