Accenture Technology Vision 2012 From Our Point of View

In Accenture Technology Vision 2012, the opening summary reinforces what we saw from many of the technology leaders at our recent shows. The video interviews were recorded for you at www.nethawk.tv over the last couple of weeks. That Accenture chose to use the word “revolution” for what we witnessed at Cloud Connect 2012 in Santa Clara and RSA 2012 in San Francisco, only reinforced my view that Web 3.0 was upon us, and it may be the most disruptive of all macro mutations to face the IT world and the media world. In their opening summary, Pierre Nanterme, Chief Executive Officer Accenture, and Kevin Campbell Group Chief Executive at Accenture, make the bold statement that,

“The coming transformation journey—changing IT from roadblock to driver—won’t be easy. It will call for a comprehensive strategy that leads to new architectures, new services, and new platforms. And it will demand prompt, disciplined execution to bring those new approaches to life.”

We have been saying the same thing for years, and we have been waiting for the train to reach the station, so that IT workers can get on board and face the third coming of the Internet. If social networking was the second coming, then the march to BYOD inside businesses, and the transformation of the enterprise, along with the folks driving it, will force the equilibrium to be punctuated by the workers. Accenture correctly names the Cloud, mobility and Big Data as the drivers, and they warn CIO’s that now is not the time to shy away from the realities of the market place.

We listened to various technology executives posit that the enterprise has decided to allow the smartphone into their sphere, to allow devices to pierce the veil of the corporate sanctuary and to recognize that big data is not only here, but it is a most lazy asset left to its own devices. Few would go on record to say that they had little choice, and that they had no idea what it would mean down the road.

Context-based Services

The Accenture report focuses on specific aspects that they say will drive innovation, and will “change IT from roadblock to driver.” The first of these is “Context-based services,” and they distinguish between the parts of the social media that are focused on the consumer versus the way businesses relate the unstructured data of that landscape, to the dialog that now exists for business. The examples they suggest are “support for a pharmaceutical sales rep tailored to the context of the doctors she will be meeting and the drugs she’s selling,” or, “it could be data made available to a technician at an oil refinery, customized to the equipment he’s servicing and what its downtime history looks like.” Let’s be clear, these are not new ideas, but the explicit message from Accenture that, if you don’t start using this data, and the technologies that provide it, you will be out of business, is a new tack for the consultant firm.

Is this mandate for real, or can the business community afford to continue to procrastinate and lag in the IT realm? If you saw the activity in the Cloud Connect show and RSA recently, you’d know that competition is fierce for change and companies are lining up to get educated and start testing the waters. Having said that, the IT worker is not ready to innovate the use of data and is not ready to jump in and suggest strategic planning that will differentiate their business from laggards. There seems to be almost a missing piece in fact. We have people who can build databases, we have search functions that can farm the data for keywords and ideas. We don’t have a position in either the IT or marketing realm that can merge the two assets and therein lies the rub.

Accenture’s folks say that “old approaches to data survive because they make IT leaders feel they are in control” and they seem to think a pilot team of the old guard if IT and management are needed to design the system that will turn this into a profit for the companies that invest in them. This part is where the rubber will meet the road. They state that, “Successfully rebalancing the data architecture portfolio and blending the structured with the unstructured are key to turning data into new streams of value.” This will take time and education of traditionally cross cultural initiatives to deliver the goods. There is no mention I could find of marketing’s role in the process. The convergence of marketing and IT may be the biggest challenge of all since neither have had the experience of sharing resources and working together on goals with unstructured data. At least they haven’t had that in the industrial realm.

 

Converging Data-architectures

The report states that the, “ability to share data will make it more valuable—but only if it is managed differently.” Sharing is always a meta-idea when it comes to IT departments and marketing management, and, as far as I know, IT has never viewed data as a strategic asset. In their report they mention the red hot Open Source database framework, Apache Hadoop, which has knocked folks like Oracle and Microsoft for a loop because it provides the Big Data requirements without the big ticket price tag. What these changes spell for Oracle and SQL are yet to be sketched, but companies are driving prices down and market share is shifting rapidly. The big question, which has not been answered, is, will companies that were built around these new technologies, and new ideologies, have the advantage over companies that are stuck in the glacier-like movements in rebalancing the work load and the applications used in change?

The migration from only relational databases to the merging of unstructured database data platforms alongside to develop a strategy requires a “rebalancing” of the data scene and demands more than simple titular changes.

Klint Finley, from Servicesangle.com, offers some insights in a recent blog on companies that offer an alternative and work in concert with Hadoop:

ReportGrid – WE TURN DATA INTO INSIGHT – We provide an API that ingests data, analyzes it, and produces insightful analytics and beautiful reports you can embed in your product.

RainStor is a database designed to manage Big Data for large enterprises at the lowest total cost.

RainStor delivers two editions of its database product, Big Data Retention and Big Data Analytics on Hadoop to efficiently manage multi-structured data sets, fully accessible for ongoing query and analysis helping meet both regulatory compliance in addition to the fastest query and analysis on Hadoop. RainStor’s innovative database stores and manages multi-structured big data in the most efficient and cost-effective way compared to traditional relational or data warehouse approaches.

Hortonworks is focused on accelerating the development and adoption of Apache Hadoop. Together with the Apache community, we are making Hadoop more robust and easier to use for enterprises and more open and extensible for solution providers. We also provide expert support and training.

Once again, it remains to be seen how these so-called technologies are bridges to the future, or if they will stand alone to displace the war horses of the past. One thing is for sure, there are no shortages of innovative opportunities to jump aboard and these companies inspire training and new thinking which is really what we think will drive change and help business recognize the many opportunities unfolding from the new data.

Industrialized data services

Accenture notes in this section that the struggle to “uncouple” data from its roots may not be the purview of the IT manager or department. It is unlikely that the guys building the applications and supporting the strategic security model will have the time, or the inclination, to ponder how sales or marketing or finance might use the data being stored to their advantage. This new category of thinker versus IT manager is a challenge that may just be avoided completely. If data can be stored and moved to the cloud, and if transitional models can pull what they need to shape innovation, where does that leave the IT guys?

This is the crux of the problem for our audience and for the IT model at large. Clearly, retraining and rethinking the model from the worker’s perspective is essential or you may be next dinosaurs to run out of breathing room. CRM systems have demonstrated this and the advent of SCRM users and Superusers have reinforced the concept. Those who thought it would stop there weren’t seriously thinking through the possibilities. If you can manage to understand the needs of sales and understand how to pull meaningful data from your CRM system, you will have a job and you will be highly rewarded.

Social-driven IT

I can just imagine what the folks over at www.tektips.com are thinking when they read the caption on this section. They are the oldest social network on the planet, yet, I doubt many are interested in being thrown in under that heading. I doubt they see legacy systems as dead in the water or that their jobs are threatened by the idea that they may have to learn how to answer to marketers when they look at the data they are housing. I doubt they fancy considering how it might be evaluated for growing the customer base or retaining customers. That dialog has been avoided or shunned more likely. The underlying caption from Accenture is, “Social isn’t just a bolt-on marketing channel—it will transform interactions in the business world.”

Over at the SCRM discussion, often found on Twitter, you can still hear the sound made by companies that learned how to capitalize on the Superuser perspective – that idea that you already have customers who are more than willing, in fact eager, to help other users on how to use your technology and how to find solutions to their problems. Even though this Superuser concept has been around forever in the form of the beta test, which Microsoft and pals used to grow their businesses, the SCRM crowd has made it all look like a stroke of genius.

Now that the cloud has spread its wings beyond the CRM application, now that applications that allow big data machines to forge all sorts of advantages for corporations, how will it affect the guys in the trenches, the guys who thought they’d always work for those kinds of companies? Instead, call centers, data centers and content farms are the new substrate for the IT worker and the role of contractor will superimpose itself on the idea of a career for many of the IT workers now living the dream. Being the master of the data domain will provide legs for workers, and knowing how to shape a strategic security plan are golden. Thinking that the dynamics aren’t changing and upgrading your skillset are a big mistake. Many of the new companies listed above are offering all sorts of training in middleware and transitional applications. Get used to change and get in front of the works that make you an asset. The world has already adopted this stuff, and now they are in the process of adapting the worker model to it.

Accenture correctly states that while “Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social tools are new communication channels, most organizations have yet to catch up to that reality.” I’m glad they wrote that but it is almost an understatement today. Most organizations are not even aware of those realities; most IT workers haven’t a clue how to add social to their toolkit.

The report lists what needs to be done:

  • Revisit business processes and the systems that implement them.
  • Look across channels to define interactions
  • Look at new forms of data generated by those interactions and evaluate the potential insights
  • Revisit the organizational structures that perpetuate the separation of channels.
  • Think in terms of industrializing social platforms
  • Update the metrics that define success for customer interactions

Well that sounds all fine and good, but the fact is, this requires a special combination of left, and right-brain, thinking. You can’t be a linear thinker and expect to get this stuff and contribute to the new IT worker. You can change the titles, maybe bring back that ol’ cliché about evangelist that was popular a decade or so ago. You can offer some retraining and all sorts of incentives, but, you cannot change the equation. IT guys, for the most part, don’t have it in them. They will spurn any attempts to get them to adopt any collaborative techniques with marketers because they, for the most part, disdain them. We will watch this but I’d love to hear from IT guys on how much you look forward to becoming marketers. Good luck with that.

Here is the link to the page with their 100 day plan, http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Technology-Vision-2012.pdf

The only thing that is missing is the idea that many companies will be better off re-training their marketers in IT needs, than attempting to re-tool those old time dudes who loathe marketing. I believe this will significantly shift the entire spectrum of IT and put the burden on the C-suite to come up with a better plan to get the folks they will need to do the job.

 

PaaS-enabled agility

There has been lots of discussion by vendors, like Ironkey saying how cost savings will drive the engine for the new look in IT innovation. I agree, though as I told Kevin Bocek in this interview, I’m always amused when an IT company tells me I will save money by investing in the newest platform. The abstract under this heading in the Accenture Report offers this:

IT leaders must look beyond cloud debates to pinpoint the business processes and applications that will matter most to their organizations—and that are best suited to a platform-as-a-service model. PaaS is not just a tool for squeezing cost out of IT; it will provide an environment that can support rapid evolution for key business processes that need continuous change.

Yadda, yadda, and you betcha. Way beyond the cloud is my best guess. Somewhere just outside the cosmos maybe. Problem is, evolution demands, once again, a punctuated equilibrium, not a slow steady glacial crawl. All the assessing that is going on isn’t worth a bag of beans if you don’t have the thinkers, the left-brainers, who can make sense of the dialog.

In Daniel Pink’s piece de resistance, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future,” he states, “To survive in this age, individuals and orgnaizations must examine what they’re doing to earn a living and ask themselves three questions:

  1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?

Even if your guys can look beyond the cosmos, can they assimilate the abundance that they must understand and put it back together? Can they get all the tooth powder back in the can?

Knowledge leadership starts at the top, and if your leaders haven’t invested their souls in the social sphere by now, do you really think they will be eager to update their creative muse to step up to the plate?

The Platform-as-a-service is a phenomenal concept and tool but without the thinkers, and their ability to deliver high concept and high touch, the concepts that involve the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty to detect patterns and opportunities and craft a satisfying narrative, the platform will lie fallow. These are sophisticated systems that make suggestions, offer initiative and determine execution models. But they cannot re-shape thinking unless the thinking has embraced change and is willing to collaborate. Sure they can provide cost savings versus manual configurations and transitional applications. But they aren’t going to beat Big Blue in chess, and they aren’t going to create thought leadership for your crew. The other idea that Accenture must follow, but we shun, is that companies like Ellison’s and Beniof’s are players in the platform space and that companies will jump back aboard the big player syndrome. Not going to happen unless they merge and acquire the world, and, even then, the resistance is strong at the thought leadership levels.

Accenture wants folks to think that PaaS is somehow going to provide agility, that old saw about technology leading more technology. That doesn’t work and never has. Sure it can provide the pathways and it can create a plan to move towards the intended goal. But they rely on innovative thinkers, those who understand the particular business and the psyche of the company. You can’t simply apply a FAQ to those requirements. The special sauce and DNA of every company needs thought leadership and it demands a buy in by the leadership. No technology can provide that.

Orchestrated analytical security

There are no more risks attached to Web 3.0 than there was in 2.0. Accenture notes the risks of smartphones and the data centric model but there has never been more effective security for all your applications and never been more government interest in making enterprises less vulnerable. Now, having said that, there is a huge void in strategic security planning today, and there doesn’t seem to be much interest in laying out the terms. We’ve invited security companies to provide us with their three step plan in security hardware, software and devices across the enterprise but, apparently, they haven’t heard the demand yet from the market.

Accenture loves clichés like, “Organizations will have to accept that their gates will be breached,” “Increasingly connected means increasingly exposed,” and “Leveraging new data platforms to better detect incidents,” and other meaningless fill. They do offer a list of items we like for building that strategic plan we crave:

  • Identify organization’s most critical business systems and data sets and assess their vulnerability to cyberattack
  • Identify nontraditional IT systems that are being connected to the IT backbone to assess their vulnerability to cyberattack
  • Audit basic security operations—from patch management processes to how user access is managed and tracked
  • Sketch out the elements of a strategy to partner with select security providers
  • Meet with business peers to gauge alignment of security strategy with business strategy and to articulate a shared sense of risk tolerance

The fact is, corporate enterprises have been hit by all sorts of issues and some have left data unattended and lost market credibility because of human error. Where rudimentary security has been performed and managed correctly, there haven’t been any high risk issues. The biggest problems we face as people is from our neighbors and friends who seem to think they can cause problems, disrupt our homes and families and get away with it. If we go after the creeps who target children and bilk the honest businesses and people, we will stop most of our problems. This isn’t something new and it isn’t beyond management. We are safer online than ever before. Rattling the drums for the purpose of headlines is a fool’s game. We won’t play in that sandbox.

Check out the Accenture Report for sure and let us know how we may better serve you. Remember, our goal is to make the life of the IT and online knowledge workers better. How are we doing?

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