Getting ready for the 2014 conference season, it struck me that the technology revolution has moved from “E” to “D” – by that I mean Digital has replaced Electronic (as in E-Commerce) as the new “must have” conference title.

I remember back in the 1970’s when Digital was replacing Analogue – with the mass introduction of digital watches and calculators – so it amuses me to see it re-cycled. Obviously the generation adopting the word today don’t see the irony in it – nor do the companies inventing Digital divisions.

The serious point is that we’re struggling to articulate the impact of disruptive change on many axis simultaneously. Led by Cloud and Mobile and closely followed by Social Media, Big Data, the need for a secure on-line Identity and even ‘wearable’ technology (back to my old digital watch again) how do enterprises encapsulate the change ?

Cloud is probably the easiest to grasp as it is the most mature and is already releasing its technology potential, but now it needs to be recognised as commercial disruptor – it has already impacted traditional hosting vendors and subjugated “lock-in” contracts they felt were safe. Cloud provides not only a natural ‘leap frogging’ for new entrants into markets by reducing up front set up costs, but can also be a defensive strategy for those businesses trying to adapt to meet rapidly changing customer expectations and behaviours.

Mobile is a key driver changing behaviour – where the acceleration of mobile and tablet (e.g. non-PC) platform adoption is changing the location of the commercial interaction with customers. The mobility of smart phones and tablets has released the consumer from a seat at the desk (office or home PC) and consumers are “inviting” enterprises onto their commuter trains or into their sitting room as they ‘browse in the morning’ and ‘buy in the evening’.

Social Media has benefited from this informal interaction and given access to every review, post, tweet and blog – allowing research ahead of an eventual instore or online purchase – and making C2C communications the primary channel for feedback. Not only do we look up facts at the dinner table using our smart phones but we’re looking at everyone else’s opinion of that new camera, car or city-break as part of the selection process.

All that “opinion” needs a home and – adding it together with all the data produced from location tracking, monitoring and automated machine to machine communication – we have the exponential growth in the volume of data. Then you need tools and techniques to analyse that data (back to Cloud again).

Consumers are also demanding personal interaction which drives the need for Identity – allowing industries to start to drive up the quality and richness of exchanges to enhance customer experience.

So finally I come back to my original question – is my old Digital watch trendy again ?

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Photo 17-09-2013 20 18 15Great event this week – the AWS Enterprise Summit in London on Tuesday.

From the Blade Runner-esque three story neon tube in the main exhibition area, to the conviction of the customers speaking about their adoption of Cloud – it truly felt that Amazon Web Services was coming of age.

What really hit me at this event though, was the number and variety of Enterprise clients coming to me and ‘confessing’ that they had dabbled with AWS and now needed help.

I think that stems from the ‘just put your credit card in to get started’ message of early AWS marketing. It’s been easy to get started – but it’s the equivalent of buying a fast car and turning up at an F1 event thinking you are ready to race.

Yes you have some storage and yes you have compute provisioned but in the same way that you and Red Bull both have 4 wheels and an engine, the complexity and scale of the next steps are beyond what most people want to do on their own – without an expert on hand to help.

So back in my confessional – I blessed a few, cursed a few but more-over offered solace by confirming that they were “Not Alone”.

MB 1987 RiverIn the 1980’s, I was a typical PITA user, developing applications behind the backs of the IT department, even bringing my own PC and software into work. Eventually the IT department ‘took me under their wing’ and I was the one fighting off guerrilla developments from the user community, but by providing them with better, faster and more flexible technology, we won the day.

Now I find myself on the other side of the fence again.

I don’t develop anymore, but I’m watching the world of Cloud encourage self-service in the technical user community and leave IT departments behind. It’s a theme I have returned to before – the “democratisation of compute power” – served up brilliantly through the AWS IaaS model. We’ll see more examples of this at the AWS Enterprise Summit mid-September that Smart421 is sponsoring.  ( hashtag #AWSsummit )

However, it’s not just the Cloud that is challenging IT departments.

Mobile too seems to be spawning a new generation of Garagists*.  Either bright individuals buried in large companies or small one or two man bands creating mobile applications – building on core components (hosting/logon/mapping/location) provided by Apple, Google etc. by adding layers of creativity.

So what’s the problem – the real point here ?

The issue is security. When I was hacking out applications and getting sneaky access to CRM databases and pricing algorithms, everything was safe inside the corporate firewall. Nowadays it is mobile and cloud based.

Both of these technologies I wholeheartedly support, but like everything it has to be done in the right way. So if it was up to me again, I’d develop a Cloud strategy and Mobile architectural guidelines ASAP – before the Horse has bolted, the Cat is out of the bag and the Gorilla (sic) is in the mist.

* “The word Garagiste refers to the great Enzo Ferrari’s hatred of the multitude of talented, but small, Formula 1 teams that were emerging out of Britain in the late 50′s and early 60′s … were basically garage workers (grease monkeys in less formal parlance) compared to the engineering might of his Scuderia Ferrar. These teams didn’t produce their own engines or other ancillaries (aside from BRM), specialising mostly in light, nimble chassis”. http://dancleggf1.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/italys-garagistes/

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signHow long does it take for the disrupters to become the establishment ? An interesting topic raised during a talk at the Gartner AADI event that Smart421 were sponsoring a couple of weeks ago.

I was thinking specifically about Microsoft when I started this train of thought. Once the new kid on the block with DOS, the PC and Windows – they are now the prime target of the new disruptive vendors (Google etc.).  I remember Microsoft holding sway for a generation.

Now Apple is the establishment, I give it five more years. Facebook three – as it’s now being colonised by the 50+ generation – gen X and Y don’t think it is cool any more.

The internet and YouTube allowed everyone to showcase their ‘talent’ to the world. Mobile and ubiquitous connectivity disrupted monopoly distribution channels for film and music – allowing micro-trends to surface.

Amazon Web Services through Cloud, democratised the technology landscape environment where ideas are the currency and access to compute power does not stand in the way of creativity or a business ideas.

What we are seeing now is a multitude of Vendors, Mobile Devices, Platforms and Social Media fads rising and falling in cycles. When these cycles converge it creates a paradigm shift in the system.  We’re seeing it now with the fall of the PC and the rise of Tablets (or portable surfaces) etc.

Any Futurologists out there that want to bet on the next ?

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One of my team pointed me at a recent Forrester report on how businesses need to ensure that Gamifcation meets its objectives and it reminded me that Gamification has been around in many forms for many years.

Take the grading and reward structure in large companies; are you a grade 12, 13b or 13c; what car did you get – the GT or the GTi, or only the basic LX; and did you ever get that key to the executive toilet ?

Technology, firstly the PC, then console and now interconnectivity and truly mobile platforms have accelerated the social aspect of gaming in the last few years. Accepting or even desiring a level of ‘play’ will be a growing trend as the generation who are native gamers have grown into the ones we need to attract to buy from us, or work for us.

But in the same way there are 100’s of game apps available and only a few get played compulsively, there must be a hook in any corporate application making them fun, simple and able to reward players immediately, to lure them to the next attempt. There must be some element of enjoying the ‘game’ element, immediate feedback and not just the reward at the end. That’s where the steady corporate approach, the work ethic and the long term plan will fail you.

Smart421 has developed a few applications with Gamification at their heart and my #1 rule would be to give the specification and development of these to your youngest team, you know – the ones with no discipline, who come in late and who you can’t understand what they are saying. (!)

And don’t forget Gamers make better decision makers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11295257) so you might want to encourage those guys to contribute to your business strategy too.

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EOA-summit-logo-2013It was great to see National Rail Enquiries (NRE) win an award at the European Outsourcing Association Awards in Amsterdam last Friday (26 April).

In recognition of their SIAM outsourcing strategy (Service Integration and Management), NRE won the award for Best Multi-sourcing Project of the Year , beating strong category finalists 60k and Centrica (Centrica won this category in 2012).

Smart421 is pleased to be a large part of that initiative, performing the Managed Services element on top of an AWS Cloud platform for several key NRE applications.

As customers struggle with the chains of traditional SI relationships, Smart421 is providing agile delivery and innovation methods in the IaaS world.

Many analysts see this as “third generation outsourcing” and a change for good – and so do I.

 

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As my conference season is fast approaching I have been looking at what will I be wearing this year. Well, Open Identity, Open Infrastructure and Open Integration are the themes of my Spring collection.

First up is Open Identity with the Gartner Identity and Access Management Summit ( #GartnerIAM ). I’m heading straight for the ForgeRock stand which I think will be buzzing this year as we’re seeing interest taking off in their products – and our partnership is really starting to get into its stride too.

Next up will be Open Infrastructure at the AWS Summit in London. This will be especially interesting following Smart421 winning two major AWS contracts recently and starting to operate in the SIAM role for National Rail Enquiries. My expectation is that this time around many more enterprises be declaring their AWS credentials – which is closer to my personal experience.

Last but not least, it’s Open Integration, back at Gartner for the Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit ( #GartnerAADI ) in London on 16-17 May. This time we’re showcasing how Smart421 is turning the Service Factory concept “inside-out” to create the Open Enterprise. If you want to see more then come along and meet us there.

All three themes all tie back to how we see the Future of Architecture developing and that’s getting quite exciting too.

Office Printer

Office Printer
Photo: Frank Baron for The Guardian

I was reading some spam about how IT is really changing the business world today and it got me thinking. When I started work in 1981 everything was already run on a mainframe, so in my opinion the next 30 years of computing was not been about delivering change at all – it was just about moving things backwards and forwards.

In the first 15 years the only demonstrable changes for users was the location of their printer and their applications. Printing went from a computer centre, to a print room in their building and then on to their desk. Day to day applications moved from the computer centre to their desktop PC and then to a computer room in their building.

The following 15 years moved things about again. Moving the printer back to the end of the corridor and printing into colour; applications moved from the computer room back to a computer centre; printed documents moved from the filing cabinet to the recycling bin; the development team moved 5000 miles away; and finally our private experiences started to move from a close circle of friends to being publically available on the internet.

What next ? Every application is moving to a mobile device; data is moving to ‘somewhere in space’; and we’re even being encouraged to ‘bring our own device’ to work – moving the workstation to the home and back each day.

The future of work is rapidly changing and perhaps now, at last, we will have the next phase of true automation.

But I’m yet to be convinced.

Just fresh back from CIO Connect ( @CIOConnect ) 2nd & 3rd October in London – and wondering how the topics raised effect our customers today ?

The best session for me was by Glenn Morgan of BA, where two key points stood out.

Firstly, that IT departments should see their “customer” being the same revenue generating customer as the business do – and not just focus on the “internal” customer.

Secondly, that IT should be part of the team developing a business strategy and not a follower – a follower that then has to catch up. That is just too late.

My recent experience is pointing to the fact that our most successful customers have already made the leap and see IT as a true enabler. They are encouraging IT to reach into the business to ensure initiatives are quickly translated into deliverables and there is a true ‘line of sight’ from the business objective to the application that hits the screens – be those screens 3½ or 100 inch wide.

That strategy obviously calls for more rounded people who can think more broadly than a raw requirements specification and are not frightened to contribute ideas directly to the business.

And that is really encouraging to me – as it describes the Smart421 team exactly.

Martin Brazill

“outages with online banking apps, mobile networks and broadband point to why more resilience is now needed” Martin Brazill

I’m beginning to feel like I’ve had a glimpse of the Stone Age. My personal BT Broadband was down for eight days which left a surprising large gap in my life.

Why ? Well, I needed to pay my credit card bill which I always do on-line in the evening – very convenient. So without broadband I decided to fall back to my O2 smart phone and my Nat West Banking app. Ah – only to hit problems with the bank, which was off line due to the widely publicised RBS problems. So I decided to phone up my branch – ah [again] no mobile network was available.

OK, so I survived a few hours “off the grid” but it did make me think that with our dependency on technology and communications we need stronger resilience. Up until now the pace of change has been so great that it’s been [comparatively] uneconomic to build resilience.

Now with the maturity of the Cloud solutions there are fewer costs barriers and no excuses not to build that resilience. Smart421 is already helping our customers with this – so if you want us to help you please form an orderly queue here.

And yes, I managed to get my credit card paid off too – eventually.  Phew.

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