#MFSummit2016: product roadmaps and Tube maps

In the digital economy, our customers are contending with unprecedented user demand and an explosion of information to supply. We’re helping them build, operate and secure core IT services by building bridges between what works today and what is needed tomorrow. Here’s a personal reflection of my time at #MFSummit2016 in London.

To reach Prince Philip House, the venue for the inaugural Micro Focus customer conference, I had the choice of six different Tube lines. No wonder frequent users talk about the ‘complexity, cost and confusion’ of the London Underground.

Those problems end for most commuters when they get to work. For many of our customers, that is when they begin. As I explained in my keynote speech, innovation is both the culprit and the solution.

Recent disruptive technologies, including web, Cloud and mobile, are increasing opportunity and complexity in equal measure. Streamlining a process or delivering a new IT service, expanding core platforms, embracing new application technology, overhauling user interfaces, implementing new security controls … they all improve the customer experience while confusing the picture for the organisations.

Harry Beck knew how to express complicated systems in an attractive, linear way. So we drew inspiration from his finest work to map the scale of the complexity, cost and confusion facing our customers.

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Platform alteration?

But these are only the known knowns. Like the London Underground, new lines are inevitable. So our first post-merger, cross-portfolio conference was a good opportunity to assess the challenges and set out our strategy to scale them. It was, after all, a summit.

Much of today’s business innovation is driven by consumer demand for the rapidly-evolving supply of information. These days we are all IT consumers with heightened expectations around access to refined information wherever we are, from our preferred device.

Meeting that demand adds to the complexity of already convoluted processes and the creation of confusing, disparate, heterogeneous systems. The cost is a given. These elements makes delivering effective innovation increasingly difficult just as demand is increasing.

But it can be done. Micro Focus enables its customers to innovate faster with lower risk by enabling them to embrace new technology while building on what already works, in essence bridging the old and the new.

So what does that mean for our customers? Put simply, we have assembled a portfolio focused on three primary capabilities; to build, operate and secure business-critical systems of applications and infrastructure.

MFsolutions

Our promise to customers is that they can innovate faster with lower risk. That means building the applications that meet the needs of the business today and tomorrow, operating data centers and business services with the best balance of cost, speed and risk and securing their data against the latest threats.

In summary

In his pre-conference blog, Andy King’s promise to delegates is that a visit to #MFSummit2016 would put them in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change. The message seems to have resonated.

“As an application modernization consultant, I fully agree with the Micro Focus “bridging the old and the new” vision. Their Build technology is especially impressive and helps us deliver greater value, more quickly, to our customers”, Mike Madden, Director, Legacy IT.

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After the Goldrush

How can online retailers keep the tills keep ringing now Thanksgiving is over? Chris Livesey talks about easy ways to prevent website wobbles.

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As my colleague Derek Britton recently noted in his blog, Cyber Sunday is the latest extension of the traditional – at least in contemporary terms – Thanksgiving retail feeding frenzy. Wal-Mart has decided to further test their website’s resilience to heavy digital footfall by a further 24 hours.

Similarly, the UK-based technology store Carphone Warehouse brought forward their Black Friday event by 24 hours and joined Amazon and Argos in offering deals that run from November 23 until December 2 inclusive.

Whether it is out of consideration for the consumer or just another dead-eyed strategy to squeeze more pre-Christmas cash out of consumers, the line between the end of one sales event and the commencement of another is increasingly blurred. And it is less of a trend and more of a way of life. UK shoppers spent more than £718.7m online every week throughout 2014, an 11.8% increase on the previous year.

The Reiss Effect

So what happens after the seasonal rush? Everything goes back to normal, right? Well, maybe not. Online retailers are still vulnerable to The Reiss Effect. This happens when a company isn’t prepared for, well, the unexpected and loses out as a result.

In this case, Kate Middleton being pictured wearing a Reiss dress had unforeseen – and unfortunate – consequences for the manufacturer. The website crashed. Reiss were unable to take advantage of their good fortune. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity passed them by. Unable to process orders from new or established customers, they lost revenue and became a ‘thing’.

Websites are the virtual shopfronts for retailers and manufacturers and, just like shops, can quickly become overwhelmed if not battle-ready. Unexpected opportunities can quickly become unwanted headaches. The same Social Media platforms that plug your product can quickly damage your brand.

We are not bemused

Underestimating the potential popularity of your offering can be just as damaging is just another form of unpreparedness. The website for Dismaland, the pop-up art project set up by British graffiti artist Banksy recently crashed, leaving thousands of would-be visitors unable to purchase tickets. But as the creative theme of this ‘bemusement park’ attraction was disappointment, this may well have been the intention.

So the key to online retail success for Black Friday, Cyber Sunday, ‘Gratuitous Spending Wednesday’ and beyond is to road-test your website for any eventuality. It’s easier than you think. As the CMO for Micro Focus Borland I am proud that we help prevent our customers – who include some of the biggest names in online retailing – becoming another ‘thing’.

It’s easy with Silk Performer and Cloudburst. This is stress-free, stress testing for websites and applications. With it, users have Cloud-based scalability and access to unlimited virtual users as they like. Without it, they may not detect the errors that can turn go-live into dead-in-the-water day. Try it here.

But even the best tool can’t prepare an organization for everything. Sorry, US Airlines, but if a opossum is going to chew through the power cable, you’re on your own.

Chris

 

Micro Focus: In good company

Did you hear about Micro Focus winning big at the UK Tech Awards last Wednesday? Well, here’s your chance

It’s never dull on the IT show circuit. A few days after Micro Focus touched down from SUSECon in Amsterdam, on Wednesday it was time to revive the dinner suit in preparation for the UK Tech Awards 2015 in London.

And it’s just as well that we reclaimed the company tuxedo from the dry cleaners, as we won – and won big. Micro Focus is the 2015 ‘Tech company of the Year’.

Since 2000, the TechMark Awards – as they were formally known – has recognised the achievements of UK public and private companies in the technology sector.  This year the field was as competitive as ever with the other nominees representing a strong field.

What a difference a year makes

This time last year Micro Focus and the Attachmate Group (TAG) were two separate companies and COBOL was regarded in some quarters as yesterday’s language.

Since the turn of the year, so much has changed. COBOL has moved up 11 places in the TIOBE Programming Community Index and is now up to no11, while Micro Focus has completed the merger with TAG and is now one company operating two product portfolios: Micro Focus and SUSE.

The Micro Focus portfolio includes identity access, security, COBOL development and mainframe solutions, development and IT operations management tools, host connectivity and collaboration/networking solutions.

The SUSE portfolio includes leading enterprise-grade open source solutions including Enterprise Linux, OpenStack private cloud, software-defined storage and other IT infrastructure management and optimization solutions.

But the awards are not about who has the best products and solutions. That is for the marketplace to decide. Neither is it about which companies represent the best investment opportunity – although analysts have already nominated Micro Focus as a ‘top pick’ for Q4.

Tech Comp

Movers and shakers

Instead, the judges – who include some of the industry’s major players – have recognised Micro Focus’ bold move to create one of the industry’s biggest infrastructure software companies, and the dedication of the management team and staff that have made it happen.

This is a volatile industry and no-one can predict the future. However, it is likely that certain trends will endure – chief among them is good customer service and access to solid portfolios that enable customers to achieve the innovation needed to meet tomorrow’s challanges.

By offering the full range of services for those looking to create and maintain business-critical applications and software, from the initial build through operate to securing those business systems against disruption, Micro Focus and SUSE have the product spread and solution portfolio to help an installed base of more than two million license holders meet a broad range of challenges.

In this industry to spend too long in self-congratulation is to invite hubris. So we won’t be doing that. Once the dinner jacket has gone back in the wardrobe, the sleeves will be rolled up and we’ll be back to work. Albeit with a nice trophy for the reception area.

A plan to fail?

Emergency Planning is an increasingly important and sophisticated subject area in our world. As global media awareness and our scientific understanding of disasters improves how we learn to cope with increasingly effective levels of response. Whether they are man-made or natural, the response has often been post factum but now increasingly with an eye on how to cope better in the future.

Emergency Planning is an increasingly important and sophisticated subject area in our world. As global media awareness and our scientific understanding of disasters improves how we learn to cope with increasingly effective levels of response. Whether they are man-made or natural, the response has often been post factum but now increasingly with an eye on how to cope better in the future. We don’t often hear about disasters headed off at the pass – but they are with increasing frequency as our world gets smarter. IT often plays a critical role in what IBM calls a ‘smarter planet’, not only in disseminating information (52% of us have apparently used the web to get emergency help). Collecting data about disasters; understanding and interpreting the statistics; and building computational models to predict disasters better help us prevent them occurring in the future. Machines will only go so far though…they may lead us to water but will we drink? If you’re anything like me you are all good intent but not quite as good on the follow through, and human judgement about what to when a warning is presented, has a pretty dodgy track record.

The Disaster Planning Role and the Dutch Master

Disaster planning is a job I don’t much envy. I am sure my plan to raise a beautiful work of Art in a gallery by 10 feet if the nearby river burst its banks would backfire. I’ve no doubt that I’d discover the correct height should have been 10.5 feet and the Dutch master I was charged with protecting now had soggy feet. If my Dutch master was a water-logged write off the human reaction would no doubt be one of criticism or ridicule. How could that disaster planning guy have been so short-sighted? The National Geographic society was reporting record levels of rainfall so he should have known that something like this would happen.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire

That’s the sad fact. It’s increasingly easy to point fingers and assign blame and guilt. The new 3 horsemen of the apocalypse ‘Should-Have, Would-have and Could-have’ appear so readily when disaster strikes. I am personally starting to think that the MIA 4th horseman is the social media savvy general public who are waiting to judge the individual to blame. Is it fair? Is it heck. But when was anything ever fair? These days the unfairness is unfairly instant and usually digital.

If disaster strikes your websites or applications – what then?

In all honesty Micro Focus Borland Software hasn’t behaved a lot better in that regard. Whenever there’s a web outage we are there, ready to dance around in a told-you-so like way. I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed the wry humour of Frank Borland and the photoshop genius of our Marketing team along the way.

Plan to fail

Benjamin Franklin famously said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and this appears to hold the keys to successful ‘disaster planning’. Making a disaster recovery plan; testing the plan by running some scenarios; getting the correct teams on board; and making the roles and responsibilities clear, are all elements contributing to a more scientific and industrialised process.

That’s where partnering with a world-class brand like Micro Focus Borland can help. Not in a quick-fix-after-the-horse-bolted type of way. Setting up this discipline needs to find its way into your Company’s AppDev culture. I like to think of Micro Focus as a big enough company that’s small enough to really care. We’ll help you figure out whether your Developers are testing units along the way, or handing it all over to the QA team to inspect, or both. We can help advise which load and performance tests help most in a situation and our thriving community is always on hand to offer valuable advice too.

So when your team is tasked with launching the next application, the new website to sell the line that will make or break your Sales teams’ quarter, or the new e-commerce portal wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that all previous disaster precedents had been covered in the testing process? That the business requirements had been met? And that should your launch go viral you’ll be counting dollars instead of hostile Tweets and headlines?

Think along the lines of the BCP professional and use best in class Testing tools to get confidence in your launches. Recognise your plan is unlikely to be perfect and get the correct team ready for action. Build a culture of ‘preparing for the worst’ and instead of needing to find a scapegoat to throw under the proverbial bus you may just find yourself leaving the office early to celebrate launch success. Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile investment?

Job-done.

Agile Methodology Today (is mostly not very Agile)

This is not a personal judgement, but is symptomatic of being selective in how change is done in most companies. Most companies understand there to be many benefits with the adoption of agile methods in a company, but equally many would struggle to clearly state how those benefits are delivered. Without that understanding, the headlines become the detail, and initiatives are started with the headlines in mind, not the practices themselves. I hear things like this a lot:

Many companies I meet are going, or have gone, agile – but almost all of them are not.

This is not a personal judgement, but is symptomatic of being selective in how change is done in most companies. Most companies understand there to be many benefits with the adoption of agile methods in a company, but equally many would struggle to clearly state how those benefits are delivered. Without that understanding, the headlines become the detail, and initiatives are started with the headlines in mind, not the practices themselves. I hear things like this a lot:

  • “we incorporate many of the agile practices here”
  • “we do agile project management
  • “the 3-month iteration”
  • “Agile PMO”
  • “agile does away with writing down requirements

In reality, transitioning a team or whole company to agile is to immerse in it completely, but the trend is more to dip a toe in the water, or extract the elements of it which seem less disruptive to the existing methods and approaches. While it’s clear that this is a way to balance the risk and disruption of change, one of the most rewarding outcomes of the transition to agile is the thinking that is forced on people to consider which of the things they do are truly worthwhile, and which are a result only of the way they work. As Jack Welch of GE famously stated, “Willingness to change is a strength even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while”. For most organisations, transitioning to agile methodology will create this “total confusion” since it should affect almost everything they do, including not just their internal processes but right through to the way they manage their customer relationships and partnerships.

Agile is not a passing trend, or at least should not be, since its value is robust and is sustained on much more than the way an organisation sees itself – much more importantly its sustained on the way that it affects the organisation’s ability to deliver better products and services, faster, at optimal cost. The caution is that going “Selectively Agile” will not probably affect very much at all, and may result in a company resorting to other approaches or solutions having decided that agile is not for them. This would be a missed opportunity – since agile offers substantive change more than any of its predecessors have over the last 20 years, and if we refer to the market evaluations such as the Chaos manifesto, the evidence is that all of that effort, invention and innovation has not really improved the capability of the industry at all.

So while we celebrate many new ideas, achievements and innovative solutions in these awards, we should not lose sight of the truly important things that we must strategically pursue as an industry that will provide real, sustainable improvement. Continual effort to make traditional waterfall, PMO-driven or command-and-control approaches workable in today’s marketplace will surely only become harder and harder.

Chris Livesey

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7 Tips for mobile success

Mobile apps need to work smoothly across many existing platforms while meeting the requirements of handsets still in development, so the testing process can be daunting. Chris Livesey has 7 tips to help remove the scare factor

Follow some simple tips to ensure quality in mobile app testing

Mobile apps need to work smoothly across many existing platforms while meeting the requirements of handsets still in development, so the testing process can be daunting.

Systems must withstand frequent changes and keep pace with rapid developments. Mobile testing scripts also need to be modified easily and portable across platforms – not least to avoid having to repeat work already done, which could cause delays and increase costs.

Tip 1: Mobile apps should also be tested in a way that reflects user behaviour.

Tip 2: Industry standard languages that support greater stability should be encouraged. Java or C# will integrate with any continuous delivery system.

Tip 3: The testing solution should also support multiple iterations of mainstream mobile development platforms.

Tip 4:  Real traffic from native apps that mimic real devices should increase the accuracy of performance testing.

Tip 5: In future, more people are likely to use the app, so think about testing it on a global scale.

Tip 6: Use emulators and simulators. This can reduce the legwork. Additionally, test for the real world by covering and replicating real mobile bandwidth speeds such as GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSPA+, and LTE.

Tip 7: Identify the correct testing subset. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to test your app on every known device and mobile OS, so identify the key players and recalibrate as required.

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I believe people expect instant gratification today, so devices must work – and work fast. Apps should load quickly on the go. Performance testers say that seven seconds can cost you £7 million; meaning that a delay in performance can seriously affect the bottom line.

Following the tips above, resellers and SIs can make sure mobile testing meets market needs and demands.

Chris Livesey

 

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The Importance of the Business Analyst Role

By Chris Livesey, Vice President, EMEA & Latin America, Borland Solutions, Micro Focus

The Business Analyst role will be one of the most important roles in IT this year. It is a position that plays a critical role in deciphering the future for many businesses. To date the role has not been widely recognized as a profession in its own right – with other players such as finance managers, software architects and project managers being seen as taking the lead.

A Business Analyst acts as a bridge between business ideas and business capabilities; creating and scoping valuable changes and optimizations to business processes. Typically driven by conducting ‘performance capability assessments’, or ‘feasibility studies’, the Business Analyst regularly appraises business performance. Such reviews appraise capabilities ranging from  those visible to the customer through to those embedded deep in the manufacturing process.

Traditionally, in our technology driven business world, a large proportion of the changes and optimizations relate to software systems – and so teams in the organization responsible for creating, maintaining and delivering IT systems, are a primary focus. Conventionally, this has proven to be a difficult relationship, with challenging communication issues or mis-interpretations that often lead to wasted effort or scrapped projects. According to The Standish Group, this mis-communication can result in as much as 40% of the overall effort being wasted, on average.

Companies view quality as something that happens at the end of a project. This is classic ‘waterfall’ thinking – specify, create and then test. This has proven to be a poor approach. The success rates of projects working in this fashion are no higher on average than 40% (Chaos report, Standish Group 2011) – meaning missed end-client deadlines, issues with customer satisfaction and large amounts of wasted effort. A better mindset is “quality IS the work”. This culture and approach means that every part of the supply chain feels its own responsibility for the end result.

The Micro Focus Borland solutions enable Business Analysts to precisely and richly capture business requirements that are collaboratively shared with development teams. The development teams use these requirements directly to identify needs, relationships and priorities, within the business systems such that changes and optimizations are implemented in the most practical and efficient way possible. When standards and consistent approaches are used across the company, there is a greater clarity about how requirements are captured, documented and assessed, which ultimately leads to a far greater project success rate and a higher quality end-user experience.