What did you pay for your corporate smartphone?

[This blog post is a repost of http://blog.atos.net/sc/2012/02/22/what-did-you-pay-for-your-corporate-smartphone/ ]

I bought my own bed. I like it, it is a big bed with a proper mattress and pocket springs.

I also bought my own pillow and now that I think of it, I also bought my own milk and decided, by my own, that I really needed to eat a hamburger and chips last night (with a Heineken beer, at Silversant in Amstelveen, the hamburger wasn’t really what I hoped for, but that is a different topic).

The choice I made for my bed contributes to my good health, my choice for food does probably not.

The point is that nowhere in the process of purchasing furniture and food, I was guided by my employer. Most people will find that normal, but they are also happy that the employer provides them with a standard company laptop, standard (smart)phone and standard application suite.

Arguably there is a big difference between IT equipment and furniture but it opens up the discussion on the freedom of choice for these type of company supplies.

This topic is very much in-depth looked into in a Atos Scientific Community white paper called “Consumerization Technology. Is it really good for business?”.

“So why has the corporate world stood still and remained such a monolithic and homogeneous environment when the way of working is evolving, despite legacy foundations? Why shouldn’t organizations take advantage of the vast array of information, skills and consumer devices in the world today? This is the concept of consumerism. Devices, services or software that is intended for the mass consumer market can cross over and equally be used in a corporate environment.”

I firmly believe that the tools that I use for my work should fit my objectives and if the standard is not good enough, more flexible choices should be available. It helps me in my motivation and effectiveness.

”Positive feedback from employees and an attractive working environment for the workforce of tomorrow will have a significant positive impact. This, combined with the removal of the de-motivating factor of having to struggle with an IT department to be able to work efficiently and an increased level of trust, will be seen as reward enough by many. This could even be extended by offering supplementary benefits, such as insurance schemes, negotiated prices or other options…“

In general we see an increased interest in this ‘Bring-Your-Own’ (BYO) concept and it has unexpected valuable side-effects:

”Personal productivity can increase as a result of the user using a device that they are used to and that suits their style of working. Also, if an employee is using a device they choose or one with personal data on, then they are more likely to respect that device and as a result lose less time dealing with support issues or worse. Combine this with the fact that the new found flexibility is highly appreciated by employees and the result is typically more dedication and commitment.”

The whitepaper also addresses the fact that there are serious risks associated to a BYO strategy. Both in lack of productivity (Facebook versus Excel) and in security or confidentiality of information.

An approach to handle this as well as an explanation how this affects other parts of the IT landscape is addressed in the paper, with special attention to networks, information management and utilizing corporate applications.

But this is most of all about technology, is it not? Well as it turns out, it is not. A BYO strategy also needs to address non-IT related subjects such as HRM, TAX, privacy and compliancy. In the end, I like it. It creates a relationship between me and my employer that focuses on the delivering of objectives, not the provisioning of supplies.

It also leaves me at the helm and allows me freedom in the choice of stuff that helps me do my work. So why stop there?

“As consumer technology improves, and consumer IT proficiency increases, many organizations will consider consumer solutions to be ‘good enough’”

I am looking forward to a working environment that lets me choose my applications, my location and maybe even my own language.

(Blogs schrijven in het Nederlands die automatisch worden vertaald – dat zou mooi zijn) http://tinyurl.com/7ou77b6


The Atos Scientific Community whitepaper can be downloaded here

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Are we happily ruled by spreadsheets?

[This blog post is a repost of http://blog.atos.net/sc/2012/01/25/watch-this-space-are-we-happily-ruled-by-spreadsheets/ ]

I expect that you, like myself, love and hate spreadsheets. They are a great tool for a large variety of mathematic tasks but also for activities like project-planning or creating a really cool family calendar.

And I bet your financial controllers love spreadsheets to bring order to your business world; I can say for myself that I have been in more spreadsheet governed meetings than I care to remember. Over the last couple of years, I have observed that spreadsheets are being used more and more to forecast what is “the next step”, “the obvious strategy” and the “logical business plan”.


Spreadsheet (Photo credit: Jon Newman)

The spreadsheet is being used as a tool to combine data into (hopefully) useful information that guides us in our business decisions. This positions the spreadsheet as the poor man’s Business Intelligence tool; BI for the masses. I think there are a couple of problems with that;

First, a spreadsheet is a generic tool so it has to be adapted to the specific task or market. This creates a challenge which is solved by spending lots of time creating all kind of models by various people (the Excel-wizards…). Each model is better than another and we end up with a myriad of models across departments and organizations (and sometimes even between 2 people inside the same department).

Secondly, and a bit linked to reason number one, the models are rarely fully tested, so there could be errors in formulas or in the use of constants versus variables.

The third problem is the source of the data; is it reliable and what is the status of the data? Although the spreadsheet seems to be collection of facts – the truth is that it can be very misleading.

So it seems that we should avoid these problems and substitute the use of spreadsheets with the use of professional BI tooling. But regrettably this is not happening.

“Despite business intelligence (BI) providers’ and IT departments’ efforts to substitute spreadsheets by trusted BI solutions, it is estimated that up to 90 percent of end users use spreadsheet applications to import information obtained from BI tools and work with it locally”

This quote comes from a whitepaper published by the Atos Scientific Community.

The document shows the usage of spreadsheets as BI tools and explains the issue in much more detail, also pointing out the weaknesses of BI tools themselves.

The whitepaper also gives information on the way we can utilize the power of spreadsheets while at the meantime we can have the benefits of trustworthy data sources, versioning and uniformity.

It is not suggested in the whitepaper that we abandon spreadsheets altogether; In these times the variety of data that can be applied to support decisions is growing and expanding in areas that include external sources and non-typical information.

Because of this flexible data-set versus non-flexible BI tooling, there is a role for the flexibility that a spreadsheet offers to the end-user. The whitepaper describes 3 possible outcomes in this battle of the right way to use BI tooling versus spreadsheets; abandoning spreadsheets and mature the BI tooling, take the best of both worlds and use a spreadsheets as a front end or enhance the spreadsheets themselves.

“Spreadsheet vendors have also realized the potential of spreadsheets as the perfect business complement to BI tools. Recent developments include providing richer integration and the ability to manage large data batches in memory.”

I think the subject is worthy of a serious discussion in any business.


The Atos Scientific Community whitepaper can be downloaded



The Ultimate Question of life, the Universe, and Everything

[This blog post is a repost of http://blog.atos.net/sc/2012/01/21/ultimate-question-of-life-universe-and-everything/ ]

If you are thinking about the number 42 after reading the title of this blog entry, I compliment you about your knowledge of classic science fiction literature – for you there is no reason to read on as you already know everything.

The vision in Journey 2014: Challenges and BuildingblocksFor all others, please keep reading because I am about to give you access to a better answer. In late 2009 a group of smart people in Atos sat together and defined 10 challenges for our IT industry that will play an important role in the coming 5 years. Each of these challenges were thoroughly discussed and examined. The reason we did this was to support Atos in its changing strategy to become a more global organization with a clear view on the future . Since then the results have also been shared with customers and in 2011 the result was bundled in the book “Journey 2014” (it is available as a download on the Atos website).

There is no particular order in the priority of the challenges that was set, so I will present them in alphabetical order and quote from the book to give you a preview of the conclusions – after that I will give you a view on how this all comes together;  

1. Alternative Delivery Models

“Organizations should make rapid progress on realizing the benefits of cloud services…” “Cloud computing is such a broad and diverse phenomenon that it is easy to become confused about its many forms and the way organizations can benefit…”

2. Business Process Management

“…Within 3 to 5 years, Business Process Management will become the dominant process change tool used by business stakeholders, working at two levels: first on Business Process within an organization (Orchestration) but also considering End to End processes involving interaction among different players (partners, customers and suppliers) and their systems (Choreography).…”

“A close eye has to be kept on the BPMN 2.0 evolution which may address BPEL and BPMN 1.0 short comings…” “An increasing number of BPM vendors are starting to offer BPM software-as-a-service (BPMSaaS). BPM services represent the highest level in the Cloud services. BPMaaS provides the complete end to end business process management needed for the creation and follow-on management of unique business processes.”

3. Context Aware Computing

“The Hyper Inter-Connected world faces an even greater challenge (…) to make sense of the literally trillions of data sources that could influence any given situation. Coupling this with the maturing of the smart phone (…) it paves the way for a new generation of intelligent applications that adapt to the user’s context on time to enrich the delivered experience…”

“…services enabled by context aware computing will anticipate and react to the needs of user, providing relevant, useful information to be able to make better informed decisions. These services will supersede the existing (…) applications and revolutionize how providers interact with consumers, organizations with employees, governments with employees and people with their social networks.”

4. Collaboration

“It is time for companies to catch up and stop ignoring modern collaboration methods that have proved to be very effective in the consumer world. The same way that social networks connect people with common interests, organizations have to take advantage of these solutions to connect people for a given purpose. It is not only a matter of cost saving it is also about improving the Decision Process, empowering employees and reaching consistent and supported consensus.”

“Information Management remains a key priority for enterprises to compete in local and global markets and collaboration is expected to generate even more strategic information which will need to be managed."

5. Control and Command

“Several strategies are being devised to synthesize a large system into a not-too-complex model, such as filtering events based on relevance, or aggregating data at different hierarchical level. Dealing with events coming out too fast is a stressful situation where an operator is more likely to make a mistake. Providing him with the appropriate information, at the right time and the right level of detail is a requirement to have him make an informed decision in time.”

“As the next generation of connected devices has started coalescing into an Internet of Things, control-command techniques will be required to bridge gaps and monitor the massive amount of information these will generate.”

6. Decision Support

“Decision Support has to deal with huge amounts of information, often unstructured, that change dynamically, and whose relevance and timeliness depend on the problem to be solved.” “By combining Business Intelligence capability for analytical insights and measures with collaboration tools and social software, they allow decision on no
n-structured problems to be made in a collective way.”

7. Electronic Entertainment and Gaming

“Media consumers tend to become actors while consuming media, which has an important impact on the way media is consumed and edited..” “The trends and technologies developed for the electronic entertainment and gaming market tend to gain other markets, benefitting from the mass market effect to become affordable in the industrial or business world.”

8. Green IT

“The know-how obtained in these practical experiences, if appropriately transferred, would enable IT departments and IT companies to accelerate their capability to serve clients in designing, engineering and operating IT for Green services” “There is a need for Business Transformation capabilities to manage the necessary behavioral change to leverage benefits from Green for IT and IT for Green.”

9. Social Networking

“Effectively using social platforms will be a key objective for companies coping with changing customer and employee relations…” “Creating an reward program to an agile, social, engagement that boosts user interaction is not so much a technical as a philosophical or political problem, going from authority to collaboration, from obscurity to transparency, from direct marketing to community management.”

10. Working Environment

“For the foreseeable future, offshoring will remain an effective strategy for reducing cost of service delivery and hence attracting and retaining talent is an issue that equally applies to offshore locations. Organizations must extend the working environment vision to apply to offshore locations.”

“Organizations will have to go beyond traditional financial incentives as the majority of employees look beyond money to find a meaning for their lives. With work life encroaching on home life, benefits from employers must reflect personal needs too.”

Bringing it all together When we look at the various challenges, and BTW there is much more info in the book, there is a need to understand how we can connect the dots – what is the overall idea or even vision that drives our behavior to these challenges. While we were discussing all of the different components it became very clear that 2 things are at the heart of our preferred way of interacting with the challenges. Handling the results should be simple and allow for a level of control.

This statement of “Simplicity with Control” became a mantra for further investigation and has driven many proof of concepts since.  

The second point of clarity came when we made the decision to put the user at the heart of our set of challenges (and the underlying building blocks). Through collaboration and social networking, the user wants to reach its objectives. If we look at the challenges in this way we conclude that they are not about solving technology questions, but about addressing the user’s needs.  

By combining simplicity, control and the needs of the user we have defined the starting point and the context for answering the question that is in the title of this blog. The philosophical statement is that the answer lies within ourselves; and to be honest, I prefer it that way. 

The Atos Journey 2014 whitepaper can be downloaded