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

Displaying articles for: January 2014

A services framework for a one-stop experience

The core capabilities of IT organizations for the future definitely require the ability to manage 3rd parties effectively as well as the ability to deploy services seamlessly and securely. Tools and techniques are needed to enable this more dynamic environment.


For many organizations the Lines of Business have become frustrated with their ability to get what they need quickly and took matters into their own hands building up a layer of shadow IT (shadow IT can become a significant portion of the IT spend).


I try not to post too much on HP specific tools, except when it seems they are not getting the visibility they need – it was talked about back in December, but now it’s real.


HP Propel free catalog service is focused on helping deliver IT services. It was released today. Propel was announced on December 3rd 2013 and presented at HP Discover in Barcelona and in the web event on January 8 of this year.


HP Propel is the new services framework that delivers a modern portal, a service catalog, knowledge management, news feeds, and an open service exchange. It provides a unified experience to enterprise users, facilitating self-service support with aggregated catalog strategy and friendly request handling through integrated fulfilment engines. HP offers Propel as a free and as a premium service.

The key features of HP Propel free include:

  • Single portal as the one-stop shop for all IT services, from the latest IT news, shopping from a standard service catalog, or searching for the latest knowledge articles curated by HP.  Accessible from the web or mobile device, Propel is available in English, French and German.
  • Standard catalog with 100 of the most common IT services, fulfilled through email requests to IT’s existing back-end fulfillment engines.
  • Knowledge base with immediate access to 500 knowledge articles from HP IT, applicable to any user and IT organization.
  • IT News to keep end users informed and up-to-date. You can load your own RSS feeds to share your latest IT service information with web and mobile users.


Key benefits for customers using HP Propel free:

  • Quick startup of the Propel free service.
  • No upfront investment and operations.
  • Accelerated time-to-value in delivering your IT services, while continuing to use all existing service management products, for example HP or third party products.

Customers who wish to move to a more robust, premium service can design their own customized solution.


Take a look at the capabilities yourself, just register for Propel free.


Approaching UCC and mobility

working together.GIFI was just in conversation with an individual about what should be the common concerns about organizations implementing Unified Communications and mobility.


The first thing I thought of is that these are both really environmental concerns for the individual and the organization. They are not really about technologies, although technologies definitely help address the requirements when they are identified. It is really the business requirements driving this forward though to make decisions faster or better. It can be about costs, but that misses the real opportunity.


So our discussion moved to who should be involved when addressing these areas. My first thought was to the business people who have problems that need to be solved. Then the enterprise architects who understand the current environment at a macro level and how the current business needs are addressed. And then the technical individuals who understand the capabilities of the new technologies. These people have to be flexible enough to think about the abundance of capabilities that are provided and how they address the shifting needs of the business. Who else should be involved?


When you think about these technologies and what they do… for most of mankind’s existence, we were only able to communicate with those we could physically meet and interact. Writing and printing allowed us to move on and share ideas across space and time, but only in one direction. Then first with the telegraph and then with the telephone we enabled bi-directional communications in real time. For about the last decade, we’ve had mobile and UCC and are still learning what we can do with their capabilities. We’re communicating now not just with people but with machines that have capabilities as well. We’re putting ‘smarts’ in more and more products and so our ability to act remotely and repeatedly is increasing.


UCC and mobile have a significant role to play but only when we start thinking of them less as a technology and more as a lever for greater business value generation.

New vision for computing

eye.pngIEEE Spectrum had an article on moving display technology closer to the eye. Whether it is virtual reality goggles or contact lens enabled displays, it appears there is a great effort being applied to move displays closer than ever. The demonstration of a combined contact/glasses based display approach shows the level of innovation that is underway – not that I think that approach will be viable in the marketplace.


If you combine that with speech or gesture recognition, it leads to a technological approach that could be safer and more ubiquitous than what’s been done before. Naturally, there are some people who think that these displays are risky in certain circumstances.


Even as access to networking and computing permeate more of our business and personal lives, the display has been one dimension that has been holding back application in many domains. I can easily see a mechanic or others who hands are typically busy doing work using techniques like this to reference manuals… and facilitate decisions. Who knows if these techniques can be applied in a transparent and effective way, they could lead to the one display that is used by all the devices around us.


It makes me ask questions about how applications would change if this were available? What new business solutions are possible??

And now a thought about where to start

start.jpgI was thinking a bit more about yesterday’s post about the importance of stopping.


I put a post in a LinkedIn group called “Future Role of IT” that seemed to resonate with that audience so I thought I’d place a version here as well:


An interesting thing is that people who are 30 years old have never known a world without a graphic user interface. In 10 years, all those folks will be 40 and in control of IT. There will then be people close to 30 years old who never knew a world without a smartphone - the digital natives.


The people growing up today have many computing devices around them all the time. The Internet of Things that businesses are trying to take advantage of are just things to them. This is the market we need to prepare organizations for - today. We have to question not only our own assumptions, but theirs as well.

It makes me wonder: Is there a Future Role that doesn't include IT and is it just folks in IT who don't see it that way.

What you turn off can be as important as what you invest in for the future

weight.pngThis week I have been in Canada talking with technical leaders from various companies and industries about changes taking place in technology and a few on how to get a grip on the future. The future can be uncertain, but there is much organizations can do to shape the future they want to have happen. In an industry like IT where 80% or more of the budget may be consumed before you even start the year just to keep the lights on… one of the things we discussed was “what you need to turn off can be as important (and controversial) as what you invest in.”


I was sitting around the Toronto airport when my flight was delayed waiting for a fresh crew, when I started to think about the use of technology on planes. I flew in a relatively freshly refitted American Airlines plane on the way to Toronto and every seat had a new entertainment system with a relatively large screen, where you could choose among hundreds of movies. There were games and other options as well. Seeing that abundance of entertainment options made me wonder how much all that weighs, since weight can be pretty important on planes. Now that nearly everyone (at least among those that can afford a plane ticket) have a mobile device of one form or another, maybe the airlines should focus more on providing the network infrastructure to support those devices rather than provide redundant capabilities that may never be used. For those who don’t have a device or want premium content… there is always the option of charging them for the additional capability. What else could be done with that weight?


This may not be a valid example but even a bad example is still an example. There is a tipping point when a technology or a service needs to be discontinued. Any support after that point is a waste of resources, no matter how fondly we remember the utility of the past.

HP All-in-One Printer Remote


Recently I was talking with someone from the HP printer group about some of the Android applications HP has written to support printing. He showed me one that actually has a number of uses called: HP All-in-One Printer Remote. It incorporates some very useful technology:

It does the things you would expect a printer tool to do like check status of your HP Printers and All-in-One devices that are attached to your Wi-Fi network. It supports HP printer with “ePrint” on it.

Status like:

  • Is it out of paper? Is the device busy?
  • How much ink and toner are left.
  • The name and number of ink cartridges and toners my printer uses?
  • Scan from your scanner, from glass or document feeder.

It also lets you do some interesting things with the camera on your phone:

  • Scan document using the camera on the phone, and enhance it with HP’s mobile scanning technology.
  • Save and Share scanned and camera captured document to cloud and email.
  • Create multi-page .pdf file from scanned images and camera captured images

Have you ever had to take a quick snapshot of a business card and it comes out looking more like a trapizoid than a rectangle. This little app can fix that and make the business card look quite nice, finding the corners, squaring up the letters and equalizing the color background… It even removed some stains from the card I tried it on. Sorry I had to blur out some of the details, since we can't be too careful now a days.


The original version was at an angle with the top 20% smaller than the bottom. An interesting tool to have around.


Gamification – required in the service leader toolbox?

gamification.pngI’ve gotten a number of questions about gamification lately. It seems that many more organizations are looking to gamify their internal apps in an attempt to engage employees, solve problems, increase collaboration and generally have a better understanding of progress on goals and initiatives. The use of goal-oriented, metrics-based, behavior modification is entering into the gap analysis phase of application portfolio assessments. It is an area where there are many possibilities, some you can try out today.


Gamification is not an approach where you’ll get the right answer the first time, or where there will be one standardized, enterprise approach. It is a technique where you develop a beachhead of understanding and expand through experimentation. Some organizations will stop early while others will use the approach throughout their business to develop a better understanding of its personnel, the roles they play and the progress toward organizational objectives. There is no one right answer.


Some of the areas where I’ve seen organizations start their efforts are stimulating the level of collaboration (rewarding individuals that help others) or innovation (through idea generation campaigns). Many HR and Healthcare BPO approaches are embedding gamification into their service in an attempt to improve people’s lives.


One issue that many encounter happens if you stimulate the desired behavior, but then don’t act upon the results. The ‘players’ usually figure it out quickly and this perception of inaction will taint future efforts -- make sure that people understand what’s happening.

There was an article last September in ComputerWorld titled: Case study: 3 heavyweights give gamification a go, it covers a number of situations organizations have encountered.


I personally feel that it is a skill set that any leader working in the services space will need. It can build upon the abundance of data and processing power that exists today and have impact at many levels in an organization. Within the ISSIP Service Futures SIG, we discuss the strategic impact of gamification about every 6 months.

Is it time for a context portfolio assessment?

ideas.pngBack in 2007, I wrote a post Data is Everywhere but Context is Rare discussing the massive amounts of data being collected and how ‘context is king’ when it comes to understanding it. Now, with all the derived data we can create, tracking what is being create at the same time or who is reading it when, our understanding of the situation can be even deeper then we could think of back in 2007.


If you paid any attention to the CES the last couple of years, wearable technology had a great deal of the focus. This is more than just simply tracking basic data. It is about using the combined data of the wearable hardware, social networks and networking to find greater depth of information to use as a foundation of analysis.


Google Now is a good example of an application that gathers information from various sources so that your information needs can be anticipated and present information you didn’t even know you needed.


For most business (that spend most of their money on systems of record) a more contextually aware approach can take the existing information to whole new levels of value. I posted quite a few times on the concept of application portfolio assessment. It is time that greater focus should be applied to the organizations contextual portfolio. What do we actually know? What should we know? What would it take to address the gap?

Recent 3D printing advances

3d printed art.jpgFunny how life can play with you. I wrote a blog post about time and how we all get the same amount every day and then I go for a whole week without the time to post again. So I better get back at it…


I've blogged about 3D printing many times before but have been giving the process quite a bit of thought this week. There are some pretty interesting innovations and applications of 3D printing coming about.


Some of the recent activities:

  1. Adobe expanding the 3D capabilities of Photoshop CC.
  2. Hershey talking about having a 3D printer (for chocolate!)
  3. Microsoft’s 3D builder application for Windows 8.1 in the apps store

show how various capabilities are advancing.


Some of these announcements are likely fallout and response to the 3D vendors at the CES earlier this month or preparation for the 3D Printer World Expo at the end of this month.


Although the 3D printing space is definitely the domain of specialists today, there are numerous innovations that are making it easier to use and more reliable. Since additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques are being applied to the creation of the printers themselves, this is a market with incredible price pressure as well as continuous innovation – that may confuse others.


By the way the picture is a 3D piece of desk art that I printed on my 3D printer. It's about an inch and a half across.

Time and the technology industry

time on the clock.pngIt is a new year and that gets me thinking about time. Time is one of the few resources that is equally distributed to all. We all get 60 minutes to an hour (excluding relativistic effects). It is how we use the time available that makes it more valuable.


For some people, time seems to flow like a river and they just float along, for others time is something to be harnessed and directed. I was talking to some folks last week about technologist development and I stated that “in our industry the majority of what is learned this year will be obsolete in a short time. Learning how to learn is a critical skill if you want to continue to have impact.”


Time is the fire in which we burn. What we learn is consumed quickly so we need to gather more fuel. It requires an active effort.


In the IT space, where about 80% of IT resources are consumed in just keeping the lights on, it can be easy to allow time to flow. Freeing ourselves from this budget trap will take a new approach. One that directs resources in new directions and the bold use of new capabilities. It’s a resolution for the new year that we should all take. We need to ask: how do we drive down the fixed costs that deliver on yesterday’s problems and refocus those resources on what is needed for the future.


Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician – unknown


Technology education – drivers now and in the future


education.pngThe education of future technologists has some interesting conflicts to resolve. The constraints of past success and the opportunities for whole new solutions.


Software development is comprised of a tower of Babel consisting of thousands of development languages whose diversity continues to grow every year. Many of these languages are relatively dead (as far as current development), even though they are at the core of many of the systems that facilitate our lives – examples: COBOL and Fortran.


COBOL is at the core of many of the systems of record within the financial industry. Few (if any) top tier university programs exist around COBOL (but many community colleges still teach COBOL). Most of the COBOL practitioners are nearing retirement age, and have been for a decade. Planning for this skills gap is something organizations need to do today. If replacement (probably with something more cloud capable) of the programs are part of an application portfolio assessment, it will still require skills in the older environments to flesh out the codified requirements.


Software development skills can be standardized and structured, but software development still has an element of creativity. In the talk I gave at the MPICT conference earlier this week, this creative issue was one of the concern areas of ICT educators. The soft skills are critical for developers, since these abilities will be needed to tease out requirements. Developers then need to problem solve and exercise creativity (skills that are also on the soft side). The educators were anxious about the significant pressures to emphasize standard testing and ‘one right answer’ as part of the technical curriculum. This approach may pave over the creative solution that is actually required once the students enter the workforce.


I think that most technologists in the field know that our ability to interact with each other and reach consensus on a solution is a critical component of being valuable to an organization. Just being the most creative (or the most right) is not always enough.


One of the areas the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals is trying to help organizations and education with is mentoring and coaching on these soft skills to supplement the standard education curriculum. HP is making efforts to expand real work experience as well – I try to sponsor a senior project at UTD every semester (for example). These efforts let students experience the vagaries of real world problems and make mistakes in a safe environment.


Abundance and scarcity – Hardness

I was driving diamond.pngyesterday and I heard a story on the radio that reminded me of a presentation I did early in the last decade. I was talking about what would happen if we could configure products based on specific characteristics required. One of those characteristics was hardness and the example was the ability to place a thin diamond coating where needed.


It appears that a UTD professor Orlando Auciello has made significant progress in growing diamond layers. In this case he is trying to grow diamond layers on medical devices.


“Unlike titanium or steel, diamond doesn’t break down from wear and tear. It’s smooth and safe for use inside the human body.”


The first ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) coated medical product they plan to produce is a dental implant with a lifespan of ten times that of the metal-based ones used today.


Before I’ve posted on looking at the changes taking place and the abundance of capabilities they provide and how those changes should enable us to look at what’s scarce differently - this is a great example. Even a small change in a characteristic can make something that is mundane, innovative.

Boards and technology - is there a mismatch of expectation or understanding

board of directors.pngI recently came across this post by McKinsey titled: Elevating technology on the boardroom agenda. It reminded me of the articles written in the 1990s during the .com era. This surprised me because I thought we were beyond this kind of discussion. My view is that most business issues have a technical component – I thought that perspective was common knowledge.


A new style of business is possible enabled by technology. I assumed that most business leaders today have grown up with computers – after all the start of the .com era was 20 years ago. It appears that McKinsey doesn’t think we’ve progressed that far.


One of the statements made in the article was “boards should discuss forward-looking views of technology’s impact on their companies’ industries. Less than 30 percent reported that their boards had these discussions “. It could be the people who completed the survey wanted the board talking about forward looking bits and bytes for it to be classified as ‘technology’. I certainly hope the board would delegate that level of detail to others.


One of the items in the article illustrates that almost 50% characterize the board does not spend enough of their attention on IT topics. I would rather see them avoid IT details and ensure the company’s on-going strategy and success. There is only so much attention to go around.


One item in the survey I do agree with is that boards need to understand the future view of how technologies will affect their industry. Using that knowledge to their advantage is definitely part of the board’s role as representatives of the stock holders. Periodic exposure to technology futures and implications for their industry is a worthwhile investment of their time.

FIRST Robotics Competition game for 2014 announced

Saturday was the kickoff for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for 2014. I’ve participated for the last 6 years, locating judges for the North Texas competition. This year, the NTX FRC event will take place on March 13th-15th at the Irving convention center. If you’re in town – be there. It’s free and an exciting show.


FRC allows students to start from a standard kit of parts and some state of the art tools, received at the kickoff, and build a robot attempting to meet specified objectives. At the end of the build period, the robots are packed up and they do not see them again until their first competition.


This video is an overview of this year’s challenge – Arial Assist:



I’ve found FRC to be an eye opening experience for the students and the volunteers. Every year I am surprised at the ingenuity and commitment demonstrated by those participating.


The main competition is judged by numerous factors beyond how they perform on the field, like:

  • Coopertition (helping others that you are competing against)
  • Project planning
  • Quality/safety
  • Technical achievement
  • Business plan and marketing


The on field performance is not judged, since it has its own rules… Referees determine the winners of that portion of the competition.


The goal of FIRST is to encourage the understanding and passion around STEM. It has a proven track record of results that is hard to argue with.


You can see some video from previous year’s NTX FIRST competition, if you are interested.


Tags: future| Robotics| STEM
Labels: Future| Robotics| STEM
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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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