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Predicting the (near) Future

December 22, 2015 Leave a comment
The future is always tricky to predict and, in keeping with Star Wars season, the dark side is always there to cloud everything. But as we all know in IT the ‘Cloud’ can be pretty cool, except of course when it leaks. Last month saw the final edition of Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo 2015 in Barcelona, and I was fortunate to attend (courtesy of my Business Unit) and bear witness to some amazing predictions about the road ahead for our beloved / beleageured IT industry.
 
Judging from the target audience, and the number of people in attendance, it is safe to say that the future is at best unpredictable, and at worst unknowable, but Gartner’s Analysts gave it a good go; making bold statements about the state of things to be, within the next 5 years or so. The following are some key messages, observations and predictions which I took away from the event.
 
1. CIOs are keen to see exactly what lies ahead.
Obviously. However, it does confirm to my mind that the future is highly mutable, especially given the amount of change to be navigated on the journey towards digital transformation. I say ‘towards’ because, from all indications, there is likely no real end-point or destination to the journey of digital transformation. The changes (and challenges / opportunities) just keep coming thick and fast, and at an increasing pace. For example, by 2017, Gartner predicts that 50% of IT spending will be outside of IT, it currently stands at 42% today, therefore CIOs must shift their approach from command and control style management to leading via influence and collaboration.
 
2. Algorithmic business is the future of digital business
A market for algorithms (i.e. snippets of code with value) will emerge where organizations and individuals will be able to: licence, exchange, sell and/or give away algorithms – Hmmm, now where have we seen or heard something like that before? Anyway, as a result, many organisations will need an ‘owner’ for Algorithms (e.g. Chief Data Officer) who’s job it’ll be to create an inventory of their algorithms, classify it (i.e. private or “core biz” and public “non-core biz” value), and oversee / govern its use.
 
3. The next level of Smart Machines
In the impending “Post App” era, which is likely to be ushered in by algorithms, people will rely on new virtual digital assistants, (i.e. imagine Siri or Cortana on steroids) to conduct transactions on their behalf. According to Gartner, “By 2020, smart agent services will follow at least 10% of people to wherever they are, providing them with services they want and need via whatever technology is available.” Also, the relationship between machines and people will initially be cooperative, then co-dependant, and ultimately competitive, as machines start to vie for the same limited resources as people.
 
4. Platforms are the way forward (and it is bimodal all the way)
A great platform will help organisations add and remove capability ‘like velcro’. It will need to incorporate Mode 2 capability in order to: fail fast on projects / cloud / on-demand / data and insight. Organisations will start to build innovation competency, e.g. via innovation labs, in order to push the Mode 2 envelope. Platform thinking will be applied at all layers (including: delivery, talent, leadership and business model) and not just on the technology / infrastructure layer.
 
5. Adaptive, People Centric Security
The role of Chief Security Officer role will change and good security roles will become more expansive and mission critical. In future, everyone gets hacked, even you, and if not then you’re probably not important. Security roles will need to act more like intelligence officers instead of policemen. Security investment models will shift from predominantly prevention based to prevention and detection capabilities, as more new and unpredictable threats become manifest. Also organisations will look to deploy People Centric Security measures (PCS) in order to cover all bases.
 
6. The holy grail of business moments and programmable business models
The economics of connections (from increased density of connections and creation of value between: business / people / things) will become evident especially when organsiations focus on delivering business moments to delight their customers. Firms will start to capitalise on their platforms to enable C2C interactions (i.e. customer-2-customer interactions) and allow people and things to create their own value. It will be the dawn of programmable business models 
 
7. The Digital Mesh and the role of wearables and IoT
One of the big winners in the near future will be the ‘digital mesh’, amplified by the explosion of wearables and IoT devices (and their interactions) in the digital mesh environment. Gartner predicts a huge market for wearables (e.g. 500M units sold in 2020 alone – for just a few particular items). Furthermore, barriers to entry will be lower and prices will fall as a result of increased competition, along with: more Apps, better APIs and improved power.
 
The above are just a few of the trends and observations I got from the event, but I hasten to add that it will be impossible to reflect over 4 days of pure content in these highlight notes, and that other equally notable trends and topics such as: IoT Architecture, Talent Acquisition and CIO/CTO Agendas, only receive honourable mentions. However, I noticed that topics such as Blockchain were not fully explored as might be expected at an event of this nature. Perhaps next year will see it covered in more depth – just my prediction.
In summary, the above are not necessarily earth shattering predictions, but taken together they point the way forward to a very different experience of technology; one that is perhaps more in line with hitherto far-fetched predictions of the Singularity, as humans become more immersed and enmeshed with machines. Forget the Post-App era, this could be the beginning of a distinctly recognisable post human era. However, as with all predictions only time will tell, and in this case, lets see where we are this time next year. I hope you have a happy holiday / festive season wherever you are.
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DRM for Things – Managing rights and permissions for IOT

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Given the proliferation of interconnected ‘Things’ on the Internet (aka IoT), it was only a matter of time before the pressing need for robust, pervasive governance became imperative. How can we manage the rights and permissions needed to do stuff with and / or by things? The following are some thoughts, based on a previous foray into the topic, and building on my earlier book on the related world of Digital Rights Management (aka DRM).

Does anyone remember DRM – that much maligned tool of real / perceived oppression, (somewhat ineptly deployed by a napsterized music industry)? It has all but disappeared from the spotlight of public opinion as the content industry continues to evolve and embrace the complex digital realities of today. But what has that got to do with the IoT, and what triggered the thought in the first place, you might ask…

Well, I recently had opportunity to chat with friend and mentor, Andy Mulholland (ex global CTO at Capgemini), and as usual, I got a slight headache just trying to get a grip on some of the more esoteric concepts about the future of digital technology. Naturally we touched on the future of IoT, and how some current thinking may be missing the point entirely, for example:

What is the future of IoT?

Contrary to simplistic scenarios, often demonstrated with connected sensors and actuators, IoT ultimately enables the creation and realisation of a true digital services economy. This is based on 3 key aspects of: ‘Things’, ‘Events’ and ‘Connectivity’ which will work together to deliver value via autonomous agents, systems and interactions. The real players, when it comes to IoT, actually belong outside the traditional world of IT. They include organisations in industries such as manufacturing, automotive, logistics etc., and when combined with the novel uses that people conceive for connected things, the traditional IT industry is and will continue to play catch up in this fast evolving and dynamic space.

What are key components of the IoT enabled digital services?

An autonomous or semi-autonomous IoT enabled digital service will include: an event hub (consisting of graph database and complex event processing capability) in the context of ‘fog computing‘ architectures (aka cloud edge computing) – as I said, this is headache territory (read Andy’s latest post if you dare). Together, event handling and fog computing can be used to create and deliver contextually meaningful value / services for end users. The Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) and API engines will also play key roles in the deployment of autonomous services between things and / or people. Finally, businesses looking to compete in this game need to start focusing on identifying / creating / offering such resulting services to their customers.

Why is Graph Database an important piece of the puzzle? 

Graph databases provide a way to store relationships in an unstructured manner, and IoT enabled services will need five separate stores for scaled up IoT environments, as follows:

  1. Device Info – e.g. type, form and function, data (provided/consumed), owner etc.
  2. Customer/Users – e.g. Relationship of device to the user / customer
  3. Location – e.g. Where is device located (also relative to other things / points of reference)
  4. Network – e.g. network type, protocols, bandwidth, transport, data rate, connectivity constraints etc.
  5. Permission – e.g. who can do: what, when, where, how and with whom/what, and under what circumstances (in connection with the above 4 four graphs) – According to Andy, “it is the combination of all five sets of graph details that matter – think of it as a sort of combination lock!”

So how does this relate to the notion of “DRM for Things”? 

Well, it is ultimately all about trust, as observed in another previous post. There must be real trust in: things (components and devices), agents, events, interactions and connections that make up an IoT enabled autonomous service (and its ecosystem). Secondly, the trust model and enforcement mechanisms must themselves be well implemented and trustworthy, or else the whole thing could disintegrate much like the aforementioned music industry attempts at DRM. Also, there are some key similarities in the surrounding contexts of both DRM and IoT:

  • The development and introduction of DRM took place during a period of Internet enabled disruptive change for the content industry (i.e. with file sharing tools such as: Napster, Pirate Bay and Cyberlockers). This bears startling resemblance to the current era of Internet enabled disruptive change, albeit for the IT industry (i.e. via IoT, Blockchain, AI and Social, Mobile, Big Data, Cloud etc.)
  • The power of DRM exists in the ability to control / manage access to content in the wild, i.e. outside of a security perimeter or business boundary. The ‘Things’ in IoT exist as everyday objects, typically with low computing overheads / footprints, which can be even more wide ranging than mere digital content.
  • Central to DRM is the need for irrefutable identity and clear relationships between: device, user (intent), payload (content) and their respective permissions. This is very much similar to autonomous IoT enabled services which must rely on the 5 graphs mentioned previously.

Although I would not propose using current DRM tools to govern autonomous IoT enabled services (that would be akin to using yesterday’s technology to solve the problems of today / tomorrow), however because it requires similar deperimeterised and distributed trust / control models there is scope for a more up-to-date DRM-like mechanism or extension that can deliver this capability. Fortunately, the most likely option may already exist in the form of Blockchain and its applications. As Ahluwalia, IBM’s CTO for Cloud, so eloquently put it: “Blockchain provides a scalable, trustworthy, highly distributed, redundant and peer-to-peer verification process for processing, coordinating device interactions and sharing access to assets in an IoT network.” Enough said.

In light of the above, it is perhaps easier to glimpse how an additional Blockchain component, for irrefutable trust and ID management, might provide equivalent DRM-like governance for IoT, and I see this as a natural evolution of DRM (or whatever you want to call it) for both ‘things’ and content. However, any such development would do well to take on board lessons learnt from the original Content DRM implementations, and to understand that it is not cool to treat people as things.

What makes a good chief innovation officer?

The role of Chief Innovation Officer, or Head of Innovation, is fast gaining traction and attention within various organisations and industries, but why is this happening now, what does it entail and who is best suited to fulfill the role? These were some of the questions I had in mind when I got an opportunity to spend the afternoon at a recent Chief Innovation Office Summit in London, UK.

CINOEU

The 2 day summit featured a host of speakers and topics related to innovation, including networking and hands-on workshops – because, after-all innovation is about deeds, not just words and ideas. The attendees list read like a who is who of Innovation leadership from new and established organisations. Some key takeaways include:

  1. The right Culture for Innovation – many more companies and individuals have recognised and are making tangible efforts to identify and address the need for innovation leadership in their industry. This will help nurture and promote desired behaviours to create and benefit from an innovation culture.
  1. Connecting people and ideas – It takes a combination of business, social and technology innovations to really make an impact – for example, a clean tech solution provider described how it’s solar power product creates income streams (business innovation) for roof owners who chose their aerodynamic solar panels (tech innovation) which can be installed without risky invasive fastenings onto rooftops. Also, they’re the biggest distributor of solar powered lamps in Africa (social innovation).
  1. Communication is key – the summit presentations provided a balanced a mix of vendors / service providers and end user organisations with real case studies to provide a fertile ground for sharing progressive thinking about innovation. Some of the presentations, innovative products, services and initiatives described or demo’ed at the event were indeed amazing to behold.
  1. Seeing is believing – For example, one of the sponsors demonstrated a 2 sided innovation approach with a workshop designed to allow participants to appreciate the need to address both external (your customers) and internal (your organisation) requirements for innovation. This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of innovation efforts, in my opinion. The question of ROI, aka what’s in it for your firm, will always trump even the most innovative customer solutions.
  1. The cool tech factor – Of course, the usual collection of toys and gadgets were on display from sponsors, vendors and attendees – e.g. I even had a photo op with Google Glass at lunch, courtesy of a fellow attendee – it seems wearable computing devices are de rigeur for every tech innovation conversation these days.

In conclusion, and to answer some of my initial questions, it is obvious that more people and organisations are looking to innovate in order to survive and thrive in today’s business environment, and this event highlighted the continuous need for dialogue and cross-fertilization of ideas between all stakeholder. Therefore the role of a Chief Innovation Officer is suited to someone who understands the need to nurture the culture, make connections and communicate with all stakeholders about innovation.  In Capgemini, our innovation groups understand the triple need to nurture, connect and communicate innovation across an ecosystem of partners, clients, employees, suppliers, and even competitors, in order to realise the full benefits from innovation.

Full marks out of ten for the summit organisers and I certainly look forward to participating, and perhaps even presenting, at another one of their excellent series of events.

CEO / CIO Digital Alert!

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

What is digital and why is it now so important? How are CEOs thinking about business, IT and digital? What is Digital Business Strategy (aka – what should CxOs be doing to ensure their organisation can benefit from the challenges and opportunities presented by Digital)? Ps. how much of this is hype versus actual reality?

Gartner At BCS

Gartner @ BCS Event

These are the sort of questions regularly asked of top research analysts, and a couple of weeks ago we heard some answers, and more, at a recent BCS London event featuring two leading analysts from Gartner. Mark Raskino, (VP and Gartner Fellow), focused on the outcomes and insights from  the Gartner’s CEO Concerns 2013 survey, and Dave Aron, (VP and Gartner/BCS Fellow) discussed the urgent need for digital business strategies. Below are some highlights from their presentations:

  • Multiple uncertainties of the last 12-18 months are starting to lift, and CEOs feel better able to plan and invest – there is renewed focus on profitability, plus there is money available to invest
  • After a decade of IT service performance and tight cost control, good digital strategy is emerging as a key enabler for forward looking organisations. “There has to be more to the future of IT than endlessly babysitting ERP” – Dale Kutnick, Gartner EVP
  • Digital is a mixture of various themes, which include: mature forces (i.e. e-commerce, e-service, online), contemporary forces (i.e. social, mobile, cloud, information), and emerging forces (e.g. Internet of Things, 3D printing, robotics, data science), all with a common “revenue winning” focus.
  • CIOs beware – new C-level information and technology roles (e.g. CDO/CIO or Chief Digital/Data/Innovation Officers) are emerging to fill the void left by traditional roles in the age of Digital
  •  ‘Digital’ is a much misused (and often restrictive) term which actually encompasses “…all electronic forms and uses of information and technology” – Dave Aron, Gartner.
  • We are entering a third era of Enterprise IT which has evolved through: IT Systems/Apps to IT Services/Processes, and now Digital Business/Models. Great IT strategy is no longer enough, organisations need a solid digital strategy to move forward
  • Digital business strategy answers the question: how will your business survive and thrive in a time of digital disruption? It is and integral part of business strategy.
  • Business processes are a terrible way to innovate in a time of disruptive digital innovation. “Business models are a more natural way to think of digital strategy”
  • Gartner’s Annual CIO survey 2013 indicates that, over the next decade or so, smaller ‘long tail’ firms will be most influential partners on the journey to digital!

The above are just a small sample of the thought provoking content covered during this most excellent, value for money event. As usual, I just had to ask the question of how Intellectual Property (IP) will likely influence and / or be influenced by the rise of digital, and the answers (which are recorded in a post event video interview) could become the topic of a future blog post. Watch this space.

Five Myths of Digital Technology and Enterprise Transformation

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment

Digital technology has brought unprecedented change across all business sectors, and very few organisations can claim to be unaffected by the information age (e.g. via internet, mobile, social channels). However, this does not always translate to a need for that cause-all / cure-all catchphrase of technology or digital transformation.

Below are five commonly held myths associated with digital technology and enterprise transformation:

1 – Technology really drives the business

Only if your business is about creating and / or selling new technology, otherwise this is tantamount to placing the cart before the horse, or the tail wagging the dog – it may be possible, but not necessarily a good idea. The fact is that technology places way down the list of drivers for business change. Gartner’s Nexus of Forces which combine to impact businesses, although enabled by technology, relate mainly to changing paradigms (i.e. big data / cloud) and behaviours (i.e. social / mobility) rather than just pure technology

2 – Change technology; change your business

No, not really. Technology change is not the same thing as technology enabled change. The former relates to tools, whereas the latter is about the purpose for which said tools are used or acquired. For example, buying and using Salesforce will not automatically make yours a more customer centric organisation. Digital technology transformation is less about technology than the outcome of an architected approach to delivering fast, flexible and responsive services to customers

3 – Transform now or die!

Not all businesses will need to undergo an immediate or full blown technology change programme, as sometimes the only change required may just be around processes or service focus. A change in culture could have more significant and lasting impact in some organisations. For example, shifting from a reactive customer support environment towards proactive customer engagement will yield better results even if the tools remain the same!

4 – You need a team of tech-savvy whiz kids to transform your business

False. Most of the advantages of new digital technologies come from ability to provide fast and flexible services connected / delivered through standardised interfaces, which don’t require expert knowledge of the source system. The role of IT is fast evolving into an orchestrator and governor of the various external / internal services (including legacy systems / applications) that must work together to deliver said fast, flexible and responsive services to the internal / external customer

5 – The need for digital transformation will one day come to an end

No, no, no. There can be no real end to continuous digital evolution, especially when the rate of change is actually on the increase, no doubt spurred on by knock-on effects of fast changing technologies, user behaviours, customer expectations and competition. The ideal business lifecycle must embrace a process of continuous improvement with allowance for testing new business models, implementing changes (including technology related ones), evaluating the outcome, making further tweaks, and repeating the entire process all over. This cannot stop because as soon as an optimal solution is achieved the business environment changes again, thus necessitating another cycle

In summary, and perhaps somewhat ironically, digital technology is neither the root cause nor cure-all for many challenges facing organisations today. The need for transformation is often triggered by changing environments and / or behaviours (e.g. by customers, suppliers, partners or competitors), perhaps in combination with some innovation (technology based or otherwise), that ultimately impacts their bottom line.

Perhaps fittingly the real business impact of technology transformation comes from how it is deployed and used by the people within and outside the organisation. Each organisation must make the effort to understand its own particular situation, and to discover the right way forward. It is not an easy task, but with the right attitude and motivation from the top, it will be relatively less painful than just doing nothing.

Hands-On Gamification

The inaugural event for GSUMMITx – Gamification in London, which was hosted yesterday at Capgemini’s ASE in Holborn, provided a sneak peek into the world of gamification and its application to solving real world problems for business and the enterprise.

GSummitx - Gamification in London (at Capgemini's ASE)

GSummitx – Gamification in London (at Capgemini’s ASE)

 

The event featured a talk by author and gamification expert, Gabe Zichermann; a DIY online leader board demo from a startup called Leaderboarded; as well as the problem-du-jour / challenge faced by a non-profit organisation which it would like to solve with gamification. A key high-light for me was the facilitated / hands-on session which demonstrated the use of games technique in the ideation process of gamestorming (or games based brainstorming) for solving a real world problem, in this case: how to enable debates at a global level. The gamestorming technique used was based on the 3-12-3 game, as originally described in the eponymous book called ‘Gamestorming’ (see: my review of same) Some interesting suggestions that emerged from the session included: an avater-based online system (to protect the vulnerable); a global SMS debate platform (to include/reach the widest demographic); and adoption of universal rules for debates, possibly even including ‘Rap battle’ style formats – seriously. The winner by far was the idea of an ‘instagram like’ platform for debating. Btw. you know you’ve got it made when your service / platform is now being used to describe other ideas.

So yes, this was a fun event, with lots of fresh ideas, new information and experiences for the 40-strong audience. More information about GSUMMITx – Gamification in London, including some audience feedback, can be found at their Meetup homepage. Also, you can find out more about Capgemini’s ASE here, (and on here YouTube)

Which is more important, content or presentation?

September 26, 2011 2 comments

This may be something of a philosophical debate, because both are obviously very important for any high-quality content product or service. However, if you had to choose one over the other, which would it be?

Content and Presentation

Content and Presentation

This is a tough question that probably requires tough answers, and a rough canvas of opinions got some of the usual / expected response that content is king, and without it there would be no point in presenting anything. Others took a more pragmatic position with the view that proper presentation or communication (of even poorly developed content) is vital to winning over your audience or customers. Ps. these equally apply to information, intelligence, and other forms of knowledge or content (including creative works).

Even though I am of the firm belief that content is king, it is a clear to see that unless said content is delivered properly to the right audience and consumers, it might as well just be a cup of salt water in the ocean, or a lamp under a bucket, for all the use and value it has. The point is that it takes the right recipient or consumer to establish the true value of any given content or information. Clearly, the end consumer or recipient of content is very important to this equation; and it would appear that a well polished presentation of mediocre content is likely to have more impact than a mediocre presentation of top quality content. Furthermore, in a world where digital content is a more or less dime a dozen, and many organisations are just starting to feel the impact of so called ‘big data’, it is vital to differentiate your content from the rest of the pack and this can be readily done via presentation of same. Surely this means presentation is more valuable, correct?

Well, I’m not so sure, mainly because one other important attribute, which probably trumps content, presentation or audience, is the ability to find the right content (and its presentation, in whatever form / format) in the first place. However, the fact that one cannot find a particular lost work of Leonardo da Vinci doesn’t make it any less valuable, especially for anyone that values such works of art. Furthermore, an overly elaborate, or otherwise misjudged, presentation can sometimes get in the way of the content and its message, and some things could also get lost in translation. But do these points make content more important than presentation?

Again, I’m not so sure. If anything both arguments lead to the conclusion that they (i.e. content and presentation) are really one and the same; and that either one lives or dies by the quality of the other. The inherent value of content is realised in its presentation, and likewise, the importance of presentation rests is the ability to deliver the right content, in the right way, to the right audience. This is the key challenge for most organisations, especially those in the content and / or knowledge based industries. It may be best to conclude by saying that if content is king, then presentation is the king maker. Does it really matter which is more important?