Jul 24, 2010

Is “curation” the answer for IT complexity?

Introduction to “curation”

Welcome to the new decade. This new decade will be remembered for the complex environments the previous decade left us with and how we dealt with them.

The interconnected and interdependent economic environment, the new competitive arena and the new technologies available have left most of us grasping to find a way to minimize risk in what we do and offer to our organizations and clients.

Even our private worlds have been turned upside down with new emerging cultural practices. The philosopher Prof. Zygmunt Bauman used the term “Liquid Modernity” in order to explain this new complex and rapidly changing state of affairs. As a technologist I recognize that information technology and the digitalization of knowledge have been at the center of this revolution.

In order to survive we will have to do several things in order to reduce complexity or better still, cope with it. Complexity usually can be handled by innovation, simplification, management techniques and standardization.

While flying to visit my new born grandson last month several important things happened to me besides the fact of becoming a grandfather.

Coming to a new city I looked for museums to visit and the nice passenger beside me explained all about how a museum visit is basically a “simplified” (in IT terms: vanilla) tour organized by the “curator”. This curator looks at all the artifacts the museum owns and can get from outside sources in order to organize the perfect (in his view) experience for the visitors he thinks will come and enjoy it. He defines the visitor, the experience and then organizes the show.

The second was when I read an opinion piece by Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps where she talks about how the -“iPad ushers in a new era of personal computing that we call "Curated Computing"—a mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences. Let me repeat that, because it's the essence of the Curated Computing experience: less choice; more relevance”- . Given that I had just learned about curators this really hit home.

The third was that I had to prepare a presentation about IT innovation to be presented when I returned. While trying to connect cloud, SaaS, PaaS, multichannel marketing, mobile technologies, new hardware industry in a box products, new ERP/vertical software packages and other new innovations I realized what is happening and I will use the following term for it. Curated Computing.

What I am trying to say is that all the above terms represent very complex technologies that the vendors have simplified in order to make our and our company’s life easier. Every vendor has simplified in a different way, each one has a different way to do it and we (the users) have to choose the one that comes closer to the experience we want.

In other words we choose the CURATOR that fits our way of managing complexity.

How can “curation” fit into IT history

If we look at the above graph we can see “curated “ computing as the fifth generation of computing.

The first generation was very autocratic and we could say dictatorial. The data center was the king, programmers served the center and optimized their applications so that the “king computer” could process their command optimally. This was done without concern for the users, as they were secondary.

Then the PCs came, woow what a difference. Users could finally do their own thing without asking the Data Center for permission. They could even have the same software in both the office and at home. CIOs fought unsuccessfully against the use of PCs in the firm. At the end it democratized the end user experience.

The third generation opened up the world of information to everybody. We didn’t need the company’s librarian or information specialist who used to get us the needed information. We were free. Again CIOs fought unsuccessfully against free use of internet in most places. They said we all were porno junkies and that a securitywould be breached. Most companies found a way to democratize information to most employees. At home we were all free.

Next came SOA. The real term means “service oriented architectures” although some CIOs will call it “same old applications”. What did SOA bring? It allowed applications in the company and of outside partners to share data. This revolution came at the same time that users understood that IT basically had to provide automation for business processes and analytics. With SOA data collected in one part of the company was available to others without much IT investment. SOA democratized data bringing finally the dream of one version of the truth throughout the company.

Now we are entering the “curated” computing era. I am sure that many CIOs will fight this but they will lose again. We will choose vendors by looking at how they curated a certain IT problem our IT users want solved. Because this process allows vendors to sell their solution as is to many clients , the price is reduced; some of them will charge “on demand” and so smaller companies or departments with few users of a certain application will be able to afford the product. In other words, application democratization.

Curated computing everywhere

CURATED computing is here and we will all use it at home, in the office and wherever we are.

Cloud Computing, SaaS, PaaS and other forms will allow us to use “curated” IT products on demand. This means by user/month. Mostly we won’t be able or want to make changes and will use it as the vendor/curator designed it.

ERP/vertical software packages: most companies will look and decide according to the vendor/curator road map and strategy. Minimum amount of changes will be done in order to be able to move easily into the future that the vendor/curator mapped for us.

Hardware/industry in a box appliances: several vendors like NCR (Teradata), Oracle (Exadata), Cisco (Vblock), HP (Matrix) and IBM (CloudBurst) among others offer an appliance that the vendor/curator optimized for certain uses. Goodbye to buying multipurpose hardware and then integrating it at great cost for database servers, application servers or other uses.

In the mobile world we are all asked to make sort of a decision that has many consequenses. We have to decide the curator of our phone/tablet world. We are deciding between Apple and Google or maybe between Apple and Microsoft or even between Blackberry and Nokia. Our decision will influence our banks, insurance companies, medical and other service providers. They all have to provide us service no matter who our vendor/curator is. They will have to support us on our terms, exactly as our vendor/curator dictated. No extra complexity for us, the user, although for IT complexity might increase.

Welcome to the new simplified and curated world.


tmrb said...

The new simplified and curated world -
To create business value; companies must focus simultaneously on managing IT costs and benefits. Value is derived when the benefits exceed their costs. The success of a business generally depends on its ability to deliver more real value without using more labor, capital, or other inputs. simplified and curated world would enable to do it.
“Albatross around your neck - For the CIO, the complexity of the old in term of IT spending is “Albatross around your neck” - A problem resulting from something you did that stops you from being successful. This idiom comes from Samuel Coleridge's poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798).
"It’s simple to be sophisticated but sophisticated to be simple."

Tamir Bechor, CA

Dr. Jimmy Schwarzkopf said...

when you are right you are right