How Technology will change the World in 2012

I make no claims for originality in these predictions. A characteristic of our connected social media world is that we take our ideas from everyone else – and these are no exception…

  • With “the integration of everything”, apps will work on smartphones, computers and TVs everywhere. You’ll access your email, social media and applications on any device anywhere.
  • The Cloud will turn computing into a utility (at last – after many years of predictions). This will open massive expandable computing power on demand.
  • The Cloud will be not just for businesses but individual consumers. Look at how Facebook – operating in the Cloud – is conquering the world. And Apple’s personal assistant app, Siri – Steve Jobs’ final initiative – will open an infinity of new apps which will learn what you want and, in time, even how you think….
  • Kindle and iPad were the big commercial volume successes of 2011, meaning that Amazon and Apple will be major platforms for – and could also become major publishers for – what we used to call books, films, magazines and newspapers.
  • The TV will be the revolutionary technology device of 2012, with intelligence provided by connectivity from pads and smartphones, no longer presenting just TV channels but everything that is out there on the net and becoming a key element of social media.
  • Social media will continue to grow and will continue to revolutionise  the way we shop, how people remove tyrants, spread our new ideas, connect with friends, family and fellow enthusiasts globally – in short, everything…

Is there anything new to say on the iPad2?

Almost certainly not, given its amazing success.  It’s certainly still flying out of our John Lewis electrical sections.

I have had mine for a 3 weeks now and was reflecting this morning on why I just like it so much.

My conclusion was that my enthusiasm is not entirely logical, since what my iPad2 does is not that much different from my iPad1.  I have largely the same Apps, and use it in much the same way and same places.  Sure, I have used the camera a bit, and the screen resolution is fantastic.   The main difference is that I have changed the background!

So why do I love it?  Well, it’s the overall experience of using something so brilliantly designed.  The cover is pure genius, with the magnetic screen springing the machine into life as soon as you open it and acting as the holder. The amazing thinness of the body and the form and colour.  The way you can use it to do your emails standing up on the way to work on South West Trains (UGH), make notes at meetings, Facetime with the family, tweet, blog – and provide the background music to a picnic on the Norfolk Broads.  All at the tap of a few fingers.  And this has hardly scratched the surface.

I know we take all this for granted now, but just stand back and think about how IT has changed – and is changing – the way we interact with each other in significant and rather enjoyable ways.

Nothing new so far, I grant.   Lots of people gush like me about the iPad – and, as they say, other tablets and phones are available, which also provide comparable, amazingly easy-to-use services.

But what happens when we apply this wonderful world of convenient computing and social networking to corporate IT?

I am a CIO/IT Director by profession. The computing experience of almost all of us at work is, these days, very different from our experience at home and with our own smart phones.

There is absolutely no criticism here of the people who run in-house corporate IT, since this is all about cost and relative priority.  The cost of basic desktops, laptops, emails, software licences, networks (and security that has to go alongside) runs into several millions in all corporates.  If there is an investment choice between customer facing IT or in-house, there is of course no contest!

So we work very hard to give our customers on johnlewis.com a great shopping experience and to integrate our online world into our multi-channel branches.

As the old Hollywood saying goes, “put all the money on the screen”.   There are obvious and very good reasons for this – customer service, competition, ROIC, security, business priorities and so forth.  And yet…..

Perhaps the biggest challenge for us in the IT Service profession (that’s CIOs and suppliers) these days is to work out how we can make it as easy (and, dare I say, as cool and fun) to use our internal systems and corporate hardware; as it is to use our external systems using one’s personal smart-phones, iPads and so on.  And of course to do this in an affordable way.

So I would be really interested in your thoughts here.  Perhaps is self-provide the answer?  Is it the famous Cloud?  Can we really make business cases that will fly?

The Next Digital Decade will Revolutionise the Air Transport Industry

Here is the first part of my address to the SITA/Airline Business IT Summit in June this year:

In it I set out how IT has revolutionised the travel industry over the past decade, and illustrate this with some examples of how we have used it in British Airways with ba.com over the last decade with initiatives like calendar-selling, Manage my Booking, online check-in and dynamic packaging (integrating hotel and car hire etc with your flight booking).

Next , I look at how we are using social networking, YouTube and Twitter and how customers now expect to be connected everywhere  and anytime.

I then set out what I see as the likely trends in air transport in the next decade – which can be best described as a return to growth in a world that is very aware of green issues and the need to manage emissions.

This sets up discussion of the “4 Big Cs” – the key IT changes in coming decade –  in the second part of my address, which I’ve already blogged about here.

Are you defined by an App too?

I remarked to my wife just now that everything has changed in the last 12 months – which she very reasonably corrected to “everything technological has changed”.  She is, of course, right – although rather a lot has also happened in climate change and the economy as well – but this is a blog about technology.

What prompted this observation was that we were about to board our holiday flight at Gatwick Airport when my daughters remembered that they had not brought any books to read.  No problem: immediately we reached for our iPads (yes, we are all early adopters!) and went onto iBooks to download holiday reading.  This varied from the latest fiction to the Gutenberg Project’s free copy of “The Destruction of the Indies” by Bartlolome de las Casas.

I find iBooks not a substitute for paper books but a tremendous addition, which enables the addition of new books literally at the click of the mouse – and at moderate (if any!) shock to the credit card.

In our family we are all iPhone users and I realised recently that our apps in many ways mirror our tastes, obsessions and lifestyles.   Google Maps are so much better than the expensive and clunky guidance system on the car; Twitter enables one to express oneself and to link to other people with similar interests – whether those are Lotus F1, Hadrian’s Wall or pond life (literally) in Norfolk.

So, which iPhone or iPad app could you least well survive with?  Initially I nominated – rather boringly, it has to be admitted, Tweeterena 2 – while someone in my family (who has 2 English Lit MAs at prestigious British and American colleges) came up with “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”!

But, as an inveterate snapper of people and places I visit, I now think my defining app is (apart from the new BA app, that is) probably Photos. It organises what used to be piles of prints, sorts them and lets you share them with friends and family.

Anyone who reads this, have a think and choose not your favourite app, but the one that – in some way or another – defines you!

Agile just gets better – and not just for IT

Agile just gets better. I am increasingly convinced this is “The Way” ahead – not just for online small projects, but for large scale business change as well and elements in normal waterfall projects.

Here is a case in point, I visited our “Nimbus” Agile Stream on Friday where we are building the new front end for our Cargo frontline colleagues – part of a major legacy migration.

There, having been “stuck” for some time, they set up an Agile Team with some expert advice and training and in 40 days we have a working User Interface with pretty full functionality. So what’s made the difference? First there are the agile methods, setting priorities, building the team, populating the wall, making releases every 2 or 3 weeks and so on.

But I think the principal difference was the two colleagues from the Cargo Business who were present with the team writing their “user stories” and posting them on the wall. They were then there as an integral part of the Team to see their stories built and launched, and were able to say “well that’s what we want” or “not quite” or “no that doesn’t work”.

As with all brilliant innovations when you see it working it seems so obvious – why didn’t we do that before.

Cargo say that they will be trying these techniques with their business changes and our Commercial colleagues already use agile techniques – like stand ups, the wall and customer stories to design major business initiatives.

By the way I set myself the challenge of using the iPad screen keypad to write this – and it’s not at all bad!

My five pennyworth on the iPad

I must say that the iPad is everything I was looking for and some more.

I am doing my first transcontinental flight with it tomorrow and it will be my treat when I have cleared the email backlog.

But I would say that, wouldn’t I, since I love gadgets. Yes, I even had an Apple Newton all those years back! And yes, I love the way that Apple always seems to work out of the box and looks good and is fun to use.

But the reason I think that the iPad – and the countless imitation tablets now being prepared for market – will transform the way we work and play, interact with each other, download music and media, is that many of my friends and colleagues who aren’t tech heads have jumped on the iPad bandwagon and love it too.

It seems to be reaching many more than the usual early adopters. It is already being used by people are not usually into IT gimmicks. Even more striking, they all seem to be using it for quite different things: emails, photo libraries, organising politics, games, posing, following the F1 feed, reading books.

This shows its amazing appeal across generations and people, and its versatility even now.

So what does this mean for our business? What does this mean for in-flight entertainment? Will this mean a new willingness to purchase flights and holidays on mobile devices?

And what are the applications for our people? Will the iPad support customer interactions during disruption? Could it – or any tablet – become more used in Engineering or in Baggage?

This blog was of course prepared on the iPad. I even used the tappy-tap integral keyboard since I left the external one at home!

Starting a Blog

It’s quite scary being faced with a large white space and wondering (a) what on earth to say and (b) whether anyone is going to read it. Somewhat reassuringly I read that 346,000,000 people read blogs so maybe  there is some hope!

So what’s this Blog going to be about?   Well this is going to be about being a CIO in 2010, which is one of the most interesting and enjoyable jobs on the face of the planet.   Why do I say this?   Well technology and telecommunications are changing the way we all work and perhaps much more interestingly the way we all communicate  with each other, the way we buy things and the way we interact at work and at play.   My job is to be part of all of this.

This Blog will therefore be about what’s happening in technology, and how it affects business, society and me.  I will try and post once a week, at the weekend.   This will be hard to keep up and even harder to keep interesting.

This week the news is of course the launch of the iPad, to decidedly mixed reception, but so too had the iPhone.   I am sure there are already millions of blogs about the iPad but there should be it’s the future of books and newspapers – maybe?

Now I freely confess I just want one.   This is because I have loved the iPod, the iPhone which moved me onto this MacBook for personal use.   So why wouldn’t I love the iPad even if it does not have Flash and iBooks isn’t available yet in the UK and so forth.

I want it because Apple is what technology should be about – well designed, easy to use, fun and desirable.

I want it because Steve Jobs said that “Apple stands at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts.”   This is what IT should be about: not about the technology but what the technology can do.  I loved the iPod because it gave me music in the way I wanted it.  I love the iPhone because it gives me apps I never knew I needed and is great for photos when I am traveling and I love the Mac because it sorts these photos out intuitively and lets me put music to accompany my albums.  They are all beautiful objects beautifully made that make your life easier and more fun.

As I CIO, if only our apps and interfaces enabled our businesses this well.   That’s what our colleagues want!

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