Are all IT vendors the same?

April 14th, 2009

I’m surprised at how many people believe they are; such that senior people do not bother to develop genuine vendor/partner/supplier relationships.  Speaking as somebody who has considerable delivery experience from the consultancy side of the fence; I can assure you, when you personally like/respect and value a client, you do put that extra effort in.  Whether thats with a deliverable or internally, backing their corner in a staffing or commercial discussion.    

Top Tip: Make sure your vendors believe in what you are doing and take the time to build trust and respect, it just takes a little effort; so go on, book a lunch with each of your key partners and share the love… It will almost certainly be worth it, in the long run. 

Why cellar Wine?

April 13th, 2009

Cheaper in the long run …. and a load of other nonsense came out of my mouth when I was asked this the other day.  The simple fact is, collecting wine satisfies several key attributes of any good hobby:

1. Collecting, a bit like football cards or marbles when we were kids

2. Trading, with friends, again just like in the playground

3. Desirability, again some cards were harder to get than others

Add to that the fact that it’s lovely to consume, especially with friends … I guess the question should be, “Why would you not Cellar Wine?”

Matassa Blanc

April 13th, 2009

I just love this wine, it’s very distinctive and goes equally well with or without food.

A funky nose of spiced poached pear, bit of cinnamon; good strong middle palette, almost soup like texture; a bizarre mix of minerality, savoury and dried fruits with a good strong acidic middle.  Well structured with a good length to finish with, a nice tang to keep you coming back for another glass … or two

Had with homemade pork meatballs and pasta.  


April 1st, 2009

Just rocks for sharing of information and files; if you don’t use it, please take a look. 

Great for small/medium and large businesses alike.

Predictably Irrational

March 31st, 2009

Just started reading it, an amusing look at how emotions impact our decision making; but not in a random irrational way, it can be very much predictable.

Quick example I like very much, and from personal experience in a sales situation it certainly does seem to be valid.

I’ll paraphrase, forgive me:

If you have two products equally attractive but with different attributes, Say A and B.  Asking a random selection of people which would you select, you would prob get near a 50-50 split.  However, if you add a A-, which is similar to A, but has slightly less attractive attributes…. and then ask a selection of people to pick a product, you will get a significant jump towards A and not B…. Why? because we find it easier to select a product or service when we have a direct comparison with another that has similar attributes. 

Even with the same people, if you remove A- and ask them to pick again…. the split will move back towards a 50-50.

 Good stuff.

Jean-Jacques Confuron Nuits St. Georges Aux Boudots 1er Cru – 2001

March 31st, 2009

Opened two bottles over subsequent weekends in mid-Feb.

Possibly the hardest cork to remove, Ive ever experienced.  If it had been glued, it would not of been any more work to remove. … But it was definitely worth the effort.

A bouquet of spring flowers and red fruit.  Good mouth filling middle palette, of raspberries and slight red cherry; a fruit sweetness to it, that with the fine tannins and well balanced acidity, made a beautifully concentrated and harmonious drink; very good length, just a wonderful finish, wish I had more to call upon.

I’ll be leaving the last couple of bottles for a year or two, plenty more to come I fancy.

Chateau Lynch-Bages – 1979

March 30th, 2009

Where to start, getting the cork out I suppose; tricky, but with a little care out came the cork without any mishap. 

Gently decanted the wine, almost immediately the wine opened up; nose of black fruit and forest floor, mushroom goodness, later to show some slight dried oak, cigar box characteristics.

In the glass, a wonderful hue of red with a hint of brown, it looked clear and fresh in the glass, not bad after 30 years.

How did it taste? … well, amazing … mouth filled with black fruit and spice with tannins so well integrated that it just felt perfect, middle palate was sumptuous and felt like silk.  The finish was long and rewarding, at the end the acidity took over.  Personally, I loved it, as it made each mouthful feel fresh.  No sharp corners, just a wonderfully harmonised display.

At £60 from the good people at the Sampler, a real treat for a family Sunday roast beef lunch.

You just cannot beat a good bottle of aged claret; if you have a case in the cellar, lucky you.   

Chardonnay, New World at its very best

March 29th, 2009

Felton Road Chardonnay 2004 Block 6:

Beautiful clear light golden colour in the glass, a welcoming nose of tropical fruit and marzipan (rose water), slight honey.  A wonderful fresh mineral finish with medium length, a well integrated and rounded feel to the middle palette; tasting of honey and cream, hint of ripe tropical fruit.  No excessive sharpness, just a fantastic expression of quality chardonnay from the new world.


I’m an Enterprise Architect … what does that mean?

March 25th, 2009

Almost every organisation has it’s definition of an architect, I tend to categorise them into one of the following; none more important than the other, they are complementary and not necessarily interchangeable. 

 1. Enterprise Architect – Focusing on the entire Business and IT landscape, focusing on strategy, guiding principles, ROI, operating models, business and IT alignment, overall architectural adherence  …. the list goes on

2. Solution Architect – Defines and manages the end-to-end solution, focusing on: specific initiative requirements, overall technology specification and implementation, quality of delivery, vendor management, ongoing operational support … the list goes on

3. Application / Technology / System Architect –  A range of technical SME ranging from Java, Database, Package, hosting … somebody who is the ‘go-to’ person, who specifies, designs and sometimes implements a specific technology aspect of an overall initiative

Everybody seems to want to be an Enterprise Architect, as if it’s the natural progression; most EA’s have a wide breadth of experience, but those in category 2 and 3 are the real ‘value creators’, who build/craft the technology that drives commerce.

My friends and colleagues, who I consider the most talented, sit in category 2 and 3

The World of Fine Wine – Issue 23

March 23rd, 2009

Just came through the letter box, it’s been egely awaited; a truly beautiful quarterly magazine, a good few hours reading and a bottle or two to be drunk in the process. 

Bottle of Mesh

March 22nd, 2009

Opened a lovely bottle of Mesh Riesling 2006; Clear, bright vibrant in the glass, a lovely lime tinge in colour.  Aroma of citrus, strong lemon; good crisp lively palette, slight petroleum hints to it; strong, long finish.

A really nice Eden Valley wine, dry without being overly harsh.  

Held it’s own with, chicken wrapped in pancetta with cheese sauce and veg  

A weekend of white only …

March 16th, 2009

Firstly, A Louis Jadot 2005 Meursault – light on the nose and appearance to match, citrus and ripe fruit on the palette, medium length, but I felt the alcohol was a little to the front; pleasant enough to drink by itself.

Secondly, Shaw & Smith M3, beautiful clear golden colour in the glass, nose of tropical and citrus fruit, no over-the-top oak just a fantastic mouth filling palette of fruit, with a honey streak through the middle; fresh as you like finish with good long length to it.  

So come on all you ABC’s try some Shaw & Smith and tell me then you don’t want it …

When to share your best wine

March 15th, 2009

A recent article in Decanter magazine got me thinking, it was an interview with a vicar and a discussion about his wine collection.  In order to satisfy the need not to be attached to material things, he occasionally gives a bottle of his best wine up for Sunday service… Personally I think this teeters on S&M, but hey, I’m sure his flock is most appreciative.

Why did this get me thinking? Well, I don’t always share my best wine with my nearest and dearest; whether or not somebody really appreciates fine wine is the measure of who gets what.  Indeed, having two bottles open at once, one for the more discerning of connoisseurs and one for the rest is often the case.  Don’t get me wrong, any wine I serve up is always a nice bottle; just some are nicer than others.

This cannot be a good thing… But I don’t intend to change, either.  Clearly, this does not bode well for me when the final scores are totaled come the final reckoning…


March 13th, 2009

Simply some of the best cheese you can get; I particularly enjoy the range of Blue.


March 12th, 2009

Another tough year for Borland, I really hope they make it.  Over the years they have produced some truly groundbreaking products and inspired a generation of solution developers.

It only seems yesterday, they were ahead of Microsoft in the developer platform stakes.

All the best.

Another interest rate reduction … Why?

March 10th, 2009

I hope people are paying off any other debts, from any potential mortgage interest savings they are receiving.  Who knows how things will go, but history shows interest rates will probably be hitting double digits in the next 24 months.

Cash, as ever … is King  … Back to basics.

New World Pinot

March 8th, 2009

I’ve only got a couple of bottles of Felton Road Block 5 2004 left, opened one up yesterday; what a genuine treat it was.  Nice bright red cherry look in the glass; lovely complex nose, bit of dried leaf, slight leather, cigar box but only in the background; well integrated red fruit and chocolate, bit of spice.  Medium length with a lovely freshness about the finish.

Personally, I prefer a bit more fruit in this wine, as tasted 6-8 months ago, but this is lovely.  Drank it by itself, wonderful. 

Graduate recruitment

March 2nd, 2009

Spent Friday interviewing and testing the next batch of Graduate recruitment and internship applicants.  On the whole, a very impressive bunch of people; was surprised by a couple of things:

1. When asked about data structures, most could talk about arrays, linked list, queues, stacks and hashtables; but not one person mentioned XML. 

2. Although we had people from various subjects, some of the Computer Science interns, said they had not written anything since the first year, so a whole 12 months without writing any code…  Bizarre

3. I was surprised about how many could not answer the following question with any conviction, passion or genuine interest. ‘What is it about IT within Investment Banking that attracts you to the role?’ 

4. How many could not name any books or articles that had made a significant impact

I’ll go back and check what my course covered, I’ve still got my coursework in the loft somewhere.  One things for sure, I can definitely remember several books that had a fundamental impact on my learning and development.  

Show me the plan

February 24th, 2009

Thought it might be useful to share this template I use for providing a clear view of the phases, activities and deliverables in one easy slide.  I’ve found that business focussed individuals particularly find the layout appealing.

Apologies about the colour and some of the formatting, I need to remove any possible association with previous clients, left me with a short palette to pick from.


Peter Mandelson hits back at Starbucks, Duffy clears up at the Brits

February 21st, 2009

reads the headline in the Guardian online the other day.  With all the real problems that are affecting people across the country and the world, and lets face it, plenty more to come I’m sure.  I wonder if the whole celebrity nonsense we have had to suffer the last couple of years will start to fade out (I don’t mean Duffy); rather the rubbish we have had to put up with from celebrity wannabes, who seemed to be earning a good living doing absolutely nothing of value. 

Maybe we will look back and thank the banks, Governments and the greed we have all enjoyed for removing the constant rubbish in the press and TV.  Who cares what Abi Titmuss or the WAGS are doing now?

Given the last two years, suddenly the 1980’s does not seem that greedy or over the top anymore; in today’s climate I’m not sure Gordon Gekko would get a look in, unless he was of course entering David Beckham or the Big Brother house…. Day 4, Gordon explains why ‘Greed is Good’

Vendor, Supplier or Partner?

February 20th, 2009

How do you engage with your external relationships?  Do you treat them as a vendor and supplier or truly engage in a partnership?

Partnerships take a lot of investment in time and are not always worth the effort, it has to be said.  But, when you find a vendor who has the right skills, cultural alignments and above all drive to deliver for you, you really should look to maximise your returns, by building a genuine relationship and acting as a partnership.

Challenge them to bring new ideas, capabilities and thought leadership to the table, you may very well be surprised as to what you have just in arms reach, and often at little cost.

I wish as a firm we could learn this lesson, Banks need to mature their IT discipline, amongst other things…

Robots taking over …

February 17th, 2009

A preliminary report around risk and ethics of military autonomous robots.  I’ll have one of those liquid ones that changes shape please, maybe I can get him to ‘take care’ of the fox that destroys my garden.

People Management

February 16th, 2009

Two books that I found fantastically useful, Peopleware and Death March.  I always recommend people read them before they manage their first large team; I like to go back and re-read them every couple of years.  Now, whoever I lent my last copy of Peopleware to, please give it back.



February 16th, 2009

I’m  not a massive fan of Champagne, personally speaking I tend to prefer a NV such as the lovely Alfred Gratien, Brut or a Waitrose own brand Blanc de blancs.  Both extremely good value at just under £20

We had some Waitrose Blanc de blancs at Christmas time, been in storage for about 12 months, lovely fresh, crisp, green apple.  Lovely mouse and an excellent finish, real length; beautiful with salmon and crab canapés, quails egg and celery salt.

Great value and in my opinion better than some of the top marquee brands. 

Had a bottle of the Waitrose blanc de blancs over the week for Nick’s 30th, super stuff.  Enjoyed by all


February 14th, 2009

When I heard this statement earlier in the week, it filled me with dread, ‘We don’t have the skills in-house right now, lets send X people on a weeks course’.  This and variations of it are all too common when it comes to IT or process, methodology matters. 

You simply cannot beat quality experience, of course training your existing people is the right thing to do; but in order to maximise that investment, give them the support of somebody with proven experience who can act as a mentor and provide ongoing investment.

Good panel discussion on page 144 of HBR October 2008; the graphic sums it up nicely.

Why am I rambling on about this?  I had an issue last week, where a team lead was pushing back on the support and ongoing mentoring part; happy to undergo the training and venture off on their own with a new technology stack.  Further probing proved my suspicion that actually he was concerned about not being the ‘technical lead’, that this might be the start of a larger out-sourcing initiative…

The fear of the unknown was enough for him to take a path that has significantly less chance of being successful and in the longer term will benefit him less and will lead to increased risks and issues for the overall delivery, I have no doubt.

Maybe, in the current market he is right… Personally I think the investment in individuals growth and development reaps benefits in the longer term that far outweigh any short term concerns.

Hill Street Blues …

February 11th, 2009

Caught a couple of episodes of Hill Street Blues the other day, what a series that was.  I could not believe how many bit-part actors I recognised, from various films.  So the lady who planned Sarah Connor from the Terminator, and the guy who played Reece; then Commander Riker from next generation and later when watching The Search for Spock … I noticed that Lt Howard Hunter was playing the captain of the Excelsior 

Anyway, download … I mean, catch it on TV.

Best value white wine ever !!!

February 10th, 2009

The best value white wine ever … Well, maybe a bit of a stretch

Opened a lovely bottle of Donnhoff Riesling Qba Nahe, 2006 at under £10 a bottle, it truly does not get much better than this; a beautiful dry backbone of flint, lime, fresh as you like, silk texture and what a finish, long, pure and majestic.

If you can find a better white for under a £10, please let me know; this is his basic wine and what a winner it is.

Oh, I had it with Waitrose chicken kiev and a potato and cheese gratin with peas.

Make your own Sausages

February 9th, 2009

Sausages are definitely one of my favourites, here is a recipe I got from Martin in the US; I’m going to try it out next week, what wine should I have with it mind you …

I have tried about 8 different Italian sausage recipes until I developed one that finally satisfies what I feel to be REAL Italian sausage.
Actually this is more of a Sicilian style sausage.

10lbs. Pork Butt
4 Tbl. Canning Salt
3 tsp. Fresh ground Black Pepper
1 Tbl. ground Coriander
1 Tbl. Sugar
1 1/2 ozs. Fennel Seed
2 tsp. Anise seed
2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbl. dried Parsley
8 oz. Cold water

Grind the pork butt thru a 1/4″ hole plate.
Mix in the spices and water with the meat. Mix thoroughly. Stuff into 35mm Hog casings, and twist into 6″ links. Let sausage age in the Fridge for 1 day. Then use or wrap and freeze.

1970 Bordeaux Horizontal

February 8th, 2009

Took part in a lovely tasting at ; husband and wife team, who have a fantastic shop and are looking to expand with a few more; not bad going in the current market. 

They always have a fantastic selection of wines that you can sample, great way to try some classic vintages as well as some new wines, before splashing out on a bottle or case. 

Back to the tasting evening, 5 flights with a good range of wines from St Julien, Margaux, Graves and St Emilion; some good discussion and debate was had with each flight.

Personal favourite was Cheval Blanc, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe A at £150 a bottle

The Margaux at £130 was very interesting; at first almost dead on the nose and not much on the palette; after about 15 mins in the glass, it woke up and became delightful; not classic, but much more elegant and in-line with what I was expecting.

Anyway, if you are around upper street in London, pop by, they always seem very welcoming.

If you choose to take this mission…

February 6th, 2009

With 9 minutes notice, I was asked to conduct a detailed technology architecture review for a project that was approximately half way through it’s technical design; so the project plan would have us believe.

I reached for my trusty ’13 steps of Architectural Completeness’ checklist, first used about 8 years ago.  Under each section I have captured key questions and areas to probe based on my experiences of project issues.

Turns out, the project was lacking any direct link back to business requirements, quality assurance of any kind, no documented deployment and regression testing, no documented design guidelines, technical specifications were not consistent, security and non-functional aspects had not been considered, no operational thoughts and no defined data architecture existed… apart from that, all was good.  

Thought it might be useful to share the 13 steps … click the image to see it full size

13 Steps