by January 16, 2012 0 comments











Andy
Mulholland, CTO,
Capgemini

I
was deliberately pretty conventional in my comments about technology
for 2012, but after reading Gartner’s views that up to 35% of
expenditure will move from IT by 2015, that 2012 will be the year of
big data, and also that enterprises will struggle with these topics
in 2012, I think I can afford to provide some of
my
own personal views
.
There is a big point in the Gartner predictions relating to the topic
of big data, which is that the term ‘unstructured’ should be
applied, and for me that is at the very core of the whole change we
are all facing. IDC, in its 2012 predictions, refers to a current
industry-wide shift to what they term the ‘third platform’ in
2012. This is built around the combination of
clouds,
social
networks and mobility
.
At Capgemini we will soon release a new Point of View paper defining
the shift in much the same way but replacing social networks with big
data, which seems to align more with Gartner’s view.

So
we all seem to be pretty well in agreement with the technology
elements, but exactly what is it that they deliver and why is it the
business revolution that I drew attention to in a
previous
post
?
Possibly even more important is why are many IT folks struggling to
understand what is happening? This post is about the ‘unstructured’
nature of this new ‘environment’ and its applicability to the
front office to do business with the external world. By definition
this means being flexible, and agile, to match what you want to see
to what others want to buy or, in a more popular turn of phrase,
being able to optimize ‘events’. This is set out much better in
the latest book from John Hagel III and John Seely Brown under the
title ‘
The
Power of Pull
‘,
which features dust cover endorsements from Bill Clinton and, perhaps
more constructively, Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com,
Hasso Plattner, the founder of SAP, and Eric Schmidt, the Executive
Chairman of Google. That should align to the strategy and thinking of
some pretty powerful players in the technology market whose products
are installed in many enterprises!

However
you look at it, the front office is basically an unstructured
operational area built around talented people who are mostly not
sitting at a fixed desk trying to make insightful decisions around
whatever facts are available. So there is the basis for ‘mobility’
as the smartphone and tablet (iPad) fully enable this, with the ‘big
data’ part of the new environment — meaning how to search for
relevant data from the huge amounts available. And that’s not the
same as using the internal data produced from the back office
applications with conventional Business Intelligence. The back office
is where the environment is ‘structured’, and indeed it has been
the journey of the last twenty years with Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) to fully automate the processes to ensure that the
structure is optimized! There has been little success in front office
automation simply because the core values creating activities are not
structured!

So
there is the challenge for the IT folk; the last twenty years of good
practice in IT has been to introduce structure into processes and
ensure that all data is categorized and structured ending up with
Master Data Management as the Holy Grail. The chaotic event-driven
world of the front office based on these new technologies and a
strong externalized (meaning risky and dangerous to any good IT
person) set of activities is not something that it seems right to
embrace. In a
previous
posting
, I explained that, in fact, these are two separate, and
indeed
separated, environments that the new Capgemini Point of View covers
in some detail. We call these environments ‘inside-out’ for the
traditional IT environment based primarily on internal applications
using client server, close-coupled, state-full architecture, and
‘outside-in’ for the new environment focused primarily on
external ‘services’ using a browser-Web architecture, which is
loose-coupled and stateless.

Not
much similarity between the two is there? Business requirements are
different, the area of use is different and above all the technology
is different too! So how do we make what this means clear? The answer
partly lies in
Conway’s
Law
,
which states that if you change your business model then you will
need to change your communication and decision making methodology. In
the new ‘outside-in’, ‘unstructured’ world of the front
office that means shifting from email to social networks. Examining
this in more detail is a great way to explain the difference, and to
understand why senior managers are mystified by the topic.

In
many ways social networks are the glue of this new ‘unstructured’,
‘outside-in’ environment of the front office with the role of
finding alignments between events, people, and big data to ‘organize’
collaborative responses to market opportunities. The market
opportunities are unlikely to align exactly with the way that the
enterprise would like to do business and the role of marketing has
always been to figure out what the market wants. At the same time the
role of sales has been to convince the customer that they want what
the enterprise wants to ‘push’ to sell. In the new online world
the customers have choices at their fingertips and power reverses to
the customer ‘pulling’ their exact choice from the potential
suppliers (remember the book ‘the power of pull’ mentioned
above). The enterprise has to quickly find answers to all the
questions and be ‘agile’ in its ability to match the requirements
of the market and its customers in the online globally competitive
environment.

Social
networks inside the enterprise allow skilled people to identify
themselves by their skills, and receive and answer questions on that
basis — there is no need for the sender to know the names of the
people individually, or to do mass mailings, both of which are
required by email. Furthermore, used skillfully, social networks
allow the receiver to filter the messages and so reduce them to only
the relevant messages, rather than with email where the sender has
control and can rapidly fill email boxes with unwanted messages. The
generally expected figure is that if an enterprise can make a social
network function properly then users will see a 40% reduction in
their email, which in turn gives them the time to respond to their
social network requests.

This
front office unstructured activity is primarily focused on the
‘outside’ and is rich in market, product or other aspects that
make up the ‘value’ of what the enterprise sells. It contrasts
totally with the structured back office on the ‘inside’ that is
about how the enterprise operates its procedures in order to manage
its ability to run the order-to-cash processes. In the back office
the names of the people responsible for the various elements and
processes are clearly defined, and, as such, email works perfectly as
indeed it was introduced to do in the last Business Process
Re-Engineering in response to the business model changing following
the introduction of PC technology in the early 1990s. Accordingly,
senior managers in the back office see quite correctly that they have
no need for social networking in their activities!

This
is a small part of the overall picture, but one that does make a good
point about the difference in the front and back office roles and the
use of technologies. Next week I plan to post a ‘use case’ to try
to extend the understanding of the way the front office is being
changed by adopting the combination of cloud, mobility and big data
with social networks to create a wholly new set of capabilities that
are based on the ‘outside’, unstructured nature of the front
office’s activities in the market and with its customers.


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