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

Fluid.IT – turning BYOD inside out, to focus on me

fluid.jpgOne of the issues with efforts like BYOD and IoT is that it can easily add more complexity for the individual. Attention is one of the scarcest resources we have and these new approaches need to demand less from users not more and more. They need to recognize the context of what’s happening and filter or even act upon it – rather than cry out for attention.

 

There is quite a bit of press related to various approaches recently to shift how email is used, but most of these efforts still remain focused on email. Frankly, email is a conduit and most of us have many of these conduits feeding into our lives. Also, it is just one of many conduits, depending on your role. What I want is a digital butler on steroids that works on any device and makes sense of your e-life, e-work and e-history. It hides the complexities of the systems and provides a unified experience around me.

 

This is exactly the kind of research some of the individuals in HP Labs and PPS showed me the other day. A tool called Fluid.IT that shifts your focus from the various sources (e-mail, CRM systems…) to focusing your attention on what you’re really like to get done – no matter where it needs to happen. With Fluid.IT you don’t need to know where your services are (after the initial setup), you just know it’s doing what you need done. This is sort of like when you put your money in the bank. You know something is happening there with it, but you don’t really care. You just want to be sure you can take it out when you need it. Fluid.IT derives the context and aggregates what is important to me, providing more about what I need and less about the plumbing of addressing that need.

 

It includes concepts like liquid-talk that facilitates collaboration in the ideal method of the receiver not just the sender and allow for both enterprise-level and individual customization. The whole approach is delivered using platform independent techniques that allow you to consume wherever and whenever you need to. It is an examples of providing a customized approach in a standard way leveraging the tools that already exist in your personal and enterprise life.

 

Are there systems where you can see this approach applied? I can see it for sales (as I mentioned with CRM) or in the healthcare provider space where you’re pulling together information from a variety of systems and would like to have situational awareness with minimal distractions. They have implemented gamification techniques to facilitate the behavioral understanding and improvement from across a range of systems.

 

I see these kinds of systems as a stake in the ground for what we’ll all be expecting in the near future for our interactions.

If it is innovative, you probably will need to spell it out

innovation.pngAs I mentioned previously, I’ve been in a number of conversations about innovation lately. One thing that surprises me is that so often, in these innovation discussions, teams fail to take into account the behavioral issues and the need to formally communicate what will be different, how it will be measured and why (this is a place where gamification can help).

 

After spending time ‘heads down’ working on an innovative effort, we somehow assume that everyone else will have the same contextual understanding. If the idea or solution is really innovative, I’d bet the rest of the world does not have that same view. Taking the step back to view it from others perspective can be quite difficult. You’ll need to spell out how others will benefit, what will be expected of their behavior and what the relationship is of the innovation in the bigger plan.

 

I was in a discussion of strategic organizational planning for a service organization and they had the same issues. It is not just about having an organizational scope and mission statement.

The need for an innovative look at innovation efforts

innovation unlock.pngI’ve been in a number of discussion lately looking at innovation activities. In today’s dynamic business environment, the status quo is riskier than changing – sometimes it may not matter which direction you move, as long as you’re not standing still.

 

I am a big advocate for gamification, but most of these efforts are based on a bottoms-up approach that tries to leverage the ‘intelligence of the crowd’. Some interesting things definitely do come out of these efforts, but rarely are they directed on what is really needed. If 5% can be implemented, you’re doing great with these approaches.

 

That is where top down approaches to innovation come into play. They try to focus the innovation flow around a specific concern or issue. I used the term flow, because it’s happening, whether we tap into it or not – innovation is just part of being human. Top down in combination with a bottoms-up approach are more effective. Yet – they’re not effective enough.

 

I have figured out a few things (that are probably obvious to most):

  • Innovation needs a strategic focus. At the same time, the chance of getting it right the first time is slim, so an approach needs to be both strategic and agile (at the same time).
  • Innovation needs to be part of the mindset of the people involved. For many organizations, innovation doesn't feature anywhere in their plans and that’s a shame. This can be true for entrepreneurial organizations as well as large corporations. I mentioned strategic importance of innovation, yet culture eats strategy for lunch.
  • If you want to grow, you need to find a way of embedding innovation in your strategic priorities – and that means investment. It also needs to be focused on what you do and how you do it. This is one of the most frustration parts of working in the IT space. We think that being innovative in IT is something that should be recognized by the rest of the business. In many ways, they pay us (particularly service organizations) so they don’t need to see it at all – let alone view it as innovative.
  • Innovation efforts need to be measurable. Just because ideas are new, doesn’t mean there won’t be a ruler to measure progress. There will be one, why not plan on it.

A while back I mentioned that one of the first laws of technical leadership is “don’t discourage them”. The same can be true about the approach to innovation. At the same time, innovation efforts need to be focused on outcomes -- we actually need to do something and not just think about it.

 

I have come to the conclusion that we need a more innovative approach to innovation, since the whole concept is full of conflicts. One of the first things that is probably always true though is the need to develop a common understanding and definition of innovation, since it can mean so much to so many .

Serious gaming that takes nerve…

neuron.pngEarlier this month I saw an article in Popular Science: Gamers Reveal Inner Workings of the Eye. Since I have an interest in gamification, I dug in a bit more. It turns out there was a story in May on NPR morning edition Eyewire: A Computer Game to Map the Eye that covered the same concept.

 

Eyewire is an example of a serious game that tackles a real problem using gaming techniques. It is not your typical business gamification implementation but an example non-the-less. To play the game, he players have to pick out specific cells in pictures of tissue the retina and color them in.

 

“Each player gets a high resolution picture of a different section of the retina to color. The trick to scoring point in the game is to only color the parts of the image that are nerve cells. This is something that's surprisingly difficult and humans are actually better at it than computers.”

 

Over 130,000 people from 145 countries have played the game so it must be both challenging and rewarding.

 

When we look at the abundance of IT capability and the wealth of information being generated by the Internet of Things, we are likely to see whole new levels of gamification techniques come into play, as we try to dig deeper for patterns and understanding or gather and inject insight right at the time decisions are being made.

Metrics usage in an agile approach

change.pngA couple of months ago, I did a post on: The supply and demand issues of governance, including issues that cause organizations to be blindsided by events.

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this a bit more but from the metrics side -- defining and collecting the leading and lagging indicators of change associated with governance. There is quite a bit of material on this concept, but this link to a definition on leading indicators is focused on economic leading indicators. The concepts for business processes are similar.

 

Leading indicators show progress, lagging indicators confirm completion (examples on this perspective made me dig up a post I did in 2009 about measuring cloud adoption). Most organization’s processes only have lagging indicators. These are metrics that identify we’ve hit milestones… This can allow efforts to get fairly far down a path before they can do course corrections. More predictive approaches are possible and needed to adapt to this changing approach to business.

 

When I look at applying gamification, I usually come up with numerous leading indicators since gamification is about influencing the work in progress. When approaching change, look for items that show improvement or change and not just validation of achievement.

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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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