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

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.

Was the CSO job becoming boring???

Changing CSO.pngLately there seem to be quite a bit of concern in the security space about the loss of control – that the "CSO’s job is over" because of the advent of BYOD and IaaS… The fact that these new capabilities shoot holes in all those finely crafted security frameworks is disruptive; there is no doubt about that. On the other hand it opens the security role up from a relatively well defined and relatively rote function (in some organizations) to one that needs to be more creative and adjust to an ever changing environment.

 

There was an article in the September issue of CSO magazine that talked about Kiss Your IT Control Goodbye, there was also a blog post on the loss of security control. These made it seem like traditional control is the only option for the enterprise.

 

As anyone with much sysadmin capability understands, once you have physical access, security control failure is just a matter of time. Maybe you only lose use of the device, but at some point the functionality can be lost. A while back Microsoft published 10 immutable laws of security and physical access is #3 on the list.

 

There is no doubt that the enterprise security world is changing and that should keep the CSO role interesting. So some analysis and planning will be needed, maybe  security can be turned into an innovation driver for the organization.

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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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