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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cloud reference materials – for free…

cloud.pngEarlier this month, I had some fun posting a song about private cloud architects, today I’d like to back it up with some materials that may actually be useful.

 

HP and Microsoft have jointly defined a Departmental Private Cloud Reference Architecture   based on best-in-class HP Converged Infrastructure and Microsoft Windows Server with Hyper-V and System Center. This site may be useful for those going who are closely aligned with Microsoft’s approach to cloud computing.

 

There is also other reference architecture and materials sites like:

There are also a few free books at the HP Book Store, including:

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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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