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

Increasing the value of architects in a world of cheap data

 

panning for gold.GIFThere is a great deal of discussion about big data and a move to a data economy. We have collected more data than we might normally be able to use (and we’re trying to collect even more). If you step back and think about the law of supply and demand – if there is an abundance of data it is probably not worth all that much.

 

Having made that bold statement – those who can extract the context described by the data will likely sift out a good living. Much like a gold miner panning for gold, you need to go through a great deal of mud before you find a nugget. Fortunately, the computing capabilities have increased to allow that filtering to happen.

 

IT architects in companies need to look beyond internal information flows, master data definitions, and business processes. Enterprise Architects need to understand the third-party data and service providers and the value they can provide. Suppliers, partners and customers may all have information that can impact the business (and vice versa). It is contextual understanding that’s required.

 

I’d bet that almost every organization has information that it is collecting or metadata that could be derived that is not being used today. Business and information architects should understand the business issues, the methods for segmentation and the available data sources that could be used to bring added value to marketing discussions. As part of architectural planning optimize the data consumption just like architects should optimize the application portfolio.

 

Architects need to become proactive, looking beyond the technology and focus on the business goals and the information available (from whatever source). They need to explain to the business and technical leadership the shifts in what’s possible and valuable. The data scientists can then be applied to those opportunities.

 

Scarcity, abundance and innovation

 

empty.pngRecently, someone pointed out a video from McKinsey that is talking about how Technological advances can not only improve resource productivity dramatically but also spark the next industrial revolution. I had to laugh a bit since this concept is something that we’ve talked about since the very first blog post (almost 10 years ago) and for our strategy work years before. The abundance of IT can drive innovation in almost any industry.

 

Understanding the interaction between scarcity and abundance is an important part of any enterprise strategy effort. If an innovation can’t be understood from its effects, it probably can’t be used for that particular organization. Just being new, interesting or exciting isn’t enough. Adoption can’t be assumed but needs to be built in the mind of those who should adopt (and adapt).

 

In some situations like the service space that has been traditionally built on access to people and process, the ability to remove people through automation can shake the foundation of how an organization approaches the market. The same could be said about the concept of middle management. Once you shift your view to the default perspective of “Prove that we need them” rather than “We’ve always done it that way”, real chance can happen.

 

I am on my way home from a couple of weeks on the road. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to sit back and think about some of the things that I’ve seen recently and follow my own advice.

 

Contemplating trend intersections – HP’s global technical conference

Recently, a friend from ISSIP sent me an article from Forbes asking Can LED Advances Help Vertical Farms Take Root? I found it interesting because I grew up on a farm, but also because it is an example of the intersection of technical and business trends.

 

The abundance of capabilities in one space (LEDs) can address a scarcity in another space (arable land). An important part of strategic thinking going forward is looking for these relationships as they are today and for trends that will cause them to shift, as well as the organizational change management implications.

 

This week, I am participating in HP’s internal Global Technical Conference. I’ll be looking at the innovations from this scarcity and abundance perspective as well as  meta-drivers that impact innovation value generation.

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.

Information revolution impact assessment in the balance

 

level.pngThere was a recent article in The Futurist discussing The Information Revolution's BROKEN PROMISES that was a bit disturbing – at least to me.

 

It described 8 grand promises that seemed to have fallen short:

  1. The Internet Will Create a "New Economy"

  2. The Internet Will Create a World Community

  3. The Digital Age Will Make Us All Get Smarter

  4. The Digital Generation Will Save Us

  5. Digital Technologies Will Narrow the Wealth Gap

  6. The Internet Will Spread Democracy

  7. The Internet Will Make Us Better Informed

  8. Everyone Gets to Be a Publisher

I found the article an example of how we can perceive things vs. what the masses actually wanted. In many cases, we did reach that these promise defined, it’s just that the article’s author didn’t like the results and viewed them as being off-center. Let’s just take the last two:

  • The Internet will make us better informed – There is no doubt there is more information out there from more perspectives than we could ever access back in the 80s. It is true that we can self-select down into some very narrow views of the world if we want but we can also broaden our view to encompass implications that were unimaginable from the isolated views available in the pre-internet age.

  • Everyone gets to be a publisher – It doesn’t take much investment to get your perspective out to others in a wide variety of formats: e-books, blogs, podcasts… Yes, the quality varies widely, but what did the author expect. Just because most people can go outside and walk/run doesn’t mean we’ll all be able to run a world-class marathon, the first time out (or ever).

We can all bemoan the gap between the ideal and reality for the masses, since there will always be a gap. What we control is our own contribution and effect – are we making the most of the internet revolution. It is better to take responsibility, invest and attempt to take control rather than sit on the sidelines and jeer at the performance of others.

  

Perspective business and technical leaders should take this view, since it is almost the definition of leadership. Don’t let perfection be the barrier to good enough. What changes can be made to improve our products and services using the abundance of capabilities available today? Who needs that little bit of help in getting the ball down the field? We can all help make it happen.

 

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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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