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.

 

Value in an analog world

eceb166e-c589-11e3-88ed-12313d239d6c-large.jpegWas just part of an interesting discussion on the IT organizations of the future. One of the statements made was about the ‘digital enterprise’. It got me thinking “The whole world is analog – it’s just those in IT who don’t see it that way.”

 

Value is all about perspective. Will those implementing IT solutions ever have a full understanding of the implications, without an understanding of the assumptions and approximations that are inherent in a digital approach? We can only be so accurate with ones and zeros. I am not saying that’s bad – just a fact.

 

When we can move to considering our limitations and our potential to predict (based on business/domain knowledge), we can move beyond efforts based on a digital approximation from the past.

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.

Bring Your Own Service – two years later…

BYOS.pngA couple of years ago I wrote about how bring your own service was part of the future we’ll need to understand. I just saw that Gartner put out a release saying that personal cloud will replace the personal computer as the center of user’s lives by 2014.

 

We’ve probably all seen how the specifics of the device are less important for the people (let alone organization) to worry about. A good example of this trend I came across recently is Aereo.

 

I was looking at Aereo as part of my personal cloud, enabling me to capture television broadcasts and watch them on almost every device (except it still didn’t work with my Xbox One) as long as I am within the stations coverage area. This kind of a centrally available approach to a leveraged TV service is likely to be disruptive.

 

The diversity of services being offered is expanding and based on the meeting I attended last week with the NSF talking about service innovation research, there are a number of industries that are going to be disrupted by this more service-oriented view of the world. Questions remain though about the risks and quality expectations as well as how to communicate the changes to all the affected parties.

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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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