How (NOT) To Buy Enterprise Software

Whether you’re in IT, or in a line of business (LOB), at some point in your career you’ll likely be given a budget with authority to acquire enterprise software or an integrated solution for your company.
You and your team will do an analysis, possibly have a “bakeoff” of some sort to eliminate a vendor or two, and ultimately make a selection of what you believe to be the right enterprise solution.
Maybe it’s a cloud-based black-box type of solution like Workday or Salesforce. Maybe it’s a platform product, like WebSphere Application Server or SharePoint, used to support other solutions. Maybe it’s none of the above. Regardless, the proposal will inevitably include a component to stand up and install supporting services, plus after-support.
Do yourself a favor: Spend the time during your internal evaluation to ask your team and your leadership if you truly have budget to extend beyond the basic enterprise software acquisition cost.
Here at TxMQ, we’ve noticed a trend the past few years, and it’s a challenging one. We see more and more companies slash budgets for services other than the bare license cost of the software. That usually means the company’s left with acquired software products they’re not necessarily able to stand up themselves, let alone support and integrate.
In many cases this isn’t so problematic. After all, some solutions are certainly straightforward enough. Yet even cloud-based tools like Salesforce are, in fact, extremely complex systems that require extensive pre-planning, integration and ongoing support. This role can be tough to manage internally, and is oftentimes better suited to a solutions provider like TxMQ.
TxMQ has helped countless companies fix bad or poorly planned installations of enterprise software – installations that went south because budget was restricted solely to the license. We’ve seen outages, lost revenue and actual firings due to poor planning – again, only because budget was cut to the bare minimum and only covered the software-license cost. And the corrective engagements are costly – for the demands on internal staff and dollars spent on consultants. In nearly all cases, these costs could have been avoided with upfront planning for the installation and deployment of the solution.
By planning, I mean understanding internal needs, skills, integration points, storage needs, security, networking and more.
It was Abraham Lincoln who was famously quoted as stating: “If I had 6 hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.” If you’re being asked to acquire and install a solution – whether it’s enterprise software, hardware or hybrid – don’t just grab the axe and start swinging. You’ll hurt yourself, likely break the axe and end up with a very damaged tree.
Save a tree. Email TxMQ today.

I'm A Mainframe Bigot

I make no apologies for my bigotry when I recommend mainframes for the new economy. Dollar for dollar, a properly managed mainframe environment will nearly always be more cost effective for our customers to run. This doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, but we aren’t talking about the outliers – we’re looking at the masses of data that support this conclusion.
To level-set this discussion: If you’re not familiar with mainframes, move along.
We aren’t talking about the Matrix “Neo, we have to get to the mainframe” fantasy world here. We’re talking about “Big Iron” – the engine that drives today’s modern economy. It’s the system where most data of record lives, and has lived for years. And this is a philosophical discussion, more than a technical one.
I’d never say there aren’t acceptable use cases for other platforms. Far from it. If you’re running a virtual-desktop solution, you don’t want that back end on the mainframe. If you’re planning to do a ton of analytics, your master data of record should be on the host, and likely there’s a well-thought-out intermediate layer involved for data manipulation, mapping and more. But if you’re doing a whole host (pun intended) of mainstream enterprise computing, IBM’s z systems absolutely rule the day.
I remember when my bank sold off its branch network and operations to another regional bank. It wasn’t too many years ago. As a part of this rather complicated transaction, bank customers received a series of letters informing them of the switch. I did some digging and found out the acquiring bank didn’t have a mainframe.
I called our accountant, and we immediately began a “bake off” among various banks to decide where to move our banking. Among the criteria? Well-integrated systems, clean IT environment, stability (tenure) among bank leadership, favorable business rules and practices, solid online tools, and of course, a mainframe.
So what’s my deal? Why the bigotry? Sure, there are issues with the mainframe.
But I, and by extension TxMQ, have been doing this a long time. Our consultants have collectively seen thousands of customer environments. Give us 100 customers running mainframes, 100 customers who aren’t, and I guarantee there are far more people, and far greater costs required to support similar-size adjusted solutions in non-mainframe shops.
Part of the reason is architecture. Part is longevity. Part is backward-compatibility. Part is security. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here, but in terms of hacking, unless you’re talking about a systems programmer with a bad cough, the “hacking” term generally hasn’t applied to a mainframe environment.
Cloud Shmoud
Did you know that virtualization was first done on the mainframe? Decades ago in fact. Multi-tenancy? Been there, done that.
Reliability, Availability and Serviceability define the mainframe. When downtime isn’t an option, there’s no other choice.
Enough said. Mainframes are just plain more secure than other computer types. The NIST vulnerabilities database, US-CERT, rates mainframes as among the most secure platforms when compared with Windows, Unix and Linux, with vulnerabilities in the low single digits.
I had a customer discussion that prompted me to write this short piece. Like any article on a technology that’s been around for over half a century, I could go on for pages and chapters. That’s not the point. Companies at times develop attitudes that become so ingrained, no one challenges them, or asks if there’s any proof. For years, the mainframe took a bad rap. Mostly due to very effective marketing by competitors, but also because those responsible for supporting the host began to age out of the workforce. Kids who came out of school in the ’90s and ’00s weren’t exposed to mainframe-based systems or technologies, so interest waned.
Recently, the need for total computing horsepower has skyrocketed, and we’ve seen a much-appreciated resurgence in the popularity of IBM’s z systems. Mainframes are cool again. Kids are learning about them in university, and hopefully, our back-end data will remain secure as companies realize the true value of Big Iron all over again.

How it Works: KPIs and the future of your business

How do you measure your business goals?
For some companies, success is measured mostly by profits. For others, the key indicator is customer satisfaction. Some companies measure their success by the success of their products. For each of them, however, there is one guarantee – success is never measured by just one criteria.
Not only is it essential to learn what drives success, but smart business executives must also understand why. That means you can’t just collect data, you have analyze it to learn what the information means to your bottom line. Keeping track of all this nuanced information, however, can become extremely overwhelming. That’s why businesses of all sizes turn to software that collects and analyzes key performance indicators, or KPIs.
KPIs help you monitor and manage the metrics that impact company growth. For example, maybe you’re a retailer looking to boost sales by 10% in Q3. KPIs can be used to help you project how to adapt labor and product costs to achieve this goal. KPIs aren’t just for overall company goals. They bring insight into individuals and departments, too. For example, your social media manager should have a list of KPIs that determine whether or not the company’s campaigns are successful at generating qualified leads. Your helpdesk team would work more productively if they had KPIs that kept track of how quickly and effectively they resolve tickets.
Most likely, your business uses KPIs in some form or fashion, but it’s how you utilize the data that makes the real difference. The whole process can even be automated, so your executives don’t need an IT degree to interpret data. Business activity monitoring tools harness big data analytics to bring insight to a broad range of users, from line-of-business to accounting to administrative. This means easy access for the people who need to apply the data toward decisions that impact the whole company.
IBM’s business activity monitoring solution not only provides you with current data, but it also helps you predict future situations by analyzing potential “what-if” scenarios. You can empower your company with analysis-driven strategies, becoming more proactive and less reactive.
The IBM solution isn’t the only one out there, but what set it apart is it’s flexibility. It works for companies of all sizes—from large-scale enterprises to SMBs. So whether you’re a small retailer looking to bring in more customers or a Fortune 500 ready to start a rebranding process, KPI software solutions can help you transform slow and expensive processes into strategies that help you grow.

Time To Study For Your PMP – Don't Panic!

You’ve received the green light from PMI to schedule your test and you’re ready to go! Just one small thing — you have got no idea how much time you should give yourself or what you should spend your study time on.
There’s so much information out there, especially boot camp advertisements with “pass guarantees.” There are tests you can purchase, books you can buy and a fair amount of fear mongering on project management websites, as well.
I wanted to share my method because it was cheap and, for me, it worked. The test is either pass or fail; you don’t receive a percentage, but you do get a breakdown of how you did in each of the five areas: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing. You’re rated as either proficient, moderately proficient or below proficient. I was proficient in four areas and moderately proficient in one. I hope this gives you the confidence to believe me when I say: You do not need to drop $1,000+ on a project management boot camp!
Ok, so what should you do? First, my suggestion is to give yourself four weeks to study. If you give yourself more time you might get in the habit of thinking you don’t need to buckle down because you have more than enough time. You could possibly do this in less time but I spent about 1-2 hours a day over four weeks. If you want to put in more time you can condense this down to about two weeks. If you read my first post you know I suggest signing up for PMI membership, and if you did this you got access to the latest electronic version of the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK). This book is the Bible for project management. Now don’t hate me when I tell you this (remember I just saved you $1,000), but you’re going to need to read this. It’s dry; there are no anecdotes and no cartoons, just facts. But read it once, and then you’re done with it other than as a reference material. I promise.
Now that you have a general concept of the project phases, knowledge areas and processes, you need to memorize them. All of them. The five phases and 10 knowledge areas shouldn’t be too hard.
I used “Integrating Scope and Time Costs Quality Human Resources to Communicate with a Risk of Procuring Stakeholders” as my little reminder for the knowledge areas.
I know, it’s not super catchy; but, it’s not terrible either.
The best way to then memorize the 47 processes, from my point of view, is to memorize how many are in each column (2, 24, 8, 11, 2 across the top) and then also in each row (7 – Time, 6 – Scope, 4 – cost, HR, Procurement, Stakeholder, 3 – Quality and Communications). I stared at the processes chart and then tried writing it out from memory daily. By the start of week 3 of studying you should have this down, but continue writing it out anyways. Disclaimer: I absolutely believe in the power of rote memorization.
The next thing I suggest memorizing cold are project management formulas, I also wrote these out daily. Here’s my list:
CPI*: EV/AC (Considered the most important earned value metric)
EAC: AC + Bottom Up Estimate
Communication Channels: N (n-1)/2
PERT: (P+4M+O)/6
Activity Variance ((P+4M+O)/6) ^2
Future Value: Present value/ (1+r) ^n
Present Value: Future Value (1+r)^n
Internal Rate of Return (Benefit-Cost)/Cost
There are a few more you could memorize, but this is what I did. There’s only so much data you can get down cold and you’ll have to pick and choose.
These two chunks of data are what I included in my brain dump prior to starting the exam. This means that I spent a portion of the testing demo writing this out before taking the test – this way I didn’t cut into the time I had to take the actual test.
As far as ITTOs (Inputs, Tools and Techniques, Outputs), I did not memorize these. I worked on understanding them and being able to recognize the most common. Make sure you have a firm grasp on what constitutes an Enterprise Environmental Factor (an organization’s culture, governance and structure) and what constitutes an Organizational Process Asset (processes, procedures, and knowledge base).
There are some things you’ll need to know about project management that the PMBOK does not cover – remember this exam isn’t just about studying a book, you’re proving that you know and live project management daily. So do yourself a favor and look up these names: Deming, Fielder, Shewart, Ouchi, Juran, Douglas McGregor, Kaizen, Frederick Herzberg, Maslow, McClelland, Vroom and Crosby. These are all theorists in either quality management or behavior management and their theories have an impact on project management processes.
The other half of studying is testing what you’re retaining. There are a ton of practice exams online and a lot ask you to pay. I don’t think you need to. I really hope you got that PMI membership because they have a link on their website to something called Books24x7. It’s access to a ton of relevant reading material. Right now a book called PMP Exam Prep: Questions, Answers & Explanations, 2013 Edition by Christopher Scordo is up there. I took every test in that book and reviewed every answer, both those I got right and what I got wrong. Anything I repeatedly got wrong went on a note sheet to be reviewed daily until I did get it and anything that I didn’t recognize went on a sheet to be Googled later. After finishing this book I moved to This site has full length exams with 200 questions, and gives you the option of reviewing all questions and their answers afterwards. They also track your progress and show your scores in a nifty little bar chart and also even break down your score by project phase area (just like the real exam!). By the time I sat for the exam I’d racked up another eight exams. I would usually do one a night, with a complete review and then look at the notes I’d taken from questions I missed on past exams. I was scoring between 69% and 88% once I moved on to after completing all of Christopher Scordo’s exams.
The night before my test, I took one last practice exam, reviewed the answers and looked at my notes. Then I went to bed early (Don’t skip this part, please; it’s easy).
The day of the test I had breakfast, read my notes one last time and then arrived at the testing center 30 minutes early. All centers are different but I believe the majority recommend coming early as you’ll need to check in (you may need two forms of identification) and put your items in a locker.
Once you’re in the testing center, remember these steps: do your brain dump first, breeze through the testing demo and then focus! I wish you the best of luck on the exam!

The Difference Between Software Asset Management & Software Asset Managed Services

Do you need SAM or SAMS? The distinction’s important.
SAM is Software Asset Management – a big-brush, cost-control effort that typically describes internal efforts to optimize the software investment. Every business needs SAM.
SAMS is Software Asset Managed Services – a more intensive effort that involves the hiring of outside consultants to document, manage and optimize the software investment. SAMS delivers an impartial eye to the enterprise software stack and relieves licensing and regulatory burdens from internal teams. At the same time, SAMS is built to scale so the consultants can smoothly assume a growing management responsibility for the environment. Internal teams are further unburdened from the day-to-day environment problems and are free to focus on business development, new applications, creative solutions and continuous improvement.
Is SAMS right for your business? If you struggle to implement SAM, or if the cost of maintaining your environment is spiraling out of control, then you probably need SAMS.
Assess Your Assets
You need to know what’s running on your stuff. It’s just that simple. But the quest to find the answers can be surprisingly difficult. Some software’s inactive but still deployed. Employees may have downloaded unlicensed copies to fight a vital fire. Auto-renewal payments for licenses may be festering on a former accountant’s laptop.
The effort to control and optimize your software investment starts with wanting to know what you don’t know. TxMQ utilizes the following workflow in its Software Asset Management (SAM) business line. It’s also the initial stage of its Software Asset Managed Services (SAMS) program.
Step 1: Enterprise Discovery
Your business needs to know exactly how many servers are in use. Are the servers spread out geographically? Internationally? What software is deployed? Is it active or legacy? Is it single-sourced? Mixed? Open-source? How sophisticated is security? Is there a single sign-on for the software? What’s the server-level security? How do employees access the servers? What’s the nature of the business?
Step 2: Document The Software
This step determines exactly what software is installed on the servers, the versions, at what levels, how many instances, and how many seats?
Step 3: Determine The SAM Products To Install
Is the goal to manage the assets, or simply audit them? The choice of SAM products and tools is important.
Step 4: Determine Audit Level
Does the enterprise what to perform a simple audit, or a complete audit that includes update histories, patching and software-lifecycle analysis.
Step 5: Develop Reporting Process
Are there limitations to the audit? Who prepares the report? Who sees it?
TxMQ specializes in middleware management and application integration. Licensing is a huge part of our business. We can help. Call or email now for a free, confidential consultation. Reach us before the auditors reach you!
Photo by Daniel Iversen