Monthly Archives: December 2013

Tech paradigm shifts so where are the experts?

paradigm shift

A day doesn’t go by when you pick up a post or tweet or news feed that says our planet is firmly enveloped in a technology paradigm shift like never before.

Info graphics abound wowing us with amazingly gigantic numbers on how technology is being consumed by our planet, and that over the next 5, 10, 20 and so on years the numbers will scale to points where we don’t have the words in our vocabulary yet. The range of devices and software available ( and coming our way in seemingly endless waves of launch ) is overwhelming.

No way is this more felt than in the corporate world where the alignment of terms such as big data and social networks has meant that many senior stakeholders now take these ‘info graphics’ to heart as they search for ways to align IT with their business in a way that they can understand.

Strategy is now a hard conversation when there is so much ‘outside influence’ on the heavy lifting decisions an organization has to make, yet there is a now a groundswell of opinion outside the traditional IT room that means that strategy now has to embrace business change through technology at a pace never seen before in the modern technology era.

Going ( or gone ) are the days where IT’s ability to ‘align’ to the business was limited to web sites, plumbing ( lights on not the water ), MIS departments, and a bit of remote access. Now IT ( and not really IT by the way, but technology which is different ) has significant competition in the form of all things ‘innovative’, ‘big’, ‘transformational’ and ‘agile’.

And I get this. But what I don’t get is this.

IF WE ARE IN THE TECHNOLOGY PARADIGM SHIFT OF ALL THINGS NEW THEN ….WHERE ARE THE EXPERTS?

Now before I argue the case I do distinguish between the true corporate technology paradigm shifts versus the high street technology paradigm shifts so lets say Hybrid Cloud, xYOD, web services versus augmented reality, wearable technology, 3D print and so on.

One argument against will be that we have had similar waves of new before and we all coped in terms of delivering IT service.  The experts developed from the existing ‘managers’ of the IT department and they became expert on the job. Certification and training was the order of the day to ensure a level of skill was in place to manage the impact of change. Books and manuals would patiently explain a piece of technology and IT would feed upon these resources to get their expert badges.

An argument for will  this will be that we have never had a user population so tech savvy and able to use multiple information sources seemingly at the same time in a never ending search for realtime information. So that the term expert is lost in the fact that everything appears so new that the IT service is falling way behind in their ability to understand what they are managing, and that there are no experts around simply because the ‘new stuff’ hasn’t ever been seen before or that the books and manuals have not been written ( nor will they.)

Another view supporting this lack of experts is that the industry has developed new ‘roles’ that potentially run counter to the traditional job roles in IT. You now meet as a matter of course people with titles like ‘Evangelist’ or ‘Service Architect’ who on paper appear to be able to knit together all the old and new into a viable IT service to support both today’s and tomorrow’s needs.

And I have a view that many IT organizations have fell foul of a ‘trap’ where their policy for ‘ringing the changes’ with IT personnel has slowed down whilst this paradigm shift speed up, causing a ‘expert gap’ that is now hurting. Take this example. If you have  a service manager or support analyst who has been in the same role for 20 years what do you have? Someone who is an expert in what happened 5, 10, 15 years ( yes ) but someone who can transition to something to support the business in the next 5 or 10 years ( perhaps not ) . On the flip an organization that has IT people who have arrived in the last 5 years may have an edge with skills more akin to innovation and open mindedness which will develop an expert culture.

I mean who would have thought asking this question was a relevant thing to do “Can you tell me the breakdown of your IT organization in terms of length of stay in their job function”.

Of course it is a balance but It does interest me a lot, especially as the audience for the ‘expert’ has now moved dramatically from being able to identify and fix those thorny tech problems we all used to be able to do 10 years ago ( and now forgotten how to ), to being able to design and service and IT organization that has no choice than to become a different type of expert.

And this really do interest me as you meet lots of people who ‘carry the title’ but often are not as you find, yet  in positions of great influence.

Brummieruss.

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Drawing IT architecture is one thing; Visualising what the outcome will be is another

While the urban planners and architects have nailed the use of visualization techniques to ‘show’ what success will look like, the search for people who can visualize the ‘modern IT infrastructure’ goes on.

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Decades of migration, upgrade and rationalization of the IT infrastructure has seen monumental strides towards an IT service that is like the proverbial ‘light bulb’, but still in my humble view fails too often to deliver what ‘the planner saw’.

I have a personal view that the complexity that exists deep inside the IT architectures we are all trying to build and support palls into insignificance compared to the complexities that exist inside the ecosystem of a modern city or building structure.

Wander into any major city anywhere in the world and what do you see? Development. Construction. Regeneration. Whether it is road works, living accommodation and offices, public amenities and leisure services, a modern city buzzes with activity. All of this activity goes in whilst the city or building continues to ‘live’ and through governance and controls, the programme of works just gets done.

Of course we all need this level of construction if not more to stimulate our economy and drive recovery from recession. Look at the area surrounding the London Olympic Park or the work going on in Brazil for the World Cup next year.

Now there  is one thing in common with all this building activity. A vision. A plan. A strategy. An expectation. A picture.

The last point is key. Walk around London or New York or any city really and you wont have to go far to find what I am on about. It will be an area mapped out for a new build construction or regeneration of existing buildings. Surrounding the site will be the traditional boards to protect the site and to adhere to health and safety compliance. More common however is the inclusion of the vision in pictorial form plastered all over the boards. Why? So the casual onlooker can wonder and learn what actually is going to be built. They can visualize what success will look like. More and more architects and planners are moving to an open access area for interested parties to view the vision using 3D visualization techniques and reality services to give the ‘viewer’ a realistic vision of what the change will actually be like.

Now rarely ( if never ) have I ever seen a building go up that didn’t look very closely to the visualization presented by the architect. Obviously. The attention to detail in the construction design guarantees that you get ‘what it says on the tin’. Haven’t we all said something like this as we stare into a pit of mud and chaos ” I can’t imagine that in 12 months’ time this will be a 5 star hotel or sports stadium2″?. I have. It can be quite awe inspiring to see how a visualisation can turn into reality. Again the London Olympic Park is a clear example.

Now back to the IT world. Many of us use the same words as our ‘colleagues’ in the construction world like ‘vision’, ‘strategy’, ‘architecture’ and so on. For those of us in the IT project management fraternity there is a really close mirror to those who are responsible for a construction project, yet this mirror is very often skewed by the real differences behind managing an IT project and a construction programme.

And I maintain that one of the biggest gaps in those doing IT architecture and construction architecture is the fact that one can visualise what they need and the other cannot.

Sure we all see IT architecture diagrams, plans, flow charts, graphs and so on, and we all marvel at the tools available to us to create solutions and services that exploit design software to represent the design, the programme and the progress against cost and time. But very few of us can  create a visualisation of the anticipated outcome. Of course this is very hard ( nah impossible  ) for many IT projects where the scope is purely a matter of installing hardware and software, and the success is merely a matter of delivering on time, without error and to budget. However, the shifting sands caused by consumerization of IT, the Gen Y wave and the whole desire to empower workers to be more productive, is now making the visualisation of the modern workplace quite an easy thing to do.

Just like the modern hotel complex with the visualisation of the exterior and interior down to the nth degree, the modern IT organization has an opportunity to chunk up and begin their business case journey for technological adoption with a picture.

Yes a simple picture. A picture that depicts how the technology being requested with ‘look’ in the hands of the consumer. Let me give you some examples. We all hear about BYOD. We all see pictures of people wandering around clutching their own smartphone whilst accessing their social world alongside their corporate world. But we don’t see or visualize the components that make the BYOD strategy work. Hang on. How do we visualize this? Well you can and when you do it helps you picture all the components necessary to make the BYOD work. Convinced? How about printing. Imagine all the elements necessary to make printing via the cloud work. Or what about backup of important data. In fact imagine all the IT projects in a typical portfolio. Now imagine all of them depicted in a visualization of the outcome. Ugh no way! But a modern city redevelopment consists of many more programmes and projects with the outcome easily visualised by the architects and planners. So why should IT be so special?

Now I can imagine you thinking this is pointless because all we need to plan an IT project is a  schematic or a whiteboard sketch. And I agree with you – in part. The change in how our cities, buildings and workers are treating their environment, their tools and their information is demanding an all up change in all the services they consume. IT is not exempt in fact it is right in the mainstream for all this change. A modern city is totally reliant on technology that is built into the city planner’s visualization. A modern building complex has the technology woven into the fabric of the construction build, and a modern worker just assumes technology is available and working.

In summary, the point is this. Anyone can knock up IT architecture diagrams but few can create a visualization of what the impact of the technology will be on the target whether a city, building or person. And even fewer can put up their visualization on the side of a hoarding alongside the project site, and put their reputation and wallet against the actual end result being exactly what they visualized.

Often wonder if working in the wrong industry?

Brummie.

Cloud first then Strategy or the other way round

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Which picture is correct?

We are now firmly in a cloud era where the majority of organizations have a cloud presence of some sort or other. However, many others still debate the tangible benefits of cloud versus other decisions they need to make to deliver IT service. Of course many will argue that before you make a decision about cloud you need strategy. Others will argue that cloud is not the issue it is the lack of a strategy that has cloud fail to deliver true business benefit.

Logic suggests that you need a strategy before you make any IT decision worth its while because as we all know the lack of a joined up aligned IT decision to a business outcome is sheer folly. However, there are multitudes of examples where cloud has ‘swerved’ round the proverbial barrier and created the IT Shadow where cloud services have been able to fill a gap, service a short term need or become a ‘back door’ into a corporate infrastructure.

You see organizations deploy Cloud services fail to control and monopolize on the benefits and subsequently face tremendous cost and down time by retro fitting strategy to justify the decision to use Cloud.  The lack of control from an IT organization and the emergence of other stakeholders making cloud decisions has exacerbated this situation and is a great example to me of a ‘Cloud decision looking for a strategy’.

On the other hand there are those who have taken the controlled approach to align IT decisions to business outcomes, and have realized that whilst cloud may be an inevitable event in the lifetime of their organization. There is a very distinct and structured approach needed to make cohesive decisions on platforms. devices, service management, security, governance and financial responsibility.

Ask yourself…Where you work  – which picture applies ?

Brummie.

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