|Source: Oatmeal Shop|
I am a pioneer of various initiatives in my organization that ranges across new technology, new business offerings, new geography expansion and have done stuff that probably are firsts in the Indian IT industry. I was the probably first to install a PegaSYSTEM platform in India in early 2001. I was probably the first to use open source test management & defect management tools and package them as part of a new services called CRM Testing & BPM Testing – independent validation services for the implementations done of CRM & BPM systems. I was a pioneer for our Switzerland expansion too. And most of you probably know about my pioneering work on social computing for business leverage. I have graduated from a Tinkerer to a Thinker to a Connector – of ideas & people.
Social in Cognizant has come a long way since my initial post in late 2007, nearly five years ago. Things are still playing out in the market and going as per the basic outlines of the plot I had written back then. And we now have a new team with a corporate wide focus that acts on a hub & spoke model so that all the existing BUs that have worked on social continue working on it, but in a coordinated manner. I was one of the very few, count them in one hand, people who were connected to all these BUs and facilitating cross pollination of ideas, leads, achievements & learnings. So with the things shaping up appropriately, mirroring the maturity in the market, and me being at the top of the game I think that it is time to move ahead.
But move where? I usually look at bleeding edge of technology and try to correlate with my experiences and expertise so that I can build upon what I know and would like to know. And thus when I look around me trying to figure out what’s possibly the next big thing I am surrounded by talk about SMAC as the next cool thing in enterprise circles, apparantly because some analyst has predicted big money in there. Excuse me? A unified Social, Mobile, Analytics (Big Data predominantly) and Cloud based solutions are the ‘next big thing’?
Whoa! Did I miss the memo in 2007 while considering SMAC (though not named thus) when I was in a situation similar to today and decided to focus on Social, the reasons for which I will come to in a moment?
Mobile & Cloud (at least the cloud as is being sold today, not what it should be, which I will come to later in the post too) are merely new delivery-consumption systems and Analytics or Big Data have always been part of technology stack. Numbers associated with them would indeed be big since you need to:
- replace the huge IT infrastructure which was setup at the turn of the millennium, mostly to combat the Y2K scare. That’s a decade old and bleh when compared to what you use at home.
- build new enterprise applications that leverage the benefits of these newer systems but for the same old business needs, lets call it SMAC Mimicry (Inspired by this Gartner blog post about Feeling & Thinking Digital)?
- build new consumer applications, this is like SMAC Mimicry above, but to try & lure customers to spend more, not to co-create value. Like iTunes for example, but only by leveraging the basal wirings of human brains, think gamification (questionably good for the person) or social media triggered release of hormone oxytocin (the moral molecule, probably good only for the in-group, not just about anybody belonging to the humanity). Both are not really required for the benefit of humanity or the consumer like for example Ushahidi, but that’s yet to find an enterprise use though extremely useful for humanity. Lets say we call this SMACification?
- or atleast modernize legacy applications, put client-server or web apps for desktops on cloud and build mobile interfaces … say, SMACization?
The reason I focused on Social and not Cloud or Mobile, though I was working on them too, is because Social is so much more than mere new technology. It was about behavior unlike other technology yes, but it was more about getting businesses to be what they pay lip service to – having mutually beneficial existence alongside customers/consumers. It could give a new ‘meaning’ to CRM, Collaboration, Knowledge Management, Business, and so many others. It’s not quite flying cars, but the 140 chars & its ilk that we got instead have a potential to make a new meaning which will is beyond the Mimicry, ‘ification’ & ‘ization’ I laid out above.
And then I realized that the new meaning would not come into existence if businesses still thought the old way. Service Dominant Logic, Value Co-creation, Value Network Analysis, Social Modeling, Design Driven Innovation, Design Thinking, Jobs To Be Done, Lean Startup. I hear very few people talking about these terms along side SMAC or its components.
I mentioned above about Cloud as it is sold now not being what it should be. Let me explain a bit. When it comes to innovations / technology adoption I love the stories behind the industrial & communications revolutions – steam, electricity, telephones, wireless & Internet. Electricity certainly had a colorful history thanks to the rivalry between Edison and Tesla (which Oatmeal caught pretty neatly recently).
It is basically to do with Direct Current and Alternating Current. Edison sided with Direct while Tesla sided with Alternating. Edison jolted various animals with AC to show how dangerous they were. But ultimately Tesla won out because AC can be transmitted over longer distances which meant that power production could be centralized and thus produced on a very large scale. And we all know about the economics of scale. It required standarization, which we haven’t yet achieved (120/240 V, 50/60 Hz, multiple pin types – universal chargers, road warriors?), so that we could just plug in our machines and power them up.
Now if you look at the electrical power, it is predominantly derived from chemical (coal, gas, oil), solar, thermal, mechanical (hydro, wind, waves/currents) energy, transmitted to us and converted again to mechanical (machines) or chemical (TV) energy. But computers turn electrical power into computational power. What if you could generate computational power in one place and transmit them over the wires or wireless (Wifi, 3G, etc.)?
And what if this computational power is consumed not just by PCs, or to stay with the times and SMAC, Mobile devices, but just about any device that can interface with and consume the computational power? These mythical devices being the ‘things’ in Internet of Things? Analytics, especially unstructured and Big Data, is supposed to look at human to machine, human to human and machine to machine communications.
But as with Electricity, in Computing too we need standardization. And this is driven now by the big corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. and not the engineering communities like the IETF, IEEE, W3C during the birth of the Internet and the Web. I do see the Courts playing a big role in keeping the ‘Social’ providers like Facebook, Google in check but the law makers and corporates want to have a strangle hold if the plethora of bills introduced in the parliaments of various countries are to be taken into account. I wonder how & when we will achieve Standardization in computing to allow interoperability & portability.
That is when we will have the true power of SMAC delivered to us – when we have wider adoption of Standards & Protocols. Can we have the Salmon on the double please?