Cloud


The ancient Mayans are often accredited for their ability to investigate celestial objects in the night sky with primitive tools. Archaeologists have found tablets, which provide evidence of their ability to accurately predict positions of objects, lunar and solar eclipses, often many years ahead.

However much of what the ancient Mayans were practicing bear remarkable similarities to what we now refer to as ‘big data analysis’.

In 2008, the McKinsey Group described the trend towards big data – the technology and practice of handling unconventionally large datasets which, after years of experimentation, has recently seen rising prominence. 

One of the earliest adopters of big data analysis is that of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN. As a matter of fact, the internet was invented as a method to collaborate and handle the vast amounts of data generated at the facility. Yet what started off as technology for scientific investigations, big data analysis soon quickly found itself in areas such as finance and banking.

Today’s organisations are beginning to recognise that by analysing petabyte upon petabyte of data, meaningful insights and predictions can be accurately made. Yet over 1,700 years ago, Mayans were already analysing data from the observable universe – an unstructured database with 93 billion years’ worth of data.

The Mayan’s obsession of analysing astronomical ‘data’ was not centred around scientific investigation, but more on predictions and justifying rituals. The decision to engage in military conflict was based almost entirely on the movements of Venus and Jupiter.

Interestingly, the modern day practice of analysing big data suggest that we could be following similar movement.

Today big data analysis is being used to help justify macro-social and economic decisions – from investments, economic policy to crime directives and healthcare provision.

Earlier this year, analyst firm IDC even reported that the US Army has implemented a big data cloud program to collect data from unmanned aerial vehicles, to gather intelligence information in near-real time and relay it back to its troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The life of the ancient Mayans revolved around their religion, which they supported through their obsession with astronomical data. This influenced their culture, their every decision and provided what they believed were predictions for the future.

Are we creating a technology-led religion of our own through our obsession with big data and what legacy will we be remembered for when future archaeologists discover our civilisation?

@thelondonblog

The UK Govt could be kick-starting a revolution. Its motives are sincere, but has it laid down clear enough ground rules?

I’m not sure why but the arrival of the Government’s Cloudstore, a new portal for public sector bodies to procure software, got me thinking about the “Comparethemeerkats” campaign. Bear with me…

Even if you are suffering ‘meerkat fatigue’ I don’t think many would argue this campaign has made a dull subject (price comparison websites) somewhat entertaining.

And without wishing to offend those who spend their lives processing public sector tenders I wonder whether there is something to be learnt from this approach. Many people would agree that the mere mention of ‘Government Procurement’ would be a powerful sedative. I’m not sure what the Cloudstore equivalent of meerkats would be, but surely greater emphasis should be placed on properly promoting the service so that both buyers and the SMEs who are meant to benefit from access to Government procurement maximise the opportunity?

While the tone is generally positive there are outstanding questions. Mark Say’s article in the Guardian worryingly saw an admission from Phil Pavitt, CIO at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC): “How big departments are going to use it (Cloudstore) has not been fully thought through…"

At the very least the Cloudstore signals an intention from Government to act upon long harboured aspirations to move away from expensive, long-term IT contracts and enable more UK small businesses to overcome the bureaucratic nightmare that is Government procurement.

As Stuart Lauchlan suggested this could be a quiet revolution. Yes many of the well-known vendors have made it onto the list, but the message is fairly clear. Be prepared to deliver short-term contracts and strip away the complex implementation costs or we have alternatives. It could be argued that the mere suggestion of alternative is enough to focus minds and deliver greater efficiencies for the public sector (and us taxpayers).

Perhaps when we look back on it we’ll see this decision as one of those moments when Government intervention sparked a truly revolutionary moment.

Question marks

However, the Government’s approach does leave a few questions unanswered. Stuart pointed to learnings from the US’ project on Cloud Computing, which shows there is a lot more to consider than simply listing an application  or service on a portal. Likewise Clive Longbottom welcomes Cloudstore, but recognises that the public sector has to embrace it if it is to be successful.

From my perspective the key questions are:

Buyer/end user education and empowerment:

Using a service from Cloudstore will never be quite as simple as Amazon or the Apple iStore, but it will be consigned to history as another Government-backed dodo without significant investment in buyer education. If we look at SaaS adoption it has often seen end users circumventing frustrating IT policies to use the software they want. While I’m sure central and local Government departments will have checks in place to prevent a ‘free-for-all’ Cloud Computing should empower users and buyers to make choices. But how do they choose between the solutions on offer? What considerations should affect their decision? 

Integration:

Of the 250 vendors already registered on the Cloudstore 50% are supposed to be small businesses often providing just a point solution or at best a suite of similar products. In the main they will be built on one platform, such as Solidsoft on the Microsoft Azure platform. They do not have the resources to integrate their offerings with those of all the major vendors. That is a problem, because central and local Government have invested heavily in IT and cannot afford to discard these legacy systems. So how does the Cloudstore administration ensure smaller vendors can integrate as effectively with existing solutions to ensure the playing field is truly level?

Marketing:

In any industry if a buyer has to choose between a known entity and an unknown one it is no surprise they usually go for the safe option. With Cloudstore there has already been some debate about how the vendors present their offerings, because it is clearly not uniform. That makes marketing these solutions hard and obviously it is going to be harder for the smaller vendors to compete against recognised brands. With culture of risk-aversion heightened by all the high profile IT failures how is Cloudstore going to help to promote the ‘Davids’ to ensure the Whitehall politicos don’t just pick the ‘Goliaths’ they know?

I do believe the Cloudstore can deliver significant value, but as Michael Krigsman has said many times successful IT implementations are a combination of the software working, the implementation sticking to a mutually agreed schedule using the right resources and the customer understanding exactly what goals they want to achieve through the adoption of IT. 

While the Cloudstore could be the start of something the spectre of the ‘IT Devil’s Triangle’ still looms large and these fundamental issues have to be addressed for it to a long-term success

@cairbreUK

journo

The last decade has been something of a whirlwind for traditional media. Old school stereotypes of trench coats, smoky newsrooms and 4pm deadlines have been replaced with 24-hour reporting, the internet and social media.

Despite the challenges that traditional media has faced and will continue to face in the near future, the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, published last week, revealed some extremely positive news for the world’s media.

They were the only industry that saw a global increase in trust.

In a time in which there is global disillusion with government, business leaders and traditional figures of authority, the role of the media to provide the public with facts, transparency and both sides of the story is more important than ever.

I do not think this comes as a surprise. In a world of economic uncertainty I believe that it is only natural that we turn to the industry built on the grounds that it provides accurate and fair information, designed to educate us on important issues.

While trust in all media, that is traditional, social and online, saw an increase in trust, i believe that the biggest opportunity to affirm itself as the place we turn to first for news lies with traditional media.

Traditional media have the advantage of being long-established news outlets with a rich background in news reporting. However, in order to truly fulfil this potential, they must ensure that they embrace the modernism’s that have changed their industry, and continue working towards providing a diverse and content- rich service.

The Edelman Trust barometer also indicated a 75% increase in trust in social media, a figure very difficult to ignore. While traditional media have made great progress in incorporating this into reporting, I believe that there is still much more room for improvement.

By incorporating social and digital content with traditional news articles, publications can create news packages that will enable them to not only reach wider audience, but also develop more comprehensive content and effective audience engagement.

Many of you will be aware of how the above question applied to the Roman Empire during Monty Python’s Life of Brian

“alright –APART from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order…”

 

I was reminded to apply the same question to Europeans in general as part of an investigation into the future of work being undertaken for a client. The findings to date predict a truly global and “frictionless” marketplace where, by 2020, skills and experience will be matched with job profiles and budgets through a sort of “global employment dashboard”, probably residing somewhere in the Cloud.

How will Europe compete in such a competitive environment? Well, it certainly won’t be on cost…

Europeans will have to find clear distinction; what they are good at, where their value lies in order to compete in an increasingly frictionless market.

To this end, my colleagues and I have been trying to compile a list of sectors, expertise, and markets where Europe really excels. These are areas where skills and heritage built up over centuries give Europe an unassailable competitive advantage.

First, we start with the serious list; by 2020, Europeans will still be in a position of competitive advantage in the following:

Next, the list of slightly less serious areas where the Europeans excel however:

I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for either list.  So in 2020, when the question arises, “What have the Europeans ever done for us?” we’ll have our answers ready!

@RogerDara

Frankly none if a morning at the Social World Forum is anything to go by…

Mild frustration possibly best describes my mood leaving the conference, because I’m not sure how much more talking there needs to be about the value and role of social media in enterprise environments. The benefits, as shown by panellists (morning session track two, day one), are clear, but it is time for adopters to be more adventurous in their goal setting. Tools exist today to measure more than simply engagement and show real return-on-investment that affects the bottom line in the B2B world. My concern is if we don’t stop talking and start demonstrating a more comprehensive strategic approach it will never go mainstream in the enterprise. The good news is that Salesforce’s acquisition of Radian6 should help to focus minds and avoid any further discussion that social media isn’t mainstream in the enterprise.

First let me come back to the analogy. Listening to the conversation yesterday it did start me thinking about the parallels between social media and that much mythologised first sexual encounter, which adolescents, particularly boys, spend so much of their time debating…allegedly.  (Disclosure, yes I did attend a Catholic boys school and there were priests, but no they didn’t) Anyway, i do realise I’m making sweeping generalisations, but I think the point is valid…according to the cliché of every relevant Hollywood movie there is much anticipation – and anxiety – about that ‘first time’, much reading of relevant ‘literature’ and consultation with peers. Only in the end to be a fumble in the dark, with no one really knowing what they’re doing, over too quickly or not quickly enough and everyone at the very least feeling uncertain about how they feel about the experience, if not decidedly underwhelmed and in the worst case vowing never to do it again.

Email Comparison

Something that triggered my concern was the comparison with email. Discussion suggested social media will be the next most important disruptive communications technology. Undoubtedly email has changed the way business works, but it took years to establish etiquette and process and today I don’t know many people who talk about how productive they are thanks to email. The issue is that email was allowed to sprawl, its role in the workplace and business poorly defined and I can see danger signs for social media.

Technology tolerance disorder (or excuse)

Admittedly social media is such a young industry ably demonstrated by the proliferation of companies at the show claiming to offer distinct solutions yet sounding remarkably similar. The pace of technology change is rapid, which makes it difficult to plan a long-term strategy, but that should not be used to tolerate or excuse ill-defined or superficial social media strategies (it is a disorder that technologists seem to struggle with whatever the innovation). There are companies like Lithium Technologies and Telligent providing grown up solutions, which make social media much more measureable in terms of its contribution to a business.

What does social media allow us to do differently that we couldn’t do before?

This shouldn’t difficult to answer, but we do seem to be making it excessively even though it’s the only question that matters. Particularly if you’re trying to encourage B2B audiences to buy social media it should be the job of social media professionals and enthusiasts to make it easy for clients to understand the answer. Yesterday didn’t inspire me that we get that point.

The panellists in the first session did begin to highlight what can be done. Jonathan Brayshaw, from Psion (@Jon_at_Psion) talked about using social media to engage differently with customers, partners and employees through a community environment, which has seen a 5% reduction in workload for customer support, as well as contributing to future product development.

Kelly Thomas, from Prudential PruProtect talked about engaging financial advisors and encouraging them to use social media to speak to customers. In a specific campaign around the World Cup (http://bit.ly/eKvOkp) PruProtect saw a 30% increase from sales.

In a later session Zoe Sands, Juniper Networks (@ZoeSands), talked about a four year programme that has been building a community called J-Net which saw a 300% increase in overall traffic following the launch of its mobile version last year. This community is self-governing, with customers and partners helping each other to solve technology issues and providing feedback to the product development team.

Demonstrate ROI, but consider the ‘unexpected’ magic sauce for B2B audiences

Zoe cited the Forrester research from 2010 which suggests that 88% of decision makers now use social media in their decision making processes. If that isn’t motivation enough for companies to embrace social media more effectively then the examples above should begin to show how ROI can be achieved in quite tangible and simple ways.

That said what I failed to ask the panellists is how many decision makers participate in their online communities rather than simply talking to the usual suspects. For example, J-Net has 23,000 users, but the age old challenge in the enterprise IT sector is accessing the ‘C’ level audiences. J-Net may do this, but Jonathan’s throw-away remark towards the end of the session, really began to get to the magic sauce that social media can add.

He talked about it enabling Psion to be ‘unexpectedly competitive.’ For me the key word is ‘unexpectedly.’ Social media has blown apart traditional hierarchies making it more difficult for vendors to engage with clients, but at the same time it means previously inaccessible customers – or members of their network – are now reachable.

If customers are stepping forward to help solve the problems of other customers, if customers are helping companies to hone their product development roadmaps and if social media gives you access to a CIO you have never talked to before in a more informal way, so that you can establish a rapport that is unexpected. Good unexpected.

Unexpectedly rewarding conversations

One member of the audience talked a bit today about social media being the wrong terminology that really it is about people and how we interact that’s important. That gets close to the important point, but not quite. If a business is having conversations with individuals within its client base they have never spoken to before about subjects that they never thought possible to discuss, that is both rewarding and unexpected.

That is what social media in the enterprise sector should really be about.

Fundamentally social media should enable businesses to break down barriers, redefine perceptions about their brand and products, reach new people and engender community spirit that turns individuals into advocates. Ultimately leading to increased sales, greater customer loyalty and more efficient business processes.

It is not an excuse to say the tools do not exist, because there are providers moving in the right direction.

As PR professionals it is our role to identify the ‘who’ that are having those conversations, so that our clients can engage with and influence those conversations in a way that benefits their business. And without sounding too arrogant we are the right people to do this, because our job has always been to identify the influencers and strike up the right conversations with them.

Yes as with every technology cycle there is a maturing process, but this can’t be the same maturing process reserved for whisky. It needs to happen sooner rather than later, because the theory is pretty solid as demonstrated by Ray Wang.

So stop talking at the back of the class how to do it and get on with it! Otherwise I worry that social media in the B2B will end up being known as that fumble in the dark we’re all slightly embarrassed about.

On the second day of Mobile World Congress 2011, the event hosted an operator keynote panel. This keynote panel session included insights on a broad range of topics across the mobile market. Here are some short highlights from the panel:

  • Audioboo: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, gives predictions for mobile penetration http://boo.fm/b278532

  • Audioboo: Daniel Hajj, American Movil, gives an overview of the Latam mobile Market. http://boo.fm/b278441

  • Audioboo: Wang Jianzhou, Chairman & CEO, China Mobile talks about the explosion in mobile data. http://boo.fm/b278425

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom

Towards the end of 2010, chatter about ‘Millennials’ significantly increased – not so much to do with their purchasing decisions or sources of influence – but instead about the impact they will have on the future of the workplace.

More tech savvy, collaborative and demanding than Generation X, Millennials going into organisations today, who have grown up in a constantly-connect world, are likely to find existing IT infrastructures and business processes suffocating. With reams of red-tape upholding corporate and IT-usage policies, particularly around the utilisation of applications and devices dictated by the IT department, such working practices may indeed seem alien or unintuitive to Millennials who have grown up to function in a very different way.

I agree with Mark Samuels in his recent piece for silicon.com that, ‘[Millennials] are also far from the clichéd media depiction of tech-savvy anarchists set to destroy established corporate hierarchies,’ but I think that as technology evolves, the use of social media continues to become second nature to younger generations, as well as a more considered platform for business growth, then inevitably it is only a matter of time before significant change occurs. And it won’t just be employees influencing change; it will be customers demanding it too.

Therefore the pressure is on the CIO to make serious decisions about the future delivery of IT to the workforce, whether that’s through cloud models, VDI, supporting ‘bring your own devices’ and so on. A greater challenge can also be ensuring that Millennials and other generations within the organisation are supported to work collaboratively now, catering for the technological capabilities of younger generations while also recognising the needs of employees who haven’t grown up in the connected world we know today.

@LucyDesaDavies

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