Monthly Archives: November 2013

Leaving A Legacy

Not long ago I wrote a blog post about the problems of legacy systems and the fact that they can hinder innovation because they leave you tied to old platforms, old programs, and old ideas. Recently, however, I have been thinking about leaving a positive legacy. I think that there are three basic ways that a person can leave a legacy.

1. Build Something

Perhaps your lot in life is to build something great. This could be a great product, a great company or maybe a great process that helps make the world more effective and efficient. Thomas Edison is an example of a person that had the need, the desire, and the skill to build something. He left a lasting legacy in many ways. Whatever you choose to build, I challenge you to build something that will last and not just something for the expediency of the moment or the day. Make it count. Make it last.

2. Teach Someone

Teaching is a way to broaden your reach and your influence. You don’t need to be a formal teacher or professor, but look for opportunities large and small to be able to teach someone a skill, an action or a principle. You may never know the far- reaching consequences of your actions. I believe that John Wooden, the late great UCLA basketball coach was an example of an excellent teacher. < title= Information about John Wooden> Some may argue that his legacy was coaching ten NCAA championship basketball teams, but at the end of the day he was a teacher of young men. He taught them basketball, leadership, and skills that they would retain for the rest of their lives.

3. Inspire Someone

Inspiring someone does not have to be a grand production. Even quiet acts can move people to do great things, and a real-life example is the best kind of inspiration. A number of years ago I attended the funeral of a friend who was prominent in the community. He was generous with both his time and his money. The hall was packed with friends and relatives and I was inspired that day to raise my level of activity and leadership to help in a small way to fill the void that he left. You never know when you might inspire someone else to greatness.


We all have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by building something, teaching someone, or inspiring someone. A transitory legacy is just that, it is transitory. I challenge you to look at your calendar today to see if there is an activity or an appointment or a task that will start you on the road to building your legacy. Build something that will last.

What are you going to do today to build something great or inspire someone else to greatness? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.



Who’s minding the store?

I continue to reflect on the ongoing saga of and the myriad of problems that plague the site. I would like to address some of the best practices in vendor management that will help any IT manager. According to an article in Tech Republic, there are at least fifty-five different contractors working on this project. With so many contractors working on one project, I ask the question: who’s minding the store, and do they have strong project and vendor management practices in place?

Systems Integration

There are 112 different systems under that all need to work correctly on their own and in conjunction with each other. It is difficult enough when the same group is developing and managing all of the applications, but when there are multiple contractors involved, the task becomes monumental. It takes a very strong and organized project leader who is well-versed not only in project management, but also in vendor management. Such a person is worth their weight in gold.

Vendor Management

More and more work gets done through other people and those people are often outside of your organization and outside of your supervisory control. Many people have honed their skills around project management but less so around vendor or contract management, and traditionally, we have left these tasks up to the procurement side of the organization. They can indeed manage the initial contract and talent acquisition but someone in the home organization, IT in this example, needs to be well-versed in day-to-day management of the outside resources. Are they living up to expectations? Are they playing well with the other players? Are they adhering to the standards that have been set for a particular project? A big part of vendor management is to set service level agreements.

Service Level Agreements

A very important part of successful project management is establishing clear service level agreements (SLAs) with each partner or vendor. A good SLA sets forth specific expectations for the vendor and also specific penalties, should the vendor not meet those expectations. SLAs must include periodic project milestones so that you don’t get to the end of the project and realize that vendor X is nowhere near complete. In short, the service level agreement is a measuring stick to mark progress and a guideline on how to deal with non-performance or less than adequate performance.


We may all be put in a situation some day where we are managing a large project that includes outside players and we have to juggle all of the balls at once. It is a skill beyond just project management and it is worth the investment to learn how to manage contracts and vendors. We may never have to deal with something as complex as the federal health exchange website, but it is a worthwhile skill to have.

Have you ever had to manage contracts and/or vendors for a project or ongoing service? What worked well for you? Share your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Clean Slate, Fresh Start: Letting Go of Legacy Systems

I write this blog from beautiful Dubai. As I expand my understanding of this region, I marvel at the lack of legacy infrastructure, both computing and community. The United Arab Emirates were only formed in 1971 and Dubai was a founding member. The region obviously existed before 1971 but only as a loose band of tribes. It was another ten years or so before Dubai took off and took advantage of their lucrative port position and the discovery of oil. In effect, the infrastructure shared by two million people and countless visitors is only thirty years old.

What would you do?

Dubai is a very modern city and now attracts ten million visitors a year and expects to increase that to twenty million by 2020. The second airport was just opened this week as the first airport has reached capacity. There is constant construction to keep up with the demand of commerce and residential growth. There are also new roads constantly under construction to meet demand.

The emergence of this region seems unencumbered by legacy infrastructure and it brings me to the question: what would my computing environment look like if I could start fresh and not be held back by legacy systems and legacy networking? What if I could deploy the newest servers, newest applications, and fastest networking? Am I being held back by the structure I already have in place?


In Dubai, they control automobile speeding by a series of cameras. If you are unfortunate enough to be caught speeding (I know this secondhand only, thank goodness), you will see a flash and then receive a text message with instructions on how to pay your fine. So many systems have to work together to make this succeed. First of all, the camera infrastructure has to be in place. Second, the motor vehicle database has to have complete information tied to each automobile registration. Third, the driver has to have the capability to receive the message and the ability to comply with the instructions. Because they were able to start with a clean slate, they were able to develop this system.


Think about your own situation and ask yourself what is holding you back. Not everyone gets the chance to do a Greenfield project and start everything from scratch. Do you have legacy systems and applications in your business that cost you more than the value they provide? Would it be a prudent investment to finally retire those apps or that hardware and migrate? Would you save money and headaches in the long run? It is something to consider.

Now, I take this metaphor of legacy systems one step further and ask myself: are there beliefs, ideas, processes, and activities in my personal life that are legacy and holding me back? The answer for me is a resounding yes. Is there something that I can do to move off this personal legacy platform and move on to 2.0? Yes. Would my life be more efficient if I were able to move beyond these legacy activities and on to fresh thinking? That is my challenge and I want to make it your challenge this week as well. What can you do to start moving towards 2.0?

Let me know how you are progressing in your journey.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Ready, Set, Go! The Value of Testing Before a Web Launch

IT has been in the news lately with the less-than-successful launch of the government healthcare exchange website, For some, it is an indictment of technology gone wild and for others it is clear evidence of political ineptitude. I am not used to seeing political cartoons about information professionals, but it is becoming the new norm. The reasons behind the failure are complex, but I would like to focus on one this week that I think will help all of us to avoid missteps such as this in the future. One thing that is imperative at a new launch is load testing.


Load testing is defined as executing the largest number of tasks, under test, that the system can handle. It also means understanding the behavior of the system under that maximum load. Is it just slow or is it completely unavailable? One may be acceptable and the other unacceptable. Load testing is most successful when the maximum number of users or concurrent processes is known in advance. In the case of the healthcare exchange, I believe that there is enough data to predict how many people would try to access the site in any given period.

All the Way Down the Line

It all sounds so simple but it can get very complicated. Not only do you need to test the potential load on the website and the web application, but you also need to test the potential load on the web server, the database serving the information, the database server, and the network tying it all together. Weak performance in any of these can cause the kind of problems seen with This is where an IT troubleshooter is worth their weight in gold. Someone who understands the interoperability between all of these systems and processes can root out potential problems before the application goes live.

Common Sense

When to launch a new application or website is also partly common sense. Computer testing can only go so far. If, what is reported in the Washington Post is correct, not only did the load test fail, the common sense test failed as well:

“Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously. Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.”

In cases such as this I think of the immortal words of Walt Kelly: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”


It is possible to correctly predict the performance of an application and have a wildly successful launch. Do you have stories of successes, large or small? Do you have stories of failures that you would just as soon forget but provided great lessons to you and others? I encourage you to share your story so that we can all learn. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.