I am old enough to remember when the first PC landed on my desk, as well as my first laptop, smartphone… now it is an assumed part of work today. It takes more than new technology to differentiate an organization.
Every once in a while it is time to take a step back and look at your life, what you are doing, the impact it has and even your own value system. I had one of those moments thrust upon my family when HP offered me an early retirement option.
For me, I asked questions like:
- How sure are you that you will be happy in the coming years?
- How can you be sure that your relationships with your spouse and family will become an enduring source of happiness?
- Are you having the influence on the company and industry that you should?
For technologists it can also offer an opportunity to think about how you are marketing your efforts to others. Fortunately for me, this was a career choice -- where decisions can be made.
Technologists should periodically take the opportunity for these kinds of personal assessments. I had a leader I worked for once who did this assessment every Thanksgiving (for those outside the US, but this is a holiday focused on looking at the bounty available to us and actively being thankful for it). For whatever the reason, we should not passively accept the status quo, but actively ensure that we’re creating the future we desire.
I mentioned last week the changing role of the CIO. These factors are also a driver for all technologists to assess their future and can enter into the evaluation process.
One slide that was used in HP Discover last week quite a bit was this one:
It shows how technology has shifted since the dawn of the Information Technology. These changes are not likely to slow down because it is all fueled by exponential technology growth.
It is about the unimaginable change that is possible when driven by exponential growth. The story starts with the man who invented chess. When he showed the king of India the game, the king was so entertained and excited by the game that he told the man he’d give him anything he asked for – within reason.
The man made what appeared to be a simple request. He asked that every year for the next 64 years (the number of squares on a chess board) a few grains of rice in the following manner: the king was to provide a single grain of rice on the first chess square and double it every following year.
The king quickly agreed.
The first year the inventor received 1 grain, the second 2, the third 4… It doesn’t get interesting until you cross over into the 2nd half of the board.
On the 23rd square we are talking about 8M grains. A still reasonable amount of rice, that can be delivered by a small field of rice. At the next square, when crossing over to the 2nd half, the king finally took notice, because now it would start impacting his grain inventory. The king realized by the time they would reach the end of the board, it would have required enough rice to cover all of India one meter thick with rice. He’d been had and the inventor’s head was soon cut off and the rice deliveries were no longer a problem.
I bring this up because all these exponential trends that we’ve been taking advantage of in IT, like Moore’s law, Edholm’s law…, are now reaching into the 2nd half of the board. We’re the ones who need to understand and take advantage of the change since it is quite different than what we’ve seen to date.
How many of you have already felt the constraints of your own thinking getting in the way of technology adoption? I know I for one need to take a step back every once in a while and say “what does this really mean?”
We are entering into a different world where there is an abundance of data – with all the sensors and mobile devices… We don’t worry as much about if the data is available, but more about what we can do with it. For those people who believe that data is king, it can be a rude awakening when they realize that in a world of abundant data, having more of it is worthless.
We don’t worry as much about if we can transport the data to the processing location. The networking is typically there, although it may still cost more than we wish.
With cloud computing, we have the resources to crunch all that data into something useful.
Additionally, our access to software capabilities is more than we’ve ever seen before as instantiated in the phase – there’s an app for that. For businesses that may be SaaS, Open Source, COTS…
For most businesses though the systems were designed with a very constrained view of the world. They were based on scarcity of data, computing… and it is time to take a step back and really look at that portfolio of applications for what they are really good at and how they add value.
When organizations think about the separation of “normal” and the automation, I always view that the people’s skills can be applied elsewhere, where their creativity is needed. I came across this article titled: 5 Crucial Skills for the Next Generation Workforce, that talks about the kind of skills that will always be needed. They are: “
- Applied math and statistics. Knowing which analyses to conduct and how to interpret their results is more valuable than ever.
- Negotiation and group dynamics. It turns out that organizations need dedicated managers working with teams, advancing their agendas and working with their members.
- Good writing. Computers can only generate the simplest, most formulaic prose.
- Framing problems and solving open-ended problems. Computers don’t know what’s wrong or where the next opportunities are.
- Persuasion. Does anyone seriously think that a great salesperson will be unable to find work, even in a highly digitized economy?”
We need to use computers for what they are good at - Computers have infinite patience and people do not. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their article Winning the Race with Ever-Smarter Machines article stated:
“Computers lack intuition and creativity, they can be painfully fragile in uncertain or unpredictable environments, and they are lost when asked to work even a little outside a predefined domain…. Fortunately, humans are strongest exactly where computers are weak, creating a potentially beautiful partnership.”
Understanding these capabilities can make a big difference in planning the business environment and the employee training needs for the future.
It is interesting to me that people will often attribute ongoing issues to new technologies. In Lori MacVittie’s blog post: Never attribute to technology that which is explained by the failure of people, she talks about the issue of improperly designed load balancing and how some people will view this as a cloud computing issue. Clearly it is not and it has been around since the first parallel processing efforts took place.
There are numerous examples of this misattribution today in technology, whether it is:
- Cloud causes greater integration issues than before – which is really the enterprise architecture issues that organizations have been dealing with since at least the advent of client/server.
- The attention crunch of the mobile/social era – this has been discussed since the dark ages.
- Technology adoption - the Luddites are the poster child for this.
- The increased complexity of cloud when added to the existing environment – this is also an architecture issue that we’ve been dealing with for decades.
Technology adoption and vendor management are core skills that teams should have already that will be increasing in importance. With every new technology there are new problems as well as solutions, but it is surprising how many of the problems existed before - we just may need to relearn the solutions.