Action as a services moving forward…

action 002Had to laugh when I saw this post from Forrester titled: “Big Data” Has Lost Its Zing – Businesses Want Insight And Action since this is a song I’ve been singing for a number of years now. The first post about this I could identify was back in 2007.

Big data efforts should be measured in time-to-action, not time-to-insight. IT organizations need to be defining, developing and deploying systems of action.

To quote myself: “the organizations that can understand “normal” and focus the people on the areas that need their creativity will shine in the end. This relationship between situational awareness and automation needs to be part of organizational strategic planning, much more than what most architectural processes allow.”

Glad to see that analysts are recognizing this.

General fact checking falls to automation too?

true or falseFact checking by humans cannot keep up with the tremendous volume of information generated online. Now, computers can do fact-checking for any body of knowledge, according to Indiana University scientists, writing in a paper titled: Computational Fact Checking from Knowledge Networks. Computational fact checking may significantly enhance the ability to evaluate the validity of all the dubious information, the Internet is known for.

Using factual information from summary info boxes from Wikipedia as a source, they built a “knowledge graph” with 3 million concepts and 23 million links between them. A link between two concepts in the graph can be read as a simple factual statement, such as “Socrates is a person” or “Paris is the capital of France.”

The researchers aim to conduct additional experiments using knowledge graphs built from other sources of human knowledge, such as Freebase (the open-knowledge base built by Google).

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.

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.

Waste can be Good – it’s all relative

AbundanceAs businesses makes the transition to where the edge of the enterprise is wired into the operational processes of the business, we will start to consume our resources quite differently than we have in the past. We can use the abundance of computing capabilities to shed light on all the dark data currently available to develop a deeper contextual understanding of situations we encounter. Money may not be growing on trees, but there is much more we can be doing.

An article in Wired magazine back in 2009 discussed how: Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It’s Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity. In this world of exponential increases in capability, 2009 is ancient history, even so, the article is useful. It works through examples like how Alan Kay used the precious resources of the computer to display pictures on the screen instead of just textual data. George Gilder called this “wasting transistors” — making people more productive by using the transistors (computing capability) available.

The funny thing about waste is that it’s all relative to your sense of scarcity.

As we look to use higher levels of automation to handle more “normal” activities and focus people’s attention to turning anomalies into opportunities, we’ll use pattern recognition and other techniques that may appear to waste cycles. I hear people today complain about the expense of cloud computing and that it is out of control. That is more about what they use these resources for, how they measure impact and exercise control than anything to do with cost, at least from my perspective. As more capabilities become available and algorithms improve, we’ll need to do even more with more – not less.

The Wired article shows how behavior needs to change as we move from a perspective of scarcity to abundance:

From a perspective of Scarcity or Abundance

Scarcity Abundance
Rules Everything is forbidden unless it is permitted Everything is permitted unless it is forbidden
Social model Paternalism (We know what’s best) Egalitarianism (You know what’s best)
Profit plan Business model We’ll figure it out
Decision process Top-down Bottom-up
Organizational structure Command and control Out of control

This kind of shift in perspective is disruptive, useful and the right thing to do to take maximum advantage of a truly scarce resource – the human attention span.

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.

In-shoring opportunities in with automation

AutomationI had a long discussion with a serial entrepreneur last week that is looking to define a service offering in the help desk/virtualized meeting/education front. He seems to have a good handle on the business model and the differentiation between what he provides and the other services in the market place.

During the discussion, it did remind me a bit about the CNN post about the effect of Silicon Valley’s virtualization and automation efforts on jobs. What was most intriguing about the discussion was the ability to move the skills in demand to underserved parts of the country.

We both grew up in small mid-west towns and feel that techniques virtualizing the workforce he is developing could open up possibilities in areas of the country that are currently under employed.  With the possibilities of human-centered automation, these approaches will be increasingly important. I do question if today’s HR organizations are ready for this level of innovation.

Security certificate maintenance – there must be a better way

Broken-chainOver the last few years, I’ve seen numerous instances where will maintained systems that are run by organizations with good operational records have fallen over, caused by security certificate expiration.

Just last week, Google Mail went down for a significant time when their security key chain broke (note Google’s use of SHA-1 internally – but that’s a whole other issue). Gmail is a solution that is core to an increasing % of the population, schools and businesses. Most people likely believe that Google operations are well run and world class – yet they stumbled in the same way that I’ve seen many others before.

A reliable and rigorous approach is needed for organizations to track their certificate chains that proactively warns the organization before they expire, since it will take hours to repair them once they break. There are many critical tasks that come with certificate management, and ignoring or mishandling any one of them can set the stage for Web application exploits or system downtime.

These certificates (which contain the keys) are the cornerstone to the organization’s cryptography-based defense. As the market-facing application portfolio of an organization expands, the number of certificates will also expand and the key chains can get longer with more convoluted interrelationships as well (especially if not planned and just allowed to evolve). Additionally, the suite of certificate products from vendors can be confusing. There are different levels of validation offered, numerous hash types, lengths and warranties (which actually protect the end users, not the certificate owner). It can be difficult to know what type of certificate is required for a particular application.

CSS-Security put out this high-level video about certificates and why they’re blooming in organizations (there is an ad at the end of the video about their product to help with certificate management).

Most companies still manage their certificates via a spreadsheet or some other manual process. That may be fine when you’re just getting started but it can quickly spiral out of control and addressing the problem may involve costs that are just not understood.

There are products and approaches to the enterprise certificate management. Automation tools can search a network and collect information all discovered certificates. They can assign certificates to systems and owners and manage automated renewal. These products can also check that the certificate was deployed correctly to avoid using an old certificate. Automated tools are only part of the answer and will require some manual intervention.

When purchasing one of these certificate management tools, ensure that the software can manage certificates from all CAs, since some will only manage certificates issued from a particular CA.

Longest Drive with an autonomous car – Delphi

Longest drive competitions in golf are common, but how about for autonomous cars. A self-driving car from GM spin off Delphi Automotive completed a 3,500-mile journey across the U.S. from San Francisco to New York. You may remember the DARPA grand challenge of 2004, when the furthest a car was able to get was just 7.32 miles — that is quite a bit of progress in just a decade.

Delphi’s active safety technologies enable the vehicle to instantaneously make complex decisions, like stopping and then proceeding at a four-way stop, timing a highway merge or calculating the safest maneuver around a bicyclist on a city street. Many of these driving scenarios have been a limitation for much of the current technology on the market today.

It can’t be long until we start seeing broader applications of what’s been learned in the business setting.

Full disclosure: I actually worked at Delco Electronics back in the 80s, which is now part of Delphi.

Contemplating a more agile architecture

Agile architectureLast year, I did a presentation on the need for a more agile approach to architecture, where the whole approach needs to become more business-centric and less about the underlying technology. Concepts like:

  • Time to action
  • Value vs. expense
  • Transparency
  • Visibility
  • Experimentation and continuous change

are at the core of this discussion and the need to inform so that the business feels enabled to take action. This perspective reinforces the changes needed for architecture in a world of automation change.

In that presentation, it talked about what needed to change but not necessarily how organizations need to go about doing making the change. Like any good architectural approach, there needs to be some level of current situation analysis. What’s the goal? What do we currently have? How well does it support that goal?

But there also needs to be some real questioning of the status quo. Why does the process work that way? What value do those involve play? What new tools and services are available?

I posted on the diginomica blog the other day that there is a shift underway that all products are turning into platforms for deeper relationships. This can only happen if you question where the business generates value. There is more to the enterprise architecture (like TOGAF) than what most traditionally thought.

Just like with agile development approaches, there will always be a bit of waterfall in an architecture approach, but at the core needs to be a close relationship with the business – it’s the businesses architecture after all. Part of the governance and focus needs to be on increasing flexibility, so keeping the rigor without the rigidity.