Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Chief Internet of Things Officer

Back in 2006, I gave a talk at EuroOSCON on Making the Web of Things which covered manufacturing methods from 3D printing to devices connected to services over the internet. I had an interest in this field and the consequences of it in every day life and used to describe its effect through a scenario known as "Any Given Tuesday" which gave a comparison of today's life against the future. I was also involved in a number of side projects (you can't learn unless you get your hands dirty) from a paper book with printed electronics (i.e. turning a paper book into an interactive device) to various animatronic experiments.

For Background (general interest) ...

A background on the combination of physical and digital including future languages e.g. Spimescript is provided here. The presentation from EuroFoo is below.

The scenario for Any Given Tuesday is provided here. There is a slidedeck from 2005 for this and at some point I'll post it, however it's not necessary.

For the interactive book (physical + electronics), then the following video from 2008 gives a good enough description.

You'll also find discussion on the future of books along with various reports of mine (from 2002 to 2006) on 3D printing and techniques behind this e.g.

So, back to today ...

These days we call the Web of Things the Internet of Things. We still haven't invented SpimeScript though some are getting close. We're seeing more interaction in physical devices and the continued growth of 3D printing including hybrid forms of physical and electronics. It's all very exciting ... well, some of it is. I'm a bit of an old hand and so parts of this change (especially endless pontifications by consultants / analysts) tend to send me to sleep - it's a bit like the cloud crowd - some good, some "blah, blah, blah".

However, there's something I do want to point out with this change and why everyone who can should attend the O'Reilly Solid conference

Most organisations are terrible at coping with change. You're not designed to cope. You don't exist in adaptive structures that deal with evolution. You have to bolt on new things as a new structure and somehow muddle through the mess it creates. You're probably doing this now by adding a Chief Digital Officer. You're probably adding on Agile or Lean or even worse yo-yoing from one extreme (e.g. six sigma) to another. You might even have done something daft like organising by dual structure in the "hope" that this fixes you p.s. it won't. Yes, we have extremes but the key is how to organise to include the transition between the extremes.

So, what's this got to do with Solid and IoT.

Well, unfortunately IoT requires a different set of practices (from design to construction), a different set of techniques and a mix of attitude from "pioneer" to "settler". The underlying components might be quite commodity but what is being built with these is often a process of discovery and exploration. Though there are common lessons, there's a very different mindset and value chain relationships to IoT which is built from experience. What I'm saying is Physical + Digital is not the same as Digital.

Now, if you're one of those very lucky organisations that have a strategic CIO then you're ok, they'll adapt and muddle through. If you're not and you've had to bolt on a Chief Digital Officer then you might have a problem. Digital is not the same as IoT and unfortunately I've met quite a few Chief Digital Officers that are about as un-strategic as the CIOs they were mean't to replace. If you've got one of these (and don't be surprised if you do) then you'll going to need a Chief Internet of Things Officer (CITO). As Venture Beat says 'The most important CxO you haven't hired'  and they're spot on, until the next change of this type and the next bolt on.

So, get yourself along to Solid and start scouting. Learn a little about the wonder of the combination of physical & digital and if you're lucky, hire some talent.

Personally, if you want to avoid adding more CxOs then I'd recommend creating an adaptive organisation able to cope with change. But that requires extremely high levels of situational awareness which alone is way beyond most companies. It's also often unnecessary unless you're competing against such adaptive structures (which in the commercial world seems rare). Hence it's usually easier to simply bolt on and deal with some of the conflict that this will create. Cue endless bunfights between CIO vs CDO vs CMO vs CITO and proclamations of death of one over the other.

Of course that means we're going to get endless Chief Internet of Things Officer societies, institutes, awards, proclamations of greatness, the CITO is the new CIO or CDO or whatever along with  blah, blah, blah. That's life.