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.

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

CSC to split: where will Leading Edge Forum end up?

It’s a couple of weeks since the news broke about Computer Science Corporation (CSC), which announced its intention to restructure into two separated companies. One will focus on global IT advice and consultancy for commercial non-US clients; the other, on US government institutions. It’s the governmental work, with its contract restrictions, which has held back the commercial work as I understand it. So the commercial side should be set for development and the government work, perhaps, even for acquisition.

From the Insight Services perspective, the question is what will happen to the unique offering which CSC’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF) makes to Fortune 500 and other high profile enterprises. LEF is the internal, quasi-independent research arm of CSC’s consultancy business. It both offers the results of its work to a select group of high profile clients, and takes their perspectives back to augment its value to CSC.

As an insight provider, it offers two distinct, unique elements. First, its target is not “best practice”: no disrespect to other insight providers, because best practice is a valuable insight so long as you treat it with proper caution. LEF looks for “next practice”: what is at the leading edge (hence its name!), which is not best practice because it may not yet be fully developed. Only early adopters are interested: those whose risk appetite enables them to take risks with technology, or management insights, which are not yet fully developed.

And that hangs off the second unique element: LEF’s link with business schools, new technologies and academic insight. LEF’s study tours (what I, as a former earth scientist, used to call “field trips”) are legendary among those who have shared them. It was a LEF study tour in Silicon Valley which convinced me of the benefit of LinkedIn, when we visited the then start-up company; it was the same tour which furnished my profile photo taken on the Google campus, before Google began to court corporate business and started to meet us in ordinary meeting rooms and in suits! It was the same tour which took us to Six Apart (who led the move to what we now recognise as blogging); introduced us to Amazon Web Services in their infancy; and, equally, showed us what Microsoft, and Cisco, and HP were doing at their own leading edges.

A contact reassures me that LEF is still going strong, and still working on what is now the emerging edge of technology, of technology management, and of technology-led management. I still operate on the insights gained from my time as a client: not, now, the specific technologies (it was several years ago) but the approach to their assessment, adoption and exploitation. It was LEF (yes, it was) that first described the trend to consumerisation and their approach for corporate IT – to trust the user, recognise the users’ expertise, and build on the users’ insights – are still out on a limb in many enterprises. LEF’s strapline now is “Advantage through insight”; the only provider I know who actually recognises that their role is to provide insight, rather than “research” or “advisory” service.

What’s also interesting is that LEF now has a new website which doesn’t carry CSC branding. The URL is now just, no longer (which still exists, but is redirected). “About Us” will tell you about their place in CSC, if you go looking, but there appears to be, at the least, an extra distance in what has always been an arm’s length relationship with the parent. Watch this space: not in the immediate future, perhaps, but in the medium term. Good luck to them!

• CSC announces plan to separate into two independent, publicly traded, companies, CSC news release, 19 May 2015
• Leading Edge Forum

Corporate Executive Board – now just “CEB”

Corporate Executive Board is a family of executive-level and senior management insight services extenbding across corporate IT and into major corporate functions (sales, finance, legal and so on). In the last several years (since 2012) it has presented itself as “CEB” rather than “Corporate Executive Board”. The parent company has now renamed itself accordingly, following the trend in recent years to name companies just by initials rather than by the meaningful name they were derived from. CEB doesn’t now seem to refer to its executive councils as Executive Boards; they have become Leadership Councils, and there is perhaps more focus on IT teams other than at executive level.

Oddly enough, though, they haven’t made the change online. Although the press release cites the corporate website as “”, this still switches to the old “” rather than vice versa.

The shape of the CEB offering is somewhat different from that of which I used to be a client. Looking at the IT portfolio, there are Leadership Councils which encompass CIO, Applications, Enterprise Architecture, Information Risk, Infrastructure, PMO and Midsized Companies. There is a Learning and Development section: IT Leadership; Business Analysis; Prokect Management; Risk Management; and Service Management. And there are an IT Roadmap Builder tool and IT Talent Assessment support.

There has  been some shift, in the recent years, from the Executive Board model of researched sharing in whichinformation is solicited from members, organised, and published back to the membership. A CEB strategy paper would previously comprise tools and insights attributed to the members who contributed them; and this was a key part of its value. On a sample of one, the IT Roadmap white paper, this no longer appears to be the case. The delivery model is no longer differentiated from that of the major players (Gartner et al) and has reverted to being analyst-delivered.

There is, however, now more open-access content than previously. It was never the case that, as a non-subscriber, I could download a whitepaper as I have just done. There are also now a collection of blogs, and an analysis of these may follow in a future post.

Corporate Executive Board has been evolving. Keep an eye on its space.

• The Corporate Executive Board Company Now “CEB Inc.”, CEB press release, 27 May 2015
• Corporate Executive Board (linked as CEB Global; watch whether this link continues to reset back to
• CEB Blogs

Insight sector not immune: Gigaom closes

Several commentators have picked up the report that Gigaom and Gigaom Research have become insolvent and closed down.

I haven’t myself been a Gigaom user, even at the free subscription level, so no analysis of what went wrong. But Outsell re-linked the report from USA Today which, although it’s not from the tech press, is a fair summary in a few paragraphs of ths history of the company.

There are, it seems, no plans to file for bankruptcy protection or to re-launch. Gigaom’s tech content is still accessible on the website, but it’s not impossible this would be removed at quite short notice. Clients especially: review, and download!

• About Gigaom, Gigaom website, 9 Mar 2015
• Tech site Gigaom closes as creditors take over assets, USA Today, 9 Mar 2015

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!

• 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

Turing Lecture 2015: The Internet Paradox (links updated)

Following a move, I’m no longer close enough to London to easily attend the BCS and IET’s prestige Turing lecture in person. So this year, for the first time, I will be attending online.

Robert Pepper is VP Global Technology Policy at Cisco. His topic: The Internet Paradox: How bottom-up beat(s) command and control. The publicity promises “a lively discussion on how the dynamics of technology policy and largely obscure decisions significantly shaped the Internet as the bottom-up driver of innovation we know today … Dr. Pepper will cover the next market transition to the Internet of Everything and the interplay between policy and technology and highlighting early indicators of what the future may hold for the Internet.

I’m expecting a good objective discussion. As I learned many years ago, listening to Peter Cochrane when he was head of BT’s research centre, those who provide technical infrastructure don’t have a reason to hype up the different services which will run on it. Quite the opposite: they need to assess investment to satisfy demand, but not exceed it. Let’s see what we see. I’ll update this blog as we go, and probably abbreviate it tomorrow.

Starting on time: Liz Bacon, BCS President, is on stage. An unexpected extra: Daniel Turing, Alan Turing’s nephew, is introducing the Turing Trust with a mention of The Imitation Game, the Turing film, and of The BCS’s role in rebuilding Turing’s codebreaking machine (“the bomb”). The Trust recycles first-used computers to less well off countries. In our move last year, I passed quite a lot of old equipment to Recycle-IT who ethically re-use or dispose of un-reusable kit.

Now the main speaker (bio online). He describes himself as a “recovering regulator”; regulation is the intersection of policy and technology. Big iron to nano-compute, and we haven’t even seen the Apple Watch yet! This (and the cost/power changes) drives decentralisation of computing. Alongside, 1969: 4 “internet” locations (packet switched) on the west coast. By 1973, extended outside continental USA (London, Hawaii). 1993: global.

1994-5 the US Government outsourced (privatised) the network. NSF had been created. Restrictions were dropped to permit commercial use; and other governance was created. In the diagram, the biggest nodes (most traffic) are Google and Facebook; but China is coming up fast!

An alternative view: in stages. 1: connectivity (email, search). 2: networked economy; 3, Immersive. 99% of the world, though, is still unconnected. 1000 devices with IP addresses in 1984; forecast 20 bn by 2020. 50bn if you include non-IP such as RFID chips. Internet of Everything will encompass people, processes, data and things. Such as, by 2018, four IP modules on each of 256million connected cars. Such as, sensor clothing for athletes. I have a 1986 news clip from MIT Media Lab about the prototypes for exactly this. The quote was: “Your shoes may know more about you than your doctor does“.

Things create data which, through process, can positively affect people. But only 0.5% of data is being analysed for insights! There’s an example from nutrition. Take a photo of a product in the supermarket, and see if it’s appropriate (for example, no alcohol with your prescription). Or the “Proteus pill” to help with older people’s medication, which the FDA has already approved. Or the Uber cab app.

So that’s the technology. Now, on to policy and governance.

Internet governance developed bottom-up and is not centralised; it’s a multi-stakeholder global ecosystem of private, governments (lots of them!) and intergovernmental, providers, researchers, academics and others. There’s a diagram of those actually involved, which will be quite useful when I can retrieve it readably. First RFC was from ARPAnet in 1969. The first IETF met in 1986. ITU’s World Conference in 2012 saw proposals from some member states to regulate the Internet, and these were rejected. In 2014 the (US Dept of Commerce) proposal is to transition IANA to become a multi-stakeholder global body, so that the US finally cedes control of the network it inaugurated.

Now: as many of us know, the international standards process we currently have is done by consensus and can take years. Contrariwise, the IETF works by “Rough consensus and run code” (everlasting beta). Much faster. Based on RFCs that come in, and with a combination of online and face-to-face meetings. There are NO VOTES (Quakerism works in a similar way); “rough consensus” in IETF is assessed by hum!

Robert shows a slide of a “Technology Hourglass” (citing Steve Deering, 2001; Deering is also a Cisco person. I can’t find the actual reference). IP, at the centre, is in essence the controlling/enabling standard. Above (applications) and below (infrastructure) there can be innovation and differentiation. (My comment: in the same way, both 19th century rolling stock and modern trains can run on today’s network.) The suggestion: it’s a martini glass because at the top there’s a party going on!

There’s no need to ask permission to innovate! This is the Common Law approach: you can do anything that’s not prohibited. The UK has almost 1.5 million people working in this area. They are here because of Common Law: European countries have the reverse (you need permission). The information economy now dominates the previous waves of service, industry and agriculture.

Internet is a General Purpose Technology, like printing and transport and the telephone. Other things are built on it. Increasing broadband provision links to growth: this is not correlational, it is causal. Digital-technology innovation drives GDP growth in mature economies (McKinsey); the impact is on traditional sectors enabled by the digital.

Third: the paradox. There’s decentralisation of compute, to individuals, to nanodevices, and to stakeholders. But right now, governments want to reverse this approach and take control; to re-create silos, have forced localisation of standards, content and devices. This is already the case with some classes of data in some countries.

The issues: (1) extending connectivity to those who are not connected. (2) safety, security and privacy – where there clearly is a role for government, but be clear that these are not just internet issues. Others on a slide about Internet of Everything. Some governments are well-intentioned but not well informed; others, more dangerously, were the reverse. And old-tech assumptions (how you charge for phone service, for example) doesn’t match the new realities; the product is connectivity (not voice).

Swedish study: if you can’t transfer data, you can’t trade (nor have global companies). Localisation of data will impact severely on the global economy. Note: Economist Intelligence Unit looked at some proposals; 90% of the authoritarian regimes voted for new internet regulations on a multilateral basis, 90% of democracies against. Enough! We are at a crossroads where the Net could take either direction, and they are not equal.

Final quote: Neils Bohr. How wonderful we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress!

I’m not going to try and capture Q&A. Heading over to Twitter. Watch the webcast; I’ll post the URL in an amendment when it’s up on the IET website.

Has it been an objective discussion? In one sense yes. But in another, Robert Pepper clearly has a passionate belief in the model of governance which he is promoting. What’s been shared is experience, insight and vision. Well worth a review.

• BCS/IET Turing Lecture 2015: online report (BCS); or view the webcast replay from The IET
Proteus Digital Health including a video on their ingestible sensor
Watching the Waist of the Protocol Hourglass, Steve Deering, seminar 18 Jan 1998 at Carnegie-Mellon University (abstract only)
Turing Trust
Recycle-it (don’t be confused; other organisations with similar names exist on the web)

Embedding a blog in a website

I’ve just posted an update to the website for the Lewes Passion Play. Editing HTML for a news panel has served the purpose for several years, but with a performance in less than three months there will be more going on. So I wanted to embed a blog feed, as this will enable more people to update the news feed directly. Preferably a Google Blogger blog as this is easier for people to access and at least one potential contributor already uses Google.

Quite a palaver and one or two dead ends. For a start I didn’t want to go down the <iframe> route and embed the entire blog page, because that would confusingly duplicate menu items and links, required for the free-standing blog.

So I started with WordPress, since that’s where this blog is. And WordPress does have a built-in embed code generator. But here I learned the difference between a timeline and a full embed. WP delivers just the first part of a blog post; readers have to click through in order to get the whole post. So, sorry, not what I wanted.

Online reports suggested using Tumblr. It looked promising, but in the end the interface didn’t look easily useable for non-specialists (my potential contributors). And I got into a bind, because I lost the password and (unlike most similar sites) Tumblr won’t just send a reset link to the email they have on record for the account.

But I discovered a great service called feed2js. This will take an RSS feed, which Blogger delivers easily. The website creates a Javascript embed which will deliver a feed of the complete articles. Better still, it has embedded CSS so you can style it (hint: if this is only going on one page of your site then create a separate style sheet and link it just to this page). Yes, there are one or two niggles but it works and I’m pleased with the result!

• Lewes Passion Play, and see the native Blog
• Tumblr
Blogger feed URLs, Blogger help