Lean or Agile

With Cloud Technologies, there is a hype of Agile methodology replacing Lean practices. As I am of Engineering background and Agile advocate, I am in a best position to bridge and clarify the views for both practices. So, I will raise the awareness that Agile is never a replacement of Lean practices but can coexist and improve existing Lean processes.

What are Lean Processes?

Lean Processes roots comes from Manufacturing and Engineering. The sole objective of Lean is to simplify and reduce wastage in process and in mindset. By doing, you can be efficient and effective, getting the best output from your inputs. It is a way of life, methods, technique, principle or even philosophy. The best examples comes from Toyota “Kaizen” in its car manufacturing and Motorola “Six Sigma”.

Lean or Agile

Lean software development serve as early inspiration for Agile. You will find many similarities between Lean and Agile. Both emphasis on speed by different means. You may wonder which method should be adopted. Existing organisations which practice Kaizen or Six Sigma may find their IT development team using Lean concepts. Overall, the switch from Lean to Agile and vice versa can be conflicting. In some case, Agile is more pro software development while Lean methods can be used for all types of business units.

Lean and Agile

With a simple comparison of Lean and Agile, you can see there are advantages for each method. The key is not to be rigid and follow each method to the teeth. For IT teams who are deep in Lean methods, you can also adopt Agile into existing Lean principles. On the other hand, existing Agile team can introduce Lean into various SOP and relate to other businesses.

For more readings, you can refer to this book Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise.

The Challenges of Business IT Alignment

Business IT Alignment is a necessity in today economy. With the speed of technology deployment and Agile approach, features can now be deployed daily. Often, business are frustrated by IT over lack of innovation. On the other hand, IT are annoyed over the changing requirements. This is a quick summary of these challenges I encountered over the years.

  1. Timing is key. Consistent alignment is recommended.
  2. Manage stakeholders expectation, not user expectations.
  3. What you want is not what you need. Wants and needs is a constant battle for alignment.
  4. Business or IT Sign off is not alignment. You will need communication more than a sign off.
  5. Remember to build for unarticulated needs. What you cannot see is could be the key to alignment. Dig further.
  6. Speak a common language. Carrier, trucker and vendor may mean the same thing.
  7. Giving in to business or IT does not mean you are aligned. Alignment means a common understanding.
  8. Learn to design your solution for alignment and adapt for change.
  9. Always include political factor as part of alignment process.
  10. If you cannot be aligned, it means that neither Business or IT is ready. Do not come to alignment for the sake of alignment. It is common not to be aligned.

Business IT Alignment Checklist

The innovation have been faster and time to market for products are shorter. Consumers become flicker minded with lower switch costs in eCommerce. However, the gap between between Business and Information Technology (IT) keeps widening. Business IT Alignment is a topic of interest in the field of Information Systems (IS) and Enterprise Architecture. There are plenty of theories and research on this. Here are my short checklist based on my experiences and exposure.

Business IT Alignment Checklist
  1. Do a SWOT analysis (Strength Weakness Opportunities Threats).
  2. Stakeholders Analysis, know who you are dealing with.
  3. Prepare your USP (Unique Selling Preposition).
  4. Be strategic, tactical and operationally ready.
  5. Remember to walk the talk!

It is a simple checklist but it will take years before you are capable to arrive at point 3. Business IT Alignment will need to come from your values and yourself. With shared values, you can build a team and vision. A strong vision will guide you to align common goals with business.

Debunking Full Stack Role

Over the years, IT roles have evolved accordingly to technological trends playing catch up at many junctions. As times passed, I have tried different types of roles in various forms of organisations. However, we have kindly seek to divide domain into project manager, business analyst, developer and tester. With emergence of Cloud technologies and Agile, these roles are gradually merging again into a role called Full Stack.

What is Full Stack role?

Full Stack role is nothing new but a rebranding of an old role I used to call Software Engineer! In fact, I would say that Software Engineer can do much more. That will be a debate in another article. To understand Full Stack, we need to delve into a bit of history. Back in Open Source days, a Stack is refers as a set of systems that is required to run the application. The most famous stack will be LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) in the Dot Com age. Basically, full stack role will involve a mastery of the solution stack e.g. LAMP stack.

3 Myths to Full Stack Role

For those who are in the Dot Com era, we will be de facto Full Stack! This also applies to techies who have worked in Startup. After all, you are expected to setup everything from end to end from Servers to Applications.

Myth 1: Full Stack is a specialised role.

As opposed, Full Stack role involves knowledge to set up end to end solution. This is actually a generalist role to configure the system architecture which is getting common in Cloud Technologies. Only then, the deployed application can be transferred to the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for engagement with users.

Myth 2: Full Stack role is difficult to find.

Once you understand the fundamental of Full Stack Role, you will realise Full Stack has existed in many parts of existing IT roles. This role can be easily found in Agile team or Startups as they are expected to handle a variety of solutions stacks. In many cases, SME or Solution Architect can often act as Full Stack developer.

Myth 3: Full Stack is a competitive advantage.

Sadly, coming from the world of Open Source, it is quite depressing to see the misunderstanding of Full Stack role. One may feel that having Full Stack is a competitive advantage. In fact, this is the opposite. Full Stack knowledge will become a commodity because most of Cloud Technologies offer templates with quick deployment methods that can be setup within hours. We shall see a decrease in this role as Cloud technologies mature. On the contrary, there will be a continued focus on SME and specialisation of domain knowledge. Let us not be sidetrack and go back to being a generalist just because it has a nice ring in “Full Stack”.

Jack of all trades, master of none

Quote

Road to Measuring Carbon Footprint

There is a growing concerns over Green efforts and sustainability talk. The ozone layer have been broken and temperature are rising with pollution of Earth. Environmental issue are nothing new and run contradictory to economic growth. With current technologies, it is feasible to measure and leverage carbon tax on its footprint.

What is Carbon Footprint?

Carbon Footprint is carbon dioxide given out by the produce or process, i.e. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The full definition by Wright, Kemp, and Williams states that it is

A measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions of a defined population, system or activity, considering all relevant sources, sinks and storage within the spatial and temporal boundary of the population, system or activity of interest. Calculated as carbon dioxide equivalent using the relevant 100-year global warming potential (GWP100).

From the definition, we saw that there is a potential dispute with the processes and interaction that emit the greenhouse gases. Moreover, the majority of the product lifecycle will give out carbon emission one way or another. The next question is how much and how to measure!

Measuring Carbon Footprint

The measurement of Carbon Footprint is under constant debate as our concern for sustainability and environment rises. The final commitment comes when countries sought to reduce carbon emissions with the introduction of carbon tax. For the first time, there is agreement on some common measurement of Carbon Footprint, namely the energy sector. Many research and papers are also done on how to measure these Carbon Footprint. You could even find free online Carbon Footprint calculator which you could try out.

Default Carbon Footprint Computation

Just like the fight for obesity, Carbon Footprint values will soon be default view like calories on food. One example is the Energy Labels to be displayed on electrical applicants in Singapore. Another effort is the introduction of Carbon Tax in Singapore, which makes the measurement and reporting of GHG emissions mandatory. I will foresee major technologies providing Carbon Footprint computation as a service as organisations seek greater visibility to sustainability. For more in-depth reading on Carbon Footprint, you could check out this book on how to reduce Carbon Footprint at a personal level, read my other articles on sustainability or look at Singapore Emission Profile for reference.

Transport Management System (TMS) 101

Transport Management System (TMS) is a system that is part of logistics with a focus on transportation. It is exciting that TMS will be going through a new phase of evolution. Like many legacy systems, the impact comes from the changes in consumer behavior and cloud technologies. For those new to TMS, this will help you provide a crash course to TMS.

What is TMS?

TMS is the system that automate the process to manage the transportation operations. This can come from the goods handover from warehouse to port port to port, or port to customers. TMS will handle the orders from customers, delivery shipments by truckers or carriers, transport tracking and payment process for the transportation move. In simple layman terms, it is the view to move goods from point A to Point B.

Benefits of TMS

The key competitor for TMS is Excel. It is surprising to see many organisations relying on Excel, phone calls and even chat applications to handle transportation needs. Often, there is no dedicated TMS team handling this domain. Everything will be recorded ultimately in Excel. Moving to the current technology landscape, you can see a major benefit of TMS will be data visibility. Customer can now see their goods moving from warehouse to delivery. Truckers can also pick and accept jobs timely leading to better truck or equipment utilisation.

Future of TMS

Soon, more organizations will be embracing TMS with Cloud technologies. Data visibility is a major push factor as customers want to know the value they are getting from transportation. The lower cost of iOT and GPS tracking has provided TMS with near real time tracking of goods movement. Green Logistics and Sustainability is another factor to get information using TMS regarding costs vs carbon footprint.

Commentary on Singapore Budget 2021 Clean and Green Transport

For those who live in Singapore, there is a new budget 2021 to encourage clean and green transport. While I am an advocate of Green Views and Green Logistics, I have not been really wooed by its initiatives.

Electric Vehicle

Electric Vehicle (EV) is not a new technology and has greatly suffered from existent of combustion ecosystem. This make it more expensive from consumers to make the switch from combustion vehicle to EV. Having EV only means lesser combustion gases and does not eliminate the carbon footprint from the energy source. Batteries are also lethal and difficult to dispose. Moreover, majority of vehicles own by general consumers are idling in car parks since Singapore is a small area.

Green Public Transport and Logistics

The only vehicles to experience high usage and carbon footprint lies solely in a single area i.e Logistics and Public Transportations. This means Green Logistics and Green Public Transport. Do be aware that there is a difference between Public Transport and Green Public Transport. Imagine the entire fleet of Public Transport and Logistics converting to Electric with end to end Green processes. The carbon cost savings would be much higher than a subset of consumer whose vehicles are idling most of time. Of course, one wonders who should be paying for the conversion.

Green Adoption

I am a believer of cause and effect and very positive that Green Adoption can be encouraged with incentives. However, the approach to offset this encouragement with higher Petrol Duty seem diminished as these higher costs are usually pass on to the consumers. The approach to use push factor instead of pull do not appeal to the millennium generations. Overall, the view to move towards a Green Transport is good but seems skewed towards the focus on the general consumers rather than commercial consumers. Without a sound education and Green Ecosystem, the approach will always be stop-gap and partial. All in all, it is a good baby step but I always feel that more can be done.


Disclaimer: Views expressed are opinions from the author’s own professional and personal capacity and do not represent the view of any organisation.

Review of Map Engine

Geospatial data is gaining popularity with cloud technologies and iOT (Internet of Things). With mobile devices, this data have become ubiquitous and must have. However, getting this data to traditional desktop is still progressing slowly as you usually require a map engine to be integrated. I did a quick review with some popular map engine to see if I can setup a simple map page within a day.

Review Steps and Criterion
  1. Google search of popular Maps with the key words – online maps, maps API, maps engine.
  2. Maps reviews on setup and costs.
  3. Maps that can be used in China, because majority of popular maps are blocked in China.
  4. Build a simple web page and access the map API to query address by Lat/Lon, also known as Reverse Geocoding API.
Shortlisted Maps
  1. Google Map
  2. Baidu (In mandarin)
  3. Amap (In mandarin)
  4. HERE
Google Map

Plus point of Google Map is the common information found for its API. However, Login and credit card information is now compulsory to use Google API. There is also no secure way to access China maps and you may need Google.cn.

Baidu

The login keep asking for a local China phone number, assuming it is for WeChat. You will need strong mastery of Chinese as it seems geared only for China market. No pricing is stated.

Amap

Like Baidu, the entire experience is similar. Login with China mobile is being asked and integrated with WeChat. No English support is provided and pricing is also not stated.

HERE

HERE map is an upcoming map engine by a consortium of cars manufacturers. The documents are straightforward and easy to implement. There are news that they are covering China. So, it will be a map engine to look out.

Summary and Mixed Map

Overall, China coverage are limited to China map engines. Google and HERE are pretty well supported for the rest of world. There will need to be detailed testing on the accuracy as these are high level evaluations. From organisation view, it will be cost effective to support a single map engine. However, due to country constraints, there may be a need for multiple map engine support,

Architectural Thinking 101

I recently took an Enterprise Architecture (EA) course and find Architectural Thinking very refreshing. It is worth to provide my two cents worths and an introductory view because many of us are caught up in the details of system development.

What is Architectural Thinking?

The first thing that Architectural Thinking that comes into my mind is the Building Architecture. Like a building, architect plans and design the construction and utilisation of the space within a site. There are also considerations of human elements, environment and aesthetics. Similarly, Architectural Thinking is the mindset to consider the design of business and IT domains. It also align the business goals and strategic drivers so that IT landscapes can adapt and respond to changes.

Challenges

Theoretically, Architectural Thinking is a perfect approach to transform your organisation into a architectural centric fit between business and technology. In reality, the transformation is complex due to disparate data, stakeholders, system and environments. The course outlines a systematic blueprint to addresses these challenges and implement Architecture Thinking with Architecture Development Method (ADM). Another way is to adopt Cloud technologies to manage your architectural framework (see Helping Enterprise Architecture (EA) be Agile with Cloud).

Checklist

Overall, a simple checklist is sufficient to check if your organisation is ready for Architectural Thinking.

  1. Do you have an Enterprise Centric strategy?
  2. Do you have blueprint Architectural Diagram for business and IT?
  3. Do you have stakeholder maps?
  4. Is there guidelines in developing your Architecture?

For many cases, your organisation could be in stage of discovery in this digital transformation era. It may be worth to be systematic and consider investing your resources with Architectural Thinking. You could also check the reference source – Combining Design Thinking with Architectural Thinking.

Coopetition the New Economy

Competitions are a thing of a past as consumers became flicker minded and switch cost is lower due to advent of technologies e.g. having different video conferencing application in a mobile. Monopolies discourage innovations and create unfair pricing for consumers. Many countries even have laws regarding competition to prevent creation of monopoly e.g. Singapore Competition Act. A new breed of organization emerges where competitors works in cooperation across different regions. A world of coopetitors!

What is Coopetition?

Coopetition is a fusion of cooperation and competition. In today’s economy, monopolies are frown upon and even illegal. It is not unusual for competitors to collaborate and cooperate for mutual benefits. Many examples existed such as airlines alliances with their codeshare connection, automotive partnership that owes HERE maps and Alibaba network of merchants, suppliers and eCommerce shops.

What Cooperate yet Compete?

All these coopetitors have a common objective to increase competitive advantage, enlarge market share, extend market reach and coverage with the consumers. This would create a network effect globally as a single organization will take a longer period to achieve this. Moreover, technologies have disrupted barriers and amplified threats of market entrants to traditional industries. By sharing, these organisations can create greater value in combating these entrants. Vice versa, new startups can allied together to take on existing incumbents. Without coopeting, these objectives would be impossible.

COVID-19 Effects on Coopetition

Perhaps the best case study of Coopetition comes from COVID-19 pandemic. Covid Vaccines have taken less than a year to be developed compared to several years for a typical vaccine. It will be impossible unless information is shared and collaborated among old foes and competitors. Another example is the collaboration between transportation providers, Food and Beverages (F&B) businesses and food delivery during COVID-19 lockdown like ComfortDelivery in Singapore. Will your organization be mature to coopete against this new breed of alliances?