Monthly Archives: December 2013

Executive Summary: Hybrid IT and Cloud Computing

cloud-computing

Overview

Cloud computing is simply the consolidation and abstraction of previous disparate computing infrastructure. In the past computing infrastructure and servers for web applications, web sites, databases, and more had to be purchased and managed in an in-house data center. This places a heavy burden the upfront cost of IT projects. Cloud computing changes this and puts the control back in the hands of creative innovators.

Positives

  • Agility
  • Scalability
  • Flexibility

Negatives

  • Cost surprises
  • Implementation complexity
  • Staff disruption

Business Impact

Cloud computing was initially pioneered by internet retailing giant Amazon.com. In 2006 they started selling spare computing cycles in their data-centers with the launch of Amazon Web Services. This innovation has allowed start-ups to rapidly prototype and deploy ideas to the web by essentially renting computing time in a cloud provider’s data-center. By only paying for what is needed new ideas and products could be quickly scaled if successful or abandoned if not. Managers may leverage iterative operational feedback without the upfront investment in costly IT infrastructure. Economies of scale is leverage on the energy consumption and sustainability front. As usage changes resources may be elastically scaled based on need. Applications based in India may use the same infrastructure used in America while the later sleeps, and vice versa.

Recommendation

There are many advantages to cloud computing, but it is no panacea. The overall complexity of an IT system needs to be taken into account before a decision is made to move it up to a cloud provider. Depending on the industry regulations may need to be considered with respect to IT infrastructure. To save money it’s important to ensure that you have done a complete total cost comparison. Cloud computing is not always cheaper. Consideration of in-house IT staff resources should be considered to avoid stress related to redundancies. An incremental or piece-meal migration strategy may be the best option for most to avoid costly implementation mistakes. Leveraging a competent IT department is the key to success when formulating and implementing a cloud strategy. Tread carefully and wisely to succeed.

Executive Summary: The Internet of Things (IoT)

internet-of-things

 

Overview

Over the past few decades there has been slow and steady merging of our physical world with the Internet.  The miniaturization of computers and the proliferation of wireless connectivity has enabled the installation of microchips and sensors into more and more things.  Analysts call this phenomenon the Internet of Things (IoT). Our phones have been transformed from a simple device to audibly communicate with each other into an automatic sensing device that records the who, what, where, and when of our daily lives. Jet engines now have tiny computers and sensors that detect and diagnose minor problems to be fixed avoiding costly loss of equipment or lives in flight. The Internet of Things is freeing up the human brain to focus on bigger problems and saving money in the process.

Positives

  • Real-time decision making
  • Increased quality
  • Pro-active maintenance

Negatives

  • Data storage overhead
  • Privacy
  • Reliance on technology

Impact on Business

The evolution of IoT will be highly disruptive to business and its competitive landscape. More and more data will be available providing insight into how a business really operates on an atomic level. Data-driven decisions will usurp human intuition and ultimately a manager’s “gut feeling”. Previously manual business processes will become more and more automated. This may lead to job loss in the short term, but that will likely be offset by job gains in IoT related sectors. Energy consumption will  decrease as process are made more energy efficient. Overall management’s decision-making toolkit will broaden and become more effective.

Recommendation

Successful managers need to be aware of potential applications in their business. Previously unknown opportunities will surface, the ability to see the forest through the trees is important. Building out IoT infrastructure may be expensive in the near-term so a long-term outlook is key. It is important for managers to seize the day now before their competitors beat them to it. It’s only a matter of time, get on it people!

Executive Summary: Gamification of Applications

badge

Overview

Do you have business applications in your organization that users under your charge complain about using or don’t use at all? Why would you, they’re boring. This is where gamification comes in. Gamification is the use of game thinking and mechanics on non-game applications to engage users. Put simply it’s a useful way of making people do things they would rather not do by making them fun.

A simple example is filling out an expense report. Why not link completing expense reports promptly and accurately to a scoring system that is available to other coworkers. Reward systems common the video game world such as achievement badges and scores can be applied to saving per diem money, getting a deal on a hotel room, or submitting a report promptly after returning from a trip. This could ultimately save the organization money and increase employee participation. These scores could be kept on a leader board and rewards given to the top performers.

Positive Impacts

  • User motivation
  • Positive competition
  • Employee performance

Negative Impacts

  • Increased complexity
  • User backlash
  • Novelty effect

Impact on Business

Like many trends in business gamification is a double edged sword. In one situation it could work great and in another it could fail miserably. It has been estimated that by 2014 that 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet the business goals they were developed for. The primary reason for this outcome is poor design. It’s important to get it right the first time and be ready to scrap a gamification idea that don’t perform well. Those developing the application must be creative and have a solid understanding of game theory.

Recommendation

Gamification is new and should be approached careful and intentionally before committing resources to a project. An 80% failure rate indicates these nascent techniques have some maturing to do. In time techniques will mature, best practices surface, and patterns develop. The idea is grounded in human psychology which is not subject to fads or trends. You have time to wait and see, use it.

End of Semester: MIST 7500

mario-jumping

Woo hoo! The semester is over! A professor asked me once what I learned in MIST 7500. This is an interesting question for me. I came into the Master of Internet Technology program with over a decade of experience in internet technology. I didn’t expect to learn a lot and I was disappointed. It turns out I actually did learn a lot, not about technology though, rather about how technology is applied and used in business. I learned these lessons from the professor and a few guest speakers sprinkled throughout the semester. I found that this was the key insight that I didn’t know I needed.

The application of internet technology in business was the focus of the first several classes. We learned about the The Business Model Canvas, SWOT analysis, and Porter’s 5 Forces Model, among others. These abstractions of business serve to simplify and focus what an organization is all about providing managers and stakeholders with a framework to make decisions. Applying these analytic methods to my work has enabled me to focus my limited time and effort to the most effective part of the problems I am presented with.

The most notable guest speaker in my view was Colleen Jones. Her focus is content strategy, a nascent specialty that leverages analytic methods and scientific research to determine the most effective strategy to leverage web content to achieve an organization’s goals. In the 90s and 00s the focus of web strategy was simply to have a presence on the web. Recently though innovation has abstracted many of the technological hurdles away clearing the way for Colleen and her analytical methods. With her book Clout: the Art and Science of Influential Web Content (reviewed here on this blog) and her consultancy Content Science she has become one of the foremost thought leaders in Content Strategy.

Another speaker I thought was interesting was Jason Lannen who discussed auditing and controls in IT. Working in the government this hit close to home. Almost everything I deal with on daily basis has to do with some level of auditing and controls. Hearing how this is handled in the private sector provided me with insights enabling me to contrast my experience with his. This made me a lot less frustrated with many of the challenges I face at work.

On the technical side of things Dr. Piercy’s lessons served to reinforce what I already knew and fill in the gaps of the things I didn’t. We learned about the role of the W3C and other standards governing bodies that bring order to the chaos. I coded my first Java program in years, a great exercise for a .NET C# developer. Furthermore we learned about cloud computing in the Amazon environment, big data, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and the fundamental building blocks of the technology the Internet is based on.

All in all, I feel a lot less full of crap.