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

Data and decision latency expectations shifting

Analytics time.pngOne of the issues I’ve talked about many times over the year is the need to shift our understanding and expectation of latency and action. I came across this post: Analytics Time Lags Result in Lost Opportunities. It also discusses the fact that the data gathering and analytics that were great a short while ago are now viewed as insufficient, stating that “72% of analytics and business leaders surveyed were dissatisfied with the time it takes to get data-driven results”.

 

Unfortunately, it didn’t really do more than imply that solutions exist. Fact is most solutions deployed today are based on hindsight. There is little doubt that the vast amounts of data available are going to require an exceptional command of information, far beyond just hindsight. It will require a refocusing of skills and perspective that are based on generating value from the abundance of computing and data available. This will require new techniques for computing as well as data gathering and integration. The work going on in HP labs related to The Machine will help address these needs, when this platform is released.

 

We have data coming in from sensors and mobile devices creating an ever increasing amount of Dark Data where value can be generated. We can also build context from the other data about what happened when, who or what was involved or happened at the same time. This derived data or metadata can sometimes be more valuable than the raw data itself, since people don’t really make decisions off the data but the context the data describes. Organizations are recognizing that all this data will provide a depth of understanding about what happened in the past, present and future that we’ve not really taken advantage of before.

 

We can develop a greater depth of understanding about what is happening right now that can enable us to automate decisions or concentrate that rare resource – employee attention - on those areas that really need it. There are relatively new technologies that most teams have not even looked at like software defined networks… that can operate on data on the fly instead of just data at rest. This will eventually enable a more active, organizational approach to tackling opportunities.

 

Finally, over the years we’ve learned that getting to zero response time is very difficult. It may actually be easier to move to a negative response time, where you predict what is likely to happen and adjust to be ready to address it or even shift the outcome. Tools to address all these various perspectives of data and enabling right-time decisions are available to improve your ability to optimize time-to-action are available today.

IoT model update from the one I used 4 years back...

Back about four years ago, I used a model to think about machine-to-machine (M2) from a holistic perspective. Today, this would be viewed more through an Internet of Things (IoT) lens. In talking with some others last week, it seemed that the simple progressing from sensors all the way through action is still valid but may need to be expanded a bit.

Internet of things model.png

 

In really starts with the ‘thing’ that has been tagged (and its sensors and controllers). There is also a supporting device management layer that adds security, power management and other fleet management features. I didn't really show that the first time.

 

Data collection continues to have integration capabilities but the analytics layer needs to add more context and pattern recognition than just traditional analytics. There is an automation layer that rides on top that performs a number of the action oriented features.

 

I didn’t really think about the management layer that is inherent in the approach, even though some functions may only be useful for a subset of the environment. A pluggable set of standards is needed to minimize the complexity.

 

The Internet of Things will require a significant degree of autonomous control. It can’t be as needy as the tools we’re using today – crying out for our attention all the time.

 

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.

Opportunities in Open Data

derived data.pngA long while back, I mentioned a kickoff presentation to the Open Data effort in Toronto. This meeting was focused on opening up the underutilized existing data, enabling the generation of new value for those living in Toronto.

 

Many organizations today need to inventory their data and (probably more importantly) the derived data. As part of this cataloging effort, they can look at the possibilities to leverage the data with publically and commercially available data opening up new levels of context understanding and possibility for the organization.

 

It is interesting when you talk to organizations about their data. They rarely understand the range of what is valuable, internal and proprietary -- let alone what could be merged with information from the government or other sources to make better decisions.

 

Many governments like the United States, Canada, Mexico and Singapore are opening up the floodgates of public data. For companies who understand that their data is being valued by their partners and customers, it can be a differentiator for those relationships. Naturally competitors are interested in the data as well, so a balance needs to be reached.

 

There are many companies across the globe that aggregate data from numerous sources and provide insight to help with decision making. Examples of some unusual types of searches anyone can do are: Coffee vs. Tea or what’s interesting about this day or what countries have the highest download speed.

 

Now these tools that once required high powered, custom solutions are more common – through the abundance of IT capabilities. It is shifting the foundations of what is thought of as possible.

Examples of where open data integration are making a difference:

Or the example I posted on a while back about the shifts that will come to the healthcare space when we have more genomic information and greater understanding of the effectiveness of treatment based on genetic makeup, not just the statistical average.

 

Information sources that contain demographic data, financial transactions, health-care benchmarks, and real-time location data are becoming prevalent. A myriad of new context-based possibilities exist for organizations to exploit both to understand their business better, differentiate themselves in the mind of the customer and generate economic value.

The shifting view of security required today

security extend.pngLast month while in Canada, I was part of a discussion about what’s abundant and scarce in the finance space. We touched on security. I think we can all admit that there is nearly an infinite supply of hackers willing to work for free and at the same time a business’s resources in the security space is constrained. It is not hard to image a large organizations being the focus of 10,000 or more cyber-attacks in a single day. Are our systems really up for this level of defense?

 

We can also admit that the security fortress approach (where you create a secure perimeter) to protect the corporate systems and data is insufficient and outdated. This notion of security seems quaint in a cloud-enabled world where the business draws upon an ecosystem of partners and sites across the globe. Even the systems that we’re implementing are no longer hierarchical in nature, they are an aggregation of services and functionality providing significant business value but presenting opportunities to rethink what we mean by governance, compliance and access. The concept of having zero risk appears naïve.

 

We live in a world of conflict. We want our systems to be secure and yet collaborative, innovative and low risk. This kind of paradox points to the need for an innovative approach.

 

We are going to have to abandon our current fragmented defense mentality and rethink our cyber-attack response. This gorilla war will be defined by a business-driven, risk-management approach where security needs to be baked in at every level and not bolted on as an afterthought.

 

There was also a discussion related to a mobile approach to control. Some of the folks were talking about using Bluetooth LE to open locks and control a facility (since a wide variety of mobile devices support it). I pointed them to an analysis that shows how Bluetooth LE provides low energy consumption but also low security. It may be OK as long as you add additional security capabilities throughout the rest of the system and don’t depend on the Bluetooth specification, since LE doesn’t really use the defined security functionality in its attempt to lower power consumption.

 

There are a few ‘simple’ things organizations can do to start shifting their perspective:

-          Prioritize information assets based on business risks.   I’ve mentioned before my view about BYOD – for the corporation, it is not about devices, but access to corporate information and policy. Organizations need to develop a data portfolio that defines the information assets they need to protect and have clear policies on their use – this may extend into a context portfolio perspective.  This will require business and IT to work together to assess risks across the entire value chain and set appropriate policies for the underlying information assets.

-          Define policies for security integration. In the more flexible (cloud-based approach) being deployed today services that are created or subscribed to can morph from what they were originally intended to be used in other ways – plan for this. Everyone in the IT (and probably the business as well) need to have a foundational understanding of how to incorporate security awareness into their work, during the entire lifecycle of processes and projects. Security and privacy are everyone’s job.

 

Security can be a differentiator for an organization – both in a good and a bad way. Organizations need to actively take control instead of passively waiting to see what happens.

 

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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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