Friday, January 30, 2009

“It’s the end of the World as we know it (and I feel fine)” -REM

Every time I turn on the TV news or open an article I’m inundated with bad news about the economy. It’s especially bad up in my neck of the woods, with Wall Street reeling from the cash crunch crisis rippling through all other industries. But it’s not all bad for the IT department in these times. For most businesses when times are bad, re-engineering planning begins in the IT department. Some of the biggest savings opportunities can be realized by the work we do in IT.

Today, an average of only 22% of customer interactions are done online, only 19% by B2B suppliers and a surprising low 33% of employee applications are web enabled. Many savvy businesses are using this recession to invest and re-engineer out of the crisis. I recently read a CIO article that stated - A dollar spent re-engineering now will cost a competitor more than 2 dollars after the recovery, and most competitors won’t have the additional resources or funding to close the gap afterwards.

Every industry and company is trying to do more with less. Many application budgets have been cut, IT spending has been drastically reduced but the work load and business need remains high, so how are IT managers that I speak with dealing with these escalating requests? Most organizations I have work with have an initiative in this year’s departmental plan that make open source a more strategic part of IT planning, and specifically in my meetings I am seeing a strategic shift in utilizing enterprise PHP applications in place of traditional commercial projects.

For the IT department productivity improvements on PHP projects become an immediate priority when staff resources and project timelines are shrinking. This is a good time to re-engineer the PHP development and operations methodologies and embrace enterprise best practices. You can find a lot of great customer case studies about how Zend Framework and products have helped enterprises improve staff productivity by 30% or more. From small business projects to large enterprises like Bell Canada, Fiat, Fox,and IBM ; you can get great ideas of how businesses are using Zend PHP to solve hard problems in these economic times.

Another big part of the re-engineering and modernization plan is utilizing Open Source technology like PHP and the 1000’s of open applications that are available. Success of website ideas like Digg, Wikipedia and Wordpress have equally successful counterparts inside the firewall of corporations, it's just that they are not as public about the details inside the corporation. So let me share a few quick examples of PHP applications that you may already be using and how the enterprise has embraced the same success to re-engineer inside the firewall.

Crowd sourcing became a phenomenon with Wikipedia (a PHP-based site) allowing the general public to keep updating the info in the encyclopedia. The enterprise has adopted this same philosophy but limiting the crowd to inside the firewall, allowing cross-functional and cross-department capturing of business knowledge and process. The success and user momentum of the Wiki was then extended to the corporation using the same PHP application called MediaWiki. Repurposing this new use of the open source project now makes it available for self documentation and self publishing in the office. This is very powerful business continuity and knowledge leveraging between your staff that was never before possible or at least very expensive to replicate. As some corporations downsize and valuable business knowledge has a tendency to easily be lost in these downsizing situations, a central WIKI like service becomes a good way to capture the knowledge of your organization organically. PHP has 100’s of open source applications that offer this type of capability, MediaWiki is best known as it runs the Wikipedia site, but you should research TikiWiki, DekiWiki and others.

Blogging is another one of those PHP applications that is usually introduced early and has immediate impact on the organization. I also include PHP forums in this category as self publishing and commenting improves the communication between managers, large teams and the public. Popular PHP projects include Wordpress, PHPbb, and hundreds of blog extensions to PHP portals.

Talking about portals, PHP has 100’s of portals; it even has a portal that just compares the features of PHP portals because there are so many choices. And as popular as social networking has become on LinkedIn and Facebook there are equally successful counterparts running inside the firewall of corporations. One quick example from a Fortune 100 bank used a PHP portal to brainstorm on ideas amongst employees, think of it as an ever evolving suggestion box that any employee can add his 2cents worth to anyone’s suggestion. This same portal allowed employees to rate documents found internally and on competitors’ website (Digg like ranking of documents and articles used for researching ideas). There’s a section that helps teams take an idea and run with the ball with section manager approval. It includes full online planning, milestones, resource allocation, etc so all your project info is available online at any time. So how valuable would a site like this be to your business if it could help your employees work smarter and offer more competitive solutions when they brainstorm together to improve your internal processes? It’s a re-engineering application on the web isn’t it?

So as I end my first article in the newsletter and my theme song from REM playing in the background, I am excited about all the opportunities in 2009 for IT to again make an impact to the business bottom line. I’m lucky to be here at Zend and learn about many of these types of ideas that make a big impact. But I would enjoy the opportunity to learn more from others and the interesting implementations of PHP applications in your business. How have you used Zend PHP products or frameworks in your business and made a difference in your specific industry? Each month I would like to share as much details as possible about your project ideas to help spur good exchanges in my column, and am always open to collaborations.

Edward Kietlinski
Zend Solution Consultant


Nili Gafni said...

Congrats on the new and interesting Blog!


Ed Kietlinski said...

Saw this article today from CEO of CISCO about its focus and reinvestment in cost cutting opportunities to make the company stronger when business rebounds in the US.

"Cisco Systems' optimistic leader John Chambers noted during the company's conference call Wednesday that the economy has gone from bad to worse as sales are expected to slip as much as 20 percent in the next quarter. But he said that Cisco is well-positioned to emerge even stronger after the economic malaise. The U.S. will be the first to recover, he added. And even though he expressed concern for the troubled times the company faces, he emphasized that Cisco is well positioned to come out of an economic downturn even stronger. He noted past economic dips where the company emerged an even more competitive player. And he vowed to aggressively invest in new markets to ensure the same is true when the economy becomes healthy once again.

"We must gain from this economic pain," he said. "This downturn is the biggest challenge of our lifetime, but it's also the biggest opportunity for the company and the country to change our economy.

In an effort to stay focused on its goals, Cisco has vowed to cut $1 billion spending for fiscal 2009, which ends in July. And Chambers said the company is on track to meet that goal."

Edward Kietlinski said...

"Making the investment during the recession puts Intel at a competitive advantage, he said. The company is at least two years ahead of the competition in this process technology, and his sense, Otellini said, is that the company will extend that lead with the investment announced Tuesday.

"This technology we're investing in right now is the most amazing thing I've seen in my three and a half decades at Intel," he said.

WASHINGTON--Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini announced on Tuesday a $7 billion investment in U.S.-based manufacturing facilities, telling a crowd of Washington elites that the current economic recession gives the nation an opportunity to make once-in-a-lifetime changes and investments for the future.

"For nations like the United States, absolutely nothing about the future is inevitable or guaranteed--not jobs, not leadership, not our standard of living," Otellini told the Economic Club of Washington here. "How we deal with these changes can lead us to new heights--or they will define the beginning of a downward spiral."

It will take both public and private investments, Otellini said, for the United States to remain the world's leading innovator as well as retain its manufacturing economy.

read more at:

Edward Kietlinski said...

Stephen Elop, the former Macromedia CEO who joined Microsoft a year ago talks about technology/economy:

"Elop: So, what I would say to that is I can understand where that skepticism comes from, having come into this company, but I think what you could place more value on is the impact of touch economic times, and the impact that that has on any company.

When I was at Macromedia, we made our most difficult decisions, our most focused decisions around alignment, the big bets during the worst times. And, of course, in the years that followed it turned out we made some good bets, and the company was taken to levels that it had never before seen.

And it's remarkable how some of those hairiest issues or those longstanding sacred cows, in tough economic times all of a sudden you look at them and say, you know what, we've got to deal with these things. An example of that that popped out into the public domain as we went through some of the changes here in January was Office Live, Windows Live. And fundamentally when you look at it from a customer perspective, and what does a consumer expect of Microsoft in terms of an experience, fundamentally they don't want to see divisional lines, they want to see a well integrated, well considered experience that meets their needs.

So, apply a few constraints, like there's fewer resources tomorrow than there were yesterday, stir in like what's really like in terms of how we place our bets, and...all of a sudden it starts to make sense, and you can make those decisions, where maybe some number of months or years earlier you couldn't.

I am personally a big believer and advocate for taking advantage of tough times to go after those things that quite frankly there just wasn't the reason to or the stomach or the constraint necessary.

I'd refer you to President Obama's speech (this week).One of the things that resonated in his speech for me was him saying, you know what, when you boil it all down, we have to solve the health care problem, we have to solve the Iraq problem, like we don't have a choice anymore. I mean, well, maybe before we could have printed more money and somehow we got -- we can't do that anymore. We're having to do that to rescue the economy and make up for the over-indulgence of all of us over the last 25 years. That's what we have to unwind.

So, in that environment fundamentally if we're not going to pass on this huge burden to the future, now is the time we can make those hard decisions.

And my hope is in the political context that the politicians can actually get to that space where they say, you know what, Republican, Democrat, whatever, we've got to solve this, we just fundamentally have to solve it. "

Edward Kietlinski said...

Worst of times is the best of times for IBM?

In a letter to shareholders released in conjunction with IBM's annual report, Palmisano says that the company is "positioned to lead in the era that lies on the other side of the present crisis."

"We will not simply ride out the storm," he said. "Rather we will take a long-term view, and go on offense."

What this means in practice is that the company will attempt to leverage its diversification into areas such as cloud computing and services as a competitive weapon against rivals with weaker benches. IBM also is betting that its big presence overseas will help it better ride out a recession that has led to a slump in IT demand in the United States. About 65 percent of its revenues came from outside the U.S. last year.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Palmisano's letter is his declaration that IBM isn't planning to retrench until the global economy recovers:

Many companies are reacting to the current global downturn by drastically curtailing spending and investment, even in areas that are important to their future. We are taking a different approach. Of course, we must continue to improve our competitiveness. But while we maintain discipline and prudence in the near term, we also maintain the discipline to plan for the future. We're not looking back, we're looking ahead. We're continuing to invest in R&D, in strategic acquisitions, in growth initiatives--and most importantly, during these difficult times, in our people.
In other words, we will not simply ride out the storm. Rather, we will take a long-term view, and go on offense.

Separately, IBM disclosed in a filing that it awarded Palmisano $21 million in salary, bonus, perks, and stock-based awards last year.

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