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 change.
  • 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. 

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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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