What really happened at IPExpo Nordic Sept 2016

Cloud or not Cloud is no longer a discussion we need to have at IT trade shows – for most companies today, it’s by default. The discussion is not about the technology platform, it revolves around the transformation which cloud has enabled.

IP Expo is a trade show  on Cloud and Infrastructure, Cyber Security, Datacentre, Data Analytics and Developers. Vendors use it as a platform to show off new technology, and delegates to educate themselves with training sessions and workshops – and some stellar keynotes. It’s held held annually in the UK, but this year for the first time in Stockholm as a pan-Nordic event.

Overall, there was a gap between the vendors’ view of the IT shop floor and how we work, and the visions and experiences of the  Nordic IT professionals listening to thshowflooreir pitches.

 

Among the 52 exhibitors, there very few were outside the box, so to speak. Mostly, they were addressing singular IT challenges such as cyber security, infrastructure or offering access to the “Cloud” ( eh, what!?).  I am not saying it’s not important, just saying that we need to maintain a broader perspective.

 

You can check out some of the exhibitors and their messages and posts on the IP Expo Nordic Facebook page

Transform – don’t wait for digital, it’s already here. And bring your own lunch

Of course, as the conference program is very congested – no scheduled lunch or coffee break (a NO-NO in Sweden, organizers!) – you cannot possibly get the complete picture if you are not a machine and can sustain yourself on battery energy alone. So naturally, I did not see all the aspects of the messaging and content delivered at the sessions, but delegates I spoke with agreed that from their perspective there was really very little news. As a learning experience, it did not quite deliver.

Out of 81 speakers, only 9 were women (!)

The non-profit organisation Womengineer with their programs to engage large corporations in empowering more women in engineering both in education, trainee programs and in careers was given a small corner on the trade show. Luckily, they also had their own session which was extremely well attended, despite the more glamourous main programme in the auditoriums. Similar to the worldwide efforts to inspire girls to code, Womengineer holds Introduce a Girl to Engineering Days – mark your calendars for the next event on March 17, 2017.

Aroshine Munasinghe, Head of Business Relations at Womengineer and Jenny Stenström, blogger had checked out the gender balance  in the conference program – and including themselves, there were 9 female presenters out of 81. Quite unusual for a high profile conference in Sweden.

And I encountered many professional women in the various sessions.

 

Barbará and Carla from Lisbon, Portugal and were extremely satisfied with the content of the sessions and the high technical standard of many of the presenters. Among their personal highlights was Susanne Fuglsang in the Digital Transformation Panel who literally took center stage in challenging a lot of preconceptions on what digital susannefuglsangtransformation is about.

 We should stop speaking about digital transformation – it has already happened. We should focus on making the transformation a strategic objective in top management and more importantly middle management where resistence to change is prevalent.

(Susanne Fuglsang, Executive Producer, Another Tomorrow)

 

Len Padilla of NTT echoed this very well in his Digital Transformation session tugged away in the basement and coinciding with Trend Guru Alexander Bard’s glamourous keynote. Happy to say, we were at least 25-30 people who were brave enough to go against the celebrity flow and took some practical advice in the dungeon, as Len called it.

Not only do you need to involve more levels of your organisation in the process, you need to enable those managers who’s job it is to “keep the lights on”. They are the least willing to take risks, so to truly transform you must learn to encourage and reward risk taking and the consequent potential failure. (Len Padilla, NTT)

Smarter citizens – not devices

What IPExpo Nordic showed, was the obvious focus these large players and other software vendors have on the Nordics as a market, and the effort they are making to gain momentum with their key messages.

The keynotes from Microsoft, IBM and Amazon Web Services were all delivered by some of the company’s top speakers and all on what PR professionals call “on message”.  Gleefully interrupted by a worldclass presentation on how the CIO of the City of Stockholm, Ann Hellenius, and her team will make Stockholm the world’s smartest city.

How? Not by adding infrastructure: We have that already with Fiber Optics Bands reaching 30 times around the globe covering the greater Stockholm area.

No, by defining a smart city as the merger of human, financial and technological interactions to achieve the highest quality of life and the best environment for business. The main focus here is the interaction between citizens and services, between human and machine.

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The best digitalisation is when you do not notice that it’s there (Ann Hellenius, Stockholm City CIO)

Making sense of the data – the Big data

IBM’s visionary Rashik Parmar  addresses similar thoughts on the concept of smarter cities– but at IP Expo Nordic, illustrating that the focus of the presentations was not on the vision but on the product, he showcased IBM’s cognitive intelligence Watson instead.

(The program also had an encounter with Furhat the Robot Head, but alas, Furhat and I are yet to meet in person, so to speak).

The potential of this technology of course is enormous, and the Nordic audience, albeit not new to the concept, can relate to the potential of using cognitive intelligence to make the world a better place.

Some of us covering IT innovation, gadgets and business opportunities combined, are always looking for the killer app. For Watson and alike there are many, and Rashik Parmar introduced just one: using Watson analytics to “listen” for cracked wheels on long distance trains.

This is a really important job that used to be a manual one, with a railroad worker hitting with a hammer on each and every wheel at each stop to listen for cracks. According to Rashik Parmar, the ability to filter out everything but the sound defining a crack is unique to the Watson technology – the sheer amount of data involved and the processing required to make this a seamless process and not create delays is unique (at this stage) to IBM’s technology. And this saves lives.

No more -aaS abbreviations, let’s all code

Microsoft’s James Staten, Chief Strategist Cloud and Enterprise Division (The Era of IaaS is Coming to an End) warmly enthused about the hybrid cloud being the future and where Microsoft will continue to invest heavily: The combination of on premise computing and public cloud as a strategy.

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What Microsoft has probably realised is that they need a broader audience for their products and concepts in order to meet today’s real customers – the so-called citizen developers  as defined by Gartner.

Basically, it means that end users are taking over the world of software applications because everyone today can learn to and uses code. And Microsoft wants to help IT departments stay in control via Azure Security Center, among other concepts. Read more on the visions and strategies for Cloud in my exclusive interview with James Staten in my next blog post due in a few days.

Listening to Amazon Web Services Technical Evangelist Danilo Poccia was perhaps not as inspiring for leaps of thought, but all the same very useful and constructive. The Amazon Journey to the Cloud was just that – his step by step introduction to and presentation of the various services in the Amazon Web Services portfolio addressing today’s needs among developers and IT departments.

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The journey as a strategy is what captured the interest of one of the delegates I asked right after the lights were turned on. Per Nordahl, IT Strategy Manager at Telia, found that Amazon could focus more on the journey when walking through the services as a case – many larger enterprises can relate to this story of digital transformation.

 

What is innovation – can we capture this elusive pimpernell

Amazon defines innovation as (f = mechanism + culture).

Unfortunately I could not reach Danilo Poccia to ask how to attach some real metrics to this. But I think an equation like that could help many businesses quantify and qualify their rate of innovation ultimately to get more senior management buy-in for those crazy ideas we all know we need to stay ahead of the game in a digital world.

Social will fast forward you from the Stoneage to satellites

Not all of us may want to ride a satellite. But we certainly would not survive for very long in the Stoneage. A year ago, at a conference with the Group CIOs of Europe’s biggest companies, a CIO had the courage to stand up and tell us how his organization made the journey to complete business transformation. How they did it, is not as remarkable as the speed at which it happened: “6 months ago we were in the Stoneage – now we are trying to figure out how to make our satellites move faster”.

The propellant was social. By breaking down the internal boundaries on the new platform, they made the leap from transactions to engagement. Not only internally, but even more so when interacting with customers and business partners. Now you might think the company in question was one of those agile, high techs who are used to all things digital and the Internet of things. It wasn’t – it was a hard core manufacturing company with traditional products and traditional markets. And French.

You raise your arm in the audience and ask the obvious question: But how?

R. “Ray” Wang from the Harvard Business Review has one really good explanation: people-centric values, delivery and communication style, and timing. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/05/how_to_engage_your_customers_a.html)

And salesforce.com Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami explains it with warmth and humour in this recording from Cloudforce Nordics in Stockholm on October 23, 2012:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgE7NbViu38&feature=plcp

Social is about people. Business is about people. Transformation is about people.

By building your journey on what matters to people, you will engage both employees and customers. Running your business will no longer be a series of data transactions; with the help of the many available social tools it will be run by data driven conversations .