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

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.

 

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.

Opportunities in Open Data

derived data.pngA long while back, I mentioned a kickoff presentation to the Open Data effort in Toronto. This meeting was focused on opening up the underutilized existing data, enabling the generation of new value for those living in Toronto.

 

Many organizations today need to inventory their data and (probably more importantly) the derived data. As part of this cataloging effort, they can look at the possibilities to leverage the data with publically and commercially available data opening up new levels of context understanding and possibility for the organization.

 

It is interesting when you talk to organizations about their data. They rarely understand the range of what is valuable, internal and proprietary -- let alone what could be merged with information from the government or other sources to make better decisions.

 

Many governments like the United States, Canada, Mexico and Singapore are opening up the floodgates of public data. For companies who understand that their data is being valued by their partners and customers, it can be a differentiator for those relationships. Naturally competitors are interested in the data as well, so a balance needs to be reached.

 

There are many companies across the globe that aggregate data from numerous sources and provide insight to help with decision making. Examples of some unusual types of searches anyone can do are: Coffee vs. Tea or what’s interesting about this day or what countries have the highest download speed.

 

Now these tools that once required high powered, custom solutions are more common – through the abundance of IT capabilities. It is shifting the foundations of what is thought of as possible.

Examples of where open data integration are making a difference:

Or the example I posted on a while back about the shifts that will come to the healthcare space when we have more genomic information and greater understanding of the effectiveness of treatment based on genetic makeup, not just the statistical average.

 

Information sources that contain demographic data, financial transactions, health-care benchmarks, and real-time location data are becoming prevalent. A myriad of new context-based possibilities exist for organizations to exploit both to understand their business better, differentiate themselves in the mind of the customer and generate economic value.

Is the Internet-of-Things really on the brink of enabling a major shift in business value?

fields.JPGI was talking with some folks the other day about the implications of technology shifts and what it means to business. Some shifts like Cloud and Big Data advance how we do many of the things we’ve been doing for years. Others like the Internet-of-Things (IoT) enable whole new approaches. I think the impact is being under estimated – probably because they are not as technically sexy.

 

One of my favorite examples of IoT is the SmartSpud. This sensor pack allows a potato producer to look at the process from the potato’s point of view, reducing bruising and other issues that cause waste -- very quickly. We’ve just not been able to get this perspective in the past. I grew up on a farm so the whole issue of organic processes and their optimization is always of interest.

 

I believe almost every industry as opportunities to use IoT in new ways. This report from the Economist states that this is “an idea whose time has finally come.” They took a survey and only 40% of the respondents saw the impact limited to certain markets or industries. 38% believe that the IoT will have a major impact in most markets and industries. Yet, 96% of all respondents expect their business to be using the IoT in some respect within 3 years. When I think about this, it is an issue where people are just coming to grips with what can be done to maximize the value of what is scarce to the organization.

 

There are some things that are holding the pressure to deploy IoT back. The need for some common infrastructure and services that enable secure, fairly reliable transport and analysis of information. All the parts exist, they just need to be bundled so they can be consumed effectively. It is crying out for an innovator’s dilemma approach that is just good enough for what is needed now to get things rolling. The people who want to use these capabilities don’t want to have to understand it deeply or create it from scratch – they just want to buy it and use it. Until we reach that stage, we’ll only have great examples (in isolation) and not real impact.

Is it time for a context portfolio assessment?

ideas.pngBack in 2007, I wrote a post Data is Everywhere but Context is Rare discussing the massive amounts of data being collected and how ‘context is king’ when it comes to understanding it. Now, with all the derived data we can create, tracking what is being create at the same time or who is reading it when, our understanding of the situation can be even deeper then we could think of back in 2007.

 

If you paid any attention to the CES the last couple of years, wearable technology had a great deal of the focus. This is more than just simply tracking basic data. It is about using the combined data of the wearable hardware, social networks and networking to find greater depth of information to use as a foundation of analysis.

 

Google Now is a good example of an application that gathers information from various sources so that your information needs can be anticipated and present information you didn’t even know you needed.

 

For most business (that spend most of their money on systems of record) a more contextually aware approach can take the existing information to whole new levels of value. I posted quite a few times on the concept of application portfolio assessment. It is time that greater focus should be applied to the organizations contextual portfolio. What do we actually know? What should we know? What would it take to address the gap?

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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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