Monday, August 1, 2016

Managing IT in Context: Recap of July 2016 AppsJack Business Share Meetup, Seattle, WA

Well, the monthly fourth Tuesday AppsJack Business Share meet was held in Bellevue at Big Fish Grill on Tuesday, July 26th from 4 to 7 PM and went off without a hitch.  The event was well attended by new, familiar and awesome faces.  Thanks to Ruben Simpson for showing up, a new connection from Issaquah who is running an agency.

The new faces (first time attendees) at the event were Ruben Simpson, Ted Clark, and Karen Carnahan.  There was quite a bit of iced tea going around and the beer and wine seemed to flow fluidly as well.  I saw fish and chips.  "Regulars" included Eric Veal, Dominic Wong, David Slight, Joe Pham, James Tuff, Chris Ingrao, Andrew Sengul and Richard Webb.

The topic for the evening was MANAGING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: Are you doing it right? and there was a star-studded cast of industry experts to debate it.  The topics under discussion were all hot in 2016: IoT, Cloud Computing, the industry, relative strengths and positions of cities, Smart Machines, Robots and Drones, AI, Context-Rich, Intelligent Learning Systems and Bots, Visual Analytics, BI and Tableau, 3D and 4D Printing, modern IT practices.  Below are the major points, lessons, areas of interest and takeaways we covered.

VUI is and is gonna be YOOOOGE! Voice user interface (VUI) is and will be a huge area for the industry in computing.  Successes from Siri, Amazon Echo, Kinect and the like are driving this and solutions from companies like Twilio.  Microsoft offers Speech APIs on Azure.  For users, rather than needing to look directly at a computer and be attached to it 1:1, the user simply speaks and has it respond in interesting or necessary ways.  The voice interfaces will become better and better and their responses will be delivered to us through connected user interfaces like Google Glass, Hololens, etc.  This is immersive computing.  Richard Webb and Eric met at a Six Hour Startup in Seattle in 2009 where we used Twilio and (now a Fujitsu company) to automate workflows.  The technology has been around and will get broader and deeper.  The ability now for the machine to respond to voice input is and will be a phase shift.

Use the right Strategic Frameworks.  We spoke of Red and Blue Ocean strategies, their applications and differences.  David Slight taught us about the differences in approach and the example of Cirque de Soleil was brought up as blue ocean strategy.  David and Richard Webb expressed the importance of the very simple VSE framework: Vision, Strategy, Execution.  Vision and strategy alone are useless and require execution; otherwise they are just ideas.  (Unrealized potential).

David and Richard carried on about the future of IT and told Eric that the BOST and BAIT (Business Aligned IT) frameworks were relevant and powerful areas to study. Surprisingly, ITIL was not mentioned though I saw it rise around 2007.

Richard joined us about 90 minutes into the evening and impressed everyone with his knowledge and opinions of the industry based on many years of experience and his current work with major clients making IT more modern and higher quality.  We talked about automation, policies and humans vs. machines including their associated ethics in this context.

The Future is near:  Governance and Regulation.  We started getting pretty futuristic.  Andrew brought up Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.  And mentioned that there is also a fourth (also referred to as the zeroth) law.  The laws are:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
  4. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
Mr. Slight and Mr. Webb talked about ISA, the International Society of Automation, and David's work building a 3D virtual reality room, like Minority Report, for working on business models like his BDN framework (Drivers, Objectives, Benefits, Changes, Capabilities, Enablers).  He is writing code as we speak for Hololens to realize this vision.

Webb griped about the pace of technology's advancement and the complexity of keeping up with all of the tools.  Eric shared that one of his visions is to be able to keep up with the tools and tech indeed and use that (which we already do as a computing substrate).  We need better linkage between our tools and our business processes.  Companies like are doing wonderful work in this area and will probably soon expose APIs that make model driven architecture in a tool-agnostic approach like has been taught at the UW Foster School of Business for years more of a reality.  Companies like Microsoft are extremely strong with their use of workflow frameworks and things like Entity Framework to make modeling and business automation a reality.  Salesforce is in that race, too.  And Microsoft has the goal to take on SAP.

New technologies abound. (collaboration around running automated tests in software) and Pickle (in Python, pickle is the standard mechanism for object serialization) recently came up in Richard's work.  Neo4j, the World's Leading Graph Database, was brought up in conversation as critical technology.  I believe Andrew is using it for some of his interesting projects.  Here is a listing of comparable technologies to neo4j

The book The Art of the Possible: Create an Organization with No Limits was brought up and Richard had a wonderful quote, "You are differentiating yourself by not being a prick."

Luminaries.  Richard talked about Grant Holland, a Senior Java Architect with Sun Microsystems, who is a close relation to the "Gang of Four" (GoF), Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John Vlissides, who wrote the book on Design Patterns in software development.  Here are more resources on Grant's work.  Joe, who is running a startup about insurance reform to benefit the end users talk about the benefits of and their Advisor Template in particular.

Conclusion.  IT is a great topic but there were suggestions that "Digital" is a better word to describe it anymore.  David has strong beliefs that IT is going away as a function and that the capabilities of this function really.  This basically supports the idea of the AppsJack vision: the best tools for every practice.

Next AppsJack Share event: Managing Financial Resources.  AppsJack looks forward to the next meetup, which will be in Bellevue.  The topic will be Managing Financial Resources.  And the following month, the topic will be Managing Assets (they things that were attained with the money).  AppsJack looks forward to seeing you at an event soon and hearing about your ideas of the future, industry and what's possible.  Join the discussion today! RSVP for the August Managing Financial Resources event.