Alexander Pokorny | Questions and Answers

What is your consulting philosophy?

In my early days as entrepreneur, I have learned the values of understanding business needs to grow revenue and create efficient and cost effective processes and IT workflows. My career in a multi-national cooperation enabled me to build expertise on top of those experiences advocating for optimal solutions regarding IT landscape implementation or change.

  • Analyzing and understanding business needs and processes,
  • Using my entrepreneurial spirit to advocate for cost-effective solutions to support the business requirements and workflows,
  • Shaping complex business challenges into workable solutions and business logic ready to be implemented in systems,
  • Reducing the number of diverse systems, landscapes and software providers to reduce cost,
  • Visualize data and create measurable results to argue for changes and enhancements,
  • Implement in order to add value to the business and contribute to overall growth of revenue.

What is your vision of IT DevOps?

  • DevOps is agile IT (operations) delivery, required to match the cadence of agile IT development.
  • DevOps is a philosophy, not a method, or framework, or body of knowledge, or *shudder* vendor’s tool.
  • DevOps is the philosophy of unifying Development and Operations at the culture, practice, and tool levels, to achieve accelerated and more frequent deployment of changes to Production.

(Rob England: The IT Skeptic)

The above citation does well cover the fundamentals of an IT delivery process, building interfaces between development, operations, and quality control, together with a strong stake of the respective business customer(s). This is more than a simple process, it is rather an inter-disciplinary cross-functional philosophy and the introduction of such a model does also imply a significant corporate cultural change.

Governance with a strong focus on Continuous Delivery and Integration makes sure business value is added as fast as possible, as robust as possible, with cost-effectiveness in mind and with the highest business value thus maximizing customer satisfaction.

What are your IT management principles?

I have started to run IT projects in the past using the classical waterfall model and using rapid development techniques.

IT governance models suffer from the main pitfall of lacking flexibility and slow delivery of business value. This causes uses to find alternative "workaround" solutions and sometimes leads to "Shadow IT" problems.

My main effort to overcome these issues are based on a couple of years experience of delivering global enterprise scale projects:

  • Agile development methodologies like Scrum, with some modifications to fit the enterprise landscape,
  • Proper product ownership and clear responsibilities,
  • Speed of delivery, by tuning sprint duration and proper incident management,
  • Ad-hoc delivery by using sandbox and product support systems,
  • Permanent staff, proper support, and training,
  • Self-service features wherever possible.

What is your approach to IT architecture?

I have found the main challenges in the following areas:

  • Business requirements and user expectations vs. technical feasibility,
  • ETL – data transfer, transformations and interfaces,
  • Orchestration of complex diverse landscapes distributed over multiple locations (systems and users), and the cloud,
  • Challenge of diverse products and proprietary software integration.

New developments or enhancements to existing architectures require a cross-functional approach and usually a carefully planned blueprint-period. Before starting the actual development, my experience shows that a sandbox environment and proof-of-concept can be very beneficial, depending on the size and impact of the project.

The following considerations are very helpful to guarantee adding long term value:

  • Balance between benefits and costs (both HR and IT),
  • Balance between off-the-shelf and custom development,
  • Embedding the architecture in a global future strategy/vision,
  • Standardizing and consolidating historically grown legacy applications thus reducing platform diversity and TCO.

What is your IT development background?

In the early 1990's I started to develop software on a daily basis in various languages, solving scientific problems by developing specific algorithms, as there was no off-the-shelf software available for the specific research in Physical Chemistry.

These scientific problems formed my fundamental skill set to analyze issues, formalize them, derive algorithmic solutions, and finally implement them.

Starting at the age of nine years, my first programming language was BASIC. The language of choice for scientific computing was Fortran, later I decided to re-code general parts of the code in C++, as there are much more convenient libraries available, and to link only performance critical modules written in Fortran.

Using Linux as main platform, I became familiar with a variety of scripting languages, and LaTeX as the main mathematical typesetting system.

The knowledge of administrating UNIX based systems and set up of all kind of servers, databases etc. became the basis for some projects in which I was later involved as entrepreneur and consultant.

In the corporate environment, I then worked in a Microsoft environment and with SAP.

What is your Database expertise?

I am experienced in a wide range of (mainly relational) database systems, architectures, and platforms, including SAP with profound knowledge of the underlying data models and tables, MS SQL, Oracle, open source solutions (e.g. mysql, postgres etc. for web projects and content management solutions), as well as stored procedure and data set based developments, created complex algorithms and calculations in SQL, designed transactional (OLTP) and DW (OLAP) as well as mixed-scenario systems, supervised technical maintenance, setup, and administration, designed multi data source landscapes based on transactional replication, ETL, trigger based data transfer and high security data access architectures with encryption and limited access e.g. secured by RSA tokens.

I have expert skills in coding various dialects of SQL implementing complex stored procedures and mathematical algorithms, including performance optimization, execution schema analysis, replication approaches, data interfaces (integration, ETL), complex reporting projects, iterative approaches for "Bill of Material" Explosion, specific algorithms for alternative branches and permutations, Tally table approaches, alternative hierarchy models (e.g. Joe Celko's Nested Sets) XML handling in SQL databases etc.

What is your Microsoft Sharepoint expertise?

Apart from setting up all aspects of Sharepoint portals with user management, Wikis, surveys, customizing lists, metadata management and workflows, I have developed a cross-location collaborative project management and customer complaints portal.

The portal is Sharepoint with certain customization (Sharepoint Designer) and InfoPath forms, and injecting CSS and Javascript code to asynchronously connect to the Sharepoint backend and implement features which would have otherwise required a full database backend. Any specific Sharepoint development which required deployment on the farm level had to be avoided because of security restrictions.

The portal handles task lists, statistical evaluations and KPI views for management, certain charts to visualize data and dynamic grids (using jQuery and other Javascript add-ons). Also, iterative workflows have been implemented, which work also on older versions of Sharepoint and do not require a server side workflow.

What is your SAP expertise?

I have been using several modules and functionalities of SAP, but mainly driven by data exchange and transfer requirements. Therefore I have extensive knowledge of SAP table structure and underlying functionality, landscape, layers, and database backend. This enables me to analyzed and define interface requirements and approaches (e.g. RFC modules and connections between SAP ECC and SQL databases), as well as to understand and handle the challenges transitioning to SAP HANA.

What is your approach to adopt SAP HANA?

SAP HANA is a different concept and landscape requiring re-consideration of several traditional IT concepts.

Deviation from the three-tier application model, where then business layer and calculation logic is closely integrated with the data layer in the database,

  • De-Normalization of the data model to support a better data model for column store indexes,
  • In-memory concepts and IT management (disaster recovery and backup strategies),
  • Change management (transition via Suite on HANA or directly to SAP S/4HANA)

Overall, SAP HANA has also to be evaluated against other in-memory technologies like Microsoft SQL Hekaton engine and the existing landscape, and requires a very sensitive approach regarding sizing and the resulting cost impact.