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

Displaying articles for: April 2014

Is the IoT going to be under the control of the CIO?

Internet of things.png

As we shift from the internet of people (moving beyond the smartphone era) to the Internet of Things (IoT) some of our assumptions for the IT organization and its value may no longer be valid. According to IDC, the IoT will become so prevalent that by 2020 that more than 212 billion devices around the world will be connected. That’s the equivalent of 27 devices per person on earth.

 

There are a few drivers for this increase in adoption. Those are advances in:

  • Sensing capabilities – allowing broader and deeper understanding
  • Power management and consumption – enabling devices that are smaller, last longer and are more autonomous
  • Networking – permitting machine to machine and greater process collaboration

There are actually predictable changes. The three exponential laws that enable the shift in value are:

This shift is already happening in the consumer space, but the question remains “What will the CIO’s role be,” when it happens in industry? Many CIOs spend all their time focused on systems of record, those systems that track all the transactions of a business. IoT implementations are in a different domain all together.

 

The primary consumers of these implementations may be different as well. These are the sources of the abundance of data I’ve mentioned earlier. The IT organization should have the skills to understand what the implications of:

  • Transporting all that data and the interconnection required
  • Storing the information for later use
  • Analyzing the data to actually generate value
  • Automating the response so that people don’t become overwhelmed – systems of action

But the big question for most will be if they willing to invest now so they can have the influence and impact when it is needed. It’s not a foregone conclusion.

FIRST Championship ‘14

FIRST.jpgThis week is the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis. I am going to be a judge there again this year as part of team Archimedes. There will be 400 teams from across the globe in the FRC championship at the event.

 

FIRST is on a mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and have developed into a program with a proven track record of impact on student’s education and career choices.

 

I’ll try and post some pictures if I get a chance. If you'd like to watch it online, NASA will have a live webcast or it will even be on NASA TV on Thursday through Saturday.

Tags: FIRST| Robotics
Labels: FIRST| Robotics

Artificial Imagination – a new definition for AI??

analytics.pngI came across a couple of articles about startups working in the AI space. Both are about companies that can do complex recognition:

I doubt that there is much overlap in the approach used by these two companies and that shows how much room there is in the field for innovation. Together the articles show how very complex tasks may be within the grasp of automation. These kinds of solutions could have a huge effect on worker roles… and human augmented automation.

Increasing the value of architects in a world of cheap data

 

panning for gold.GIFThere is a great deal of discussion about big data and a move to a data economy. We have collected more data than we might normally be able to use (and we’re trying to collect even more). If you step back and think about the law of supply and demand – if there is an abundance of data it is probably not worth all that much.

 

Having made that bold statement – those who can extract the context described by the data will likely sift out a good living. Much like a gold miner panning for gold, you need to go through a great deal of mud before you find a nugget. Fortunately, the computing capabilities have increased to allow that filtering to happen.

 

IT architects in companies need to look beyond internal information flows, master data definitions, and business processes. Enterprise Architects need to understand the third-party data and service providers and the value they can provide. Suppliers, partners and customers may all have information that can impact the business (and vice versa). It is contextual understanding that’s required.

 

I’d bet that almost every organization has information that it is collecting or metadata that could be derived that is not being used today. Business and information architects should understand the business issues, the methods for segmentation and the available data sources that could be used to bring added value to marketing discussions. As part of architectural planning optimize the data consumption just like architects should optimize the application portfolio.

 

Architects need to become proactive, looking beyond the technology and focus on the business goals and the information available (from whatever source). They need to explain to the business and technical leadership the shifts in what’s possible and valuable. The data scientists can then be applied to those opportunities.

 

Is there a clash between automation and human-centered design?

 

human centered automation.jpgI was in a discussion a few weeks ago when someone raised the point that all future designs should be human-centered. When I first heard this, it conflicted a bit with my perspective about automation and the need to separate normal from the unusual.

 

I then began to think about what they probably meant. They didn’t really mean that human’s need to be in the center of everything but instead: if human interaction is required then focus first on designing and delivering great user experiences.

 

My view is that the automation of the mundane is part of having a human-centered solution. Why would someone want to be there if they are not adding value? Automating out normal is really empathizing with the user’s needs and pain points.

 

When we’re doing a human-centered system, we should be assessing the need to engage user and maximize outcomes. Some say that in order to be human-centered, you need to develop an emotional connection. Since there are positive and negative emotions, I’d rather the solution be one where the user feels needed as opposed to along for the ride.

 

Using the understanding of the users, their skills, availability and connections provides the contextual understanding to facilitate interactions helping users find each other and build a community. So I don’t think there is a conflict at all, as long as we’re maximizing the value of the user’s time.

 

Value in an analog world

eceb166e-c589-11e3-88ed-12313d239d6c-large.jpegWas just part of an interesting discussion on the IT organizations of the future. One of the statements made was about the ‘digital enterprise’. It got me thinking “The whole world is analog – it’s just those in IT who don’t see it that way.”

 

Value is all about perspective. Will those implementing IT solutions ever have a full understanding of the implications, without an understanding of the assumptions and approximations that are inherent in a digital approach? We can only be so accurate with ones and zeros. I am not saying that’s bad – just a fact.

 

When we can move to considering our limitations and our potential to predict (based on business/domain knowledge), we can move beyond efforts based on a digital approximation from the past.

Why is the service research agenda important?

decisions.pngI continue to think about the characteristics that will make up jobs of the future and the kind of services research the NSF needs to define – and why??

 

During our discussions last week, we talked about measures of quality and risk for services, but primarily from the service provider and sometimes from the service consumer’s perspective. What about for an outside entity, like the government? They have expectations of services as well. If the government doesn’t define and encourage new jobs for its constituents, the tax base erodes and power is lost. If enough power is lost than a revolution takes place by people who will redefine the power base and power structure.

 

That is why the service research agenda is so fundamentally important. As the economy moves to be ever more service-oriented, we need to understand and shape what will be needed for stability. Not just of the services themselves but for the ecosystem that the services depend upon.

 

The context recognition that is the foundation for automation of knowledge work actually requires stability to function. If the system is chaotic, context becomes very rare. Having a viable research agenda is not nearly as altruistic as it first seems.

Bring Your Own Service – two years later…

BYOS.pngA couple of years ago I wrote about how bring your own service was part of the future we’ll need to understand. I just saw that Gartner put out a release saying that personal cloud will replace the personal computer as the center of user’s lives by 2014.

 

We’ve probably all seen how the specifics of the device are less important for the people (let alone organization) to worry about. A good example of this trend I came across recently is Aereo.

 

I was looking at Aereo as part of my personal cloud, enabling me to capture television broadcasts and watch them on almost every device (except it still didn’t work with my Xbox One) as long as I am within the stations coverage area. This kind of a centrally available approach to a leveraged TV service is likely to be disruptive.

 

The diversity of services being offered is expanding and based on the meeting I attended last week with the NSF talking about service innovation research, there are a number of industries that are going to be disrupted by this more service-oriented view of the world. Questions remain though about the risks and quality expectations as well as how to communicate the changes to all the affected parties.

Service Innovation Workshop with NSF

SaaS.pngJust finished up a very interesting couple of days at a workshop to develop a research agenda for service innovation. The objective was to define a roadmap for future service innovation research and education for the NSF as well as academic and industry partners.

 

This was a very diverse group of about 60 people that broke into working groups to look at service innovation from a number of angles. One thing that almost all the groups appeared to rally around was the thought that the service modeling techniques currently in use (and simulations) are not up to the task of bringing diverse groups to a consensus and (more importantly) action.

 

We tried to avoid the typical trap of spending the entire meeting defining ‘service innovation’ and instead focus on areas where NSF funded research would do the most good (e.g., automation, incorporating knowledge into service system design, skill definition and education for next-generation service innovation) -- generating value.

 

There was one area where I had a bit of concern: the goal of human-centered service systems. I don’t have too much of a problem where the humans determine the value and consume the result (focusing attention on the unique), but if humans are on the critical path of executing the service, there had better be a good reason since I still view that human attention is going to be scarce.

 

We did get into an interesting discussion of if it is attention or understanding intention that is scarce?!?

 

There was also an interesting idea coming from the DIY space that if you can be a consumer in the future you can be a producer in the future. We’re not there yet, but it does show the level of disruption that might need to be embraced.

 

One great outcome for me was the opportunity to meet a number of like-minded people who have problems where I and others at HP can help address.

Component skills of future roles?

 

juggle.pngThe other day I focused on the changes for education and automation… But what about our expectations? There is a great deal of concern about the elimination of jobs. Is the foundation of that really based on our inability to embrace the super-human capabilities that will be enabled and how that will change the roles we play?

The same automation that eliminates jobs also gives us significantly more capabilities – skills where humans excel. No matter how much we automate, there will likely always be work opportunities where human skills will be valued – until Skynet takes over.

 

We can now cultivate a network that spans thousands where just a few decades ago our network of ‘friends’ would likely be measured in double digits. The value of our flexibility, intuition and relationships will likely continue to be valued.

 

What are the component skills of the jobs of the future? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Change management – Individuals that can help others embrace change and transition to new modes of operation. They will need to be experts at context transfer.

  2. Transcendental optimization – Those that can move beyond just simple tweaking (that can likely be automated) to breakthrough optimization approaches.

  3. Disassemblers – What you shut down can be as important as what you start. These skills will focus on how to shut down existing environments.

  4. Strategic futurists – Roles that focus on envisioning the future and can convey that to others effectively.

  5. Ethicists – Functions that focus on the ethical and legal use of technology.

  6. Unique recognition – Although most situations can be handled in a standard way, those that can recognize when something is unique or at a critical inflection point will be crucial.

  7. User interface design – Although there will be less user interfaces required, the need to share that information and focus attention to greatest effect will be critical.

  8. Evangelist – Every good idea needs to be marketed effectively to be embraced.

  9. Modeler – All models are wrong but some are useful. The ability to effectively abstract complexity out of systems is a critical skill.

  10. Juggler – Keeping a number of balls in the air will continue to be crucial.

  11. Fixers – Abstraction is what makes many types of technology useful to the common folk. Sometimes though it doesn’t work and extraordinary measures will be required. Those who can do this best, will always have a job.

These can be aggregated together into thousands of new functions. What do you think?

 

Education and automation

 

education2.pngRecently, Jim Spohrer created a blog post stating: Most careers in the era of cognitive systems have not been invented yet. There are so many people concerned about the automation of knowledge worker roles, but we’ve not yet seen the new roles that will develop.

 

The role of education definitely needs to shift to making students more self-sufficient when it comes to learning, planting the seed for life-long learning. As I heard it stated recently “Education is preparation for an interview that has yet to be scheduled.” This week my son started a new job, teaching virtually down in Florida. This state is definitely serious about  students understanding the new options in education.

 

The value and needs of next generation services that take advantage of social collaboration, IoT, analytics and automation are only now beginning to be understood. Once we get a grasp on them, things will shift once again, at the tasks are understood and become mundane (and targets for further automation). We’re all going to need to be flexible – in our processes as well as ourselves.

 

Scarcity, abundance and innovation

 

empty.pngRecently, someone pointed out a video from McKinsey that is talking about how Technological advances can not only improve resource productivity dramatically but also spark the next industrial revolution. I had to laugh a bit since this concept is something that we’ve talked about since the very first blog post (almost 10 years ago) and for our strategy work years before. The abundance of IT can drive innovation in almost any industry.

 

Understanding the interaction between scarcity and abundance is an important part of any enterprise strategy effort. If an innovation can’t be understood from its effects, it probably can’t be used for that particular organization. Just being new, interesting or exciting isn’t enough. Adoption can’t be assumed but needs to be built in the mind of those who should adopt (and adapt).

 

In some situations like the service space that has been traditionally built on access to people and process, the ability to remove people through automation can shake the foundation of how an organization approaches the market. The same could be said about the concept of middle management. Once you shift your view to the default perspective of “Prove that we need them” rather than “We’ve always done it that way”, real chance can happen.

 

I am on my way home from a couple of weeks on the road. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to sit back and think about some of the things that I’ve seen recently and follow my own advice.

 

Strategy, Execution and IT

strategic thinking.pngRecently, I was looking at a video about business strategy and execution from the Strategy+Business blog. It talked about the five major questions a business strategy needs to answer:

  1. What businesses should we be in?

  2. How will we add value to that business?

  3. What is our target customer?

  4. What’s the value proposition for those customers?

  5. What are the capabilities we need to be distinctive for those customers?

It also discussed how easy it can be to confuse what it takes to execute a strategy with the strategy itself (e.g., a plan).

 

The video made me think about the role of IT today and how it may be perceived. Do we look at our various investments from the perspective of answering these kinds of questions or do we just look to cut costs. That difference in behavior is one of the greatest differences between an IT organization that is crucial to the business and one that is just an enabler of the business.

 

Many times I’ve mentioned the need for portfolio management within the applications of an enterprise and the fact that it may be as important what you turn off as what you turn on. In a recent discussion with an analyst about Enterprise Architecture they really downplayed the role of the current situation analysis and listening to this video just reinforced how much this value added assessment of the current portfolio can be, since by turning off those systems you free up resources to actually be strategic.

 

The business should be able to relate to a decision based on this strategic perspective, since that’s likely how they think about what they deliver to the market.

 

When planning for the future it can often require an active decision to totally break from the past approach and try a new one. This can be very risky, but there are also risks hanging on to changes that are long overdue – because we’ve always done it that way.

 

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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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