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

Is it time for a Chief Automation Officer?

Automation officer.pngOver the last few years, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the race against the machines (or the race with the machines), based on the abundance of computing available. When I think about the IoT and its implications on business, it may be that information is just a side effect of an entirely different corporate strategic effort.

 

Maybe there is a need for a Chief Automation Officer more than a Chief Information Officer going forward?!? Someone who looks at the business implications and opportunities for cognitive computing, sensing, robotics and other automation techniques.

 

Or is automation just assumed to be part of all future strategic planning activities. As I began thinking about it, it’s clear that others have thought about this CAO role as well, although mostly from an IT perspective instead of one based on business need. It could be viewed that this is a role for the CTO or even the enterprise architect.

The shifting world of business continuity

disaster2.pngI was in an exchange this week with an individual talking about business continuity. The view that business continuity needs to focus on:

An organizations business continuity approach need to be reassessed in a world of high levels of automation, contracting for services and reduced latency. The very definition of foundational terms like ‘work location’, ‘services’ and ‘support’ are changing. Diversity of perspective is likely to be a critical component of any kind of timely, situation response.

 

“The management of business continuity falls largely within the sphere of risk management, with some cross-over into related fields such as governance, information security and compliance. Risk is a core consideration since business continuity is primarily concerned with those business functions, operations, supplies, systems, relationships etc. that are critically important to achieve the organization's operational objectives. Business Impact Analysis is the generally accepted risk management term for the process of determining the relative importance or criticality of those elements, and in turn drives the priorities, planning, preparations and other business continuity management activities.”

 

In today’s environment, business impact analysis is becoming ever more technical and the interconnection between environmental factors more complex. We have seen situations recently with program trading that an entire financial institution has been placed at risk when their automated trading responds in an unforeseen fashion or their governance breaks down. We’ll be seeing similar techniques applied throughout organizational processes.

 

The response to almost any situation can be enabled by techniques like VOIP and other approaches that allow additional levels of abstraction. Simulations can be used to understand the implications of various scenarios as part of business continuity planning.

 

As I mentioned back in March:

Having an effective, robust approach to business continuity is part of management, security and many other roles within an organization.  It is important to remember that there is a cost for being unable to respond to an incident.

Context, automation and the future of services

looking for direction.jpgThere recently was a story about a computer program that passed the Turing Test. When you get into the details of what was actually done, I am not sure it really qualifies. The fact that people are talking about the event though is enough to show that we’re pretty far down the road toward breaking down the perceived barriers between machines and human interaction.

 

These advanced levels of interaction capability are enabled by a new wave of AI applications that can capture context at scale and in near real-time. These solutions when they move out of the labs should be able to consume massive amounts of information and generate contextual understanding at a level that even the most intuitive individual would find difficult to match.

 

You might ask what does this mean for the future of services. Or where will it be of use to my organization? It should be applicable at just about any point where a conversation occurs with customer or between:

  • employee and employee
  • organization and organization
  • government and citizen

We may be able to automate interaction that isn’t face-to-face and even then it may need to be person to person with the likelihood we can overcome the uncanny valley.

 

These new context-aware, AI enabled interactions can provide a multi-level view on engagements and ‘experience’, allowing organizations to filter through the noise and latency (for example waiting for certain skills -- Spanish language) and shift the focus to an enriching experience, relationships, and achieving goals. I can easily see a future talking with an AI agent at the drive-up window, as a low-hanging opportunity.

 

The recent book The Second Machine Age, examines how society, the economy, and business will transform as digital technologies and smarter machines increasingly take over human occupations.

 

It makes you look for direction about who will robots put out of work? This interactive graphic from Quartz takes a stab at answering that question—exploring which U.S. jobs are most likely to become automated, and how many workers could be affected.

Preventing the IoT from being the Oort cloud of the enterprise

riding comet.pngLast month, IEEE Spectrum had an article on how Most Technologists Upbeat About Future Internet of Things and I am optimistic as well --do you really think being down about it will prevent it from happening? I mentioned that ubiquitous power is a prerequisite for the IoT to really take off, at least for some applications.

 

On the same day I gave an IoT intro presentation I was in an exchange with CIOs about rogue clouds, in the process I made a joke pointing out that rogue clouds are the Oort cloud of IT - an area we don’t pay any attention to until something is about to impact our business.

 

There are a number of challenges for technologist to overcome. For every positive aspect, there is a negative trap to fall into and be prevented or at least understood.

 

Challenge

Positive

Negative

Privacy/Security

A view into what is actually going on

Passive oversharing

Identity

Knowing what is what

Device ‘identity’ mistaken for true identity- people become a network address

Efficiency

Speed

Unemployment

Decisions

Automation takes latency out

Loss of freedom and understanding, if automation becomes just another legacy system

Culture

Gamification

Big Brother and data bias

 

What are some of the other issues that have both positive and negative dimensions??

Questions about SDN and its effect on business

networking.jpgSDN is one of those technologies that appears to be poorly understood even by those who promote its value. The discussion mainly focuses on its ability to:

  • deliver new services faster through automation
  • lower operating expenses

Although valid, these are very IT centric and miss some of the foundational business value questions like:

  • What are the possibilities if I designed the network differently? 
  • What if I threw out the design assumptions and principles that I use today and really look at what my organization needs?  Notice I didn’t say what my network needs
  • Why not start with the premise that the network can do a few functions: connect, disconnect and transport to enable my business needs?
  • What could SDN mean for my applications or the devices those applications run on??

SDN is a starting point for new value generation.  It looks to enable a better way, but only if we ask the right questions. The answers may have a wider effect on the organization than we planned on.

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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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