Harnessing Change

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Harnessing Change

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 26, 2015

Changing expectations, imperatives, technologies, and timelines are altering how we should be thinking about and managing our businesses.

One of those changes is the growing importance of technology in businesses of all types. Technology is no longer used to power desktop computers and factory floors for internal uses alone. Now it touches virtually ever aspect of our organizations – from how we deliver customer service; to how we enable employee collaboration and deliver corporate communications; to how we collect, analyze, and use business intelligence.

In a recent column I talked about how this is elevating the position of the CIO and IT staff within organizations. And that means IT types need to step outside the box and stop thinking of themselves as support employees and instead reinvent themselves and their organizations as strategists to meet the goals of the business at large.

Hollis “Terry” Bradwell III, executive vice president and CIO at AARP, talked about the need for IT staff to be proactive in his speech “Unleashing the Hidden Value of IT” at ITEXPO (News - Alert) in August.

I recently listened to another interesting presentation that offered a different twist on how technology is impacting business, and what we should be doing now to prepare for that. This speech, by Tim Hahn of IBM (News - Alert), was about how the rise of the Internet of Things will require businesses to fundamentally rethink how they design, engineer, manage, and operate their products and organizations.

Hahn, chief architect of connected car and IoT at IBM, who spoke at the recent Fog Computing Conference in San Jose, said that whether you’re talking about a car, a microwave, or some other device, once it’s connected, people will have different expectations as to its longevity and performance. The good news is that connecting devices opens the door to remotely managing and updating them. But how, when, and under what circumstances, updates will be done are important questions each device provider will have to figure out internally, he said, and that is likely to require the input and buy in from diverse interests and teams across an organization.

“Software change shall be the norm,” said Hahn, “and motion is not a bad thing. So maybe we should plan for that.”

A couple of best practices related to device application management, Hahn said, are to expect to add features and updates via software and firmware after the initial release of a device, but to make sure there’s a fail-safe mode in case an update doesn’t work as planned. Without the fail-safe mode, he said, a once useful device could turn into “a brick.” Device companies also need to devise software update release schedules so they can make sure they have the adequate resources in place to support those efforts, he added.

One positive aspect of the rise of connected devices to product designers and marketers is the ability to try different versions of a product and let the market decide which is best, said Hahn, adding that this basic concept is referred to as AB testing.

In the IoT world, using different software in two or more versions of a device could allow for variation in functionality or the user interface. The company could release both versions of the device into the marketplace and whichever one generates more money or positive feedback, for example, could move forward. Or perhaps, Hahn said, an organization would decide to keep both versions to meet the needs of different regions or interest groups.

Edited by Maurice Nagle