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Architecture Practice in the New Style of IT (1 of 5): Meta Forces of Change

By:  Dr. Peter Beijer, Chief Technologist, Hewlett Packard Company

 

Authors Note:  This is the first in a series of five blogs that explores how the New Style of IT affects IT architecture practices.

 

storm clouds - compressed.jpgWe’ve all witnessed the rise of technologies such as Cloud computing, social media, mobility and Big Data. We call this the New Style of IT.  The messages that go along with it speak of an inflection point we have reached in the IT industry: change is on its way, and this time it will be different. Being an IT architecture practitioner for almost two decades I ask myself: “is that so?” Of course I too evolved over the years in doing things better, trying different techniques, embracing new technologies, but it takes more to convince a critical reflective practitioner (that’s what architects are) that ‘this time it will be different.’

I am leading HP’s architecture profession in EMEA and have the moral obligation to inspire my fellow practitioners. Therefore, I have to dive into this subject. To explore how the New Style of IT affects IT architecture practices, I will use “is this time different?” as a running question visiting five topics (with a separate blog for each topic):

  • Meta forces of change: What is fundamentally driving the information society?
  • Change of Business and IT strategies:  Are IT and Business strategies changing with the New Style of IT?
  • Architecture Function: Do enterprises require changing processes and roles in relation to architecture?
  • Architecture Discipline: Are our methods, rules and best practices still appropriate for doing architecture?
  • Architecture Profession: Do architects need other expertise and skills to get the job done and progress their career?  

The contemporary information society

How digital technologies infected our society is very noticeable; they merged with our day-to-day lives, products & services and business practices. For example, my running shoes became wearable technology connected to my Smartphone, and I can now book hotels, restaurants and taxis from every corner of the street. It seems to be the result of a perfect storm where the speed of change, the increase of digital capacity, and the societal adaption of ‘the digital’ has resulted in a true digital society.

 

Consider this: It took only nine days for Draw Something, the addictive social drawing game, to reach one million users, while it took America Online nine years. One billion posts on Facebook and 200 million tweets on Twitter result in 2.5 billion Exabyte of data each day. IDC recently increased its forecast from five to 10 Zeta Bytes of data worldwide by 2020.

 

Of course, we do monitor technology trends, but the effects of some disruptive changes can be extremely difficult to anticipate. Did we expect Twitter to become a political instrument? Did we expect it would fundamentally change the marketing realm into social media-driven models of engagements?  Did we expect it to be a primary tool for bringing down governments?  Did we expect it to become a force for good, in serving as a major communications channel during disasters?

 

Disruptive change is most noticeable when it affects our daily habits, such as brushing your teeth with the wrong hand. For businesses, it may mean that proven business models are suddenly swept away, but disruptive change can also introduce new opportunities. For example, cars connected to the Internet will dramatically change the insurance industry with personalized insurances (based on driving behavior) and car-to-car communications will lead to safer roads for traveling.

 

When everything gets connects to each other, as with objects and information systems, a number of things start to accelerate: the speed of change, the growth of data, and the number of innovations that will disrupt society.

 

Meta forces of change

The changes currently happening around us are the result of three Meta forces: constant miniaturization of technology, self-propelling qualities of data and the rise of non-rational values.

 

  1. Constant miniaturization.  Do you agree there is more compute power in today’s Smartphones than there was in a large room full of computers 30 years ago? The boundaries of Moore’s law have yet to be reached and technology continues to find its way into smaller objects. Did you notice that the American Food and Drug Agency (FDA) approved the first human implantable radio frequency identification in 2013? A microchip no bigger than a grain of rice can be implanted in the upper arm of patients for connecting to healthcare systems. The accelerated growth of data is easy to imagine when everything of that size gets an IP address - information becomes omnipresent!
  2. Self-propelling qualities of data.  The abundance of information rules the roost in a contemporary information society. Systems propagate information to other systems, thus making information a self-propelling entity. Look at how newspapers analyze Twitter trends and use journalistic software to generate articles. Attach a related image from a photographic database, and it’s ready for publication on their website. Others crawl these websites for feeding their own information systems, feeding other systems again, and so forth. Scientists call this phenomenon ‘technical’ information [1].
  3. Non-rational values.  With the emancipation and democratization of information, the digital divide becomes evident: digital-savvy individuals connect to a world of information developing new businesses and above all, new value-systems that exhibit strong non-rational values. Some examples would include strong affection with certain brands of smartphones or, as a recent study reported, young people leaving Facebook as it has lost its “coolness” with too many of the elderly as members [2].

Is it different this time?

When technology has become the size of a grain of rice, when information is exploding and when our value systems are fundamentally changing, we can say with certainty that, yes this time it is different. These three Meta forces have resulted in a consumer-driven society with very different economies driven by abundance. With an abounding plethora of technology and information, employees now connect to information systems that are outside the boundaries of the enterprise and have unknown vulnerabilities. The effects on organizational practices have just started to surface and CIOs/CTOs are facing new challenges to manage their information infrastructures.

 

Next up:  The New Style of IT – Evolution of IT and Businesses

 

References

[1] Kallinikos, J. (2006). The consequences of information. Institutional implications of technological change. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

 

[2] iStrategy Labs (2014), 3 Million Teens Leave Facebook In 3 Years: The 2014 Facebook Demographic Report, http://tinyurl.com/qda3fho

 

Related links:

About the Author

 

Peter Beijer.pngDr. Peter Beijer, Chief Technologist, Hewlett Packard Company

Peter works in the Office of the CTO for HP Enterprise Services leading the architecture profession for EMEA. He is a recognized pioneer in practicing HP’s architecture methods and a core contributor to the development of the architecture profession. He is a member of the Specification Authority for Open Certified Architect (Open CA) in the Open Group; eligible certification board member and chair, and holds a professional certification by the Open Group as Master Certified IT Architect. Peter received a Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam concerning economies of meaning in image building for innovation processes.

Comments
Margaret Hanlon(anon) | ‎07-30-2014 03:55 PM

Great article.  However, I do have a problem with the words "non-rational values".  Values are personal and sometimes tend to be subjective.  Values should not be judged as rational or non-rational.  They are what they are. 

 

Taking your Facebook example, from my experiencs, younger generations have consistently valued "coolness".  The defintion of "coolness" changes by it's very nature.  It is therefore difficult to predict and this presents companies with the challenge of guessing or influencing what the next cool thing will be.  But it cannot be considered a non-rational value. 

PeterBeijer | ‎08-05-2014 09:14 AM

Margaret, thank you.

 

You are absolutely right: values are what they are, but as you indicated can also be of vary different nature and have different origins. For example, values that follow Marx’s labor theory can be reasoned – think of the means-end scheme, while in his terminology exchange-value and use-value already follow different theories. In a leading article on trademark dilution Klieger, an attorney, points out how people are willing to pay a premium for products with differentiating tangible characteristics versus products that are based primarily on non-rational or emotional basis (note the word non-rational).

 

In the contemporary information society, however, there is much more to it. Social sciences use the term “sign-value”, coined by Baudrillard, to indicate how the idea of capital, value, changes fundamentally in the information society. Sign-value, however, is a difficult concept to grasp requiring a lot more information to explain (could write another blog series about that). I use the term non-rational value instead as a container to address all values that we cannot rationalize, are emotional, etc.

 

I admit, the word value has different interpretations and different meanings. Or are we substituting value for meaning? ;-)

 

You raised an interesting point about the challenge that companies have to guess or influence what the next cool thing will be. This is exactly the point I am trying to make: this will be a frequent topic in the C-suite.

 

Thanks for great question!

 

Peter

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