Short takes: from the consumerisation of IT to open data

This week has been a crazy one – and things don’t look like getting much easier over the next few weeks as we enter a new financial year and my job shifts its focus to be less externally-focused and more about technical strategy and governance. This blog has always been my personal blog – rather than something for my work – but the number of posts is inversely proportional to the amount of time I have on my hands which, right now, is not very much at all.

So I’m taking a new tack… each time I attend an event, instead of trying to write up all the key points, I’ll blog about the highlights and then (hopefully) come back with some details later… well, that’s the plan at least…

This week (on top of all the corporate stuff that I can’t really write about here), I attended two really worthwhile events that were very different but equally worthy of note – for very different reasons.

IDC Consumerisation of IT 2012 briefing

Analyst briefings are normally pretty dry: pick a hotel somewhere; sit on uncomfortable chairs in a large meeting room; and listen to analysts talk about their latest findings, accompanied with some PowerPoint (which you might, or might not have access to later…). This one was much better – and kudos is due to the IDC team that arranged it.

Not only was London’s Charlotte Street Hotel a much better venue (it may have had a tiny circulation area for pre/post event networking but it has a fantastic, cinema-style screening room) but there was a good mix of content as analysts covered a variety of consumerisation-based topics from an overview (risk management or business transformation) through sessions on how mobile devices are shaping the enterprise and on the state of the PC market, on to consumerisation and the cloud before finally looking at the impact of consumerisation on the IT services market.

I did cause some controversy though: tweeting a throwaway comment from an analyst about the organisation’s continued use of Windows XP attracted attention from one of the journalists who follows me in the US (IDC suggested that I took the comment out of context – which I would dispute – although, to be fair, much of the industry suffers from “Cobblers Shoes”); and I was not at all convinced by IDC’s positioning of VDI as an appropach to consumerisation (it’s a tactical solution at best – strategically we should be thinking past the concept of a “desktop” and focusing on secure access to apps and data, not on devices and operating systems) – prompting a follow-up email from the analyst concerned.

It used to be vendors (mostly Microsoft) that I argued with – now it seems I need to work on my analyst relations!

Ordnance Survey Open Data Master Class

I recently wrote a white paper looking at the potential to use linked data to connect and exploit big data and I have to admit that I find “big” data a bit dull really (Dan Young’s tweet made me laugh).

So #bigdata is any data set that exceeds your experience in managing it (@). After you've kicked its ass, it's just boring data again?
Dan Young

What I find truly exciting though is the concept of a web of (linked) open data. It’s all very well writing white papers about the concepts but I wanted to roll my sleeves up and have a go for myself so, when I saw that Ordnance Survey were running a series of “master classes”, I booked myself onto a session and headed down to the OS headquarters in Southampton. That was interesting in itself as I worked on a project at Ordnance Survey to move the organisation from Microsoft Mail to Exchange Server in the late 1990s but that was at the old premises – they’ve recently moved to a brand new building (purely office space – printing is outsourced these days) and it was interesting to see how things have moved on.

After an introduction to open data, Ordnance Survey’s Ian Holt (the GeoDoctor) took us through some of the OS open data sets that are available before Chris Parker spoke about Geovation and some of the challenges they are running (working with 100%Open, who also collaborate with some of my colleagues on Fujitsu’s Open Innovation Service). We then moved on to some practical sessions that have been created by Samuel Leung at the University of Southampton, using nothing more than some open source GIS software (Quantum GIS) and Microsoft Excel (although anything that can edit .CSV files would do really) – the materials are available for anyone to download if they want to have a go.

Even though the exercises were purely desktop-based (I would have liked to mash up some open data on the web) it was a great introduction to working with open data (from finding and accessing it, through to carying out some meaningful analysis) and I learned that open data is not just for developers!

[Update 2 April 2012: I won’t be writing another post about the IDC consumerisation of IT event as they have emailed all delegates to say that it was a private session and they don’t want people to publish notes/pictures]

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