IEEE had an article D-Wave's Quantum Computing Claim Gets Boost in Testing that looked into D-Wave’s claims of having a quantum computer that companies can buy. Organizations like Google are buying and NASA has committed to some testing on the Google system, so it is clear there is some momentum behind what they sell. The tests are showing that a different kind of computing is involved that is useful for certain kinds of optimization and security related problems.
Although it is unlikely that quantum computers will be hitting the mainstream business computing market in the foreseeable future, there are some industries (like logistics and energy management) where they could prove useful sooner than others. This technology is something organizations should be aware of, even if it will not be useful for years in their area, since the approach is so radically different.
Lately, I’ve been a number of conversations with people about the strategic use of technologies. I mentioned the criteria I use to evaluate trends and technologies. We then typically get into a discussion about the difference in impact between some of the technologies that are much discussed today and how the tactical use differs from the strategic use.
- Analytics – Although you may need to gather more data and keep it longer, there is not enough attention space to sustain the effort unless you simplify, automate and focus attention only on what needs human involvement. Time to action/decisions has to be the measure of impact.
- Cloud – Although it may reduce costs in certain circumstances, the strategic impact of cloud techniques (whether it is infrastructure, processes or people) is to increase flexibility. If through the use of cloud techniques you end up increasing the flexibility, it cannot be sustained.
- Mobility – The mobility strategy for a business has to focus on improving the access to corporate information and reducing the latency in the decision-making process. If the focus remains on the devices, it will also fail.
These current technology directions (and others) have a strategic side and a tactical manifestation – make sure you know what is important to your business over the long haul when creating your plan of attack. If you want to reach the top you still go up one step at a time, but it is easy to lose sight of the goal along the way. Identify the metrics to measure progress and then measure the impact along the way and make adjustments.
When I was writing this post I felt it was a bit risky, since these technologies are viewed as so important today. The real point of the post is to view them strategically and not just a buzzword or fad. This tactical approach may be the reason that for some organizations, innovation is not working out.
After a week of Tech Con, I need to get back in the saddle and start blogging so I thought I'd start with one issue I’ve given some thought to recently. It is tackling reviews of projects that are currently underway and in trouble. Governance may help you determine where to focus but once you find those projects in need, the real work begins.
Sometimes good technologists are brought into existing projects that are in trouble -- it is just a fact of life. A good technologist has experience that should be applicable to almost any technical situation and should have the skills to advise others on solving problems.
Unfortunately, when you are overcome by events, it can be difficult to follow your own advice. Over the years, I’ve pulled together a few generic questions and activities that can be pulled out and used to validate that you have not overlooked the obvious.
Like all consultants, when you are trying to orient yourself to the situation, you ask a number of questions. Asking the team rather than just diving in and looking at the situation from their view always provides some good perpectives. A few of the questions I use with project leaders and architects are:
- Describe any resource constraints that remain for the project.
- Share any contractual issues or pending changes for this project.
- Describe any significant differences between the “as designed” model and the project as it is being implemented.
- What are the greatest business risks to this project be completed as planned? Do you feel the impact is adequately documented and approved?
- Describe any client relationship issues outstanding with this project.
- When was the last joint user/project team meeting discussing the status of this project? What was the user’s level of satisfaction expressed in the meeting?
- Who is the design authority or architect of the solution that is ensuring the project is technically being built as designed?
- What is the most significant technical risk remaining on the project?
- What is the project’s turnaround plan and what is your confidence level that the dates will be met?
- Is there anything you know that could help ensure success?
Some of these should be documented in the project work products, but many times it is the discrepancies that are the most interesting.
There are also common areas of investigation such as:
- Vulnerabilities to events outside the organization’s control such as denial-of-service attacks – a safety check to see how proactive the team is at identifying vulnerabilities. Business continuity comes into play here as well.
- Troubled, dependent projects, unsupported vendor software, and key people inclined to leave the organization
What areas have I left out?
In Charlie’s blog on Megatrends, decision evaluation and the future we want, he lists drivers that that will shape our lives in the future and their effect on business decision making: engagement, simplicity, efficiency, flexibility, security, and visibility. These are most definitely part of the drivers for megatrends, but I would like to add two more: “speed and agility”.
Recently, I’ve been working with our executive briefing folks and a number of others on megatrends – the industry independent trends that will shape our lives in the future and their effect on business decision making. These will naturally shape how technology is consumed as well.
In the process, a number of meta-drivers fell out that may shape the megatrends. Yes, this is turning into a convoluted network of interactions and that is why some models to assess these interactions are so important. These categories for these meta-drivers seemed to be:
- Engagement – this is what drives social, concepts like flow and maybe even the Internet of Things
- Simplicity – addressing the limitations of our ability to consume
- Efficiency – this embraces the concept of abundance and scarcity
- Flexibility – the need to adjust quickly (probably the sustained driving factor for cloud techniques)
- Security – we all know about this, if you don’t feel safe almost nothing else matters
- Visibility – the need for contextual understanding in order to act (one of the reasons for the current focus on Big Data)
Are these too simple? What have I left out?? It surprised me how old some of the links I identified were to link to this post.
It seems like many of our decisions could use an indicator showing how they increase or decrease these categories. We could use this as part of defining our expectations.
How many times do we make decisions that increase security but radically decrease flexibility or visibility, for example? You hear that discussion about our personal as well as our business lives today.