‘Working here is tough’ said that Entrepreneur. Let’s call him Mr. E. He had an engineering degree, worked in an large IT organization for more than 15 years and discovered the guts to move out and discover his ‘own thing’. The message from him was clear – ‘ Indian companies carry tough attitude – they don’t value services and don’t pay much and on time. I have to run after money’, he said. Mr. E prefers to work with the US and European market – where value is about precise delivery and being good at that. ‘All we have to do is to print that invoice, and we have cash in the bank’. Well, it is not completely untrue. Ease of doing business, especially a customer who really values your knowledge and inputs, and finally delivery, and pays for it, on time is a dream for every Entrepreneur. It is easy for Mr. E to build business only there. Makes business sense, right. But taste this – many professionals like Mr. E have studied here, and learnt working mostly in offshore campuses of these large IT companies deriving earth-shattering remuneration. What about giving back to the society? Indian SME’s are as in need for IT services as any other western customer. And sometimes, they don’t even know that IT can solve some of their problems. Still further, many of them have invested in solutions either because of peer or industry pressure, or because of some smart ‘Enterprise Software’ guy making that blitz sale. We have discovered that the need to discuss, need to investigate, need to partner with Indian SME is more than ever. Make the small scale Indian entrepreneur realize the value of IT, helping them invest right and take long term positions on returns. And believe us, we have always been rewarded with results and paid for it. This comes primarily from focus on Indian SME’s – our leadership has experience and has invested time in understanding the pulse and nuances. Like how Balaji, Metaplore Group’s MD says – ‘we learnt our trade here. We studied here. We need to give back to this soil, what we learnt’. In fact, we could inspire Mr. E to think about at working on these lines. That is what we do at Metaplore. Our focus and passion towards Indian SME’s is what makes us unique. We are an Indian SME ourselves.
Okay, fine – let me admit this. It is fun talking to experts. We never do that, because we are sucked in transactions. But philosophy, that singular layer drives thoughts and therefore creativity. I am talking about Solution Architecture here. We caught up over an overlapping leisure period. ‘Simplicity is a much-missed factor in solution architecture these days’, he said. ‘People over-architect solutions based of a technology hangover, generally missing the point that user would want simple and ‘good enough’ architecture. I asked him if he felt that CTOs are influenced by budget constraints, and therefore cut corners or made compromises. Because of integration, more layers means more integration and development costs. This drives up the cost. Why should a customer pay more for complicated stuff? Kumar says that customer actually go for new technologies presuming that they will give better performance gains. Sometimes an older technology say VB can be written so well that ASP.NET won’t give that performance. Yes, but it depends on topography as well. If the customer is already having a web application, and performance is an issue, we can tune the existing code rather than ‘migrate’. ‘Lack of support for a technology, like VB may influence the need for migration. I asked him how much do the current technologies affect technology choice. While he agreed on the above points, Kumar pointed out that a technology choice is better to improve status quo than changing to a new technology. He quoted an instance where the technical architect did not feel the need for ‘fix, as it was not broken’ while the senior management felt that ASP.NET was faster. The money that was spent was wasted at that point, according to him. Secondly, for a new product, the choices can be wide open. And what he means in the above cases are typically migration cases. A technology being faster does not itself guarantee better performance, he said. It is the way the code is written. So the first choice is to ‘re-engineer’ the code, optimize queries, design and develop light-weight pages, as it still keeps the same software, cost lower, and has user continuity. What would be the tipping point for technology migration? Scalability, business process changes or additions, functional necessities demand the need for a newer framework. Kumar said that in that case, when the development effort is high then, may be, a technology change is warranted. If parts of the code or modules are reusable, then let them be, he said. There are interfaces and bridges that can be built using web services etc., which can cut down development costs grounds up by leveraging the already-running-well systems. Enterprises dont retire their core applications so easily. He gave an example of Multinational banks that use mainframe applications that are running like batch processes and bulk loads. They use web services etc., to connect. They can run more efficient queries using modern querying methods like JQuery or Ajax. That way, they can get the best of both worlds, he said. For existing applications in small enterprises, Mom-and-Pop stores, as he calls, he said that the core, such as the existing database – carrying inventories or item master can be kept in tact. If the new application is B2B, one can build a web service and if it B2C one can build a portal that queries this database. Thus, by changing only web layer, significant costs can be saved. Just as one hears a technology and its benefits need not be the trigger for a technology migration he says. The cost savings of addressing a portion as against a complete migration is a matter of reckoning. He says that all these are factors, but a careful study needs to be taken before deciding the way forward. As the coffee cups became empty, we returned to work. I was thinking of asking you – What do you think of ‘if ain’t broke, don’t fix’ philosophy of solution architecture.
One of our prospects, a plumbing and construction company, was having a significant challenge – there were lot of purchase indents for furniture and office assets that the accounts department went berserk. The management intervened. We were called in to solve through a common reference. We asked the usual questions, like the one I had mentioned in my earlier blog. The answers were not clear, as expected. There was no physical tracking, no papers (purchase orders / invoices) in order, and materials were transferred between the two locations and were not traceable. Since they were not traceable, a fresh purchase indent would come. The owner of this company was tech-savvy. Between a Samsung Galaxy, iPad and a notepad, he kept himself busy while listening to his team interacting with us, every now and then asking those ‘relevant’ questions. Our demo was customized to address their requirement – multi-location, non-tracked assets, and hence more capital purchase requests . We suggested them to take a step back – while our solution ( EasyTrack FATS) would solve their problem – the first issue was baselining.
- Identifying the fixed asset and asset types that need to be tracked
- Listing the physical locations
- Identifying asset custodians
- A physical search, and then one time tagging
- Reconciliation of paper
- Back of the envelope baseline capital asset valuation
- With the above, create an fixed asset baseline
Then when the data is put in the system, the base is set for handling further changes like asset movements, valuation, insurance, depreciation, maintenance status etc., When the exercise is on, one tends to discover lot of surprises – missing items in actual stock and in books. At verification and capitalization. This helps the customers discover the devils in the details, but once in a lifetime of their organization.
Over the past month, we have met with some interesting questions when we explored opportunities of solution architect (SA) work. There were genuine challenges identified, and some concerns about the solution architect outsourcing. Here are some of them below: ‘The greatest challenge is to make the developer team believe that this type of solution will work’ said a CEO. It is important to recognize that developers are the ‘executers’. However good a solution architecture be, the proof is in the final software product or output. As they say ‘proof of pudding is in eating.’ Our SA methodology addresses this fact in depth. Our SA’s reach out to the team leader or developer team and create an early brainstorm. This is followed by a suitable buy-in, collaborative design and a design-town hall with the developer-stakeholders. Another said ‘it is difficult to find one architect who has so much variety of experience’. This is exactly why a skill-pool is available as against an individual contributor. Two factors, when best minds in multiple technologies, verticals are put together, the output is far superior to one architect. Secondly, if it is a new technology, the skill-pool brings forth the relevant expert and thereby saves time on the learning curve. ‘We don’t have work for a solution architect all month. But solution architect expertise is inevitable.’ Our on-demand and audit service models, where we create and check respectively, is the answer to this. Leveraging our flexible model of engagement helps organizations not deal with issues like work distribution, engagement, training, attrition, personalities and other issues. Ours is essentially a service that is measured on deliverables. Our 25+ projects are testimony to this. ‘But we are comfortable with internal architect. All said and done, he would be our employee. There will be coordination issues if we outsource’ How many instances an IT architect moves on with the knowledge he has acquired? Well, some of it he might use, and that is inevitable. In the same breath, the stakes of an outsourced work are far clearly measurable. And more over, one need not wait for a performance appraisal to happen. It is a combination of documentation, tag-teaming and delivering against a measurable outcome. Secondly, our experience first looks for establishing comfort with the primary stakeholders – whether it is a continuous or a point engagement. ‘How will IP be protected?’ Is not marketing strategy outsourced? For that matter branding? N When somebody engages a big five consulting firm, would the customer not disclose his business strategy, financials, and risks not outsourced? How are they protected? Well, there are safe guards. We have already put those safe guards in place. The safe guards are protected through relevant legal framework. Post Script: Metaplore Solutions works with its customers to architect products and build ‘solution frameworks’ – in short architecting IT solutions. With more than 25+ projects done in the past 2 years alone, and with deep experience in working in enterprise application landscape, product building and application migration.