My perspective as a life-long business technologist predisposes me to the reality of constant change. Businesses today cannot stop innovating, because technology and impactful technological change is pervasive. The concept of the internet of things continues to undersell the magnitude of the change given that everything is becoming connected and that everything is signaling, everything has a voice, everything has a vote!

From an information technology perspective, a mantra today is continuous experimentation and continuous innovation. In the context of a customer, monolithic step by step projects which rollout functionality years after beginning are relics. Today’s successful and customer integrated enterprise rolls out functionality continually, continually experimenting and continually testing what works better today than it did yesterday.

A challenge in all this innovation and experimentation is developing a pathway or roadmap. It certainly can’t be a traditional and detailed plan that covers months or years – that would most likely constrain the delivery of experimentation and true innovation.

The innovation pathway then, must be hypothesis driven. There must be something of value or something tangible that an organization is driving towards; there should be a target since innovation probably won’t be random. The hypothesis, the aspects of customer connectedness or customer preferences that an enterprise is aiming to refine, is then tested against big data. Big data becomes the data source, the repository of feedback that needs to be sifted through in order to prove or disprove the hypothesis. This is very much the scientific method applied to massive data resulting from very many “test subjects”. The hypothesis has to be in place to guide the innovation, otherwise the investment in effort and time will just be random experimentation instead of targeted innovation.

A significant challenge in most organizations with Information Technology professionals schooled in rigorous and methodical processes is how to become agile and then stay that way. There is tremendous value in a deep background of IT experiences and leadership; experience is a prerequisite to successful innovation – the challenge is to shift the mindset and timeframe of expectations to an agile one.

Connect with me if you are interested in discussing Information Technology innovation in your enterprise.

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Where one placed in search engine results used to be the primary driver of success or failure of commercially focused web teams. If you’re not in the top 5 results listed, instant gratification driven users probably wouldn’t “find” you.

Enter a new search paradigm, using an integrated virtual assistant such as Siri, Alexa, and new to the market Viv. These virtual assistants, as I have written in the past, go beyond search and suggest results based on broader contexts, be it your calendar, your contacts, personal preferences or other parameters. Sure, search engine results and targeted ads in web pages always supported a context through the use of such mechanisms as cookies, but the level of application integration emerging with new assistants, will render most of that moot.

Viv, for example, a new virtual assistant discussed in this week’s Washington Post, does its magic through integration with partner applications. Through under the cover interfaces, requests for action to the Viv assistant will trigger exchanges of information with apps from Uber, Florist One, SeatGuru, Grubhub and others. These interactions obviously include some apps, but exclude all others. In order to truly define a set of results that the virtual assistant can manage, the set of options has to be limited. The option limitation locks the assistant and the assistant’s boss (you) into a very specific and finite set of applications. This is not very different than working with Alexa, as one is “locked” into applications specifically integrated with the Amazon assistant’s capabilities. Or Siri, where only Apple based calendar and contact information come into play. An interesting question then surfaces, will this limitation of locking in options be a factor in curtailing the growth of virtual assistants? Will the true breakthrough occur when there is a complete capability of personalization based on each individual’s consumer habits? Until then, remember, when you are choosing a virtual assistant, you are choosing only a specific suite of applications the assistant is knowledgeable with. If you want to choose and act on your own, go back to a search engine.

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WhatsApp Setting the Encryption Bar?

by Administrator on April 6, 2016

In a technical white paper published by WhatsApp on April 4, 2016, the WhatsApp team documents an encryption upgrade which happened automatically for over a billion users. This default architecture makes WhatsApp “the most widely used cryptographic tool on the planet” according to CNNMoney.

Interestingly enough, the push by the WhatsApp team to add end-to-end encryption pre-dates the iPhone security conversations with the U.S. FBI taking place over the last several months. According to an article in Wired, the encryption effort began in earnest in 2014. To me, the interesting aspect of this development is the near instantaneous “flip-the-switch” capability which brings end-to-end encryption to over one billion users. I assume, no permission is sought, no governments or official agencies consulted, no general change management practices employed. Since the architecture changes without the need for user impact, and the application’s capabilities are “enhanced”, the change takes place and viola, messages and communications move globally unhindered and now end-to-end encrypted.
Again, an interesting development where technology, corporate information management and personal communications intersect. Sometimes, change does just happen and the best plans must be flexible, dynamic and adaptable – and shared consumer solutions such as WhatsApp must be understood in the broader context of personal information sharing and collaboration and not internal corporate strategies.

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Pardon the Interruption!

by Administrator on March 16, 2016

According to a Gartner report, by 2020, the impact of interruptions on human effectiveness will cause 40% of enterprises to restrict notifications on wearables and smartphones.

The concept of an interruption is an interesting one. The roots of the word are from old French, derived from “a break of continuity”. If you assume that a break in continuity, let’s say in a thought process or in the act of providing a service to a customer, is not desirable, then the onslaught of technology is indeed making it more and more challenging to maintain continuity. With technology spreading from desktop PCs to personal smart phones down to our wrist with smart watches, an increasing level of interruptions is inevitable. Overlay this scenario with the intermingling of personal and professional devices where companies have rolled out Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies, and the policy questions and decisions rise in complexity. What will be allowed to interrupt your work day and when? What will rate the highest, or even pass through a filter process: a business alert, a personal alert, or an alert from the networked coffee machine that the office just ran out of Columbian Blend? Getting out in front of this is imperative, especially in the policy environment. Educating and managing the change over time will be significantly easier than abruptly curtailing someone’s perceived rights when it comes to self-selecting which interruptions to be exposed to throughout the day. Thoughtful policies will be key, and then implementation over time will be necessary.

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