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Forrester outlines top tech trends – from now till 2018 February 7, 2013

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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As decision-makers get blindsided about how and when to use emerging technologies, Forrester analyst Bryan Hopkins recently provided some helpful insight into what’s next in his blog.

Grouped in four major blocks, he outlined the top 15 major trends in tech that will be shaking up business models over the next five years.

It is easy to fall into the crystal ball-gazing trap, especially when you are talking about what will happen in technology between now until 2018. But a clear thread can be identified across Hopkins’s predictions.

In the end user computing group, advanced collaboration and computing tools will continue to be of major importance to companies worldwide. This is crucial because of the increasingly dispersed nature of businesses and the war for skilled personnel – you need to get the right people to work effectively together and also retain as much as possible of their knowledge when they move on.

The sensors and remote computing technologies theme refers to the external, customer-facing side of technology. Here, the Promised Land is that of smart machines performing the collection and processing of data, then contextualising it to generate the nuggets of gold that can inform brands on what to offer to consumers, where and how.

But that information doesn’t just appear by magic. So tools that provide advanced analytics capability as outlined in the process data management topic outlined by Hopkins  – that is, digesting and making sense of structured and unstructured information quickly and cheaply – will be very useful to companies focusing on understanding their audience.

Finally, there needs to be a robust platform holding that glue of knowledge together. So, as described in the analyst’s infrastructure and application platforms topic, big data platforms to handle large volumes of data, elastic storage capability and everything-as-a-service will continue to be the talk of the town for the years to come. Are you ready?

Read Bryan Hopkins’s blog entry on emerging trends here.

Crystal Ball

 

Photo by Justin Glass licensed under Creative Commons

Is technology moving too fast for the law? April 30, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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Three people have been arrested by police recently as part of the investigation into the alleged naming of Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans’ rape victim on Twitter.

The right to victims of rape and sexual assault to remain anonymous is an area of the law that faces an enormous challenge in this era of information freedom. Many victims would not go to the police if they knew that their name would be splashed across the newspapers – whether a celebrity is involved or not – and traditional newspapers and broadcasters have always respected the law in this respect.

But now there is Twitter. It takes just one tweet from somebody with inside knowledge of a case and the victim details are published and cannot be erased. Those wanting to avoid detection can easily create a new Twitter account in a different name within minutes.

The implication is clear. Technology can be used by people with inside knowledge of a subject to broadcast it to the media and general public, with very little fear of recrimination.

This affects many areas of life where sensitive information is managed. Jurors tweeting their opinion as a trial proceeds are already disrupting court proceedings. Medical professionals are tweeting about celebrities receiving treatment – and assuming that they can go to a hospital without news of their condition being broadcast to the world.

In technological terms, the genie has already escaped. We cannot turn back the clock to an age before Twitter so it appears that the approach to this problem can only be the improved education of professionals who deal with sensitive information and greater measures – such as immediate dismissal – for medical or legal professionals who misuse social networks. It is not ideal, but then the world has changed forever.

Scales of Justice, Old Bailey, London

Photo by Andrew Middleton licensed under Creative Commons

Staying alive – retaining innovation in IT September 22, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Internet, IT Services, Software.
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The history of information technology is littered with the names of companies that were once great and fell on hard times. Whatever happened to Imagine Software, Wang, Pr1me, Commodore, and many others?

Of course one of the greatest success stories in IT, and possibly in any business environment, is Microsoft. They grew from small roots, and a fortunate licensing deal to install their operating system on IBM PCs, and the rest is history. Now, almost all new PC-based computers come with Windows pre-installed.

But the world is changing. Microsoft has been talking publicly about their ideas for Windows 8 and it does not seem clear whether the world is listening any longer.

Almost 4m people in the UK use a tablet-based device and the dominant operating systems are from Apple and Google – with their Android system that is also becoming the key smart-phone operating system.

It would be wrong to suggest that Microsoft is finished because they don’t seem to be able to compete in the tablet and telephone market, but the entire computing market is changing. For years Microsoft has enjoyed the twin cash cows of Windows and their Office platform of office automation software – Word, Excel, and so on.

Windows is clearly becoming less relevant and valuable, but so too is the shrink-wrapped software market. Office automation tools are available free, in the cloud, from people like Google and at a low cost from other suppliers.

How do once dominant companies react to such changes in the market? If anyone can do it then Microsoft can. They have cash, intelligent people, and an attitude that focuses on innovation.

But do they have the will to entirely change the company? One only has to look at a company like Nokia to see that ignoring a changing technology market can bring industry giants to their knees. For the sake of the industry, let’s hope that Windows 8 really is as revolutionary as the Microsoft bosses suggest.
Microsoft Logo

Shutting down Twitter August 17, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, Internet.
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The recent civil unrest in several English cities that turned from a political protest into looting and criminality within a couple of days has led lawmakers to explore the social networks blamed for organising the wave of crime.

Though many commentators are pointing out that cars should not be banned because lawbreakers may have used a vehicle to get to the riots, some in government appear adamant that social networks need to be controlled during times of civil disobedience.

It sounds like a cross between the controlled Internet of China and the Egyptian government behaviour – faced with the Arab spring and a popular uprising, the government forced telephone operators to shut down their networks. For a couple of days there was no Internet in Egypt. Citizens resorted to dial-up connections via international phone calls to get any news out of the country.

Could this really happen in the UK?

Former BT Chief Scientist Peter Cochrane dismissed the idea as bluff, suggesting that the government doesn’t understand how the Internet works and that information would always flow, despite any attempt to block it. Others are not so sure.

The Prime Minister himself announced to MPs last week that he is working with the police and intelligence services with a view to exploring the consequences of limiting access to these websites and services if they are being used for criminal purposes. The government already has extensive online intelligence tools available, such as wire-tapping and the boffins inside GCHQ.

So if they started actively requesting offending social media accounts are shut down, would the social networks listen? They might, but then again, would any serious criminals be broadcasting their plans in public? In which case the government would need to directly ask phone networks to suspend their entire 3G services.

In any case, in stark contrast to Egypt, many of the UK networks would refuse on principle, and where would we be then? I don’t believe there is any law that gives the government a right to instruct a phone company to just shut down because of a threat.

[Note: these are the views of the author and not necessarily reflected by Thomas Eggar]

Who is the customer? February 24, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services, Outsourcing.
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Possibly the most important discussion I had at the Nasscom event in India recently was around the changing role of the CIO, and how this changes the whole relationship between the client and the service supplier.

The CIO is an evolving role. It is becoming more strategically significant and is focusing more purely on information use and flow – which means that there is less emphasis on the purchase of IT systems.

At the same time, services are getting easier to buy. Companies are offering complete solutions that can be delivered using a web browser so absolutely no infrastructure or software is required – beyond Internet access.

So business heads are getting far more involved in specifying what they need and even going to the market and purchasing it without any involvement from the IT department. In fact, if there is no IT infrastructure requirement then why would the IT department need to know what is being purchased or used by the business?

This has always been the case in BPO. The person buying a new HR system was the HR director – not the CIO. They might purchase a system in communication with the CIO, but ultimately the decision was that of the business line head.

Now the same is applicable for a wider variety of systems – even technical systems that would previously have needed agreement from the CIO.

Does it make the CIO redundant as a function? I don’t think so as there still needs to be a strategy around infrastructure and security, but this does signal a complete change in the way companies use IT. The business user not only has the budget, but the power to buy, install, and maintain their own systems without any IT department interference.