Monday, April 23, 2007

10 Ways to Search Without Google

  1., where a real live "Guide" takes your query and returns related results tailor-made to your specifications. The service doesn't require any registration, and it's completely free.
  2. StumbleUpon gives you thumbs-up/thumbs-down icons in your toolbar and lets you rate pages and sites you come across. As StumbleUpon learns your preferences, it gets better at directing you to stuff you'll like. There's also a social aspect; you can add other people with similar interests to your friends list, and their preferences will further refine your search results.
  3. takes a different approach to search results. Whereas Google arranges your results in a simple list, Clusty first aggregates the results from several search engines (Google not included), then arranges them in clusters to help you further refine your search.
  4. is a topical search engine that is still very much a beta service. It conducts searches by category, and includes six for searching: Health, Video Games, Finance, Travel, US Politics, and Auto.
  5. Technorati is a blog search service includes plenty of ways to search for the hottest blog content, including a Top Searches list, a list of the most-linked-to blogs, and the music, movies, videos, and games that the most bloggers are linking to.
  6. Draze MetaSearch lets you collect search results quickly from the Big Three search engines: Google, MSN and Yahoo. The homepage is a typical Google-looking page, with a search bar. Once you enter your search term, you get the best results back from all the different search engines.
  7. Ms. Dewey is more of a sexy, playful search engine than a useful one. If you felt weird reading that, I felt even weirder typing it. Ms. Dewey is a personable (read: flirty) interface for Windows Live Search, which uses an actress's canned video responses and phrases to interact with users.
  8. The Search With Kevin search engine is a promotional site built by Prodege where users can win great prizes like an autographed K-Fed CD. Beat that, Google! It's a bizarre little search tool, and includes Web, Image, and News searches, with a shopping search on the way.
  9., short for "Roll Your Own Search Engine," lets users do just that. You can do general searches or category searches (like searching for "iPhone" in the Tech category) to get results from blogs and the Web at large, or create your own search engine (or "Searchroll") to only search specific sites.
  10. netTrekker's a good one for the kiddies. The search engine is aimed at schools and students, and every site that is included in a list of search results has been hand-picked by a staff of educators to ensure safe surfing. A search for "stars," for instance, will include lots of info about constellations and zero about Paris Hilton. The only problem: it ain't free. The service costs a cool $4.95 a month.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The CIO's Role

It Pays to Be a CIO
Compensation is increasing at large and midsize companies. The Society for Information Management's warnings about an impending shortage of CIOs seems to be coming true. It's the most likely explanation for the 12.4 percent increase in base salaries and bonuses for top IT executives since last year. And with opportunities to boost their pay, many CIOs are looking for, and taking, new positions. That's causing tenure rates to dip—though most CIOs do remain on the job for more than five years. The CIO post, like any executive position, may be packed with pressure, but nearly all agree they enjoy their work. The excitement, challenges and financial rewards of the CIO position more than compensate for the pressures of the job.

CIOs Foresee Big Changes in Their Role
CIOs will be focusing more on strategy and innovation. Some previous surveys found that IT organizations are undergoing radical changes, and CIOs believe their role is changing, too. Setting strategy will become more important, and innovation—in the form of new technologies and new ways to exploit information— will also get more attention. It appears that more CIOs will step back from overseeing day-to-day operations, process improvement, data quality, projects, standards and architecture issues. Since these issues aren't going away, CIOs will need to delegate more responsibility for them to other IT executives. But will these technical and execution issues be adequately addressed if CIOs give them less attention?

CIOs Need A Balanced Definition of Success
While CIOs want to focus on strategy, their bosses need them to pay attention to IT operations. CIOs believe the personal attributes they need for success have changed—and indeed they have. Leadership and business understanding remain essential. However, CIOs today see strategic thinking as far more important than in 2003, while technical know-how and execution are much less critical. In contrast, consider how CIOs are evaluated: While their contribution to strategy is growing in importance, so too is the IT organization's overall performance, successful project completion, and interaction with business peers. CIOs may be emphasizing strategy at the expense of dayto- day performance; their CEOs, CFOs and COOs want them to focus on both.

Most CIOs Play a Limited Strategic Role
Less than half of CIOs now report to the CEO. Since today's CIOs believe they will focus more on business strategy, they recommend that aspiring CIOs gain experience in creating strategy and financial management and take P&L responsibility. However, opportunities to develop strategy may be hard to come by: Most CIOs continue to execute strategy rather than create it. Also, for the first time since 2003, fewer than half of CIOs report to the CEO—and CIOs who report to other executives are less likely to be involved in strategy creation. This is due to many factors, from a rising generation of tech-savvy executives to the weight being given to compliance and process improvement. CIOs may think they will play a more important role in strategy creation, but for most, the job is still focused on operations and strategy execution.

The CIO Background Remains Primarily Technical
But it's now leavened with business experience. Sixty-nine percent of CIOs come primarily from within IT, and have advanced by excelling as project managers or by serving as liaisons, consultants or business analysts. Half spent time as programmers or systems developers. The move to "hybrid" CIO with equal business/ IT experience has leveled off at about a quarter of top IT executives, while the idea of parachuting CIOs with little prior IT experience has been abandoned. CIOs want to move beyond their IT roots to a broader strategic position—but they need to ask whether they are really prepared to play the role to which they aspire.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Which Type of CIO Are You?

An MIT Sloan School of Management researcher says CIOs fall under four categories: turnaround, operational, business leader and innovative. CIOs have played an especially important role at companies where core business processes are not rigidly defined by stepping in to help reengineer processes, says the researcher. Some CIOs even continue to have responsibility for processes — much like a COO — after they change them.

Turnaround Artrist
CIOs brought in to fix IT problems bring more to the table than basic IT management skills. They're turning things around, which requires more than a dollop of extra leadership and change management skills. So it should be no surprise that of our four archetypes, Turnaround CIOs are the most highly paid.

Operational Expert
Organizations that want more than that typically begin with an Operational CIO, who adds value with his project management expertise and his technology smarts, enabling him to deliver IT solutions faster than before (a.k.a. enterprise agility). These CIOs need to highlight their delivery skills -- and keep delivering -- to avoid being dismissed as utility CIOs. Indeed, this archetype faces the most challenges in terms of business alignment, access to resources and personal rewards.

Business Leader
This kind of CIOs are those who have good interpersonal skills and solid knowledge of business processes and may emphasize IT governance in the way they do their jobs and administer their departments. (They may hire Operational CIOs to do the heavy lifting.)

Innovative Agent
This kind CIOs have the ability to help envision and create new business products and services as though they were one of the business gang. Indeed, these CIOs may be experienced businesspeople enough to find themselves in companies where IT is as highly valued as any other competency, and thus the best and brightest are rotated through IT just as they might move through manufacturing and finance.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Five key benefits of business process management

1. Innovation through analysis
The first key benefit of BPM is that it helps companies realize that allowing a business to innovate existing processes "on paper" (before committing implementation resources) and to project return on investment through simulation analysis are beneficial. Process modeling is the first step of nearly any BPM methodology, and a comprehensive BPM usually include a process-modeling tool that allows business analysts to document the current (as-is) process and specify new (to-be) processes in a structured way, and then project business metrics from those models using simulation analysis.

The analyst does not need to know the technical details of the implementation, just the business-oriented parameters such as who performs each step and what that resource costs, how long each step on average should take, the relative probabilities of taking one flow path versus the other, etc.

Modeling is an important first step because you don't want to simply "pave the cow paths" in your organization. Many companies have no idea what an entire end-to-end process looks like, or why things are done the way they are. In most cases, the processes in place today were put in place long ago, before the Web, virtual teams, BlackBerries, and outsourcing began to affect the workplace.

Modeling gives the business the opportunity to rethink and simplify before plunging into design.

2. Improved operational efficiency
One of the biggest business drivers of BPM today is improved operational efficiency -- shorter cycle times, lower costs, and the ability to handle additional work with no increase in staff. Much of this benefit derives from BPM's workflow automation component. The process engine routes allow users to take action directly from their Web-based workspace, managing task priorities and deadlines, and even automating escalation procedures when exceptions occur or deadlines cannot be met.

3. Compliance and control
Another key benefit of BPM is that it helps deliver improved control over business processes, fostering standardization across the company and compliance with regulations, policies, and best practices.

Today's global enterprises are far from homogeneous; new operating units are constantly being added through mergers and acquisitions, each with its own systems and procedures.

Each division or geographic unit may have its own procedures as well. Because BPM includes a common set of tools used by developers, IT, and business participants to manage business processes, it drives standardization of procedures, policies, and business metrics across the company and ensures there is always "one version of the truth."

Process models can be shared in a repository and reused across the company. Moreover, every step of a running process can be logged, which not only ensures compliance but makes that compliance easily auditable.

4. Agility
Agility is a fourth key benefit of BPM -- helping businesses bring new products and services to market more quickly and respond more easily to changing requirements.

The most common barrier to agility in the past has been the dreaded "IT backlog" -- finding available resources capable of integrating diverse business systems, building custom Web applications, or writing code.

BPM avoids the IT backlog because it does not rely on programming; its process logic is like a flowchart, enhanced here and there with scripting. Executable designs can be created quickly and changed easily. Integration adapters make connecting to diverse business systems simple, again without code. Reusable artifacts in the process component catalogue further enhance agility. With BPM, implementation cycles are typically measured in weeks, not months or years.

5. End-to-end performance visibility and optimization
A final key benefit of using BPM is that it makes end-to-end performance visible to process owners, and provides a built-in platform for problem escalation and remediation.

As processes run, the engine is continuously capturing snapshots of instance data and aggregating them in visible performance metrics, both built-in and user-defined. BPMS provides the ability to measure performance across organizational and system boundaries. It then provides tools that display these metrics graphically in management dashboards, often with drilldown to investigate the root causes of bottlenecks.

Another capability, business activity monitoring (BAM), computes KPIs in real time and monitors them using rules that trigger automated alerts or process actions when they move outside their target range. Process owners can respond instantly to events that affect the bottom line.


Understanding the concept of virtualization

A layman's definition
Virtualization, in layman's terms, is the ability to run multiple operating systems on one computer, whether that computer is a server or a PC.

A more accurate definition would be "virtualization allows you to make logical replicas of machines, software models of physical boxes." Imagine having the ability to run many virtual machines inside one box. The ability to move machines quickly around data centers and around networks because they now exist as [an] image [or] images. A lot of power and flexibility comes once you enter the virtual world.

Why would you want to do this?

Because for years there has been a proliferation of under-utilized boxes in a typical data center stemming back to the IT boom of the '90s.

In some sectors, we still think new applications require new hardware. The new enterprise finds that very, very objectionable. "Hey, why should I bring in a whole bunch of new boxes for a simple solution? When I know I have some hundred [servers] over there that are being used an average of 8 to 10 percent." Why not pool together all the under-utilized servers, virtualize them, and run all the applications my company needs using the infrastructure I already have in place?

Why are enterprises slow to catch on the virtualization bandwagon?

Sometimes it's just a matter of changing the mindset. Virtualization is, for some enterprises, a new platform, a new infrastructure on which they are going to run their services. As a platform technology, it's almost by definition, disruptive.

IDC reports that last year there were over 2 million servers running as virtual machines and this is compared to new box shipments of 7 million. Some analysts report that by 2009 there will be 7.7 million servers running as virtual machines which is about what we're shipping as new boxes today.

What is the right approach to virtualization -- tactical or strategic?

Both, for sure. Strategically, we're talking about 'virtual' infrastructure and that implies that it's going to be far reaching across your data center. But we also have many tactical opportunities and somewhat tactical customers in the early stage.

What I mean by that is it's very typical for an enterprise to bring us [VMware] in as part as of a targeted project, say [for example] a server consolidation project. To actually align with that strategy, we offer a range of solutions.

Solutions, I think, assume a tactical approach to things. A nice package, solution for virtualization, advantages for business continuity and disaster recovery. When you talk about automating and building in availability to virtual machine, we're talking about enterprise desktops running on servers as virtual machines to get the advantages of the data-center class management.

Because virtualization allows you to make machines with mouse clicks, it will grow and typically, that consolidation solution will become a containment practice where virtualization won't be used for a discreet project but will be used as an outgrowing practice.

What are the best practices for executing a virtualization strategy?

Typically, first is to identify the candidates for virtualization. We assess the current infrastructure to see how much of it lends itself to virtualization. We normally leverage a tool like Capacity Planner offered by VMware. It's a tool that actually reaches out across the network, discovers all the servers, takes an inventory of them [and] makes a consolidation recommendation. Once we know what to consolidate, we use migration tool, a converter tool that over a course of an hour takes an under-utilized box and converts it into a virtual machine.

Once a company has taken the virtualization route, it becomes the preferred platform, and all future server provisioning takes on the virtualization layer. What follows is the creation of a containment practice -- something like a virtual first policy.

What is the reaction of IT managers after performing a discovery process?

It varies. I've seen CIOs fall out of their seats at the level of under-utilization for some of these boxes. So yes, it is a great surprise for some. Also, the funny thing is, on a lot of these assessments, we're helping management find that they have 20 percent more boxes than they thought they had. So, it's not just a surprise on under-utilization frequently, but it's also very frequently a surprise of just how many servers they had that they didn't know about.

What are virtual appliances and what trends do you see in this area?

A virtual appliance is a virtual machine pre-configured and ready-to-run with the OS, the application; the entire machine built ready-to-run, built like a physical appliance. You stick them anywhere in the virtual infrastructure layer and they run as designed, simplifying the whole process of deploying the services. No more complicated, long, build cycles with a lot of low value, repetitive tasks. Companies leveraging these virtual appliances are really getting the most out of their virtual infrastructure.

We believe the virtual appliance will continue to grow drastically because we believe that the role of the operating system has changed. And the role of the operating system has changed simply by this great adoption of the virtual infrastructure.

If you have a secure machine you want to build, you'll develop that application, choose a secure OS and wrap it into a virtual appliance and have it ready to run by sticking it anywhere in the virtual infrastructure. You're building a high transaction server, you're going to pick a very streamlined OS, put the app and that streamlined OS together, in a virtual machine, pre-configured it and make it ready to run, wrap it in that virtual appliance and distribute it.

What is a third generation virtualization?

The third generation virtualization technology from VMware has built-in workload management, which means the virtual machines will automatically find capacity, if they need capacity. The virtual machines will automatically boot themselves up on a healthy box, if the box they are riding on goes down. All these tasks -- workload management, designing complicated clusters, etc. -- are very simplified in the latest generation of virtualization.

Virtual machines will automatically and intelligently place themselves on healthy capacity. It relieves IT management of the entire low end, repetitive, low-value tasks. And at the end of the day, that's what IT is all about.