… for what it's worth ūüôā

There's plenty of talk today about the deal where Progress Software Corporation (PSC) is buying BPM vendor Savvion for about $49million – Sandy Kemsley brought it to my attention last night (in Australia) via Twitter, followed by her blog post.

My immediate reaction via Twitter was

and it's still my thought that this is a defensive move by PSC – BPM and SOA are each other's "killer app", and Progress was missing the BPM part of the story. It would be interesting to see the respective timelines the IBM:Lombardi and PSC:Savvion deals have taken … in the absence of their own BPM solution Progress have been recommending Lombardi for some time now (I'm not sure how formal the arrangement was), but it's telling that the IBM purchase was a pre-deal announcement and the deal doesn't close for some time yet, whereas the Progress purchase closes any minute – the deal was done before it was announced. So was Progress blind-sided by IBM (and react very quickly), or has the Savvion deal been going for some time now?

Most commentary I've seen so far seems to think it's a good deal – the key element I think is that there is little or no overlap with the existing PSC products (Apama CEP, Sonic SOA kit) and it DOES plug a gap in the PSC offering. It also means Progress doesn't get frozen out of the BPM market by SOA competitors like Oracle and IBM et al, when the SOA/BPM combination is becoming critical for many organisations.

There's a couple of naysayers, though: Jon Pyke of Cordys seems to think it's a waste of time and seems inclined to bag Savvion … although that may just be his biases showing ūüôā . His contention that the deal is not about innovation (and therefore valueless) is rather disingenuous – the deal ISN'T about innovation, but that's not where it's value comes from – it's about consolidation, defensive strengthening of the PSC portfolio and giving Savvion a platform for international growth.

Bruce Silver has a more philosophical concern with the deal: that the business-oriented BPM tools will become submerged and lost in the technical SOA world at both IBM and Progress (Malcolm Ross of Appian comforts Bruce in a comment on the post that is worth reading too!). While I agree with the concern that Lombardi will lose focus at IBM, and that PSC's strength in technical, rather than business, could mean that Savvion stops talking to the right people, I'm more comfortable with Savvion's chances. Progress has a habit of allowing acquisitions a considerable amount of autonomy (Sonic Software wasn't completely folded into PSC for some years) and separate identity. They are also conscious of their technical bent and are trying to get more "business-friendly" with their operational responsiveness theme.

John Bates of PSC gives his ten reasons for the purchase – Sandy Kemsley quipped that he left out an 11th:

as I mentioned above, I'm not convinced that was the case, but it's a distinct possibility!

[update: disclosure – I used to be a Progress customer (until I quit the job and set up by myself) so I'm pretty familiar with PSC's existing portfolio]

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Trying to think of a name for a new business I’m helping set up … it’s a difficult process because so much of the first impression is based on it. There is also the potential hazard of working up a great name and finding someone else already uses it, or something close to it.
Short/long, what letter of the alphabet to start with, memorable, meaningful, descriptive, drop a syllable to be cute (or not), watch the language – I’m having fun! I’m coming up with a list that hopefully my colleague and I can reach some agreement on – wish me luck! 

This post is really just a summary of what tools I’ll be using for the time being, both for the administration of the business and¬†its execution.


Google Apps
Mail, calendaring, contacts and simple, shareable documents are all hosted by Google Apps for your Domain
Provided by Saasu, also hosted. Financial transactions, invoices, purchases and simple inventory in the cloud
TOGAF, BPMN, standard and customised UML modelling¬†and more: Enterprise Architect¬†by Sparxsystems – a comprehensive tool at a great price … AND it’s Australian!¬†
For outlining and brainstorming: Freemind (I’m using the v0.9 beta) – a clean, easy to use mindmapping tool; free and open-source
Office tools
Documents/spreadsheet/presentation: Google Docs, Openoffice.org, MS Office
Browser: Firefox
Mail client: Web, Thunderbird
Voice: the mobile phone and Skype
IM: Skype, Google Talk and Twitter
Text: Typepad (this blog), shared Google Docs
Presentations: Slideshare
Some kind of landing page will be forthcoming, but for the foreseeable future this blog will continue to be the main vehicle for long-form information about the venture.

It will be obvious to you all that I am fairly committed to the cloud – for accessibility as well as cost reasons. I also suspect that these various providers will do a better job of back-up and recovery than I would ūüôā

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Who do I sell to? Fortunately the skills and experience involved are reasonably transferable between industries; however it makes sense to start where I know the milieu best – the wine industry. This is where I’m already known and where my most recent experience lies, and is where my initial efforts will be¬†directed. Ultimately¬†I would like a range of clients, including other industries – here in Adelaide that probably means wine, mining and government. However – I have a freshly-renewed passport and¬†the kids are adults … so (within reason) I am not geographically constrained. If somebody wants to get me there (and back!) I’m able to travel – cultural fit is the only uncertainty (I’m English-speaking and Caucasian, but don’t hold that against me) – and anybody who knows me knows that online and¬†virtual¬†is where I live, so we can save the earth while collaborating if that’s what you’re comfortable with.¬†¬†
Essentially – words. Discussion, advice, presentations, reports, blog posts, tweets … I talk, I write, I draw diagrams with boxes and lines. Behind the words is a smart mind, a bunch of experience and knowledge of business – all the better to help you figure out what, if any, technology you can put to good use, and how.
Where I’d like to get to is to have clients pay me a portion of the value I generate, rather than charge some periodic rate, because this moves the discussion from cost to value, which I think is a better model.¬†At this stage there are¬†a couple of things that prevent that:
  • as a new business¬†it is difficult to forecast¬†how much value will be generated for clients – like¬†task estimation in projects, a track record makes it easier for both parties, and it’s not there yet
  • I suspect there are plenty of prospective clients who are still uncomfortable with¬†the idea of an unknown commitment, even if the¬†judgment around how much value is generated is with them
  • there is uncertainty about the timeframes over which value will be realised and quantified, so it can be a little open-ended for both parties (and there is a certain revenue imperative at my end!)
So, while keeping that goal in mind I have decided to start out with a time and materials model … and right now the rate is $AU125/hour (or $AU1000/day) plus taxes and expenses.
As always, comments and questions welcome …
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Briefly stated, the purpose of achurch & associates is to help make your business better. Now I KNOW that sounds a bit trite, so let’s parse it:
I’ve got experience in fast food, selling, the factory floor and (mainly) information systems. I have qualifications in marketing and finance, and 25 years of implementing business software … I can help. But I can’t do it for you – you need to participate in your own redemption! So I’ll help you figure out how your business might work better than it does now – and just like your accountant, lawyer and engineer I come to the table with a particular “technical” skill set, centred in practical uses for information technology.
this is a verb Рthere needs to be some activity come out of it all. An idea only becomes an innovation when it is actioned and implemented; advice only becomes beneficial when it is followed by action. My stock in trade is mainly words, but there will be some about implementation.
it’s your business, and it’s different from everybody else’s in a number of significant ways (it’s also similar to everybody else’s in a lot of others – but if you aren’t different in some way, you can’t compete on anything but price – and that’s not where you want to be). It’s also your responsibility and your decision to accept or reject my advice, and it’s your idea of “success” that matters with the outcomes.
hobbies are fun, and I’m happy to compare notes on leisure activities any time … but¬†we’re talking about¬†a business here, not a science project, and there are some particular outcomes to business activities that are important … and they usually revolve around value in some way.
this is your definition – what “better” means to you is what counts, and if we can’t agree on that I’ll walk away –¬†no harm no foul. I don’t know everything and I can’t do everything, so even if we agree on “better”, if I don’t think I can help I’ll walk away – no harm no foul. In that case if I know somebody else who CAN help you, I’ll introduce you to them – no obligation involved.
Comments and questions are welcomed …



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About two years ago, I circulated an email to some of my network speaking of my intentions to leave my employer. Almost exactly two years later, I’ve finally done it (I didn’t want to rush into it, obviously). After 27 years behind the corporate firewall, I decided it was time to test myself in some less-charted waters – so I have set up a consultancy business called achurch & associates to¬†see if I can make something of it.
Now,¬† some would consider that leaving a well-paid and relatively secure position for the risk and adventure of self-employment in¬†what is considered the worst recession in generations¬†is the action of a crazy,¬†deranged fool. But in the end, the desire to make the attempt proved too strong; plus I have a view about the current economic situation that allows¬†me to see an opportunity to create real, rather than ephemeral, value from my efforts. There is also the thought that, paraphrasing the famous song, “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere”.
So the plunge has been taken – my last day of permanent employment is 10th July, and so begins the fun.
The next few posts will be an attempt to articulate my approach to this business:

To those of you who I told earlier – thanks for your expressions of support and¬†enthusiasm … it’s reassuring to know that other people think this might work!

Every time I hear comments about this being the “worst recession since …” or muttering about the GFC, I’m struck by the thought that this is not just an economic crisis (which it is – don’t take this to be an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation) but a fundamental shift in how we create, perceive and consume economic value, and that what we are seeing is not just one of the cyclic fluctuations similar to what we have seen before but part of a much deeper change that will affect how we work and live, and where prosperity comes from.

Umair Haque runs a good line of commentary in this vein, talking about the current “zombieconomy” being replaced by constructive capitalism and smart growth (I like his “unnovation” punch too!). Umair speaks of people getting rich in the zombieconomy, but nobody really being better off – that measuring everything with money is not only limiting but often just plain wrong.

But one of the more interesting documents I’ve come across recently is from Deloitte’s “Center for the Edge” (peopled by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown among others) called “Measuring the forces of long-term change – the 2009 Shift Index” (PDF).

It speaks of three measures of change:

  • the Foundation Index (the first wave), measuring the impact of increase in computing power, increase in access to that power via the Internet wired and unwired, and changes in public policy; all of which reduce barriers to entry and movement
  • the Flow Index (second wave), which builds on the foundation to create new sources of economic value, and
  • the Impact index, where we start to see the effects of the first two.

The executive summary and overview are a feast of quotes:

Today’s companies must make the most of our own era’s new infrastructure through institutional innovations that shift the rationale from scalable efficiency to scalable learning …

The second wave of change … is characterized by the increasing flows of capital, talent and knowledge across geographical and institutional boundaries. … the increasing rate of change precipitated by the first wave shifts the sources of economic value from “stocks” of knowledge to “flows” of new knowledge.

Knowledge flows – which occur in any social, fluid environment where learning and collaboration can take place – are quickly becoming one of the most crucial sources of value creation.

The conceptual framework for the Big Shift underscores the belief that knowledge flows will be the key determinant of company success as deep foundational changes alter the sources of value creation.

I’ve still got the details to read through, and there’s a fair bit of blue sky thinking in it, but it gels with my recent ruminations about what “work” I should be doing, and what opportunities can be found by looking at our current economic situation through a different lens – it may be that the GFC persists because we are still using the old models and metrics to plot our course and explain the problem when we should be looking for the longer-term, deeper shift and the new possibilities it brings. 

A post on the Social Computing Journal site with some thoughts about transforming your business to “social” and what that might mean. A couple of the points:
Social businesses are made of people. Just like soylent green, the network (the Web or enterprise or both) is about who is on it and how involved they are …
The right tools and infrastructure naturally enable good social business. I dislike talking about technology too early but I continue to see a lot of people using the nearest tool at hand, rather than the right tool for the job …
Rethink your views on intellectual property in a highly social world. The famous letter sent by Apple to the little girl who had ideas about how to improve the iPod is a classic example of how we still look at business in an anti-social way …
Censorship kills participation. Nothing will stop a social business in its tracks faster than inappropriate censorship …
 There’s plenty more of flesh on those bones, as well as the rest of the “rules” …

Talking to Nick recently, I realised that I HAD created a monster, and now he was pushing me to blog … so here I am.

A couple of things that lead to this post: Hugh’s cartoon

… and a post/presentation from Stowe Boyd a little while ago. Both making the point that increasingly individual productivity is becoming less critical than the productivity of the network you are part of, particularly in a professional sense. Boyd captures the essence of Hugh’s cartoon (perhaps unknowingly, or maybe vice-versa) with this:

“The network is mostly connections. The connections matter, give it value, not the nodes. “

Of course this is at odds with the situation most of us find ourselves in, in organisations with performance reviews, personal objectives and a top-down approach to “managing” people. And a good proportion of those who run their own business still think this way too, because it’s what we’ve known all our school and working lives.

One of the other things about working for network productivity, is that for most of us, even our professional networks are not confined to our employer … so if we help our network, the benefits may not accrue directly to our employer.

It’s probably no secret that I believe that there ARE benefits to an organisation, directly and indirectly, in this idea of moving the work to the network, assisting connections to the short-term detriment of personal productivity. This shouldn’t be a foreign concept … we’ve been urged for years to be “team players” and “collaborators” – why has it taken so long to realise that those objectives are the antithesis of personal productivity? (or has the urging to team play been less than genuine in the past?). And how many times have we been told as we moved through our careers that it’s “not what you know, but who”? It’s ALWAYS been about the network; that is how most stuff gets done … it is very rarely a lone hand effort.

The other point that Stowe makes is that this is increasingly how work gets done now, and will continue to be more so, especially when a generation who grew up with things like instant messaging join the work force. The title of Stowe’s post (“Overload, Schmoverload”) counters the “information overload” argument … if it’s important you’ll see it again, so you don’t have to pay attention to everything the first time it arrives – yes, you CAN ignore instant messages! When you see information as a river, or flow, rather than a static lake that has to be hoarded and “saved for later”, it’s easier not to get strung out on how much of it there is.

I know – your problem is that no matter how much you agree with this, it ain’t what’s happening where you work. So what do you do about that?

I’m not necessarily the right person to ask, but first step might be to highlight occasions where the “team” (whatever that term represents in your environment) achieves something, and where you contributed to that. Make sure that comes BEFORE the boss asks why you haven’t hit a deadline on a personal task, but when asked, remind her of where the effort paid off. It’s also worth remembering that SOMETHING has to be getting done … there has to be some increased network productivity, or you’re just goofing off.

Second – you COULD wait for the next generation to take over … but that might not be soon enough, AND it might still not change anything.

Third – the thing you have most control of is your own time … maybe you should be looking elsewhere. It may take some looking, and it may take some time, but I have a feeling that it will be a Darwinian process, and those organisations that fail to adapt may struggle to survive. Look around the financial system – this may be an “asteroid” event for business, and a catalyst for change.

Last word is for Stowe:

“Productivity is second to Connection: network productivity trumps personal productivity”


[Update 24 September 2017: Noticed broken links on the gapingvoid image, and Stowe Boyd’s post. Was able to find new links to a 2016 post containing an updated version of the ‚Äúnetwork v node‚ÄĚ image (if you want to buy the image, links on that post). However, Stowe’s post seems to be missing in action ‚Ķ which is a shame. Will keep looking ‚Ķ]

Just in case you haven’t been following it, a couple of months ago, Luis Suarez of IBM decided to attempt “giving up email“. Now his point wasn’t to give up email completely, but perhaps restrict it’s use to the purposes it serves best, and use other tools where they are more appropriate (but where most of us will be mis-using email).

Check out the whole series on Luis’ blog as he tracks his progress; but in the meantime, closer to home, Alex at Toast is putting up some ideas for (as he calls it) “email jail bail” – ways of escaping the “email jail” we often find ourselves trapped in.

Eating his own dogfood, Alex is using a wiki – I’m sure if you asked nicely he’d let you help out!

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