If you’d like to track us in real time from tomorrow Nick is using and app on his phone:
We’ve created a Strava club so you can see how much training we’ve been doing and also it shows our latest route plans:
We’re planning on getting out on our last proper training ride this weekend and then will be taking it easy to let the legs prepare for the onslaught that will be riding from one end of the country to the other!
Thanks for all your support – we are looking forward to it and slightly daunted in equal measure!
Andy, Anthony, Nick and Ollie
So I thought I’d put up some more information about the charity cycling expedition I am taking on with Andy, Anthony and Nick from the 10th May.
We are doing it over 8 days so about 115 miles a day with some serious climbing. Even with the training we are doing its going to be painful! We are doing it unsupported – carrying minimal baggage and staying in basic B&B and Youth Hostel accommodation.
Quick link to our charity fund raising page is here.
So here is the route we are planning to take each day along with the elevation profiles! Yes we are crazy! Note that Day 2/3 has changed slightly – will update the maps below when I get a moment. Route is still the same just shorter day 2 longer day 3.
Total distance = 1,474 KM or 916 miles!
If you can please do support our charities – we are riding for St Mungos Broadway (a homeless charity) and Royal Marsden Cancer (who provide world-class care for cancer patients, and undertake pioneering work in cancer research and education).
You can make a donation via our fund raising page here. All donations help motivate us to go through the pain of training and it will be good to know we have your support when we are on the road doing it!
Many thanks for reading!
The 12 rules of the Joel Test served me well when I was a developer and development manager. In particular the principle of fixing bugs before writing new code. I will be honest though and say that at times to be pragmatic this had to be fix bugs whilst developing new features! But the bugs could not be over looked – after all this technical debt would bite at some point. Generally at the middle of the night on a weekend…
It strikes me that when looking at a typical company project portfolio a similar mistake is being made at a project level. Projects to deliver new capabilities or features are being initiated on a somewhat unstable foundation. You can think of the “bugs” at this level as a highly manual (or prone to failure) process as well as technology related issues. I am not saying here that IT teams shouldn’t innovate or add new features or be business aligned – of course they should. But we all need to grow up a bit and realise that the short cuts that get made to deliver projects on time and budget need to be addressed if we want to do sustainable business in the digital age.
Sustainable business means not just delivering new products or features quickly; but to be able to continue to do so. To be able to continuously innovate quickly and to respond to market forces. Also building robust, scalable, flexible, secure (etc) solutions that lead to satisfied (hopefully delighted) customers – who aren’t constantly irritated by failings in your services. Of course there is a balance to be struck and in reality it comes down to having a good strategy (e.g. building flexible, well integrated, adaptable platforms rather than churning out a mess of point solutions). There is also a degree of risk taking here too – being bold and deciding what the capabilities are that you believe the business will need in order to respond to the market – rather than having your hand forced into being entirely reactive.
Often I feel like Enterprise Architecture gets challenged (“what value does it add?”) or plainly just isn’t understood (“sorry what was your job title again”, “what does that mean exactly”). And as EAs we often don’t do ourselves any favours by not making it simple for stakeholders to understand our value proposition. For me this area is a fundamental value and benefit of Enterprise Architecture. In that you have a team who is focused on pulling the Enterprise (or if just constrained to thinking technology the IT estate) towards a sustainable path for future success. In a world where projects are often king its important to have a team thinking about the longer term effects and how to pragmatically address failings.
So I’ve finally upgraded my mobile, after having stuck it out with an iPhone 3GS for far to long I feel like I have moved into the 22nd century with the Sony Xperia Z1!
So first off – size. Yes it is big, a lot bigger than my old iPhone, even bigger than the S4. But I’ve got used to it easily and it doesn’t feel too big in most cases. It does poke out of some trouser pockets though!! However the advantage is that I will be reaching for a tablet or PC far less as the screen is amazing.
Camera is very good and has some great modes – Timeburst is very useful (Google photos creates animated GIFs automatically from this mode as well it would seem!) Augmented Reality is pretty fun as well. Image quality is very good and the lens offers a decent wide angle.
The things that I didn’t expect but have really impressed me is the audio quality on calls. Its also a brilliant speakerphone good enough to do meetings with (the 3GS was shocking in this regard).
Battery seems good – as a comparison a 1.5 hr bike ride on Strava (screen off) on the 3GS killed 40-50% of battery. It only takes 6% of the battery on the Z1! In generally usage I have about 50% remaining at the end of the day, and thats without using the Stamina mode which claims to boost the longevity by about x2.
Only glitch I have found so far is that if the phone gets too hot it will stop you from using the camera with a warning message telling you it needs to cool down!
So overall – so far so good!…
Will be Lands End to John O’Groats! (LEJOG) with 2 friends – for a Cancer Charity.
Over 8 days in May 2014.
Training regime must therefore continue…
More details to follow!
Friends and family – if you are interested in joining me then let me know!!!
Wow what an experience the RideLondon-Surrey 100 was! Riding on closed roads was such a blast. Completed the course in a much quicker time than I expected – 5 hours 3 minutes!
Full pictures: http://flickr.com/gp/67554089@N00/g5ShR5/
I am very appreciative of the support that colleagues, friends and family have given me for my BHF charity fundraising. My fundraising total now stands at £532 so thank you. UPDATE: with work match funding the final total was over £1000 🙂
Some observations are as follows:
Generally really well organized, although there was a lot of moaning online about various things – like having to pre-register the days before the event etc. But I guess that is to be expected.
Quite a few people were waiting just after the depart fictif (where the waves were released but not actually timed from – that was 2 miles down the road) I guess for their friends or club mates to they could ride as a group.
I underestimated how effective my training would be and/or the effect of riding as a big group – when I originally entered I put myself down as 6hr30 but completed in just over 5hrs.
Make better use of the baggage drop off and pick up – put a change of clothes and shoes in the bag so once finished you can take advantage of the changing tents etc
There was a real split of riders wanting to complete in a fast time versus take in the ambience and not taking it (or their training/preparation) too seriously. As a result there was a bit of a conflict in latter waves (I was in wave G) as you had slower riders and people like myself trying to ride as efficiently and fast as possible by avoiding braking, cornering wide using a racing line and descending quickly. Many riders stuck to the left (ingrained in everyone from riding on public roads when open!) – in some respects this was a good thing as it allowed faster riders to overtake down the right side – but it did mean many were braking too much and having to pedal after the corners to get back up to speed.
I think due to the last point they should ask you how seriously you will be taking the ride – will you be plodding around or taking full advantage of the closed roads (and have experience of riding in larger groups) so these groups of riders can be better separated from the start.
Sprinting down the mall at the end was such a buzz (although as you can see from my face I dug deep!), in fact I had such an endorphin high most of the ride to the point that I was getting quite emotional – had to calm myself down on many occasions!
Not sure how folks did it in just over 4 hours – did they not stop at all for water? I am guessing not!
For those who want to see more data on my ride:
Official Stats: http://bit.ly/cronkyrl
And there is of course still time to donate to BHF!!! http://www.justgiving.com/olivercronk
Nice Article from the Guardian on the RideLondon weekend and general observations relating to cycling:
Disclaimer – this doesn’t really describe a single organisation that I have worked at – it’s a collective summary of my experience of working in IT (and that of present and former colleagues) working in medium and large sized organisations. Also the core message probably applies to many other business areas and not just IT in the value of thinking strategically (and the value of Enterprise Architecture).
Many of you reading this working in an organisation over a few hundred people will recognise that IT is often not able deliver effectively. Either in its ability to provide what the business needs today or its ability to be adapted quickly to the demands of the markets it operates in. Often IT systems are fragmented, silo’d and un-able to share data with each other. This leads to horrible/bizarre manual processes (such as manual re-keying of information) to allow business units to work effectively with each other, cross-functionally. It often seems too much of a bold move to take step back and plan or focus on internal IT improvements when there is so much demand for business driven change that needs to be done yesterday.
The key thing that needs to happen to most organisations IT landscape is that it needs to be simplified. The horrible evolved mess needs to be analysed and worked through to understand how to make it simpler. Some technical teams may criticise architects for wanting to make the IT landscape “look prettier”. However I believe that simplicity = ease of understanding, ease of use, faster to change and crucially lower cost to operate. All good things surely? Sometimes a team mentality might be to keep things as complex, messy or misunderstood as possible – so that they are “indispensable”. But that also means they can’t really be promoted. In technical terms – just like you can have very bad messy programming code – the same applies at the IT landscape level across all the different systems and teams.
I believe a lot of the problems are down to the fact that IT systems tend to evolve rather than being properly planned. Of course there is going to be a degree of emergence when organisations are big and complex and not everything can be planned for; but to me if feels a little like many organisations are in a hole and keep digging themselves deeper. By this I mean that due to the lack of roadmapping and thinking more end to end about what data, systems, processes and skills are needed it results in more and more tactical workarounds to keep delivering. Each time a new solution is added it just makes things more complex and harder to change in the future.
Its easier to be reactive and been seen to deliver, deliver, deliver than think strategically alongside delivery. Also thinking strategically is hard work. It takes time to understand the bigger picture, abstract problems, create models and think about where things should go and how they should work. Not only that but its also hard to think about how to transition from the mess you are in today to your target state once you have come up with it.
I fear this is one of the reasons IT professionals can become reactive – simply responding to the next request from the business to deliver something as quickly as possible. And of course delivering for the business isn’t a bad thing – just if its done in a way which doesn’t think about the future state of the organisation or the architecture where problems creep (or flood!) in over time.
IT personnel can promoted to recognise their loyalty (and because of the detailed understanding of the mess that has evolved, and they may even be a one man dependency) rather than their ability to take the next step up (and think more strategically). Sometimes this means that they still have to do elements of their previous roles and don’t actually have time to do their new roles properly. So all this compounds the problem – as they often created the problems in the first place they may not radically change approach – if they even recognise some of the problems they need to be brave to admit they made mistakes in the past that need to be put right. That is if they even have the time to think about them – their may simply be fighting the next fire.
“We’ll fix that in the next phase” – How often are promises made to unpick tactical work arounds and technical debt later on but then never happens.
“This is just how it works around here – we don’t have time to improve our processes and systems as we are too busy delivering”
“Our funding is based on a 12 month period – all work needs to deliver by the end of the year – we cannot have projects that go over multiple financial years its just not how the planning cycle works”.
“We don’t ever decommission anything – we just add new systems but as we don’t know if the old ones are still used for something business critical we leave them alone.”
IT costs then simply build up over time to a point where almost all the budget is spent on running stuff that the business is already reliant on and there is then less and less time or money to work strategically. Leading to a vicious cycle.
What is the answer? Well of course there isn’t a magic bullet but I do think some maturing is needed – becoming more confident in pushing back on certain things in order that a better long term path can be taken. Becoming confident in challenging not only the business but technology management. Making sure that business sponsors prioritise and not just claim that everything is top priority and needs to be done now. But also thinking about the full lifecycle of a solution – not just implementing it rolling it out and then letting it rust. Very few people seem to consider how long systems will be used for – 5 years? 10 years? When should you consider to retire an application? Talking about retirement of a system you are just rolling out seems to be taboo.
Personally I believe you have to try and make time to consider the possibilities of new technology or process approach on your organisation or department – not because you want the technology on your CV but because you can see clear business value – that you can articulate to others. Sell your ideas, if you have to use some of your own time to create roadmaps – they don’t have to be long and complex they can be 1 or 2 page diagrams (showing as is and to be; along with supporting business justification).
Explain the risks of taking a reactive approach – one man dependencies are a massive operational risk for example. Not considering how a solution will scale to meet demand is a reputational risk waiting to happen – run through what if scenarios with your stakeholders to get them to understand why things need to change and/or why investment in internal improvement is crucial. The improvement to IT employee engagement can be a key selling point too – particularly if you have a churn issue in your IT team – ask yourself why people aren’t happy and engaged.
And of course its a balance between getting something out the door quickly which might open up a market opportunity, being engaged with the business and longer term simplicity. You can fall into a trap of being very academic by following architectural frameworks to the letter and getting very theoretical (although a dose of that – i.e. 1-2 determined, principled, purist architects to pull things in a different direction can be healthy for very immature organisations).
One thing I would say is don’t give up on trying to improve – even if its just incremental improvements – maybe to the data models to begin with, introducing a principle, improving documentation, making something more portable or secure (as its generally the non functional requirements like security and scalability that suffer). Think about what the biggest impact will be to the organisation (and in fact what will free up technology team time so you can pick off the next challenge?)
You should reach a tipping point where you can start to deliver things more consistently and with a high level of quality – and then it will then click with everyone else and people will wonder why they didn’t plan more and consider things over a longer time frame before!
Hopefully some food for thought anyway…
Have cycled over 819KM (508miles) in April so far! Training is going really well. If you’d like to sponsor me (go on you know you want to!) and donate to British Heart Foundation then go to http://www.justgiving.com/olivercronk Thanks and sorry to be an online/social chugger!