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

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.

Agile Manager Beta

170px-Kampffisch_betta_splendenscele4.jpgI just heard of a new beta HP software service called Agile Manager. In beta through November 30, 2012.

 

HP Agile Manager is a SaaS-based solution for organizing, planning and executing agile projects. It is purpose-built and designed specifically to serve agile teams. It leverages a native cloud architecture for instant-on access and boasts a clean, intuitive design offering technology innovations that minimize latency, aids the adoption of agile practices and fosters continuous improvement. There is even an Agile Manager support community to collaborate with others learning about the service.

 

Some key features:

  • Advanced visualization for easy planning, task allocation, and capacity management
  • Comprehensive analytics and real-time visibility into code, quality, and progress
  • Seamless IDE integration so developers can work in the environment they prefer
  • Insight across projects, teams, and geographies to successfully scale agile efforts

I’ve not had my hands on it yet myself, but it does sound interesting, since I’ve been using agile techniques since long before the term agile was applied to software development.

New phone, new opportunities

mobile gears.pngI recently switch my smartphone over to an ATT Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. This is a very impressive, capable and versatile device. I’ve only started to delve into writing software for it, since my background is more Windows mobile than Android.

 

I had one of the early Windows mobile devices back in the early part of this century (~2001) and used it to watch movies, read books, send emails… So I was a bit surprised to see a post from Mike Lachtanski saying that Smartphone video-viewing isn’t ready for prime time.  

 

I’m taking an on-line course from Coursera on gamification right now and watch most of the lectures on my smartphone – while on the treadmill or stationary bike. It may be that I am just more tolerant than most of the small screen, but I love the ability to consume media anywhere.

 

Since smartphones are the computer we have with us all the time, they are the target enterprise organizations should use for first deployment of business functionality. Mobile devices can augment our capabilities and take latency out of our response to events. The BYOD movement has complicated the development and deployment but with modern development tools, it’s well within the reach of almost any organization. With SaaS, we are likely to see that the SMB market will have mobile capabilities early (if not first) since it will be backed into the services

Is Bring Your Own Service the Future?

BYOS.pngI was talking with someone about the problems facing the CIOs of the future. With all the emphasis on consumerization and more recently Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in IT, the enterprise environment of the future could easily turn into a Bring Your Own Service (BYOS) to work (naturally when I did a Google search someone had already coined BYOS).

 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that a technical leader for large global services organization said that all applications will be pulled together by end users in the future – I hope he was just exaggerating by the way. He clearly sees this BYOS world as something he is planning on. His thinking though was still limited to IT.

 

If we even get close to this kind of environment where users create tools and relationships, then leave the organization (or even move on within the organization) and expect others to support what they built (we’ve seen before with Excel and Microsoft Access – both extremely useful tools), the IT team could easily end up being forced to support something that was done off the cuff by amateurs and then evolved into a mission critical tool. Can this happen with other parts of the business as well?

 

It the past I would have said that it was an enterprise governance issue. Now I wonder if it is more of an architecture issue. Can we architect flexibility into the system so that it is easier to develop, monitor and more importantly maintain these kinds of systems?  I doubt that anything that smacks of a peer review will be supported by the user community.

 

As IT organizations look to a future of greater service orientation, they should look for service orientation of the enterprise as a whole on not just IT. IT has cloud and SaaS as examples from its domain but service orientation techniques can be broadened to other parts of the business. In the future we may not be talking about IT devices or bringing LinkedIn information services into the enterprise but other non-core services like manufacturing, distribution, HR… depending on the organization. 

 

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Play changes for IT on the second half of the board

One slide that was used in HP Discover last week quite a bit was this one:

BB2883 - Bess MtCS Apps transformation.png

 

It shows how technology has shifted since the dawn of the Information Technology. These changes are not likely to slow down because it is all fueled by exponential technology growth.

 

The best illustration that I can give you of what ahead is a little story that Ray Kurzweil used in his book called the Singularity is Near.

 

It is about the unimaginable change that is possible when driven by exponential growth. The story starts with the man who invented chess. When he showed the king of India the game, the king was so entertained and excited by the game that he told the man he’d give him anything he asked for – within reason.

 

The man made what appeared to be a simple request. He asked that every year for the next 64 years (the number of squares on a chess board) a few grains of rice in the following manner: the king was to provide a single grain of rice on the first chess square and double it every following year.

 

The king quickly agreed.

 

The first year the inventor received 1 grain, the second 2, the third 4… It doesn’t get interesting until you cross over into the 2nd half of the board.

 

On the 23rd square we are talking about 8M grains. A still reasonable amount of rice,  that can be delivered by a small field of rice. At the next square, when crossing over to the 2nd half, the king finally took notice, because now it would start impacting his grain inventory. The king realized by the time they would reach the end of the board, it would have required enough rice to cover all of India one meter thick with rice. He’d been had and the inventor’s head was soon cut off and the rice deliveries were no longer a problem.

 

I bring this up because all these exponential trends that we’ve been taking advantage of in IT, like Moore’s law, Edholm’s law…, are now reaching into the 2nd half of the board. We’re the ones who need to understand and take advantage of the change since it is quite different than what we’ve seen to date.

 

How many of you have already felt the constraints of your own thinking getting in the way of technology adoption? I know I for one need to take a step back every once in a while and say “what does this really mean?”

 

And I ask myself “What can be done with this abundance of capability that has never done before?

 

We are entering into a different world where there is an abundance of data – with all the sensors and mobile devices… We don’t worry as much about if the data is available, but more about what we can do with it. For those people who believe that data is king, it can be a rude awakening when they realize that in a world of abundant data, having more of it is worthless.

 

We don’t worry as much about if we can transport the data to the processing location. The networking is typically there, although it may still cost more than we wish.

 

With cloud computing, we have the resources to crunch all that data into something useful.

 

Additionally, our access to software capabilities is more than we’ve ever seen before as instantiated in the phase – there’s an app for that. For businesses that may be SaaS, Open Source, COTS…

 

For most businesses though the systems were designed with a very constrained view of the world. They were based on scarcity of data, computing… and it is time to take a step back and really look at that portfolio of applications for what they are really good at and how they add value.

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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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