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

Who defines business opportunities of mobile?

mobile worker2.pngThis morning I was in a discussion with some people from academia and industry that was primarily focused on communications trends. We quickly dove into the issues of security, networking education, mobility and sensing. Everyone agreed about the impact these areas are having at a high level, but when you dug down just a little bit, the business implications thinking stopped.

 

These technologies are going to shift how we think about some of the foundational aspects of business and employment today. Concepts are going to shift by asking: “What is a mobile worker?” In this age of BYOD and Mobile Device Management (MDM), nearly everyone is a mobile worker. Mobile is no longer special, it is a foundational tool for the masses, not a convenience for the elite. If anything, when the field services workers at the face of the customer are enabled by the technology, they can fundamentally shift how the client sees an organization. For many business the client is the field service worker.

 

Mobile interfaces can be more effective (since they are present at the time information is needed) and can actually be more secure (with all the sensing capabilities of modern devices they have much greater contextual understanding of who you really are than old PC or green screen interfaces ever could).

 

Organizations that want to generate new business value need to start identifying the business processes that are under-addressed with in the current IT portfolio (can a more mobile interface help?). They need to assess how the roles in those processes could be support – what is scarce in the decision making process – and provide the content (or even context) needed to make that process more effective. Techniques can be applied to shift adoption.

 

One thing that also needs to be considered is how will the change be tracked. With all the information mobile devices are capable of gathering, it sets the stage for a much deeper understanding of what is really happening, allowing more agile organizations to make course corrections on their deployments along the way.

 

Employees and customers are typically excited to use these techniques, if they can perceive its value. If they can embrace the experience. It is up to us to recognize the opportunity and make it happen. 

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.

Data, the lifeblood of the enterprise

data lifeblood.jpgEven though object-oriented techniques and analytics have been around since the last century, today they are being applied and thought about in whole new ways. Technologies are enabling objects to interact with monitoring, analytics, and control systems over a diverse range of networks and on a plethora of devices. Computers are embedded in devices and rarely thought of as devices themselves, by most people.

 

This more connected and action-oriented approach will expand the reach and impact of information technology systems, impacting business value generation, applications expectations, and use cases where IT hasn’t really been focused effectively before.

 

One of the exciting aspects of this intelligent edge approach to the business use of IT is that the software will enable greater control of the physical world, not just the digital one. This means less latency and more efficient use of resources (including human attention). For many, this started in the consumer space, and is only now being embraced within business.

 

The importance of this information and its integration into the business means that the focus on security will need to increase, protecting the data as well as the control data streams. This flow will become like the blood flow of the human body, if it is interrupted or somehow contaminated – bad things happen.

 

With gamification techniques, this information flow can be used to adjust human behaviors as well as machines. How organizations think about and deal with data is already changing.

 

Everyone needs to get comfortable with:

  1. The data sets we’re working with today will look trivial within the relatively near future. Storage technology will continue to get larger and cheaper.
  2. We’ll keep the data longer and continue to generate new value from the data in use today. Data is a corporate asset and we need to treat it as such.
  3. Data scientists will be in high-demand and business schools will branch into this area in a big way, if they haven’t already.
  4. The conflict between real-time access to information and the security implications will continue to be a concern
  5. The use of cloud techniques will mean that organizations will need to start feeling comfortable with moving the computing to the data more often than the data to the computing. The pipes are big, but not that big.
  6. The diversity of devices used to access the information and the locations they are accessed from will continue to increase. BYOD is not about devices.
  7. Master data and metadata management are critical skills to get the most out of big data efforts. Even if they can’t be synchronized, they need to be understood.

 

We have the computing and bandwidth capabilities, it is just our imaginations on how to use it that limits us.

Not much time to blog this week...

canada.jpgThis week I have been in Canada talking with a number of organizations about the changes taking place in computing and the implications on business. Universally, there was interest in the use of data visualization (3D?) and other techniques applied to facilitate decision making and possibly even automating some of these traditional knowledge worker activities.

 

Many organizations were focused on the balancing act needed between a private cloud approach and the access to short-term computing resources that a public cloud provides. Unfortunately, when we discussed the tools used, none of the software was ready for this burst out approach to computing. With some where the organization created the code, it may be possible to address their needs in the short term. Others were COTS solutions that are unlikely to go down that path anytime soon. Some techniques to segment data and move processing around can be tried but that definitely tactical and not strategic.

 

One item that came out during the discussions were the skills needed to move existing code to this more agile approach. Where can those skills be found? Are there methods that can be used? We described a range of options (from HP and others). Also can GPU processing approaches be applied to radically parallelize the effort – unfortunately, those skills remain pretty hard to come by but powerful and increasingly relevant.

 

HP has preannounced a whole series of high performance tablets that may also influence how these applications are consumed, since we’re finding more people who are working from non-traditional locations with 5 minutes to spare to address a situation.

 

We tried to describe the abundance of capabilities and possibilities available, and help them to think about what remains scarce for their own particular situation.  Like most IT organizations today, they are burdened by their legacy of successes and freeing up resources to tackle new things is one of the key activities for CIOs going forward.

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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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