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

What should be the goal of cognitive computing?

automated decisions.pngSome organizations think that cognitive computing is about getting better answers more quickly, typically using English to form the questions. There is no doubt that there is tremendous appeal to getting the answer to question in natural language, but is that really enough. In a world of data abundance, it can be difficult to know the right question to ask.

 

Unfortunately, many times it is the questions we never knew to ask, that turn into potential big gains or losses. One of my co-workers from HP labs mentioned that:

“It is interesting to note that change detection is a core competency (and survival property) of the visual cortex; it responds quickly because it constantly compares visual input with memories of what the world should look like. Thus, as we build next-generation systems based on large amounts of rapidly changing data, you want the data to self-organize, recognize similarities, detect changes, and help you assess anomalies so that these may be investigated.”

 

In addition to systems, we need services that enable the decision maker (human or machine) to react, respond and investigate based on the context of the information available, so that the entire ecosystem learns and adapts. It could be that having the future approach focus on better questions than better answers and how to display those questions and their answers more effectively should be the goal.

 

When I talk to leaders about where the future of services is headed, this is where my thoughts tend to go and it is going to take different techniques than organizations have deployed today.

Services and outcomes – what does the business really need?

 

choices.jpgAlmost every IT and service organization is looking at where to focus their operational energies in order to remain relevant in the new style of business that is expected today.  Each of us are constrained by our own preconceptions of service management and how it has traditionally and should be measured.

 

Recently, HP produced a paper titled: Link Services to Outcomes that tackles this issue. I am not sure that it went far enough, to drive home the value and shift in behavior and perspective that’s required.

 

I see situations all the time where an organization tries to straddle the line between traditional IT SLAs and more agile IT approaches without ever shifting the measures of success to what business really need – business-based service level.

 

These new kind of partnering efforts need to look for KPIs that the business cares about – the position paper does provide a few of those examples. These need to be key measures of the performance of the business. Another thing the paper brings forward are a few questions you need to ask yourself about your business and what approach it will accept. Is your organization:

  • Mature enough to deploy and fully use an outcomes-oriented service environment?
  • Willing to invest the time and resources needed to align IT and the business model?
  • Able to create and continually use the necessary metrics, thresholds, and reporting systems?

And that is not even covering the issues in the legal and purchasing spaces.

 

One thing that is interesting is how this business measures approach is almost the exact opposite of the public cloud-based service approach where there are few guarantees and the services providers actually don’t want to know anything about your business – at least how it is implemented today. Legal and purchasing may not be involved.

 

I sometimes wonder if those who are committed to one camp or another can see the world from the other perspective or is it totally outside their context.

 

 

Experience optimization and a new wave of value

 

Waiting-for-the-Great-Leap-Forward.jpgI’ve mentioned before the waves of computing that have taken place over the last 50 years. When I think of it from an impact/value perspective (rather than one based on technology) the waves look a bit different. The first wave was the automation within the enterprise, addressing billing, inventory and even design automation. The second wave was automation and facilitation of personal activities. These included things like personal budgeting, on-line shopping…

 

The next wave is likely to be as different from the previous ones as the second one (focused on personal value) was from the first enterprise wave. This new wave is about automation and optimization of environments.

 

Technologies like IoT will shift both what and how we value. I was talking with another technologists the other day about the impact of automation at the macro level. A simple example is: What if a smart city were self-optimizing? Talking with the autonomous cars (which optimize at the micro level) while optimizing the environment of the city itself. Would that shift what people value and therefore what should be optimized? We can all recognize that all those individuals that make up the city are driven by different motivations --Will this new age of value be able to take these variations into account? I think that is part of what will make this new approach so compelling. We’ll have the abundance of computing capability to tackle it.

 

From a service futures perspective, the shift will likely be profound, since a new ability to derive behavior and goals will shift how value is assessed. Those organizations that can provide a better experience will outshine those that optimize based on someone/something else’s needs. It may not be so much what I own but what I can optimize – it will not be about mine, but about me (and what I’d like to accomplish). Start thinking about your organizations services from this perspective and it will likely change what you expect from your organizations IT.

 

Service centric innovation – does it require a change in thinking?

 

SaaS.pngI was just in a stimulating discussion with a co-worker preparing to be part of a panel (that ISSIP is hosting) and looking at the question:

“Most product companies are making a shift from product-centric business models to more service-centric business models?  How does this impact your innovation ecosystem and how can entrepreneurs leverage this trend?”

 

This question seems to be based on the foundation that companies that may be product centric don’t understand services. I don’t actually see this as true. Almost all companies get a significant amount of value from service activities and innovation, even if it is just servicing and maintaining their products. The day of throwing the product out the door and checking the transaction complete are over.

 

In fact the whole IoT phenomenon is based on adding services to devices, whether it is your TV now being able to download content or your thermostat managing temperature based on how the environment around it is being used – these are all services – and IoT will have significant implications.

 

Now I do think there is a fundamental question about how much the context and culture of the companies has changed and if a company’s (or IT’s) approach to innovation has shifting. Since almost everyone lives in a consumer-oriented lifestyle, service innovation has been creeping into our thoughts and expectations for a very long time.

 

We have all this talk about digital natives and digital companies maybe that is all misplaced and we should be looking at it from a services impact and futures perspective. It is not that companies are becoming digital – it is that they are being more services oriented and in the process, hunger for greater information and action.

 

The use of experience and an organizational error culture

 

opps.pngI recently came across a blog on the error culture of organizations. It was focused on: when it comes to learning from errors, it is how an organization behaves that is important.

 

“…when errors do occur, they aren’t swept under the rug. Instead, they’re treated as valuable learning opportunities that help companies avoid the repetition of similar mistakes in the future.”

 

With all the new technology around us and new business trends the old adage that “if you are making mistakes you’re not learning” in more relevant than ever.

 

On the other hand, we need to benefit from those previous errors. I see lots of discussions about ITIL and ITSM and their role in helping organizations deliver more reliable services. These are not just academic exercises, the learnings (of the users, operations…) need to be reinvested in improved practices, even in these very dynamic new models.

 

All too often, the new flexible techniques view basic operational approaches as constraining or even unnecessary. It makes me ask people how they will understand the ‘normal’ operations of the system and be able to see a pattern where intervention is needed. One thing is clear, you don’t want to learn how to fire a gun in the middle of a firefight. Similarly, you don’t want to diagnose a system for the first time when it is going (or has gone) down. Experience is needed to help talk people through this process, since it is rarely taught and needs to be felt.

 

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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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The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation.