December 4, 2013

2013 Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit – Day 1

2013-12-03 10.49.05I am currently in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit (AADI). One of my goals for this year with my boss is to get outside the Microsoft bubble that I have been living in for the last several years and expand my horizons. We both thought this conference would be a good fit for that goal. I intend on blogging about this conference similarly to the way I blogged about Microsoft TechEd back in June (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, & Day 4). Before I get too far though, I would like to make a comment about Vegas itself. Vegas is one of those places that I never had any desire to go to. I will say though, from a macro view, the place is beautiful, the grand hotels & casinos that you see as you drive onto the strip are absolutely breathtaking. The picture at the top of this post was taken as I stepped out onto a balcony during an intermission between two sessions. I will probably post at some point about my thoughts when you get up close with Vegas but the short version is that people just seem sad and it breaks my heart.

Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on my personal thoughts on Vegas because that is probably not why you are reading this post. So on to the Summit. On to the sessions that I attended.

Developing a Mobile Development Strategy

This session was a good first session to attend. The speaker went through and laid out all the steps, pitfalls and the things to think about as an enterprise is building their mobile application strategy. One of the key points he made that I thought was great was that you don’t want to just replicate your desktop/web apps on the mobile device. You want to as the question “What does mobile enable me to do that I couldn’t do before? How does it fundamentally change the business process?” While this seems fairly intuitive, you would be surprised at how often the business asks for a desktop replacement app on their mobile device and it is our job as IT to help them figure out and articulate what features they really need on the  mobile device. Another key point that he brought up that I wholeheartedly agree with is that you need to develop a User Experience (UX) practice within your organization and he brought this home with the question “How many times have you had to take a training class for a mobile app?” Your mobile app user experience (and all your applications for that matter) should be intuitive and easy to use. The final point he made that I want to emphasize before moving on is that testing is integral to a sound mobile application development strategy.

Gartner Opening Keynote: Making the Nexus Real

I have never been a big fan of marketing speak and buzzwords. I am much more a fan of speaking plainly and getting to the point. Prior to yesterday, I didn’t really know what the “Nexus of Forces” meant. I didn’t waste too much time figuring out what it was ahead of time because I knew a group like Gartner would make it painfully obvious what it was. I was ABSOLUTELY right, I think I heard the term “Nexus of Forces” at least 300 times yesterday. To be brief the forces involved are Cloud (another buzzword I hate), Social Computing (usually just said as Social), Information, & Mobile. What makes the Nexus is that these forces when combined enhance and build upon each other in such a way that they amplify each other exponentially. Overall, the keynote was really good, marketing jargon and buzzwords aside. I think I could have listed to Daryl Plummer all day long. He is a fantastically engaging speaker that really knows what he is talking about. The keynote went through several case studies of companies that had successfully harnessed the Nexus of Forces to propel their business forward.

The Impact of Nexus Forces on Your Application Strategy

The key emphasis in this session was that your current application strategy is going to have to change. We are no longer living in the environment where software will live unchanged for decades. You MUST change! This was my first introduction to the Pace-Layering Strategy for your applications. The short and simple is that you divide your systems into three layers Systems of Record, Systems of Differentiation, & Systems of Innovation. The Pace part of it comes down to the pace at which those things change or are thrown away. His last takeaway similar to some of the others that I heard was that we as IT need to switch from project to product (app) thinking.

Successful Applications Demand Selfish Software: Only the Paranoid Survive

This was probably my favorite session of the day…his main point was that as IT we need to shift our focus from delivering projects to delivering applications. If you deliver projects you are judged by on-time, on-budget, & met functional requirements (all of which shift in the name of the project) and end up delivering an application that the users can’t stand and all the features that they would actually want were pushed to “Phase 2” which we all know never happens. Instead, we should  deliver selfish apps (not applications) that meet the user’s requirements. The features of selfish software are:

  • Black Belt Defensive Coding
  • Self-Diagnostic
  • Self-Testing
  • Self-Monitoring
  • Self-Reporting
  • Self-Healing (eventually)

The other piece of information that I really liked was that he redefined “Legacy” software as software that is hard to change. I liked this new distinction of legacy.

Town Hall: Enterprise and Application Architecture Best Practices

This was a great session for me as the Application Architect for Phillips 66. When I took the role I took it knowing that it was a very amorphous/undefined role and that between my supervisor and I we would be determining what my role included. After hearing this session, I was greatly encouraged by the fact that the path that Mike and I have laid out for me and my role seems to be the right path…I seem to be doing the right things. The particular interaction that I felt particularly encouraged was in regards to how Solution (Project/Technical) Architects and Application Architects should interact and overlap which we seem to be doing right at Phillips 66.

Trinity Millennium Group: Getting to Cloud – From Legacy to Agility

This session was probably my least favorite and I probably should have left early…I really didn’t get much out of this session. It was another rehash or what Legacy 2.0 was and how their company upgrades applications for their customers.

Gartner Keynote: Business Outcome-Driven Enterprise Architecture: A Quantum Leap in Delivering Value

Even though I don’t currently operate in the Enterprise Architect role within our company, I am part of our companies EA infrastructure so I wanted to hear what EA was supposed to be or rather what it should be. This session was a very good session to attend for this information and I recommend that anyone in the EA role within their organization review the slide deck and if available watch the video.


Overall, this was a great first day. You can’t expect every session to be riveting and life changing, but I did learn a lot from the first day and am looking forward to Day 2. Other than the snafu with the conference organizers not ordering enough lunches for everyone this was a very good day.

[I was one of the people who missed out on lunch but found out too late to do anything about it so I went 12 hours between meals…makes for a very crabby Architect, let me tell you and is probably part of the reason I fell asleep during the Trinity Millennium Session :-)]