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

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.

 

Context recognition as a service

gossip.pngI was in a discussion the other day as part of the ISSIP Service Futures meeting where we were discussing context-based computing and its impact on services. One of the concepts that fell out of that discussion was the need for ‘context flow’. This might be a new type (or at least a new use) of middleware to share a common understanding of the context of the user or the application portfolio.

 

Why should all the applications have their own context recognition capabilities? Couldn’t they rely on a common engine for at least a basic understanding of what is going on?? Answering questions like:

  • Where is the user? And why?
  • Is this a busy day?
  • Are they traveling?

Applications could subscribe to this contextual advisor function and change their behavior – treating the user in custom ways to fit the situation they are currently in. I can see all kinds of gamification and augmented reality implications.

 

There could be a standard range of contextual states that the entire environment could take advantage of. Maybe this already exists, but I’ve not seen it.

Rethinking future services and the application portfolio

applications.pngAreas changing within business and IT include the movement away from dedicated hardware for applications, as well as the concept of dedicated applications themselves. In order for these changes to be truly successful there are a number of factors to be addressed.

 

Today there are a wealth of software providers that supply intellectual property to address business problems (e.g., ERP solutions). Although some support more flexible access methods (e.g., SaaS), they are still rigid in what they make available to the business itself. The problems are viewed as IT and not what the business needs. In order for these service providers to address the specific needs of an organization, greater service integration flexibility is required. This allows for real integration of business processes, meeting the businesses unique needs. IT that supports those business processes may come from many different sources.

 

This flexibility will require greater data transport capabilities and analytics, turning generic processing into business differentiation. This movement of data outside the control of a service provider is the bane of most as-a-service solutions, yet when you think about it – whose data is it??

 

To meet the needs of the system users, greater platform independent support is required. This will allow the integration of generic business processes into a context specific solution that can be used by the various business roles to make better business decisions. Since the mobile interface is the enterprise interface going forward, placing the information in the context of the user is critical, on the device the user is actually using. Or if the response is well understood facilitating the systems of action needed to predict and respond to business events.

 

This also means that custom application configuration capabilities will be critical. Rather than having 3rd generation programmers handcrafting new behaviors into the system, standards and tools for customization will be required. Application configuration capabilities will improve the time to market and reduce the maintenance costs -- relying on business-oriented graphical modeling to aggregate functionality from across the portfolio of capabilities. Social capabilities and gamification support will be built into these customization capabilities. This mass-customized contextual portfolio approach is the antithesis of what leveraged service providers enable today.

 

One of the biggest detriments (at least from my perspective) of the dot com era was the view that everyone can code. These coders can do that in a 3rd generation language like Java (or JavaScript for that matter). And finally, that coders actually understand user interface and business process automation design (and security). I don’t think we can afford to put up with these views any longer. The changes in how computing works and is delivered as well the complex possibilities enabled by the abundance of IT capabilities don’t allow it. There has been work to leverage experts and hide complexity over the years, yet most organizations take advantage of very little of this work. It’s time that we move on.

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??

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.

2014-01-21_211830.jpg

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

 

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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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