Futurology: art, science or nonsense?

Recently I was asked to present to a group of MBA students on my view of the future and how technology will shape our world by 2015 through to 2020 and beyond. I decided to deliver the session under the title “Futurology – Science, Art or Nonsense?”.

At this time of year it is tempting to wrap up the events of the year with a forecast of what the future will bring. You may be pleased to know that I am going to resist that temptation!

This is primarily because, early in 2012, we will be refreshing the Fujitsu view of the trends shaping our world and the potential outcomes, Technology Perspectives, so I’ll hold fire for now – although I do commend the current material to you as we will evolve our views not completely re-invent them!

Even so, I couldn’t resist re-reading my blog post from December 2010 and musing on how much of what I talked about was still relevant. The post was primarily about the concept of consumerisation of IT and my sense then that it was not restricted to being the generational trait that in 2010 many of us had linked to “Generation Y”. Twelve months on, I think it is clear that the expectation our corporate workplace will have the same 21st century technology capabilities as the consumer arena has moved into the mainstream. The most frequent topic on which I’ve been asked to give an opinion in 2011 is “Bring Your Own” technology (BYO) in its many variants and consequences for the corporate IT landscape. Indeed at the point where I moved from the CIO position in Fujitsu UK and Ireland to my current role the two topics dominating my CIO barometer of demand were requests for BYO solutions and our moving to support Android based smartphones and tablets within our own BYO initiative.

If you remember with the help of my HR colleagues I was able to have the data set rendered anonymous and then age group analysed. In May when the demand on these topics started to register in the monthly statistics there was a clear Generation Y skew, however by September the total figures for Android support were equally split between Generation Y and Generation X (c45% each of volume) yet the BYO demand remained Generation Y dominated (60% of volume). I’m not going to ponder on the demographic angle in this post but what I will say is that in a company of around 12,000 employees over the period I had over 1,000 requests for BYOT and over 2,500 requests for Android smartphone or tablet support (not necessarily all unique, i.e. people could have requested both). This level of interest mirrored what we saw in the marketplace and in the requests for opinion from CIOs from across our client base.

So whilst I am sidestepping listed some forecasts for 2012 I can say that the most common topic I have been asked to talk about over recently months is “Big Data” and “Smart Cities/Infrastructure” (the Intelligent Society). I no longer have the CIO Barometer to give me some data points but I am willing to assert that I think in 12 months we may well be reflecting on a year that saw that concept become pervasive and examples of business value being derived from it become easy to list.

It seems appropriate to end my last blog post of 2011 in the year which saw the passing of Steve Jobs to end with one of my favourite Apple related quotes. The final line from Apple’s famous Think Different campaign was:

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Clearly 2012 is going to be a challenging year on so many levels for us all, but alongside the challenges there are plenty of opportunities too. Have a restful festive period and return refreshed for what lies ahead.

Stereotypes – Shaken and Stirred?

Last week I was invited to talk at a D Group event on the topic of Generation Y.  The discussion after my monologue was wide ranging and extremely interesting, particularly as it had a business leader perspective rather than a technology orientation. One element of my material that generated a deal of debate was a demographic analysis that I had prepared on ten months worth of my “why can’t I?” email collection. I’ve mentioned this weekly collation of incoming requests and challenges from my user base and how I use it as an insightful barometer of technology demand in an earlier post.  Spookily, the demand alignment to demographic stereotypes is pretty much what you might expect, for example demand for Android based tablets receiving corporate email and other services coming from Generation Y, but the same services for Apple iPhones/iPads coming from Generation X.   An interesting data point for me was that the demand for Microsoft Windows based tablets to be enabled for corporate services was almost entirely from Baby-Boomers which has some interesting implications perhaps for the Nokia/Microsoft link up announced today.  The only other requests overwhelmingly dominated by one demographic related to self selection of of smartphone or computer for use in corporate context; 80% of those requests were from Generation Y.   This is interesting as, just as in many other companies, Generation Y is a minority group within our population but that will change over the coming decade and it signals an emerging demand loud and clear (I’ll discuss the way I meet the demand on social media and also on personal smartphone use in a future post).

The term emerging also figured prominently as I prepared some material to present at the quarterly Fujitsu Executive Discussion Evening event that we provide for our customers.  The topic of the evening was innovation at the sharp end and some event materials may be found on the i-CIO website, including videos taken of speakers and attendees on the night.

I opened my presentation using an infographic which shows the most efficient nations at turning R&D spend into patents submitted in 2008 together with the raw numbers submitted on a world map.  As you view the map from west to east the efficiency dramatically rises until you find that South Korea is massively more efficient than any other country and in the same total number band as the USA and Japan. The United States does relatively poorly on the efficiency measure, certainly not what you might expect for the world’s largest economy; the UK has the same efficiency rating.  Now I would love to see the data repeated for 2009 and 2010 but I think we can probably safely assume that that rise of the countries like China, India and South Korea will not have slowed.

Perhaps what is interesting is to link the demographic perspective from my data set to the population trends in the emerging economic super-powers, and to the efficiency indicated by the infographic, to form a view on the location and drivers for future innovation.  Clearly filing patents is not the same as being certain that the invention will lead to a business innovation, i.e. a change in how we do something in either consumer or corporate space that generates business benefit and ultimately money.  However, it does give pause for though.  At the Intellect Annual Regent Conference last week Mike Lynch (the founder and CEO of Autonomy) gave an excellent interview (as reported by Nick Heath on Silicon.com) in which he said that the majority of start-ups in Silicon Valley today were being established by South Koreans and that, in his view, we need to attract the “uber-talented” to set up their companies in Britain to create jobs and innovation profit engines in our economy.  At the time I was surprised by the reference to South Korea – a day later I saw the infographic discussed above and a penny dropped for me!

It seems that the last a week or so proved some stereotypes to be correct for me but also shook up some of my preconceptions and thinking. All in all, that must have been a jolly good week!

Image credit: © nikkytok – Fotolia.com

[Updated 31 August 2011 to include David's presentation slides]

A look back on 2010, and a view forward to 2011

New Year 2011 pushing 2010 downAt this time of year there are many articles and posts that provide insightful, amusing and thought provoking summaries of the year nearly completed.  The fact that I have read a number of excellent reviews of 2010 has helpfully discouraged me from trying to compete.  That said I cannot resist some personal observations on how I experienced 2010.

2010 was the year where we went from talking about the potential of cloud computing to seeing that future state take shape in the market.  Regardless of your position on solution maturity I doubt many would argue that cloud computing has not arrived and has had no impact on corporate IT strategy.  However, it is not cloud computing that stands as my key inflection point in 2010; that is reserved for the moment that the penny dropped for me on the closely related force of IT consumerisation.

My moment of clarity arrived during Fujitsu’s VISIT 2010 event held in Munich during November.  I’d just walked around the exhibition hall with three client CIOs and moved through the whole range of Fujitsu activities from our endpoint products to our server and storage technologies to cloud computing offerings, our extensive partner ecosystem, right through to our research activities under the strategic intent of human centric computing to enable an intelligent networked society.

I was asked by one of the CIOs which of the areas we’d just seen were having the most impact on my internal IT strategy; after some thought and the sound of a penny dropping I replied none of those as such but rather the change in expectations of my IT delivery.   Two of the CIOs looked at me as if I were slightly deranged whilst (luckily!) the third nodded and agreed with me.  Over a coffee we convinced ourselves that the key challenge is not technology aspects such as device proliferation, or the shadow IT landscape funded by credit cards, nor even social media finding a way into the enterprise.  We decided that the key disruptor is actually the one of expecting choice and an increasing demand to apply the market dynamics of the consumer marketplace to the corporate world.  This brings with it an expectation that using corporate IT should be “pleasurable”, “exciting”, “immediate” and dare I say “cool”; a customer experience as opposed to user experience.

At the start of the year many people including me were using the term “Generation Y” to encapsulate a set of behaviours and expectations that we asserted were generational.  Today I still argue that the characteristics attributed to Generation Y exist but now believe that that many of them are not restricted to a given generation.   Indeed if I look at my weekly barometer of demand (see my earlier post about IT consumerisation) I know enough of the names in my mailbox demanding iPad connectivity, Android access to corporate systems, adoption of services like DropBox, access to social media sites to know that the majority are actually Baby Boomers or Generation X.

The tension created the moment you attempt to reflect consumer arena expectations and demands in your corporate IT strategy is perplexing.  You rapidly find yourself becoming at best the voice of caution, at worst the voice listing all the reasons why not, despite the benefit that could accrue to the organisation.  Balancing risk against benefit is a key part of the CIO role but unsurprisingly I find the role much more rewarding when able to operate as the Chief Innovation Officer.  There is a strong temptation in the face of escalating demand for which you lack funding, quite apart from the information assurance implications or indeed those relating to the operational cost management, to simply say “no, because” and forget all of your consultative customer centric training in how to respond to challenging demands!

I think 2011 is going to be a challenging year for CIOs as I don’t think the economic climate has suppressed the demand for technology solutions arising from the consumer sector centric expectations.  Those of us fortunate to be in CIO roles are certainly not going to be bored. I say fortunate as with those challenges come change and if we don’t like change then IT is the wrong career choice!  So have a good rest over the festive period and recharge those batteries – 2011 is going to be interesting.

Image credit: © VBar – Fotolia.com.

The consumerisation of enterprise IT: resistance is futile

I spent a fascinating afternoon with Apple today in the briefing centre above their flagship Regent Street store.  What was even more impressive to my wife (and to me!) was that I managed to resist the urge to go and buy myself, for personal use, the lovely new Macbook Air laptop.  The agenda covered a number of interesting topics including the use of Apple iPad as a corporate device and, specifically, a topic critical to me – the impending Apple iOS 4.2 release.

There are many indicators that CIOs use to judge the emergent trends and the high demand requirements within their remits.  One measure I use is my weekly barometer of the “why oh why cannot I not….” volume of email refrains I receive.  Currently there are two requests dominating this demand flow, the first is “why will you not allow my Android smartphone to connect to corporate systems?” and the close second is “why will you not allow my Apple iPad to connect to the corporate systems for which you support Apple iPhone based access?”.  In this post I’d like to stick with the Apple theme but I will return to the Android request volume at a later point as it is twice the scale of the iPad request volume and is more than matching the levels I saw earlier in the year in relation to our delivering corporate services to Apple iPhone.

Internally we operate a Fujitsu mobility service called Mobile Professional through which I allow company and personally owned smartphones to receive corporate services such as messaging.  The personally owned devices have to meet prerequisites such as operating system/version, operating our corporate airtime provider SIM, individuals signing up to monitoring and remote wiping etc.; however, to date I have refused to certify the iPad OS as it currently fails to meet our minimum requirements but that will hopefully soon change with the release of iOS4.2.  What was really interesting was the conversation I had with the Apple representatives in that meeting around the market trend of IT consumerisation and the opportunity that represents for Apple to grow its share of the corporate market.

Indeed the phrase “corporate market” is an interesting term as the trend for companies to provide cash allowances and give some freedom to their employees to select/operate their computing device of choice.  Clearly as a CIO within a technology company which manufactures laptops I’m not likely to adopt this approach anytime soon!  However, I effectively have implemented a variant of that approach in relation to smartphones, partly recognising that mobile phones are a very personal choice it is hard to consistently meet and partly recognising the value that can be derived from employees purchasing their own if so motivated and thereby removing the device cost from the P&L. The drive of the employee to demand 21st century capabilities at work to match what they have at home rather than being stuck in the late 20th century has been commented upon many times, sometimes under the Generation Y banner and sometimes under IT consumerisation.

What is clear to me and I’m sure to many of you is that, regardless of the driver, the demand is here today, continues to grow in strength and must be harnessed to generate business value, sidestepping the ultimately fruitless war of resistance.  If you accept that point to any level then those technology providers who are dominant in the consumer space are going to become part of your portfolio under corporate management sooner or later. At that point, the key is whether you can manage that evolutionary process to an acceptable level of risk or whether it overwhelms your standards and your ability to contain both the risk and indeed the potential incremental cost implications.