Tag Archives: Cloud

How IT Buzzwords Impact Healthcare

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Picture from: http://www.healthcarereformmagazine.com/issue-16/feature-issue-16/healthcare-cheaper-better-faster/

Every industry loves their buzz words, and IT does more than most. Today you can’t talk about technology without one of the big four, (Social, Mobile, Big Data or Cloud), being dropped into the conversation. The question is, what has this to do with Healthcare? Well let me discuss this in the next few blog posts, but first context is required.

According to many commentators, such as analyst firm IDC, IT is entering its third epoch. Starting with the birth of IT in the form of the original mainframes, through the current ‘pc’ dominated client server and into the emerging 3rd Platform, typified by the ‘web-scale’ organisations. What I find interesting is that I can see the parallels with healthcare, let me explain.

The first platform was a time shared infrastructure which you would go with a particular job and walk away with a certain outcome. Sound like a hospital?  The issue with this model is that a massive infrastructure investment is required, and it makes use of very high levels of expertise, to use it effectively. That is why today, while there are still many mainframes in use, the ‘jobs’ they tackle are very specific to what it was designed for and where it is the most efficient way to achieve that outcome.

Today, however most computing is performed on the second platform – client server – enabled by the birth of PC’s and networks. This new model enabled new capabilities, such as interactivity, specialisation and a lower cost of production. The ‘work’ was split into different layers and specialist organisations created software solutions which automated processes.  (Think a PACS, RIS, EMR.) This structure is mostly a hub-and-spoke, with specialists performing their specific task and then passing on to the next layer. I would argue much like the delivery of healthcare outside of the hospital today, where a GP refers to a specialist that refers to an ‘ology’ that reports back to the specialist that diagnoses/treats and then reports back to the GP – each performing a task and passing off to the next entity. Now this model is effective at automating a processes but does it inherently improve that process or add to the quality of what is being done?

In my previous blog post I spoke about Big Data and some of what is enabling this… “What’s changed? Over the last decade technologies that can economically store and reason over disparate data types have been developed… (carry on reading here).”  This leads us to the 3rd Platform, if you like consider how the ‘web scale’ organisations do what they do! Such as Amazon predicting books you would like to read, Google giving you the latest information and Facebook changing social connectivity.

What does this mean to healthcare?  You are familiar with the past, computers have helped add up numbers and do accounting, (mainframe), they have automated processes like patient record keeping and image management, (client-server), now technology is help us to predict, understand and tap into the collective. In doing this we get assistance in diagnosis, discovering new protocols and drugs, and predicting likely outcomes. The advantages to healthcare of better planning, decision support and accelerated innovation are dramatic. In essence this is the platform enable healthcare to move into ‘Personalised Wellness’ or ‘Patient Centric Healthcare’. Consider the 3rd Platform as now helping improve thinking, the human process!

Three ‘platforms’ for technology and three ‘platforms’ for healthcare delivery. The IT industry delivers better, faster and cheaper, our challenge now is to use these technologies effectively to deliver better, faster and cheaper healthcare!

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The Future of IT 2: Social = The Crowd!

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Today

When Social meets the Enterprise there is one of a few reactions:

A) How can marketing tap into an audience of one billion? or
B) Is it productive to let our people access social media at work?  or
C) Can I use social media to cut my cost of recruiting?

Now these are the obvious uses of the various social sites out there, and they are being leveraged. For example it costs organisations tens of thousands of dollars in commissions when a ‘head hunter’ finds a candidate. However, if an employee refers a candidate it’s more likely to be a successful outcome both in terms of skills and experience as well as cultural fit. Today LinkedIn is becoming one of the leading employment sites on the net.

There is also interesting work being done with Facebook whereby you can assume that people who like similar things are similar. So by analysing what individuals have ‘liked’, may tell us what they would like to buy!

However what is the underlying value of this area? Let me suggest that understanding the social network is not as powerful as leveraging the community it represents.

Future

Let’s explore this idea a little bit. Matt Barrie, BRW entrepreneur of the year 2011, is tapping into the global human capital with his website Freelancer.com, (here). The idea is to crowd source expertise on a global basis. By posting a job on the site, interested suppliers bid to do your work. Now you might think that is fine and probably useful for web-site design and coding. However review the categories on the site and you will see that work is being done from Aeronautical Engineering to manufacturing a “Variable Pitch Quadcopter”.

I remember when I was part of a start-up we got a logo designed. It took about 4 months from start to finish and involved an extraordinary amount of time from preparing and briefing an agency to continual refinement until we eventually settled on a final design. Using matt’s site you can put a similar brief up and within hours, people submit their ideas from which you can choose from. Substantially cutting the time and cost and dramatically improving the talent pool that you are drawing from.

We can go further and tap into the knowledge of the crowd! If you haven’t visited the Kahn Academy, (here or downloaded their App), then you are missing a major source of education as their tag line says, “Learn almost anything for free.”

Now it’s not just knowledge and expertise that can be crowd sourced. The now famous case study of the “pebble watch” financing through Kickstarter.com. If you don’t know the story; some guys thought it would be cool to design a watch using liquid-ink technology, (used in e-book readers), to create a smart watch that would show the time and link to your phone. They estimated they needed about $100k to develop it and put the project up on kickstarter.com. At the end of the period they had $10Million in orders! Today a substantial % of movies, charity drives, theatre productions are being crowd funded.

So where is this going? I would suggest that the power in social is actually the value of the crowd. In the future tapping and leveraging the crowd is going to be essential to the longevity of any organisation.

So does Social = Crowd.

Next Mobile.

The Future of IT 1: Manual to Mental

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I believe we are experiencing a fundamental change in the way technology is being used, which will have a profound effect on humanity.  Technology in the past has been concerned with automating and augmenting manual processes, now the focus is on mental processes.

For 60 odd years Information Technology has been applied primarily to taking organisational processes and automating or augmenting them. Computing was applied to helping the accountants keep the books, then to managing resource planning, then to customer relationship management. From purchase orders to rolodex’s, these systems on the whole duplicated what people could do with pen and paper. Job done!

If you have a new way to double the speed at which a purchase order is generated, I don’t think anyone will really care. However if you could help someone make “twice as good” a decision, or help designers design ‘twice as good’ a product, or help find “twice as many” fraud attempts; well now people will be very interested.

The job of automating and augmenting the human mind is now the main game!
(Before we get into the esoteric/academic discussion about automating creativity and emotion.. let just agree not go there and focus on automating mundane tasks and augmenting these higher level functions.)

Begin With The Buzz Words

Lets start at the beginning and what is HOT, right now.. which as we all know is SMAC, (not a miss spelt colloquial term for a drug),  Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.

First let’s get rid of one, Cloud. The reason is that Cloud today is synonymous with Cloud Computing and technical Infrastructure. Although the continual development of the infrastructure into a highly scalable, cost effective and agile utility will underpin everything else here, it does not add to my discussion.  Cloud Computing is the accepted norm, it is the enabler to what I am going to outline.

Now over the next few posts lets think a bit more about Social Mobile and Analytics and where these are heading in terms of the fundamental value and potential uses as these evolve.

Next Social

The Australian Cloud – Mainstream Now

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Preparing for a talk this week I went searching for the latest estimates of how large the Australian cloud market is. Two companies are often quoted in the IT press as the market analysts, Gartner and IDC. True to form I found two recent estimates; IDC says A$2.33 billion by 2016, (CAGR of 24.8%), (IDC here), but Gartner says it’s already there at $2.4 billion in 2012, (Gartner here).

See the issue? They would argue they count different things, so you can’t really compare the numbers. Which I kind of understand, but what is the size of the market? Maybe that doesn’t really matter, what is important is it is now substantial and it’s growing fast!

What I’m seeing is that ‘cloud’ is now mainstream, just about everyone I speak to has deployed at least one cloud service. To generalise what I would say is that SMB’s are almost totally cloud, why would you purchase and look after infrastructure if you were a small business or a start-up? In the mid-tier it seems like the cloud is the second datacentre used for backup and DR. And at the high end it seems as if the cloud has become the third datacentre. (Perhaps active-active between the two primary datacentres with the cloud providing the third; test, dev, triangulated DR.)

Confidence is building as well, perhaps not in the Traditional public cloud providers as fast as its growing with the home-grown enterprise centric providers like Telstra, Optus, etc. (In-fact the IDC article above says 70% of their survey group agree with this.)

Anyone who is still riding the data-sovereignty and “patriot act” rationale for not adopting cloud, is breading shadow IT in their organisation. Which is very dangerous! There is now nothing stopping any user pulling out the corporate credit card and setting up that Dropbox or AWS service to get something done quickly. Now IT has no control and data security is totally breached! However providing a trusted, secure and enterprise facility which is readily available in Australia by some of Australia’s most trusted brands… does seem more logical to me.

Now if I convinced you to take the leap into the Australian cloud be aware of another prediction, 30% of cloud suppliers will be out of business by 2015, (IDC). So when choosing the vendor you still need the due-diligence as no matter how good your contract is, once an organisation goes under, your data and systems and processes go with it!

What’s your experience with the Australian Cloud?

Day 2 Cisco Live – 7 deadly sins

Hats off to Cisco and their organising team for staging a great party last night. I was a little ‘perplexed’ when walking into the event and past a wall of 7 scantily clad young ladies. Being a bit slow I first thought is this the kind of image a brand like Cisco wants to portray! Then it clicked as each one had painted on their arm the particular sin they represented.

Inside each sin had a part of the massive hall, and an activity to satisfy every taste, from gambling to archery to fencing and computer games, even bean bags and movies playing for the people who were into sloth, after a long hard day at the conference!

I managed to get to a couple of sessions the first by the keynote speaker Carlos Dominguez who gave an inspirational talk on his theory of life and how to become a TechNowist, (here). Very interesting guy, well worth watching the video’s on that site. (He was also part of the Human Face of Big Data project that I worked on last year!)

The other session that sticks in my mind was a discussion about software defined networking. Unfortunately I was a little late into the session but the discussion seemed to be about how Cisco has opened up an API layer into their routers. I was a little perplexed as there was no discussion on how to make the network dynamic and flexible, but I guess that will come from the ‘programs’ that get written above this layer.

Last session of the day was a CIO panel which covered the hot topics of Big Data, Cloud adoption and the future of IT. Some nice statements made.. (twitter search @clivegold #CLMEL for a full list), but some of the notable ones were:

–          CIO becoming either CFO or CCO. Meaning Flexibility Officer given the discussions about becoming a ‘bendable’ organisation or Commercial Officer given the model where all services are delivered by a cloud contract.

–          A Data scientist is someone who can find meaning in the madness!

The last quote from the day that I liked was a definition of BYOD, “BYOD is not about the devices it’s about how to securely deliver services to employees!” Like it as it typifies the journey that I.T. is on, moving from technology to outcomes!

If you are at Cisco Live today, join us in room 210 at 12:15pm for a discussion on how to secure your environment using intelligence, not walls!

The Information Factory

@chuckhollis posted a blog recently which equates IT to a modern factory, (here). This is great, as some of you know,  I am the analogy king and I’ve been thinking about this analogy for a while.. and Chuck has beat me to it!factory

Chuck talks about the functions of a modern factory and how they relate to modern IT, such as:- “demand forecasting, process optimization, supply chain optimization — and, yes, product quality”. It’s a great article and traces the parallels between them, however I was thinking about a couple of issues that he only touches on.

Agility:- is the catch cry of the Cloud discussion- however what do we mean by agility? Chuck talks about agility in terms of scale; get bigger or smaller very quickly!  However, how about agility in terms of ‘flexible manufacturing’, where a factory has tooling that allows it to be re-configured to produce different products.  By using robots and CNC machines, (Numerically controlled machines), you can essentially re-program a factory to produce a different product, for example, cut the pieces of wood to create different chairs, or a table! (Virtualising the factory!)

Process Optimisation:- Here building on from Chuck’s solid foundation, I think we can extend the analogy. One of the optimisation techniques in the earlier factories was ‘worker activity optimisation’, where an expert would watch the workers on the line and remove redundancy, double-handling, inefficient movements, etc. The idea was that by watching what was being done, you could recognise the patterns and optimise around these.

Consider, if you could watch everything that everyone you work with does each day. You would notice massive inefficiencies, (in the flow of information, the way tasks are performed, etc.). Now a few small changes would create massive productivity gains!

Move down a level; these people use systems to perform these various different functions. These sophisticated systems provide alternative ways to produce the desired outcome.  If we could watch how each person does, essentially the same task, you would find ways that are better than others… and with a bit of training everyone could use the best practice, more productivity.

And lastly down another level; those systems are essentially software running code. Imagine if you could monitor the flow through the code as everyone uses it? We could understand how to make the code more efficient, we could see what never gets used, we would see the path to a bug, etc. Now think of the impact of having this meta-data about the running system… and the optimisation that could be done!

This, to me, is one of the really exciting aspects of Big Data. And if you are thinking this is very “Blue-sky” thinking… well not as far out as you might believe, (for example there is talk of doing this process optimisation, by monitoring the case-flow data that can be obtained from Documentum xCP and using Greenplum analytics to optimise this.)

Forget BYOD how about BYOA?

I’ve been thinking about whether a BYOA is a viable model for the new world?

Back before the corporate PC world was dominated by Microsoft Office, there were different options for people to do their word-processing and spread-sheet modelling on.  This situation had two main advantages; people would carry their application skills with them to new tasks, as well as it spurned competition between the application vendors, (Lotus vs. Excel, and Wordperfect vs. Word).

If we take this idea into an open-data – standards based world, it makes things interesting. For example an application vendor becomes a master at their application logic or functionality, with no underlying ‘data-model’, to limit upgradability or tie people in! (Different to the traditional computer-scientist approach of defining the data-model and then build the logic on-top.)

The user can select a powerful tool and become proficient with it. Then this skill gets applied to solve a number of different problems. For example, say I have the ultimate analytics application and want to understand EMC’s position in the market in order to develop a plan. What be useful is to understand EMC’s results, the perception of the company, competitive landscape, etc. Now I believe the truth is out there as I have access to market data, (future case),  from the governing bodies, (import data, annual reports, etc.), market research from the analysts,  social media feeds and multiple internal data sources – sales force automation, sales transaction data, helpdesk activity, service reports, etc.

In this scenario I could first I point my application at the market data and understand our market share and trends, then add social media and understand the sentiment, (perhaps correlate this to our sales performance). Lastly why not pull in the helpdesk and service information and see what trends I can pick up to help me plan for the year!

Next I get involved in a marketing campaign and I’m asked for a ‘head-line’ message for a campaign. Now I point my analytics application at the headlines to understand what is resonating in my audience’s minds right now.

Or lets go the other way to the ‘non-technical’ user.. the manager we all know who has problems booting up their laptop in the morning. How about they have a great application which shows them the weather in detail… well how about if we could just replace the data with their sales forecast! After-all a bad forecast is a bad forecast!

Well, maybe that is a simpler way ahead and more productive, what do you think?