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Past, Present and Inevitable Future of the Internet

We have “known” for decades that telephones would eventually become portable, wireless and small enough to carry around just like a wallet. Do you recall the Communicator device in Star Trek? It resembles the current flip mobile phones. They were used for voice communication connecting individuals between Star Ships. Dr. Martin Cooper, inventor of the modern mobile phone, credits the TOS communicator as being his inspiration for the technology. Although the first “brick” mobile phones were much larger, modern flip phones strongly resemble the original series communicator. 

Early on… 

For me, the development of mobile phone technology is kind of the same thing as the development of the Internet. Our generation has been fortunate to witness its exponential advancement. I remember the first time I used the Internet in the early 1990s. It was through the old Vax mainframe computers at the De La Salle University in Manila and later on, with the more user-friendly Netscape browser in Personal Computers (PCs). Computers at that time were exclusively housed in laboratories where they kept the temperature low to protect the equipment. Despite the tropical heat of the Philippines, we would wear sweaters if we planned to stay longer in the lab to survive the low temperature. I remember the web pages were simple, text-based, had limited contents and features. We were glad to just send emails and read static content that we found online. De La Salle University was one of the first Philippine schools to be connected to the Internet. By the time I graduated in 1997, the Internet had already gone through a series of major developments. 

Advancements today… 

Today, we are in the midst of continuing development of the web fueled by advancements in the Internet and technology. The most notable application is “Social Media” which led to the  inevitable creation of a vast content and knowledge base. There is an abundance of information and the size of social interaction has reached a colossal scale. We are in the age were ordinary people break the news. Just recently, CNN reported that “some of the first public accounts of the military operation that killed the terrorist leader (Osama bin Laden) came in the form of tweets from Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant in Abbottabad — the city where bin Laden was found.” This breaking news spread fast and made ecstatic fans at a game in Philadelphia hold up their mobile phones to show the news of Bin Laden’s death as they received messages from friends. Later on, President Obama announced the news to the world on mainstream TV. This shows that within a span of just one generation, the availability of information, capabilities to create and share, and our access to them has changed dramatically. 

Family interaction platform… 

It was not until a couple of years ago that my parents in the Philippines have started using the Internet, or a computer for that matter. I was determined to help them catch up with new trends and I knew introducing them to the use of computers and the Internet was something that could create value for them, personally and as well as in their retail business. On the other hand, my hidden agenda was to utilize another communication channel with my family that is effective and cheaper as compared to international calls. The last time that I visited home was December 2009 and one of my objectives then was to convince my father to invest in a laptop. To sweeten the deal, I would pay half of the cost and would stay a little longer so I could teach them how to use it. Teach them I did, starting with the basics of switching the computer on and off, use of the keyboard (comparing it with typewriters used during my parents’ time). Soon, we ventured off to the more fun stuff– the Internet. The first thing that we accomplished was to create an email account, then Windows Live for chat, Skype for video conferencing and then Facebook for social networking. Eventually, we ventured into Excel so that my father can use it to upgrade their process of recording daily sales (he usually just used paper notepads!). After I returned to the United States, in less than two months, they were adept in using their new-found tool. My parents processed their US visa application online, bought plane tickets (even helped friends buy tickets online) and they were also everywhere in social media. I could chat with them, video call using Skype with them, and send them blogs that I have written. A month ago, I was even able to share with them photos and videos of when my twins were born through Youtube and Facebook. The social media and the web have become our platform for family interaction. 

Inevitable Future and Questions… 

The Internet has enabled humans to develop new technologies and social structure that allow us to participate in content creation and dissemination (such as blogs and social networking sites). The advancement and innovation that has catapulted the Internet to ubiquity also reveal enormous use in business. Nowadays, users participate in solutions building through collaborative platforms. Internet has developed social structures that allow interaction without boundaries– thus making our small world even smaller. 

In 10 years, humans and computers will join forces to create “collective intelligence”. Technology will evolve as such that the Internet (and information within it) will be accessible and available to everyone— this will exponentially increase the already massive data we exchange today. How we (and machines) will make sense of as well as analyze and synthesize this collective information, is what will bring us to Web 3.0 and beyond. 

In closing, I leave you with some questions:

  • How do you see the Internet impacting the world, business and human interaction in 10 years?
  • Does the Internet in its generative form need new kinds of control to avoid problems in society and loss of opportunity?
  • Are we looking at a prospect of a better world for our children with seemingly exponential cycle of innovation and growth of the Internet?

Photos courtesy of jscreationzs and Idea go.

Follow Glenn Remoreras on Twitter.

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Understanding IT’s Value in Organizational Transformation

Do you spend a significant amount of time measuring performance and looking for ways to improve your service? When you delve into that process of evaluating your effectiveness and efficiency of service, you are, in fact, evaluating your value. Typically, big companies invest one percent to four percent of revenue in IT. This investment is usually spent on integrated digitized platform implementations, continuous innovations, and day-to-day IT operations. Businesses must see the value and return of these investments; otherwise, they won’t put their money in it. What are businesses doing with all that hardware and software IT is providing?

Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. In one of his articles for the Harvard Business Review entitled IT’s Three Key Organizational Transformations, he outlined what he thinks are main organizational transformations that IT provides the businesses. He wrote that companies in all industries are using Information Technology to accomplish three broad and deep transformations: they’re becoming more scientific, more orchestrated, and more self-organizing.

Run Scientific Methods 

Andrew McAfee mentioned the need for making the company more scientific. He meant that companies are able to use advanced scientific methods using new technology. “Computers, of course, are amazing tools for science” he wrote, “they can gather huge amounts of data, conduct sophisticated analyses of it in the blink of an eye, run elaborate simulations, and serve as experimental testbeds.”

I attended the most recent SAPPHIRE conference hosted by the German software giant SAP in Orlando, Florida. SAP presented its newest innovation on In-Memory computing. Co-founder of SAP, Hasso Plattner, declared that by using In-Memory Computing technology, companies can now store data of the whole enterprise in memory. This technology will increase the computing and processing speed of enterprise applications and will give rise to next generation business analytics. You can just imagine the type of scientific analysis companies can run with such high speed databases.

Orchestrating End-to-End Business Processes 

In this article, McAfee defined orchestration as designing how work will be done, and then assuring that it is actually executed as designed. Once re-engineered processes gets embedded in ERP and other enterprise systems it becomes much easier to ensure compliance. He gave an example to illustrate his point saying that applications like— CRM, sales force automation, supply chain management, procurement, and so on have brought tight orchestration to every part of the company, and pushed it down to almost microscopic levels.

One of IT’s major roles in most big firms is to implement and run digitized platforms. It is usually anchored on a major piece of purchased enterprise resource planning software- such as SAP and Oracle. Software companies are moving quickly on innovating applications to keep up with business demands. The unforgiving global economy brokers no excuse. Business expects IT to provide solutions that help them to stay competitive and in position for growth.

Enable Self-Organization 

“Self-organization, the most recent IT-fueled transformation”, McAfee wrote, “is the exact opposite of orchestration. It is employing technology to let people interact as they wish, with few or no workflows, rules, or hierarchy, and then harvesting the good results that emerge.” The paradigm of self organization has exploded in this part of the decade. In some ways, it started outside the confines of enterprises. There are over a billion users of social media sites on the Internet. Between Facebook and Twitter alone there are more than to 500 million unique user accounts. Companies, with the help of IT organization, have stepped up to leverage these new social tools to enable self organization teams in the business with the objective of encouraging more collaboration, information sharing and innovation.

How does your IT contribute to these key organizational transformations in your company? Does the business you serve view you as a value creator and partner? What’s your value proposition?

Web 2.0 + Application in Business = Enterprise 2.0

People as the platformIn the world of Information Technology, many buzz words and phrases are created everyday. It’s hard to keep up. It’s not only because too many of these words are thrown at us everyday but also because their definitions often change rapidly. One of these phrases is Web 2.0 – which I talked about in my previous article.  Now, let me throw you another one of those technology buzz words – Enterprise 2.0. 

The term Enterprise 2.0 was coined in the spring of 2006 by Andrew McAfee. As an Associate Professor of Harvard Business School, he studies the ways that IT affects businesses. His research efforts are focused on investigating how IT changes the way companies perform, organize themselves and compete. Andrew McAfee defines Enterprise 2.0 as the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers. It is quite simply the application of many of the Web 2.0 ideas to the enterprise.

AIIM, a non-profit organization that provides education and research, takes this further. According to AIIM, Enterprise 2.0 is a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise. 

Enterprise 2.0 Adoption 

Until now, many firms have yet to recognize the potential advantages Web 2.0 could bring to the business. Traditional command and control management is directly opposed to the distributed and collaborative style advocated in Enterprise 2.0 and there are always a set of rules that discourage change. For this reason, adoption of Enterprise 2.0 tools is happening from the bottom up. Enterprise 2.0 is being brought up gradually by ordinary users. It is uncommon to see adoptions and initiatives – such as establishing a corporate-wide blog or wiki – spearheaded by top management. More often, blogs are started by individuals and small groups in one department as an independent initiative. In some cases, these blogs, social media sites and microblogs succeed and evolve as key components of the corporate internal and external communications arsenal. 

Few companies right now are pioneering the use of Web 2.0 platform. One of then them is Sun Microsystems. Sun uses Open Source and Enterprise Social Software to build a YouTube-style portal for social learning. They have implemented a learning environment called Sun Learning Exchange (SLX) to provide training programs to employees and contractors in more than 50 countries. The entire solution was built for $60,000. One week after launch, there were more than 3000 unique visitors and hundreds of unique content were uploaded. The viral rollout strategy proved to be a success and allowed Sun to create more value with less investment in training. 

UniversalIn my article last month, I talked about how Universal Studios used Web 2.0 platform to announce the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter project. They invited seven avid Harry Potter fans to a top secret webcast and informed them about the plans for the new theme park. By word of mouth, these seven people told thousands through emails, internet forums and blogs. Eventually, mainstream media picked up the buzz and wrote about it in magazines, news, and TV reports. In a few days, the news reached millions of people. Universal was able to reach its global audience by first reaching out to a select group of fans through the Internet. They were able to save thousands and perhaps millions in advertising costs. 

Enterprise 2.0 Challenges 

It is understandable that in spite of the current momentum, Enterprise 2.0 is experiencing strong resistance from business managers. I think the challenge is two-pronged: cultural and structural. There will always be cultural challenges when you are trying to make people work, collaborate and organize in a different way. Companies are so used to the traditional management and coordination style that it’s hard to imagine a quick transition. On the other hand, the Enterprise 2.0 model and its supporting structure also need to strengthen. Experts argue that it’s hard to implement something that has no commonly accepted business model and runs in an immature services landscape. Application management, support, security, ownership and identity are also common challenges being confronted by early implementers. 

To be continued… 

We already discussed about Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 in two separate articles. We’ve laid out the groundwork. In my next post, we will further explore these topics and talk about how to incorporate cutting-edge Web 2.0 services within the enterprise networks, create internal social networks, blogs, wikis and manage Enterprise 2.0 security and compliance.

“New Internet Version” is All About Participation

September 19, 2009 14 comments

Just by reading this article in this weblog, you become an official user of Web 2.0.  If you have a Facebook account, keep track of 200 or more friends, tweet at least once a day, have a professional LinkedIn account and rely on Wikipedia for the definition of things – you are an active user of Web 2.0. Congratulations! You are officially part of “generation Web 2.0 plus”! It might surprise you to know that although you might be hearing about Web 2.0 for the first time, you have actually been active users of it for quite some time.   

Comparing Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0

I think the best way to explain what Web 2.0 is to compare it to Web 1.0 which is its earlier version. Web 1.0 is a general reference to the World Wide Web before the developments of advance internet collaborative applications. This was during the period when the internet was dominated by companies who maintained heavy and static sites for promotion and marketing. At that time, it was difficult to maintain personal websites. Many attributed the dot-com-bubble in 2001 as the turning point of the internet. 

Web 1.0 and Web 2.0Basically, what happened was a change in paradigm. This was due to two main factors: people and technology. With people, I refer to us.  Yes — you and me. We who make up the critical mass of internet users who use the internet as a platform for simple, light-weight services that leverage interactions for communication and collaboration. Additionally, advancement in technology enabled these platforms, network and services. The attached illustration contrasts the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Look at the boxes closely and try to imagine how the internet has evolved from the time you started going online until now.

Web 2.0 is the portion of the Internet that is being developed continuously and interactively by participating Internet users. It is commonly associated with web development and web design that facilitates interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design. Web 2.0 is a catch-all term used to illustrate a variety of developments on the web and a perceived shift in the way the web is utilized. This has been characterized as the evolution of web use from passive consumption of content to more active participation, creation and sharing – to what is sometimes called the read/write web. 

Example of Web 2.0 Tools

Web 2.0 is a platform that enables the user to comment, tag, modify, improve and rank. The most well-known examples of this technology are found in sites like YouTube, Amazon, and Google where user ratings make it easier for other users to find what they are looking for. Social media tools like Facebook and Blogs allow users to write stories and stay connected with friends. Twitter opened up the world of sharing short thoughts. And Wikipedia is powered by users who provide and keep content up-to-date and accurate. 

Personally, I am particularly attracted to the aspects of communication and free online expression of ideas. That’s the reason why I invest time writing articles. A few years ago, it would have been extremely difficult for me to find a medium to express my ideas.  Web 2.0 tools have reduced barriers to the publication and distribution of information. 

In its most basic form, Web 2.0 is about participation. It is about communication and collaboration. It has indeed change the way of life of this generation and it is still evolving! 

Enterprise 2.0 – A Peek into my next Post 

Many of the Web 2.0 platforms began as customer-facing sites designed for marketing and communications until people looked for ways to apply these ideas to the enterprise. You might have noticed already that blogs, social media and microblogs have evolved as key components of the corporate internal and external communications arsenal. This use of the Web 2.0 paradigm and technologies in business is now widely known as Enterprise 2.0. On my succeeding posts, I will elaborate on this further and provide business practical applications of Enterprise 2.0.

Incremental Change vs. Radical Improvement

September 1, 2009 7 comments

Building an engine that generates a steady stream of innovations in processes, technology and product development is difficult, but companies that are able to do it, differentiate themselves from competitors. Innovation groups (other companies call it evolution committees or R&D groups) should focus their energy on: 

  • Incremental Improvements (streamlining, optimization, reengineering, cost reduction, reliability) 
  • Radical Periodic Improvement (New platform, new methods, new strategy, new philosophy, Enterprise 2.0, leap to Process Culture, etc)   

Examples of two companies who have mastered innovation are Toyota and Google. Both are leaders in their respective industries. Toyota’s success is tied up to its well-known business model– the Toyota Way that has been duplicated by other companies in different industries. The Toyota business model has been so successful that the company has relied on it for decades now to run its global business successfully. Toyota, for a long time, has a strong process culture and its continuous dominance is driven by its focus on incremental process improvement that is tied up to its quality operations and production management. 

Google, on the other hand, grew rapidly because of the radical rules they initiated that redefined the use of the Internet. Roberto Verganti in his book Design-Driven innovation compares this radical change to having a vision, and taking that vision to the heart of the customers.   In the case of Google, this means the Web users. Think about it.  This company has overturned our understanding of the use of information and networking. Jeff Jarvis in his book What Would Goggle Do?, talked about Google differentiating itself from the likes of Yahoo and AOL. Unlike the previous search giants, Google is not a portal; it is a network of platforms. Google, in a way, empowered the users of the internet, changed media and redefined the advertising rules. We as users have not asked for these new necessities, but when we experienced them, it was love at first sight. 

Radical vs Incremental Change

It’s hard to imagine how already huge companies such as Toyota and Google can continue to improve and sustain growth well into the future. They have perfected the fuel that keep them competitive and well ahead of everyone else. They rely on the combination of continuous incremental changes and periodic radical innovations. I think it is mandatory for companies who aim for sustainable growth and continued primary industry position in the future to push for visionary innovation. There is no single scheme to follow. It is a transversal process that depends on combining industry experience and strong innovation methodologies that create new ideas, new technologies, new products and new processes. 

Design-Driven Innovation- Book Recommendation 

Last weekend, I came across a book entitled “Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean”.  This recently-published book is written by Roberto Verganti — a professor of Management of Innovation at Politecnico di Milano. He is the founder of PROject Science, a consulting institute that provides consulting services on management strategic innovation. 

Design-Driven InnovationThe book caught my attention initially because of its title. I have a close affinity for design initiatives, having moved early last year across the Pacific from Asia to the company headquarters to join a Global Design Team. I have always believed that innovation from a well-thought out design initiative can radically improve a company and change the rules of competition in its industry — be it product innovation, organizational, technological, process and company philosophy. 

From the front flap of his book, Professor Verganti presented his vision of a bold new way of competing. He wrote, “Until now, innovation studies have focused either on radical innovation or incremental innovation pulled by the market.” He explains that “…design-driven innovations do not come from new markets; they create new markets. They don’t push new technologies; they push radically new meanings.” His book talked about innovative products like Swatch in the 80s and as well as Nintendo’s Wii and Apple’s iPod – both of which are currently dominating their respective markets.   In the fourth chapter of his book, Professor Verganti provided a comparison between the innovation strategies of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft in the US$30 billion game console industry. Nintendo, after dominating the game market in the 80s, was experiencing a downturn, until they released their revolutionary Nintendo Wii. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony were focused on incremental improvements on their Xbox and Playstation products through better speed and graphics.  Nintendo, on the other hand, introduced the radical idea of using game consoles as an active physical entertaining medium. It generated new meaning to game consoles and appealed to different consumers worldwide. 

I think managers who are interested in innovation should get a hold of this book. This can be used as essential reference for all those interested in design and determined to make innovation the driving factor in their business and profession. In my case, the reason I bought this book is because I am interested in Processes and IT innovations. I believe this book will definitely provide me insights on methodologies that can drive process innovation initiatives. It is something that I want to write about and explore.

Book Cover Image Courtesy of Harvard Business Press.

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