Social media and The Truth (The Guardian)

Yes this is a bit about Europe too. But it’s to flag up an important Long Read article from The Guardian which looks wider, and perhaps begins to explain why we have arrived at Brexit without a clear idea what it will look like.

Katharine Viner, the Guardian’s editor, starts with a story that has nothing to do with the referendum, and outlines how a story supported by no actual evidence, that was carefully published by a mainstream newspaper as an “allegation”, ended up being trended on social media and probably believed by many people even now.

She then moves on to look at the pro-Leave claims and the way they were speedily dumped after the result (no, not £350m; no, we probably can’t reduce immigration – the two claims that probably won most votes). I’ve seen these on Facebook myself, persistently re-trailed even when challenged. Clever, inspirational campaigning trumped [sic?] a continual appeal to facts and evidence.

Facebook, Viner says, is now the dominant news source for many people. Well, I remember being really pleased when my sons were taught history at school: they were taiught to look at different sources, assess the reporting and the agendas as well as what was said, and come to a conclusion. I was trained to teach similarly myself as an Open University tutor. So maybe there’s hope; but read the Guardian article for yourself.

Link:
• How technology disrupted the truth, Katharine Viner, The Guardian, 12 Jul 2016

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!

Crowdfunding again: a personal request

Readers will remember I’ve blogged in the past about crowdfunding with the headline “Not just for geeks”. I’ve contributed myself to a couple of things: a board game based on the history of Oxford, and an early music opera (La Liberazione de Ruggiero …) which was triumphantly presented recently at this year’s Brighton Early Music Festival to stunning reviews.

Now a new one, and this time I’m asking for your help. Since I did my own university research, decades ago now, the funding system has changed out of recognition and it can be near impossible to find a scholarship or a fellowship or simply money to fund the laboratory costs of worthwhile research. Not least because the utilitarian view of science prevails in the public purse and there’s a strong bias away from primary research. If there isn’t a directly marketable product at the end of the process ( what was called near-market work when I was involved in European Community IT projects), forget it!

In medical research, there is arguably no more important issue than the increasing prevalence of obesity and its frequent consequence, diabetes. It isn’t just a lifestyle issue, though in some cases it can be. Prevention and control currently rest on expensive drug treatments or highly invasive surgical intervention. But the body may have its own mechanism built in, if we can figure out how to activate it.

This is where I run off the end of my understanding as a non-medic (albeit one who worked in pharmaceuticals for many years). We have two kinds of fat: white fat stores energy, but brown fat consumes it. If the brown fat mechanisms can be successfully activated, a new and effective treatment is on the cards. But this is primary research, not near-market work.

My son James Law, who is a senior Registrar in the Nottingham NHS and a member of staff at Nottingham University, working in the Queen’s Medical Centre, is undertaking research in this area. He needs your involvement through crowdfunding. Please visit the link to his own pages, and help if you can.

Links:
• Crowdfunding: not just for geeks. Help Free Ruggiero. ITasITis, 21 Nov 2014
• Ruggiero reviews: see Brighton Early Music on Facebook
• Click here to participate: Activating brown fat to improve diabetes and obesity, James Law & Michael Symonds, on experiment.com

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)

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 leadingedgeforum.com, no longer lef.csc.com (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!

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