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

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.

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?

 

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.

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.

 

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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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