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Big Data, Cloud, Social and Mobility == Super Disruption

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment
Did I leave out anything? Well, there was just no other way to end 2011 than by taking a quick look at the big four buzzwords that will likely combine to unleash a perfect storm of disruptive forces over the next 12 months or so.
Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Over the course of this blogging campaign I have focused mostly on cloud and certain relevant aspects (e.g. content, security, access and Intellectual Property), but the fact remains that other equally profound developments, such as: big data, social and mobile computing also provide significant challenges and opportunities for both consumers and the enterprise. Gartner predicts that the above four forces will combine to transform the IT landscape in 2012, and I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, this will probably go much further than the IT landscape, since such a potent combination can easily transform entire industries as well.

In 2011, the impact of social media and mobility meant that many organisations sought ways to engage better with their customers, using social media and mobile technologies. Also various organisations, ranging from consumer products to public sector, actively looked for ways to manage and leverage increasingly large amounts of ‘big data’ and valuable content, sometimes in ways that almost rivalled traditional content industries. Think publishing, broadcast and, of course, social media footprint in your organisation today and compare it to just 3 years ago.

So what does each of the aforementioned forces portend for industries in 2012, and what are the early signs or indicators of disruption? My imaginary crystal ball has misted over slightly, but the following are some key trends to watch for the coming year:

  1. Big Data – According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), there will be more networked devices than people on earth, by year end 2011. With so many networked devices, and a related prediction that this number will double to over 2 devices per person by 2015, this is a clear indicator of the trajectory of growth for big Data over the next few years.
  2. Cloud – Cloud service providers will continue to improve and optimise services, particularly at the Data Centre level, in order to provide a seamless and efficient solution for their customers. Key focus areas include: security, intelligent storage, unified networking, policy-based power management, and trusted computing capabilities. Basically, anything that will make it easier to transition customers to the cloud environment, along with greater confidence in sustainable delivery and quality of service will win the day
  3. Social – Social media, networking and CRM all represent a move towards user centric engagement models that will allow a two way conversation between the enterprise and their: customers, suppliers, partners and employees. The user expectation of more meaningful and productive dialogue with the enterprise is only set to increase over the next 12 months
  4. Mobility – This is both a technology and use centric force which readily demonstrates the combination of all three forces along with location (in space and time). In the paradigm shifting world of context aware computing, the user and their activities are central to the flow and direction of dialogue / interaction with the enterprise. Increasingly users expect the enterprise to be able to leverage contextually relevant information when dealing with them, and this in turn drives enterprise adoption of enabling technologies to provide this capability.

A good case in point will be the summer Olympic Games in London, which should provide a fertile proving ground for many of the combined challenges and opportunities presented by the four buzzwords / trends discussed above.

In conclusion, I expect no less than a step change in disruption levels across industries over the next 12 months, or so. The gloomy economic situation will only enhance the need for change, particularly in situations where: competitors are plunging ahead; customers are expecting even more for nothing; and employees are demanding similar levels of service and user experience from their enterprise, as might be expected for a consumer – which they likely are. Some very interesting times lie ahead.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE

So what will it be; my ecosystem or yours?

February 12, 2011 1 comment

It seems to me that anywhere you go these days, there’s bound to be someone dropping that term like it’s going out of fashion. You’ll hear them talk about this ecosystem, or that ecosystem, usually in reference to any number of things from consumer products, business models, IT systems or even personal social networks (I kid you not). So just what is an ecosystem, really?


For one thing, it is an over-used / overloaded term which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, refers to a biological system comprising all organisms that live in, and interact with, a particular physical environment. This definition is consistent with others from a variety of both lexical and semantic sources, and as a result, one can only conclude that ecosystem is used, by most non-scientific types, as a metaphor to describe similar complex systems.

As buzzwords go, the term “ecosystem” has been around for a while, yet for some reason its use (and abuse) appears to have gained traction with a much wider variety of people, professions and circumstances. For example, it is no longer unusual to hear it from the lips of: economists, technologists, consultants, media folk and even start-ups and their VCs. In a recent panel session, at a music/tech seminar, it seemed that each panelist used “ecosystem”, in different contexts & meanings, to answer to a single question! Surely it must be time to stop and call amnesty on such indiscriminate use of this term.

To be fair, there is a certain attraction to using such a rich metaphor to describe certain things, and this perhaps reflects a rather complex, information-rich and often confusing electronic age. The ecosystem concept communicates this complexity rather eloquently, comprising as it does, such intricate components as: environments, niches, food chains, roles, relationships (e.g. specialists, generalists, predators, prey, symbiosis or parasitism), and an idea of balance and equilibrium. As a result, one can easily see a similarity and applicability to modern businesses, (e.g. high-tech or financial systems), which themselves also have a complex set of interacting entities and components including: value chains, webs & networks; IT systems; information flows & controls; as well as various business and revenue models (complete with predators, prey, and mutants with emergent skills e.g. in Internet, social network, or Cloud technologies).

However, there are limitations to the ecosystem metaphor, and perhaps not everything can or should be described in terms of an ecosystem. For example, it is extremely difficult to find anything like true balance or equilibrium in areas such as high-technology, business, politics or global economics and finance (don’t even get me started). Furthermore, new and emerging patterns of complex digital interaction, usage and convergence are not yet fully understood, and this is particularly true for: content, context, rights and entitlements (e.g. individual privacy). To my mind, this is a clear indication that even complex metaphors like ecosystems may not be rich enough to properly describe the evolutionary fusion of human beings, digital technology and our physical environment, e.g. the emergence of Augumented Reality applications are a case in point.

In conclusion, ecosystem is an over-loaded term that is increasingly used by people in business, technology and other fields, to describe complexity. It works well to a large extent, but indiscriminate and uninformed use can only add further confusion and FUD to an already complex situation. It may well be that as people, technology and environment continue to evolve / converge we’re going to need even richer metaphors to describe it all. So next time someone says ecosystem, you might do well to ask: “…my ecosystem or yours?”

The Buzzword Facebook Effect

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s amazing how the right buzzword can galvanise interest even in the dullest of topics. Think seamy tabloid headline meets uber-cool geek speak, and you’ll get the picture. This post is about a particular buzzword, and the effect its having on your life right now (even as you read this post), and that word is Facebook!

Given there’s already a couple of books and a recent movie, plus a brand new Location Based Service for Facebook, (ps. “location-based-anything” is itself a major buzz-phrase), it can be taken as read that the Facebook buzzword is having an effect like there is no tomorrow.

recently reviewed an eponymously titled “The Facebook Effect”, a book that chronicles the creation of this huge social networking phenomenon which probably plays too much of a role in your life, and that of half a billion other users worldwide. One thing that stuck in my mind was the vivid description of Facebook’s early growth across US university campuses. The strategy involved waiting until there was near hysterical demand for Facebook in each university, which invariably led to a geometric uptake once it was launched in that institution, and in turn, this created even more demand from other schools that were not yet on Facebook. This pattern of pent-up demand leading to rapid and explosive take-up of a new service or product, (also seen in the aftermath of Apple’s product launches), is something I like to think of as the “popcorn effect” for obvious reasons.

Other buzzwords that have an associated effect include the well known Network effect (as exemplified by Metcalfe’s law, i.e. the value of a network increases exponentially with each new user); also the equally potent Oprah effect, with her multi-billion dollar impact on businesses (mainly based on her core audience of women with a spending power of several trillion dollars per annum), it’s no wonder why companies and individuals will do almost anything to be a guest on Oprah’s show.

In light of these, it seems you can forget about the usual trappings of wealth like: mansions, private planes or even your own Island, because you’ve only truly arrived when you have an “effect” appended to your name, your product or to your company!

Internet Privacy, Digital Economy Bill, Copy Fright and Dirty Fights: It’s Only Business.

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It is clearly becoming a trend for major countries to start putting their foot down on just what will and won’t fly over the Internet (so to speak) in their countries. One may be forgiven for thinking that the media are only focused reporting such “interestingly” bad news. But why not, after all bad news sells better than good, and in showbiz, all publicity is good publicity anyway. Right?

Below are some examples of major recent developments that serve to highlight this state of affairs:

1. Italy vs. the Internet (via the Google Three) –  Last month, three senior Google execs were handed prison sentences by an Italian Judge for ‘violation of privacy’, as reported here on the Guardian’s website. As might be expected this incredible turn of events has raised concerns, among the global Internet community, that it threatens a fundamental principle that enables openness of the Internet. Furthermore, in a Huffington Post article, Lawrence Lessig, makes a strong case that to the Italian Parliament that Internet video services should not be governed by the exact same rules as broadcast media (e.g. TV), for the very simple and obvious reason that they are entirely different beasts. Duh!

2. Google, (Again) vs. China – Last week BBC News reported that Google will face consequences if it refuses to comply with Chinese censorship laws. In other words, either play by our rules or get out of China, the choice is yours.

3. Digital Economy Bill – This ongoing saga has created real debate among many people in the UK, as our politicians get to grips with trying to govern the Internet and make serious attempts to control its impact on the UK economy. Hmm, I wish them the best of luck, but as wiser heads have implored (including the BCS), this is not something to be rushed into law without necessary, proper and additional, nay extraordinary, due diligence.

In light of the above, there appears to be an almighty struggle brewing between major nations and the global Internet over just how their citizens may use / access the Internet, (and its myriad applications and service providers), with said citizens and service providers caught squarely in the middle. It looks like a battle between self determination and freedom of expression (with instruments like the safe harbour principle) on the one hand, versus Realpolitiks and commercial interests (possibly in the guise of social responsibility and sovereignty) on the other.

At the end, it may all just be a futile gesture , because to my mind, one key problem faced by those trying to lock down access and usage of the internet is that, as a communication channel, the Internet is fertile breeding ground for emergent information and content creation, remix and consumption practices that are hard to predict, never mind controlling it. How can anyone hope to control what is essentially unpredictable? Plus it doesn’t help that, as observed here by my fellow blogger, many people now desire to have access to the Internet as a basic human right to communicate!

Furthermore, I defy any industry to prove conclusively that the Internet, and casual piracy of digital content for that matter, is the root cause of their economic woes. For those that try, it may be tantamount to pointing out their incompetence in adapting to change, or even a cynical ploy to generate sympathy (perhaps in order to hide said incompetence). I just call it showbiz or film trickery.  But is it really all showbiz, or are certain industries and businesses really badly affected as they make out? It can be very hard to tell these days, especially as it seems that even the music industry is far from dead!

I would venture as far as to say that this not all bad news, and is in fact more like growing pains, indicative of the fact that traditional industries and nations are finally adjusting (albeit not without a fight) to the challenges of a new paradigm of business and global citizenship fostered by digital technology and the Internet. At the very least, this demands fundamental changes to much of our current ways of thinking.

PS. One final thought for the weekend – are major governments running scared at the spectre of Internet companies like Google becoming a major world power? Stranger things have been known to happen.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Predicting 2010: Wisdom of Sheep or Silence of the Crowds?

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

“The wisdom of crowds” is a phrase that often evokes lofty thoughts of how collective wisdom and collaborative effort can be harnessed to achieve truly remarkable outcomes. However, like most things, there is a fine line between hype and reality, especially when it comes to online content and social networking.

The Wisdom of Crowds concept does not purport to be a cure for everything, and even its most ardent supporters will readily admit that sometimes the crowd can get it wrong, but it is a proven phenomenon that crowd wisdom can make far more accurate predictions, and better decisions, than the typical individual or expert. Such is the popularity of the crowd concept that it has spawned other related neologisms like “crowd-sourcing” and “crowd-funding” which both have key elements of social networking.
However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and it easily gets to the point where such crowd-based allusions start to resemble the bleating of sheep, or the rush of cliff-bound Lemmings. With that in mind, I wonder what the crowds, (wise or otherwise), will make of the following predictions for 2010, and beyond:

  1. Privacy is a luxury that the Internet Age can ill-afford. Openness will be the new private, and hopefully soon this tired generation of privacy-sensitive individuals (including yours truly), will either learn to accept this fact, or eventually die off, in order to realise the enormous potential and necessary mind-shift of a truly-connected world, populated with privacy-desensitised social networkers.
  2. Speed is of the essence. Ideas are a dime a dozen and failed ideas are worth much more. The increasing trend for most ventures to learn fast and fail quickly, (i.e. on Internet time), only lends credence to the emerging school of thought that an ever-accelerating pace of innovation will bring us to that tipping point in the near(er) future.
  3. Mobility is the way forward. The humble mobile device will continue to evolve into its rightful place as the key device through which people around the world will access digital content and interact with each other. It certainly appears that the approaching decade will be all about mobile, location-based / contextual services. Period.
  4. Economic evolution. The sharing economy (i.e. of content and information) will continue to grow in parallel with existing commercial money-based models for a while yet. Piracy, or what is currently regarded as such, will eventually decline, but only perhaps with even wider acceptance of a more flexible and open access and usage models (i.e. think evolved global copyright scheme).
  5. Money is so yesterday. The underlying system of values we currently use to judge success and failure of a venture will undergo drastic re-evaluation, especially in the face of continued challenges to extant economic models. Money may no longer be the best yardstick to measure wealth in the world of tomorrow. There, I said it!

Ok, that ought to be enough to start a minor stampede among the traditionalist, just-say-no-to-change, crowd, and a chant of “yes-we-can” from the ne0philes among you, but what about the rest? Do they even care? I suspect that this silent majority will decide which side emerges victorious from this debate; therefore it would be most interesting to understand what they think of it all. Perhaps we ought to run a Yes / No poll on the above five predictions, in order to gauge the response from the silent crowd, but the key challenge would be how to go about it given that they are so damned quiet.
PS. Just out of curiosity, what do YOU think about the five predictions and why?