Thursday, August 2, 2018

Important IT trends of 2018 and beyond

One of the most important trends of 2018 and beyond is the virtualization of internal IT departments (private clouds) within large, old-line institutions in regulated fields, such as large banks.

The public cloud trend towards using Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, etc. for start-ups and non-regulated companies are well-established, but now large regulated businesses, who are reluctant to utilize public clouds, are completely reorganizing their internal IT departments to capture cloud advantages and, longer term, so they will be able to hire talent away from other companies.

Traditionally, IT departments in these firms have centralized teams that provide resources such as hardware, networking, and databases.  Then, there will be development and testing teams centered around applications.  Each application will be assigned its own resources (i.e. servers, databases).  It will be the responsibilities of these product teams to manage capacity, software versions, etc.

The new private cloud model will be that the product developers will be relocated out of IT, into business units, and will only be responsible for designing the business logic.  IT will still consist of hardware, networking, and database teams, but will add programmers specializing in API's and micro-services.  This new IT core will design an internal cloud that provides software APIs to product developers to mimic public clouds.

This means that the banks will now be able to attract future developers—who prefer concentrating on products and innovation, and don't want to deal with hardware or resources.  They want to simply work with virtual, limitless "cloud" resources, where someone else handles the details. 

What are the best practices around digital change management?

I am a business / technology strategy consultant who helps clients leverage technology.  I've worked with many clients on digital change management to implement practices such as RPA and BPM.

The Basics: What and Why of digital change management - DCM is about introducing technology/automation practices throughout a business' operational lifecycle to achieve results such as: reduce costs, serve more customers, and/or deliver a consistent quality of service.

The main way to implement DCM is through BPM (Business Process Management)—which is about using skills borrowed from engineering/computer science to analyze processes within a business lifecycle and make them more effective.  It can include deploying RPA (Robotic Process Automation), which are software "robots" that can replace humans in doing repetitive tasks.

Some best practices:
1. Identify processes that can benefit from digital automation and, most importantly, which processes will be left alone for now.

2. Design the processes that change so that they still seamlessly interface with the processes that aren't changing, so that the whole business will suffer minimal disruption when they are implemented.

3. Don't try to do all changes at once.  Always schedule them in phases.

4. Develop each change fully before implementing it in the business.  It should be completely functionally tested to ensure that the new, automated process can handle all the conditions as well as (or better) that the current, manual process.

What Makes a Great Software Product Manager?

The best product managers are passionate advocates for their products and end users.  They are willing to advocate for their product's users and push back against others in their company.

For example, one client of mine had the problem where the development team was given too much autonomy for developing a product.  Instead of focusing on the best interests of users, they focused instead on learning new cutting-edge technology.  The end result was that they padded out their individual resumes, but they created unreliable software that proved to be a customer support nightmare.

A strong product manager never would have let them get away with that.  Instead, they had to bring me in after the fact to help them fix it.  But, by then, the product had already suffered repetitional damage and, even after we improved the reliability, never became a best-seller.

Customer Experience Lessons Learned from Baseball

I am a business / technology strategy consultant who helps customers with improving the user / customer experience.

I am also a passionate baseball fan—especially the Chicago Cubs.

An important customer experience lesson from baseball is that, in baseball, the best teams focus on the end results—scoring runs.
If, for example, it is late in a game, the score is tied, and a team has a runner in scoring position, the batter is not going to try for a high-risk home run.  Instead, they might try a sacrifice bunt or fly—a play with a higher chance of scoring the runner. Sure, a home run will make his statistics looks better, but his first priority is for the team to win.

The equivalent in the customer experience world is that, when the best companies present an online interface for customers, they focus on the end result of keeping it easy to use and reliable.  One client of mine had the problem where the development team focused instead on learning new, cutting-edge technology.  They might have built out their individual resumes, but they created unreliable software that proved to be a customer support nightmare.

When is it time to upgrade your hardware?

Small and medium size companies need to upgrade their hardware when:

1. Productivity suffers because their systems are too slow and/or can't run a needed app.

2. The hardware is incapable of supporting the oldest vendor-supported software.  It is very important for businesses to run operating systems and other software that are still vendor supported because they support the latest security fixes.  Most hacking incidents are due to companies running obsolete, unsupported software. 

What industries are most likely to be impacted by AI

The industries most poised to adopt AI are automotive, consumer electronics, and entertainment companies.  The least likely to adopt AI, especially early, is the healthcare industry.  This field is very conservative and resistant to change.

Tips to Help Senior Citizens to Keep Their Online Information Secure

1. Don't be afraid to create long passwords.  It's better to write down secure passwords than try to memorize short ones.  Keep passwords written by hand on paper which you can keep secure in your home office.  Don't save unencrypted passwords on your computer or online.

2. Passwords should always contain uppercase, lowercase letters and numbers.  If allowed also consider using symbols such as ! or %.  A good way to generate long passwords are to select 2 or more unrelated words, connect them with numbers, randomly capitalize some letters and, finally, adding a special character.  Example:  giRaffe43tEnnis24!

3. Never give out your social security number online.

4. Never click on links in suspicious emails.  If the email is supposed to be from a company you do business with, such as your bank, then first right-click on the link and select "copy link".  Then paste the link in a text file or word document, and see if it is actually from your bank's web site.