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

Grading my predictions for 2014

grading predictions.pngEach year about this time I look back at the prediction post I made the previous year December (200620072008200920102011, 2012, 2013). I didn’t do predictions the first year I blogged but have managed to do one every year since.

 

Now it is time to look at 2014. I said that 2014 was going to be a year of instability. Depending on what industry sector or organization you’re in that was definitely true – but that’s the kind of easy prediction any fortune teller could make. Let’s get into the details:

 

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

B

Shift from commodity services to a value play

This is definitely happening but slower than I thought it would.

C

Relationships shifting up the stack (from IaaS to Paas or SaaS to business services)

Although business-based outcomes are becoming common, there is still more smoke than fire here.

C

Similarly the view of BYOD will shift to more of a services perspective.

This one I also give myself mixed reviews. Although the BYOD momentum has shifted to more services, we are still not seeing real security brokerage services or other high value services in a standardized form.

A

New style of business

We have definitely seen much more discussion about the business capabilities and new needs provided by new computing capabilities. The concept of a race with the machine has definitely gained in mind share in 2014. Although the self-aware enterprise is still a long way off.

B

Wearables

I have mixed feelings on this rating. Although you can’t throw a rock and not hit someone coming to market with a new wearable device, they are not being effectively embraced in business processes and enterprise user interface design. They are also not yet forming networks of functionality.

B

Software defined anything

The open approaches of   OpenStack for Cloud OS and OpenFlow for software defined networking have definitely come into their own in 2014. There are still distractors who are fighting this rising tide but most see where this is headed and incorporating the shift into their mental model.

B

Software and analytics

2014 has definitely been the year for big data and analytics buzz words. I don’t think it has come to the point of there being widespread embracing of systems of action. Mobile is still viewed as something special and not just one of the many the interface points by most working in the ‘mobile’ space.

D

Software portfolio assessment

Of all the prediction areas, a fundamental reassessment of the software portfolio against the revised needs of the business, is an area where we’ve most missed our potential in 2014. Most organizations have not shifted to a holistic environmental perspective that will empower the organization and enable them to empower others. Organizations still need to assess what is abundant in this new world and maximize value from what will still be scarce for them and others.

A

Engaged and motivated employees will still be scarce

This is definitely true. In this age of automation, the value of good people and a predictable talent creation pipeline may actually be more important than ever. People are not fungible and as we increase our automation, that will be even more true, not less.

 

Based on these scores, my predictions for 2014 were at least 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. Maybe I should strive to stretch enough to get at least one D??

 

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 2015 out later in December.

 

 

Facilitating a session on the Next Generation CIO

CIO.pngThis past week, I facilitated a session at a CIO conference in LA. The focus of the session I facilitate was The Next Generation CIO. Before we got started I had a brief introduction about the changes taking place from my view as a chief technologist perspective.  Here is a summary of my kick-off comments:

 

It seems today that you can’t pick up an IT magazine or listen to a conference keynote without someone lamenting the state of the relationship between the CIO and the business or IT’s capabilities to generate new value for corporations.

Let’s face it things have changed in recent years. For the past few decades we've been successful deploying and maintaining the systems of record that have been the backbone of decision-making for organizations. We’ve built up layer upon layer of successful projects to the point where we’re calcified by our own success. Unfortunately this means that it is common to hear people talk about having 80% of their budget consumed before the year even starts (just keeping the lights on) with little to nothing left over to add new business value. It may be as important what we stop doing as what we can start.

 

Having stated that we’ve had all this success, it is good to recognize that almost all the solutions in production today were built with a scarcity assumption. There was never enough data, storage, network or computing capacity.

In many cases, those limitations have been overcome and we live in a world of abundant IT capabilities. We now can take that abundance of data and computing capacity and use analytic techniques to perform complex tasks like context recognition and sentiment analysis – tasks that just a few years ago were the domain of human knowledge workers. We can now begin to recognize ‘normal’ situations and automate them, freeing up people to focus on the anomalies and turn them into opportunities.

 

 

Infrastructure as a Service is an example of a business process we're all familiar with. At its core it is the business process of instantiation and monitoring of virtual machines. Today, it has been automated to a large extent. What we can do today is just the tip of the iceberg of change headed our way as even greater IT capabilities allow us to take these techniques and apply them throughout the business. Instead of automating VM instantiation, we should be able to automate hiring personnel or even most of the middle management role in some organizations.

 

This abundance perspective can fundamentally shift how value is generated and the role of IT within organizations. If we don’t understand and capitalize on these technology shifts to address the business shifts underway, others will come in and eat our lunch.

 

With this as a starting point, we had a very active discussion covering a wide range of topics some of which were:

  •          Can is really be called Shadow IT if the CIO helps the business by applying their expertise to help steer, rather than running alongside and trying to slow it down?
  •          What can we do to help our people transition from traditional IT to a newer more flexible and business centric approach? Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to make the transition.
  •          What do CIOs need to do to sharpen the sword, for themselves and their people? One of the key points of this discussion was spending time with the business. Live it.
  •          Don’t strive for perfection – be flexible and enable the business to adjust as needed.

I had to draw the session to a close when time ran out but afterward there were a number of clusters that were still talking – and that discussion was likely more important than the discussion of the bigger group.

Networking and thoughts on systems of action

Odecisions.pngne of the major shifts underway whose implications are poorly understood by most organizations is the move to software defined networks. These networks are not like the traditional hard wired communications path we’re used to or even the autonomic systems of the human body, relying on rules that are predefined. They are more cognitive systems that enable and even make decisions based on experience.

 

The difference can be explained with the following example. When you are playing catch, you reach for the ball flying towards you. You position your hand based on previous experiences rather than calculations or rules. If you catch the ball, it reinforces your experiences, making you better. If you drop it, you change your behavior the next time. This approach is a foundational change what I include in my definition of systems of action.

 

We don’t know how to do this with software perfectly yet, but as computing capabilities increase and the algorithms improve, the application of these techniques is well within reach. Networking is one area where we’ll see it early, creating an Internet that is responsive to the changing needs of the day. Eventually expanding out to most business processes. The flexibility of SDN will impact how applications are written in much the same way that hybrid cloud and IaaS should influence the architecture of applications today.

 

Searching and sentiment analysis are other areas where we’re seeing these techniques applied today. Learning algorithms attempt to derive intent, moving to a negative response time where organizations can influence decisions and actions can be taken before the decision is made.

 

One of the major drivers for this adoption is the scarcity of attention in business today. These approaches will allow us to focus attention more effectively and filter through the torrent of information and more importantly the choices flooding us today.

Strategic trends in the IT services space

trends.pngI was in a discussion yesterday that touched on the trends in the IT services space. The biggest trends are thoroughly discussed in the trade press, but I had a slightly different and hopefully more strategic perspective to share.

 

  1. In 2011 and 2012 there has been a great deal of discussion about the movement of work from on-site to cloud based off-premise. Most organizations have at least stuck their toe in this space, it seems to have moved out of the early-adopter area, at least from a pilot project perspective. A closely related trend is the move away from human centric processes to human augmented processes where automation plays a key role. IaaS is the leading example of an automated business process that just happens to be IT based – all business processes are headed to this model. I was talking with a marketing person just the other day about the fact that automation is the new off-shore.
  2. Also in 2011 and 2012 there has been lots of press on social and mobile with a focus on providing a 3rd platform for the deployment of business systems. That perspective was fine for the turn of this century, but today the trend would be more accurately portrayed as an Nth platform model. Tablets (for example) where not popular just a few years ago, even though they had been around for over a decade, now they are one of the fastest growing areas of innovation. The whole view of BYOD movement is oriented around out shift in focus on the data and its access, not the devices. The business access platform may be a game console or some other device beyond the phone or PC, yet organizations need to be able to ensure information security
  3. The whole industry is shifting back to its roots of a more industry expertise centered value generation approach, requiring deep expertise in a number of industries. Related to this shift is the fact that service platform delivery is as much about behavior as it is about the platforms themselves. That is why ‘gamification’ or metrics-based behavior modification is going to be of increasing importance -- it is applicable to all aspects of services.
  4. The custom solutions delivered in a standard way will become a core service provider capability. We’ve seen this in the cloud computing space but much more of the market will become IP asset-based, where a core piece of software/service (possibly including human assets and skills) forms part of a standardized offering. Of course there will always be the issue that one organization’s commodity is another organization’s reason for existence. Those that have the skills and the IP to make it easy to buy will still be able to differentiate.  

Do you think there are trends that I am missing? If so, what are they and why? Is there anything you should do about it?

Outsourcing, innovation and a changing services market

innovation unlock.pngLast week I posted on multi-sourcing and its implications on IT cost that got me thinking about a post in CIO titled: U.S. Beats India for IT Outsourcing Innovation and Understanding that reinforced my frustration with those who equate outsourcing with off-shoring. Yes, there is a geographic connection, but let’s not make it tighter than it actually is.

 

For over a decade the organization that is currently HP ES has been using the concept of best-shore to ensure that the right people with the right skills are applied to the problem at hand. The broad brush labels used in this CIO article just do everyone a disservice, in my opinion. The issue of innovation and outsourcing has been around for a long time.

 

People are not fungible – they bring a unique set of skills, resources and capabilities. The offerings in the services industry (beyond the most basic IaaS) are about selling people’s capabilities, especially to larger organizations that want solutions tailored to meet their needs. That is part of where the innovation in the services space comes from – doing custom work in a standard way. The relationship has to be structured to make innovation happen.

 

The use of other organizations to extend the enterprise is a strategic decision that needs to be treated as such. It is not just about cost cutting. It is about meeting the needs of the organization for quality, security… , as well as cost effectiveness, using whatever means are necessary. As organizations move their service needs up the value chain into more personalized/consumer focused services, these quality issues are paramount, since a confused or frustrated customer is typically not a return customer. The focus needs to be on quality. The geographic location is just a distraction, if the quality is the same.

 

Gartner recently put out a video describing some of the forces that are reshaping the fundamentals of how IT services providers deliver & sell and how buyers consume. Delivery models and methods are coming that will improve the quality, predictability and value of service offerings. It may be that greater physical "face time" improves the relationship more than just the cost benifits, regardless of where the work gets done.

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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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