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

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.

 

Who defines business opportunities of mobile?

mobile worker2.pngThis morning I was in a discussion with some people from academia and industry that was primarily focused on communications trends. We quickly dove into the issues of security, networking education, mobility and sensing. Everyone agreed about the impact these areas are having at a high level, but when you dug down just a little bit, the business implications thinking stopped.

 

These technologies are going to shift how we think about some of the foundational aspects of business and employment today. Concepts are going to shift by asking: “What is a mobile worker?” In this age of BYOD and Mobile Device Management (MDM), nearly everyone is a mobile worker. Mobile is no longer special, it is a foundational tool for the masses, not a convenience for the elite. If anything, when the field services workers at the face of the customer are enabled by the technology, they can fundamentally shift how the client sees an organization. For many business the client is the field service worker.

 

Mobile interfaces can be more effective (since they are present at the time information is needed) and can actually be more secure (with all the sensing capabilities of modern devices they have much greater contextual understanding of who you really are than old PC or green screen interfaces ever could).

 

Organizations that want to generate new business value need to start identifying the business processes that are under-addressed with in the current IT portfolio (can a more mobile interface help?). They need to assess how the roles in those processes could be support – what is scarce in the decision making process – and provide the content (or even context) needed to make that process more effective. Techniques can be applied to shift adoption.

 

One thing that also needs to be considered is how will the change be tracked. With all the information mobile devices are capable of gathering, it sets the stage for a much deeper understanding of what is really happening, allowing more agile organizations to make course corrections on their deployments along the way.

 

Employees and customers are typically excited to use these techniques, if they can perceive its value. If they can embrace the experience. It is up to us to recognize the opportunity and make it happen. 

Technology education – drivers now and in the future

 

education.pngThe education of future technologists has some interesting conflicts to resolve. The constraints of past success and the opportunities for whole new solutions.

 

Software development is comprised of a tower of Babel consisting of thousands of development languages whose diversity continues to grow every year. Many of these languages are relatively dead (as far as current development), even though they are at the core of many of the systems that facilitate our lives – examples: COBOL and Fortran.

 

COBOL is at the core of many of the systems of record within the financial industry. Few (if any) top tier university programs exist around COBOL (but many community colleges still teach COBOL). Most of the COBOL practitioners are nearing retirement age, and have been for a decade. Planning for this skills gap is something organizations need to do today. If replacement (probably with something more cloud capable) of the programs are part of an application portfolio assessment, it will still require skills in the older environments to flesh out the codified requirements.

 

Software development skills can be standardized and structured, but software development still has an element of creativity. In the talk I gave at the MPICT conference earlier this week, this creative issue was one of the concern areas of ICT educators. The soft skills are critical for developers, since these abilities will be needed to tease out requirements. Developers then need to problem solve and exercise creativity (skills that are also on the soft side). The educators were anxious about the significant pressures to emphasize standard testing and ‘one right answer’ as part of the technical curriculum. This approach may pave over the creative solution that is actually required once the students enter the workforce.

 

I think that most technologists in the field know that our ability to interact with each other and reach consensus on a solution is a critical component of being valuable to an organization. Just being the most creative (or the most right) is not always enough.

 

One of the areas the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals is trying to help organizations and education with is mentoring and coaching on these soft skills to supplement the standard education curriculum. HP is making efforts to expand real work experience as well – I try to sponsor a senior project at UTD every semester (for example). These efforts let students experience the vagaries of real world problems and make mistakes in a safe environment.

 

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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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