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

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.

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.

A bit more on strategy and change

 

questionsandanswers.jpgI got a note that my previous post on strategy and change was a bit too terse. I made assumptions that people understood my references. Since that post was an excerpt from one slide of a longer presentation, I may not have given enough context to understand the bullets. I’ll take another crack at providing context (through links). Hopefully between the two posts, I can answer the questions and get the points across.

 

  • Many of the factors that enable change are predictable – in the presentation I talk about how there are laws like Moore’s law (and a number of others) that can be used to predict what the future will be like. People can think about their corporate goals, investment plans and other drivers as well as the timeframe for investment… and extrapolate out the types of technology that should be available and what it might mean. This may shift how the change can be implemented.

  • Scarcity affects value – Too often organizations behave like what is valued for its scarcity will still be true in the future, or that what constrains us from generating value a certain way will still be constraining going forward. Most of the IT systems currently in production were based on a scarcity model – the assumptions their design was based on may no longer be true. Data is not going to be scarce in the future, but the business context described by the data may still be. The attention of the employees most certainly will be scarce. If we need to consume more (of what’s abundant) to generate even more value from what's scarce – that is not a bad thing.

  • The rate of change and transformation is increasing – There are many different forces pushing businesses to change and adapt. These will be enabled by IT and essentially add fuel to the fire. We need to stop thinking of change as a periodic disruption of the status quo and instead see it as a river of change. It may go slower or faster, but it doesn’t stop. We need to be flexible and adapt and generate energy from it, not try to hold it back. We need to automate action as well as improve interaction.

  • The increasing digitization not a replacement for today’s processes and systems – Systems of record (e.g., ERP) are still going to be important. They record the transactions that keep a business running. We can surround them with better interfaces and automation, but don’t think that everything can be replaced with whole new concepts. They may be on new platforms… but we still need to keep records.

  • Social influence is beyond the control of any individual ecosystem – This was focused on newer methods to take advantage of social -- techniques like gamification or crowdsourcing that tap into the power of others need to be part of our toolkit.

I try to keep these posts short, but fortunately there is always an opportunity for another one.

 

Gamification – required in the service leader toolbox?

gamification.pngI’ve gotten a number of questions about gamification lately. It seems that many more organizations are looking to gamify their internal apps in an attempt to engage employees, solve problems, increase collaboration and generally have a better understanding of progress on goals and initiatives. The use of goal-oriented, metrics-based, behavior modification is entering into the gap analysis phase of application portfolio assessments. It is an area where there are many possibilities, some you can try out today.

 

Gamification is not an approach where you’ll get the right answer the first time, or where there will be one standardized, enterprise approach. It is a technique where you develop a beachhead of understanding and expand through experimentation. Some organizations will stop early while others will use the approach throughout their business to develop a better understanding of its personnel, the roles they play and the progress toward organizational objectives. There is no one right answer.

 

Some of the areas where I’ve seen organizations start their efforts are stimulating the level of collaboration (rewarding individuals that help others) or innovation (through idea generation campaigns). Many HR and Healthcare BPO approaches are embedding gamification into their service in an attempt to improve people’s lives.

 

One issue that many encounter happens if you stimulate the desired behavior, but then don’t act upon the results. The ‘players’ usually figure it out quickly and this perception of inaction will taint future efforts -- make sure that people understand what’s happening.

There was an article last September in ComputerWorld titled: Case study: 3 heavyweights give gamification a go, it covers a number of situations organizations have encountered.

 

I personally feel that it is a skill set that any leader working in the services space will need. It can build upon the abundance of data and processing power that exists today and have impact at many levels in an organization. Within the ISSIP Service Futures SIG, we discuss the strategic impact of gamification about every 6 months.

Grading my predictions for 2013

grading predictions.pngAt the end of every year that I’ve been making annual predictions, I grade my predications made in the previous December

(200620072008200920102011, 2012). It's time to look at 2013. 2013 has been the start of a turnaround for HP. We’re not out of it all yet, but we’re definitely making progress. In a way, the same thing could be said about the economy and the industry as a whole.

 

I said that 2013 would be a year of expectation -- changing the very foundation of how IT is judged. HP’s efforts around the new style of IT attests to that and many of the trends I talked about in 2012 (and earlier) began to generate business value.

 

I’ll grade myself with the following scale again this year:

A: Big changes during the year that are having wide effect.

B: Notable progress through the year and isolated areas of significant impact.

C: Progress with some impact

D: Little progress or impact – but work still taking place

F: No progress or the concept abandoned in any commercial sense.

 

Grade

Prediction

Rational

A

Organizations will have a higher expectations of security based on what everyone has experienced and learned. The battle over Internet censorship and control will reach new heights in 2013.

Thanks to the Snowden issue, this one definitely came out big, although in a way none of us may have expected.

C

Software defined networks will make communications as virtualized and flexible as the computing infrastructure. This versatility will become an expectation.

I facilitated a discussion on SDN back in September and throughout our talk it was clear that progress has been made, but we’re still only scratching the surface.

A

IT organizations will expand their definition of “customer” and their analytics to include suppliers, partners, consumers and anything/one that can make a difference

Although Big Data was not new in 2013, it definitely started to penetrate even the most slow to adopt organization’s thinking. There is definitely progress being made, although I still wonder about the bias issue.

B

We can expect to see bigger data and even bigger storage, with copious amounts of information coming from more sensors in more places. Organizations will no longer be satisfied with using only 3-5% of the data available. Beyond there being more data, the information collected will be of a wider variety (including video, sound…) so transforming the information from one format to another and back will be increasingly important.

This is a case of definite progress being made but I am not sure organizations are yet using double digit percentages of the information available to them.

B

The whole concept of ‘In Memory’ computing will be up for a shift in expectations for where and how it is used.

SAP Hana (probably the most notable of the large commercial applications in this space) is now being looked at seriously for a wide range of database applications. It is not too widespread but HP and SAP are definitely making inroads.

D

Widespread acceptance of new and improved NFC capabilities for payment and identity. The Internet of Things (IoT) will become just the Internet. Individuals will be able to add IoT capabilities independent of the original manufacturer, if desired. Although enterprises may still be crawling their way to the IoT, consumers will embrace IoT in 2013.

Although the Internet of Things is real, it has not made the progress I expected it to make in 2013. The consumer space has not really moved all that much more quickly than the Enterprise space. Sure there are devices and applications, but are they really having the impact they should.

D

The availability of different disruptive display technologies in 2013 to shift our thinking about where and when a display is needed (or even possible).

Although there are some new interface approaches and techniques, displays have not really shifted significantly in 2013.

D

One of the other core shifts in expectation will be around simplicity and the use of automation to focus attention and automate more business processes. The concept of human augmentation of automation will be significantly less foreign at the end of 2013 than it is today.

This is another case where there has been some progress, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. Human augmented automation is about as foreign to strategic planning now as it was in 2012.

C

Enterprises will begin to address the issue that most of the apps in production can’t really unleash the power of the cloud. 2013 should see new tools and techniques to address this potential.

Application portfolio management is definitely part of a move to greater value in IT, but I’d say the adoption is only slightly more than 2012.

C

IT will begin to see ways to virtualize the mobile experience in new, secure and innovative ways.

Once again there has been progress, but it has primarily been incremental in nature. No radically new devices or approaches have come on the scene, although HP has services that understand virtualization in the mobile space, they are just not yet in demand.

B

The skills within the organization will be a constraint on value generation. Gamification, as an example, is a skill that will be recognized and move hand-in-hand with strategic change.

I do believe that gamification and its understanding by organizations shifted significantly in 2013, but that might just be because I kept talking with people about it.

C

Using the contextual information available from big data and the need for attention engineering, individuals and corporations will have greater expectation on how information is delivered to them.

Although to most businesses the expectations on information delivery is changing, I don’t think it has made significant change from the approach used in 2012.

B

There will also be a shift in how products are personalized as 3D printing moves out of limited use and becomes significantly more mainstream with some parts of the world having 3D printing capabilities as a local service. 

2013 was a good year for 3D printing. Most people have heard about it, even if they have not held something that has been through a 3D printing process. Commercial entities have begun to embrace the possibilities.

D

Implementation of IPV6 is going to be a focus in 2013.

Now there are those who are pushing back and saying they may never need to go to IPV6, the workaround are good enough.

D

Realization that automation is the new off-shore, specifically in development

I don’t believe this moved much in 2013. Very few organizations use significant automation techniques in the development space.

 

Based on these scores, my predictions for 2013 were not too conservative. My personal goal is to get close to a C+. If I get too high a grade, I am not trying to stretch my thinking (or yours for that matter) enough.

 

My view is the same as when I finished up my post in 2011:

 

“Having said all that, it is a great time to be in IT. Most of our concerns are currently driven by an overabundance of capabilities that most organizations have not tapped into effectively. Those who can have the vision will be in for quite a ride this year as they look to do more with more.”

 

I should have my predictions for 2014 out by the middle of December.

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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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