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

Gamification – required in the service leader toolbox?

gamification.pngI’ve gotten a number of questions about gamification lately. It seems that many more organizations are looking to gamify their internal apps in an attempt to engage employees, solve problems, increase collaboration and generally have a better understanding of progress on goals and initiatives. The use of goal-oriented, metrics-based, behavior modification is entering into the gap analysis phase of application portfolio assessments. It is an area where there are many possibilities, some you can try out today.

 

Gamification is not an approach where you’ll get the right answer the first time, or where there will be one standardized, enterprise approach. It is a technique where you develop a beachhead of understanding and expand through experimentation. Some organizations will stop early while others will use the approach throughout their business to develop a better understanding of its personnel, the roles they play and the progress toward organizational objectives. There is no one right answer.

 

Some of the areas where I’ve seen organizations start their efforts are stimulating the level of collaboration (rewarding individuals that help others) or innovation (through idea generation campaigns). Many HR and Healthcare BPO approaches are embedding gamification into their service in an attempt to improve people’s lives.

 

One issue that many encounter happens if you stimulate the desired behavior, but then don’t act upon the results. The ‘players’ usually figure it out quickly and this perception of inaction will taint future efforts -- make sure that people understand what’s happening.

There was an article last September in ComputerWorld titled: Case study: 3 heavyweights give gamification a go, it covers a number of situations organizations have encountered.

 

I personally feel that it is a skill set that any leader working in the services space will need. It can build upon the abundance of data and processing power that exists today and have impact at many levels in an organization. Within the ISSIP Service Futures SIG, we discuss the strategic impact of gamification about every 6 months.

Enterprise architecture now more than ever…

Reach.pngI saw this post by Tim DeGennaro about Enterprise Architecture in 2014 it made me think about a discussion I had with a large analyst firms Enterprise Architecture specialist. I mentioned to him that HP’s EAs are not focused on “selling” HP products. They are not part of central organization but instead tied directly to client organizations. Naturally, they have some interest in the product’s being used appropriately, but their main interest is in generating value for the company, within their business, meeting their goals.

 

During our discussion, we kept going back to this topic over and over. It was clear there was a contextual mismatch, since my view is that that there is no way an EA can push product off the back of the wagon and fulfill their role as a trusted advisor. His view was that HP is a product company and therefore the EA must sell product – even though I don’t think he agreed that perspective was best. It was just an assumption he made.

 

The EA needs to be focused on the long term value generation – and the analyst just couldn’t understand that this was our approach. HP Enterprise Services wants to have long-term strategic relationships with organizations (most of the EAs are in HP ES). We view that Enterprise Architecture is at the center of these relationships, whether it is based on infrastructure, applications maintenance and development or business process outsourcing, to truly generate strategic value an enterprise architecture is needed. Often HP personnel perform this function, sometimes the customer’s team carry the load - in any case, we see Enterprise Architecture as foundational to what we do.

 

Transformation journey.png

We look at enterprise transformation as a journey, starting with assessing the current state of IT and its alignment to and support for the business, along a path to a defined “new state”. A state based on the business goals of the organization, not on some product list.

 

One of the important functions of Enterprise Architecture is to communicate the destination as well as the steps and the governance needed along the way. This allows for fact-based expectations, discussions and actions -- reducing confusion and rework. Organizational change management and communication skills are crucial to make this happen.

 

Since the EA deliverables need to be business driven – enterprise architect should strive to always tie back initiatives to business direction and metrics. Sometimes we all can lose sight of why we are here and this traceability helps keep everyone grounded in the needs of the business.

 

Once I was working at a large food manufacturing organization interacting directly with their Chief Technology office. We’d get into deep, esoteric discussions and I’d ask the question “How does this make more cheese?” to focus us back on the business goals.

 

Even though it may seem simple, the connections between the enterprise architecture and business goals allow EA’s try and maintain a practical approach. The architectural work products and the architects themselves need to be used effectively to deliver solutions and not be ivory tower shelf ware.

There is more to BPO automation than just replacing people expense

Human Automation.pngAutomation is one of the ways that businesses can use the abundance of computing capabilities to maximize value. The Horses for Sources blog had a post about the automation of BPO efforts titled: Greetings from Robotistan, outsourcing’s cheapest new destination.

 

The post made the case for replacing people in processes with automation – automation in services is something I’ve mentioned many times before.

 

What the HfS post didn’t cover is the role that people can and must play even in a highly automated environment. Automation is good at handling situations that are fairly well understood. What agent techniques are not good at is knowing what to do when there is not sufficient information or the patterns identified are not well understood. This is a role where humans excel.

 

When performing automation it can be as important identifying what is unusual and how to bring attention to the situation. Human augmentation of automation is as important as the automation itself. Effectively bringing people into the situation to make decisions is an example of scarce resource optimization that is so important in a world of IT abundance. The people involved will have to be knowledge workers who are ready for a dynamic environment that addresses anomalies and be able to describe how their involvement can be replaced by automation in the future.

Are security concerns really an innovation driver?

security.pngI was looking at a Horses for Sources blog post titled: It’s a miracle we’re yet to see any BPO/ITO security disasters that focused on the effect of having the Chief Security Officer show up at an outsourcing meeting and it got me wondering why the security officer would be viewed as such an innovation barrier.

  

The constraints of security could actually provide the framework to focus innovation. There is no doubt that security is a business expectation. It should not be a choice between having security and having innovative solutions, it is about having both. For example a well-designed single sign-on solution improves the security as well as the ease of use. Standards like security allow organization to focus their creativity.

 

Sure the security requirements may be viewed as “onerous” but it takes effort for everyone to work together and develop common goals and reaching an understanding of that “third right answer” that no one could have come up with on their own.

 

The post points out quite effectively that security can’t be bolted on but must be built in. If there is anything we learned from the 1990s, it is that perimeter based security just doesn’t work. As outsourcing and cloud contracts are written, the security needs of the enterprise need to be thought out and documented – not ignored.

What is a cloud broker?

Cloudbroker.pngForrester recently released an analysis of the concept of a Cloud Broker. Although there was much to agree with, I actually view it a bit differently. They have a too hardware centric view for my taste. This is not something new and we (in HP) have been talking about it for years. My view is that the various components of a cloud approach build up on top of each other as I’ve described before.

 

The various market components can interact in different ways to provide value to the marketplace.

  • Cloud Infrastructure provider – Infrastructure operators have been around for decades. Organizations who specialize in this area focus on the automation, security and performance needed to take what has been a traditionally business by business approach into a multi-tenant solution that can be charged “by the pound”. This is the core of the IaaS space.
  • Software vendors – These players are critical to the cloud since their solutions are what actually add the business value on top of the lower cost solutions provided by the Cloud Infrastructure providers. Their software (and just as importantly their licensing) needs to change to enable the cloud shift for organizations. Taking advantage of the many cores that can be applied to the new leveraged environments and to have the solutions fail over gracefully when needed with no downtime is something the software vendors need to continue to address.
  • Industry consulting – As more of the infrastructure operations and management functions are provided by 3rd parties, the need to integrated it all together in a unified, business value generating solution still remain. Consultants still play a role by having the deep expertise that can be brought to bear on the strategic cloud move.

Businesses specialize at the intersection of these IT industry components:

  • SaaS – this is where the software intellectual property mentioned earlier meets the cloud infrastructure. Business application functionality is offered as a service by subscription. The consumer does not normally see the IaaS issues that may reside under the SaaS layer.
  • Cloud Integrator – This is where the IaaS capabilities are used by consultants to help modernize both the infrastructure and the application portfolio and make it operate effectively in this new environment. Since the value needs to be generated against the organizations business model, integrating the various components can be critical to effective use of the cloud.
  • BPO – Business process outsourcing has been around for decades and it usually involves access to both the software IP as well as the personnel with the industry (or at least process skills) required to take on specific business functions. It allows organizations to concentrate on areas where they want to focus and offload other business functions to experts in that area. Some organizations have relabeled this to BPaaS so it can align to the XaaS abbreviation model, but BPO has always been cloudlike.

Finally at the hub of these intersections is the cloud broker. This function may do all of the items previously mentioned or just perform 3rd party administration ensuring that a unified solution meets the needs of the business.

 

They need to have expertise in a wide range of hardware capabilities, ranging from the servers through the desktop and mobile platforms – after all the computer you have with you all the time is likely a smartphone.

 

They must also understand the analytics and user interface issues to weave together all these possibilities into a solution that is coherent and effective for the business. No one wants to be distracted by user interface or data inconsistencies. The elimination of latency through the use of automated workflow and techniques that allow people to focus on the anomalies and automate “normal” is key here as well.

 

There can be a range of capabilities in this cloud broker space ranging from the simple sourcing manager all the way though the business model integrator who deeply understands the business and technology objectives of the organization and is constantly on the lookout for technology solutions that disrupt the status quo. They need to be experts on the kinds of problems that usually hurt cloud deployments. Some of the descriptions of the cloud broker function that are out there make it seem like an IT management function, but to me its roots are deeper into the business needs and expectations than that.

 

What is common to this range of cloud broker is that the IT complexities of managing the workload and the vendors should be hidden from the end user – and to some extent the end business. After all if they wanted to know these details and manipulate the controls, they should have someone on staff that is performing the function, instead of purchasing it as a service. Many CIOs are going to spend much of their future effort in the cloud broker function, among other things.

 

Although these cloud broker function may seem like a vision, there are a few organization that HP supports today where this level of performance is expected and delivered.

 

There are some recommendations I can agree with though:

1)      Understand your window of opportunity – We can all see this happening. Know what is happening in the marketplace and if you retain your infrastructure what is the price point where you would change to a different model. If you don’t understand this point, you are passively deciding to stick with the status quo.

2)      Build trust with the right partners – I used the term partners here because I’m talking about a close relationship. Understand where they are headed. What are the lock-in issues? How does that make you feel? The farther out your headlights shine and the sooner the direction and issues are understood the less likely you’ll over-steer later.

3)      Plan to invest – There are many skills involved. You may not have them in-house. You will likely need to do some pilots to understand the implications financially, behaviorally and on the staff itself.

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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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