Big things are happening

I saw a great video from Cisco this morning. The fact it’s from Cisco isn’t really relevant (indeed, if I showed it without the last few seconds you woudn’t know) but it’s a great example of how IT is shaping the world that we live in (or, maybe, how the world we live in is driving technology):

In case you can’t see the video above, here are some of the key statistics it contains:

  • Humans created more data in 2009 alone than in all previous years combined.
  • Over the last 15 years, network speeds have increased 18 million times.
  • Information is moving to the cloud; 8/10 IT Managers plan to use cloud computing within the next 3 years.
  • By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of IT labour hours.
  • We’re using multiple devices: by 2015 there will be nearly one mobile-connected device for every person on earth.
  • 2/3 of employees believe they should be able to access information using company-issued devices at any time, at any location.
  • 60% believe they don’t need to be in an office to be productive.
  • This is creating entirely new forms of collaboration.
  • “The real impact of the information revolution isn’t about information management but on relationships; the ability to allow not dozens, or hundreds, but thousands of people to meaningfully interact” [Dr Michael Schrage, MIT].
  • By 2015 companies will generate 50% of web sales via their social presence and mobile applications.
  • Social business software will become a $5bn business by 2013.
  • Who sits at the centre of all this? Who is managing these exponential shifts? The CIO.

Of course, we might expect to see many of these figures cited by a company selling social collaboration software and networking equipment but they are a good indication of the way things are heading.  I would place more emphasis on empowered employees and customers redefining IT provisioning (BYO, for example); on everything as a service (XaaS) changing the IT delivery model, on the need for a new architecture to manage the “app Internet”; and on big data – which will be a key theme for the next few years.

Whatever the technologies underpinning the solution – the overall direction is for IT to provide business services that add value and enhance business agility rather than simply being part of “the cost of doing business” – maybe we need more videos like this to help us think about the possibilities?

Is technology at the heart of business, or is it simply an enabler?

I saw a video from Cisco this morning, and found it quite inspirational. The fact it’s from Cisco isn’t really relevant (indeed, if I showed it without the last few seconds you woudn’t know) but it’s a great example of how IT is shaping the world that we live in – or, more precisely, how the world is shaping the direction that IT is taking:

In case you can’t see the video above, here are some of the key statistics it contains:

  • Humans created more data in 2009 alone than in all previous years combined.
  • Over the last 15 years, network speeds have increased 18 million times.
  • Information is moving to the cloud; 8/10 IT Managers plan to use cloud computing within the next 3 years.
  • By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of IT labour hours.
  • We’re using multiple devices: by 2015 there will be nearly one mobile-connected device for every person on earth;
  • 2/3 of employees believe they should be able to access information using company-issued devices at any time, at any location;
  • 60% believe they don’t need to be in an office to be productive;
  • This is creating entirely new forms of collaboration.
  • “The real impact of the information revolution isn’t about information management but on relationships; the ability to allow not dozens, or hundreds, but thousands of people to meaningfully interact” [Dr Michael Schrage, MIT].
  • By 2015 companies will generate 50% of web sales via their social presence and mobile applications.
  • Social business software will become a $5bn business by 2013.
  • Who sits at the centre of all this? Who is managing these exponential shifts? The CIO.

Some impressive numbers here – and we might expect to see many of these figures cited by a company selling social collaboration software and networking equipment but they are a good indication of the way things are heading.  I would place more emphasis on empowered employees and customers redefining IT provisioning (BYO, for example); on everything as a service (XaaS) changing the IT delivery model; on the need for a new architecture to manage the “app Internet”; and on big data – which will be a key theme for the next few years.

Whatever the technologies underpinning the solution – the overall direction is for IT to provide business services that add value and enhance business agility rather than simply being part of “the cost of doing business”.

I think Cisco’s video does a rather good job of illustrating the change that is occurring but the real benefits come when we are able to use technology as an enabler for business services that create new opportunities, rather than responding to existing pressures.

I’d love to hear what our customers, partners and competitors think – is technology at the heart of the digital revolution, or is it simply an enabler for new business services?

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog and was written with assistance from Ian Mitchell.]

Could this be the ultimate unified messaging client?

Much has been made of the slow death of email and the rise of enterprise social software so I was interested to read a recent paper in which Benno Zollner, Fujitsu’s global CIO, commented on the need to balance email usage with other communications mechanisms.

In the paper, Benno posits a view that we’re entering not just a post-PC era but a post-email era where we use a plethora of devices and protocols. This is driven by a convergence of voice and data (not just on smartphones, but on the “desktop” too – Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype shows how seriously they are taking this) but also the enterprise social software that’s extending our traditional collaboration platforms to offer what was once referred to as a “web 2.0” experience, only inside the corporate network.  Actually, I’m slightly uncomfortable with that last sentence – not just because as I find the terms “web 2.0” and “enterprise 2.0” to be cringe-worthy but, also, the concept of the corporate network is becoming less and less relevant as we transact more and more business in the cloud, using the mobile Internet, Wi-Fi hotspots and home broadband. Even so, it illustrates my point, that social networking is very much a part of the modern business environment, alongside traditional communications mechanisms including the telephone and email.

A few months ago, I wrote about the need to prioritise communications but I can see us taking a step further in the not-too-distant future.  Why do I need an email client (Microsoft Outlook), multiple instant messaging/presence/voice over IP (VoIP) clients (Microsoft Office Communicator/Lync/Skype) a Twitter client (TweetDeck), Enterprise social software (Microsoft SharePoint/Newsgator Social Sites/Salesforce Chatter) and a combination of mobile and desk-based phones (don’t forget SMS on that mobile too!)? Plenty has been made of the ability to use VoIP to ring several phones simultaneously, to call the phone that best matches my presence or to divert the call to a unified messaging inbox but why limit this to telephony?

I can envisage a time when we each have a consolidated communications client – one that recognises who we’re trying to communicate with and picks the appropriate channel to contact them.  If I’m sending a message to my wife and she’s at her desk, then email is fine but if I can tell she’s on the school run then why not route it to her mobile phone by SMS?  Similarly, advanced presence information can be used to route communications over a variety of channels to favour that which each of my contacts tends to use in a given scenario.  Perhaps the software knows that a contact is not available via instant messaging but is signed in to Twitter and can be contacted with a direct message.  Maybe I can receive a précis of an urgent report on my smartphone but the full version is available at my desk. The possibilities are vast but the main point is that the sender shouldn’t need to pick and choose the medium; instead, software can take into account the preferences of the recipient and route the communication accordingly (taking into account that some transport mechanisms may not guarantee delivery). Could this be the ultimate unified messaging client?

Email isn’t dead – but soon we won’t care whether our messages are sent via SMTP, SIP, SMS or semaphore – just as long as they arrive in a manner that ensures an efficient communication process and lets us focus on the task at hand, rather than spending the day working our way through our inboxes.

This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog and is based on a concept proposed by Ian Mitchell.

The generation game

Creating innovative ways to align IT with business needs is one of the main functions of our office. Ever since the early days of computing, IT departments have been trying to close the gap between end user requirements and service provision. Now changing attitudes to work are a frequent topic of conversation and, whereas we’re often talking about technological change, a number of recent events have highlighted the wider social impact.

In the last 20 years, we’ve seen some pretty significant advancements – not only in terms of technology but in attitudes too:

  • Do you remember the typing pool? In 2011, the idea of a room full of secretarial staff employed to type memos dictated by management seems absurd!
  • There was a time when Microsoft’s vision of a computer on every desk and in every home seemed like science fiction but today we use a plethora of personal computing devices.
  • In the early 1990s, radio pagers were used for communications and only the duty manager had a mobile. Now our smartphones have more computing power than the PCs of that era.
  • Bulletin boards, accessed via modems, and Ceefax, accessed through television, have been replaced by the worldwide web, itself transformed beyond recognition into today’s massive content distribution system that is becoming embedded in many elements of our lives.

Even this blog post is an example of changing attitudes: it’s informal but written for a customer audience; unedited by the marketing department but with clear expectations as to what is acceptable to discuss in a public forum. It’s unthinkable that we would have been able to communicate like this more than a few years ago.

Generation Y, or the millennial generation, as we term those born between 1980 and 2000, is witnessing ever-increasing technological change and expects major social changes too. Horizontal silos are forming within organisations, loosely based around generations of employees who think and communicate in entirely different ways. Take these examples:

  • Formality. We work in a very informal society and it’s rare to refer to colleagues, senior management, or even customers, using their title and surname.
  • Speed. We expect results: faster; and accuracy is often less important than speed of access to information (we can refine the details later – but need to make decisions now!).
  • Quality. Whereas previous generations expected a device or product to last for years, younger generations are happy to replace it with a newer model much more quickly. This affects buying patterns, but also the standards to which goods and services are produced.
  • Communications. Whilst older generations will send a birthday card, generation Y is happy with a message on Facebook. Baby boomers and generation X may communicate by phone or e-mail but generation Y uses text messages, instant messaging and social networks.
  • Familiarity. Whereas baby boomers may like to see pages with detailed information about a given topic; generation Y is happy with snippets of information.
  • Deference. Previous generations were taught to defer to their elders but today’s young people are much more prepared to challenge and question.
  • Education. A degree is no longer an indicator of excellence; instead, it’s expected from almost everyone.
  • Recession. The generation entering the workplace now is the first that will, in all likelihood, earn less than their parents (and yet have higher expectations).

Every generation brings a new approach and some people find the resulting changes easier to adapt to than others. In a few years’ time, today’s graduate entrants will be running our businesses and it seems that, as we experience an accelerated pace of technological change, there’s also an accelerating gap in attitudes between generations.

For many years, we’ve been trying to align IT to business needs and it’s still a challenge at times. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about the social needs of business end users, before that gap widens too?

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog and was jointly authored with Ian Mitchell.]