Its been a long time I blogged, it feels good to get back to it again. With all the digital data around it sure is difficult to take some time out to think what does it all mean anyway. This blog post is an attempt in this direction. We have been hearing the statement “Data is the next intel inside” for some time now. A recent statement by IBM CEO “Data is the next natural resource” is really a much stronger statement and needs some introspection into.What’s all the (Big) Data hype all about anyway?
As predicted here a decade ago, data has grown explosively in the 3-Dimensions of Volume, Variety and Velocity. The database landscape graph here is good portrayal of how the tech community is trying to address this problem in the different dimensions. As of 2012, about 2.5 exabytes of data are created each day. The info graphic below shows some sources for this data.
Given that there is already a huge amount of digital data existing and much more being created everyday why should be care? I was recently at the CeBIT tech exhibition show with the theme “Shareconomy” and how (Big) Data driven “Smart” applications are and will change the world was a common theme at different exhibits. While cloud computing (be it IaaS, PaaS & SaaS) has mostly focused on reduced infrastructure costs its really value is in ability to enable companies learn from the data usage and help them focus on things that really matter for their customers. New business models are enabled by big data. While some companies like Salesforce see the data deluge as an opportunity to build “facebook like” user interface for enterprise end users to ease consumption. Other companies like KhanAcademy leverage the data to create a “flipped classroom” education platform where “learning” is emphasized than “teaching”. Data enables “feedback loops” to “validate learning” which is the key principle for lean startups to enable sustainable business. Advances in IT enable leveraging the unstructured (big) data with the structured (enterprise) data to engage with customers in new ways in real time. Products and services are being built much faster and customer acceptance measured to improve or kill the new offering based on such “experiments” in real time. Such “Agile” enterprises are the one setting the “speed of innovation” for their industries. Facebook’s recently announced “Home” interface for mobile highlights the importance about owning the data interface to end users. If you can “engage” the users you can have a greater impact on your companies bottom line. This quality is best highlighted by Amazon and its letter to its shareholders is very insightful in this regard.
Given that (Big) data is important how can we best profit from it? Given that we live in ever increasingly digital (thanks to our mobile devices) world we need to be smart as to where we are engaging in the “digital world” and why. “Time” is the critical resource and we need to use it in the optimal way. (Big) data needs “Big filters” to help us not be drowned in the data. One needs to develop skills to do “Data driven experiments” to learn from the “consumption” patterns to create sustainable business value. While “Open Data” access to different data sets is partly driving the current (Big) data hype. Its important to ensure “openness” of critical data sets at the same time taking care of the privacy and intellectual property rights concerns.
We will have much more data in the future, thanks to devices like goolge glass. Given a lot of IT innovations are still needed to make Big data vision a reality we will do well to enable this data driven disruption than be surprised by it.
Having just completed my part time project to support Science on Stage (The European platform for Science Teachers) to develop teaching material for ICT (information and communication technology) in natural sciences I would like to share my thoughts in this blog. The project which lasted almost a year was sponsored by SAP CSR initiative and had an objective for European Science teachers to use ICT to collect, analyze and visualize data. Quite a few science teachers (coming from over 11 EU countries) involved in the project were new to programming. In my role as one of the programming experts to support the teachers learn and use software tools I got involved in helping with the programming aspects of the teaching material.
After initial identification of topics (ranging from Bicycle to space, Monster rain,..)for developing teaching material different software tools were evaluated for usability in the projects. Interestingly while the physics teachers were pretty comfortable with the idea of using Java to for developing programs for the Biology & Chemistry teachers idea of programming in it was not at all a option. Technically teachers needed to use ICT tools to collect data (ex: Spring Oscillations, Flight of ball, random rabbit selection for breeding..), analyze this data (ex: compute acceleration, rabbit offspring generation,.. ) and visualize this data (ex: plot trajectory, population distribution,..) Among the tools initially evaluated included open source physics library, Logger pro (commercial video analysis tool), Tracker (open source video analysis tool), SAP Xcelsius, Google Docs, SAP Streamwork. In the project halfway status review meeting it was clear that the Physics related learning modules were pretty advanced in developing the programming content (based on Java) in the other sciences some additional tool would be needed to better help the teachers. It was here that the tool Scratch was presented to the teachers and they were pretty happy to try it out (thanks to its end user friendly development interface) and eventually ended up using it in some of their projects. The final results of the project are available online here as iStage teaching material and the related content is also available on the Apple app store as iBook.
Lot of interesting content was developed by the science teachers and the programs developed by them and their students also were pretty impressive. I personal developed a Xcelsius based dashboard for demonstrating biology concepts related to breeding in rabbits. Getting to integrate this into a wordpress based public website from EMBL here was more effort than I had planned for :( The additional teacher training given to multiple the ICT learning in schools with tools Tracker and Scratch was pretty well received. The tools are good examples for how domain specific tools can look like that can help teachers develop ICT enhanced learning modules (they can be still improved but are much less challenging than using eclipse and java to develop programs by the science teachers).
Even as the Teacher community prepares for the next project (which also happens to be supported by SAP) to use Mobile phones in learning context, it is also a good point to reflect back. While the Science on Stage community has created a lot of useful content over the years I personally think they can do better in making the content more consumable and extendable in the web by making it more social. This is one area we plan to do more in the next project The blog posts from “social is the plural for personal” provide some good ideas for this.In case you are personally interested in contributing to supporting the community please get back to me. A lot of interesting mobile projects are in the pipeline and a lot of development support would be needed Personally I can say from experience that you can get to learn a lot in the project and in particular get to meet a lot of motivated science teachers from across Europe. The feedback from teachers like “I used Skype first time to collaborate”, “I still cannot program but now know what needs to be done” “working across countries in interdisciplinary manner” was very motivating considering that most teachers were working outside their normal school teaching duties. Science on and off stage in Europe seems to have a good future
Having recently attended a huge software developer conference it provided enough inputs for me to lean back and think where is the software industry heading anyway. This post is to share some of these thoughts. The key message for me was “Consumption is King”. “Cloud”, “Mobile” and “Social” are redefining consumption and software industry is reinventing itself to adapt to these new realities. There are two key aspects to consider in this reinvention. First, how is software production lifecycle changing and the second, what software is being produced.
Currently 90 day product release cycles and much lesser implementation times are demanded by the enterprise software world as is the norm in the consumer software space. This is where the classical “on premise” packaged software world fails and the “on demand” software as a service model excels. For the producers of packaged software this would mean a fundamental change in their business model from production processes, delivery models, sales models to support models. While the “cloud software” vendors have been able to build infrastructure from ground up to support such a business model the traditional vendors are still adapting. How does the modern software business model look like? It begins with the data layer with a next generation database. With the In-memory databases promising the best potential here. Having datacenter competencies to support high volume/low cost multitenant applications is essential. Most vendors are racing to establish their “Platform as a Service(PaaS)” offering to own this space (be it Salesforce with Force platform, Microsoft with Azure, Amazon web services, Google, VMWare, Facebook,…). This is still a market up for grabs. Its most likely that the traditional software stack (Database, Application Servers, Messaging Servers,..) will manifest itself in some specialized forms of “PaaS” offering with focus on Mobile, Collaboration(read social), Analytical, Transactional apps or a combination of a few. In this context its all the more important to get end users to using the platform, a developer ecosystem to build for it and for the vendor to efficiently integrate with other platforms. The software production process to support global supply chains at cloud speed will be a real challenge. While most vendors are adopting variants of open source development processes (including contribution to open source products) , challenges on how they can be integrated and supported still remain. This production model which permits lower costs and greater adoption will most likely survive in particular for software at infrastructure layer. “Appstore” model to enable easy discovery and consumption of software is the new software delivery and sales model. Its difficult to predict how this can look like in the future but the need for “instant” gratification will remain.How can the future support models looks like? While the “Maintenance Service tax” driven support model will surely change how the vendors can build a model to leverage “community” to drive support cost down and offer the benefit to end users will be important.
What new applications are coming from the software industry anyway? I like a recent Mckinsey article that “software layer” can enrich all customer touch points. Software is not only enriching but also enabling entirely new kind of experiences. Some examples for this are 3D printing, khan academy style teaching, Google glasses project to name a few. The software layer is enabling mass production of personalized goods/services and in the process disrupting traditional industries in different domains. With social networks acting as “filters” for the ever increasing data flood, information consumption and production will continue to explode. Its building rich applications on this software layer that will create the predicted new millions of jobs in IT. The recent software stars like “Instagram” and “Pinterest” show how fast things can be a hit in the “new software industry”.
As the Arab Spring transforms itself into a Wall Street Autumn revolution its worth to pause and think what is really happening. I would like to share some of my thoughts in this blog post. Interestingly the two movements mirror the fundamental problems in the our state of the union. While the Eastern World is fighting for true democracy the Western world is fighting the current Capitalism driven democracy. The fundamental forces driving consumption and production (call it market economics if you like) maybe the common theme to both. Thanks to digital media (social networks in particular) & modern capitalism its pretty easy for people to see what they can consume/produce and they are obviously not happy with their current state. In this context the article, GDP Is Dead: Will The World Be Happier Without It? makes interesting reading.
While there can be no one size fits all solution its worth to understand the broader factors driving current consumption/production. Its easy to blame “Greece” (or other economically backward locations for that matter) for the European crisis but identifying and fixing the real issues calls for a lot of hard work/sacrifices than fighting for rights in the streets. We need to understand how the next generation consumption and production looks like and how all the market participants need to adapt to it. While a balance is needed in what you consume and produce, in a increasingly personalized/specialized world what culture of consumption/production is needed?
If Industrial revolution created “mass production” (with related employment) opportunities the current IT revolution is creating “mass consumption” (mobile devices and social networks being drivers) opportunities. While ERP systems of the past automated the production processes (read blue collar work) the current generation IT systems are automating service related process (read white collar work). While the current increasingly automated physical and digital factories (across all domains of work) are disrupting the current patterns of consumption/production, we may well see revolutions all the year round.
The real question for me is how do we move from the current trends of mass consumption to one of mass production (using the human factor) as well, in a way that we can create wealth needed for consumption. I personally feel Education is a fundamental input needed for wealth creation in the Knowledge economy. The German mindset of “selbst machen” aka “DIY” culture imbued since birth in all activities (parenting, kindergarten/school, Television,…) is a good basis to think about creating a sustainable economy (the current strength of Germany economy is a good proof point for this). While new production tools are needed to support the new consumption patterns, the challenge is to get the best brains to work on the problems with maximum impact for the society in large. Providing open access to knowledge is another area fundamental for creating a sustainable world. While we seem to be making progress in some fronts still a lot more needs to be done. The recent call to arms for a “Enterprise Spring” by a leading Enterprise software advocate may be a portend of things to come.
I would like to share my thoughts related to need, trends & design issues related to Digital Marketplaces in this blog. Marketplaces maybe as old as human history and Digital marketplaces have been also around for some time, may be with Stock markets being the most sophisticated forms of it. While EBay and Amazon made Digital Marketplaces more common, from the Dotcom era, its possibly Apple, with its Appstore model success, that has attracted the most attention for Digital Marketplaces for the mass markets.
Why are Digital Marketplaces suddenly a craze again? The ease of content consumption and creation by the new Mobile devices has a lot to do with it. In this context its interesting to reflect over statements, “Content is King”, “Aggregation is King”, “Distribution is King maker”, “Contributor is King”. A related interesting article can be found here http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/why-content-isn-8217-t-king/8551/2/ While the business models of different industries are being redefined I find the Big Idea from Strategy Guru Michael E Porter on “Creating Shared Value” particularly important. The value creation in Network (be it Personal Social Networks or Professional Business Networks) driven growth is the new reality. While all aspects of Value Chain are important and modern ERP systems have done a good job of automating business process, its how we can harness the Social networks (Employee and Ecosystem) to create Shared value in Digital Marketplaces, the new challenge.
While Apple has shown what is needed to build such Digital Marketplace others are busy trying to replicate it and improve it in different domains. Having products that can delight consumers, are simple to use, offer instant value, consumers can trust the provider and social controls exist on content are some of the key requirements for a successful Digital Marketplace. Building such Marketplaces would have two fold challenge. One hand creating technology/products to run such a marketplace (nice youtube video related to this) and on the other hand having management practices that enable open/transparent collaboration with ecosystem. The current emphasis on “Lean/Agile” processes and “Design Thinking” approaches are important to achieve this. I find the debate on “People vs Process” at the heart of this problem, this article (and comments!) throws some interesting light on this.
In conclusion I can only say there is huge efficiency gain possible in all businesses processes using Digital marketplace approach (and not just @Apple ). Business network can contribute to making the processes efficient, economical and consumption driven. The challenge really is building such a Digital Marketplace to support “Shared Value Creation”.
I would like to share my idea that I had submitted to “Open Data Challenge” in this blog. Even if the idea has not made it to the winners, I think the idea is worth reflecting upon and hopefully implement it as well. The idea aims to use the “Open Knowledge Foundation” project IATI registry that maintains references to standardized XML file released by aid recipients, donors and intermediaries.
The idea is to create Datasets on grassroots agencies (NGO’s) working in development projects in a standard format (IATA format) by enabling ‘Self Service’ entry of such data by these organizations, including building useful visualizations on the datasets. This idea can take a lot inspiration from the World Bank aid visualizations that are currently available and AidData portal that tracks development finance. What I miss in the current solutions is a “Self Service” interface where recipients, donors and intermediaries can maintain the data for their grassroots development projects in a standardized format.
Who will benefit from this idea?
This will provide transparent information access to (potential) grassroots aid donors on current funding agencies, causes and recipients
Help (potential) receivers transparently access information on current funding agencies and causes
Help funding intermediaries better match the interests of donors and aid receivers
Enhances current aid data sets with grassroots aid data and makes the data more representative
What will be needed to implement this idea?
Need user studies with grassroots agencies on “open aid data” needs and willingness to contribute to “Self Service” data entry
Need to explore ways to aggregate grassroots aid data (both automated and manual)
Build infrastructure / tools to help ‘Self Service’ data entry of aid data in IATA format
Leverage related efforts regarding map features, API & Technology tools to help build visualizations. While CKAN IATI provides the basis needed for building grassroots aid data format and AidData platform can be extended with grassroots datasets it needs to be seen if data format needs changes/simplifications and to what extent current open visualization platforms can be reused
I would expect getting grassroots agencies to contribute to Open Aid data (be it manual or automated means) would be the biggest challenge. Given the potential transparency benefits for the Aid process it is well worth the effort to give it a try :) Would be interesting to hear the views of others on it…
Watching the replays from the recent SAP Sapphire user conference two things that stuck out to me are – need for business model innovation and enabling micro consumption. Be it in the Enterprise IT industry or any other industry for that matter, Consumers demand “Instant value based on Fresh content”. Most industry business models are not prepared for such agility. This nice blog post @dahowlett highlights this for the Enterprise IT industry. While adopting to the bazaar business models pioneered by Open source software development become mainstream finding the right Content monetization model is the challenge. The music industry trends show case the current state of the art. The fact that Apple Appstore crossed the 500,000 mark recently shows that the power of micro consumption in the consumer IT has arrived. While Salesforce is trying to replicate this in the Enterprise space with the AppExchange and SAP with its EcoHub, Enterprise consumers can only benefit from the competition.
What is really preventing the traditional Enterprises from adapting the Bazaar type of Business model? The question if this is the right model for all Business to adopt is something I personally feel is not up for debate anymore. At the heart of adoption would be creating learning organizations that empower people to collaborate in the enterprise and across the Business network in a transparent way. In this context I like the thought on “social objects in the enterprise” by JP Rangaswami. Making people across organisational boundaries to collaborate is difficult enough than the task of collaborating with business ecosystem is a major challenge to conventional organizational setups. The genY style leadership being promoted by Vineet Nayar from HCL is a good example on how we can get there. I also like the following statement from SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf “we need to manage entirely new type of resources – social impacts, environ impacts, network life cycle sustainability metrics (energy, water, ..) not just finance and enterprise assets (people, machinery,…)”.
I liked a statement from an expert at SAP Customer event Sapphire “Future is in harnessing diversity (be it people, technology, domains, systems) and ensuring interoperability for unlocking new value”. While the emphasis is mine, I think they highlight the key aspects of a Bazaar business model. Given the current smart customers who keep themselves informed in real time the next gen biz models begin with empowering the employees. While providing “self service” access to content inside the enterprise has been mainstream for some time how this can be enabled for the business network will be key for the emerging business models. Enabling Amazon mechanical turk like efficiency to extended business process can make the “Bazaar” like business models possible.