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

Displaying articles for: February 2014

A bit more on strategy and change

 

questionsandanswers.jpgI got a note that my previous post on strategy and change was a bit too terse. I made assumptions that people understood my references. Since that post was an excerpt from one slide of a longer presentation, I may not have given enough context to understand the bullets. I’ll take another crack at providing context (through links). Hopefully between the two posts, I can answer the questions and get the points across.

 

  • Many of the factors that enable change are predictable – in the presentation I talk about how there are laws like Moore’s law (and a number of others) that can be used to predict what the future will be like. People can think about their corporate goals, investment plans and other drivers as well as the timeframe for investment… and extrapolate out the types of technology that should be available and what it might mean. This may shift how the change can be implemented.

  • Scarcity affects value – Too often organizations behave like what is valued for its scarcity will still be true in the future, or that what constrains us from generating value a certain way will still be constraining going forward. Most of the IT systems currently in production were based on a scarcity model – the assumptions their design was based on may no longer be true. Data is not going to be scarce in the future, but the business context described by the data may still be. The attention of the employees most certainly will be scarce. If we need to consume more (of what’s abundant) to generate even more value from what's scarce – that is not a bad thing.

  • The rate of change and transformation is increasing – There are many different forces pushing businesses to change and adapt. These will be enabled by IT and essentially add fuel to the fire. We need to stop thinking of change as a periodic disruption of the status quo and instead see it as a river of change. It may go slower or faster, but it doesn’t stop. We need to be flexible and adapt and generate energy from it, not try to hold it back. We need to automate action as well as improve interaction.

  • The increasing digitization not a replacement for today’s processes and systems – Systems of record (e.g., ERP) are still going to be important. They record the transactions that keep a business running. We can surround them with better interfaces and automation, but don’t think that everything can be replaced with whole new concepts. They may be on new platforms… but we still need to keep records.

  • Social influence is beyond the control of any individual ecosystem – This was focused on newer methods to take advantage of social -- techniques like gamification or crowdsourcing that tap into the power of others need to be part of our toolkit.

I try to keep these posts short, but fortunately there is always an opportunity for another one.

 

Enterprise Architecture and the New Style of IT

Since yesterday’s post focused on how to look strategically at change for the organization, it seems like a good time for this video.

 
 

 

It describes the value of Enterprise Architecture when moving to the new style of business enabled by IT abundance. The video runs just a bit long, but it did align well with yesterday’s post.

 

I do find it interesting though how some analysts separate out tactical from strategic enterprise architecture. They can view the tactical side as a 'waste of time' for the business, since tactical is focused on the current and future IT perspective. Organizations need to move to the strategic view of enabling the business through the use of IT, but if you start that without a good understanding of where you currently sit, it will be difficult to prioritize the effort required to make the move. On the other hand with the amount of internal and external pressures and the advances in capabilities, it is compelling to move to a strategic view as soon as possible.

 

Architects need to work with organizations to develop a true understanding of their needs and directions, and create an EA engagement aligned to those limitations. It does no good to create more shelf ware. The architecture needs to be aligned with what can be consumed. The business is ultimately accountable … as they are for every single project they engage in, inside or outside of IT.  That is not a problem, that is a reality that all must internalize and build upon.

Strategy and change

strategic questions.pngSince the first of the year I’ve been giving a presentation on embracing technical trends for organizations – what strategists need to think about. At the end of the material, I include the take away points:

  • Many of the factors that enable change are predictable - plan to take advantage of predictable change

  • Scarcity affects value – Every organization can determine how what is abundant can maximize the value of what is scarce
  • The rate of change and transformation is increasing. We need to prepare our organizations to assimilate and take advantage of change - there is no end state, we play through anticipated changes
  • The increasing digitization of society, commerce, personal and professional lives is not a replacement for today’s processes and systems, but adds capabilities – the future is additive

  • Social influence is beyond the control of any individual ecosystem but will impact all organizations - make it work for you

What other areas do strategists need to comprehend or embrace?

The EA as ambassador to a new style of business

choice.pngI was talking with a couple of people yesterday about the role of the Enterprise Architect and the new style of IT. I went through the typical analogy of EAs being translators between the technical team and the business, but then I thought, “Wait, it is really more of an ambassador.” That’s because the kind of disruptive changes that need to take place in organizations as they begin to think about the implications. The skill set will require convincing and cajoling more than translating – clearly diplomatic skills.

 

It will require individuals who can understand the business goals and the possibilities from the abundance of IT. There will likely be constraints in our thinking that need to be overcome and whole new levels of possibility. We all probably need to sharpen our sword.

What’s the difference between SDN and NFV?

networking.jpgI was in a discussion the other day with someone focused on the networking services space and they kept using the acronym NFV, without really defining it. I dug in a bit and this is what I found.

 

Network Functions Virtualization aims to address the issue of having a large and increasing variety of proprietary hardware appliances. Its approach is to leverage standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate many types of network equipment onto industry standard high volume servers, switches and storage. These more standard device can be located in datacenters, network nodes or at end user premises. NFS is applicable to any data planepacket processing and control plane function in fixed and mobile network infrastructures. 

 

 

I’ve mentioned Software Defined Networking (SDN) in this blog before.  NFV and SDN are mutually beneficial but are not dependent on each other. That was one of the confusions I had during the initial conversation. NFV is focused on consolidating and reducing hardware costs. Although these devices could be virtualized and managed using techniques like SDN they don’t have to be.

 

The concepts of NFV are not really new. Even so, a more formalized approach with PoCs … will hopefully contribute to accelerating changes taking place in the communications industry allowing for reduced operational complexity, greater automation and self-provisioning – much like is happening in the cloud space (either through public or private techniques) for the rest of IT.

 

I just saw that Dave Larsen (of HP) put out a post about what HP is doing in both SDN and NFV, just as I was finishing up this post. Expect to see more about this when HP releases an HP Industry Edge e-zine devoted entirely to NFV, in the near future.  

Better questions???

 

question and analytics.GIFI keep seeing articles stating the need for CIOs to think strategically if they want to be thought of as strategic by the business. To me this means there is a need to focus on better questions to meet the business needs, not just better answers.

 

A focus on answers (almost by definition) means that someone came up with the question and you’re just reacting. With the kinds of strategic techniques available fueled by the abundance of information available, we should be able to look at the opportunities in new ways, coming up with new perspectives and possibilities.

 

What new questions do you have? Who do you think can answer them??

 

A thought provoking infographic on the trends of 2014

 

thinking2.pngRecently one of my coworkers brought to my attention this infographic about technology trends in 2014. (sorry, didn’t feel I could just include it, so you’ll have to go to the link). It does a good job looking at many of the major trends on people’s minds this year. The topics illustrated on the chart follows – as well as my brief interpretation of them:

  1. More mobile than ever – it is not really about devices but more about a location-aware environment.

  2. Community, community, community – how the sum of individuals is greater than the parts

  3. Brands: The new media producers – content in context

  4. Social Media: No longer the wild west – There are actually models that work

  5. Changing attitudes about social – the rejection of social by some, a loss of trust

  6. The computerized future is now – the war with the machine

These are all factors that we should incorporate into our portfolio/environmental assessments. In my predictions for 2014, I mentioned that this would be a year of instability, so they may even change the foundation of what we think needs to be assessed.

 

One thing that I thought was missing was the concept of the empowered consumer. The consumption of data and other resources as well as the leveraging of services from a variety of sources is definitely shifting organizations and individuals thinking. Pulling that together in a repeatable, reliable way is not something that can be left to chance. You may have seen that HP released HP Access Catalog a secure private app store that allows employees to download applications and digital content across mobile and desktop devices. Fflexible yet secure approaches are becoming an expectations for business.

 

I find that graphics like this can drive home some of these thoughts both positively and negatively. By thinking though a diverse set of these projections of the future, we are better equipped to plan on the future we want to encourage to happen.

 

A view of the future from 2009

grading predictions.pngI was talking with someone today about innovation application and they showed me a video HP put together back in 2009 on Technology Trends. It was pretty well done and although some of it is a bit dated, much of it is as relevant today as it was 5 years ago.

 

The three trends it focused on were:

  • Explosive population growth
  • Unprecedented economic development
  • Exponential technology advancement

 

Population growth predictions have shifted a bit since 2009. We’ve been in a bit of a global economic stall since then as well. It still does make an interesting view of trends from the end of the previous decade.

 

It can be entertaining to look back at what we thought the world would be like in the coming years -- here were my predictions from 2008 looking at 2009. Some of them look more accurate today then they did in 2009!??

Opportunities in Open Data

derived data.pngA long while back, I mentioned a kickoff presentation to the Open Data effort in Toronto. This meeting was focused on opening up the underutilized existing data, enabling the generation of new value for those living in Toronto.

 

Many organizations today need to inventory their data and (probably more importantly) the derived data. As part of this cataloging effort, they can look at the possibilities to leverage the data with publically and commercially available data opening up new levels of context understanding and possibility for the organization.

 

It is interesting when you talk to organizations about their data. They rarely understand the range of what is valuable, internal and proprietary -- let alone what could be merged with information from the government or other sources to make better decisions.

 

Many governments like the United States, Canada, Mexico and Singapore are opening up the floodgates of public data. For companies who understand that their data is being valued by their partners and customers, it can be a differentiator for those relationships. Naturally competitors are interested in the data as well, so a balance needs to be reached.

 

There are many companies across the globe that aggregate data from numerous sources and provide insight to help with decision making. Examples of some unusual types of searches anyone can do are: Coffee vs. Tea or what’s interesting about this day or what countries have the highest download speed.

 

Now these tools that once required high powered, custom solutions are more common – through the abundance of IT capabilities. It is shifting the foundations of what is thought of as possible.

Examples of where open data integration are making a difference:

Or the example I posted on a while back about the shifts that will come to the healthcare space when we have more genomic information and greater understanding of the effectiveness of treatment based on genetic makeup, not just the statistical average.

 

Information sources that contain demographic data, financial transactions, health-care benchmarks, and real-time location data are becoming prevalent. A myriad of new context-based possibilities exist for organizations to exploit both to understand their business better, differentiate themselves in the mind of the customer and generate economic value.

Who defines business opportunities of mobile?

mobile worker2.pngThis morning I was in a discussion with some people from academia and industry that was primarily focused on communications trends. We quickly dove into the issues of security, networking education, mobility and sensing. Everyone agreed about the impact these areas are having at a high level, but when you dug down just a little bit, the business implications thinking stopped.

 

These technologies are going to shift how we think about some of the foundational aspects of business and employment today. Concepts are going to shift by asking: “What is a mobile worker?” In this age of BYOD and Mobile Device Management (MDM), nearly everyone is a mobile worker. Mobile is no longer special, it is a foundational tool for the masses, not a convenience for the elite. If anything, when the field services workers at the face of the customer are enabled by the technology, they can fundamentally shift how the client sees an organization. For many business the client is the field service worker.

 

Mobile interfaces can be more effective (since they are present at the time information is needed) and can actually be more secure (with all the sensing capabilities of modern devices they have much greater contextual understanding of who you really are than old PC or green screen interfaces ever could).

 

Organizations that want to generate new business value need to start identifying the business processes that are under-addressed with in the current IT portfolio (can a more mobile interface help?). They need to assess how the roles in those processes could be support – what is scarce in the decision making process – and provide the content (or even context) needed to make that process more effective. Techniques can be applied to shift adoption.

 

One thing that also needs to be considered is how will the change be tracked. With all the information mobile devices are capable of gathering, it sets the stage for a much deeper understanding of what is really happening, allowing more agile organizations to make course corrections on their deployments along the way.

 

Employees and customers are typically excited to use these techniques, if they can perceive its value. If they can embrace the experience. It is up to us to recognize the opportunity and make it happen. 

Spoke at the HP World Tour in Mexico City

This week I had the chance to present at the HP World Tour 2014 on the topic of Defining your journey into the future. Essentially talking about many the topics I post about on this blog -- the fact that there is a great deal of change going on and for much of it you can actually predict what could happen and ideas on how to start to take control for your business.

 

There are a number of YouTube videos (from various speakers) out there from this event with interviews like this one on Software Defined Networks – a topic I have a great deal of interest in applying. By the way, 'no' that isn't me.

 

 

 

One of the best things about an event like this is there are a number of parts of HP represented and so if you have a question, there should be someone there who will have an answer.

 

I know I got into a fairly deep discussion about the implications of security assessments and what can and can’t be done today with the software and techniques available to protect data and prevent intrusions.

 

I also had a chance to talk to a leader in the 3D printing space where we discussed where things are headed and the implications on various markets and industries. As well as who from HP may provide some useful perpsective on the topic.

 

The event is very much like a mini HP Discover except hopefully a bit closer and more intimate. The tour site shows other upcoming session in the Americas in Toronto and San Paulo Brazil. There are other events across the globe listed as well.

Is the Internet-of-Things really on the brink of enabling a major shift in business value?

fields.JPGI was talking with some folks the other day about the implications of technology shifts and what it means to business. Some shifts like Cloud and Big Data advance how we do many of the things we’ve been doing for years. Others like the Internet-of-Things (IoT) enable whole new approaches. I think the impact is being under estimated – probably because they are not as technically sexy.

 

One of my favorite examples of IoT is the SmartSpud. This sensor pack allows a potato producer to look at the process from the potato’s point of view, reducing bruising and other issues that cause waste -- very quickly. We’ve just not been able to get this perspective in the past. I grew up on a farm so the whole issue of organic processes and their optimization is always of interest.

 

I believe almost every industry as opportunities to use IoT in new ways. This report from the Economist states that this is “an idea whose time has finally come.” They took a survey and only 40% of the respondents saw the impact limited to certain markets or industries. 38% believe that the IoT will have a major impact in most markets and industries. Yet, 96% of all respondents expect their business to be using the IoT in some respect within 3 years. When I think about this, it is an issue where people are just coming to grips with what can be done to maximize the value of what is scarce to the organization.

 

There are some things that are holding the pressure to deploy IoT back. The need for some common infrastructure and services that enable secure, fairly reliable transport and analysis of information. All the parts exist, they just need to be bundled so they can be consumed effectively. It is crying out for an innovator’s dilemma approach that is just good enough for what is needed now to get things rolling. The people who want to use these capabilities don’t want to have to understand it deeply or create it from scratch – they just want to buy it and use it. Until we reach that stage, we’ll only have great examples (in isolation) and not real impact.

The shifting view of security required today

security extend.pngLast month while in Canada, I was part of a discussion about what’s abundant and scarce in the finance space. We touched on security. I think we can all admit that there is nearly an infinite supply of hackers willing to work for free and at the same time a business’s resources in the security space is constrained. It is not hard to image a large organizations being the focus of 10,000 or more cyber-attacks in a single day. Are our systems really up for this level of defense?

 

We can also admit that the security fortress approach (where you create a secure perimeter) to protect the corporate systems and data is insufficient and outdated. This notion of security seems quaint in a cloud-enabled world where the business draws upon an ecosystem of partners and sites across the globe. Even the systems that we’re implementing are no longer hierarchical in nature, they are an aggregation of services and functionality providing significant business value but presenting opportunities to rethink what we mean by governance, compliance and access. The concept of having zero risk appears naïve.

 

We live in a world of conflict. We want our systems to be secure and yet collaborative, innovative and low risk. This kind of paradox points to the need for an innovative approach.

 

We are going to have to abandon our current fragmented defense mentality and rethink our cyber-attack response. This gorilla war will be defined by a business-driven, risk-management approach where security needs to be baked in at every level and not bolted on as an afterthought.

 

There was also a discussion related to a mobile approach to control. Some of the folks were talking about using Bluetooth LE to open locks and control a facility (since a wide variety of mobile devices support it). I pointed them to an analysis that shows how Bluetooth LE provides low energy consumption but also low security. It may be OK as long as you add additional security capabilities throughout the rest of the system and don’t depend on the Bluetooth specification, since LE doesn’t really use the defined security functionality in its attempt to lower power consumption.

 

There are a few ‘simple’ things organizations can do to start shifting their perspective:

-          Prioritize information assets based on business risks.   I’ve mentioned before my view about BYOD – for the corporation, it is not about devices, but access to corporate information and policy. Organizations need to develop a data portfolio that defines the information assets they need to protect and have clear policies on their use – this may extend into a context portfolio perspective.  This will require business and IT to work together to assess risks across the entire value chain and set appropriate policies for the underlying information assets.

-          Define policies for security integration. In the more flexible (cloud-based approach) being deployed today services that are created or subscribed to can morph from what they were originally intended to be used in other ways – plan for this. Everyone in the IT (and probably the business as well) need to have a foundational understanding of how to incorporate security awareness into their work, during the entire lifecycle of processes and projects. Security and privacy are everyone’s job.

 

Security can be a differentiator for an organization – both in a good and a bad way. Organizations need to actively take control instead of passively waiting to see what happens.

 

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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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