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

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.

 

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.

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.

Approaching UCC and mobility

working together.GIFI was just in conversation with an individual about what should be the common concerns about organizations implementing Unified Communications and mobility.

 

The first thing I thought of is that these are both really environmental concerns for the individual and the organization. They are not really about technologies, although technologies definitely help address the requirements when they are identified. It is really the business requirements driving this forward though to make decisions faster or better. It can be about costs, but that misses the real opportunity.

 

So our discussion moved to who should be involved when addressing these areas. My first thought was to the business people who have problems that need to be solved. Then the enterprise architects who understand the current environment at a macro level and how the current business needs are addressed. And then the technical individuals who understand the capabilities of the new technologies. These people have to be flexible enough to think about the abundance of capabilities that are provided and how they address the shifting needs of the business. Who else should be involved?

 

When you think about these technologies and what they do… for most of mankind’s existence, we were only able to communicate with those we could physically meet and interact. Writing and printing allowed us to move on and share ideas across space and time, but only in one direction. Then first with the telegraph and then with the telephone we enabled bi-directional communications in real time. For about the last decade, we’ve had mobile and UCC and are still learning what we can do with their capabilities. We’re communicating now not just with people but with machines that have capabilities as well. We’re putting ‘smarts’ in more and more products and so our ability to act remotely and repeatedly is increasing.

 

UCC and mobile have a significant role to play but only when we start thinking of them less as a technology and more as a lever for greater business value generation.

And now a thought about where to start

start.jpgI was thinking a bit more about yesterday’s post about the importance of stopping.

 

I put a post in a LinkedIn group called “Future Role of IT” that seemed to resonate with that audience so I thought I’d place a version here as well:

 

An interesting thing is that people who are 30 years old have never known a world without a graphic user interface. In 10 years, all those folks will be 40 and in control of IT. There will then be people close to 30 years old who never knew a world without a smartphone - the digital natives.

 

The people growing up today have many computing devices around them all the time. The Internet of Things that businesses are trying to take advantage of are just things to them. This is the market we need to prepare organizations for - today. We have to question not only our own assumptions, but theirs as well.

 
It makes me wonder: Is there a Future Role that doesn't include IT and is it just folks in IT who don't see 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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