Enterprise IT


clip_image002Corporate data breaches and security incidents pose a growing threat to businesses around the world. Such events are increasingly common, with companies and organizations from Google to Sony to the Stanford University Hospital falling prey to data breaches, news of which was subsequently splashed across national headlines.

Incidents like these, combined with the increasing number of ways to track what people are doing online, are affecting consumer attitudes. Edelman’s new global study, Privacy & Security: The New Drivers of Brand, Reputation and Action Global Insights 2012, reveals that seven in ten people globally are more concerned about data security and privacy than they were five years ago, and a full 68% believe that consumers have lost control over how online personal information is shared and used by companies.

Businesses, however, are not doing enough to meet these concerns. A majority of people (57%) report either no change or a decline in the security of their personal information in the last five years. This is problematic, because consumers think that businesses should be grappling with these issues and that it is their responsibility to do so. The vast majority (85%) say businesses must take data security and privacy more seriously, and a plurality say businesses – as opposed to governments or individuals – are responsible for protecting the security of their personal information.

Edelman’s study also indicates that data security and privacy issues have the potential to affect a businesses’ bottom line. Customers are taking data security and privacy into account at the checkout counter; surprisingly, when it comes to smartphones, personal computers and tablet computers, data security and privacy are as important to them as a product’s design, style and size.

Businesses are also suffering from a trust deficit due to peoples’ concerns about data security and privacy, particularly in the financial and retail sectors. While 92% of people say security is important to them in when doing business with the financial sectors, just 69% trust the industry to protect their personal information – trust lags by 23 points. In online retail, the gap is even more dramatic. While security is important to 84% of those doing business with online retailers, just 33% trust them to protect personal information – a 51 point gap.

To earn people’s trust in their ability to protect data security and privacy, businesses must manage these issues like a core competency, engaging with them in a meaningful way on a daily basis. Businesses that ignore data security and privacy do so at their own peril, because consumers will abandon companies they do not trust to protect their personal information. Those that prove willing and able to manage data security and privacy effectively, however, will bring unexpected value to consumers around the world by demonstrating that they understand the importance of protecting the information people hold most valuable.

Read the full study here. We’re keen to hear your thoughts…

@pete_pedersen

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

Some of you may well have seen this research from the Guardian earlier this week, which aimed to highlight the top journalist tweeters in the UK – headed by Neil Mann, aka @fieldproducer, digital news editor at Sky News.

There just seemed to be one problem – the list was, perhaps unsurprisingly, absolutely dominated by Grauniad hacks, with half the top ten being employed by the paper running the research. The highest placed non-Guardian ‘paper scribe on the list was the FT’s Tim Bradshaw who came in a lowly eighteenth, while the Times could only muster one journalist in the top 50 – Michael Savage, in at #35.

Shurely shome mishtake?

We’ve run the findings through the tweetlevel  algorithm instead to give it some more context, and the same list appear in a very different order, with Charles Arthur the highest placed hack on the list, and afore-mentioned Tim Bradshaw rocketing up to eighth.

Check out the revised list here.

top tweeters grab

Picking a couple of other tech journos at random, there were notable exceptions in the original list: from The Times, Murad Ahmed would have been in the top fifty; the Telegraph’s digital media editor Emma Barnett would have triumphed in at #20; while arguably one of the UK’s most influential tech industry bods, Mike Butcher, would have come in joint with Tim Bradshaw.

To be clear, we’re not saying ‘our list is better than yours’, nor are we saying our methodology is better – we’re just saying that if you’re producing a list of the influential people in your industry, it might be a good idea to widen the scope to people who don’t work for you.

Let us know what you make of our version of the list originally produced by the Guardian. For more info on the algorithm used, make your brain hurt reading this.

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.

….or Why “Reading, Travelling And Keep Fit” Will Become The Most Important Part Of The CV Of The Future

I have just spent the last week imaging what our working environment will look like in 2020. Special thanks to Jonathan Hargreaves, Rick Murray and Stefan Stern for their thoughts and inspiration.

One of the discussions centred on the fact that while in the 1980s the world of work was defined by FMCG companies such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever in terms of management style and organisation, while in the 1990s management thinking took inspiration from engineering companies epitomised by the GE Way. By 2000 investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Chase Manhattan) and, to some extent, management consultancies (Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey) were the dominant force.

The broad consensus is that the workplace of 2020 will be driven by technology – the way teams collaborate, the frequency and style of communications, the nature of management and hierarchy, and the overall organisation of work.

However, the workplace of the future will not be dominated by technologists; on the contrary, the technology paradox of 2020 is that non technical, “soft” skills in greater demand than ever before.

There are three key reasons:

· The nature of work in 2020 will exert a premium on employees who thrive in collaborative environments, those who can communicate across a range of media and time-zones to a variety of cultures, in a multiplicity of languages. 2020 collaborative teams will have to find and agree a set of shared values (there will be no default office culture), shape and adhere to a hierarchy which is both virtual and global, and create a working culture that crosses international boundaries, datelines and language. Collaboration on this level is not about technology or automation, it is more about social skills, creating team cultures and building loyalty.

· The consumerisation of technology; by 2020 the number of platforms and media through which organisations can communicate will multiply and they will not distinguish between “workplace” and “leisure-time”. An acute awareness and understanding of these communications media will be fundamental for any organisation; and the skills required to match message with appropriate media – on a global scale – will, by definition, be soft.

· Information overload; if we think we are bombarded by information and stimuli now, 2020 will see even greater pressure on our time and attention spans. The volume and diversity (work and leisure-related) stimuli bombarding the 2020 employee will require a level of judgement, experience, discretion, prioritisation – in short, soft skills – never previously demanded of any generation. 2020 employees will be systematically required to make value judgements on whether, how and when they respond to incoming data on a continual basis. It will not be possible to automate these decisions (the entire process will already be fully and exhaustively automated); what remains will require a level of judgement, opinion, assessment, discretion and experience that is 100% “soft” and 100% “human”.

So the age of technology management may not only be good news for social sciences, it will also add a new level of importance to soft skills often hidden at the bottom of our CVs . . . if, of course, we have CVs in 2020, but that requires another post altogether!

@RogerDara

Ericsson launches a cloud-based machine-to-machine communications platform to help telecoms operators connect more than just laptops and smartphones.

The company believes that more than 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020 and that its Ericsson Device Connection Platform can help operators to quickly deliver M2M solutions to their enterprise customers. Ericsson’s platform will be offered using a Software as a Service (SaaS) model that it believes will minimize barriers to entry in the M2M market.

“We envision a world with 50 billion connected devices in 2020, where everything that benefits from a connection will be connected,” said Magnus Furustam, Vice President, head of Core & IMS at Ericsson. “To get there, Ericsson is working with telecom operators, selected industry verticals and other players across the M2M value chain to create world-leading, innovative technology and sustainable business solutions.”

Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform primarily makes it possible to create tailored connectivity and price plans for M2M services. Ericsson will help telecoms operators to offer enterprise customers a self-service interface, flexible billing, charging and connectivity plans for all devices connected to the network.

“The platform will help operators deliver solutions for devices and applications that have diverse connectivity needs, ranging from sending a single business critical SMS to high-quality video surveillance via the mobile network. Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform addresses these needs and is there to support operators in developing their business in new areas,” said Furustam.

The service will allow telco customers to manage their subscriptions and devices in real time.

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

“This Cloud thing’s fecking brilliant, Ted! It’s like all white and fluffy and everything…”

The headline is based on the recent news that Sir ‘Bob’ as he’s known locally, or Sir Bob Geldof of BandAid and LiveAid fame among other things, is a follower of Cloud Computing. Well what he apparently said at the BETT tradeshow is that it is “Fooking brilliant.”

Obviously Sir Bob had an agenda, otherwise the non-email or smart phone using celeb would have looked even more out of place, but I’m starting to feel the Cloud debate is all becoming a little ‘Father Ted.’ (And I would like to confirm that I am in no way comparing Sir Bob or the Irish in general to the characters of ‘Father Ted’ – the author is Irish – so no need to send the indignant outrage emails…please!)

The more sensible reason for this thinking was provoked by Jason Stamper’s predictions for the year ahead and its mention of last year’s Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2010.

I agree with Jason that there is every danger Cloud Computing, the catch-all for anything-over-the-Internet, is going to crash into the trough of disillusionment unless vendors are careful.

Gartner would, I’m sure, be happy to consult concerned parties for a small fee – particularly as they believe Cloud is the number one priority this year – but here’s some much cheaper thoughts from the communications perspective! Cloud is here to stay, without any question, but the pseudo religious fervour that some applying to this debate has allowed the mud slingers to continue re-using tired arguments around security, reliability and scalability…as borne out by the Economist article in December, which I’d personally like to thank for its guidance on the pronunciation of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. (apparently, it’s ‘letter’ + ‘arse’…what bright spark came up with that branding idea!?)

While Cloud continues to be perceived in this way it is easy to see why enthusiasm is wavering.

Like any chasm crossing moment there are important business steps to follow and the communications strategies should be an integral of the process. The key focus areas should be:

1) Listening: demonstrate through your communications that you are listening to your customers and show you understand their challenges. While it is obvious to you that Cloud is the way forward, quite a large majority of the world don’t think that.

In fact they’re quite happy where they are and have grown up with a clear understanding of how to review, deploy and refresh their IT systems. Fundamentally you need to re-educate prospects on the ‘A to Z’ of IT strategy and implementation and that can’t be done while you’re thumping the pulpit.

2) Differentiation: be clear about what you do differently. For the cynics out there among the enterprise IT community (apparently there are one or two) all of the different acronyms and platforms just encourage individuals to roll their eyes. Case in point might be Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Looking closely at the recent Gartner IaaS magic quadrant the term ‘hosting’ is used as often as any other, so what makes these folks different compared to traditional hosting services? Pardon me for this sweeping generalisation, but clarity when communicating a proposition is critical.

3) Avoid Cloud Fatigue: while I haven’t come up with the right equation yet I’m sure there is an extension to the Gartner Hype Cycle, which includes the role that celebrities play in the technology lifecycle – situations where they can provide a positive impactand others where they undermine the value of the latest new, new thing (eg: Paris Hilton on the iPhone4). Clearly, vendors looking to encourage further adoption of their technologies need to be careful of preaching. Customers are taking greater control of their IT strategies, refusing to be tied into long-term contracts, so there is even more need to engage with them in dialogue on their terms, listen to their perspectives and be seen to respond. If Cloud Computing is as agile as it says on the tin, then vendors have to be prepared to engage on these terms.

following Monday’s insight from the analyst community on the trends and expectations for the year ahead (check out the full post here), we thought we’d have a bash ourselves at predicting the future. so here are our suggestions for the year ahead – let us know whether you agree with us, or think we’re miles off the mark…

(also – to anyone reading this in December, you have *not* got an eye condition; those floating white dots across the screen are snow. it’s festive.)

…and we’re putting together a mobile special in case you think it’s a bit thin on mobility right now – watch this space in Jan for the 2011 mobile outlook according to Edelman Tech…

Predictions for 2011:

Larry picks a fight…with God

Larry Ellison will never be accused of being the shy retiring type. In fact one of the well known legends is that he bases a lot of his modus operandi around ‘The Art of War’ and over the years he has picked a fight with pretty much everyone in the industry. Bill Gates, Ray Lane, Craig Conway, Tom Siebel and more recently SAP and HP. Frankly there isn’t anyone really left to fight so the speculation surely must be that the only person worthy of a challenge is God. Given the old joke – "What’s the difference between God and Larry Ellison?…God doesn’t think he’s Larry" – this may not be the case.

Facebook emerges as a powerful content player

Just a stab in the dark, but I’d hazard that before 2011 is out we’ll see Facebook commissioning its own content – or co-creating content at least. The ‘Like’ function is powerful – whether for selling products or amplifying conversation around content. We know that young audiences are watching more online. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook will start working closely with production companies to push something like KateModern into stratospheric proportions – the first social entertainment blockbuster.

‘Do no evil’ Google becomes ‘Bad Google’

In some respects it seems almost stereotypical that a company that was once the darling of the industry is now beginning to look over its shoulder, as the mutterings begin to increase. Like Intel and Microsoft before then they have incurred the wrath of the regulators and how the company reacts next year will be interesting to watch.

Hopefully it will have learnt from the mistakes of others, but there’s the danger its senior leadership team has drunk a little too much of the ‘Kool Aid’.’There is no doubt that the ‘noughties’ belonged to Google and today it remains one of the key drivers of the IT industry, but it needs to sustain that growth to justify its market cap. As a result its moved into a number of different areas with mixed results…Google Wave (#fail), Android (#successtodate), GoogleTV (#waitandsee). Similarly it has had the high profile embarrassment around China, which has severely dented its reputation and competitors like Facebook, Youtube and even Microsoft are beginning to make in-roads on its heartland. 2011 may be a sticky year for Google.

We will all be buying coffee via our mobiles by the end of next year

Whether paying for stuff with your mobile, buying online credits, or using Square we’ll be seeing a lot more money changing hands, without touching hands. Much of the rest of the world already is – Africa and Asia are well ahead of Europe and US in this field, (indeed Gartner predict that 60% of this market in 2011 will be in Asia). But there is some key technology coming that will make phones that much smarter and make it that much easier for us all to get involved. Google has confirmed the next version of Android will support NFC (near field communication) chips, and it’s rumoured that iPhone 5 will have this functionality in-built. Nokia and RIM are both also expected to follow-suit.

Creative Agency "ownership" of social media

This year the classic PR v marketing battle was augmented by the arrival of "customer services" onto the scene. The range of customer and support services using social media to support their communications and contacts has led to them claiming ownership (and budget). A valid claim (like all the rest).

Next year customer relationship management (CRM) will join the fray under the moniker "social" CRM, linking customer databases with social media to define whether, when, how often, on what medium companies communicate with their customers.

I see loads of privacy and "ownership" issues but for any company who gets this right it could be huge.

There are however always pitfalls, and twitter is flooded with examples of companies ‘doing’ social media very well and responding to customers and issues, but the actual customer service department in the clients’ back office not following up. To avoid this becoming a fad or people losing faith in social media platforms as a channel, companies need to place the same focus on the back office customer services departments as they do in keeping pace with an external zeitgeist.

Gamification of Life

There’s a lot of chat about the ‘gaming of everyday life’. Truth is ‘social games’ like Farmville  actually aren’t very social (people tell their friends there are playing, but are they playing with friends and telling others? I think not). FourSquare is often touted as the best example of the gamification of life but personally, I don’t think it is a very good game.

To its credit I think it’s a very promising form of direct marketing and I’m sure we’ll see more coupons next year. More interesting – if more niche – social games are playthings like Chromoroma. These sorts of initiatives will continue to garner interest from the press and trend watchers. Whether or not they will engage enough people to become ‘mainstream’ is perhaps unlikely.  But in a game of influencing the influencers – this sort of creative approach will be a top scorer.

Murdoch will just give up with his paywall.

Personally I think it’s all a little too little too late – the industry has sat back and watched itself be destroyed – news on the internet will be, and will always be, free. If you can’t get what you want from The Times you’ll go somewhere else to find it. The quality argument, for me personally, doesn’t stack up, people generally will accept a lower quality if it costs them nothing.

Mobile and application based news might be a short-term saviour, and there will be winners and losers in this area next year. It’s perhaps true that people are prepared to pay for innovation and the novel – but even then, the future of the mobile experience looks set to be a browser/cloud based model. Mobile applications will go the same way as desktop applications at some point in the not too distant future (let’s say 2013 for arguments sake).

News will become hyper-local & hyper-social. A location based service will join forces with a news site for location centric news – what’s happening where you are right now….. bringing you nearer to……

……‘Where’s that ambulance going?’

I don’t think 2010 has quite been the year of location, as many though it might be. Less than 4% of mobile users are using this feature. It’s growing though and expect next year – with the rise in popularity of Foursquare and Facebook places (sorry Gowalla you missed the boat) – for the term “where am I now” to be more popular than ever.

Combine this with the fact that media is looking to innovate, to tap into the power of social, than I can see a very logical next step to be a combination of owned and user generated news to be pushed to users based on location.

What is happening in the world you’re in right now. Whether this is in combination with one of the aforementioned services or a plug-in to a site like the BBC, Digg or the Guardian, I think we’ll start to see this as a powerful service. Indirectly, this may then only serve to fuel citizen journalism, as people are alerted more easily to incidents / events happening close to them.

Someone will figure out how to give everything, no matter how small, an IP address

Long shot this one, and is based on boozy conversations with colleagues on the outerweb and the internet of things, that this could be the next big breakthrough – giving everything a link to the internet.

This could be as simple as me seeing a sofa or salt shaker and “liking” it in real time or adding instantly to an Amazon wish list via a connection to my smartphone. It will happen, perhaps not next year, but it’s always good to have an outlandish prediction – and hell most food products do now have a link to the web via barcodes.

Videogames will shift from products to entertainment services

By the end of 2011, most blockbusters games will turn into an subscription-based service instead of releasing a new iteration each year (i.e.: the Call of Duty franchise). We’ve already seen this happening with the Steam platform offering games as uploads, and annoying retail outlets in the process, but the next year could see this become even more prominent. Gamers are currently predominantly ‘owned’ by their console (although multi-console owners are increasingly more common), but game manufacturers could see a niche in the market for tying them into series through exclusive uploads, game advances and new episodes. Given the dedication the most successful games generate, this would seem a seamless next step.

Cloudy outlook;  another year of unfulfilled promise, the return of hardware storage, and Everything-As-A-Service?

Seriously, can someone just make the cloud revolution finally happen? It’s been on everyone’s lips for years – YEARS – but is 2011 the year the cloud actually becomes the tech saviour it’s lined up as? Granted, there are already plenty of services claiming ‘cloud’ services, but on closer inspection many of these are simply network servers – can we finally envisage a true cloud? If we are to do so, the main obstacle is going to be keeping such services reliable and absolutely, unrelentingly secure – it’s the security issue which has held adoption up in many instances.

And if the security issue does remain unconquerable, we could perhaps see the return of hardware storage with servers and SSDs, as the perceived risks around cloud computing create too many anxieties to warrant full adoption.

If the cloud DOES finally break loose, expect ‘EaaS’ – Everything-as-a-Service – a growing offers with more collaborative tools and more complete applications to be proposed; everything becomes “on demand” with the cloud.

Social media will finally arrive in the enterprise

We’ve already witnessed the growing adoption of social media in the enterprise – for both internal and external usage – and we can expect to see more of the same as IT decision makers start to impact the business strategy discussions.

Once the C Suite understand the role social media plays in business, and how it can (positively) impact business efficiency, we’ll see this boom. Social media is currently viewed as a distraction to staff, but once this misapprehension is dealt with, and its proper adoption, integration and monitoring is understood, enterprises will rush to get involved.

The key issue which needs tackling in 2011 is to dispel the perception of social media adoption being simply an ‘allow or deny’ decision. It is simply not that black and white, and different employees require differing access and controls. The workforce coming into industry now is that which has grown up with the likes of Facebook, and they’ll expect the same in business – and if they don’t get it, they’ll find a way around security to use it none the less. “Allow or deny” is no longer a valid debate.

and the consumerisation of IT won’t be restricted to social media…

…Bring-your-own

We can’t get enough of having a familiar device in our pocket, even in the workplace – we’re moving into the age of ‘bring your own’- your own technology, that is – into work. With more Millennials/Generation Y/the L’Oréal generation, whatever you want to call them, coming into the workplace, we’ll see a shift in the technology we use and how we use it altogether. Businesses will support the idea – in theory. Employees using a familiar device has the obvious efficiency advantages. However, whether organisations, and infrastructure, will be able to support alien devices is another thing. After all, there’s the usual security, technical, data protection and legal issues that cloud computing has been dealing with for years. It will certainly be a step in the right direction, but we may very well get there at a snail’s pace.

with thanks for the following for contributions:

@RogerDara

@cairbreUK

@LukeMackay

@JustinWestcott

@LucyDesaDavies

@wonky_donky

“Why Cloud will only see widespread adoption if the IT industry has a Stock Market-style crash”

Given that my job is providing PR consultancy to the IT industry I appreciate the absurdity of recommending some kind of Stock market crash as the way forward for the IT industry. I went through the dot com bubble – it wasn’t pleasant. However, I am not making this suggestion because I enjoy scaremongering or want to see anyone out of a job, but because I am at a loss to understand how else we can correct and move beyond this ‘Age of Institutionalised Complexity.’

Enterprise IT departments, ever since the early days of mainframes, have built up stockpiles of hardware and software, which I would contend they rarely fully use. Sure, technology has pushed greater integration and commoditisation, but major organisations are left with bulky IT infrastructures creaking under the weight of their inefficiency.

Yet models exist which could enable CIOs to become more agile and responsive, but adoption – although on the increase – is not widespread.

It would appear to the cynical eye that enterprise IT environments have become so institutionalised by this complexity that wholesale change isn’t possible without some kind of dramatic event, such as a crash.

“Why isn’t every IT department moving wholesale to the Cloud?”

Ok, perhaps I’m being a little too impatient for change – and probably only have a superficial understanding of the technical requirements – but enterprise customers, in particular, are not grabbing the opportunity of Cloud Computing to move wholesale away from hereto expensive and restrictive relationships with their existing IT providers (as Ray Wang highlighted last year at the SAP UK User Group).

If we believe the analysts Cloud is heading in only one direction with revenues soaring and yet we’re still having a debate about the theory of Cloud – how it should be applied, etc (single tenant, multi-tenant, private cloud, public cloud).

Surely the long-term benefits far outweigh the challenges? Yes, cost is stripped out of IT structures, but more importantly it should create IT environments with the flexibility to respond to ever changing business conditions.

Call it resistance to change, fear of the unknown, or plain stubbornness – there is a need to overcome such blockers as the IT industry will collapse under its own complexity unless it adopts new models such as Cloud.

“Stupid is as stupid does…”

Despite the traditional IT vendors taking flak from every angle for their poor innovation (you only have to read Vinnie Mirchandani’s book, which suggests a lot of the innovative application of technology is being done by non-IT companies) we’re still moving quite slowly given that ‘Cloud’ has existed in some form for quite some time. (Simon Wardley suggests the concept first appeared in 1968).

In moments of greater frustration it seems the only conclusion is that humans really are as stupid as some believe. Thankfully, though, further investigation leads me to a different conclusion, one prompted by a term referenced by Dennis Howlett on Cloud – ‘Institutional Memory’.

Like Dennis I reviewed the excellent keynotes by Mark Masterson and Simon Wardley at OSCON and started to build a clearer picture of this notion of ‘Institutionalised Complexity.’

Both speakers underlined the fundamental in the clash between innovation and the desire to achieve predictable success in business. Masterson applies this view to the previous decade, describing an era he calls the ‘Age of Productivity’ which was focused on reducing the likelihood of failure and cost of failure in return for predictable business success.

The outcome has been that companies focused on initiatives – both in business and IT – driven by this need for predictability and as a consequence pushed IT products/service development towards commoditisation. As Wardley explains this creates a fundamental issue for innovation, because it requires a risk-taking, uncertain environment to prosper.

Wardley’s solution for IT vendors and their customers wanting to reinvigorate innovation is to recommend they analyse where products and services have already been commoditised. He highlights functions, such as HR, CRM, and Finance – all mainstays of ERP – as prime areas for exploitation. Areas where value has been eroded so much that they are ripe for the Creative Destruction process. Masterson sees breaking free of the constraints of the ‘Age of Productivity’ as the opportunity for open source software and argues that companies should be focused on the ‘Age of Growth.’

“Trapped in an Institutionalised Mindset”

Logically that should mean the time is right for mass adoption of Cloud Computing. Yet I have a concern that most enterprise IT departments simply aren’t prepared or willing to enter this ‘Age of Growth’ because they’ve become so institutionalised in their adoption of IT. Cloud Computing challenges this mindset at every level, in terms of how IT is acquired, supported and how its success is measured. JP Rangaswami even suggests that attempting to apply traditional measures such as Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is wrong, that IT departments need to be designing their IT infrastructure for a ‘loss of control.’ Applying the linear models of the ‘Age of Productivity’ is wrong, companies need to be thinking in terms of language such as ‘self healing,’ ‘self aware’ and ‘heuristic.’

Having grown up being driven by the need for risk aversion and predictability it will be difficult for any IT department to cope with such significant change, particularly at a time when there is even greater pressure on IT leaders to demonstrate value to their business peers. Therefore I contend that the easiest way for such technologies to gain much wider adoption is that the IT industry has some kind of implosion with both vendors and IT customers being forced to start again.

I appreciate this is slightly insane, well possibly very insane, but let me cite two reasons why:

1. All good things come to an end because they become too complicated: Clay Shirky has written about a book by Joseph Tainter, “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” In it Tainter analyses why supposedly sophisticated societies such as the Romans and the Mayan Indians eventually implode. In his view complexity has stifled each of these societies and it leads Shirky to suggest:

Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond…When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler…Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.

2. History is repeating itself: a quick look at any number of examples demonstrates why this logic is applicable to business and therefore IT. The automotive industry went from innovative to commodity driven by Henry Ford and hung on for dear life, until its recent collapse due to the stress of the global economic crisis and changing attitudes to the environmental impact of car travel. While some of the incumbents fight on (eg: Honda, who’s tagline has been ‘dream the impossible’) a range of new manufacturers are emerging. For many the well-publicised collapse of the Financial Services industry has been due, largely, to the complexity of its products and the inability of regulation to cope with this complexity. The Media and Entertainment industry is in the throes of a similar challenge, with various sectors in different stages.

“An alternative solution would be to simply embrace the chaos”

The simplest conclusion for the IT industry is to embrace collapse and its accompanying chaos, but perhaps we don’t have to see Rome burning. Rather enterprise IT users should prepare for a period when IT structures and their accompanying ‘rules’ have to be reset. Cloud Computing is the vehicle for that change and there is a significant opportunity for Cloud vendors to help their customers move towards this ‘post-proprietary’ era of adoption.

To encourage change Cloud vendors need to follow a number of steps, mainly to appeal to the current institutionalised mindset, but also to lead their customers to place where they believe that risk-taking isn’t dangerous.

Step one – build trust: recognise that technology> won’t lead to change alone – accept Simon Wardley’s point that it is only one of four triggers that drive uptake. Unless the concept for a new technology is clearly defined, unless the customer recognises its suitability for its environment and the customer has been convinced to change their attitude, the technology will always sit on the shelf, no matter how good it is.

Step two – change the benefit discussion around Cloud: both Nicholas Carr and Paul Strassmann have said – in one form or other – that there is little value in IT spend and in fact Jevons Paradox showed that technology adoption increases consumption, rather than saves money. There is a need to appeal to the predictability mindset, because cloud will never achieve widespread, commoditised consumption – similar to other utilities – unless vendors show how Cloud can bridge the default position regarding risk aversion and the desire for repeatable solutions. But making  a conversation solely about cost reduction will never move IT users out their comfort zone to experiment fully with the Cloud.

Step three – embolden customers to take risks: for me this is encapsulated by provoking customers to respond to Shirky’s question: “Would this be an interesting thing to try?”

It goes to the heart of the point about moving the discussion beyond cost. If Cloud vendors can show the benefits of piloting their technologies can be done at minimal risk, they can begin to break down linear approaches to IT adoption. However, to do this they must bring customers on a journey that explains what their roles will be in the future, because a guaranteed blocker to change is an IT Director, who sees his or her role being replaced by a new technology. (Classic example – which I’ve witnessed – try selling database automation technology to a room full of Database Administrators)

Cloud Computing suppliers are beginning to reassure more and more enterprises that they have a role in their IT infrastructure, but they are yet to build significant trust among the broader ‘Church’ of the enterprise IT industry. The danger is that the traditional vendors are not only feeding that hesitation, they are using this period to catch up, so the Cloud specialists don’t have long to drive their advantage home.

For this ‘Age of Growth’ perhaps the new motto should be: “Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

Or as Mrs Doyle said it more succinctly, “Ah go on, go on, go on…”

@cairbreUK

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