Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BPO - Next Generation!

Last week, I visited the Passport facilitation centre, that is recently launched in Bangalore. I had availed the Passport office's service couple of years ago as well. But, there is a sea change in the service experience from then and now.

The reason, the new service is being offered by a Service Provider and not by the Government directly. It is one of the largest projects under the E-Government Initiative launched by Government of India. It is a project that is first-of-its kind launched in public-private partnership model.

Some of the interesting things that caught my attention during the service experience are - process flow chart that guides the citizens thru the process, new swanky interiors, LCD display that updates the service desk assignments for applicants, Online application Forms, Document Scanning/Uploding, PC Cameras, Biometrics/Finger Printing, Bar Code Tracking for application Acknowledgements/receipts, Photocopiers to make additional copies of documents, if requried. The Service representative has a dual monitor that shows the contents of the passport application form that is being processed. And above all, the Service rep politely asked if I wanted to make any corrections in any of the particulars before committing the changes. That's wonderful!.

In this new project, the entire application processing flow is handled by a third-party, in this case, the Service Provider is Tata Consultancy Services. TCS is not only the System Integrator for the entire solution (Application/Infrastructure) but also the Operations Owner for Front-Office functions (IT and Non-IT Operations).

TCS Management owns and operates the entire physical facility where the service is being offered. The Enquiry Desk, The Service Representatives, Process Flow Coordinators are all provided and managed by TCS.

Here you see a truly 'Integrated Technology & Operations' Service in action. The typical IT services provider - TCS - not only provides the IT solution and walks away but manages the entire business process of application processing and interacts with the customer face-to-face (in this case the citizen).

While the Front office functions are managed by TCS, the back-office functions like verification, granting/dispatching all done by Government Staff. And they work in the new facility in collaboration with TCS Staff.

TCS got this contract couple of years ago to execute in Build-Operate-Transfer model and the project cost range in terms of Indian Rupees 1000 crores (close to quarter billion dollars). The solution is built on Java/J2EE technologies leveraging open source web application frameworks and hosted on IBM Websphere Portal / Application Server Stack.

I must say this is a huge feat by an IT Service Provider in India and the efforts are truly commendable!. Of course, the project had some glitches and TCS had to pay penalty for the project delays and bugs.

But, neverthess, a project of this scale that gets rolled out to the entire country would have some teething issues and am sure that would be ironed out sooner!.

In this new service model, TCS takes more risks, more responsibility, invests heavily (because of front office infra requirements) and reaches out to its customer's customers. In this case, the Citizens, the customers of Government.

Could this be the new model for Business Process Outsourcing?.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Indian R&D : (Long) Way to Go!

Yesterday, Economics Times, a Business Daily from India published a very interesting perspective on R&D spending of Indian companies sector wise.

I was curious to know the R&D spending by IT companies and the results were startling and stands evidence to my earlier post on Why we dont see a Blue Ocean in Indian IT service companies.

Here are some interesting findings:

1. No.1 Indian IT services company - Tata Consultancy Services spends a miniscule 0.3% of its total revenues in R&D.
2. Infosys - Another leading Indian IT services company leads the industry - Spends close to 1.9% of total revenues in R&D. I have worked in Infosys in the past. In my experience, Infosys is one of the very few companies that is committed to Research and Education/Learning. That is indeed commendable!
3. There is no mention of other Top 10 Indian IT service companies or product companies.
Other key sector such as Pharma/Motor R&D investments are largely driven by their MNC parents in US/other countries and there is a huge royalty payback that happens between the Indian arms and the Western Parent/Partner Firms.

The article states that though the corporate spending on R&D has increased in the past years, it is not sufficient to lead in the industry. Very True!

While the Western ecomonies focus on sustainability and recovery from recession, they look up to the East / Developing Ecomonies to lead in Research & Development and Innovation. The R&D and Innovation are important in the context of Developing economies because to drive growth in emerging regions, it is required to develop region-specific, technology-enabled new products and services.

China has realized this golden opportunity way ahead of India. In the recent past, China has revamped their entire Intellectual Property related Government Policies and started giving huge incentives for companies investing in R&D. The new policy aims to encourage Indigenous innovation that woud position the country in a Leadership position to protect its local markets and lead in global markets. The Multinational companies who were thriving on IP so far are puzzled with these new policies and redesigning their strategies for fresh investments in China. This article in Harvard Business review is a must read if someone wants to understand China's Strategy in High-Tech Industries

While many may be wondering why China is not competing in the game of IT services, my observersation is - China may be rewriting the rules of the high-tech industry game itself in next few years!.

As mentioned in ET, "As customers become more demanding, and the business environment more competitive, companies will have no choice but to rely more on R&D".

While the Indian IT Service companies are busy in fighting the war for talent to sustain their existing service lines, it remains to be seen how they would respond to these emerging challenges. They largely see People as their products or channels for service delivery and invests heavily on Leadership / People Development Courses. These courses will prepare oneself to become a business-savvy consultant who not only knows business or technology but also has the capability to sell / communicate / convince the clients. And some other companies are doing reverse-acquisition. They are sitting on a huge pile of cash that they go ahead and acquire technology from a US startup / product company. While there is certainly nothing wrong with these approaches, lot needs to be done to create a sustainable and organic innovation ecosystem.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

End of Powerpoints? - Follow-up

Few weeks ago, I had blogged about Gaming as one of viable alternatives for Powerpoint presentations. In the post, I had summarized, in future, management consultants may start using Gaming for simulating the business scenarios rather than presenting their thoughts in canned presentations. Similar views were reflected in Gartner blogs as well.

Today I came across a real story from a management consulting company. An US based consulting company called Aveus, has renewed its marketing initiatives by demonstrating short-simulated stories/case studies replacing Powerpoint presentations. And in the interview, the consulting partner explains the results are encouraging and generates more sales leads than before.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Social eCommerce Ramping up...!

Looks like Facebook is fast becoming the Second Home for most people in the world...:-).

Here is a news on how Facebook is ramping up its E-Commerce Drive. It is stated that Facebook is talking to lots of big/small vendors to introduce new eCommerce services in the social networking site. Though Facebook has a tiny market compared to Amazon or eBay in eCommerce, the future looks promising when looking at the possibilities of the platform.

Some of the interesting ideas that we could see in Facebook around eCommerce - recommendations of products by friends, more personalized recommendations based on individual's preferences, feedback on people's walls on the products that are bought/sold from specific vendors - All these can complement a conventional online puchasing experience. And I believe this emerging paradigm will shift the focus from product to the person (buyer) and his preferences.

One of the latest innovation that caught my attention is the GroupGift idea by eBay. It lets people pool in their money to buy a collective Gift, like people usually do in real life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pace Layering and SAP On-Demand Architecture!

I have been following SAP new generation architecture for quite sometime now. In addition to business reasons, I was following SAP on my personal interest as well purely because of SAP's architectural approach in their product roadmaps. After Vishal Sikka joined as the CTO of SAP, the technology strategies of several products have been articulated much more clearly than before.

SAP has acquired quite a lot of companies in the last few years. And in the process, it has also acquired handful of technologies and frameworks in its product lines. If you are an SAP customer leveraging their products in several portfolios, am sure you would be wondering what their technology strategy is!. They have ABAP, Microsoft .NET, Java, Business Objects, Sybase Mobile Technologies, NetWeaver Mobile, etc. Using these bunch of technologies, they were also trying to come up with their home-grown mult-tenant architecture to host their on-demand offerings. Now, if someone wants to integrate any of their edge (e.g. mobile) applications with their core ERP, they need to be really aware of the multitude of choices and make a suitable decision.

Sometime back, Vishal Sikka had mentioned that SAP is following a Pace Layering approach to their architecture. What is meant by Pace Layering?. Here is an excellent explanation by James Governor of Redmonk. If you are an IT architect, you don't want to miss this one. According to SAP, SAP will abstract its software into multiple horizontal layers, which will allow for the evolution of each layer at its own pace, while at the same time preserving consistency.

Of course, Customers wouldn't like to leave behind emerging technologies when it comes to 'edge' applications. At the same time, they wouldn't want their systems to be constantly disrupted to adapt to the accelerating pace of changes. So, the challenge is - How do they preserve consistency and adopt to new technologies?. And that's where SAP's Architecture comes in.

In the recently held, SAP summit, SAP has unvield the architecture strategy for their On-Demand solutions. According to the strategy, "SAP's OnDemand architecture will be standardized on a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering that includes "Next Generation Core," based on the Business ByDesign architecture, and "Next Generation Edge," a lightweight platform that merges SAP's lighter weight SaaS technologies". And all these would get deployed on SAP's next generation application server SAP NetWeaver 8.0. And the picture depicted in the above mentioned SAP article is worth a mention. It portrays the division of responsibilities across the on-demand stack. Sure, SAP has a long way to go in delivering this architecture. But, I believe the vision would streamline the architecture and help in delivering superior products.

Am still trying to figure out what has changed from last year to this year, to incorporate Multi-tenant capability in new SAP's On-Demand offering. Has SAP acquired new companies/new products or home-grown capability that is on par with SalesForce.com's multi-tenant architecture?. Will keep you posted, if I find it something interesting. My last impression on SalesForce.com multi-tenant architecture was that it is highly Database centric and good for lightweight applications. I don't believe the same approach can be scaled to complex transactional applications.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

iPad Application of the Year 2010

How do u create a compelling mobile application or to be precise a tablet application?. You can learn a tip or two from FlipBoard, that has been chosen as the best iPad application of the year, by none other than Apple itself.

Flipboard helps someone to create a personalized news magazine from leveraging his/her social network. The user interface almost looks like Windows Mobile 7 Tiles interface. It grabs images from various sources such as Twitter/Facebook, etc. Whatever the user follows in various social networking sites, that would be presented in a nicely organized magazine format.

That sounds cool!. Actually, I have been using Netvibes for quite sometime now and I found it definitely useful as it serves the single, integrated dashboard for my news needs in a day. I have not integrated social feeds though. Flipboard does the other way around - Its largely social, and recently started to integrate with generic RSS feeds from Google Reader. If that happens, then it would become a highly personalized magazine. It would be a magazine created by me, for me, one stop shop for social / general information needs.

What makes Flipboard impressive?. My observations - Flipboard has the following characteristics - highly visual, interactive, social, personalized, customizable, quick to install, stays up-to-date/current, serves information. And these are the characteristics are embraced by large number of users in the market and they are sure to demand those characteristics from Enterprise applications as well in coming years. It could just be the beginning of change in the way the applications are conceptualized and delivered to end customers within the enterprises.

Collaboration to Collective Action!

Are you of the opinion that Social networking within Enterprise is a huge waste of time?. Even I thought so until I heard about SAP's new offering 'StreamWork'.

I have been a member of LinkedIn for long and member of several Enterprise Architecture and Technology Groups within the site. I have had the opportunity to connect with some great individuals in the Architecture/Technology Space. However, I should admit that most of the groups are inactive or the discussions are very shallow, fighting over the semantics of the actual thread itself. I had initiated few conversations in those groups last year and contributed to many. But, generally the activity was lacklustre. I have not personally experienced any Collective Consciousness or Collective Intelligence in those networking sites!. May be I am not a network freak!. :-)

Having said that, I felt there must be a genuine issue when I heard similar opinions from my fellow colleagues/users of such networking sites.

It looks like SAP has figured out a solution. They have come up with a new offering for Enterprise Social Networking called 'StreamWork'. It is a Web based application offered as a Service to end users. People can signup to the basic version for free and start inviting friends into the network. Ok, How does this new solution brings novelty?. As an SAP executive rightly puts it, most of these enterprise networking conversations are screaming for context. Yes, Screaming! :-). And in the social setup (like LinkedIn/Facebook), the context setting and moderation becomes an issue as everybody screams and it takes significant amount of time for an accepted protocol to emerge from conversations from unknown people.

In the new solution, SAP takes collaboration to the next level which is Decision Making. I signed up for the free service today and played around with the options. In addition to all the basic networking features like profile, following others, etc, One can create 'Activities' and invite relevant people into the activities for collectively making some decisions. And once they have decided, they can lock the conversations, close the decision and archive the entire conversations for later perusal. In the corporate world, BlackBerry device has become extremely important purely because of the fact that 'Email' is being used as the conversation and collective decision making tool. Isn't it?. But, Truly speaking, Email was not designed or meant to be a collective decision making tool. And that was exactly solved by StreamWork.

Above all, SAP scores by providing activity templates for structuring the conversations. One can create as many activities as required. And the solution also has typical bells and whistles - conenctivity to blackberry, integration with enterprise security, connectivity to other feeds, integration with BO/SAP/Enterprise Systems. Now, that sounds really enterprisy!. And innovative!.

Am not sure whether StreamWork is available as an installable format so that someone can have it in their private cloud. If that is possible, nothing like it!. Am sure most of the SAP customers would love to embrace it in 2011!.

For other non-SAP customers, the brand 'SAP' may not strike the right chord with this truly innovative small new piece of solution!. We need to wait and watch the developments!.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bring Your Own Device to the Enterprise!

One of the pertinent challenges of the CIO has been to respond to emerging technologies and associated opportunities. And the recent one has been Smart Phones.

The question that employees have started asking is - I have a high-end Smart Phone having Android or Windows OS. Can I access corporate emails in those devices? If not, why not?

For CIOs, this scenario brings improved capability to the enterprise enhancing the productivity of the employees, with little additional cost.

This is a perfect example of consumerization of IT, where consumer technologies try to enter into the Enterprise with major force. These technologies certainly blur the boundaries of personal and work life. Its a boon and a bane!.

Now, How do we achieve a blended experience in an optimized technical solution?. My observation with Smart Phones has been that they are becoming on par with Laptops in terms of capabilities. If we can do something on Laptops/Desktops, it should be possible in SmartPhones sooner or later.

Here is a suitable example - VMWare to virtualize Android SmartPhones for Business Users. In India, Dual Sim enabled Phones are very popular. One of my friends who is a Doctor carries a phone with Dual Sim cards, clearly assigning one for his patients/clients and another for social/friends network. Am sure many of other professionals would also like to have Dual Sim Cards. Me, being in IT world, though may not need to have dual sim card, would like to have a partitioned Smartphone where the business content is clearly separated and manageable from personal content like photos, videos, etc. And that is exactly what VMWare promises to offer using this solution. Like Desktop virtualization, one can virtualize and install two different operating systems in the same device.

Users who would like to switch between business and personal profiles can simply do so, as easy as tapping an icon for opening an application. This is certainly innovative and just the beginning of untapping the potential of smart phones.

As mentioned in the article, one of the interesting challenge that still remains to be solved is to virtualize the telephony in addition to the OS/content. For example, putting an official/personal call on hold while the other sim is currently being active!.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cloud Computing 2.0

Interesting things happening at SalesForce.com. I believe the recent events at SalesForce.com could influence the progress of Cloud Computing industry in a big way.

1. Database.com
Its a Cloud database offering from SFDC. Using this DB, developers can write applications in any language of their choice, host it on the platform of their choice and connect to this cloud DB, as if they are connecting to on-premise database. There are news that some of the vendors are even developing database drivers (like JDBC) for database.com, so that development community can connect to the Cloud DB with ease. In fact, if those drivers become available, it will require very few changes for legacy apps to be able to talk to Cloud DB.

2. SalesForce.com acquire Heroku.com
Heroku.com is a Rails Cloud Provider. Anyone can write a Rails application and host it on Heroku cloud. With this acquisition, SFDC would have the capability to support Rails PaaS in addition to Java like Force.com platform. This would increase the choice of platforms available to end users for developing custom applications.

3. Cloud 2 Vision
In the DreamForce conference, SFDC CEO has unveiled its next version of Cloud Computing Strategy. And He goes on to say that SFDC architecture has been reworked to support mobile, cloud and social capablities. And now Enterprise business applications can acquire the capabilities of cloud/mobile and social, all three in one offering by partnering with SFDC. Sounds promising?. Its interesting to note that newly launched Database.com comes with native support for modeling social applications (such as integrating with profiles/connections) and connecting to mobile based applications. In a way, SFDC strategy is already demonstrated in databse.com offering.

It is good to see lots of traction on Cloud Computing and increased number of options becoming available to Cloud Development Community. With the rate of progression, I hope to see developers would using most of their standards languages and tool sets to work with Cloud with minimal or no changes to their existing skill sets. This will accelerate the adoption of cloud in the development community and subsequently the same community will influence the adoption within their respective organizations as well.

But, What bothers me is that - SFDC primarily is a business service provider to line of business users. But do you see the change in their course, now morphing themselves to become a platform vendor. And that transformation will only appeal to Enterprise IT and not the line of business users. No doubt, platforms are required to give rise to creation of new applications. But, I would personally like to see lots of innovative business applications served on SaaS from SFDC and others competing vendors and not just the infrastructure.

Another disturbing phenomenon is the disintegration of various layers in Cloud Computing. Now, if someone wants to develop a vanilla enterprise application from scratch, he/she can assemble various layers of the application from various clouds - application layer, database layer, [Am not sure someone provides UI layer/presentation frameworks alone on Cloud]. Now, just imagine, running a single transaction that spans across multiple networks, multiple data centers in different geographies. Am sure that would increase complexity of Enterprise Apps to multifold. And We would need a new set of tools to manage the complexity. I wouldn't be surprised if someone provides those tools also on the cloud..:-)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

HCL CEO Vineet Nayar does a Larry Ellison on Cloud Computing!

Few weeks ago, I had raised a concern that many of the Indian IT services CxOs dont talk about Technology and merely interested in topline/bottom line issues. And few weeks later, I had also highlighted the Technology leadership displayed by Steve Jobs in Apple's earnings call.

And this week,
Here is Vineet Nayar talking about Cloud in HCL Analyst conference. Its heartening to see an Indian IT services CEO talking about technology. And not only for this instance, Vineet has been articulate and attracting media attention for quite sometime now, due to HCL's tremendous growth in recent years, renewed marketing and Vineet himself talking about company's strategy convincingly.

Now coming to the main issue of 'What' exactly Vineet talked about Cloud. And that where it gets interesting. In the interview, Vineet explains why he is not so excited about cloud. And He states the fact that there is no disruptive technology behind cloud and its just a business model that is packed in a new format. [Oracle CEO Larry Ellison ranted on Cloud few years ago on similar grounds]

Very True!. In fact, I had mentioned this very same issue in 2008 stating that Cloud is indeed a rocket science and there is no magic pill that would enable someone to become a cloud provider from day one. Pls note, anyone can become a cloud consumer instantly. But becoming a Cloud provider is not so easy!. And there are genuine technical challenges in being a authentic cloud provider.

The industry is still in early stages in discussing/debating and defining what an 'authentic' cloud means in 'technical' terms.

Leaving the semantic definitions behind, Cloud indeed brings visible economic benefits to Enterprise IT. And if Vineet, as a CEO of an IT services company, is concerned about his customers (most of them being Enterprise IT), why don't his company take the leadership and pass on the cloud benefits to them?. If Cloud is an opportunity to create a new value for Customers, why dont we adopt it? Why should he wait for a disruptive technology to arrive to create a new value?.

Vineet disputes the value proposition of Cloud, because it fundamentally conflicts with his traditional business model. And the traditional IT services business model is threatened. Period.

In his new book, Vineet reveals HCL's new strategy - Employees First. Isn't it obvious?. In a people-intensive business model, your employees have to be first!. But, then, there are umpteen number of challenges in sustaining this strategy such as Growing wages and increased attrition,etc.

Time has come to revist the linear, people-intensive IT services business model to a non-linear, technology-intensive business model. Only then, IT services can reduce the cost of existing services and introduce new value added new services. And that exactly What Cloud offers!. It provides a non-linear business services platform for end customers with no or less strings attached.

I strongly believe that Indian IT services firms can come up with service innovation backed by Technology. For example, some of the IT service companies are providing platform based BPO services or few of the companies provide business products.

Am glad that Vineet talks about 'Employee First'. But, it would be much more meaningful if Technology also takes a slot in the Strategy.

Google Chrome Web Store

Today Google has opened Google Chrome Web Store - a marketplace for installable web apps. Web Applications that are installable?. Sounds confusing?. Yes, it is. But, its interesting!.

These applications are native extensions of Chrome browser and installable as shortcuts (like you store URLs as Favorites in your browser). These applications also have the advantage of using Chrome's underlying presentation/JavaScript technologies to render a rich user experience, which otherwise wouldn't be available for traditional web applications in other browsers. And some of these web applications have the capability to work in offline mode as well (when there is no internet connectivity available). Remember, Google Chrome has built-in support for Google Gears.

Like Apple Appstore, Web apps are available for free and for a fee. You can find applications categorized in several segments, so that users can discover, install and use the applications seamlessly.

Not long ago, Google's CEO complained that Apple is not an Open System, stating that one needs to have Apple's own set of tools/standards to develop applications for iPhone ecosystem. And Here he comes in Chrome Webstore replicating exactly what Apple does!.

In the Internet world, everyone wants to be an advocate of 'Free' market where every other product/solution should follow open standards or given away for free. But, the challenge is 'Free' market doen't lead to a sustainable business model. And that's where everything starts breaking and companies start to differentiate themselves to make some money. This phenomenon applies to open source software as well. Few years ago, It was all rage and Enterprise IT departments were all geared up to use open sorce software in every possible opportunity. Now, the scenario has changed. Today, bitten by support issues/lack of rich management tools, Enterprise IT shops are wary of adopting free/open source software within their companies and prefer commercial support model/licenses. And I don't see an issue in being a so called closed business model, as long as it provides value for the money that is spent.

Ok, coming back to web app store, I was interested in finding whether Google docs is part of the app store. But, I couldn't find it. If I could, I thought I would start using it to see if could replace MS-Office Desktop experience.

It would also be interesting to see how Microsoft IE or Adobe AIR would respond to this idea from Google. With the ability to leverage local resources in the context of browser, I definitely hope to see some interesting killer apps to arrive in coming months leveraging this idea.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wikileaks & Web 2.0 Complexity

News Media on the Net has been quite active for the past few weeks especially with Wikileaks globally and Tape leak Controversy in India.

The evolving events in Web 2.0 world shows just how unprepared we are in dealing with new issues or taking advantage of emerging opportunities.

For example, Here is a UK retailer who has started a company called InternetEyes. The company provides a service to small business owners where the CCTV security streames can be watched in real-time and the business owners can be alerted for suspicious activities for a monthly fee. The interesting fact is that the company provides this service by Crowdsourcing. Yes, the people on Internet can signup to watch the CCTV stream during their free time and alert the business owners on suspicious events. Now, this sounds like a cool idea, isn't it?. But,there are several quesions that remain to be answered - Is this legal to outsource the legal enforcement activity itself to common citizens?. Does it breach the privacy of people who visit the store?. Is it ethical or do we need to inform those visitors?

Second, Whatever Wikileaks has been doing, Is it legal? just because it is someone that uploads the leaked documents and Wikileaks do not hold any responsibility. Or whatever gets reported out of Wikileaks, is it true and authentic?. Whatz the guarantee that those uploads are not edited? Very recently, Amazon has opted to drop the Wikileaks service fearing legal issues.

And Third, the Tape controversy in India. The news broke out only in Internet and the traditional print/TV media chose to remain silent on the issue for varous reasons. Hence, large number of people remained unaware of the issue and its consequences. This proves that in a country like India, Internet as a Media, is still a minority compared to its population and the reach of traditional print/TV media. How do we distill the multitude of opinions pouring from various avenues claiming who is right and who is wrong?. How do we know the right source of truth?. How do we cut the noise and synthesize the substance?

I see these phenonmenon as evolution of Web 2.0. As the phenomenon grows and people start to contribute in unconventional/unusual ways, it starts to generate new insights, leads to new possiblities and of course, new challenges and new threats in social/legal avenues.

And that's going to be quite a lot of work for netizens. As an Individual, it is going to be expensive for someone to distill and make sense out of proliferation of information and associated opinions on various events. In user-generated content world, given the fact that published content itself could have undergone intentional, biased manipulation, the problem only could get worse. I believe we are going thru the times of information authoring and discovery and we are in need of new tools and technologies that can help us to filter/synthesize / assit in navigating the amazon of information and make suitable choices. It will all the more good, if those tools are highly personalized and understand individual needs better. "Googling" for information is just not enough..Its just the beginning and we have to find ways to move beyond Google.

In this aspect, I would like to quote 'LG App Advisor' application in the newly launched LG Android Phone - LG Optimus One. I do have a HTC Android phone and I love it. And I have downloaded quite a bit of android applications from the market place and wish to 'fish' some more suitable apps that aligns to my interests. Now, if I go to the android marketplace and do a search, I get plenty of results and that is frustrating to me to filter and shortlist the best apps that are interesting to me. Now, LG App Advisor is one that claims to assist in this area. This app can help in suggesting suitable apps accoring to our interests, mediating between us and the android marketplace. The idea is interesting and it is definitely useful. Am yet to see this app advisor demo on Youtube and the feedback. But, this is the kind of example I was talking about - There would be new breed of mediator tools/technologies/apps we will see in near future to navigate the Internet better.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Did you think Enterprise Architecture a joke?

Think again!

Its heartening to see InfoWorld and Forrester identifying some of the best Enterprise Architecture initiatives happening in the IT organizations for 2010 and enlisting how those organizations are benefitting from those initiatives. I would recommend this article to anyone who is interested in the concept of Enterprise Architecture.

Interestingly, most of the companies that are listed in the article are Financial Services companies.

More than anything else, what I would like to highlight is the following piece that is the opening line in the article - "In large enterprises, the barrier to increased efficiency and business agility is almost never technological. It's organizational". I would say this statement is the holy grail of Enterprise Architecture. Beyond a point, technology alone will not solve organizational / business problems. You will need different set of tools and skills to achieve improved efficiency and effectiveness. An Enterprise Architect, if not skillful, atleast needs to be aware of those dimensions to deliver his duty.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Technical Leadership - Steve Jobs shows the way!

This morning, one of my colleages commented that Google is talking to some of the low-cost mobile phone manufacturers in India to make Android available for sub 150$ phones. This would eventually result in proliferation of android and its increased market share. He in fact quoted a nytimes article that believes Apple iPhone's market share may shrink like the way Mac Desktops' market share was eaten away by Ubiquitous Microsoft Windows. Indeed the argument was persuasive!. And anyone who reads both the articles would believe that Apple is under threat!.

In the afternoon, this perception is completely rebutted by none other than Steve Jobs himself in Apple's Quarterly earning call. He goes onto say that Apple's integrated architectural approach would be much more valuable to end users compared tofragemented Android Approach. It was a fitting response!. As Steve Jobs himself has stated, its pretty unusual that he joins the earnings call after couple of years.

But, Am not going to talk about iPhone Vs Android in this post. That's pretty much self-evident in those respective news articles.

What impressed me what the level of technical leadership displayed by Steve Jobs in the call, the number of technical 'decisions' that have been 'consciously' taken by Apple,the 'metrics & dimensions' of those decisions, the 'impact' those decisions can make to end users. It was phenomenal for a chief executive to talk about the nuts and bolts of technology behind the company's products.

Few weeks ago, I had raised a concern that none of the indian IT service company executives talk in terms of technology solutions behind their services in their quarterly reports. And today's Steve Job's presence in Apple's earnings call just demonstrates the Technical Leadership, I was referring to.

Some of the key technical aspects that are discussed:
- Decisions on 7" Tablets Vs 10" Tablets and Technical reasons behind the same
- Twitter client - Twitter Deck - Tested on 100 different versions of Android
- Use of Tablets in Eductation industry

Steve jobs concludes by saying - "Make the best product in every industry that we compete in and to drive down the cost, while constantly making the products at the same time".

Am inspired!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

End of Powerpoints?

Do you hate Powerpoints?

One of the CIOs whom I had worked with, doesn't like Powerpoints. He just doesn't believe in Powerpoint based presentations. Neither he uses one when he makes a Townhall meeting.

Am aware of many such people who just dont like canned thinking. Those people are typically spontenous, experimental, shape the goal as they go, discover new opportunities as they explore new avenues. Of couse, this approach could be extremely uncomfortable to top-down/plan-oriented thinkers. But, We are not going to discuss the pros and cons of people in this camp or the other.

Instead, this post will focus on - Are there any real good alternatives to Powerpoints?

When the whole world, especially IT, gives very little room for top-down planning/strategy/enterprise architecture, Powerpoints don't make any sense. Because thoughts and deliberations don't shape actions. Actions-first approach takes the lead here. Those Actions eventually shape the thoughts and evolves the destiny.

If not powerpoints, what other media could be used to communicate issues/options/solutions?

And the alternative is - Games!

Yes, Serious Games.

IBM has announced Serious Games to promote its Smarter Planet Theme. The Game helps the City planners to understand and solve some of the complex issues like water/energy management. While gaming, the participants will also have the opportunity to identify suitable technologies that can be leveraged to solve those issues. [Of course, in this case, IBM products] IBM believes its a unique way to solve complicated problems. And Here people learn by "doing" it not by passive listening to canned presentations. And that's the difference! Simulations and Participation would stimulate the thought process of participants and help them to learn quicker.
There are tons of possibilities during the simulation such as introducing real-world constraints, multi-dimensional decision making, gaming rules and goal setting.

And it looks like most of the other companies such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft and GE are also experimenting with Serious Games.

And here is an analyst who is imagining Gaming could be used in Enterprise IT in the context of Business Intelligence and Collaboration.

I wouldn't be surprised if future management consultants package their reports in Games rather than Powerpoints.

Are we ready yet?. May not be. But I believe the time is arriving soon, since Generation Y is joining the workforce.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SalesForce.com Chatter Mobile - What does it offer?

Here is yet another diversification...

SalesForce.com announces the arrival of a mobile application called 'Chatter' for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android Mobile phones. What does the application do?. It is a Enterprise Social Networking application (like yammer) and it also delivers notifications from Enterprise applications within the organization.

Now, wait a minute, SalesForce.com is a CRM company. Why is it talking about Enterprise Social Networking and Enterprise Application Notification and that too on mobile devices?

My observations:

1. SalesForce.com is diversifying into solutions that can compliment its traditional CRM solution

2. SalesForce.com is positioning itself as 'Platform-as-a-Service' vendor than a 'CRM Software-as-a-Service' vendor.

3. SalesForce.com gets into a promising, but still emerging area - Enterprise Social Networking. Like BlackBerry marketed its Enterprise products to IT administrators, SalesForce.com can convince the Enterprise IT that Enterprise social networking can be provisioned within its SaaS security framework.

4. Now, my next curious hypothesis is - Can this chatter mobile incorporate corporate emails as well?. If SalesForce.com or its partners can provide 'Email Server as a Service' on the Cloud and the 'Chatter' mobile application can integrate with it in a secure manner, Why would anyone need a separate corporate email client?

Google's Business Strategy!

Have you ever wondered what is the business strategy of Google?

Though its core businesses are Search & Advertisements, Why is it getting into anything and everything in digital media? You can notice Google's presence even in unconventional areas such as Healthcare and Energy where IT hardly had a role to play in the past.

I have certainly wondered in the past...What kind of a diversification strategy is this?. Is this a concentric diversification that is aligned to its core competencies?

First of all, Can you define Google's Core competencies?

I have seen business articles that appreciated Google that it beats traditional core competency theory and breaking new grounds in business strategy.

But it looks like the strategy is not a mystery anymore, when I read this recent perspective on CIO.com titled Is Google Killing Economy?. The first interesting perspective is that its written by a Lawyer and second it throws some significant light on Google's world-size ambitions.

The hint I could get from this perspective is that Google would get into anything and everything that has the scale of Internet.And you know the scale of the Internet. Its worldwide!.

The lawyer has raised some serious concerns on Google's motives and claims Google is trying to monopolize the Internet, like someone else tried to monopolize the Desktop industry.

Friday, August 13, 2010

End of Hardware!

Too much hyped up a title for this post?? I dont think so...

In fact, I got this title from one of the amazon books that I came across recently. Sometime back, I had written about the evolution of hardware devices such as analog devices in recent times like how they are morphing themselves into smart, internet-enabled digital devices. But, if you notice, those devices are actually relinquishing their physical forms...

For example, we were using analog alarm clocks a decade ago. Do we buy them at all today?
I dont see many of the today's smartphones have keypads. KeyPads are disappearing and converged into touch-panels within the mobile devices. Today, I came across this mobile app from General Motors that plans to have embed your car key functions within an application. Here, your physical car key disappears. One more example - recently California Administration recently came up with an innovative idea of turning car name plates to digital sign boards that can display advertisements.

Maybe, Ten years from now, we will use less physical devices compared to today's scenario. As the book states, we may not see huge physical machines such as Cars, Utility machines going away.They would be still around. But, what I see is that most of the information-emitting or information-requiring special devices will go away. They would all converge to a new digital experiences.

Yes, the new digitial experience that is gaining momemtum these days is 'Augmented Reality'.

Augmented Reality is a term for live direct or indirect view of physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. Its basically an enhanced view of reality mediated by technology.

One of my colleagues introduced me to Layar, an augmented reality browser for Android platform. It is available in most of the smartphones today. Using the browser, the user can view enhanced / additional or hidden information by focusing the mobile on a real-world object / location. This is enabled by GPS technology & Internet feeds with exclusive additional information about the real-life objects. For example, using this app on your mobile, you can search for health care facilities or even jobs around your location or a Service person can view the hidden mechanical parts information within an automobile.

One could explore the other possibilities of this technology by looking at the examples quoted in Wikipedia.

I personally believe this technology has lot of utility value and could explode in useful business/consumer applications in future.

More than that, It could also be the beginning of the end of Hardware devices.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Future of Portals

What is the site that you frequent quite often in the last six months?. Has it changed?

Here is my experience..

I used to visit my personal dashboard on Netvibes.com atleast once a week. But, Of late, I am seeing myself visiting LinkedIn very often compared to Netvibes.com. Am visiting LinkedIn to keep up with my contacts, find old/lost contacts, participate in group queries/discussions. If you are not visiting Netvibes, you should be visiting Facebook. Yes, the focus is clearly shifting from Portals to Professional/Social Networking sites.

I believe the reason why networking sites are such a big hit are - its about "me", interacting with people is fun than interacting with plain information,its real-time/lively, the information flow is bi-directional, it can bring new opportunities.

I dont know what LinkedIn is thinking about its roadmap. But, I firmly believe the personal home pages of these networking pages can become "the universal web desktops" and gobble the personal portal solutions like netvibes.

This Web Desktop can provision access to whole lot of services including networking. Yes, the networking would become "one of the services" provided.Many other services could be knowledge portal, bookmark sharing, access to social/enterprise applications and gaming.

And more importantly, the users would expect those sites to learn about themselves instead of users teaching the site about their preferences. I have been using Netvibes for more than three years now. What kind of knowledge it has acquired to provide me better services?

In the context of emergence of these networking sites, where do the personal portal sites stand? More importantly, in the Enterprise IT context, do you still need those expensive Portal servers?

Portal servers are expensive, complex and attempts to provide one-stop solution for everything whereas lightweight portal alternatives and new user behaviors are emerging in recent years.

Time has come for Enterprise IT to evaluate their portal investments and take decisive actions. Interestingly, this article also shares the same views about the future of Netvibes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

When do we see a Blue Ocean in Indian IT services industry?

Its the end of first quarter in Indian financial year 2010-11. And the season of IT service companies announcing their quarterly performance results. And ofcourse, the associated market reactions.

We have also been seeing number of press conferences by CEOs of Indian IT service companies.

If you have been observing those press events of those CEOs, the typical issues that would get discussed are - billing rate corrections, hiring numbers, profitability, geo-political risks, growth/profitability numbers, dollar-rupee currency fluctuations.

But, Why aren't we seeing light on some of the toughest customer problems that are solved by these companies, in that quarter?. Why aren't we hearing anything about some of the impressive technology solutions that they provided? Why don't we learn anything on their future technology seed planting activities?

Indian IT services industry has achieved the dominant status in offshoring nearly a decade ago. And all these years, we have been hearing only the general management talk from the leadership than the customer value management enabled by information technologies.

Have you ever seen a CTO or a equivalent role from a Indian IT services company talked to the press in detail about the company's technology perspectives or its vision for the future? The answer is resounding 'NO'.

On the contrary, I was reading the interview of Cisco India Globalization Officer in a leading newspaper in Bangalore. In the interview, the EvP talks about some of the real problems faced by urbanization and how Cisco's technologies can help solving them. He goes on talking about some of the projects that Cisco is driving. Of course, he touches upon General management aspects as well.

But, if you read the interviews/blogs of Indian CEOs (from IT services companies), you will learn only about general management innovation/outsourcing offshoring trends among customers.

Clearly, this was required a decade ago when the whole offshoring concept was new and emerging across the globe. But, not today. Today - Globalization is at its peak. And the speed of technology change/Innovation is rapid. The potential to create new value based on Technology is tremendous. The needs of the customer, the needs of the industry, the needs of the society are constantly changing. And the indian industry should lead from the front than getting stuck in the past.

Agreed, Cisco is a Technology/Products company and Indian IT services companies are 'IT-intensive Customer Services' companies. But, that shouldn't stop them from leading the global outsourcing/offshoring industry on technology front.

In fact, Indian IT service companies have a stronger advantage that they work with numerous clients across the globe to solve some of their pressing problems using technology.

Its time the industry flip its orientation from shareholders' interests to customers' interests!.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why Boeing acquires Cyber Security capability?

Today morning, Over a cup of coffee, when I was reading the business section of Times of India, I came across this interesting acquisition - Boeing acquiring a Cyber Security Technology firm.

I understand there is quite a lot of activity happening in cyber security space, given the fact that number of threats are increasing every day. But, I was thinking - why would a traditional OEM / aerospace manufacturer get into the business of cyber security?

Apart from aeroplane manufacturing, the other key business of Boeing is Defense, Space and Security Systems. There are couple of areas where Boeing is planning to use the technology.

- as a capability that can enable secure networking of ground, air and space products
- as a defense for Boeing's network
- as a capability that can be deployed across its business units
- The acquired company can open new markets to Boeing

Pls note that its not seen as an IT capability. It is a compelling business capability. Going forward, I would say companies would build/promote cyber security as an integrated business capability like legal, HR and physical security.

Boeing has been supporting Military/Defense space for decades. With the ever-increasing influence of Internet, the defense strategies are shifting from traditional 'hardware' weapons/equipments to 'emerging' 'software/IT' enabled solutions. That's a significant paradigm shift!

I have talked about this transition in my earlier blog post as well.

With more and more businesses evaluating ET-based solutions and Internet getting embedded into pervasive devices, the need for cyber security solutions is only going to explode!.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Mobile Innovation Is Blowing Away PCs

Though our Laptops were mobile for quite sometime, We never had the luxury of add-on devices such as GPS, Accelerometer, Integrated Camera. Until a couple of years before, even having a bluetooth enabled Laptop was a rare scenario.

Have you ever thought why?....

I was of the opinion that Mobile applications are picking up because of consumerism, mobile devices proliferation, increased competition across vendors, accelerated innovation, etc...
But, that's not true...

This is an interesting article from Techcrunch that clealry highlights there are fundamental reasons behind this Mobile Innovation!. And some of the reaons the article claims are that increased participation of small vendors across the globe, and tremendous competition from them to outdo each other in terms of product innovation, increased flexibility in accomodating structural changes in terms of hardware/chipset, platforms, software and systems integration.

The article also states that we simply dont have them in PC/Laptops because that ecosystem does not exist in that space. That's quite a revelation!.

At this rate of innovation, I wouldn't be surprised if the mobile ecosystem comes out with an innovation that would introduce structural changes in Enterprise IT platforms, especially software applications.

Like the way, Agile concepts disrupted the application development methodologies/processes, I guess something like a rapid development model would disrupt Enterprise IT application development and system integration as well...And that innovation could come from Mobile space.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

IT is becoming ET! [Enterprise Technology]

Excellent Perspective from CIO.com!

I remember the IT department used to be called as 'EDP' in my school days - Electronic Data Processing Department. In some companies, it used ot be called as 'MIS' - Management Information Systems Department. The Job of the department would be centrally digitize and manage the backoffice functions such as accounting/payroll in a central organizational unit.

The CIO.com article states that, with the advent of PCs and networks, MIS department was decentralized and that led to the evolution of IT. Pretty interesting to observe that how a technology innovation leads to organizational / management structure within the company [The arrival of LAN within the company].

Now, IT is hugely populated with COTS products and Of late, with Software-as-a-Service solutions. Is that all?. No, it looks like its going to change again and its called 'Enterprise Technology'.

When MIS was limited to only computer-savvy professionals, IT expanded the role of technology to larger set of people within the organization such as engineers, business people using spreadsheets/office/collaboration software. Now, with advent of ET, the technology would be made available to larger set of population outside the organization, beyond its own employees, to even those customers who have not traditionally used any devices or phones.

It falls on the idea of 'Internet of Things' where technology is going to get embedded in every possible device that the end customer interacts with. And this paradigm is going to amoss large amounts of data to the Enterprise. And the Enterprise would be challenged to make intelligence out of this vast amount of data to add value to the end customers and their environment. And the key difference from IT and ET is that ET would be wired to the physical world - physically touching the customers' lives.

Now the question is, Is the traditional IT department geared up to face this challenging trend?. I dont think so.

The key challenge would be the ability to envision, conceptualize, architect, build and operate solutions that call for 'Inter-disciplinary' competencies. When I say inter-disciplinary, the future Enterprise Technology solutions would require amalgamation of multiple competencies such as hardware, software and embedded technologies. While the traditional Enterprise IT shops are used to architect/operate software-only / software-intensive solutions.

Are you game for this new IT?

Why iPhone apps are such a big hit?

Have you ever wondered why iPhone is able to make its apps so famous?

1 Billion Downloads in just over nine months. Stunning numbers, isn't it?

I have a Palm PDA that I bought few years ago. I do love the device and its user interface and applications. There are thousands of applications available for Palm platform. But, if i have to look for the most attractive or useful application for Palm, I need to visit umpteen number of sites. One way, its good there are quite a few options. The other way, it makes life cumbersome. I dont really get to see the most used or rated application in one place. And that's exactly the problem iPhone solves.

When I was evaluting the application architecture for iPhone, I was thinking there should be a rapid programming model that shrinks the time-to-market of these applications. But, it was not the case. Some of the iPhone application frameworks are still talking about Model-view-controller or multi-layer architecture. The applications may have a magical user interface. But, there is no silver bullet in terms of its application architecture!.

So, the crux of the famous equation is the 'Management Innovation' combined with 'Technology Innovation' - The economics that gives 70% cut to the developer community, Apple's Certification mechanism for applications, Application Store - the single storefront to search, purchase and download the application onto the device in one go and integrated withit the snappy UI - All this leads to the success formulae. Here is a perspective from IT consultant - Yourdon.

Once Steve Jobs was asked about the secret of success, he said 'its the chemistry'. Yes its the chemistry of the hardware, OS and the applications. He also added - You can't expect that chemistry between a Dell Hardware and Microsoft Windows OS'. How true?

Next Peter Drucker!

Is Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, an IT Services firm based out of India.

This is what Tom Peters claims!.

One of the key challenges facing the organization these days is not just to make their IT systems agile, but to make their Organization Structure and Culture more agile and adaptive to the ever changing market needs. This is very much applicable to knowledge industries, like IT services.

When the same talent who used to work for one company can be easily poached by any other company by offering more compensation or designation/role, the only thing that could differentiate the incumbent company and increase its influence over the individual is its organization structure and culture. In the longer term, its the org. structure and culture that defines the DNA of the company and it would persist for a longer time, while the projects can come and go.

Having said that, the traditional 'command-and-control' model of organization structure is being challenged. The companies that adopt these hierarchial model are not able to be innovative or leading the industry in specific areas. And in a Knowledge industry like IT services, as Management Guru Peter Drucker says, the employees are well informed and knowledgeable than their bosses. This makes the problem much more complicated.

Now, what would be alternative? - Vineet Nayar has come out with a new book called - Employee First, Customer Second. The title of the book can be counter-intuitive to our traditional management philosophies. But, some of the principles what Vineet articulates are just radical and challenges the status-quo.

Some of the interesting thoughts from his book, as quoted here

  • Its time to switch from the traditional pyramid model to 'Inverted' Pyramid model of organization. In a company that is over hundreds of employees, the top management will not really have a clue on the ground realities and hence the company could be dis-oriented or driving in the wrong direction. Hence, its time to retire the centralized, command-control model to decentralized, collaborative model, where each network node is self-empowered. The leadership will only be guardians of corporate principles, adovates and encouragers

  • Making enabling functions like Quality / General Management to be accountable for the employees, not the other way round. This would improve the effectiveness of the organization. [I still need to get into the details of this point. Am curious to know more on his thoughts on the enabling functions.]

  • By renewing the Organization structure and culture, we would be unleashing the power, passion and talent of 'value-zone' employees. This would lead to the Growth of the company.

Am not sure whether HCL Technologies practices what Vineet has talked about in the Book. Neverthess, its a timely thought!. And any company that wants to be leading and growing needs to consider these thoughts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Coming Soon: Apps for your car!

This is interesting!.
If you look at the trends where the technology is progressing, it looks like the following. The devices which were once analog or mechanical are transforming to Intelligent machines.
analog-> digital -> Internet Enabled -> Information enabled -> Collaborative -> Smart -> Intelligent/Learning systems.

Joining the trend now is - Cars. In this newsclip, the car manufacturing company audi announces that future version of its cars will have computer-style dashboards that will have the capability to download apps from the Internet.

Its not just a technology innovation. Audi is also contemplating a business model, where the customers will be able to selectively download and pay to activate modular features in the car.
This will enable deep personalization of the products through Internet-enabled services.

On top of it, Audi also claims that its cars will behave like 'learning machines' that will be able to leverage the information and predict/recommend the driver's behavior.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Avatar 3D and ERP - What is so Common?

Does the above combination sound strange?...

May be...

But, that is the coincidence that came to my mind when I read Why I hate 3-D and (You Should Too) by Roger Ebert in Newsweek. In this article, Roger says that he is not opposed to 3D as an option. But he opposes 3D as the future, a way of life for movies going forward.

I didn't watch Avatar 3D version. But, recently I watched DreamWorks 'How to Train Your Dragon' in 3D version. I should say that was one of the best entertaining movies that I had watched in recent times. I felt that the script of the movie was so interesting that I would have watched it, even if it didn't have 3D features. In fact, I would have loved to watch it in 2D version. The 3D version was distracting and it didn't add any enhance the movie watching experience in any way.

I am disappointed that next Dreamworks summer release Shrek 4 is also going to be released in 3D soon.

The 3D technology is hyped up so much that its already making inroads to Home entertainment. Samsung has introdcued 3D technology in LED TVs in India. And thats not all, there is a whole bunch of movies waiting to be released in 3D. Does it worth the hype?. I dont think so. I agree with all the reasons that Roger has mentioned in the Newsweek article.

Ok, So What?. How is it related to IT? or ERP?

Will come to that observation in few mins...

In the article, Roger concludes - Whenever Hollywood is threatened, it turns to Technology like sound, color, Dolby, DTS, and 3D. This is the observation that made me to think of the correlation to ERP...

Now..cut to ERP technology...

I recently upgraded my car stereo to Pioneer music system. And One of the reasons for doing that is to listen to Audio Books. The first Audio book that I rented was 'Beyond Goal' from Dr.Goldratt. I listened to this book couple of times, purely because there so many messages in that. I could write several other blog posts just on the thought-provoking speech by Dr. Goldratt.

If anyone has read Goal/or read Dr.Goldratt's articles, one could understand that Dr.Goldratt takes a hard stand on ERP. And He clearly outlines why it is so hard to derive benefits from ERP these days... Trust me, not just ERP, any significant IT investments that a company want to make, must listen to Dr.Goldratt to understand the process of yielding benefits from it.

And he goes on to say that, Whenever ERP fails to provide any new ROI/new benefits to the company, it simply turns to ....Technology...How true is that?

If you are watching the ERP industry, you dont need a evidence to prove this statement. We are only hearing about technology "innovations" namely SOA, BPM, Composite Apps, etc. We dont hear anything at all about Business Process Innovations/New Business Solutions. And Whenever the ERP vendors are cornered for innovations, we get the answer of new technology upgrades. And you know that, People just don't buy those!.

Now lets come back to 3D technology...

Isn't it a nice correlation to say that whenever we run out of ideas to provide real value to the end customers, we turn to technology based ideas?. And We use that as the reason to "charge the customers more" because the customers get a 'seemingly premium' experience. And if you look at it, that new technology opens up a whole new market around it. In case of 3D, its the glasses, TV, projectors, etc. In case of ERP new technology - new middlewares, new visual modeling tools, new monitoring tools, etc.

And thats one of the reasons that I am not intrigued to blog so much these days...all the time we hear about smartphones, social networking, graphics and games. I dont deny that they are true innovations. But, I dont accept that they are the way of life...We are told by the media to believe that thats the only innovation happening in the industry...

And, we as consumers, when we start to focus on real issues, we will also start to see real innovations...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

(Don't) Go Green!

Will explain the title in few moments...

Yesterday, I attended CyberSecurity Conference organized by CII (Confederation of Indian Industries, Southern Region). I must say it was one of the useful conferences that I attended in the recent past. The reason is that the conference was not organized just for techies/IT companies but for the complete ecosystem of corporates, industries and Government representatives. Its pretty interesting to see that these conferences throw some light on real-life problems that are currently faced by the Government, Corporates and Individuals in using Internet services [and not typical sales pitches or IT solutions looking for problems].

My Technical white paper on the title "Cloud Security" was published as part of the conference proceedings to the participants. Dear Readers - Please contact me in Linkedin with a message for your copy of the paper. I would be happy to share!.

I wanted to post my takeaways from the conference. I have a long list but I will try to capture few important points.

Tamil Nadu Government is collecting close to Rs.1400 crores on commercial taxes via online. Indian Railways is hugely popular in recent days because of online booking facility. Income Tax Return filing is enabled via web. And more and more Government departments are going online in the coming months for not just information sharing but to host applications/transactional services.

The Generation X and Y may not be able to imagine banking without online banking facility. Lots of people that I know don't even visit Banks to perform their transactions. So does insurance companies - Premium collection, Insurance Renewal, Investment updates - all getting done from the convenience of armchair.

More and more - Internet is becoming a public infrastructure like railways, road and electricity/water - on which wide variety of personal, commercial, social services are being offered. When I equate Internet to electricity/water, People are increasingly becoming dependent on the Internet infrastructure for their day-to-day personal and business operations. Do you see the significance now?

And the next generation of apps that we foresee in the Internet are - Internet Services (SaaS) that are connected to Hardware devices/controls - take for example - Internet services that are connected to Home energy meters and Security controls.

Now, We are talking something serious. The usage of Internet usage is moving from convenient/comfort zone to Highly critical/safety and security zone. With the significance of Internet and its services increasing day-by-day, Can anybody afford to overlook the security risk implications?. They better dare not...

And this whole conference is centered around this very theme.

Now, coming back to the title of this post - Don't Go Green. Someone in the conference mentioned that - As the Go Green campaign gets momentum across the world, people and their ecosystem are moving from physical/transactional ecosystem to offline/web-oriented ecosystem. This is good because it will save energy from various perspectives. But, at the sametime, going green should not be seen just as one-dimensional. It has serious implications..and sometimes even dangerous on other dimensions.

The conference had some eminent personalities from Government like Senior Leadership from Tamil Nadu Police and Indian Military. And one of the speakers went on to say - The next war will not be based on bombs and bullets but on Bytes...!. May sound little fictional or unrealistic to believe!. But, its undeniably true..And We already have several indicators in the World that affirms this direction.

We have enough evidences on cybercrimes happening in Banking/Corporate world and at Individual level.

The question is - Are we prepared?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Big Fat Truth Behind Business Intelligence!

This was a revelation!

Can you guess the adoption of BI solutions among Non-IT users such as Sales and Marketing roles for their day-to-day informational needs during their operations?

Your Answer - 50%?


Here is what Forrester analyst Boris Evelson's has to say:

"I recently talked to a few dozen non-IT professionals (specifically in front office roles, such as sales and marketing) across multiple industries, regions and company sizes. Guess how many of them fully or partially relied on IT for their day to day operational and strategic information needs? BIG FAT ZERO!!! This finding was a huge surprise to me – yes, I did expect to find something like less then 50% reliance on IT, but I surely did not expect to find 0%.

It is truly amazing that after 30 or so years of BI software, services and solutions vendors and internal IT organizations making a strong push and a case for BI, they are still not even making a dent in the front offices"

This finding may not be music to the ears of BI Professionals. But, this looks like the brutal truth behind the history of BI solutions.

So, What are the reasons? Of course, the Forrester blog post talks about BI on SaaS as one of the options that could drive adoption.

But I would like to draw my observations on multiple dimensions:

1. The 'Velocity' in which IT could turn around BI solutions to Business. Traditionally, IT is perceived as slow especially in implementing new BI solutions because of significant lead times in Business understanding, Ensuring Data Integrity, etc. You might have heard of Agile Application
Development. Ever heard of proven case studies in Agile BI or Agile Dimensional Modeling?. The solution lies in radical changes in the way the BI solutions are constructed - not just the IT service provider, but the technology/product vendor and the process organizations.

2. Every business has now hooked onto 'High-Velocity' working environment. By High-Velocity, I mean, the decision making cannot depend on past data or metrics sheerly because of the reason that the data/metrics must have become irrelevant with respect to time. So, Most of the decisions are driven purely by intuition rather than metrics. What could the solution? - Applying 'right-velocity' principles...and not just rushing decision making across the board.

3. BI helps only when somebody 'wants' to optimize something, and not 'have to' optimize. This is a cultural change and its very hard to achieve. The solution lies in radical transformation in the organization structure, incentives/rewards and day-to-day operational business processes.

4. Last but not the least, Data Quality. Siloed application architecture will not lead to actionable Intelligence. Without proper Data Stewardship in place within the organization, it would just be a Garbage-In-Garbage-Out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Enterprise Architecture Discussions @ LinkedIn

I have been discussing about some of the pressing issues of Enterprise Architecture within the organization with fellow professionals in LinkedIn Enterprise Architecture Network. They can be found here (This discussion is about the relevancy of EA practice in a diversified business model) and here (This thread is focused on the value proposition of EA). I think its a great opportunity to connect with professionals across the world and share some of the common problems being faced in the industry. Thanks to LinkedIn!.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cisco's Innovation in Emerging Markets

Top Multi-national organizations are getting serious about Emerging Markets. In a move towards gaining market share in these markets, those MNCs are indigenously designing products/services that are exclusively tailored for those specific market needs. This is a paradigm shift. And the examples are GE and Cisco. GE recently designed low-cost Electronic Cardiogram devices for rural India and it has become a major hit. Now, the same product has started creating significant demand in developed markets like Europe.

The other innovation which I wanted to blog in this post is about Cisco's latest innovation in alliance with a Commercial Vehicle Manufacturer in India - Ashok Leyland. The company Ashok Leyland has recently demonstrated an intelligent vehicle (bus) with Wireless connectivity to a remote control centre that can be used initially in the context of emergency healthcare. Cisco has designed the entire communication system for this intelligent vehicle.

The interesting part is that the platform can be enhanced to be used not just in healthcare, but in other contexts such as education, defense, banking and security as well. Cisco also claims that if the business demands more such applications, they can be deployed on the vehicle platform.

I would like to draw some interesting observations here:
1. Ashok Leyland - traditionally a manufacturing company - is incorporating Technology to introduce its new generation of its product line. This shows that slowly but steadily Technology is making inroads into traditional businesses such as manufacturing. The fusion of business & technology is going to define the future product lines of several other industries as well. Its very similar to GM's Onstar network services but here the idea is applicable to larger audience (since its targeted at commercial vehicle segment)

2. Cisco, being a multinational, has started looking emerging market business seriously. It is already planning to shift the base location of several of their top leaders to India. This move demonstrates the company's commitment to the emerging markets and it would enable new growth initiatives get accelerated faster than before.

3. The core idea behind this offering is the ability to deploy new business applications on top of a Telematics enabled IT platform. As Ashok leyland articulates, the company shifts its gears from being a vehicle manufacturer (product) to intelligent mobility solutions (services). (Reminds you of iPhone's platform based apps?)