Technology Forecasting Made Easy

Envisioning_technology

Here is a really nice technology forecast visualization from Envisioning Technology.

It covers almost three decades from 2012 through 2040.

And includes an exhaustive list of technology categories for the following:

– Artificial Intelligence
– Internet
– Interfaces
– Sensors
– Ubiquitous Computing
– Robotics
– Biotechnology
– Materials
– Energy
– Space
– Geoengineering

Further, specific technologies are informed by their:

Relative Importance–by bubble size
Consumer Impact–by size of the node’s outline
Related Clusters–by a jagged edge

Additionally, what I really like about their online version is that when you hover a technology, you get a decent description of what it is.

Looking in the out-years, it was great to see cool innovations such as machine-augmented cognition, retinal screens, space-based solar power, programmable matter, and anti-aging drugs–so we’ll be overall smarter, more connected, exist in a more energized and malleable society, and live long-enough to appreciate it all. 😉

Lead With Technology, Not Trinkets

Toy_phone

RIM, the maker of the Blackberry, continues to flounder, and many organizations are rightfully moving their mobility solutions to the ever more capable iPhone and Android platforms.

Changing the device has the potential to bring the latest technology to the organization, but the risk is that the device is viewed as a “toy” to hand out to the end-users, like doling out duckets to the impoverished in the Middle Ages.

With the latest smartphones and tablets running at 4G and loaded with camera, video, and more than half a million Apps, end-users are more than happy to receive their bounty whether or not it is immediately tied into the business processes of the organization.

In some cases, when there is money to invest to new systems, strategic planning, sound governance, and robust security, the CIO may choose to focus on gadgets instead.

Unfortunately, innovation in the organization is more than about gadgetry, but about how the organization can benefit from the integration of new hardware, software, and information to better carry out the mission.

However, delivering solutions is hard, while buying devices can be as easy as just writing a check.

If smartphones are treated trivially like gifts, rather than as a true game-changer for how people perform their jobs better, then CIOs have simply bought themselves some more time in the corner office, rather than driving transformative change.

Bringing new devices to the organization has many benefits in it’s own right, but the key is not to do it for it’s own sake.

New devices are wonderful, and we want them personally and professionally, but it is the CIO’s job to ensure that IT investment dollars are spent on genuine IT solutions to mission and business requirements, and smartphones and tablets need to be integrated firmly into what we do, not just what we carry.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to macattck)

>Avoiding The Ultimate In Surprise

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Everyone remember the I Love Lucy show? Well, that show really epidemized what it meant to surprise and be surprised by all the antics that the main character, Lucy, got into–show after show.

One thing that’s very clear is that no one really likes surprises (except maybe for some comic relief and that’s one reason I believe the show was the most popular season after season).

So what’s the problem with surprises? They are not inherently bad–there can be good surprise and bad ones.

The issue is really that people want to be prepared for whatever is coming there way.

Even surprise parties or gifts somehow seem sweeter when the recipient isn’t completely “taken by surprise.”

One of my bosses used to often repeat to the team, “I don’t like surprises!”

Hence, the importance of what we all got in the habit of saying–communicate, communicate, communicate–early and often.

With the tragic tornados that struck last week across the south killing some 329 people, we are reminded how important early warning to surprises in life can be.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that new technologies are being developed for early warning of these tornados such as:

Visual cues–Antennas that can track cloud-to-loud lighting, which is often invisible from the ground, but it “drops sharply in a storm just before a tornado develops” and can therefore provide early detection for those that can see it.

Sound waves–Using “infrasonic microphones” we can pick up storm sounds from as far as 500 miles away at frequencies too low to be detected by the human ear and can filter out the noise to track the storm’s severity and speed, and therefore hear in advance if it is turning dangerous.

Early warning saves lives...even a few extra minutes can provide the much needed time for a person to get to a shelter.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 230,000 people, an early warning system was put in place there and again with the the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, we see the ongoing need for these efforts to advance globally.

These efforts for early detection and alerts have always been around.

Already thousands of years ago, settlers built lookout towers and fire signals to get and give early notice of an advancing army, marauders, dangerous beasts, or other pending dangers.

Nowadays, we have satellites and drones providing “eyes in the sky” and other technologies (like the proverbial trip wires and so on) are being developed, refined, and deployed to protect us.

Advance warning and preparation is important for risk management and life preservation and leveraging technology to the max for these purposes is an investment that is timeless and priceless.

The challenge is in identifying the greatest risks (i.e. those with the most probability of happening and the biggest impact if they do) so that we can make our investments in the technologies to deal with them wisely.

>TechStat For Managing IT Investments

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TechStat is a governance model to “turn around or terminate” underperforming projects in the IT portfolio.

This is one of the key tenets in the 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT.

The training video (above) is an introduction to the TechStat model.

The goal is improved IT investment management and accountability for IT programs.

More information on TechStat, and in particular the toolkit for implementation, is available at the Federal CIO website.

>The Cost of Underestimating Technology

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While research is important and I respect the people who devote themselves to doing this, sometimes they risk being disconnected from reality and the consequences associated with it.

From the Wall Street Journal, 2 April 2011–two economists calculated that “$1,700 is the benefit the average American derives from personal computers each year.”

They call this the “benefit we get from computers above and beyond what we pay for them.”

To me, this figure seems inconsistent with common sense and the realities on the ground.

In an information age, where we are connected virtually 24 x 7 and can download hundreds of thousands of apps for free, endlessly surf the internet, shop and bank online, get much of our entertainment, news, and gaming on the the web, and communicate around the globe by voice, video, and text for the cost on a monthly high speed connection, I say hogwash.

Moreover, we need to factor in that most of us are now information workers (about 20%) or depend on technology in performing our jobs everyday and earning our living.

Just yesterday in fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that more people work for the government (22.5 million–forget the private sector information workers for the moment) than in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining, and utilities combined!

Additionally, at work, we are using computers more and more not only for transaction processing, but also for content management, business intelligence, collaboration, mobility (and robotics and artificial intelligence is coming up fast).
Finally, technology enables breakthroughs–in medicine, energy, environment, education, materials sciences, and more–the impact of technology to us is not just now, but in the potential it brings us for further innovations down the road.
So is the benefit that you get from computers less than $5 day?

I know for me that’s the understatement of a lifetime.

Apparently by some, technology continues to be misunderstood, be undervalued and therefore potentially risks being underinvested in, which harms our nations competitiveness and our collective future.

As much respect as I have for economics, it doesn’t take an economist to think with common business sense.

>Federal IT Management Reform

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New IT management reform from the White House.

Very exciting development.

The plan is published at this link.

>Strategic Decision Making Trumps The Alternative

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A strategist frequently has to temper the desire for structured planning and strategic decision making with the reality of organizational life, which includes:

· Organizational politics (who has the power today to get their way).

· Subjective management whims (I think, I believe, I feel, but mainly I want—regardless of objective facts).

· Situational knee-jerk reactions (due to something that broke, a mandate that came down, an audit that was failed, and so on)

· People with some cash to throw around (they have $ and “its burning a hole in their pockets” or can anyone say “spend-down”?).

The result though of abandoning strategic decision-making is that IT investment decisions will be sub-optimal and maybe even big losers—some examples includes:

· Investment “shelfware” (the seals on the packages of the software or hardware may never even get broken)

· Redundant technologies (that drain limited resources to operate and maintain them)

· Systems that are obsolete by the time they make it into production (because they were a bad idea to begin with)

· Failed IT projects galore (because they never had true organizational commitment and for the right reasons)

Why does strategic decision-making help avoid bad organizational investments?

1) Having a vision, a plan, and an enterprise architecture trumps ping-pong balling around in the firefight of the day, because the first is goal-oriented—linear and directed, and the second is issue-oriented—dictated by the problem du-jour, and generally leads to nowhere in particular.

2) Having a structured governance process with analysis of alternatives and well-thought out and transparent criteria, weightings, and rankings trumps throwing an investment dart into the dark and hoping that it hits a project with a real payoff.

3) Taking a strategic view driven by positive long-term outcomes for the organization trumps an operational view driven by short-term results for the individual.

4) Taking an enterprise solutions view that seeks sharing and economies of scale trumps an instance-by-instance approach, which results in gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and systems that can’t talk with each other.

5) Taking an organization view where information sharing and horizontal collaboration result in people working together for the greater organizational good, trumps functional views (vertical silos) where information is hoarded and the “us versus them attitude,” results in continuous power struggles over scare resources and decisions that benefits individuals or groups at the expense of the organization as a whole.

Certainly, we cannot expect that all decisions will be made under optimal conditions and follow “all the rules.” However, as leaders we must create the organizational structures, policies, processes, and clear roles and responsibilities to foster strategic decision-making versus a continued firefighting approach.

Understanding that organizations and people are imperfect and that we need to balance many competing interests from many stakeholders does not obviate the need to create the conditions for sounder decision-making and better organizational results. This is an IT leader’s mandate for driving organizational excellence.

While we will never completely get rid of the politics and other sideline influences on how we make our investments, we can mitigate them through a process-driven organization approach that is based on a healthy dose of planning and governance. The pressure to give in to the daily crisis and catfight can be great that is why we need organizational structures to hold the line.

>Realistic Optimism and Enterprise Architecture

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Optimism can be a key to success in your personal and professional life!

The Wall Street Journal reported in Nov. 2007 that optimism leads to action and that “if even half the time our actions work out well, our life is going to turn out for the better…if you are a pessimist, you are unlikely to even try,” says Dr. Phelps an NYU neuroscientist. Similarly, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania observes that “optimists tend to do better in life than their talents alone may suggest.”

So while optimism is often “derided as a naïve, soft-soap disposition that distorts the realities of life,” Duke University researchers found that optimists actually lead more productive and by some measures, successful lives. For example, they found that optimists “worked longer hours every week, expected to retire later in life, were less likely to smoke and, when they divorced, were more likely to remarry. They also saved more, had more of their wealth in liquid assets, invested more in individual stocks, and paid credit-card debt bills more frequently.”

At the same time, overly optimistic people behaved in a counter-productive or destructive fashion. “They overestimated their own likely lifespan by 20 years or more…they squandered, they postponed bill paying. Instead of taking the long view, they barely looked past tomorrow.”

Overall though, “the influence of optimism on human behavior is so pervasive that it must have survival value, researchers speculate, and may give us the ability to act in the face of uncertain odds.”

Optimism coupled with a healthy dose of realism is the best way to develop and maintain the organization’s enterprise architecture plans and governance. Optimism leads the organization to “march on” and take prudent action. At the same time, realism keeps the enterprise from making stupid mistakes. An EA that is grounded in “realistic optimism” provides for better, sounder IT investments. Those investments proactively meet business requirements, but are not reliant on bleeding-edge technologies that are overly risky, potentially harmful to mission execution, and wasteful of valuable corporate resources.

>Andy Blumenthal Presents How Enterprise Architecture is Transforming Government (June 2009)

>Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

>Customer Service Will Always Be Goal #1

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Too many organizations espouse good service, but very few actually excel and deliver on the promise.

However, one company is so good at it that it serves as the role model for just about all others–that company is The Four Seasons.

The Wall Street Journal, 29 April 2009 reviewed the book “Four Seasons” by Isadore Sharp, the luxury hotel’s founder.

Here are some things that I learned about customer service from this:

Customer Service means reliability—“a policy of consistently high standards.” At Four Seasons, anyone who has visited the chain around the world [83 hotels in 35 countries]…can attest to its reliability. To be reliable, customer service is not just raising and holding the bar high– having high standards for quality service–but this must be institutionalized through policy and delivered consistently—over and over again. You can’t have a bad day when executing on customer service. Fantastic customer service has to always be there, period!

For The Total CIO, this type of reliability means that we don’t focus on technology per se, but rather on the customer’s mission requirements and how we can consistently deliver on those in a sound, secure, and cost-effective manner. CIO leaders establish high standards for customer service through regular performance plans, measures and service level agreements. Reliable customer service is more than a concept; it’s a way of relating to the customer in every interaction to consistently exceed expectations.

Customer Service means innovation—“The things we take for granted now during our hotel stays-comfortable beds, fluffy towels, lighted make-up mirrors, fancy toiletries, and hair dryers-made their first appearances at the Four Seasons…likewise for European-style concierge and Japanese-style breakfast menus, in-hotel spas, and the possibility of residence and time-share units.”

For The Total CIO, technology changes so fast, that innovation is basically our middle name. We never rest on our laurels. We are always on the lookout for the next great thing to deliver on the mission, to achieve strategic competitive, to perform more cost effectively and efficiently.  Advantage. Moreover, we reward and recognize customer service excellence and innovation.

Customer Service means valuing people—“Follow the golden rule. Workers are vital assets who should be treated accordingly…at the Four Seasons, those who might otherwise be considered the most expendable ‘had to come first,’ because they were the ones who could make or break a five-star service reputation.”

For The Total CIO, people are at the center of technology delivery. We plan, design, develop, and deploy technologies with people always in mind—front and center. If a technology is not “user-centric”, we can’t employ it and don’t want it—it’s a waste of time and money and generally speaking a bad IT investment. Moreover, we deliver technology through a highly trained, motivated, empowered and accountable workforce. We establish a culture of customer service and we reward and recognize people for excellence.

Customer Service means solving problems—“Turning the top-down management philosophy on its head, Mr. Sharp authorized every Four Seasons employee to solve service problems as they arose to remedy failures on the spot.”

For The Total CIO, leadership is fundamental, management is important, and staff execution is vital. It is the frontline staff that knows the customer pain points and can often come up with the best suggestions to solve them. Even more importantly, the IT customer service representatives (help desk, desktop support, application developers, project managers, and so on) need to “own the customer” and see every customer problem through to resolution. Yes, it’s nice to empathize with the customer, but the customers need to have their problems fixed, their issues resolved and their requirements met.

The Total CIO will make these customer service definitions his and his organization’s modus operandi.