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

Technology education – drivers now and in the future


education.pngThe education of future technologists has some interesting conflicts to resolve. The constraints of past success and the opportunities for whole new solutions.


Software development is comprised of a tower of Babel consisting of thousands of development languages whose diversity continues to grow every year. Many of these languages are relatively dead (as far as current development), even though they are at the core of many of the systems that facilitate our lives – examples: COBOL and Fortran.


COBOL is at the core of many of the systems of record within the financial industry. Few (if any) top tier university programs exist around COBOL (but many community colleges still teach COBOL). Most of the COBOL practitioners are nearing retirement age, and have been for a decade. Planning for this skills gap is something organizations need to do today. If replacement (probably with something more cloud capable) of the programs are part of an application portfolio assessment, it will still require skills in the older environments to flesh out the codified requirements.


Software development skills can be standardized and structured, but software development still has an element of creativity. In the talk I gave at the MPICT conference earlier this week, this creative issue was one of the concern areas of ICT educators. The soft skills are critical for developers, since these abilities will be needed to tease out requirements. Developers then need to problem solve and exercise creativity (skills that are also on the soft side). The educators were anxious about the significant pressures to emphasize standard testing and ‘one right answer’ as part of the technical curriculum. This approach may pave over the creative solution that is actually required once the students enter the workforce.


I think that most technologists in the field know that our ability to interact with each other and reach consensus on a solution is a critical component of being valuable to an organization. Just being the most creative (or the most right) is not always enough.


One of the areas the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals is trying to help organizations and education with is mentoring and coaching on these soft skills to supplement the standard education curriculum. HP is making efforts to expand real work experience as well – I try to sponsor a senior project at UTD every semester (for example). These efforts let students experience the vagaries of real world problems and make mistakes in a safe environment.


Speaking at the Winter MPICT conference

education2.pngNext Tuesday January 7th, I’ll be doing the Tuesday keynote at the Winter Educator Conference in San Francisco - agenda.


The MPICT conference runs January 6-7, 2014 and the event is co-produced by NSF ATE Centers: BATEC, National Convergence Technology Center, Cyberwatch, CSSIA and CyberWatch West.


I participated in a similar meeting in Dallas back in November. This time I’ll be speaking about a topic directly in line with this blog – the intersection of business & technology trends and the new value possibilities.


I'll post the presentation out on SlideShare and place a comment here once I finish it.

ISSIP and focusing on skills for the future of services

T-shaped.jpgAbout a year ago I posted about the birth of an organization focused exclusively on service innovation ISSIP. This group has continued to create new content related to services. This past week a number of us from ISSIP were at a meeting in Arizona where we were discussing the traits of service professionals in the future at the Compete through Service Symposium.


Before this conference, Lou Freund and Jim Spohrer (from the Education SIG) led an effort to assist workshop attendees in understanding an individual’s depth and breadth (t-shaped) of capabilities as documented in their résumé. I found their approach interesting and grounded in a way that allowed people to think about current capabilities and how they was presented to others. Does the résumé really convey what you think are important?


The next step is likely to be able to identify gaps and define a plan and metrics for further improvement.


Since membership to ISSIP is free at this point and the information from the workshop should be available on the organizations GoogleDrive.

Is middle-management on the cusp of decline?

automation2.pngI saw this article Technology will make businesses more 'human'. It describes a perspective on how organizations can use technology to buy-in to corporate objectives (gamification has a role to play here). The article also discusses the side-effect forcing organizations to become even more flat and enabled (likely through automation driving out levels of knowledge workers -- currently part of middle-management). This frees up employees to focus on leadership and corporate goals where their creativity is needed rather than well understood operational tasks.


For those that are affected by this shift in how employees generate value, it reminded me of a post I wrote on letting go of preconceptions, at the time EDS was purchased by HP. All will need to develop new skills and understand new ways of working (probably using new techniques).


So agility will need to be a core competency, rather than the rote skills that are generally used in training. Roles like the CIO will need to shift.

Happy Birthday to the Moving Assembly Line

Captain James T. Kirk said "Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant.'"  and this dichotomy is at the heart of the evolution of businesses.

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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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