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

Displaying articles for: May 2014

Start small but think big, when transforming

StartSmallThinkBig.jpgYesterday, I posted about how we’re half-way through the current stage of IT and mentioned how IT needs to change. Today, I saw an interesting post from McKinsey & Company that has some similar views: Reinventing IT to support digitization.

 

They have identified seven elements critical to IT performance improvement:

1)      Clear, central business leadership on digital

2)      Elite IT talent

3)      Sourcing arrangements to scale the workforce rapidly

4)      Agile development and rapid releases

5)      Rapid innovation architecture supported by stable services

6)      Scalable cloud-based infrastructure

7)      High-quality integrated data

 

I agree with all those points, although I’d have dropped off the ‘on digital’ from the first point. I think all too often we continue to unnecessarily isolate the information technology goals and efforts from the business.

 

The article went on to describe a two-speed approach to transformation. This is one area that is as much about risk control as providing new capabilities. Start small but think big – is probably the rule. We can’t change everything at once and when making this kind of change, you need to develop experience.

This was driven home to me the other day when I was talking with my son (who teaches on-line). He was looking for a way to contact his students in a flexible, yet automated fashion. I said “Oh, no problem. I’ll just write an app for your phone.” I’ve written apps for a number of different mobile platforms over the years, so I thought it would be easy. I laid out a storyboard of the various screens. I bounced requirements off him. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, to make it look professional.

 

I dug into coding the first prototype. It seemed everywhere I turned, the Android environment didn’t want to support me in my efforts. It just didn’t have the fundamentals in the OS that I needed (or maybe the way I wanted them). So, I started to break the application down into various components that I could understand, validate and execute. Eventually, I will stitch them all together into a final application, but my first goal now is to get something dumb and functional that he can play with – without all the bells and whistles that were in the early design. A page out of any Agile Development handbook.

 

The same approach is needed as an organization starts to tackle its larger business support role and reinvention of its application portfolio.

Half-way through the current wave of technology

I was preparing for HP Discover and it got me thinking about a presentation we pulled together almost 10 years ago (see illustration below - notice it didn't predict the downturn starting in 2008). The presentation did discussed the numerous technological ages in the history of corporate IT, starting with the mainframe, moving to client server, the internet and introduced the concept of a Next Big Thing wave related to computing everywhere. We are now halfway into the latest stage– and it is the second half of a stage where the real value comes to light and the wide-spread deployment takes place.

 

waves of computing.jpg

 

What’s interesting is that this is also the point where the organizations that are not dabbling in the leading edge pop their heads up, look around and wonder how they got there.

 

Everyone is realizing that IT needs to change. Many organizations have a portfolio of solutions that have built up, layer-by-layer from their previous successes, to the point where they're calcified and unable to take on much new. This is usually described as having 80% of the budget locked into keeping the lights on, rather than focused on generating new value for the organization – even though the business may have changed.

 

By now, most organizations have experimented with cloud, big data and automation. We’ve seen the value of automation on IT processes, since that is what enables the kind of productivity improvement we’re experiencing in the cloud computing space. Now it’s time to use those same pattern recognition and analytic techniques on the rest of the business. This is where the abundance of IT capabilities can shine.

 

Unfortunately, it is too easy to think about all this change being relatively new, when it has actually built up over time. We can’t take advantage of it effectively, unless we look at the possibilities in new ways. For example, shifting to view that ‘time to value’ and flexibility as the new measures of performance for IT projects, instead of non-business, commodity measures like system uptime or utilization. That change in perspective is what I'm hoping to discuss in my presentation.

Data Center Futures - a look back and a look ahead

Computing factory.pngEarlier this month Baseline magazine came out with a set of Predictions on the 2025 Data Center.  It made me reflect on how data centers changed in the last 10 years.

 

It was about 10 years ago that I wrote a Data Center of the Future speech for the rededication for one of EDS’ (now HP’s) data center complexes.

 

One thing I found interesting in the speech is that the computer in my house is still running at 3.4GHz (even though I’ve replaced it twice since then), but data storage on the device has gone up significantly. The speech also talked about the advent of cloud computing and the kinds of automation that are common today, as well as big data applications and a hint about the Internet of Things. In fact I didn’t see anything in the speech that was totally off base with the issues of today.

 

This new analysis from Baseline is dominated by energy production and consumption. This energy infrastructure dominating the computing capabilities is an interesting shift on where data center innovation will be focused in the future – assuming they are right. That’s why HP has been focused on Moonshot as an alternative compute delivery platform. Energy consumption of data centers is a problem that is not going to go away without some significant innovation.

HP Discover 2014 – see you there (part 2)

Cost_management_RGB_blue_NT.pngA couple weeks back I mentioned I was going to be speaking at HP Discover.

 

As you can see, most of what I'll be talking about are business and technology trends and what it means to business, CIO and others.

 

I just got my schedule of events where I’ll be speaking:

Session

Location

Date/time

DT3505

The new style of business value

Putting IT in the driver’s seat

Discover Theater

 

Tues, June 10

10:45-11:15am

DT3513

Perspectives on workplace of the future

A roundtable of HP innovators

Discover Theater

 

Tues, June 10

12:15-12:45pm

DTI3935

The Next Big Thing

The new style of business value

Tech Digital session

Weds, June 11

9:30-10:30am

DF3567

Agile architecture

A springboard for IT relevance and enterprise growth

Discussion Forum

 

Thurs, June 12

11:15-11:45am

 

I am sure there will also be some 'expert corner' activities as well as blogger specific events (blogger roundtable at 1PM on Wednesday?) as well. I'll also try to get some of these session materials on-line as well.

 

Cybersecurity – how bad is it?

Over the weekend you may have seen some commercials from HP about its latest cybersecurity offerings (here is a link to public sector cybersecurity solutions).

 

 

The video mentions that HP's cybersecurity team helps prevent more intrusions than any other organization. Last I heard, the number of incidents identified was larger than 800 billion security events every year. That’s more than 25,000 a second (24x7) – ouch.

 

HP created a Cyber Risk Report earlier this year that describes how the attack surface of most organizations is changing and what to look out for. This document may be of interest if you’re wondering how bad things are.

Tags: security
Labels: security

Dimensions of assessing an agile architecture?

measurement.pngI keep hearing that organizations have greater expectations from their IT organizations than are being delivered. Shadow IT is the response as the business-side of the enterprise decides to go-it-alone. Many times those investments are done in a relative vacuum when compared to the rest of the organization’s portfolio.

 

As businesses move to be more agile and make better informed decisions, the focus is on being flexible in a number of dimensions:

  • Location – where and when works takes place
  • Social – relationships with and between customers, partners, devices and employees
  • Secure – what, why and how much in good enough
  • Process – for the past, now and in the future
  • Insight – what is and will be happening, and why

In continuing to think along the lines of the post on agile architecture, it makes me wonder how an architecture can be measured along these lines in the dimensions of time and value. Even though the requirements for the architecture can’t be nailed down do the perspectives (like those listed) remain constant? Should we also build into our thinking how long we think the architecture element is viable? That can be a tough issue as evidenced by the continued contributions of mainframes, COBOL and other technologies that are pretty far along the ripe cycle.

 

I recently read a thought provoking article titled: Management in the Second Machine Age that made me wonder about the effects of automation on IT architects as well. If you can measure it, you are closer to being able to automate it.

Is an Agile Architecture in your future?

agile architecture.pngA few weeks back I did a post on agile development and that got me thinking about the future of architecture and the need for agile architecture.

 

The same pressures of shifting needs are present at the macro level and should affect the creation and use of architecture work products – although since it is architecture it will be a bit different than agile development.

 

Some of the same principles apply:

  •          People – Architecture lives at the intersection of business and technology. People are at the focus of that intersection, not technology. Architectural efforts should focus on the effect upon the people involved. What needs to happen? How will it be measured? These factors can be used to make course corrections along the way – once you realize that an architecture is never finished. If it doesn’t deliver as expected, change it. Make the whole activity transparent, so that people can buy in, instead of throw stones.
  •          Continuous change – When you begin to think of the business as dynamic and not static, the relationship with the real world becomes clear. In nature those species that are flexible and adjust to meet the needs of the environment can thrive – those that can’t adjust die off.
    Architectures need to have standards, but it also needs to understand where compromises can be made. When talking with CIOs the other day, it became clear that ignoring Shadow IT efforts doesn’t mean you will never need to support them. It is better to understand and facilitate their effective use (through architecture), rather than try and stand in the way.
    In a similar way, the link between the agile projects and the overall architecture need to be recursive. Building upon the understanding that develops. The architecture does not stand alone.
    Architecture development can also have short sprints of understanding, documenting and standardizing the technical innovations that take place, while minimizing technical debt.
  •          Focus on business goal based deliverables – Over the years, I’ve seen too many architectural efforts end up as shelf-ware. In the case of architecture, just-in-time is probably the most effective and accurate approach.
    If the architecture work products can be automated or at least integrated with the tooling used in the enterprise, it will be more accurate and useful. The concept of machine and human readable work products should be part of any agile architecture approach.
    From a goal-based perspective, the architecture needs to understand at a fundamental level what is scarce for the organization and what is abundant and then maximize the value generated from what is scarce – or at least unique to the organization.
  •          Good enough – Don’t let the perfect architecture stand in the way of one that is good enough for today. All too often I’ve seen architecture analysis go down to 2 or 3 levels of detail. Then people say “if 2 is good, let’s go to 5 levels of depth.” Unfortunately, with each level of detail the cost to develop and maintain goes up by an order of magnitude – know when to stop. I’ve never seen a single instance of where these highly detailed architecture definitions where maintained more than 2 or 3 years.
    The goal should be functional use, not a focus on perfection. Architecting the simplest solution what works today is generally best. If you architect the solution for something that will be needed 5 years out, either the underlying business need or the technical capabilities will change before it will actually be used.

None of this is really revolutionary. Good architects have been taking approaches like this for years. It is just easy to interpret some of the architecture process materials from an ivory tower perspective.

Facilitating a session on the Next Generation CIO

CIO.pngThis past week, I facilitated a session at a CIO conference in LA. The focus of the session I facilitate was The Next Generation CIO. Before we got started I had a brief introduction about the changes taking place from my view as a chief technologist perspective.  Here is a summary of my kick-off comments:

 

It seems today that you can’t pick up an IT magazine or listen to a conference keynote without someone lamenting the state of the relationship between the CIO and the business or IT’s capabilities to generate new value for corporations.

Let’s face it things have changed in recent years. For the past few decades we've been successful deploying and maintaining the systems of record that have been the backbone of decision-making for organizations. We’ve built up layer upon layer of successful projects to the point where we’re calcified by our own success. Unfortunately this means that it is common to hear people talk about having 80% of their budget consumed before the year even starts (just keeping the lights on) with little to nothing left over to add new business value. It may be as important what we stop doing as what we can start.

 

Having stated that we’ve had all this success, it is good to recognize that almost all the solutions in production today were built with a scarcity assumption. There was never enough data, storage, network or computing capacity.

In many cases, those limitations have been overcome and we live in a world of abundant IT capabilities. We now can take that abundance of data and computing capacity and use analytic techniques to perform complex tasks like context recognition and sentiment analysis – tasks that just a few years ago were the domain of human knowledge workers. We can now begin to recognize ‘normal’ situations and automate them, freeing up people to focus on the anomalies and turn them into opportunities.

 

 

Infrastructure as a Service is an example of a business process we're all familiar with. At its core it is the business process of instantiation and monitoring of virtual machines. Today, it has been automated to a large extent. What we can do today is just the tip of the iceberg of change headed our way as even greater IT capabilities allow us to take these techniques and apply them throughout the business. Instead of automating VM instantiation, we should be able to automate hiring personnel or even most of the middle management role in some organizations.

 

This abundance perspective can fundamentally shift how value is generated and the role of IT within organizations. If we don’t understand and capitalize on these technology shifts to address the business shifts underway, others will come in and eat our lunch.

 

With this as a starting point, we had a very active discussion covering a wide range of topics some of which were:

  •          Can is really be called Shadow IT if the CIO helps the business by applying their expertise to help steer, rather than running alongside and trying to slow it down?
  •          What can we do to help our people transition from traditional IT to a newer more flexible and business centric approach? Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to make the transition.
  •          What do CIOs need to do to sharpen the sword, for themselves and their people? One of the key points of this discussion was spending time with the business. Live it.
  •          Don’t strive for perfection – be flexible and enable the business to adjust as needed.

I had to draw the session to a close when time ran out but afterward there were a number of clusters that were still talking – and that discussion was likely more important than the discussion of the bigger group.

HP Discover 2014 – see you there…

Channels_RGB_blue_NT.pngIf you’ll be at the June 10-12th 2014 HP Discover in Las Vegas, I hope to see you. As of right now, it looks like I am going to be talking about a number of different topics:

 

  1.        The new style of business value – pulling IT in the driver’s seat
  2.        Agile Architecture - springboard to IT value
  3.        Workplace of the future perspectives
  4.        I also heard rumors about being part of a panel to talk about business value generation.

I am sure there will be some changes to the titles or adding new topics, but last minute panic and public speaking seem to go together.

 

I’ll also spend some time in the meeting zone of the HP Discover Zone, if anyone wants to scheduled time to talk. Drop the coordinator a note, if you’d like to set up a meeting. I’ll also try to meet some of the bloggers that attend, if I can track them down - there should be a bloggers gathering space.

 

This event is a great opportunity where all the expertise will be in one place to answer just about any question that will come up. That saves times as well as provides a diverse set of perspectives enabling choice.

 

I just saw that Thomas Friedman will be speaking. Hopefully, we’ll not be dressed identically like the last time we met.

Autonomous vehicles now, near and someday

autonomous car.pngIEEE Spectrum had an article on the current state of self-driving cars -- many of these features are already in commercially available cars. They may not seem like much, but they are the foundation for those fully autonomous cars we keep hearing about. It will be closer to the end of the decade before we see those in any volume.

 

One of the areas that will be deployed sooner is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. V2V communications is made up of a WiFi like wireless network where automobiles (and infrastructure – V2I) send messages to each other with information about what they’re doing. This research once implemented should aid people in driving more safely, by taking latency out of the response to situations.

 

This will have all the complications and security/privacy requirements that IoT implementations should address.

 

It is not just cars we’re trying to make smarter, there are also efforts to make the roads smarter as well.

Today is a tiny bit more than Star Wars day

cake.pngMay 4th is Star Wars day. It is also my birthday. My wife asked me the other day “Did you plan this?”

 

May the force be with you!

Agile development - is it right for you?

Barrier break through.pngThe other day I was talking with a team about Agile development adoption. One of the things they asked was “What’s different?” and "Is it right for us?" I sat down and jotted this list of thoughts that came to mind. No, my response isn’t the purist perspective covering all the elements of the agile manifesto, but some might find it useful:

 

Agile focus:

  • Small cycles with fast turnaround - iterative releases w/improved time to value

  • High-level of interaction with the end user/owner

  • Progress centric, where business value is measured by tested, demonstrable deliverables

  • Transparency

  • Fail early/fail often – “defects” are an opportunity for a future release

  • Priority focused, with quicker realization of business value

It requires:

  • Direct access by the agile team to business users

  • Executive sponsorship, support and expectations

  • Customer commitment/involvement – if the customer isn’t there, the work can’t get done.

  • Automated testing (you’ll be testing more often so plan to automate)

  • Projects started with the awareness and assumption that you don’t know everything about the end result

  • Define areas that cannot be compromised (e.g., security) that need to be baked in along the way

  • Agile readiness assessment before each new effort – all parties need to be ready

  • Organizational change management (there is behavior change of individuals, leaders, relationships)

  • Priority-driven development

What remains the same:

  • Scope (scope will change, but if it changes too much, it becomes a new project/sprint)

  • Requirements (still need to be documented and tested) although they are not there at the start

  • Leadership and project owners (they accept or reject results)

  • Amount of potential work to be done (there is always going to be more to do, focus on value)

  • Budgets – projects still need to live within financial constraints

  • Performance measurement (what and how you measure will be different).

  • Documentation (the documentation is richer, since it should be completed all along the way).

  • Architecture (everything still needs to work together)

  • Change control (prepare for continous change)

What needs to change:

  • Incentives, compensation for the members

  • Governance processes and approaches to release and acceptance

  • Interfaces to other groups (they need to be more flexible)

  • Coaches and agile experience (for the ‘customer’ as well as the developers)

  • Continuous engagement level of business users

  • A view to develop and implement what is needed, nothing more

Although Agile has been around for well over a decade, a solid foundation for discussion still needs to be agreed upon.

Who will adopt the Chromebox?

chromebox.pngThere has been quite a bit of discussion lately about the post iPad technical economy. Some people are talking about the lack of innovation, new devices and more importantly new applications. That perspective may be limited to that form factor, since there are definitely some interesting things happening elsewhere.

 

I just saw this pre-announcement of the HP Chromebox and thought “that’s cool”. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but the word appears to have been out for a while.

 

This tiny device essentially provides any modern monitor or TV (or two) with access to Google Chrome apps quickly and securely. Although the price hasn’t been announced I’m assuming it will be in the near throwaway technology price.

It did make me wonder thought who is likely to adopt this device? Is it the small business, the large enterprise, the home… I can see some use for it in a wide range of situations.

 

With devices like the Raspberry Pi and other small, yet powerful devices adding capabilities at an affordable price point, I don’t think we’ve even started to see the creativity that is being brought to bear.

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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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