Friday, 24 August 2007

Omnifind Rocks!!

I have mentioned Omnifind in the past, but for the first time in the 2 years we have been working with IBM, the product is finally starting to deliver.
We had developed a Knowledge Management system over the course of 18 months or so 2003-2004, with Lotus Discovery Server as the backend search tool and with a core set of data already loaded, we were only 2 weeks away from the release date when IBM pulled the plug on Discovery Server and announced that they would only support it for another 12 months. Well once we started talking to IBM things have been moved around and we are now hopefully about 2-3 months away from replacing the Lotus Discovery Backend with a nice shiny customised Search App running off Omnifind. This product's potential has now moved from a single app within a single dept to the potential of becoming our corporate search engine and again putting another peg in the ground for IBM/Lotus against the evil that is Microsoft within this company.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Design and Colors

I am currently about half way through the re-development of an old Notes Application and a thought suddenly occurs why do we let the users get involved. 3:23 on Friday afternoon I have the main user, the IT customer liaison type person, another developer and I stood round my desk arguing over the design.
Now there are 2 things wrong with this picture,

1. How did I let them get into an argument at my desk at 3:23 on a Friday afternoon, when I want to go at 3:30.
2. I don't give a stuff what the shade of orange is.

Yes we are arguing colors!!! Now I am a developer, I create code, I am not artistic, I have no thoughts on colors, shades etc. My wife will testify to that!!!
However I will say that at least they were arguing about the orange, which hopefully means that the argument about the shade of blue is over. We had to change the form/menu colors 3 times on that one.

Whilst I agree that the aesthetics are important, it's not something I really care about, I will talk to the user and tell them to talk to our graphics department to knock something up and then we go with that. This has worked well in the past and I feel has led to some top knotch looking apps, but this is the first time where the main user is female. Ok beat me about the head, I'm not being sexist (well okay it's probably a little bit) but it's a fact, every other time we get the stuff from graphics, we neanderthals gather in a meeting room, grunt over the layout and that's it. End of subject we design, build the interface and just get on with it.
This time round we have had 6 different logo styles, 5 different color combos, 3 different splash screens from 2 separate color schemes. And my biggest complaint, they keep asking for my opinion, come on I'm a man, I can't even have an opinion about paint for re-decorating or carpet colors. Why on earth would have an opinion about shades of orange!!!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Someone is questioning the future of Lotus Notes

Hmm, it must be a monday then.
To add in your two pence Click here
From my POV, the problem with comparing Lotus Notes to Micro$oft Exchange is that you can't compare Lotus Notes and MS Exchange. MS Exchange is e-mail, whilst Lotus Notes does e-mail as well. As well as what I here you cry, well lots of things, there are limits and certainly somethings that Notes won't do, but in terms of a development platform there are few limits and few technologies that you can't integrate into it. From a developers point of view, it's difficult to keep up with the capabilities of Lotus Notes, when I started, @Formula, LotusScript and a smattering of HTML & Javascript were more than enough to keep you at the cutting edge, these days you have all the Acronyms available to you, CSS, RSS, DHTML, AJAX, Dojo, the list goes on and on. In fact I have visited companies that don't use Lotus Notes for e-mail, they have Exchange as the E-mail system with Lotus Notes providing a development platform for purely Web based applications.
Questioning the future of Lotus Notes I feel is more about questioning peopes perception of Lotus Notes, if a company only sees Lotus Notes as an E-mail platform, then the likelyhood is that they will sooner or later move to Exchange. If Lotus Notes is viewed as an application platform that offers E-mail for free then it's here to stay.

Monday, 6 August 2007

ITIL, it's easy to understand, isn't it???

Well after the months of work that the IT department have spent invested in ITIL, we have now launched our service catalog to the rest of the business. However I personally hope that no-one actually reads it as it is just completely rubbish.
We have specified a set of SLAs that we will aim to meet, however if you read them through they don't mean anything to the business. For example, we have a number of SLAs for responding to voice-mails that hit the helpdesk, SLAs for getting that information logged as a call and SLAs for support teams to assign people those calls. So for example, a user phones the helpdesk and gets through to the voicemail, they report a server down, which should get logged as a Priority 1. The helpdesk now has 30mins to pick up that voicemail and once they do, they have another 30 mins to get that logged as a call and assigned to a support team. That support team has 10 mins from the time the call is logged to assign it to someone on their team. That team member then has.....
Hold on no they don't, all relevant SLAs have been met, the team member doesn't then have to do anything, there is no commitment to contact the user, no SLA for fix times etc. I do think that someone has missed the point here of what ITIL is about.
As I said if the users do actually read the Service catalog closely, they are going to realise that they are being screwed big time!!!

Friday, 3 August 2007

How to get screwed by 3rd Party body shops in India

It seems to me like I have spent the last 18 months interviewing in Chennai and that's not far off the facts, with issues with some of the developers we have actually hired, ranging from them not being developers at all to them simply not being up to the standard we require.
However the current issue we have is becoming a real pain and I am sure that others out there have come across this. It seems to be that our management is very keen on getting people from a 3rd party body shop, not a specific one as we have now hired from 3 different ones within the dept. In the past 3 months we have interviewed 3 people from this one particular company, 2 of which have been fine. In both these cases we have reported back to the parent company that we would like to get this candidate on board, in both cases these are Notes Developers but they also have team leader or man-management skills to head up the team in Chennai and take some of the day-day management away from me. Anyway in both cases we have had positive comeback from the company and then nothing, followed a few weeks later by the reporting back that the person wants more than we currently offer, eg. come and work in the UK etc. and consequently they are not joining the contract house. This after my company has given them an HR interview in Chennai, we give them a telephone interview from here in the UK, a technical test etc etc etc and we then find out that in fact we are interviewing these candidates almost on behalf of this 3rd party company who them come to us to try and get more if that is what the candidate wants. Sadly enough this usually never works as we don't want to bring a contractor over to the UK for 3 months (did this once at the cost of £4k per month on top of salary, where did the low cost go) where as if he was an employee of our company it would be a possibility.
We are still going through pain with this situation and I can't really see how we can get round this, one of the problems we have is that the kind of candidate we are looking for doesn't want to work for us and if they do we can't get them the kind of salary they want and while this perpetual cycle continues management are happily under the impression that because they have allowed you to recruit for a Developer that that will actually solve the problem even if you aren't actually able to find a competent Developer based on the salary they will offer in this Low Cost Center.