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Big Data July 13, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Big Data, business analytics, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Information Technology, Knowledge Management.
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Perhaps you have heard of the term “big data.” Well does it seem to be rising atop the curve of inflated expectations? It is probably a healthy perspective to be just a bit suspicious of “big data” solutions coming to the rescue where all others have been unsuccessful.

There are certainly examples where scientists compare approaches to problem solving and this includes conversations about big data. Big problems need solutions that can operate at “big” scale, and the phenomenon of big data is certainly real. The three Vs of volume, velocity and variety, coined by the Gartner Group, have helped us to frame the characteristics of what we understand as big data.

Ultimately it is how these “problems” get solved by using distributed data and distributed processing. Some will do things “internally” while others will take to the cloud. But as many have already experienced, some of the “cloud benefits” (related to “bursty” allocation against resource) are not there for “big data” configurations.

Said more simply, the benefits of lightly touching the cloud resources and getting the financial benefit of this time-sharing is diminished for big data problems that keep the resources fully utilized and thereby incur the highest order of expense against the cloud infrastructure. This reality affects how we must architect solutions that cross into the cloud and make use of “heavy lifting” within our own corporate intranet infrastructure. It keeps the “big data” problem interesting for sure.

With all of that being said, it’s quite another thing when you start to hear how big data is going to upend everything. It is quite unlikely that big data will usher in a “revolution” to transform how we live, work, and think. We do well to approach the topic of big data as just a new tool in the toolkit and use it for those problems where it makes sense.

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Realities of the New Work Environment April 15, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Community, Data Portability, Economics, Information Policy, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Trends such as globalization, economic change, externalization, and consumerization are creating  new realities in the modern information workplace.  Here are four workplace realities that are already having an effect on the way we get things done.

1. Greater Interdependence – Employees collaborate many more individuals in their day-to-day work than they did just a decade ago (typically ten or more). As a result, nearly one-half of an employee’s impact on business unit profitability comes from network performance—the ability to help others perform and be helped by others. In contrast, in 2002, nearly 80% of an employee’s impact came from individual task performance. Although network performance is vital, only 20% of employees are effective at it. The way IT supports enterprise collaboration must change as IT adopts techniques to understand and support the needs of teams and individuals.

2. Frequent Organizational Change – Clearly organizations have never stood still.  However, a majority of employees feel that the rate of change is accelerating. Since 2010, the average employee has experienced major changes including:  reorganizations, strategy revisions, or new leadership, at a cycle of roughly every seven months. This state of near continuous change shortens business partner time horizons and puts a premium on responsive IT planning and budgeting. It also undermines efforts to encapsulate business process in enterprise systems and increases the value of integration.

3. Greater Knowledge Intensity – Ah, the Knowledge Management stuff…  An increasing percentage of employees (over 80%) are conducting knowledge work that requires analysis and judgment. Knowledge work is becoming ubiquitous because of transaction automation and the emergence of “big data,” In addition, business volatility means that even when transactions remain manual, there are plenty of exceptions that require analysis and judgment to resolve. Information technology investments are already changing to reflect this trend, with more money being spent on analytics and collaboration and less on process automation.

4. More Technology Choice – It is commonly reported that a serious majority (nearly two-thirds) of employees use personal devices for work purposes.  This is huge!   However, this transition to device consumerization is only the starting point. After BYOD comes BYOI, BYON, and BYOA; bring your own information, networks, and applications. Almost one-half of all employees already use external, unofficial information sources for work purposes,  about a quarter of employees source their own collaboration and networking tools, and a fifth of employees use their own analytic tools. Although BYO has risks, it cannot be stopped. Managed correctly, it can provide faster access to new capabilities and a better fit with individual employee workflows.

New Roles within Enterprise IT April 13, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Education, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Talent within information technology is adapting to new roles as the work environment changes over the next five years (2013 to 2017).

  1. Collaboration and Social Media Evangelist – Responsible for understanding drivers of collaborative behavior and creating, managing, and developing a collaboration and social media strategy.   The person is likely to have a background in business, marketing, communications, or behavioral science, such as anthropology, organizational behavior, or psychology; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  Their job responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing user behavior to understand workflows and collaboration needs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media strategy
    • Encouraging adoption of relevant collaboration and social media tools and techniques
    • Advocating for adoption of collaboration tools
    • Creating and delivering end-user awareness and training programs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media usage policies and procedures
  2. Information Insight Enabler – This role helps the IT organization drive employee productivity and help with equipping employees with competencies and not just tools.  They are responsible for supporting business unit heads, service managers, and knowledge workers with insight, business intelligence, and management reports for effective decision making.  They are likely to have a background in market or financial research or in analytics or statistics.  Their unique key responsibilities include:
    • Understanding the decision-making process and the workflows of business unit heads and service manager
    • Identifying knowledge worker’s information needs
    • Representing information in a user-friendly manner
    • Identifying trends and patterns; generates insight for business units and senior leadership
    • Developing frameworks and processes to analyze unstructured information
    • Performing market and customer research and analysis, and creating dashboards and scorecards
  3. Cloud Integration Specialist – This role assimilates cloud services—for both Applications and Infrastructure—into the existing IT environment.  They have experience in developing, deploying, and maintaining integration solutions; most likely to come from EAI or middleware implementation background, such as EAI/Integration developer.  Key responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaborating with business unit leaders, service managers, and technology brokers to evaluate new cloud service offerings and determine integration needs
    • Coordinating with enterprise and information architects to ensure new cloud services align with technology roadmap
    • Working closely with business process analyst to ensure integration activities improve business processes
    • Coordinating testing efforts to identify and resolve any cross-functional integration issues
  4. User Experience Guru – This role collaborates with service managers and end users to understand and improve user experience and workflow for new and existing applications.   They are likely to have a specialist background in behavioral science, graphic design, or product design; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  They will design and configure user-centric interfaces for in-house and cloud applications, allowing end users to access, visualize, and navigate information and analytics with ease.  Some of their key responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing business and functional requirements
    • Creating user-centered design
    • Improving the user experience
    • Visualizing and presenting information in a user- friendly manner to end users
  5. Technology Broker – This role is responsible for managing spend with all providers in a given category, such as Infrastructure or Applications.  They are likely to have a background in sales or business development at a technology service provider; alternatively, may have a procurement background or extensive experience managing programs that relied on external providers for delivery.  They will introduce new technologies and vendors to business units, the services group, and the remaining IT organization.  Their key roles include:
    • Understanding business needs and translates those into technology capabilities
    • Identifying new and existing technology offerings available in the market or in house
    • Negotiating contracts and manages relationships with multiple vendors for a category of IT spend
    • Creating and maintaining a catalog of technology services
    • Defining service level agreements to monitor vendor performance
  6. End-to-End IT Service Manager – End-to-End IT Services Packages all the technologies, processes, and resources across IT needed to deliver a specific business outcome while hiding technical complexity.  They are responsible for defining and delivering end-to- end IT services and is the primary owner of one or more services.  They are likely to have experience in IT service delivery, direct business engagement, technology sales and marketing, and financial plan development; more likely to be sourced from account manager or business relationship manager, solutions manager, architects, or infrastructure manager roles.  Responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaboration with IT–business relationship managers to develop the end-to-end IT services strategy
    • Developing annual IT service delivery plan and negotiates delivery expectations with business partners
    • Providing information to business partners about service improvement opportunities and collaborates with them to drive down business costs and effectively support business capabilities
    • Guiding the service review process to drive continuous improvement efforts for services

Whats New In The Cloud? December 10, 2012

Posted by stewsutton in Cloud, Cloud Computing, Data Portability, Economics, Information Technology.
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The Cloud.  That vast and curious location that seems to be good for everything.  We can store our photos, our books, our music, and our various working files there.  Beyond all of that data, we can also do real computing in the cloud.  The sort of computing that we used to accomplish on large corporate computing infrastructure or even on our own personal computers.  So why does this matter?

Well, the changes and transformation of services that are being made available to both companies and individuals are affecting the way we use our computers, our laptops, our tablets, and our smart phones.  Consider some of the changes that have already been adopted by many:

  1. Keep your music on iTunes and use iTunes match to sync all of your songs across all your devices anytime and anywhere they are connected to the Internet network.  This is the cloud jukebox that you own and it is ready to play your music anytime.
  2. Buy your books on Amazon and you have a permanent digital library that spans your iPad, your Kindle, your iPhone, your computer, and any other digital device you own.  Download any of your “books” at any time from the Cloud Library and enjoy reading it on your device.  As you switch between devices the cloud keeps your location synced so that you easily resume where you left off.
  3. Photo services like Flickr and others allow you to upload and stream your photos as needed across any of your digital viewing devices.  This is your photo album in the cloud and there are many choices for your digital photo albums.  Many seem to even use services like Facebook and Twitter as a way to store and share their photos – especially photos captured on smart phones.

With these changes having become commonplace, might we consider the digital cloud to become our infinite network disk drive and the home to our favorite applications?  Probably so.  This will have the biggest impact in how we “manage” our data.  Not that long ago we probably had our important data on a local computer that was in our office or in our home.  If we were disciplined, (and cautious), we likely made some effort to occasionally back-up or copy the important information onto another computer disk so that we could recover if our computer “had a problem.”

One of the major differences in our day-to-day relationship to our data that is cloud-based is that we are not typically going to be given simple options to “copy” and “backup” of that data to our local disk.  Some services provide this and others take it a step further by offering cloud-based backup of data.  If you are with a top-tier provider of applications, and data services (e.g. Amazon, Apple, Google, etc.) your data is unlikely to disappear due to bad procedures or failed equipment.  It’s also increasingly common for new companies that offer compelling new services that sit atop the infrastructure of a company like Amazon.  So instead of reinventing all of this cloud infrastructure and operations, the new company leverages what is already a proven reliable asset.

Each of us will likely be offered new services by the top-tier cloud providers in the coming years.  These services will range from banking services and digital safety boxes to high-end applications that we generally associate with a dedicated computer.  The difference is that we will “rent” the services in much the same way that we “rent” services like phone minutes and cable TV channels.  Data portability will be one of the important characteristics that will separate the better providers from the rest.  Making sure that you can “get a full copy” of your data and move it to another cloud provider will be a key criteria for selecting a cloud provider.  As we move toward more and more cloud services, data portability should be top-of-mind for everyone.