The future of work…

working at a deskFast Company had a thought provoking post on The New Rules of Work – What Work Will Look Like in 2025. The focus of the article is on the technology enhanced human, enhanced by offloading many of the mundane elements of work on automation. Some of those elements (like recognizing faces) may weaken some of our mental faculties but the automation of other areas will likely refine our skills.

One statement that holds true today though is:

Workers will need to engage in lifelong education to remain on top of how job and career trends are shifting to remain viable in an ever-changing workplace

There is also a few expressed that the automation could eliminate bias from the hiring process. Personally, I doubt that since it would just codify the bias into the selection algorithm through the encoded selection criteria. Granted it may not bias based upon race or gender, but for those who really want a diverse set of perspectives in their workforce employee selection will still be difficult to do well.

One of the best elements of this article though is the number of links to other material on a range of topics. There were a number of links related to the topic of the redefinition of retirement.

In any case the workplace and the type of work being performed will be shifting and this article is food for thought.

Measuring the value and impact of cloud probably hasn’t changed that much over the years but…

cloud question markI was in a discussion today with a number of technologists when someone asked “How should we measure the effectiveness of cloud?” One individual brought up a recent post they’d done titled: 8 Simple Metrics to Track Your Cloud SuccessIt was good but a bit too IT centric for me.

That made me look up a post I wrote on cloud adoption back in 2009. I was pleased that my post held up so well, since the area of cloud has changed significantly over the years. What do you think? At that time I was really interested in the concept of leading and lagging indicators and that you really needed to have both perspectives as part of your metrics strategy to really know how process was being made.

Looking at this metrics issue made me think “What has changed?” and “How should we think about (and measure) cloud capabilities differently?”

One area that I didn’t think about back then was security. Cloud has enabled some significant innovation on both the positive and the negative sides of security. We were fairly naive about security issues back then and most organizations have much greater mind-share applied to security and privacy issues today – I hope!

Our discussion did make me wonder about what will replace cloud in our future or will we just rename some foundational element of it – timesharing anyone?

One thing I hope everyone agrees to though is: it is not IT that declares success or defines the value, it remains the business.

And not Or

and not or (logic)I was in an exchange the other day with some folks talking about their perspective that all companies need to be using cloud computing. I agree, but my view is slightly different. My perspective is that depending on the company’s size, needs and applications they will likely continue to have in house systems. It’s not a choice between things, but a choice among things and an acceptance of the way things are and one answer doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. You can’t look at it as: clouds the answer, now what’s the question?

Mobile computing is similar. It is the future interface of the enterprise, not really something special anymore. Embracing mobile devices and cloud computing will have a game changing effect, but it is not about the infrastructure but what we do with them and people want to do those things everywhere.

There are a number of other trends taking place like the IoT that are also shifting how organizations think about computing. It is interesting how this term is changing and how various organizations are trying to name it. It used to be ubiquitous computing, some call it ambient computing, but most still use the Internet of Things.

In any case the aggregation of sensors, devices, intelligence, and agents will shift how organizations generate value and shift IT to focus on systems of action.

Internet of Things Units Installed Base by Category (in Millions)

 Category 2013 2014 2015 2020
Automotive 96.0 189.6 372.3 3,511.1
Consumer 1,842.1 2,244.5 2.874.9 13,172.5
Generic Business 395.2 479.4 623.9 5,158.6
Vertical Business 698.7 836.5 1,009.4 3,164.4
Grand Total 3,032.0 3,750.0 4,880.6 25,006.6

Source: Gartner (November 2014)

Many still look at these opportunities primarily from an infrastructure perspective, but I definitely do not. It is about the business and the hardware side is a small (but necessary) part. Organizations that will compete effectively in the coming years are going to shift their thinking to “and” and not “or” foundation. It is not all about IT, but IT has a role in enabling this flexibility.

By the way the output of the And not Or logic circuit illustration is always a one –> true.

Automation and leadership

automation2One topic that has been getting people excited over the last few years is that robots are going to replace many jobs or make some jobs much more boring. That is not even touching on the whole autonomous robot rebellion crowd’s concerns (I posted about an AI risks related podcast on NPR just last week).

Robotics is taking important roles ranging from milking cows, to working in kitchens, to logistics and order fulfillment. Now they are taking on more important functions in our business processes that used to be the domain of knowledge workers (even though it is happening slowly).

I do believe that the increased use of automation should shift how enterprises architects think about the enterprise and how that environment is structured. Automation is just another enterprise resource that needs to be defined, understood and optimized. The leaders are going to have to include these possibilities in their thought processes too.

These changes are inevitable. That got me thinking about a post that McKinsey put out about beating the transformation odds – after all automation efforts will be a transformation. Most of the article focused on the need for executive vision, clarity and communications. It also discussed the need for continuous improvement as part of the plan. Too often teams and breathe a sense of relief once a project is deployed, when in reality that is just point where it was given birth and now needs to develop and mature. Automation efforts are no exception.

Transformation is hard work, and the changes made during the transformation process must be sustained for the organization to keep improving.

Future of AI podcast

AIFor those interested in Artificial Intelligence, automation and the possible implications on the future, last week the Science Friday podcast had a panel discussion asking AI questions like:

  • Will robots outpace humans in the future?
  • Should we set limits on A.I.?

The panel of experts discusses what questions should be asked about artificial intelligence progress.

What was nice about this discussion was it goes into a bit more depth than the usual ‘sound bite’ approach in most media articles.

One thing that is clear from these discussions is that the simple rules described by Asimov are not really up to the task. After all each of his Robot stories was about the conflicts that come from the use of simple rules.

The podcast also prompted T. Reyes to write a post: The Prelude to the Singularity that discusses the controls needed before we let this genie out of the bottle.

For some reason, I now want to reread The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Service Innovations over time…

SaaSI was in an exchange with Jim Spohrer (of IBM) the other day about Service innovations and he gave me the following lists dealing with service innovations:

Top Ten Service Innovations in all of History
1. Division of Labor – an entity gets to do more of what they do best, and less of what they do less well
2. Cities – local concentration of division of labor, including security and protection
3. Writing – allows communications over distance and time
4. Written Laws – brings more objectivity into governance and justice
5. Money – brings efficiency into exchange transactions
6. Universities – local concentration of division of knowledge, including preparation of next generation
7. Democracy – collective decision making via voting (citizen -> decision)
8. Republics – two stage collective decision making via voting (citizen -> representative -> decision)
9. Checks – safer than carrying paper money
10. Banks – safe storage of money, and compound interest/loans

Top Ten Service Innovations of Last 100 years

1. Universal Education – increases capability of population, and allows more complex problem solving
2. Universal Service – even rural people can communicate, and have right to communicate efficiently
3. Rural Electrification – even rural people can have lighting and access to modern appliances
4. Credit Cards – convenience and safety
5. Loyalty Programs – incentives for usage
6. Franchises – standard service in multiple places
7. FedEx – overnight package delivery
8. Automobile Transportation – systems of filling stations, roads, laws
9. Internet & Worldwide Web – access to information
10.  Wireless Communication Networks – Radio & Television – conquest of distance and access to service

Top Ten Service Innovations of Last 10 years
(or so)
1. Amazon – market for books and things
2. eBay – market for personal stuff
3. iTunes – market for music
4. Etsy – market for home made things
5. Uber – market for rides
6. AirBnB – market for rooms
7. Smart Phones & App Economy – access to information, communications, and other mobile services, including cognitive assistants
8. MOOCs – massively open on-line courses to augment education
9.  Mutual funds – finance investments that provide benefits of diverse portfolios
10. Global IT-enabled Outsourcing – division of labor between nations and large corporations

I’d add 3D printing to this list myself, but that may be just me.

Top Ten Service Innovations that broke out in 2014
1. TransferWise – lower transaction cost of transferring money
2. Coinbase – bitcoin digital wallet
3. Apple Pay – easier to pay money out
4. Lending Club – easier method to get investments in and out (founded in 2006)
5. Quirky – inventor community (started in 2009)
6. Bill.com – small business pay bills better (started in 2008)
7. Betterment.com (investment personal assistant)
8. Kickstarter – crowd funding (I think this actually started in 2009)
9.  Amazon Echo (home assistant)
10. Google Nest (home assistant) (actually the first Nest appears to be released in 2011)

Some things to think about…
What would be on your list? What should make the list for 2015? Do these innovations have anything in common?

A Technology Radar on Software Creation

radar (technology)I recently had the opportunity to look at ThoughtWorks Technology Radar. This is a document targeted primarily at developers, describing the emerging and trending technologies that are shaping software creation. It is grounded in tools that support the issues of: DevOps, Analytics and Security.

It is clear that those who put this position paper together are passionate about keeping up with the changes in the software development space, as well as internalizing the implications on how the software creative process will be performed in the future, and happy to share these views with others.

The technologies adoption profile is captured using a radar metaphor: emerging tech. around the edge and those technologies that should be adopted closer to the center. The model is divided into quadrants dedicated to techniques, platforms, tools and languages & frameworks. I can easily see this being used in a holistic, yet targeted discussion about what this shifts can mean to an organization and its software portfolio — in addition to facilitating a discussion among technologists.

Although industry analysts publish their vision documents regularly, it’s rare that a technology services organization gives their insight into the tools they are investigating or using publicly. I’ll leave it to your imagination why that’s not done much anymore.

There are versions of their technology radar going back a few years on the site (their goal is to publish twice a year), so if you’re interested in the development space, it’s worth a look.

If there was one suggestion I could make, it would be to include a vector estimating how soon the technology will advance to the next stage. This additional dimension should cause some very valuable discussions to take place.

Thoughts from a discussion about architecture

evaluationYesterday, I had a long discussion with Stephen Heffner the creator of XTRAN (and president of XTRAN, LLC). XTRAN is a meta transformation tool that excels at automating software work – sorry that is the best description I could come up for a tool that can create solutions to analyze and translate between software languages, data structures and even project work products. When you first read about its capabilities it sounds like magic. There are numerous working examples available of its capabilities so you can see its usefulness for yourself.

He and I were talking about the issues and merits of Enterprise Architecture. He wrote piece titled, What is Enterprise Architecture?, where he describes his views on the EA function. Stephen identifies three major impediments to effective EA:

  • Conflating EA with IT
  • Aligning EA with just transformation
  • Thinking the EA is responsible for strategy

We definitely agreed that today’s perspective in most businesses that the EA function is embedded within IT does not align well with the strategic needs of the business. The role is much broader than IT and needs to embrace the broader business issues that IT should support.

I had a bit of problem with the EA alignment with transformation but that may just be a difference in context. One of the real killers of EA for me is the focus on work products and not outcomes. The EA should always have a focus on greater flexibility for the business, addressing rigor but not increasing rigidity. Rigidity is aligned with death – hence the term rigor mortis. To me, the EA function always has a transformational element.

The final point was that the EA supports strategy and the business needs to have a strategy. The EA is not the CEO and the CEO is probably not an EA.  The EA does need to understand the current state of the business environment though. I was talking with an analyst one day who told me that an EA needs to focus on the vision and they shouldn’t worry about a current situational assessment. My response was that “If you don’t know where you are, you’ll not be able to define a journey to where you need to be.” Stephen agreed with that perspective.

My view is that there are 4 main elements of an effective architecture:

  • People – Architecture lives at the intersection of business and technology. People live at the focus of that intersection, not technology. Architectural efforts should focus on the effect upon the people involved. What needs to happen? How will it be measured? These factors can be used to make course corrections along the way, once you realize: an architecture is never finished. If it doesn’t deliver as expected, change it. Make the whole activity transparent, so that people can buy in, instead of throw stones. My view is that if I am talking with someone about architecture and they don’t see its value, it is my fault.
  • Continuous change – When you begin to think of the business as dynamic and not static, the relationship with the real world becomes clear. In nature, those species that are flexible and adjust to meet the needs of the environment can thrive – those that can’t adjust die off.
    Architectures need to have standards, but it also needs to understand where compromises can be made. For example, Shadow IT It is better to understand and facilitate its effective use (through architecture), rather than try and stand in the way and get run over.
    In a similar way, the link between the agile projects and the overall architecture need to be recursive, building upon the understanding that develops. The architecture does not stand alone.
    Architecture development can also have short sprints of understanding, documenting and standardizing the technical innovations that take place, while minimizing technical debt.
  • Focus on business-goal based deliverables – Over the years, I’ve seen too many architectural efforts end up as shelf-ware. In the case of architecture, just-in-time is probably the most effective and accurate approach since the technology and business are changing continuously. Most organizations would just laugh at a 5 year technology strategy today, after all many of the technical trends are predictable. So I don’t mean you shouldn’t frame out a high-level one – just ‘don’t believe your own press’.
    If the architecture work products can be automated or at least integrated with the tooling used in the enterprise, it will be more accurate and useful. This was actually a concept that Stephen and I discussed in depth. The concept of machine and human readable work products should be part of any agile architecture approach.
    From a goal-based perspective, the architecture needs to understand at a fundamental level what is scarce for the organization and what is abundant and then maximize the value generated from what is scarce – or at least unique to the organization.
  • Good enough – Don’t let the perfect architecture stand in the way of one that is ‘good enough’ for today. All too often I’ve seen architecture analysis go down to 2 or 3 levels of detail. Then people say “if 2 is good, let’s go to 5 levels of depth.” Unfortunately, with each level of detail the cost to develop and maintain goes up by an order of magnitude – know when to stop. I’ve never seen a single instance of where these highly detailed architecture definitions where maintained more than 2 or 3 years, since they may actually cost as much to maintain as it took to create them. Few organizations have that level of intestinal fortitude to keep that up for long.
    The goal should be functional use, not a focus on perfection. Architecting the simplest solution what works today is generally best. If you architect the solution for something that will be needed 5 years out, either the underlying business need or the technical capabilities will change before it will actually be used.

None of this is really revolutionary. Good architects have been taking an approach like this for years. It is just easy to interpret some of the architecture process materials from an ivory tower (or IT only) perspective.

When will 5G arrive?

Recently came across this interesting post on what 5G will mean for Consumers. In summary:5g wireless

  • Significantly faster data speeds: 10 Gbps, compared to one gigabit per second (max) with 4G.
  • Low latency (time to send a packet): one millisecond vs. 50 ms with 4G — great for those chatty applications being developed
  • The foundation for a more “connected world”: The Internet of Things (smart appliances, connected cars, wearables) will need a network that can accommodate billions of connected devices.

The most optimistic targets would see the first commercial network up and running by 2020, but even that may be too optimistic. As with LTE, it will take years for the network to become widespread.

What it will mean for businesses is the possibility for finer granularity across a wider geographic area. Hopefully, everyone is getting ready for IoT.

It does make me wonder about the future of relatively low speeds that many regions have as their entry level broad band for the consumer.