Category Archives: Q&A

“Businesses need to realize that they need to market themselves to their existing employees far more than to prospective new ones”

Ahead of Future of Work Summit, we caught up with Peter Armstrong and Len Epp, co-founders of Dashcube, Innovation Sponsor of the event. In a fascinating, in-depth discussion, they explore their perspectives on the future workplace and technology, and their experience to date.

Peter Armstrong: At Future of Work, I am most looking forward to hearing the perspectives that different people we talk with have about the future of work. At Dashcube, we have been thinking about this for a long time, and building our thinking about the future of distributed collaboration into the product. We really value conferences such as Future of Work since they give us the chance to get out of the proverbial building and do the customer development process, talking with people and learning more about their business problems and testing our assumptions about what we are doing with our technology.

I believe the Future of Work means that distributed teams are not optional, and the tools and processes which need to evolve to support them can also be applied effectively to teams which have the luxury of being in the same building. I believe the Future of Work will be fantastic, since social forces such as so-called “millennial entitlement” will mean that people won’t settle for bad tools and oppressive processes. Fundamentally, the Future of Work will be about people, and about how better to use technology to connect people and then get out of the way.

Ovum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career, or your most successful failure?

Peter Armstrong: My most successful failure was trying to productize the concepts in my first book, Flexible Rails, into a commercial framework. While the framework was technically strong, largely due to the efforts of my cofounder, it failed spectacularly as a commercial product. However, the experience led to the formation of my boutique consultancy, which led to the creation of Leanpub, which led to me working with my old friend Len and to meeting Chris, and to us creating Dashcube together. In terms of lessons, the main lesson it taught me was that doing public-facing things that genuinely try to improve some small subset of the world can lead to totally unexpected successes with people you have never met.

Ovum: What technology would you like to see changing the way we do business in the future?

Peter Armstrong: I would love to see the Apple Watch and its inevitable imitators eliminate the security disaster and overstuffed wallet that is the reality with modern-day credit cards. Len wants it to open doors too, but if it just fixes payments then I’ll be happy. Paying for stuff is a disaster.

Ovum: Describe your ideal working environment 10 years from now?

Len Epp: Regarding wearables, I believe the biggest change in our working environments is that we are going to be using smartwatches as our keys, not just for unlocking doors, but also for unlocking our devices and even our apps. This will have a profound impact on the way every enterprise manages security for its people, physical assets, its IP and its data.  Here’s a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago (before the Apple Watch launch) that goes into some more detail on how watches will become keys (and wallets): https://medium.com/@lenepp/why-smartwatches-should-be-keys-and-wallets-e141facb95ad

Ovum: What in your opinion will be the next big change in the way that we work and the way in which businesses engage with their employees – and specifically the way IT has to service their customers?

Peter Armstrong: Businesses need to realize that they need to market themselves to their existing employees far more than to prospective new ones.  Continue reading

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Jacqui Whiskey, BG Group, on BPM, Process Excellence and Business Change

Jacqui Whiskey, Business Process Lead at BG Group is speaking at Ovum’s 6th Annual Business Process Management Forum, taking place at Thistle Marble Arch on 18th November 2014. She will be participating in an Industry Leaders Panel Discussion entitled BPM as a vehicle to deliver agility and reduce costs – Finding the holy grail, alongside senior representatives from TNT Express and Maersk Group. We caught up with her to talk about the key moments in her career, her thoughts on BPM and her aspirations from the conference.

Jacqui WhiskeyOvum: BPM Mantras – please share with us with your favourite BPM or work adage?

Jacqui Whiskey: Keep in close contact with your customers/end users to understand their changing needs and environment. This will ensure you can react effective and maintain your relationship
At Business Process Management Summit 2014, I am most looking forward to meeting other BPM practitioners, sharing experience and understanding some of the challenges they have faced in the past and the methods employed to overcome those challenges.

Ovum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career?

JW: Ensure you understand the environment in which you operate and how it impacts you and your business, because we live in a rapidly changing global business environment. Also, build a cross functional professional network that you can call on if you need to. The biggest mistake a Business Process Practitioner can do is believe they can solve everything on your own, there will always be someone who has gone through a similar experience and can share their lessons learnt. A very strong professional network can easily assist you to focus in the right direction.

Ovum: What are some of the challenges of your job?

JW: One of the main challenges of my job is getting Stakeholders to make decisions at the right time and identifying, tracking and delivering benefits against a clear objective. We tend to operate in silos, and if key Stakeholders do not have a vested interest in the success of a project or the authority to make on the spot decisions, it will be extremely difficult realise the planned benefits. Other challenges faced are being able to transition from fire-fighting state to leading the Business Change process.

Ovum: What one thing would you implement tomorrow if you knew success was guaranteed?

JW: I would implement a central Business Change management team with oversight across all projects and business activities. This high performing team will ensure all interdependencies and its potential impact on the deliverables are identified; mitigation plans developed and effective communication are issued to all stakeholders to reduce the impact of these changes to the business operations. I believe timely, effective and targeted communication with customers and end users will ensure project success.

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The Future of Work, according to the Greenpeace Head of IT

Andrew Hatton, Head of IT at Greenpeace, will be participating in an Industry Leaders panel session at Future of Work Summit in London on 25 November, entitled ‘The future of work – What’s all the fuss about?’, alongside Senior Executives from the BBC and Camden Council. View the latest agenda here. We caught up with him to talk about his experience to date, as well as what he considers will shape the Future of Work.

Andrew HattonOvum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career, or your most successful failure?

Andrew Hatton: To Listen. The importance of listening, as part of being an effective manager and leader cannot be overstated.

Ovum: What are some of the challenges of your job?

AH:

  1. To operate as sustainably as possible.
  2. Coming up with truly sustainable solutions to problems can sometimes be harder than it should, whether that’s IT or choosing office equipment.

Ovum: What technology would you like to see changing the way we do business in the future?

AH: All data centres becoming clean and green, so organisations’ online operations become more sustainable.

Ovum: What one thing would you implement tomorrow if you knew you were guaranteed to succeed?

AH: An end to built-in obsolescence in so many of today’s electronic products (e.g. mobile phones, laptops, TVs).

The understanding already exists to make things fixable and upgradeable. But in some cases we are going backwards not forwards (e.g. gluing batteries into products so they can’t be removed is a bad idea). What is lacking is not in the main part technical understanding but the political will, to change things for the better. Groups like Greenpeace and iFixit are working to try and change this.

Ovum: Describe your ideal working environment 10 years from now?

AH: The Greenpeace UK Office, as it is now! (We are lucky, we have a wonderful garden in the centre of London. In Springtime it’s the most amazing place)

Ovum: What has been the most rewarding project you worked on, and why it was rewarding?

AH: Opening one of London’s First Cyber Cafés back in 1995 and experiencing first hand people’s sense of wonder of browsing the web for the very first time.

Ovum: What in your opinion will be the next big change in the way that we work and the way in which businesses engage with their employees – and specifically the way IT has to service their customers?

AH: Green IT 2.0 (I know 2.0 “anything” is now somewhat of a cliché).

But basically I think more and more employees will want to ensure that their organisation is operating sustainably and that will include IT. So, IT needs to make sure that it’s offering those services and devices that are best in class from a Green IT perspective, whether it’s the type of phone being offered or the Cloud service the company uses.

You can view all of the topics to be discussed at Future of Work Summit on the event agenda, and you can discuss these topics and more with Andrew, and all our speakers, by registering today (enterprise end-users can claim a complimentary pass).

Ovum Industry Congress Europe Speaker Q&A: Ara Avakian, Global Reporting Initiative

Ara Avakian is Senior Manager Technology Solutions at Global Reporting Initiativeand he will be part of the following panel session at Ovum Industry Congress Europe, taking place in Amsterdam on 8 October 2014: To the Cloud and Beyond, alongside Belastingdienst and ONVZ. We asked Ara about his experience and projects, as well as his expectations from the conference. Here’s what he had to say:

Ara AvakianAra Avakian: At OIC Europe, I am most looking forward to hearing about how to transition to a data-optimized organization that is positioned to smartly capture, manage and capitalize on information. Despite new apps and enterprise systems some organizations still suffer from information silos, this may be due to insufficient buy-in or change management but an absence of easy to use tools may also play a part. I’d like to hear some examples of how organizations are transitioning and what their experiences have been.

Ovum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career, or your most successful failure?

AA: Over the years I have seen a number of technology projects initiated without first undergoing a rigorous review against organizational priorities. I’ve seen this occur across a variety of industries and with projects including enterprise software, websites and online tools. I’ve learned that projects often get initiated for questionable reasons and that simply because we’ve received earmarked funds or someone in upper management is driving an initiative isn’t enough. It’s clear to me that all projects should be reviewed as part of a formal process with upper management (during budget season) where they can be checked for alignment against organizational strategy and prioritized with a clear cost and realistic schedule. These are minimum requirements and if not met then the initiative should be put on hold until more information becomes available. In some instances it’s correct to push back – as long as one can articulate the reasons in clear business risks to upper management. For my own proposals I’ve found it’s especially important to ask the ‘5-why’s’. Is it strategically aligned? Is it providing value or is it just cool? Can the ROI be quantified? Is it a priority worth the resources, time and budget or are my energies best spent elsewhere?

Ovum: What one thing would you implement tomorrow if you knew you were guaranteed to succeed?

Continue reading

Next Generation Infrastructure Q&A with Rocco Labellarte, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Rocco Labellarte is Head of Technology and Change Delivery at Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and is appearing on the Industry Leaders Panel at Next Generation Infrastructure on 23 September in London, alongside the CTO of Framestore, and Heads of Technology from Mercedes F1 and Government Digital Service. We caught up with Rocco to chat about his experience and projects, as well as his expectations from the conference. Here’s what he had to say:

Rocco LabellarteRocco Labellarte: I am discussing Migrating to next generation infrastructure – Mountain or molehill? at NGI 2014. I believe it is an opportunity to underline the essential move toward IT being all about enabling business outcomes. IT becomes the toolbox; how businesses use that toolbox to achieve their desired outcomes becomes the more fundamental question.

Ovum: What are some of the challenges of your job?

RL: The 3P’s: people, politics and people! Joking apart, being able to manage multiple stakeholder groups, communicate really well and bridge the language divide between what technology can deliver and what people want, makes up 70% of my job. It is a challenge, the rules are what they are, with each employer being just a little bit unique, and you have to adopt the frame of mind that “these are the rules you are going to have to play by, so get used to it”, otherwise you will find yourself stressed out in next to no time.

Ovum: What skills and qualities would you most value in your successor?

RL: The ability to be concise, energetic and with a sense of humour. Knowing what they are talking about helps too. A broad understanding of technology, a sound grasp of business essentials, a delivery mentality and the ability to work with people at all levels of the organisation.  If you convince people you know what you’re saying and you get them on board then they are more likely to trust you to just get on and deliver.

Ovum: What one thing would you implement tomorrow if you knew you were guaranteed to succeed?

RL: A time machine. Hindsight is a fabulous gift we’ve all been given; the trouble is we always get after the event. It is what translates to experience and learning for the next time. If we had a time machine, we’d be able to learn from our mistakes, go back in time and avoid them. That would be fun.

You can view all of the topics to be discussed at Next Generation Infrastructure on the event agenda, and you can discuss these topics and more with Rocco, and all our speakers, by registering today (enterprise end-users can claim a complimentary pass).

OIC speaker interview 7: Martin Stepanek, Consultant, Financial Services Industry, Generali

Our latest Ovum Industry Congress speaker interview is with Martin Stepanek, Consultant, Financial Services Industry at Generali. Martin will be participating in a Financial Sector Breakfast Briefing, and a Business Process Management Workshop at the event, both in collaboration with Business IT Strategy Sponsor, Bizagi.

Martin StepanekMartin Stepanek: At OIC, I am very much looking forward to hearing more about ideas and opinions on transforming workplace productivity and improving customer experience. I have spent the majority of my professional life addressing such issues that I believe helps IT to deliver to Business people cost-effective and “industrial-like” values rather than just being a “manufactory”.

Ovum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career, or your most successful failure?

MS: I have had the luck to participate on several large scale projects/implementations, covering tens of millions of business transactions (e.g. online stock exchange, insurance policy administration systems, nationwide privatisation, etc.). The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt is the better understanding of how Business and IT domains relate. This Business/IT relationship comes from the “Business Entity” concept (i.e. in insurance industry: client, insurance policy, claim, coverage, benefit, location, account, etc.). I think that by looking at business entities first, it is possible to address properly both business issues (i.e. processes, people, value, etc.) as well as IT issues (i.e. applications, integrations, infrastructure, etc.).

Ovum: What are some of the challenges of your job?  

MS: The major challenge of my job is the gap between Business and IT. I have seen many scenarios like this:

IT: “Business people do not provide us the right specifications!”

Business: “IT does not deliver what we need!”

In my opinion, the source of this conflict is that analysts and methodologies (Business and IT) are often not able to fully identify and address the complexity issue. By “complexity issue” I mean multidimensional relationships between various components of the business enterprise (e.g. business entities, capabilities, value streams, people, technology, strategy, etc.). I am afraid that traditional methodologies like “Waterfall” are rather “sweeping the complexity issue under the rug” than really addressing it. I think that real value for business can be delivered by understanding complexity issues and addressing them in IT solutions. I can see the emerging areas of Business Architecture and Business Process Management together with the “Agile” approach heading in the right direction.

Meet Martin at Ovum Industry Congress, 13-14 May 2014 at the Victoria Park Plaza, London, to discuss these issues and many more. Enterprise IT professionals can claim a complimentary pass, here.

OIC speaker interview 6: Dan Crow, CTO, Songkick

Ovum recently caught up with Dan Crow, CTO of personalised live music events database Songkick, who is speaking at Ovum Industry Congress next month in London. Here are his fascinating insights on his career to date, the status of the IT industry, and what his challenges currently are.

Dan CroweI am discussing Cloud Experiences in the Enterprise at OIC 2014. I believe that the move to the cloud is a vast opportunity that many are still struggling to fully take advantage of. I’m interested in how the experiences of smaller startups like Songkick can inform the practices of larger enterprises, and vice versa.

Ovum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career, or your most successful failure?

Dan Crow: The first startup I joined in Silicon Valley was a B2B intelligent search engine called Verb. I was the VP of Engineering and hired the development team from scratch. We built a strong product and had early paying customers. We attempted to raise a Series B funding round in 2001. This was in the teeth of the dotcom crash – the worst downturn in California in a generation.

We visited every VC on Sandhill Road, each one liked the business, but told us they weren’t funding anyone right then. I had to layoff the whole engineering team, people I considered friends as well as colleagues. We then sold the assets of the business to Dell. The experience was a sobering one, and made me determined that next time I would get a much better outcome for the people I worked with.

Ovum: Thinking about the conference strapline “Strategy, Technology and the art of the possible”, what tech related innovation, transformation or invention would you hope to see in your lifetime:

DC: In the last few years we have finally begun to see practical, industrial strength Artificial Intelligence being deployed. Techniques like Deep Learning appear to be a major breakthrough. But we are just starting on the journey to smart systems. AI will become widespread, some of it visible through Siri-like services, but much of it becoming a key part of enterprise systems.

Smart systems should be able to automatically understand the knowledge within disparate information systems. These systems will connect siloed data, automatically translating terminology and meaning. I expect that in 10-15 years, most ETL and data connection services will be automatically generated by AI systems and as a result big data will be cheap and commonplace in every enterprise.

Ovum: What has been the most rewarding project you worked on, and why it was rewarding?

DC: I led the engineering team that built Google Squared. This was a prototype technology that extracted billions of facts from the general web and made it available to users through a novel interface. We took a team of 10 of the best Google engineers for a year and built something extraordinary. The extraction technology we built now power’s Google Knowledge Graph, which is the next generation of search on Google. Building Google’s first web-scale semantic search engine that is now used by billions of people, is immensely satisfying.

Meet Dan at Ovum Industry Congress, 13-14 May 2014 at the Victoria Park Plaza, London. Enterprise IT professionals can claim a complimentary pass, here.