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.

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Ethical issues on the horizon for digital assistants focused at children?

robots-too-humanThis week, I was part of an innovation panel at a large Dallas based IT manufacturer and during the discussion a new product for children was mentioned. Cognitoys is the company that makes a huggable dinosaur-like toy that is connected to IBM’s Watson APIs. I can’t help thinking about Barney whenever I see it.

I call these digital assistants, since they can understand and interact using natural language. Popular digital assistants for adults currently include Apple’s Siri, Google Now and soon Microsoft’s Cortana. This particular implementation is:

  • Speech enabled
  • Internet connected
  • Personalized
  • Educational

There was all the concern about ‘smart’ Barbie earlier this year. Barbie was just a warning shot to the possibilities, since the Barbie implementation wasn’t backed up by a supercomputer. I haven’t heard any concern yet about this toy.

The possibilities makes me wonder about the whole issue of “digital immigrants” vs. “digital natives” vs. these kids who will grow up interacting with and possibly being trained by digital nannies.

What level of configuration (or self-configuration) will be possible through the parent panel? Will parents enable the ‘toy’ to suggest that it is time for bed, take a bath, be more polite, learn a language, understand algebra or religion?? One parents grey area could will likely be another’s line in the sand.

There will be some ethical issues for the patents, the company providing the services… that will likely be worked out in the marketplace during this holiday season.

Not your father’s SAP

This week’s SapphireNow was eye opening for me. My interactions with SAP were primarily from implementing BW in its early days (1999 V1.2B) and being the CT for the EDS side of relationships with large outsourcing arrangements that used SAP R3.

It was clear just walking around the SAP area that things have changed significantly. There were no SAP GUI screens visible, everything had a clean modern look. The UI customization demos were both easier to perform and actually possible for the end user with little customization. Granted they were not doing anything too complex.

Integration options seemed to be more intuitive and actually possible for a range of other systems, supporting bi-directional information flow.

Even the executive dashboard (sorry for the reflection in the picture but I took it myself) seemed to be something an executive could actually use with relatively minor training. I’ve always been fascinated by executive dashboards! The person I talked with said it is even relatively easy to extend the display using HTML 5 techniques.

SAP executive dashboard

I am sure there is still quite a bit of work ahead for SAP to get all the functionality (especially industry) over and running at maximum efficiency to S4 HANA, but what was shown was impressive. Likely the first thing any organization contemplating the move needs to do is triage their customizations and extensions. The underlying data structures for S4 HANA are much less redundant, since the in-memory model removes the need for the redundancy to hit performance. The functionality also seems more versatile, so hopefully many of the customizations that organizations ‘just had to have’ can be eliminated.

I’ve always said the first rule of buying 3rd party packages is: “don’t do anything that prevents you from taking the next release”. With the new approach by SAP those running S4 HANA on the cloud will be getting the next release on a continuous basis. Those with an on premise approach will be getting it every nine months (or so).  So the option of putting of releases is becoming less viable.

I’ll get a post on Diginomica next week with more of an enterprise architect’s perspective.

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.

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.

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.