“Argyle Executive Forum is bringing together senior digital & IT executives from a variety of industry verticals for our biannual CIO Chicago Forum. Throughout a full day of content and networking, we will focus on the most pressing issues facing IT executives with regards to leading the business through digital transformation, with an agenda geared specifically towards Chief Information officers, Chief Data Officers, Chief Digital Officers, as well as Data/ Analytics/MIS VPs, Directors, and Architects in a leading role.
It is worth noticing that this event featured partners who we work with such as HP Enterprise, Thought Leader Sponsor, and IBM, Breakout Session Sponsor.
That talks to the criticality of collaborative undertakings as Digital Transformation becomes a pressing objective across industries, academia, public service and government sectors.
What follows is my notes and personal insights. While all the sessions and discussions were quite relevant, I would like to highlight the opening keynote, which set the tone and narrative of the event.
James P. MacLennan, SVP & CIO at IDEX, discussed “The Five Components of a Great Digital Strategy,” which addressed the fact that “Design Thinking”, “Human Factors” and a collaborative culture involving interdisciplinary workstyles and “Great Teams” have become of the essence.
Moreover, he stated that “a Digital Business” will only succeed when it understands hot to connect with people.” The “human element” and, therefore, “people centered” strategies turn out to be critical success factors.
I would like to add that this entails engineering a continuum of (a) stakeholders, who are all human personas by definition, and to do so across (b) UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience) domains.
This job takes (c) a holistic understanding of customer facing (front end) and resource facing (back end) elements forming a coherent end-to-end system. Otherwise, operational fragmentation will take a toll and will deny the intended DX benefits.
James’ presentation displayed the convoluted UI (user interface) shown in this picture to illustrate the paradox of well intended yet counterproductive implementations that negate transformation initiatives.
Here is another valuable insight coming out of Argyle’s Executive Forum: information technologies (IT) and tech and processes for operations cannot longer be worlds apart, which demands superb cross-functional teamwork.
Cognitive overload, deficient information architecture, and poor usability translates into: human error, risk aversion, costly budget overruns, missing or deviating from goals, so on and so forth.
Any and all of these issues combined can be silently impacting quality or, simply, just lowering the bar for a business to get through noisy and cluttered operational environments. That is hardly the stuff that operational excellence calls for.
Obviously, in the context of CX, customer satisfaction becomes harder and harder to attain and, more specifically, to get that effectively done in a consistent fashion.
Predictability and consistency are key objectives for any Quality Management program. If that scenario alone wasn’t troublesome enough, Customer Delight (rather than just satisfying agreed upon requirements) is Design Thinking’s ultimate performance indicator, which commands a premium clearly beyond reach under those circumstances.
Quality management wise, “satisfaction” is the fulfilment of expected specifications while “delight” is about great pleasure, or great satisfaction if you will. “Satisfaction” can be rationalized and is the acceptance ticket to be in business. “Delight” accounts for human affects (emotions) and is a powerful source of differentiation. Those who think that’s just about splitting hairs should take a pause and think twice because DX is set to enable game changing experiences on all counts and fronts.
Thoughtout the forum and session after session, Jim’s “Design for Humans” principle gained more and more critical mass as presenters and panelists discussed the reasons why we should be mindful of the user journey and how to best improve all touch points along the way.
In one of the panel discussions this became even more evident when the question on aligning people, processes and technologies pointed to difficult prioritization exercises. Note that there was immediate consensus on the need for putting people first and humanizing technology and processes by applying Design Thinking, a human centered methodology that is corner stone to the job of creative technologists.
That means projects that are driven by clear missions and specific experiential outcomes and lifecycles (Goal Directed Design) rather than just an I/O approach. It also means rapid experience prototyping and A/B multivariate testing to explore possibilities since Design Thinking is a serial innovation engine.
Chicago’s NPR station aired a rerun of “The Power of Design” this past weekend. The discussion was centered on “How Can We Design For A Better Experience.”
By the way, TED’s acronym actually stands for the convergence of Technology, Entertainment and… Design.
Interview with Tony Fadell, one of the main designers of the iPod (Apple) and founder of Nest (Google).
“Design begins by also noticing all those little problems that many ignore (…) we we though our lives accepting these design flaws that actually don’t improve our lives.”
“Steve Jobs challenged us to see our products through the eyes of the customer, the new customer, the one that has fears and possible frustrations, and hopes and exhilaration that the new technology can work straight away for them. He called it “staying beginners” and wanted to make sure that we focused on those tiny little details to make things work faster and seamless for the new customers.”
“There is this positive emotional momentum that builds on itself at each step of the process (…) when you hit a brick wall you loose all the momentum (…) and though away an entire great experience.”
“There are to halves to design, just as there are two halves to your brain, the emotional part and the rational part. If you want people to truly adopt your product it has to have an emotional component, something that grabs you (…) that unlocks your curiosity, it also needs to rationally work (…) because people see value beyond the sexiness.”
Interview with Joe Gebbia, Airbnb cofounder.
“Any time that you see duct tape in the world, that’s a design opportunity (…) it’s an indicator that something is broken, that something did not perform the way it was design to and that there is an opportunity to improve it.”
“Design is the key to (Airbnb) success (…) and as a competitive advantage, design is thing that can separate you (…) the next thing that can differentiate you. All things being equal, two comparable products side by side with the same technical features and components… you will be crazy to choose the one that is harder to use.”
“Airbnb’s design decisions not only made the service easy to use but it helped millions of complete estrangers trust each other (…) and open their homes (…) design is more than the look and feel of something, it is the whole experience.”
“Proud to celebrate #AdaLovelaceDay, highlighting women in STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and their achievements. They all play an important part in encouraging the next generation of young girls to pursue their dreams. Join in, and tag a woman who has inspired you” – Nokia.
“First published description of a stepwise sequence of operations for solving certain mathematical problems and Ada is often referred to as ‘the first programmer’ […] She speculated that the Engine ‘might act upon other things besides number… the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent’. The idea of a machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with rules and that number could represent entities other than quantity mark the fundamental transition from calculation to computation.” – Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) – Computerhistory.org
Proud to share that just last week my daughter participated in STEMfest 2016 at NIU, Northern Illinois University. Here is the video recorded by her school:
“The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Englbart’s December 9, 1968 […] The live demonstration featured the introduction of a complete computer hardware and software system called the oN-Line System or more commonly, NLS. The 90-minute presentation essentially demonstrated almost all the fundamental elements of modern personal computing: windows, hypertext, graphics, efficient navigation and command input, video conferencing, the computer mouse, word processing, dynamic file linking, revisions control, and a collaborative real-time editor (collaborative work). Engelbart’s presentation was the first to publicly demonstrate all these elements in a single system. The demonstration was highly influential and spawned similar projects at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. The underlying technologies influenced both the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows graphical user interface operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s.” – The Mother of All Demos, Wikipedia.
Compelling demonstrations can make all the difference when introducing emerging technologies. There is no slideware or paper substitute for the kind of revelations, quality insights, and lasting emotions that we all get when experiencing things live and first hand. On the research side, interactive demonstrations have become invaluable tools that expose and test concepts. Moreover, they prompt invaluable feedback by questioning, validating, unveiling unsuspected items as well as winning hearts and minds to further advance a cause.
Those are some of the reasons why I prioritize demo development and my research process involves activities such as field trips and ethnographic insights captured in environments like the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago and open-door showcases at renowned institutions like Fermilab. Successful science exhibits make complex topics approachable and engaging. They are carefully designed with craftsmanship pride to be perceived as astute, immersive and to appeal to our brain’s intuition and intellect.
The above graphic features quotes from Albert Einstein and Nicholas Negroponte on the left, coupled with Salvador Dalí and Arthur C. Clarke on the right. I created that poster’s first version a few years ago and became my reference framework for prototyping and demonstration since. The photographs are courtesy of Wikipedia. Here are further insights on what these quotes mean to me:
1.- DEMO OR DIE – The introduction of inventions and diffusion of innovations relies on effectively conveying clear and concise value. Interacting with engaging demonstrations can be best supported by well thought out whiteboarding sessions. This communication strategy works best when allowing dynamic conversations instead of long agendas packed with presentation monologues. Most people can talk about the many times when they were either overwhelmed, underwhelmed or just bored to death by slideware… and became suspicious of hype. Note that we all deal with an unfavorable Signal-to-Noise (S/N) ratio in today’s information rich environment and, therefore, compete for customers and/or users’ undivided attention. Once again, memorable hands-on demonstrations can make all the difference.
2.- GROW TO LOOK LIKE THE PORTRAIT – High tech is a fast paced industry. One can be left wondering if the technology, toolset, application and/or overall system being discussed will grow and scale as needed beyond day one. There can also be concerns around maturity levels, roadmapping options and future proofing when working with emerging technologies. Demos can be used to convey a tangible vision based on attainable end-goals. They can also be used for what-if-analysis, sunny and rainy day scenarios (which can include full lifecycle and stress tests) and plot plausible journeys to go from A to B and any steps in between. Helping everyone come to terms with what lays ahead is key to defining product strategies and planning decisions “to grow to look like the portrait.”
3.- EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY – Apparently unavoidable jargon and well intended technical kumbaya can become easily entangled. Complex explanations suffer from information overload. Convoluted narratives pleasing the presenter’s ego can make unclear what specific problem or pain point he/she solving, and what the sought after benefits and priorities are. When “less is more” it definitely pays to define a vantage point, zoom out, distill fundamentals and synthesize the essence. Knowing your audience and getting the job done in the clearest and most effective terms possible means striking a balance and staying away from oversimplifying or complicating matters. This is an iterative exercise that often demands more time, effort and reviews than the usual information dump. We also need to be able to step-zoom to deliver the next level of detail and to conduct deep dives… without incurring information overload. Humanizing technology, storytelling techniques and ease of information visualization are key to developing a coherent narrative.
“The meaning of a communication is defined by the Change and Affect it creates for the audience. Stories are concerned with transformation. In stories something Changes to create an emotion […] The Change has to resonate with the Audience to generate an Affect; a feeling, a reaction or an insight […] We shall consider these two defining characteristics of narrative to clarify the purpose of any communication […] Change and Affect create meaning. – “Crackle and Fizz. Essential Communication and Pitching Skills for Scientists.” – Caroline van den Brul. Imperial College Press.
4..- IT’S MAGIC – This is all about the so called X-FACTOR: an unsuspected quality making something be different and special in unequivocal terms. To be more precise, the X-FACTOR’s experience can be broken down as follows:
- SURPRISE FACTOR – this relies on managing perceptions and the discovery process, the tipping point being delivered by a timely and unsuspected clever twist and a defining punch line – the “aha” moment.
- WOW FACTOR – high impact, impressive, awe-inspiring outcome, benefits and results that can be easily understood and embraced – the “I didn’t know we could do that” and “I want to know more” moment.
- COOL FACTOR – elegant sophistication and grace, clear object of desire – the “I want that” moment, this being most demos’ ultimate Call-To-Action (CTA.)
The art and science behind the above is known as “affective design.” Techniques such as perceptual learning and emotional intelligence in design (emotional design in short) are applied in Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) to foster pleasant ease of use, drive further engagement and productive usage in the process. Widespread digitalization and the advent of wearables make HCI commonplace, which is influencing product design.
The above is a demo’s “full disclosure” chart, which breaks down what’s real and what’s not. This is needed because vaporware can be an issue of concern.
1.- PRIOR ART – In the above example, a given percentage of the demonstration system involved known technologies, some from third party partners.
2.- STATE OF THE ART – The greatest and latest features, cutting edge delivered by technologies that are available today.
3.- FUTURE ART – A sneak preview of new features and capabilities that are planned, undergoing development and/or committed, but not yet available.
4.- ART OF THE POSSIBLE – Proof of Concept illustrating experimentation results and potential, bleeding edge capabilities that are not yet committed.
By the way, vaporware is the result of positioning 3 and 4 as part of 2. Avoiding unpleasant misunderstands prompts the need for disclosing these four different maturity levels. Note that one graphic applies to a comprehensive demonstration system encompassing those four aspects and their relative weight.
One other thought, there is a difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. The first delivers improved qualities such as better performance in A/B comparison testing as an example, “A” being prior art and “B” state of the art. Most would agree on defining disruptive innovations as game changers which deliver unique capabilities that clearly supersede legacy and conventional systems. That alone renders “A” obsolete. A/B comparison testing leads to discussions on the difference between Present Mode of Operations (PMO) and Future Mode of Operations (FMO.)
“Humanists must be educated with a deep appreciation of modern science. Scientists and engineers must be steeped in humanistic learning. And all learning must be linked with a broad concern for the complex effects of technology on our evolving culture.” – Jerome B. Wiesner.
“A strategic relationship with Alcatel-Lucent, intended to bring new levels of innovation to network operations. The agreement establishes a joint reseller and OEM agreement between the two companies (…) the transformation to a software-defined data center is going to keep picking up steam. Working with Alcatel-Lucent we increase our ability to help enterprise customers and carriers be a part of it.” – Dell and Alcatel-Lucent Team Up for Network Virtualization by Arpit Joshipura.
“The digitization of our world will be the driver of change. The enabler will be the “cloud integrated network,” which has seemingly infinite capacity and scales from local to global with sustainable economics. And the benefit will be the emergence of automated systems that provide augmented intelligence to any critical analysis task.” – The Future X Network: A Bell Labs Perspective.
Link to Dell World 2015 photo album.
Our team was in Austin at Dell World 2015 on October 20-22. Alcatel-Lucent’s booth featured the Lean NFV Ops demonstration, which captured quite a bit of attention. This was remarkable given NFV’s (Network Functions Virtualization) painstaking focus on the telecommunications sector (the carrier environment to be more specific) and the event’s broader scope providing coverage for a wide range of enterprise IT (Information Technology) systems.
We were asked if we we “brought our stuff from the future” a few times. That recurrent compliment referred to Marty McFly’s trip to October 21, 2015, the main character in the blockbuster “Back to the Future” movie series. Dell World’s DeLorean (above) is a replica of the movie’s time machine.
The fact is that adapting known and proven to work Lean principles and, moreover, creating new ones for the cloud age has been consistently well received and praised since we first unveiled this program. The Lean NFV Ops Roadshow has been running for about a year already and keeps growing strong.
Working with a set of virtualization technologies that are readily available, and doing so by operating a sophisticated end-to-end system delivering 4G’s mobile broadband and VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) services makes Lean NFV Ops expose a very compelling value proposition. We embrace Lean by engineering systems that are effective and highly efficient.
Effectiveness refers to operating in an HA (High Availability) environment driven by SLA (Service Level Agreements) compliance, which entails performance and QoS (Quality of Service) requirements. This being an environment where the services’ QoE (Quality of Experience) is paramount.
High efficiency means getting all of that done with a holistic approach (end-to-end systems engineering x TCO, total cost of ownership) optimizing “cost per bit” delivered coupled with “cost per workload.” TCO is key as we operate at the intersection between “effectiveness” and “high efficiency” at any scale: it is imperative to start and stay nimble by saving virtualization systems from sprawling, inflict overhead and become bloated overtime.
What’s really exciting is that the end result powers a new generation of dynamic services, spurring innovation and continuous improvement in the process.
By the way, we do have “time machine” viewer in our system. No joke, this is the one feature that we use to review events and deployments that have already taken place, step by step and in an time lapse mode.
One more thing… : ) Bell Labs has released a new book, which I look forward to reading. My understanding is that “The Future X Network” addresses the landscape for networking technologies in 2020 and beyond.
“The Future X Network: A Bell Labs Perspective outlines how Bell Labs sees this future unfolding and the key technological breakthroughs needed at both the architectural and systems levels. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a major area of change and the network and systems innovation required to realize the technological revolution that will be the essential product of this new digital future.”
Where to meet next?
- Mexico City workshops, October 26-28
- Carrier Network Virtualization. Palo Alto, November 30 – December 3.
See you there ; )
“In business and economics, innovation is the catalyst to growth […] In the organizational context, innovation may be linked to positive changes in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitiveness […] research findings highlight the complementary role of organizational culture enabling organizations to translate innovative activity into tangible performance improvements […] Innovation is the key element in providing aggressive top-line growth and increasing bottom-line results.” – Wikipedia.
“Product development within the telecommunications industry has traditionally followed rigorous standards for stability, protocol adherence and quality. While this model worked well in the past, it inevitably led to long product cycles, a slow pace of development and reliance on proprietary or specialist hardware […] In October 2012, an industry specifications group, “Network Functions Virtualization”, published a white paper […] discussing NFV as a network architecture using IT technologies to virtualize entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that may be connected, or chained, to create communication services.” – Wikipedia.
Left: Ted East. Right: Jose de Francisco. Location: Alcatel-Lucent’s Naperville Auditorium.
Our NFV Innovation Day was held this past Thursday. I would first like to congratulate everyone involved: participants, speakers, and the team of volunteers at the company’s Technology Leadership Council (TLC) who made it happen with support from Alcatel-University, company Communications teams, Real Estate and IT support.
This was an internal daylong event designed for Alcatel-Lucent’s own cloud computing community. The agenda featured 15 speakers addressing 3 modules: demystifying NFV, portfolio readiness and future direction, as well as an engaging live demonstration on Lean NFV Ops delivered by the Cloud Innovation Center on stage.
What was originally planned as a campus initiative to brief teams on what transpired at Mobile World Congress, quickly became a far more ambitious undertaking involving speakers from worldwide locations and a global webcast. All definitely worth the effort as feedback received is very positive and encouraging. The better news is that there are more TLC “Innovation Days” on other emerging technologies in the works already.
Making the Lean NFV Ops video. Location: Mobile World Congress, Barcelona.
By the way, speaking of Barcelona’s MWC, thanks to Darlene Cetrulo we will be making a video on the Lean NFV Ops demo available. This is just a quick note to let you know that it is ready and will be shared soon. Stay tuned : )
Left: Jose de Francisco. Center: Carla Cico. Right: Ted East. Location: NFV Experience Room at the Cloud Innovation Center.
Leading to NFV Innovation Day, we also had a good meeting with Carla Cico, member of Alcatel-Lucent’s Board of Directors. The company’s Board involves 11 Directors, all independent with the only exception of Michel Combes, CEO. My understanding is that Carla started her career with Italtel and was CEO of Brasil Telecom. International Business and Forbes featured her among the top 100 most powerful women.
We gathered with her in the Showcase area, a good place to illustrate what’s changing in the telecommunications industry to begin with. The bulk of the discussion took place at CIC’s NFV Experience Room since the interactive Lean NFV Ops demo invites the conversation and helps visualize complex topics.
Left: Bhaskar Gorti. Center: Naperville Auditorium. Right: Michel Combes.
Back to the NFV Innovation Day, Michel Combes, CEO, and Bhaskar Gorti, IP Platforms President, delivered the opening remarks for the morning and afternoon sessions respectively.
The event featured a “dream team” of NFV speakers who did an excellent job without exception. Though, it should be noted that there is plenty of cloud talent and good work going on in the company. For that reason, when working on the agenda our planning team came to the conclusion that we were scratching the surface.
Nonetheless, NFV Innovation Day delivered insightful content coming from a broad and well balanced cross-section of the business, coupled with Bell Labs ingenuity in the areas of analytics and autonomics (machine learning) for NFV. This approach now delivers opportunities for following up and conducting deep dives as needed.
Left: Phil Tilley, Jose de Francisco. Center: Cassidy Shield, Betsy Covell. Right: Anne Lee.
Last but not least, TLC is a boundariless Alcatel-Lucent community fostering knowledge networks across the business. TLC focuses on activities involving technology sharing to drive heightened innovativeness.