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

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?

 

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.

The shifting view of security required today

security extend.pngLast month while in Canada, I was part of a discussion about what’s abundant and scarce in the finance space. We touched on security. I think we can all admit that there is nearly an infinite supply of hackers willing to work for free and at the same time a business’s resources in the security space is constrained. It is not hard to image a large organizations being the focus of 10,000 or more cyber-attacks in a single day. Are our systems really up for this level of defense?

 

We can also admit that the security fortress approach (where you create a secure perimeter) to protect the corporate systems and data is insufficient and outdated. This notion of security seems quaint in a cloud-enabled world where the business draws upon an ecosystem of partners and sites across the globe. Even the systems that we’re implementing are no longer hierarchical in nature, they are an aggregation of services and functionality providing significant business value but presenting opportunities to rethink what we mean by governance, compliance and access. The concept of having zero risk appears naïve.

 

We live in a world of conflict. We want our systems to be secure and yet collaborative, innovative and low risk. This kind of paradox points to the need for an innovative approach.

 

We are going to have to abandon our current fragmented defense mentality and rethink our cyber-attack response. This gorilla war will be defined by a business-driven, risk-management approach where security needs to be baked in at every level and not bolted on as an afterthought.

 

There was also a discussion related to a mobile approach to control. Some of the folks were talking about using Bluetooth LE to open locks and control a facility (since a wide variety of mobile devices support it). I pointed them to an analysis that shows how Bluetooth LE provides low energy consumption but also low security. It may be OK as long as you add additional security capabilities throughout the rest of the system and don’t depend on the Bluetooth specification, since LE doesn’t really use the defined security functionality in its attempt to lower power consumption.

 

There are a few ‘simple’ things organizations can do to start shifting their perspective:

-          Prioritize information assets based on business risks.   I’ve mentioned before my view about BYOD – for the corporation, it is not about devices, but access to corporate information and policy. Organizations need to develop a data portfolio that defines the information assets they need to protect and have clear policies on their use – this may extend into a context portfolio perspective.  This will require business and IT to work together to assess risks across the entire value chain and set appropriate policies for the underlying information assets.

-          Define policies for security integration. In the more flexible (cloud-based approach) being deployed today services that are created or subscribed to can morph from what they were originally intended to be used in other ways – plan for this. Everyone in the IT (and probably the business as well) need to have a foundational understanding of how to incorporate security awareness into their work, during the entire lifecycle of processes and projects. Security and privacy are everyone’s job.

 

Security can be a differentiator for an organization – both in a good and a bad way. Organizations need to actively take control instead of passively waiting to see what happens.

 

2014 – a year of instability

crystalball.gif2014 will be a year of Instability for most organizations. For the optimists, it will be a year that many of the technologies that entered the business environment, shift to delivering significantly new levels of value. For the pessimist, it will be another year of unwanted change.

 

One of the changes organizations will embrace is the shift from a focus on service delivery (including cloud) as a commodity to a value play. This will move Service Level Agreement metrics from measuring commodity performance (like uptime) to more business-focused and quality measures.

 

Many of the service players will begin to offer solutions higher up the value stack and directly address business processes. SaaS vendors moving to BPO for example, causing them to take on whole new areas of responsibility.

 

The same kinds of shifts will happen within IT support organizations. Workplace services that are currently focused on supporting BYOD will need to embrace Bring Your Own Service – a more environmental view of what is needed to address the business needs of the day. The security and service broker functions will become even more critical for support organizations since much of the work will be provided by others.

 

In 2013, HP talked a lot about the new style of IT. In 2014, a new style of business that is more social, mobile, flexible, data driven, secure and automated will generate greater value levels and allow those who embrace the change to excel. For example, social will be a lever for greater engagement for employees and customers. Mobile will build upon that engagement capability and add in the element of speed, shifting the time to action for organizations. Analytics will move out of the glass house and take advantage of mobile to provide the visibility and efficiency needed and where possible automation will offload well understood tasks and assist in simplifying and eliminating distractions. The race with the machine will be the race to watch in 2014 -- this will be a year of widespread transformation. Defining criteria to evaluate an innovation and its implication will help organizations minimize instability.

 

In 2012 a wide variety of ubiquitous and wearable computing hit the ground (even more in 2013) but in 2014 these will hit the road and be incorporated into more business and personal processes. They will shift from being isolated devices to becoming linked networks of functionality. As the costs and power requirements go down, they will be embedded in more products (and produce, limiting spoilage -- as an example) optimizing results. This will also enable a more software-defined everything view of computers in products. The instabilities this shift implies will be readily apparent in 2014.

 

Another shift will be to a software defined anything approach. The concepts of OpenStack for Cloud OS and OpenFlow for software defined networking will start to permeate higher into the value stack with a more open ‘smarts’ approach to pattern recognition and process optimization during 2014. This more open approach will allow for standardization yet customization enabling new level of business flexibility and applicability. The personalization and custom development for 3D printing... will continue to move into the mainstream.

 

Software in 2014 will incorporate more flexible information sources and analytics, enabling greater levels of automation and systems of action. For the end user we’ll likely see a great deal of interface work and changes as HTML5 integrates more capabilities for voice, video… and organizations begin to capitalize upon these capabilities across devices. A wider variety of spatial (gesture), touch, voice and even mind control interfaces will be incorporated into enterprise software, moving out of the consumer space. Organizations will learn from how the consumer space adopts the functionality of the Xbox One into their interactions. We will move beyond a ‘mobile first’ view for development to mobile is 'the interface' and desktop is a special case – fortunately with HTML5 that should not be that big of an issue.

 

The software portfolio that has been built through the success of all the previous projects will need to be re-assessed in 2014 against these services and the revised needs of the business. Mobile interfaces will allow the enterprise to take advantage of the computer everyone has with them. This environmental perspective will enable the employees to become more engaged with the processes, customers and other employees, empowering them and enabling them to empower others.

 

Organizations will need to assess what is abundant in this world of 2014 and what will still be scarce for them. Those that recognize this distinction will have a significant advantage in planning and removing instability. Everyone can probably recognize that security, privacy and time (attention) will be scarce, but what else can be optimize and used differently to provide advantage.

 

Engaged and motivated employees will still be scarce. I think businesses will need to do more in-house orientation and development enabling a more predictable talent creation pipeline. Although a variety of education techniques can be applied to make this happen, the passive approach that came about during the .com era will no longer be accepted by the businesses or its employees and the new skills and change management required to shift the business will be recognized and addressed in 2014.

 

Organizations that can quickly adjust to the volatility around them will remain stable and in control. Most of the instability can be predicted, although there are some situations that will always surprise us. Being flexible and aware can make those situations turn into an opportunity.

Start thinking about HTTP 2.0 early

http.pngOne of the changes on the horizon that I’ve not paid too much attention to but will impact the services space is: HTTP 2.0. Most organizations today are using HTTP 1.1 and since that dates back to 1999, it is getting rather long in the tooth.

 

Some of the areas trying to be addressed in this update are performance and security.  There are efforts underway today (like SPDY) to improve the existing HTTP, and these are only recently being supported by some of the mainstream browsers. The foundation they defined is being used though to move forward.

 

If the standards effort progresses as defined, HTTP 2.0 will be faster, safer, and be more efficient than HTTP 1.1. Most of these changes will actually take place behind the scenes, so for the user they will upgrade their browser and have HTTP 2.0 capabilities and have to wait for the servers to provide the improved functionality.

For companies though capabilities like server push, enabling HTTP servers to send multiple responses (in parallel) for a single client request -- significant improvements are possible.

 

 

“An average page requires dozens of additional assets, such as JavaScript, CSS, and images, and references to all of these assets are embedded in the very HTML that the server is producing!”

 

So for HTTP interfaces, instead of waiting for the client to discover references to needed resources, the server could sent all of them immediately as soon as you know they’ll be needed. Server push can eliminate entire roundtrips of unnecessary network latency. With user interface responsiveness being an important satisfaction criteria for users this could be a differentiator for a service, especially if it is turned to the network bandwidth available.

 

For businesses, there is a bit of work to do, since porting environments between HTTP servers requires a great deal of testing, even if you have not yet architected a solution to newer functionality. Microsoft and others have put out new server software so organizations can get their feet wet now, while the standards are still solidifying.

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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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