Welcome!

.NET Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, ChandraShekar Dattatreya, Trevor Parsons, Peter Silva

Blog Feed Post

Microsoft Partner Teams Coming Soon

teamsIn the very near future, your client’s criteria for finding a Microsoft Partner for their organization is going to change. Instead of  looking for a firm that has an in-house base of expertise across all of their needs, they might be more interested in whether you play well with others. We all know that Technology is very…. well it’s technical. It always has been. For decades, technology consulting firms have strived to be a one-stop shop for any client’s needs. “Here at Acme I.T. we say From a broken mouse to a custom business process workflow, we can handle that”.

In our firm, we focus exclusively on Microsoft Cloud Solutions. Yet, not a day goes by that a client does not ask me if we can also handle X, Y or Z for them. For many customers, particularly in the midsized business space, there seems to be an assumption that if you know any technology, you must also know every technology. When I tell someone, we are not the guys who can fix their broken mouse, I sometimes sense disappointment that maybe we are not as savvy as they thought we were. I guess that is why so many firms would have answered yes.

VooDoo for all

As technology consultants we are all guilty of supporting the notion that I.T. is Voodoo; a powerful black art, only understood by a few. This has served us well as we now have a vast client base who wouldn’t dare try to figure out what we are doing. “So why do I need all this stuff again?”; “Don’t ask, or the Voodoo gods will make your email stop flowing”. Like patients, who after an incomprehensible diagnosis from their Doctor, do whatever he says in order to prevent some misunderstood, but potentially terrible thing from happening to them. But the real value of Voodoo has been is ability to hide mediocrity. The client has an “I.T.” problem… we may, or may not be qualified to solve it, but fortunately the client has no idea. Our firm would be considered “I.T. Consultants”, but if a client said they were having network problems… well, that’s Voodoo to me. The dollars client’s have spent on highly qualified people, attacking problems for which they are not at all qualified just because it falls under the I.T. umbrella, has to be staggering.

Fake it till ya make it

The imaginary concept of an all-knowing I.T. Consulting firm is starting to show some cracks. Two major drivers are behind this. First, clients are getting smarter. We should have seen that coming. People are curious by nature and skeptical. Tell me that I need to replace my malfunctioning on-premise Exchange with a hosted version, and I not going let your “Because I said so” fly anymore. Nope, I’m gonna go do a little research on my own. Uhoh. This is not good. When I come back and ask if you checked the DNS, I am going to figure out pretty quickly that your recommendation that I move everything was only due to the fact that you don’t know shit about fixing Exchange Servers. Just like Doctors, I.T. Consultants’ opinions are increasingly being challenged by clients. The other major driver? At the same time our clients are getting smarter, we are getting dumber. It’s not that we are literally losing brain cells, rather our brain cells are fully saturated. There is too much to learn and it is changing way too fast.

The Death of the Master Builder

There was a time many years ago that if you wanted to build a house you would hire a Master Builder. Together with a few helpers, he would literally undertake every single task, from clearing the lot to installing the ceiling fans. As systems became more complex, municipalities stepped up and questioned this “Expert in Everything” impact on public safety and started requiring special licenses for certain tasks like electrical and plumbing etc. The Master Builder gave way to the Contractor, who was now required to assemble a team of separate experts to build the same house. The idea that a single firm could obtain all of the licenses, with the knowledge and testing that would be required, was no longer viable. Yet, for years clients have hired “Master I.T. Consultants”.

The Rise of the I.T. Contractor

As a business grows from small to midsized or larger, their I.T. requirements grow exponentially. Business owners may not realize this, but we do. There comes a point were we have to make a choice. Do I provide unqualified help for certain issues and hope I can bullshit my client, or do I confess, that for this particular issue, I do not have the expertise required. This is where the contractor model could come in. I can tell my client, “Yes, I can handle that for you by bringing in another firm with that expertise.”. But this presents its own hurdles. First, am I prepared to tell my client that I don’t know everything there is to know, and have my client start thinking they need to find another firm who knows everything? The other hurdle: what if I bring in another firm and my client likes them better and kicks me to the curb? If you have not built a solid relationship of trust with your client then these are high probabilities.

A Foot in Both Camps

For many years I was in the commercial real estate development business and so I have dealt with many construction contractors on large projects. The successful ones knew how to strike a balance between advocating for me, while supporting their sub-contractors, all in the shadow of the knowledge that a change-order from a sub-contractor usually resulted in additional revenue for the contractor also. The ability to balance these conflicting interests is a skill to be learned by the I.T. Consulting community. I expect my contractor to call out his sub-contractors for shoddy work or falling behind schedule or over-charging for a change in their work. At the same time it is a challenge for me to fully trust that my contractor is doing this as my best interests are not always aligned with his, trust is crucial.

Why is this Inevitable?

At this point many of you may be thinking that I am full of crap and this will not only never happen, but is not even necessary. Fair enough. Let me give you something else to think about. I was looking at the Dynamics CRM Online Roadmap yesterday. In it were five significant waves of enhancements, new features, etc. All five are supposed to land in FY14. I would like to think I am somewhat of an expert in this field, but I confess, I don’t know anything about these new waves, and neither does anybody else, at least not enough to claim expert status. I will have to be in a continuous learning mode just to maintain a level of competency in this one single thing: CRM. I will do this, and many of my contemporaries will also, but you will not. You cannot, because this is just one thing and you are offering 20 things. The rate of change is accelerating at a pace that no one can keep up with more than a few things, and you can’t justify staffing up with experts for all of these things because you don’t have enough continuous demand across all these things, no matter how big you are.

What will this look like?

I foresee a time in the very near future where a client will hire an “I.T. Contractor”, not so much based on their specific domain expertise across all of their needs, but on their ability to manage a team of independent partners, each possessing a high level of domain expertise in their respective fields.  I know, this is supposed to be the role of a CIO. But frankly, particularly in the small and midsized space they either do not exist, or too many are doing a piss poor job. Many of today’s midsized CIOs are Voodoo perpetrators themselves. And if you agree that it is difficult even for us to maintain competency in this fragmented landscape, the corporate CIO has no chance. Yet they continue to try to be Contractors themselves. Even as vain as Donald Trump is, he still hires real contractors to build his buildings.

Vertically Vertical

Microsoft has been preaching that the best way to grow your practice is to focus on an industry vertical. Sound advice indeed, but even this does not solve the issues I described above. Even if you focus on a vertical, their I.T. requirements are just as wide as anybody else’s. I think we will see more and more firms focusing on not only an industry vertical, but also a platform vertical. Like a Manufacturing/CRM consultant, or a Healthcare/SharePoint expert. There are an awful lot of combinations there to me made. But could you find enough work in a niche of a niche? Well, if the consultants who are currently trying to fill those requirements with incompetence, instead embraced Partner Teaming, this would absolutely work and be the best solution for the client. I get calls all the time, mostly from India, asking if we need any SharePoint help from their 600 person staff, this does not impress me. But imagine thousands of smaller firms, each specializing in a vertical and platform, and assembling an absolute all-star team to serve a client.

Hmm… so how do we get from here to there?

Let me know your thoughts on my prognostications below.

Source: Microsoft Partner Teams Coming Soon Forceworks

Read the original blog entry...

@ThingsExpo Stories
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.