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Software With a Smile?; Management Goes Mainstream; Clarification
Software With a Smile?
Regarding "The Myth of the Service Economy" (December 2005), you picked the wrong myth when you talked about the software industry as a services industry. The software industry is about products, and indeed it's best for both the supplier and the customer if that product is shrink-wrapped and plug-and-play.
The "right" myth is that the grass is a priori greener on the other side, which of course it isn't. Nevertheless, services people tire of having to particularize what they do to each customer and instead try to "productize" their services (for example, the surgeon who performs "n" operations a day, where n is a large number). Product people try to grow "services" to get off the product cycle treadmill, only to find themselves living in a world of particularity so familiar to the VAR/integrator (as in "Sir, before we install your servers, we have to pump the standing water out of this room").
The reality is that services are for those who are patient, because services entities grow more slowly but are pretty indestructible. Somewhere out there, Wang Labs — long gone as a product company — continues to exist as a services entity (last I heard, as part of a Dutch organization).
I just read "Business Makes the Rules" (November 2005) and wanted to remind you that explaining the differences between business requirements, implementation requirements and infrastructure requirements has been a capability of consultants for many years. But the value of that capability shifts according to who is the most influential sponsor of development (a.k.a. the client). The relationship between the three sets of requirements could also be explained during that time, but demonstrating the importance of their alignment is too difficult to prove, except where enterprise architecture is taken seriously. Now what we're seeing is a reiteration of enterprise architecture, with practical global adoption finally enabled by technology. That is, IT is giving the business experiences that business needs for learning and taking the next step. This story isn't so much one of the IT cobblers' children finally getting new shoes as it is management maturing from a special professional function into a general organizational competency. Accordingly, this calls for appropriate, up-to-date ways of discussing IT's "value to the business."
In "Microsoft's New Scorecard Server is Incomplete on Data Access" (Dashboard, December 2005), we incorrectly noted that Microsoft's Business Scorecard Manager only works with SQL Server 2000. The tool can access unstructured and structured data sources using the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) programming interface, and it can also tap into sources via Web services.
We also erred in reporting in our December "Key Performance Indicators" that IT salaries had increased 3.4 percent from the third quarter of 2004 to the third quarter of 2005. Factoring in seasonal changes, wages only went up 1.3 percent for that period according to the Yoh Index of Technology Wages, from whose data we based our calculation.
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