Frost & Sullivan on Brexit

Continuing to track what the analysts are saying about Brexit: Frost and Sullivan (F&S) have just notified A Post Brexit View of the UK High Tech Sector, published from their Digital Transformation practice.

They point out that the technology sector accounts for around 10% of the UK’s GDP but see four key challenges. First: a brake on migration is not certain, since free movement of EU labour goes with access to the single market. But if it materialises, then F&S see UK-based technology firms struggling to find the right skills to drive businesses forward; and EU citizens currently working here may migrate out, to other parts of Europe.

Second: many firms, particularly US-based ones in our sector, have come to the UK at least in part because it provided a good gateway into the enormous European market. Once this is no longer the case, will they migrate to other locations (e.g. Frankfurt, Paris, …). This will be more of a problem if single-market access is sacrificed to control of immigration.

Third, as I’ve already commented: leaving the EU does not necessarily mean less red tape. F&S highlight data protection, as I did previously. “Pan-European contracts will need to be renegotiated, and IP/trademarks may require separate treatment for the UK and the EU”. We will be divorced from the creation of the regulatory environment, and F&S suggest firms may find it harder “to navigate legislation and ensure they abide with the varying rules in different countries”; and the UK will without question have less clout than it does as part of the EU.

Fourth, F&S point out that the European Investment Fund is the largest investor in UK venture capital firms. Will this funding stream remain in place? and if not, can it be replaced out of the fabled £350m per week, along with everything else?

Links:
• A Post Brexit View of the UK High Tech Sector, Frost & Sullivan, undated but publicised 14 Jul 2016; the link is to a download form (if this doesn’t work search
• What about the EU? ITasITis, 24 Jun 2016
• An aggregation of post-referendum comments, ITasITis, 2 Jul 2016

An aggregation of post-referendum comments

Commentary from analysts, and other reactions, are beginning to emerge in the wake of the referendum vote and the likelihood (perhaps it’s still not a certainty) that the UK (or what survives of it) will withdraw from the EU.

Here and in subsequent posts I’ll gather those that have come to my attention. I should say that I have only looked at these reports in outline, in order to be timely with this note.

First: the British Computer Society, in true professional style, intends to open up discussion among its membership (and beyond, among those in its communities). It has invited its members to give their opinions about the key topics for discussion, with an initial list. They say: Based on current dialogues and their relevance to Europe, we have identified and are suggesting the following topic areas for detailed discussions: capability, data protection/regulation, education and UK research. This is part of an ongoing initiative to develop a UK position on the new situation, and help ensure the UK’s digital future.

Ray Wang’s Constellation Research hosted a rapid-reaction webinar focussed on the Future of Work and cloud/Next Gen Apps, using the PESTEL (political, economic, societal, technological, environmental and legislative trends) framework. A webinar replay is available.

Ovum has been publishing notes since day one and I recommend a visit to the Ovum website and simply search “Brexit”. Tim Jennings, a long-standing contact from his days at Butler Group, posted a piece on the day after the vote which examines the likely implications for IT investment. Tim doesn’t say this in so many words, but the raft of changes likely to be needed for the new trading world could be of Year 2000 proportions – starting with a triage with the same options now as then: continue unchanged, need updating and testing, should be ditched or replaced.

Ovum’s conversations with enterprise IT leaders , they say. suggest that few have planned or prepared for the changes. Since Tim’s piece was published immediately, this note suggests that these discussions have been going on for some time and that Ovum might themselves be planned and prepared to offer support. Other notes in the search results (at the time of writing) highlight impact on offshore companies and on the regulatory framework (including privacy).

Gartner has begun to provide research, with headline impacts listed as cost optimization, people and talent, applications, suppliers and partners, data management, analytics, governance and operating model changes, and risk management. They suggest a  likely increase in application portfolio complexity. There’s a link on their home page. A key recommendation is for CIOs to not over-react, but to create a taskforce (small, at present) to prepare for what may need to be done. This also sounds a lot like early Year 2000 to me! It’s perhaps a predictable Gartner reaction, but none the less valuable as Gartner are clearly prepared to track the issues.

Forrester’s responses seem a little more creative but not so coordinated. A quick search reveals several short articles aimed at all their constituencies (B2C and marketing as well as CIOs and tech). They expect digital and customer-facing talend to migrate out of the UK; and urge a continued focus on customer experience and innovation. Interestingly, a search on Brexit also threw up a note from March 2016 regarding response to market volatility (Wall Street then, but looking forward to Brexit implications).

That’s enough for now, probably more another day.

Links:
• Ensuring the UK’s digital future post-referendum, British Computer Society (Institutional Thinking Blog), 29 Jun 2016
• Post Brexit Analysis Webinar Recording, Constellation Research, 29 Jun 2016 (slides can be downloaded; no subscription needed)
• Ovum: Brexit decision will impact enterprise IT investment, Ovum Press release, 24 Jun 2016. For other reports, search Brexit on ovum.com (no subscription needed for this content, apparently)
• CIOs Must Act to Prepare for Changes Triggered by Brexit, Gartner, 27 Jun 2016 (free sign-in account needed)
• After Brexit, Will Paris Become The New Startup Hub In Europe? Forrester blog (Thomas Husson), 30 Jun 2016
• With Brexit, A Customer-Focused Agenda Is More Important Than Ever Forrester blog (Laura Koetzle), 24 Jun 2016
• Quick Take: UK Firms Must Drive Innovation In The Age Of The Customer, Despite Brexit Forrester, 24 Jun 2016

What about the EU?

In the aftermath of the vote, there are some instant comments around in the IT sector as elsewhere. Outsell, for example, have mailed an analysis for the information industry (though not related to our IT analysts about whom more anon, perhaps).

A couple I know a little about.

First: research and development will shortly lose access to a significant source of funding, especially for pre-market development; and to the wide-ranging academic and industrial collaboration that the EU research programmes are intended to – and do – foster. World-leading many of our research centres undoubtedly are; our IT provider companies less so.

Second: data protection. Let’s take EU-wide data protection standards (unified, more or less effective and collaboratively developed) to stand for the EU regulations which are somehow supposed to cease to trouble UK industry. Will UK companies have to (probably separately) demonstrate their compliance to EU data protection standards before they can do business? Or will the UK have to set up something like the UK Safe Harbor arrangement, before ditto? One or the other; and surely more of a burden, more of a cost, than at present when just operating from the UK provides de jure compliance.

Oh, and a postscript. In today’s daily paper there’s a splash advert from one of the mobile phone companies: “Travel to Europe with no roaming charges!” We all know that’s the result of a European negotation and agreement with the providers, and a bit of big stick from the regulators; it’s not the provider’s initiative. Watch out for their re-introduction, somewhere down the line. Will the UK have the independent clout to keep them at bay? Will Europe care? Not a chance!

Technology management: Ovum’s perspective at BCS

Being much less active these days, and more remote from the capital, it’s rarely that I get to London for professional events. But I was in town this week for a BCS Elite/North London Branch event. It was wet and dismal when I arrived, just to remind me what London can be like …

The event was a presentation (Climbing Technology Mountains – A Practical Guide) by a couple of senior Ovum analysts giving their perspective on technology management in today’s business environment. Tim Jennings, who presented first, used to be Research Director at Butler Group before its acquisition by Data Monitor in 2005 and eventual transition to become Ovum’s analyst research group. Ovum now advertises itself as part of the Business Intelligence Division of Informa PLC, following a merger last year; there have been several evolutions since the Data Monitor acquisition!

As former Butler client, I was pleased to re-encounter Tim; he is now Chief Research Officer at Ovum. His presentation focussed on the strategic approach to today’s technology challenges (“Making headway with digital innovation & transformation”) with a mountaineering preamble and theme. The main headilines included: transforming IT capability; modernizing legacy systems; building the modern workplace; managing security, identity and privacy; adopting cloud services (at least in a hybrid model); connecting the physical world (the “Internet of Things”); exploiting business information; and enhancing the customer experience.

Most of the ideas were (dare I say) long familiar. But there are newer concepts coming through: the recognition of DevOps as well as agile to promote fast-moving adaptation; and a view on how far the Internet of Things is now reaching – not just into transport, logistics and retail but, for example, in healthcare and beyond. Big Data too is reaching a stage of maturity where it’s no longer about development and implementation but about exploitation in the hands of the end user through advanced desktop tools. But well-discussed challenges are still around: the role of what’s become known as “Shadow IT”, for example; the right architecture for hybrid cloud; the challenges of SaaS, as it empowers users but, by that very fact, works against attempts to simplify the application portfolio; giving workers the appropriate level of control of their own technology (whether through BYOD or other means); and recognising that IT transformation at scale is problematic. Though when an audience member reflected on the corporate challenge inherent in upgrading hundreds (or thousands) of desktop Windows machines, the response was “Yes, but Microsoft has just upgraded 40 million over the Internet”. The problem is corporate IT’s tendency to customise and lock down; maybe this finally has to go, so that auto-update can be allowed to just work. Vanilla is cheaper!

Perhaps the most interesting and newest concept in the discussion was that of the role of identity and identity management. Identifying the individual (and perhaps not just the individual user/customer/vendor/regulator person in all their roles, but also the individual device on the edge of the network) is both a key challenge and a significant enabler if it can be handled right. This topic was subsumed into security and attack/response strategies but it shouldn’t be: it’s perhaps one of the most crucial. This apart, by and large the impression was that the issues which were live when I was myself working directly in enterprise IT (which is now several years ago) are still the principal themes of analyst thinking. Despite the urgency we used to attach to issues such as BYOD, the “open enterprise”, SaaS or cloud services it seems life has not moved on that fast if Ovum are accurately reflecting their clients’ issues.

Richard Edwards, a Principal Research Analyst, followed up with a focus on knowledge workers and how to “re-platform” them. Some interesting discussion on what makes a knowledge worker; one of the key characteristics is a desire for autonomy (“knowledge workers often gear their workspace towards better individual business outcomes, albeit not necessarily with the blessing of management or line-of-business”). If the provided tools don’t get the job done, we knowledge workers have always found work-arounds, using our own technology if need be. There’s a trade-off therefore, between providing us with the flexibility to work the way we choose and managing the real issues of security, regulatory environments and backup. In the end, though, for any enterprise it is global disruption rather than corporate strategy which shapes the way we work (“If change is happening faster on the outside than on the inside, then the end nigh”).

Richard commented that the tools (and methods, I guess) used by knowledge workers shape the products and processes of their enterprise. This may be a surprise. For me, these elements of the discussion were the most rewarding part of the evening.

Also it was good to see Ovum Research in action. Ovum’s research output remains hidden entirely behind its paywall, which not even Gartner does these days, so opportunities are few; but you can download their research agenda from their home page.

Links:
• Climbing Technology Mountains, BCS event, 16 Sep 2015 (content may be added later)
• Ovum research for buyers (enterprise CIOs)

Location services move indoors: Apple’s iBeacon

An incidental headline in Outsell’s information market monitoring email brought my attention to Apple’s new iBeacon technology, announced last year.

We’ve long been used to the idea that the smart devices we carry around with us might/can detect nearby things of interest: for example, alerting us to an offer from a store nearby. Location services, based on GPS, on your current WiFi connection, or on triangulation from your mobile signal, do this. So can active RFID.

But indoor location is difficult. Current technology is an updated version of the old nautical dead reckoning. It notes where you are when you lose your accurate GPS/cellular/WiFi positioning, and uses motion sensors to track.

iBeacon is different. It’s a nearer-proximity application and is based on Bluetooth detection of your smartphone. Apple says: Instead of using latitude and longitude to define the location, iBeacon uses a Bluetooth low energy signal, which iOS devices detect. So you need Bluetooth turned on as well as having an appropriate app loaded. This leaves you a modicum of control, I guess.

What alerted me was Outsell’s note that London-based online community specialist Verve has added Apple’s iBeacon technology to its Community Panel app, allowing it to track individual members as they travel into and around stores fitted with the iBeacon device. The report, from “MrWeb”, is firmly in the market research space. This is very much a retailer’s app; it tracks the device in detail through a store, identifying where the user spends time – and how long they stay there – and possibly triggering instant marketing surveys on that basis.

Verve is a newish (2008) company. They describe themselves as “The community panel for research”. Their business is the creation of community panels, acting as consultants to companies needing consumer-focussed research. There’s no  indication, therefore, of what incentives are offered to users to join panels; but one might assume instant offers would be the least of it. There is some client information in their “About Us” section (but one client is T-Mobile, which hasn’t existed independently since around the time Verve were formed, so one wonders …).

Apple’s developer website suggest a range of applications:

From welcoming people as they arrive at a sporting event to providing information about a nearby museum exhibit, iBeacon opens a new world of possibilities for location awareness, and countless opportunities for interactivity between iOS devices and iBeacon hardware

A link will take you through to a video from the 2014 WorldWide Developers Forum. This is awkward to get at: unless you’re using Safari on a recent MacOS you will need to download the file to play it. But it’s worth it; it takes you on a journey from existing RF triangulation, adding motion sensors when indoors and out of effective range, to the new beacon-based technology. And on the way it suggests more user-oriented applications, such as finding your way roung Heathrow Airport; or through an unfamiliar hospital on a family visit. Watch about the first 15 minutes, before it routes to coding stuff for developers.

Technically, interesting; a new twist on location services. Practically useful; but watch out (as always) for what it may do to your privacy. As they say: enjoy!

Links:
• iOS: understanding iBeacon, Apple
• iBeacon for Developers, Apple Developer website
• Verve Adds iBeacon Tech to Panel App, Mr Web Daily Rresearch News Online, 5 Mar 2015
• Verve: community panel research
Taking Core Location Indoors, Nav Patel, Apple WWDC, June 2014. Page down to find the expanded link

How complex can it be to open a new savings account ?

We’ve recently gone through the exercise of opening online access saving accounts, looking for online instant access accounts with something more than a derisory rate of interest. The exercise has been instructive and at some times extraordinarily frustrating. Terms and Conditions varied from a couple of pages to around forty. It’s worth sharing a few observations which relate, it seems to me, to pseudo-security and to not thinking from the customer’s perspective.

There was one genuine complication. We have recently moved house. Online identity confirmation uses electoral registers, so we don’t show up: and most providers therefore asked for some form of additional confirmation. I don’t have a problem with that, but some make it easy and some don’t!

I’ll name one provider: Virgin Money. Their online process ran like clockwork, their checks were easily completed, and we were up and running in better than even time. The documentation was brief and a model of clarity. And, since they provide the account with an “ordinary” sort code and account number, the initial deposit could be made easily by the third party who was holding our funds.

It’s a pity the others couldn’t take a leaf out of Virgin’s book.

Most of them asked for paper documentation, which is fair enough: typically a certified copy of a passport and a driving licence would do. Certification, like a passport photo, could be done by pretty much any professional: but our first attempt, asking our own bank to do it, met with a refusal. They will only do it for their own products – not even their own customers. The Post Office will do it, for a fee, which is a good solution if you’re new to an area and haven’t yet acquired a wide circle of professional friends. One provider, linked to a major supermarket (one which is somewhat in the news at the moment) wouldn’t even tell us what documents they would ask for until the account had been opened and the initial deposit made. Some were quite quick to send postal correspondence, others much slower. Access codes of course also arrived in the post: fair enough, I count that as good practice.

Then there’s the “linked account” issue. Many savings providers, especially the ones that aren’t clearing banks, require that you nominate a “linked” bank account which must already exist in your name. Some insist that you sign a direct debit in their favour from this account, so you’re not transferring money to them; they’re claiming it off you and you’re subject to their processes. I guess this may avoid the limit which most banks quite properly put on online transfers.

And the rules vary. Some will only accept deposits from this linked account. Some will only pay out to it. Some will only pay interest into it, and some will only add interest to the deposit. All these arcane rules get in the way of what you actually want to do, which is to deposit a sum of money and earn interest.

Third, one account had persistent problems trying to get through the login sequence using Internet Explorer on Windows 8 – hardly an uncommon platform. Firefox on Mac was fine! For another attempt, we persistently failed to get to the starting gate on the online system at all, even after three separate interactions with their tech helpdesk; guess what, they didn’t get the business.

So don’t ever believe a deposit account which says it only takes half an hour to set up. For a start, do make sure you read the T&Cs, and that you can live with how you will be able to deposit money and get it back (including on account closure). Expect to spend up to an hour reading the T&Cs, and another hour working through the setup process. Expect the security checks, other confirmations and postal correspondence to take at least a week and possibly two.

But here’s the key question. If Virgin can make it quick, easy and efficient – and yet, presumably, secure and compliant – why does any other organisation have to make it so complex and frustrating? IT people: don’t let your organisation swamp your interface work with un-necessary complexity!

Links (just one this week)
• Virgin Money: Instant Access e-Saver. See how simple it is!

Master Data Management: sources and insights

Tomorrow I will be facilitating my last Corporate IT Forum event. After five years or so I’m standing down from the team, having valued the Forum first as a member and then, since my first retirement, being on the team. Tomorrow’s event is a webinar, presenting a member’s case study on their journey with Master Data Management (MDM).

There was a phase of my career when I was directly concerned with setting up what we’d now call Master Data for a global oil company. We were concerned to define the entities of interest to the enterprise. When systems (databases and the associated applications) were set up to hold live data and answer day to day or strategic questions, we wanted to avoid the confusions that could so easily arise. everyone thinks they know what a particular entity is. It ain’t necessarily that simple.

A couple of examples.

When we began the journey, we thought we’d start with a simple entity: Country. There are fewer than a couple of hundred countries in the world. We needed to know which country owned, licenced and taxed exploration and production. And everyone knows what a country is, don’t they?

Well, no. Just from our own still-almost-united islands: a simple question. Is Scotland (topically) a country? Is the Isle of Man? Is Jersey? In all those cases, there are some areas (e.g. foreign policy) where the effective answer is no; they are part of the single entity the United Kingdom. But in others (e.g. tax, legal systems, legislature) they are quite separate. And of course the list of countries is not immutable.

So: no single definitive list of countries. No standard list of representative codes either: again, do we use GB? or UK? Do we use international vehicle country codes, or Internet domain codes, or … What codes would be used in data coming in from outside? And finally: could we find an agreed person or function within the Company who would take responsibility for managing and maintaining this dataset, and whose decisions would be accepted by everyone with an interest and their own opinions.

And talking of data coming in from outside: I carried out a reconciliation exercise between two external sources of data on exploration activities in the UK North Sea. You’d think that would be quite well defined: the geological provinces, the licence blocks, the estimates of reserves and so on. record keeping in the UK would surely be up to the game.

But no: the two sources didn’t even agree on the names and definitions of the reservoirs. Bringing the data from these sources together was going to be a non-trivial task requiring geological and commercial expertise.

Then again, we went through a merger and discovered that two companies could allocate responsibility for entities (and for the data which represented them) quite differently within their organisations.

So: this is a well developed topic in information systems. Go back to a Forrester blog in 2012: analyst Michelle Goetz maintains forcefully that MDM is not about providing (in some IT-magic way) a Single Source of Truth. There ain’t no such animal. MDM is a fundamental tool for reconciling different data sources, so that the business can answer useful questions without being confused by different people who think they are talking about the same thing but aren’t, really.

It may be a two year old post, but it’s still relevant, and Michele Goetz is still one of Forrester’s lead analysts in this area. Forrester’s first-ever Wave for MDM solutions came out in February this year. It’s downloadable from some of the leading vendors (such as SAP or Informatica). There’s also a recent Wave on Product Information Management which is tagged “MDM in business terms”, and might be worth a look too. Browse for some of the other stuff.

Gartner have a toolkit of resources. Their famed Magic Quadrant exists in multiple versions e.g. for Product information and for Customer Data. I’d be unsure how the principles of MDM vary between domains so (without studying the reports) I’m not clear why the separation. You might do better with the MDM overview, which also dates from 2012. You will find RFP templates, a risk framework, and market guides. Bill O’Kane and Marcus Collins are key names. For Gartner subscribers, a good browse and an analyst call will be worthwhile.

Browse more widely too. Just one caution: MDM these days also means Mobile Device Management. Don’t get confused!
Links:
• Master Data Management Does Not Equal The Single Source Of Truth, Michele Goetz, Forrester blog, 26 Oct 2012
• The Forrester Wave™: Master Data Management Solutions, Q1 2014, 3 Feb 2014 (download from Informatica, link at foot of page
• PIM: MDM on Business Terms, Michele Goetz, 6 Jun 2014
• Master Data Management, Marcus Collins, Gartner, 9 Jul 2012