The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Do you think IT decision drivers are changing?

choices.jpgFor a while now there is constant conversation that the traditional drivers are obsolete. Do you think that is true or are we just looking at the problem differently. IT organizations have gotten into the habit of striving for:

  • Reduced operating costs
  • Reduced total cost of ownership and predictability
  • Increased Service quality (usually measured by component uptime)

Now business organizations claim they are looking for IT’s effect on:

  • Business growth
  • Flexibility to addressing changing needs
  • Increased service quality (now measured by time-to-market, time to action, security)

These are not totally the opposite, the way they might seem, though the difference can be quite jarring if you can’t adjust your perspective. To me it is like the difference between velocity and acceleration. Without one you can’t have the other.


For example: we need our lowest cost, but with business growth that effective IT should enable, the costs (and value) may increase. It is the abundance of capabilities that allowed us to look at the problems differently.


Usually within a few moments of starting a discussion with a group you can understand their view of the world. You then need to decide what you can do about it.

Enterprise architecture and the need for governance at multiple speeds


business choice.pngI was looking at the McKinsey Quarterly Review for Q4 2014 at an article describing the need for Running Your Company at Two Speeds. In this article it discussed the fact that many organizations governance processes don’t really differentiate between incremental innovations & maintenance and projects that are more disruptive – part of a new style of doing business and IT.


One of the roles of Enterprise architecture is to separate out these projects and differentiate them based on impact to the organization. The ‘one governance process fits all’ shouldn’t be part of a modern organizations approach. Confronting the need to change the framework of IT practices and organizational processes is clearly in the role of the EA.


Although the article mentioned the type of changes needed and how they need to happen, it didn’t really define who needs to initiate the change. If an organization has an EA structure, I’d place it firmly at their feet – to pick up and run with.


“A two-speed approach to architecture will help companies navigate what’s likely to be a tricky period of transition"


This week is National Engineer’s Week.

eweek.pngThis week is National Engineer’s Week.


Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek (February 22–28, 2015) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.


I mentioned the Raspberry Pi in space effort and will be judging a robotics competition later this week. What engineering related activities will be going on near you?

STEM in space...

raspberry PI.pngI do quite a bit of work with STEM efforts in the spring, so this week when I saw the blog post on the Astro Pi Mission Update it was exciting. For those who are not familiar with the Raspberry Pi, it is a low cost, experimenter’s computer. And now it is going to the International Space Station along with the British astronaut Tim Peake.


What is the most exciting though is that UK schools can have the same hardware that will be used for experiments on the space station and incorporated into the classwork! I am sure this is getting a great deal of press in the UK, but I’d not heard about it here.


The unit being used is a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ with a special HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) module. This module will have a collection of sensors specifically designed for use in this mission, and an 8x8 matrix of LEDs. You can even buy your own (when it is soon released).


That is exciting in itself but taking it a step further (at least from a gamification perspective) is the Astro Pi competition. UK schools can enter and submit programs, and experiments, and the winning submission will be taken on the mission and performed on the space station, itself.


These are the types of activities that generate new scientists and engineers. I am going to be judging the FIRST Robotics Competition in Dallas again next week and it has similar aspirations of impact.

Rethinking User Interfaces

User interface design has gone down some interesting paths in recent months. I just saw this project based on some work out of Purdue that creates 3D designs much like a potter creates pottery. The project is called Handy-Potter.



The program demonstrates a gesture-based shape modeling, winning the best paper award in ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference. The 3D designs created by this approach is much more intuitive than using traditional CAD tools.


Now that computers are starting to have more gesture-based interfaces, some real innovation in business applications and their interface should be possible. It may not be limited to PCs though, with the level of surveillance enabled by the Internet of Things, we may just tap into the sensing that's around us.


There are also cases where the interface is the sensor itself. A while back, I purchased the Kinect Interface for windows to enable some 3D scanning (of larger objects). It actually worked fairly well even with just the 3D builder from the Microsoft store.



Most of the real design heavy lifting (to stitch together a 3D model) is left to the software, so the user interface is intuitive.


With these relatively low-cost but high-power capabilities, maybe it will bring the Minority Report style interface into normal business applications.


As I said back in 2006 when I saw G-Speak:

“I can't wait to see a BPMN interface defined that allows the movement of work functions and resources around a screen. I can easily see a room of business folks really think about the problem differently when they can physically flail around and reach a common understanding of new and existing business functions.”

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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