Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Sound Of Silver

A funny thing happened to me at a meeting the other day. It was at a pretty large Microsoft Gold partner, they had the lumps of plastic and the several of the flags to prove it. I used to have a filing cabinet with all my MS plastic on it, a few flags filling up the bottom draw too. You know, with those serial cables and spare mice.

Conversation moved to upgrades to ‘standard’ Microsoft products and in particular how bespoke changes around the edges may cause issues. While in the past, this was pretty much ‘always’ a problem. These days any customer or supplier should be looking to use available technology to form an extraction layer from the core stuff under the bonnet.

Workflow is my preferred choice if it is available and particularly if it is main stream. Don’t get me wrong, ABAP and the like is a rich environment, but not many people are coming straight out of college with experience of it. So its skills and that of other very bespoke languages (such as the old Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains Dexterity) can be hard to find and then may have come at a premium.

The discussion moved to Sharepoint and Silverlight in particular. A product released like many others from Redmond with much fanfare and touted as the future of the web. One very much now with a future in doubt. Interestingly the Gold Partner had done a lot of development in Silverlight for a big part of their internal systems. Very disappointing as it was very nearly finished and it was only really recently that effectively quietly they were informed the plug had really been pulled.

Having been director at a Microsoft Gold Partner I felt for the company. So much effort potentially wasted, or at best they had developed into a cul-de-sac, that would need a re-visit in the future. Even worse though is the amount of effort many end users will have put in to Silverlight development, and will have to reconsider if that is still the best technology for them going forward.

A small number of IT people in housing will be aware of the new Civica housing management system just in development. Rumour has it that it will be names Cx (Customer Xperience - geddit?), is being based on Silverlight. That is one decision that surely will have to be re-visited, together with if the coding of the system continues in India. What this space, if I was a betting man, I would guess a move to HTML5 would be best and a look for a different off-shore partner. Vietnam looks likely.

Other popular housing solutions do have some Silverlight content, Keystone asset Management and the 1st Touch forms designer and several portals for residents and contractors, both spring to mind. 

Sadly, Microsoft and others are always very good at the big product announcements, the futuristic roadmaps and when those products die or are to be retired prematurely, it’s via a whimper rather than a bang. Being in this industry, change is a constant. You get used to it. Still, it never makes life easy as so many tools you rely on today, might often be easily bought up and killed off, or just retired for the next new and shiny idea, coming down the line.

A risk register of applications and connections can be very useful in quantifying exposure to this type of issue. You never know when a quiet obituary may be posted (from Redmond or other places...).

LCD Soundsystem, now I am sure they went through some software tools.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Tony, I'm a firm believer that code should be open and the skills to code are put into organisations. The heavy duty IT infrastructure and the commercial off the shelf product suites that vendors are so fond of are the byproduct of an increasingly outmoded industrialised approach to ICT, the biggest risks of which are expensive obsolescences as you've described here, and unnecessary friction in the way of organisations having access to their own data. I know a lot of stands at conferences need selling to tout these wares, but they do the Housing sector no favours when it is today a sector that needs to rapidly adapt and it's desire to amortise costs such as these prevents it, to no small degree, from doing so. Housing needs to adapt and loosen its dependency on IT products like these.