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

2014 – a year of instability

crystalball.gif2014 will be a year of Instability for most organizations. For the optimists, it will be a year that many of the technologies that entered the business environment, shift to delivering significantly new levels of value. For the pessimist, it will be another year of unwanted change.


One of the changes organizations will embrace is the shift from a focus on service delivery (including cloud) as a commodity to a value play. This will move Service Level Agreement metrics from measuring commodity performance (like uptime) to more business-focused and quality measures.


Many of the service players will begin to offer solutions higher up the value stack and directly address business processes. SaaS vendors moving to BPO for example, causing them to take on whole new areas of responsibility.


The same kinds of shifts will happen within IT support organizations. Workplace services that are currently focused on supporting BYOD will need to embrace Bring Your Own Service – a more environmental view of what is needed to address the business needs of the day. The security and service broker functions will become even more critical for support organizations since much of the work will be provided by others.


In 2013, HP talked a lot about the new style of IT. In 2014, a new style of business that is more social, mobile, flexible, data driven, secure and automated will generate greater value levels and allow those who embrace the change to excel. For example, social will be a lever for greater engagement for employees and customers. Mobile will build upon that engagement capability and add in the element of speed, shifting the time to action for organizations. Analytics will move out of the glass house and take advantage of mobile to provide the visibility and efficiency needed and where possible automation will offload well understood tasks and assist in simplifying and eliminating distractions. The race with the machine will be the race to watch in 2014 -- this will be a year of widespread transformation. Defining criteria to evaluate an innovation and its implication will help organizations minimize instability.


In 2012 a wide variety of ubiquitous and wearable computing hit the ground (even more in 2013) but in 2014 these will hit the road and be incorporated into more business and personal processes. They will shift from being isolated devices to becoming linked networks of functionality. As the costs and power requirements go down, they will be embedded in more products (and produce, limiting spoilage -- as an example) optimizing results. This will also enable a more software-defined everything view of computers in products. The instabilities this shift implies will be readily apparent in 2014.


Another shift will be to a software defined anything approach. The concepts of OpenStack for Cloud OS and OpenFlow for software defined networking will start to permeate higher into the value stack with a more open ‘smarts’ approach to pattern recognition and process optimization during 2014. This more open approach will allow for standardization yet customization enabling new level of business flexibility and applicability. The personalization and custom development for 3D printing... will continue to move into the mainstream.


Software in 2014 will incorporate more flexible information sources and analytics, enabling greater levels of automation and systems of action. For the end user we’ll likely see a great deal of interface work and changes as HTML5 integrates more capabilities for voice, video… and organizations begin to capitalize upon these capabilities across devices. A wider variety of spatial (gesture), touch, voice and even mind control interfaces will be incorporated into enterprise software, moving out of the consumer space. Organizations will learn from how the consumer space adopts the functionality of the Xbox One into their interactions. We will move beyond a ‘mobile first’ view for development to mobile is 'the interface' and desktop is a special case – fortunately with HTML5 that should not be that big of an issue.


The software portfolio that has been built through the success of all the previous projects will need to be re-assessed in 2014 against these services and the revised needs of the business. Mobile interfaces will allow the enterprise to take advantage of the computer everyone has with them. This environmental perspective will enable the employees to become more engaged with the processes, customers and other employees, empowering them and enabling them to empower others.


Organizations will need to assess what is abundant in this world of 2014 and what will still be scarce for them. Those that recognize this distinction will have a significant advantage in planning and removing instability. Everyone can probably recognize that security, privacy and time (attention) will be scarce, but what else can be optimize and used differently to provide advantage.


Engaged and motivated employees will still be scarce. I think businesses will need to do more in-house orientation and development enabling a more predictable talent creation pipeline. Although a variety of education techniques can be applied to make this happen, the passive approach that came about during the .com era will no longer be accepted by the businesses or its employees and the new skills and change management required to shift the business will be recognized and addressed in 2014.


Organizations that can quickly adjust to the volatility around them will remain stable and in control. Most of the instability can be predicted, although there are some situations that will always surprise us. Being flexible and aware can make those situations turn into an opportunity.

Robotics example for agriculture

robotic farmer.pngHaving spent a great deal of time in my youth sitting on a tractor cultivating corn, I was amused to see this article on CNET: Down on the farm, Lettuce Bot is quietly slaying weeds. It is a great example of looking at the use of technology issues differently.


If there is one thing that is laid out in a very organized fashion, it is crops (and lawns). Crops are equally spaced and homogeneous. Pattern recognition techniques should easily be able to identify anomalies and robotically killing the invaders (weeds) can be done in a wide variety of ways other than the use of traditional herbicides.


There are also analytical advantages, since many kinds of metrics can be gathered during this sort of field inspection that the farmer can use assess at a later date. The farmer can focus on the irregularities in the field rather than sitting out there driving around. Another interesting possibility is that if chemical tanks don’t need to be driven around, the process could be more energy efficient than traditional techniques – depending on how often the weeding/inspection needs to take place.


Many tasks can be reassessed for how to accomplish them using the abundance of computing capabilities available

How does IT need to shift as our workplace infrastructure changes?

Barrier break through.pngDoes IT need to be rethought in the age of mobile devices? As tablets take on more of the businesses heavy lifting, their fundamentally different computing and interface model can enable a more interactive and engaged workforce. It will likely take much more than a thin-client display model to transform today’s business processes into the frictionless, secure, aggregation of services expected in the future. Applications (service aggregations) as well as business processes will be required to change and operate in this social and immersive environment, flexibility is critical.


Touch interfaces have a different feel than the traditional interaction. Although the user can tolerate some interactions on a tablet – using your figure to click on small x’s in the upper right hand corner quickly becomes tedious, especially when on the move (in a plane or a train).


Location aware, always on (and connected) solutions that are sensor-enabled with access to large compute engines for pattern recognition…  have the potential to provide differentiated business value as well as a more productive and context aware user interface. We have the opportunity to change the way workers and consumers view the enterprise, by improving decision-making and allowing for greater self-service and automation.


I’ve seen for myself that when projects have great designers and support from individuals with significant change management skills the impact of projects is accelerated and amplified. The same can be said for architects that have a vision for what’s useful and possible. It is more than just hardware, software or business processes that need to change our perspective of what’s possible. We need to tear down some of the barriers to progress that we’ve put up.


In many cases, IT organizations need to lead the enterprise in technology development, deployment and analysis, as a road to greater efficiency and profitability accessing information wherever, whenever and for whatever needs it.


There are a number of things organizations can do to prepare:

  • Becoming service-aware – What’s available? How can it be made more flexible? What is the best way to interface with it?
  • Deal with distribution (employees, data, security…) – Even company boundaries are not sacrosanct. Design for flexibility.
  • Upgrading skills – This is a never ending battle, since technology is always changing

Hats that the CIO needs to get rid of… (Part 2 of 2)

windy hat.pngIn the past innovators were a chosen few—predominately middle-aged, middle-class Western men. Tomorrow’s innovators will come from all corners of the globe, all races, religions, and classes. Not only can everyone be an innovator – it is an expectation going forward as more “normal” tasks are automated.


When I say I am only human, I’m saying that I’m innovative. I like to do things differently. The optimist view is that all humans are innovative. The environment of the future will be designed to support this level of personalization and creativity. It may even reach the point where what we think we’re talking with may not be human at all.


The pessimist may believe that as low as only one percent of any general population has the high motivation, intelligence, and creativity to be truly innovative.


For Canada, with a population of 32 million inhabitants, we can reason that 320,000 are innovators. In the United States, that number increases to three million innovators.


One percent of China’s and India’s combined population would be 26 million innovators. They’ll have nearly as many innovators as Canada has residents. Our global approach is opening up those innovations to the world, further accelerating change and adoption.


Yesterday I described the numerous hats today’s CIOs are required to wear -- but what about the roles to avoid? Here are a few of the hats the CIO probably shouldn’t wear:


Chief inertia officer

Inertia is defined as “a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.” Inertia is what makes companies continue in a direction long after the signs of change have passed. It’s represented by fixed-cost decisions, where the enterprise is sometimes incapable of overcoming bad decisions simply because they were made recently and must be defended despite better reason.


When I was going through my MBA program, one of the things we had a great deal of discussion about was the fact that sunk costs are in the past, and they can’t be a constraint to your future.


Increasingly, the future isn’t a straight line from the past, and decisions made on that basis won’t serve the enterprise well. The CIO must be a force in overcoming organizational inertia and be a strong voice in understanding not only the points at which systems fail but also the point at which optimal performance is lacking.


Chief impediment officer

IT must be a business enabler, not a business impediment. Increasingly, applications are moving closer to business end users. The expectations are for greater flexibility for devices, systems and collaboration. CIO’s must understand and embrace (at least to the point of making an active decision instead of a passive one) topics like BYOD.


The CIO is responsible for smoothing the transition from a legacy IT environment to a business-flexible SOA, where IT will move as rapidly, and with as much agility, as the enterprise demands.


Chief inefficiency officer

The efficiency of the enterprise is often tied to the efficiency of the IT capabilities underlying and supporting it. Maintaining the efficiency of the IT infrastructure is becoming a more demanding chore.


Six-nines (99.9999 percent) availability requirements mean redundant, standby infrastructure, much of which remains unused until there’s a point of failure. Architecting computing infrastructure that can be highly efficient during low traffic but can quickly and economically scale to tens of thousands of business events are becoming practical. New processes, tools, and techniques will be necessary for most organizations and the CIO is on point to plan for this.


CIOs must not only work at the strategy level, but also understand and relate to the details needed to make it happen. They must understand and preserve that which is optimally efficient, yet also muster the courage to find what could work better -- to evangelize change. They must be part lawyer, technician, mediator, and change agent. The CIO must be as much at home in the business environment as they are in the technical world. No other position in the modern enterprise requires the executive to excel in so many capacities. Even if someone masters the many dimensions, it’s safe to say that the future CIO should prepare to take on further additional, unexpected responsibilities. It’s the nature of the job.


Are you wearing in hats that you might need to take off? Do you have any other “don’ts” to add to my list?


 To read more about my thoughts on the roles of the CIO, visit these HP The Next Big Thing blog posts:

CIOs: Don’t try to hold on to your hat (part 1 of 2)

windy hat.pngThe winds of change for CIOs (and IT) are blowing harder than ever before. Normally, one would say “hold on to your hat!” but in this case, it should be time to “get ready to lose it,” since the CIO needs to wear more hats than ever before.


In this age of exponential growth, powered by Moore’s law and other exponential changes, we’ve only started to see the changes that will be taking place.


Every worker today needs to have access to broad as well as deep knowledge. They need to be constantly learning. Those who are great at one thing will have a job only as long as that one thing is in demand and accessible. The workers who can move from role to role (be willing to let go), even within one job, who can project their expertise into the market (even if it is only within the ecosystem we call an enterprise today) will thrive. The CIO position of the future is a perfect example of this, both as an example and as an enabler of others.


Tomorrow’s CIO will enable the flow of a rapidly evolving new business model. The CIO’s hats will undergo significant change, and the concept of the chief information officer role we are familiar with will likely be lost to history.


In case anyone doubts these multiple roles, here are just a few of the many dimensions required for today and tomorrow:


Chief integration officer

The untethered, aggregated, ecosystem we call an enterprise today will demand integration like we’ve never seen before. Systems of record will still exist, but they will have many consumers, possibly even outside the enterprise borders. The days of standalone solutions, organizations… are over.


Chief innovation officer

We know that innovation is coming from all directions and sources—and in an environment of increasing change, it must be understood, cultivated, and managed. The CIO has a role to both educate and accelerate innovation. Diversity of perspective is a key way to hasten innovation and the collaborative tools are in the CIOs area.


Chief irritation officer

This goes along with the saying “if it ain’t broke – break it.” The CIO needs to have a vision of where things need to be. They need to be able to share that with others, evangelize and rise up against the latency and inertia that inhibit change adoption. This skill is critical for the CIO being a leader.


Chief identity officer

Identity management is a critical capability -- optimizing the flow of information to partners, customers, and employees. Knowing who the right person is and providing that individual with the right information in the right form in the right place at the right time to drive the right outcome (Right6) is an expectation for the future. The security implications are immense, so…


Chief inoculation officer

Security is a make-or-break proposition in today’s enterprise. The news is full of stories about hackers, worms, and phishing expeditions. Security incidents can give an organization a black eye, or even take them down.


Security breaches reduce confidence in every aspect of the business and can cost the executives their jobs. The security techniques for business in the future need to be about creating and maintaining multilayered, context-aware, business function-based security. If the 90s taught us anything, it is that perimeter based security approaches are bound to fail. Security must be baked in, not bolted on. It requires strong collaboration between technology and business processes and the CIO’s leadership role is central to this effort.


Security must be transformed from being viewed as a cost component to an empowering one. One of the foundations of the big data movement is that visibility and transparency are central to decision making. Depending on the industry, significant amounts of meta-data can be derived from security information showing the relationship between people, systems and events.


Chief international officer

While the primary responsibility for international relations might fall to the COO, the technical infrastructures that facilitate these efforts are within the domain of the CIO.


This is no trivial undertaking. Each country has its own laws, risks and implications. Managing an international infrastructure requires the CIO to be part lawyer, part technician, part politician, and all business.


Chief investigative officer

New constructs around cloud computing, pattern recognition, simulation, predictive technologies, complex-event processing, and event-stream processing technologies emerge daily. The CIO must understand these new technology capabilities—and, when economically appropriate—apply them to create business value.


Each new service must be considered as to whether it’s a new competitor or, perhaps, a compliment to amplify the value of an existing service. Many of the new services will be delivered through the Internet and won’t be geographically bound like their predecessors. The CIO will be at least partially responsible for providing the conduit to this new business-intelligence content, even if the analysis responsibilities fall to other parts of the business. The CIO needs to understand the business needs and flesh out these possibilities, bringing them into discussions with the business. To accomplish this, the CIO must be aware of new opportunities, new threats and new conduits for finding them, as well as how they’ve been used elsewhere, and the commensurate risks—a process requiring strong investigative and analytic disciplines.


Chief information officer

Finally what we think of as information and sources of information are under constant change. The sifting of structure from unstructured data is opening up vast sets of information that just a short time ago were beyond our reach. For example deriving the context of speak, video… are becoming possible.


But what’s unique about much of this new information for most companies is that it’s designed to improve decision making—it’s not data for more data processing. In a world where data is abundant, having more data is just not helpful. Referred to as “context content,” the new information flow consists of meta-information, or information about the information; collateral information, or what else was occurring; and environmental information, or the state of environments. When properly processed, this information will provide clues as to the “why” of an event rather than just the “what” and move the basis for corporate action from sense-and-respond, or reactive, to cause-and-effect, or proactive.


Next time, I’ll talk about a few of the hats today’s CIOs probably shouldn’t wear, but in the meantime, do you have any CIO hats to add to my list?


To read more about my thoughts on the roles of the CIO, visit these HP The Next Big Thing blog posts:

This post was based off an earlier article Jeff Wacker wrote while at EDS.

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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.