Monday Nov 24, 2008

ICT 2008, Lyon

I got into the conference in time to hear the words of welcome from the Mayor of Lyon, and the opening panel discussion. The panel was chaired by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, and its participants were Luc Chatel, Secrétaire d'Etat chargé de l'Industrie et de la Consommation, France, Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia Corporation, and Former President of the Finnish Innovation Fund (SITRA), former Prime Minister of Finland and one of the key commentators on FP6, he chaired the group that produced "Information Society Research and Innovation: Delivering results with sustained impact", which was published in September. Also on the panel were Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent, previously of BT, Harold Goddijn, CEO, TomTom and Michel Cosnard, CEO and Chairman, INRIA, representing a research view. The conference has a video link on its site for this session. The panel was called "Setting the ICT Agenda for the Next Decade" , has its own page. The panelists said little of controversy, with Verwaayen arguing that trust and security were keys with Aho arguing for a global dimension, starting from a green perspective to invest in productive knowledge. He also interestingly argued that US leadership was based on entrepreneurialism and commercial innovation. I was surprised, I am not yet convinced that european basic science research is yet competitive with the US. For instance, while researching NESSI's contribution to the EU's Software Industrial policy, I was pointed at China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University's study of Academic Ranking of World Universities. I, and others, have considered the methodology and anomalies, but it illustrates a world domination of scientific excellence in the universities by the USA. However Goddijn, who was there to tell the startup story, stated that his biggest problems in building Tom Tom were not technological, but regulatory compliance, specifically, VAT and patent registration. These comments got a round of applause, and Verwaayen weighed in specifically asking when it might become possible to register patents in the EU in one language. There were further discussions on the public policy dimensions of how innovation enters the economy, discussing public/private partnerships, educational/innovation clusters with much agreement about the short term changes in ICT.

In between the opening sessions and the panel discussion, some video's from Futuris were shown. This focused on the use of ICT in health care delivery. I have argued previously that the UK's investment in i-health care has been too focused on record keepting and NHS cost control, so it was good to see a couple of case studies showing the innovative use technology in improving the ill and injured's lives. I can't find the specific video on the Futuris site, but Futuris is an EU sponsored TV show broadcast on the Euronews channel. Leave me a comment if you find it.

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Thursday Apr 17, 2008

Revolutionary business, revolutionary I.T.

My colleague, Ambreesh Khanna, presented on how the growing use of Microfinance, is changing IT architectural requirements, and the risk management criteria. [There's a number of references on google, or exalead, but the Guardian reported on how Mohammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace prize 18 months ago.]

So while it costs a bank a certain amount to manage a customer, if its liabilities to its customers are small, then the risk can be managed in a different way. If a bank has 1000, € 500K loans in its book, only a small number of defaults cause a problem, whereas, if  its portfolio is reversed with  ½ million, € 1000, then many more defaults are required to cause a problems. It also changes the nature of the traffic. Many low volume payments, mandate an IT and banking efficiency that will need to borrow from the web 2.0 architectures. Ambreesh also wrote about microfinance on his blog.

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Tuesday May 22, 2007

More Futurology, Gartner's "Emerging Trends"

I am in Barcelona, attending Gartner's European Symposium and Expo. They have two of these each year and the spring event is positioned as broader and more forward looking. It was opened by a tour de force from Peter Cole, (CEO) and six of their top researchers. Later discussions brought home to me that one needs to be very carefull when listening to clever people, as sometimes one (i.e. I ) can assume that they mean the same things as yourself, this isn't always so.

I do wonder however whether their Macro-economic analysis is based too strongly on financial volume and on their boundary definition of IT. Just because our children don't see what they do as using IT, doesn't mean that it is not IT.

Another key insight I obtained here, is that there is a debate between those who think that IT as an industry is entering a maturity stage and those who don't. I should really have known this. Some IT companies are (very successfully) betting their future on the first view. I believe that because IT is dependent on software, which is not constrained by the laws of physics, it will continue to evolve rapidly and that its evolution will remain a source of value and wealth creation in the developed world for a while to come. This means that IT and most importantly, company's software portfolios will remain a source of differentiation and competitive advantage. Another point made to me is that peer based collaboration or community development may inhibit, ignore or exclude the genius that provokes radical change. It's an interesting point of view and one that community wranglers may need to think about.

A fair amount of time has been spent talking about "Green IT". Gartner's late arrival to this issue can be forgiven due the bravery of launching thier programmes in the USA, where they may be able to begin to remove the partisanship from the issue. 

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Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

James Gosling at Sun Live, London

After lunch, James Gosling presented and took us through some “What are Web 2.0” slides, its a short and to the point presentation. Among several asides, he pointed out that scientific computing which used to drive IT innovation is now leveraging the games industry, since the Sony Playstation 3 has the highest floating point performance in the world, (or on the planet as it seems is the current Sun mot-de-jour).

I wonder what this example says about the economics of the appliance vs. the general purpose?

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Friday Nov 10, 2006

Geeks & Suits

I made a video last week with Dan Berg and Chris Gerhard, where I played a fiercely independent investigative journalist, seeking the truth out of a corporate suit. (Yeah Right!) Chris and I did however ask Dan some questions about the re-invigorated talent management programmes (sic) that he is responsible for. To show inclusiveness, Chris and I both wore our normal clothes to work, so I dressed in a business suit and Chris was in an opensolaris T-Shirt. Geek & Suit!

Interestingly, the following day Management Today, published the highlights of a poll on the state of Business/IT alignment jointly funded by the Chartered Institute of Management and the BCS. This also suggests a them and us attitude still exists. The author, Rhymer Rigby suggests that the epitome of the split can be found in Douglas Coupland's latest book jPod, set in a Games Company where the marketing manager is at war with the development staff over their next best thing! This opposite position is counterposed by Nicholas Carr, who has turned his Harvard Business Review Article into a book called "Does IT  matter?". He of course has the view that it doesn't, so the suits will always despise the techies because they cost too much and do stuff that doesn't matter. Having started with a stupid and false polarity, a more careful reading of the results suggests that things are a bit more evenly balanced and that due to the increasing maturity of the IT world and its penetration into the schools and consumer leisure markets, together with increasing access to business education, the stovepipes are not as rigid as our fictional & polemic authors would have us believe. (Although in the UK, knowing something, and certainly being qualified in or about business is not necessarily a requirement for a business career.)

I need to see if the results are available with industry breakdowns. It is my view that the sedimentation process impacts IT investment strategies as does the competitive dynamic of industry. Fifteen years ago, manufacturing companies were buying and building "Just in Time" ERP systems. Today, they are only available as packages. Just in Time is not commodity, but the competitive baseline to play the game; the software functionality of ERP is no longer competitive advantage. There remains many businesses where they do compete through the ownership or onward rental of software and or by their ability to innovate and adapt. (I'm not really talking about ASP's here, but content providers.

None of these are commodity and the geeks are required to invent and sustain the software. The world is our future!  

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