It has been one of those interesting points in the year when three big industry events occur almost at the same time, and it is possible to make some interesting comparisons. First we had Mobile World Congress providing some illuminating insights into how the focus of the mobile industry has changed from devices and their specifications to the content delivery model. If you want a more detailed look at how I see this change developing then take a look at my post from 1st March which brought a wonderful stream of posts and builds which is always good to see. Thanks everyone!
Another of the shows has been RSA Conference 2010 in San Francisco, a candidate for the definitive security event. Now everyone knows security is a big issue but in truth have we really seen approaches that match up to the problem we are facing? The world we are all working and playing in is no longer finite in any recognisable sense of the word, i.e. in terms of manageable domains, one of the key concepts for a security methodology. In his keynote at RSA, Microsoft’s Scott Charney hit this nail right on the head drawing an accurate picture between policing a physical world as a whole environment, versus the less than complete approaches to securing the virtual world.

Scott sketched out the real implications of cloud computing, before addressing ‘the big idea’ that we really need come to grips with when it comes to a world full of different devices and people with any to any connectivity. I don’t want to try to paraphrase his presentation because his logic in building up to the solution is critical so here is the link so that you can read the transcript .The real point is that, just like at MWC, something really new is starting to emerge, and not just more of the same in terms of better specifications or more features and upgrades. At MWC it was a shift from focusing on the phone specification, to content and apps as the key differentiator.
Put another way it was a shift towards user-driven content and services consumption, the Apple App Store for example. At RSA it was a shift to thinking about entirely new approaches bottom up to the entirely new technology era that is emerging around user centric delivery from cloud services. To be fair there were also presentations arguing that there was too much hyping of risk versus potential reward and that this was slowing down progress. One of these presentations came from no less a figure than the President of RSA himself, Art Coviello. He stayed focussed on the argument that moving some IT elements to remote hosting is a controllable risk (see link here). But in a sense this highlighted the difference between the existing IT worlds of applications dedicated to limited users in controllable domains, versus the generic opening up issue of cloud services as described by Scott.
And what of CeBIT? The biggest German show, and one of the prime European shows, claims have attracted 4,292 exhibitors from 69 countries and more than 400,000 visitors in 2009. The huge numbers are because it is a show about applying technology to business and from business to the population as a whole. For me it is unique in that it has a public day and therefore many stands have very different displays looking at how products are offered to businesses and consumers, and not just the usual trade show feel.
Being the professional at this game CeBIT also makes a list of all the innovations and news stories readily accessible so follow this link and scroll down. What do you notice? Well for me, although there are no huge surprises, the sheer volume of entries just shows how technology is touching every aspect of business and personal life. In short once again we have a huge number of different devices all taking advantage of various forms of universal connectivity and software based customisation and services. What’s missing from the list? IT is the answer. Oh yes, it is present with all the big names, including Capgemini, but it doesn’t get much space on the innovation roll call.
This brings me to my conclusion which, as a remarkable coincidence, was the conclusion of the keynote I delivered at CeBIT (apologies for mentioning this but the content is the issue). It got well reported here although as I write the CeBIT video feed doesn’t seem to be up yet. The big issue is that technology is something that is hitting every aspect of business and not just the IT department. We need to all be making serious moves to rethink not just what we do and how we do it against our traditional role, but to step outside this and think what and where does a user gain what they want, in the same way that the Apple App Store is redefining the market for mobile phones. We need to ask what we need to do to our whole approach to this new environment, like the Microsoft thoughts on a new order for security. And lastly we need to recognise just how much innovation is going on in technology outside the IT department and what we should be doing to support and enable it. I call this the CeBIT innovation factor.