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

Increasing the value of architects in a world of cheap data

 

panning for gold.GIFThere is a great deal of discussion about big data and a move to a data economy. We have collected more data than we might normally be able to use (and we’re trying to collect even more). If you step back and think about the law of supply and demand – if there is an abundance of data it is probably not worth all that much.

 

Having made that bold statement – those who can extract the context described by the data will likely sift out a good living. Much like a gold miner panning for gold, you need to go through a great deal of mud before you find a nugget. Fortunately, the computing capabilities have increased to allow that filtering to happen.

 

IT architects in companies need to look beyond internal information flows, master data definitions, and business processes. Enterprise Architects need to understand the third-party data and service providers and the value they can provide. Suppliers, partners and customers may all have information that can impact the business (and vice versa). It is contextual understanding that’s required.

 

I’d bet that almost every organization has information that it is collecting or metadata that could be derived that is not being used today. Business and information architects should understand the business issues, the methods for segmentation and the available data sources that could be used to bring added value to marketing discussions. As part of architectural planning optimize the data consumption just like architects should optimize the application portfolio.

 

Architects need to become proactive, looking beyond the technology and focus on the business goals and the information available (from whatever source). They need to explain to the business and technical leadership the shifts in what’s possible and valuable. The data scientists can then be applied to those opportunities.

 

Is there a clash between automation and human-centered design?

 

human centered automation.jpgI was in a discussion a few weeks ago when someone raised the point that all future designs should be human-centered. When I first heard this, it conflicted a bit with my perspective about automation and the need to separate normal from the unusual.

 

I then began to think about what they probably meant. They didn’t really mean that human’s need to be in the center of everything but instead: if human interaction is required then focus first on designing and delivering great user experiences.

 

My view is that the automation of the mundane is part of having a human-centered solution. Why would someone want to be there if they are not adding value? Automating out normal is really empathizing with the user’s needs and pain points.

 

When we’re doing a human-centered system, we should be assessing the need to engage user and maximize outcomes. Some say that in order to be human-centered, you need to develop an emotional connection. Since there are positive and negative emotions, I’d rather the solution be one where the user feels needed as opposed to along for the ride.

 

Using the understanding of the users, their skills, availability and connections provides the contextual understanding to facilitate interactions helping users find each other and build a community. So I don’t think there is a conflict at all, as long as we’re maximizing the value of the user’s time.

 

Why is the service research agenda important?

decisions.pngI continue to think about the characteristics that will make up jobs of the future and the kind of services research the NSF needs to define – and why??

 

During our discussions last week, we talked about measures of quality and risk for services, but primarily from the service provider and sometimes from the service consumer’s perspective. What about for an outside entity, like the government? They have expectations of services as well. If the government doesn’t define and encourage new jobs for its constituents, the tax base erodes and power is lost. If enough power is lost than a revolution takes place by people who will redefine the power base and power structure.

 

That is why the service research agenda is so fundamentally important. As the economy moves to be ever more service-oriented, we need to understand and shape what will be needed for stability. Not just of the services themselves but for the ecosystem that the services depend upon.

 

The context recognition that is the foundation for automation of knowledge work actually requires stability to function. If the system is chaotic, context becomes very rare. Having a viable research agenda is not nearly as altruistic as it first seems.

Component skills of future roles?

 

juggle.pngThe other day I focused on the changes for education and automation… But what about our expectations? There is a great deal of concern about the elimination of jobs. Is the foundation of that really based on our inability to embrace the super-human capabilities that will be enabled and how that will change the roles we play?

The same automation that eliminates jobs also gives us significantly more capabilities – skills where humans excel. No matter how much we automate, there will likely always be work opportunities where human skills will be valued – until Skynet takes over.

 

We can now cultivate a network that spans thousands where just a few decades ago our network of ‘friends’ would likely be measured in double digits. The value of our flexibility, intuition and relationships will likely continue to be valued.

 

What are the component skills of the jobs of the future? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Change management – Individuals that can help others embrace change and transition to new modes of operation. They will need to be experts at context transfer.

  2. Transcendental optimization – Those that can move beyond just simple tweaking (that can likely be automated) to breakthrough optimization approaches.

  3. Disassemblers – What you shut down can be as important as what you start. These skills will focus on how to shut down existing environments.

  4. Strategic futurists – Roles that focus on envisioning the future and can convey that to others effectively.

  5. Ethicists – Functions that focus on the ethical and legal use of technology.

  6. Unique recognition – Although most situations can be handled in a standard way, those that can recognize when something is unique or at a critical inflection point will be crucial.

  7. User interface design – Although there will be less user interfaces required, the need to share that information and focus attention to greatest effect will be critical.

  8. Evangelist – Every good idea needs to be marketed effectively to be embraced.

  9. Modeler – All models are wrong but some are useful. The ability to effectively abstract complexity out of systems is a critical skill.

  10. Juggler – Keeping a number of balls in the air will continue to be crucial.

  11. Fixers – Abstraction is what makes many types of technology useful to the common folk. Sometimes though it doesn’t work and extraordinary measures will be required. Those who can do this best, will always have a job.

These can be aggregated together into thousands of new functions. What do you think?

 

Context recognition as a service

gossip.pngI was in a discussion the other day as part of the ISSIP Service Futures meeting where we were discussing context-based computing and its impact on services. One of the concepts that fell out of that discussion was the need for ‘context flow’. This might be a new type (or at least a new use) of middleware to share a common understanding of the context of the user or the application portfolio.

 

Why should all the applications have their own context recognition capabilities? Couldn’t they rely on a common engine for at least a basic understanding of what is going on?? Answering questions like:

  • Where is the user? And why?
  • Is this a busy day?
  • Are they traveling?

Applications could subscribe to this contextual advisor function and change their behavior – treating the user in custom ways to fit the situation they are currently in. I can see all kinds of gamification and augmented reality implications.

 

There could be a standard range of contextual states that the entire environment could take advantage of. Maybe this already exists, but I’ve not seen it.

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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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