After my last blog – asking what devops was
– the idea of collaboration across the whole life of service has been in the
forefront of my mind. From that wider perspective I was musing around one of my
frequent topics – how we fail to get the service right because we don't
understand how it is being used, or what the customer really cares about.
Actually the simple picture of supplier and
customer doesn’t really describe the world most of us have to live in. If we go
with the ITIL concept of a customer (someone who has financial influence or
authority) then we also need to worry about what our users think. In other
frameworks you might hear a more general concern about taking the whole range
of stakeholders into consideration. Doesn’t matter which recipe you follow –
does matter that you see the complexity.
Some of the problems come from being so
close to how things are done (rather than why they are being done), and by
being so close to what you think matters that you don't spot what matters to
those receiving the service. Sometime it is the silliest things that make the
customers and users unhappy and reject a service. Maybe that is an example of the
‘One Bad Apple’ syndrome – something firmly embedded in the human condition
seems to be our ability to allow one bad aspect to overbalance a dozen good
I had my own version this week, when I
found myself refusing to continue with an online application for a new bank
account because the software insisted on spelling my name incorrectly. (For
reasons I cannot fathom, it seems to have decided that any name starting with
‘Mac’ must have a capital afterwards – so it turns ‘Macfarlane’ to ‘MacFarlane’
without giving me the chance to turn it back.) I didn’t stay around to see what
else the service offered, I just closed the web page and got my new account
somewhere else that will let me spell my name properly.
But there is also the positive face of the
same coin – the power of ‘cool’. Imagine you have found the perfect shoes for
your child – scientifically designed to protect their feet while supporting
their bones and they are even waterproof. As a caring parent these are the only
pair of shoes you want your child to be running about in (see IKB later in this
blog). As it happens your dreams have come true because your child loves them.
Is it because they are good for them, and will help their feet develop properly
– no, they agree to wear them because the heels light up with each step. They
will wear them – and save their feet – but only because they are ‘cool’ –
according to rules you will never understand. By the way, don’t think the
illogical ‘cool’ factor only applies to children, it is there in just about
every service you deliver or use – at work or at home. If you look for it then
you will see it. I don’t want to make this posting too long or I could list
dozens – but just imagine trying to sell powerful and effective software
products against others with less relevant features at higher cost – but with a
fancy graphical interface – sound familiar to anyone?
If you think about these two situations –
where apparently less important elements disproportionately affect decisions -
I am sure you will find many examples of the two extremes; like the fast-food restaurant
that you still avoid because of one bad burger or one element of bad service,
hundreds of miles away and several years back.
Those issues tend to come from how the
service is delivered, yet the same problem can easily come from how it is built
(like my name issue). But one of the differences is getting the message back to where it might make a difference,
because at best the complaints go to the operations side of the house, and this
does not get fed back, maybe because it is dismissed as trivial – because it
doesn’t seem important to whoever received the message.
It isn’t just about hiding complaints
though, we also have the ability not to pass the cool factors back. Do we
always find out why people really like something? It seems to me that we don’t often
ask the right people the right questions. And it also seems there are simple
reasons why we do that:
We presume that what is important to us is what is important to
our customers, users or others that matter. Is this a common manifestation
of IKB (the ‘I know better’ syndrome)? Most of suffer this from our parents,
then grow up and do it other people.
We don’t know who to ask – and we don't know what to ask them.
Both of these situations are understandable
– after all, we are human so of course we see things first and best from our own perspective, and without being forced out into another’s environment then why
should we have the ability to understand people we have never met? The second
is also inevitable in the complicated amalgams of customers, users, services
and suppliers we exist within. Never mind the neat little service chain
pictures you get in the books – it doesn’t really look that simple, it looks
complicated, and mostly because it is complicated.
We can do something about these
difficulties – but they require addressing the way we – and our colleagues –
think, and that takes time and effort.
There are other causes and factors – and
maybe there is one we could do something about, and it is something that would
magnify the beneficial effects when you finally get around to addressing the two points I
listed above: when we do find things out we don’t tell the people who could do
something about it. And the very best way to get that wrong is to build silos
within your supplier organisation and stop people sharing ideas and
After that last blog on devops, I was
thinking about that particular kind of communication issue. There is something deep
rooted in the human psyche that needs to dismantle their immediate environment
into teams (or
groups, or departments or silos or tribes – call them what you will). IT
organisations are perfect examples – with high level internal teams always
emerging once they gets past a certain size. And if you separate into teams that feel the need to compete, then helpful messages will not be fed across between them. So what was built wrong and delivers the wrong thing stays there and will be wrong in the next version too. That is
the inertial element of behaviour that initiatives like devops and whole
service lifecycle approaches have to contend with. We shouldn’t think it can be
as easy as just telling people to collaborate and communicate. Like all
challenges we need to recognise what we are fighting – and to fight back.
So – what are good ways to start? Perhaps
as simply as recognising that while we might bond comfortably into (say) a
‘development’ team or an ‘operations’ team (or any one of a dozen more) – that
doesn’t make the other team the opposition – I think that would be a good first
step, if we can finally realise that – by and large – what benefits one team
also benefits the other.
 For once this isn’t just me making ideas up. I wrote a psychology
essay on this topic at University – way back towards the middle of the last
 This was discussed in the ITIL books for Small Organisations –
versions 1, 2 and 3.
Yes, I love being one of
the ambassadors for IBM’s Client Reference Program, a structured platform that
gives our valued Clients many opportunities to promote their unique
capabilities and stand tall in the, otherwise very competitive, market. IT
revolution, ease of internet, change in consumer behavior etc have all added to
While I write this blog, the
two things that I had studied, during school days in Biology, are shouting
aloud from my mind; one, Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and two,
‘legume-rhizobial symbiosis’. Interestingly, these biological phenomenon do
have real examples in economics too. A symbiotic relationship with clients/peers,
thus, is ‘very’ crucial in surviving the Darwinian marketplace. And, what
better way than registering for IBM’s Client Reference Program? :-)
For me, it’s great being a
Client Reference Specialist for Tivoli. Working in collaboration to create
Reference Profiles for our Clients has brought in a lot of advantages. Networking
opportunities with my fellow IBMers, Business Partners and Clients from across
industries is just a ‘cake’, but the real ‘icing’ is my continuous learning
about IBM’s Tivoli software for 'Integrated Service Management' that “provides
smarter solutions and the expertise you need to design, build and manage a
dynamic infrastructure that enables you to improve service, reduce cost and
manage risk.” Yes, I’m always in an awe of how IBM’s Tivoli solutions have
helped our Clients overcome their challenges.
PS: Rebecca Wissinger in
her blog ‘IBM Client Activities at Pulse 2011’ talks about the ways IBM is
saying THANK YOU to our immensely valued, extraordinary Clients at Pulse
2011. If you are attending Pulse 2011 then you will not give her blog a
I have some big news to share. You thought world tours were only reserved for the Stones, Springsteen and other big-name acts? Well, I guess service management has hit the big time, because the IBM Service Management World Tour kicks off in mid-August with gigs across the U.S., Europe and Asia.
I think this is a perfect follow-on to Pulse a merry band of IBM experts comes to a town near you (hopefully) and delivers in-depth presentations on the latest IBM solutions and approaches in service management, storage management, enterprise asset management, and System z. Its a series of hard-hitting one-day events held in smaller settings where you can get some serious face-to-face time with service management gurus. Im helping one such expert with his presentations on the Tivoli Service Management Center for z and consolidating Linux workloads on z (no snappy title yet), and Im impressed with his focus and clarity.Even I get it!By the way, if you missed my profile, thats what I do, write presentations, podcasts and website stories for Tivoli.
Anyway, the tour begins in Boston on August 12, with events in 13 more US cities; the Europe and Asia schedules are being finalized now. You can check out what we have so far and even register for the road show at the World Tour page. You can always ping your favorite IBM sales rep, who is sitting by his/her laptop yearning to hear from you, or ping me, Bob Pickard. In any event, I'll be blogging new news on the tour as it comes along. Party on, Garth.
Increasingly, physical assets are being transformed into digitally aware, smart assets that can receive and emit data and connect with one another, allowing people, systems and objects to communicate and interact with each other in entirely new ways creating opportunities for smarter, differentiated services and products.
As the world becomes more intelligent, instrumented and interconnected, designing and delivering the systems and application software for innovative new products and services becomes more and more complex.
For example, today’s cars contain a 100 million lines of code that are connected to the dealer, to a smart traffic system, to an insurance provider, and to a smartphone, which alone could run 100,000s of new applications.
The complexity of these systems of systems has exploded overnight as every single service and interaction between the multiple systems needs to be managed, monitored, and maintained across the entire service lifecycle.
Current models of design, development, operations, and deployment do not scale and are not cost effective. In addition, there is a huge gap between design, delivery, and operations, inhibiting the efficient delivery of services.
Both development and operations see a number of challenges in their IT and product delivery organizations:
70% of budget locked in maintenance
50% of applications rolled back
30% of project costs due to rework
85% of computing capacity idling
Integrated Service Management—which includes Rational and Tivoli software--helps bridge the gap between software development and operations teams. It provides integration of data and workflows across architecture, development, testing and operations software. It integrates best practices including ITIL and IBM assets for SOA, Development and IT Operations to accelerate time to value. Integrated Service Management helps organizations:
Identify required changes and resolve customer issues in less time
Reduce system downtime and repair costs
Limit risk exposure by providing better visibility to change impact
Featured products include: Federated asset management.IBM Rational Asset Manager helps architects and operations with fast problem resolution as the single catalog of known software assets, such as patterns, past change requests, and in-production services and products. Federation with IBM Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database simplifies deployment with automated synchronization and reduces data duplication, allowing only secure proven assets and services into production environments.
Lifecycle process automation. Accelerate the development, test, and deployment cycles; reduce operational risk; and improve audit posture. Rational Asset Manager catalogs templates and deployment reference architectures tailored by industry, which invoke the build-test-deploy workflows resulting in greater consistency, predictability, and faster time to market. IBM Rational Build Forge®, IBM Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere®, and IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager provide an automated test and deployment workflow reusable across application and data center provisioning environments significantly reducing the manual effort in test and build set up and tear down.
Attend Innovate2010 and to learn more about Integrated Service Management for Design and Delivery. Register today.
Business Partners are invited to join IBM in Las Vegas, Nevada February 27 - March 2, 2011, for Pulse 2011. There are activities throughout the event that are geared to help Business Partners "Be Bold. Be Tivoli." in 2011.
IBM Tivoli Business Partner Summit at Pulse: Sunday, February 27
Kick off your Pulse experience with the exclusive Business Partner Summit. The Summit will focus on selling in a Smarter Planet through a general session offering insights and directions from IBM Software executives, as well as information-packed Insight and Breakout sessions that help you maximize business opportunities. The Summit will provide the information you need to be bold in 2011!
2011 Tivoli Business Partner Awards
Tivoli is again pleased to invite Business Partners to submit nominations for the 2011 Tivoli Business Partner Awards. Nominations are open through February 4, 2011. Award details, criteria and nomination form are available here.
Business Partner Café
The Business Partner Café is the perfect place to network with other Business Partners, meet with the IBM team to build future plans, and hold one-on-one meetings. Grab a cup of coffee and learn more about marketing programs and best practices, tools and tips, and available resources.
Pulse 2011 Expo sponsor
Don't delay, there is still time to sign up for sponsorships. The Expo is the heart of the conference and provides a great environment to connect with thousands of conference attendees.
Pre-Pulse Smarter Sales Academy, February 25 - 26
This year's Academy will once again focus on interactive selling education sessions designed to assist you in planning and executing effectively in 2011. Register now!
Tivoli whiteboard workshops
Participate in these workshops and learn to deliver the Tivoli overall Integrated Service Management strategy, as well as focused solution strategies.
Matt Holitza is managing the Pulse 2010 track--Change Management for Applications and Services. I talked with him about the kinds of proposals he would like to see and have included his comments below.
What are some hot topics in the area of Change Management for Applications and Services? We’re looking for presentations that show how consolidation of change management across development and operations can allow teams in both organizations to collaborate together to rapidly produce high quality products and services.
We’d also like to see stories about solutions that improve automation of application deployment to help support more rapid, less error-prone delivery of new applications.
In addition, we hope to include presentations that provide insights about application and service development. The Pulse audience will be primarily made up of operations professionals. The more we can educate and share information about development best practices, the easier it will be to build bridges with operations. We would like to see Pulse attendees go home and talk about how to improve alignment across development, test and operations to simplify the deployment of high-quality products, applications and services.
What are the benefits of speaking at Pulse? The benefits of speaking at Pulse are many. Sharing information with your peers is invaluable—not only will you enhance your profile with your fellow practitioners; you will also gain insights about changes processes and solutions that will help you more effectively react to customer needs and deliver better quality software. In addition, you will hear first hand how automation can help you improve the efficiency of team and speed time to market. You will also receive a full conference pass ($1,995 value).
Who would make a good candidate? We hope to hear from customers, partners, product managers, IBM Global Business Services, distinguished engineers, and anyone with cross product implementation stories. Presentations with documented benefits resonate well with our attendees.
What kinds of products will be featured? Some of the product pairings that will be highlighted in the Change Management for Applications and Services track include:
Rational Asset Manager and Tivoli Change and Configuration Manager (CCMDB)
Tivoli Service Request Management, Rational Team Concert, and Rational ClearQuest
Rational Test Lab Manager, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, and Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager
Rational Build Forge, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, and Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere
How can I learn more? Visit the Pulse 2010 Call for Papers page to learn more about proposal requirements and how to submit your proposal.
If you weren't at Pulse 2012, I won't sugarcoat it. It was another successful event and the customers I spoke to got a lot of value out of the conference.
If you were not there (and even if you were), don't forget about our regional "Pulse Comes To You" (PCTY) events in your country. It's another way for you to meet with us and get the information you need about our service management solutions.
One of the things that makes IBM...well, IBM is that we have excellent business partners like Cisco.
I was able to get some time with David Flesh (Director of Marketing, Cisco Network Management Technology Group) to talk about the partnership that Cisco has with their Cisco Prime solutions and our IBM Netcool solutions.
This will be the first of several videos we'll be posting on the blog. More to come...
My bosses gave me a very simple task, "Solve the confusion surrounding some of the questions our customers have around cloud computing and service management."
I told them I'd have it done before lunch.
And if you believe that, you have way too much faith in my marketing abilities (hi, mom!).
In all seriousness, you have questions about cloud computing. Lots of questions.
Cloud is everywhere and there's a lot of information that our customers are having to sift and sort through.
Which is why back in May, I assembled a group of sales leads, marketing peers, development executives...literaly a "who's who" of cloud computing at IBM and asked them this:
What are the questions our customers have around cloud?
That started a series of conversations that led us to several core questions, and we got to work.
We enlisted some of our top people working on cloud and we asked them to get in front of a video camera and talk directly to you about these questions.
The result is a video series we call, "Cloud Enabling Your Data Center."
Today, we are releasing the first video: "Achieving Greater Efficiencies With Virtualization And Cloud Computing (Service Management Across The Entire Infrastructure)"
This video features two of our top sales executives; Bowman Hall and Barbara Korte. Barbara is a sales executive for Integrated Service Management and you might remember Bowman Hall from the Cloud demo during the Pulse General Session.
As I said, this is the first of the video series. Future videos will be released in the next few weeks.
We also have a short URL that goes to a landing page we've put togther with additional cloud materials and (most importantly) a full list of Pulse Comes To You and Impact Comes To You events that are happening in your area.
Even if you went to Pulse or Impact in Las Vegas this past year, these local events are great opportunities to deep-dive into a topic like cloud computing as well as meet your peers and local subject matter experts.
More to come and please feel free to comment below about your thoughts on Cloud.
PS also this week, we announced a new version of IBM Tivoli Service Automation Manager (Announcement Letter 211-256). The new release allows IT service providers to onboard multiple customers, deploy IT services very quickly across multiple platforms and hypervisors, maximize resource utilization and drive cloud operations effectiveness and efficiency by adding storage support and expanding on network integration. Learn more about the new features and the product on the product page.
David has written about the Cloud Service Management Simulator Workshop in a previous blog and things are heating up as we get closer to Pulse.
In addition to the Sunday workshop we have a few extra seats left on Saturday for business partners and customers who wish to attend. If you are interested, please send an email to email@example.com. Both workshops (Saturday and Sunday) are from 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm.
And for more information, watch developerWorks' Scott Laningham interview Ivor MacFarlane on what to expect in the room.
I am writing this on a plane back to England from Madrid, at the end of a pretty hectic few weeks that involved speaking at five itSMF events in five different countries – from Finland to Spain. There has to be a good joke somewhere in a run of 5 events that started with the Finnish – but I’ll let you work that that one out for yourselves.
Anyway, I already wrote about how good the Finnish conference had been, and the Spanish one matched it with all the simple things done really well: good venue, lots of people (all friendly). As well as getting the basics dead right there were one or two minor excursions into the unusual, with a plate spinning performer on the opening morning, (who was upstaged as a professional juggler by the itSMF chair) and a conference dinner in a restaurant with opera singing waiters (all of which somehow felt quite normal).
Attending a range of events in a row like this really brings to mind how there is a common thread throughout them all – clearly the main one is our common focus on service management. Also, many of the same people are at each event including several representatives of our little mutual admiration society of regular speakers at such things Perhaps because of that common theme though, there is an appreciation of the differences – still quite noticeable across so small a place as Western Europe.
That hits you immediately on arrival at a new conference when you run until a long term acquaintance of the opposite sex and prepare yourself for the welcoming hug and kiss on the cheek. As the travelers among you likely already know, you have to perform a quick mental calculation based on where your fellow hugger and kisser is from, and then make an assumption as to whether they will follow their national rules or be adapting to the local ones. It can be an embarrassing moment when your Dutch friend goes to offer that third kiss to the cheek of a man who is in Spanish greetings mode and has turned away after two. Many of the experienced Southern Europeans seem to have little concern over simply asking the lady beforehand how many are expected. But the more staid British and American folks can find themselves out of synchrony and not sure why - helping them find out that European Union, Schengen open borders and pervasive English notwithstanding, there are still many cultures packed into a small space and the variation between (and even within) countries is so much more than between US or Australian states.
None of this is serious stuff of course – all part of life’s rich pattern and a source of fun and laughter when accompanied by a glass of wine. But the conversation it generated turned quickly into broader cultural differences – a subject I was interested in since it formed an element of my talk at most of these events. How many times do we say the wrong thing to our customers or fail to understand what they really mean because we fail to establish common understanding and expectations? Some cultures are reluctant to complain about bad service – be that in a restaurant or in the work environment, while others believe they should always comment with an aspect that could be improved, even when the service is very good. Fail to understand what kind of customer you are dealing with and you can be unnecessarily worried or totally surprised when a contract is not renewed.
For many multinational companies this is everyday business and they put significant effort into understanding and training their people to see through cultural variations. But as mobility and the intermingling of cultures accelerates so rapidly, with even small companies using offshored supply and almost everyone receiving service from other cultures it is something perhaps we all need to focus more effort on.
The consequences of not doing might well be more serious than a failed kiss on an unexpectedly absent cheek.
We live – more and more – in a world where everything that matters can be done on line, where we see and hear better on screen than for real.
You can now take an active part in the world – and potentially run a successful business - without ever leaving your home, possibly without getting out of bed.
And even when we do turn up for real we spend a lot of our time watching things on a screen – be that the presenter or performer in a large hall or the action reply on the giant screens at a football match
You will have seen in the promotions and advertising, that the key presentations from IBM’s show-piece service management event – Pulse – running on 4-7 March in Las Vegas will be streamed live on the web to the warm and cosy comfort of your home.
Despite how easy and good the virtual feed of sessions, chat and information were, 7000 people did get out of their beds in 2011 to travel to Las Vegasand actually be at Pulse, just as thousands turn out weekly to watch football at the stadium when they might have had a better view of the action by staying at home. And even formula one motor racing gets sold out attendance when you can never hope to see much of the race in person compared to what the TV coverage offers.
It seems that there are still good reasons to actually be there – not to put down the value of connecting to the live web streams, but even in the 21stcentury, people learn from people. Pulse is a big and excellent example, but throughout our community we see conferences still being successful and drawing people together to share experiences in surroundings that the virtual world can’t quite match yet. As well as the formal sessions at conferences and events, the networking opportunities of being with others in similar circumstances delivers real benefits – comparing notes with our peers from across the world.
Technology is good – and joining conferences on line is way better than missing it altogether, but people-to-people still has a lot going for it. I’m looking forward to the combination – the atmosphere of really being there and mixing with everyone in the exhibition areas – and over a sociable beer or two at dinner. And of course the added value that streamed interviews and 'watch again on demand' that is available over the web.
This amalgam of real and virtual seems set to be the conference norm for a good few years still – 7000 people at pulse thought so last year, and thousands went to itSMF conferences around the world in 2011 too.
And Pulse is in Las Vegasof course – where could be more appropriate for the combination of real physical existence with technologically driven enhancement - a bit like Red Dwarf's famous 'better than life' game. J
Do you think virtuality will one day totally replace human gatherings? I guess eventually it might, but for now I intend to enjoy both at once and count myself lucky to be alive at the right time to do that.
You can find out all about Pulse – physical and virtual offerings at www.ibm.com/pulse.
See you there – for real, on line, facebook, twitter and more!
I am at VMWorld this week, in San Francisco CA where IBM is a platinum sponsor.
With the growing adoption of Cloud implementations, private, public and hybrid, there's clearly a desire in the clients exploring solutions here to optimize and exploit their environments rather than a maintenance and steady state approach. Therefore, it is timely that Bala Rajaraman and Pratik Gupta, two IBM Distinguished Engineers, are presenting a Collaborative DevOps session at VMWorld
I sat with Pratik and Bala, and asked them what the impetus and motivation for developing this talk. The crux of the pitch, as Pratik explained to me, is that current conditions have created four drivers that a majority of customers are facing, that are making a DevOps approach an imperative.
At the heart is the desire in companies for agility. The desire in the
Line of Business leaders to create value in their offerings is resulting
in an urgent need for business agility. This in turn challenges the
development organization to take an agile development approach. As more
and more deployments move to a Cloud delivery model, it requires an
operational discipline that is not always present. Add to this the human element. If you're in an enterprise shop, you know already that this is not purely solvable by software. Cultural gaps exist between the Line of Business sponsors, the developers and the Operations team. Notions of completion, priority and quality also are different.
Right now, companies are not getting this right. 50% of the applications released into production are rolled back. As much as 51% of projects are missing critical features. Quality and end user expectation delivery are clearly an issue.
Pratik and Bala will frame this problem space and then show how adopting a continuous delivery model can help address this.
If you're debating between this session and something else at this time, it might also help to know that the first 75 attendees will receive a snappy IBM jacket. The rest will get to pick one of an assorted set of items. There's also a giveaway of an iDoodah. Come by the IBM booth on the expo floor if you want details.
Al Zollar, will be collaborating with thought leaders at CIOsynergy on May 6. One of the topics Al will be talking with other CIOs about is how building a dynamic infrastructure can help CIOs free up more of their time to focus on innovation and driving competitive advantage.
CIOs in every industry are all too familiar with the operational and financial challenges that growing infrastructure complexity and rising energy costs are creating for their organizations.
There is increased complexity across the board, and that is a trend that will continue. Creating competitive advantage now means dealing with complexity better than your competitors. And that means the ability to work across your organizations technology siloes to harness technology to support breakthrough innovations.It also means creating a flexible anddynamicinfrastructure to support those innovations.
IBM has been working with many companies and CIOsto helpthem to realize their part in the Smarter Planet, and address the challenges of this environment with such capabilities as Integrated Service Management, Cloud, Security, and Virtualization delivered via our extensive portfolio of hardware, software, and services.Our offerings help our customers create that flexible, dynamic infrastructure that frees up CIOs to innovate, and create the breakthrough services that make them more competitive.
IBM’s vision for a dynamic infrastructure offers an evolutionary new model for efficient IT delivery—giving CIOs the tools to overcome the minutia of daily operations to drive real business innovation.
It’s an approach that allows CIOs to:
Position themselves as agents of change within their organizations
Help break down barriers to global integration
Lead by example on green initiatives and reduce enterprise energy consumption.
That means CIOs will be better able to align IT with business goals and help pave the way for creating the Enterprise of the Future.
Find out more about building a dynamic infrastructure.
Today we trust computers – literally and
unconsciously with our very lives. I was reflecting on this level of trust when
I got £50 of cash out from my local ATM and declined the offer of a receipt.
Seems I now have total faith the computer systems will ‘get it right’. I’ve
come a long way from keeping all my own cheque books to cross check against
later bank statements.
Now, combining that faith with a little
healthy British cynicism, and triggered by watching the Olympics tennis finals on
TV, a mischievous but irresistible thought came to my mind.
It used to be that when a ball hit the
ground near the line we relied on the human eye to say whether it was ‘in’ or
‘out’. That caused disagreements and discussion – and - in tennis often -
sulking, swearing and the full range of petulant behaviour.
Nowadays that is all replaced by
referencing the technology. When there is doubt – or one of the players
questions a call - then we simply ask the computers. What we get then is a neat
little picture representing the appropriate lines on the court and a blob
showing where the ball had hit. So, problem solved: disappointment still for
one player but, so it seems, total acceptance that the computer is right. After
all it is an expensive system working away inside a very expensive box – must
be right, mustn’t it. Or to put it another way ‘computer says in’, who would
But what occurred to me is this. All we can
actually see is some boxes around the court, and a stylised display with a blob
on it. That could be delivered by one person with a tablet showing the court
lines and them touching the screen where they think it landed. Very cheap and
still solves all the arguments because – naturally – everyone trusts technology
Now – of course, and before anyone calls
their lawyers – I am not suggesting for the merest moment that there is the
slightest possibility of such a thing happening. But it’s fun to think it might
be possible. There is little public awareness of what accuracy the system – and
here I presume it does really exist – works to. If you dig around on the web
you can find out (the answer by the way for tennis is 3.6mm). You also find out
there is some very minor grumbling and questioning going on. But that seem at
geek level – in everyday use the audience stands instantly convinced.
So, thinking it through there are a couple
of interesting consequences to real IT life:
Once you realise that trust depends on quality of presentation
at least as much as on accuracy, should you focus more on that? Certainly
you have to take presentation seriously, because the corollary is that if you
deliver perfection but don’t make it look good, then no-one will believe
it even though you are right.
Whose responsibility is it to check – and is it even possible? I
suspect this discussion will take us into the territory of ‘governance’. But
even before we get there it implies that User Acceptance Testing needs to
do more than look at things. Of course yours does, doesn’t it?
I guess my big issue is to wonder how
comfortable we are – as the deliverers of the technological solutions for our
customers – and especially our users - to have such blind faith. Of course,
people being the irrational things they undoubtedly are, that blind faith in
the detail is often accompanied by a cynical disregard for overall competence –
think faith in ATMs and on-line bank account figures with the apparent level of
trust in the banking industry as a whole.
As a little codicil to the story, I registered
with anew doctor yesterday – the nurse asked me questions, took blood pressure
etc and loaded all the data she collected into a computer. The system was
clearly ancient, with a display synthesising what you typically got on a DOS3.0
system. First thought: ‘OMG why are they using such old software, that can’t be
good? Second thought: ‘They’ve obviously been using it for years, so they
really understand it, have ironed out all the bugs and it does what they need. It
ain’t broke so they aren’t fixing it’. But my instinctive reaction of suspicion
of it for not being pretty was there and I had to consciously correct myself.
Would you as a service provider prefer more
questioning of what you package up and present to your customers and users, or
are you happy to have that faith? My own view is that the more blind faith they
have in you, the more the retribution will hurt if things do go wrong. Or
perhaps that’s just me being cynical again?
When I saw Tom Cross give a talk at Innovate 2010 in June, I was first struck with the nonchalance with which he spoke of the black market business of Internet data. I could not have been more intrigued if I were watching a movie adapted from a John Grisham novel. He seemed to have some emotional distance from what creeps most of us out about our mail. And I’m not even talking about email. I mean the good old-fashioned USPS mail. I KNOW I am not the only one who has worn out a few paper shredders thanks to Citibank, Chase, and the like.
The second thing that hijacked my thought train for more than a few moments was how network vulnerabilities are created for the explicit purpose of learning cyber criminal behavior. Like signing up for as much spam as you can. Sure it makes sense to me now. But I am still vaguely uncomfortable talking publicly about threat and attacks. It seems akin to Batman and the Joker building websites to promote their plans to outsmart the other. What was I not getting? By now I was considering slipping quietly out of the room to silence the voice in my head saying I had been foolish, very, very foolish in my confidence as a clever and vigilant consumer of Internet Things.
Realizing that I had some mental catching up to do, I stayed for the lasting impression that could keep me awake at night: just how easy it is to steal digital data. As I struggled with the impartial irony of how enormous yet simple a cat and mouse game Web App security is, visions of Tom and Jerry danced in my boggled brain.