Those who work with IT are accustomed to hearing about outsourcing arrangements and cloud computing. Put these concepts together and you get what has been coined the “human cloud.” The Human Cloud is a sourcing ecosystem that engages a pool of online workers, or suppliers, that can be tapped on-demand to provide a wide range of services to any interested buyer. Buyers contract suppliers or workers through one of dozens of online platforms.
2012 saw the consolidation of several platforms, a sign of a maturing industry. Lionbridge bought Virtual Solutions and Freelancer bought vWorker (parent company of RentaCoder).
2013 will see a shift from small business buyers to adoption by large enterprises as well as a shift from outsourcing of one-off projects to the outsourcing of processes where streams of activities in workflows are performed by “cloud” workers. Large enterprises will continue to develop internal human clouds composed of unassigned workers who may engage in modular work. As information and communication technology advances, outsourcing to the Human Cloud will eventually disrupt the multi-billion dollar business process outsourcing industry. Off-shoring becomes every-shoring, then the world is truly flat.
Our world is changing quickly! The ‘re-imagining’ slides are indicative of this. There also seems to be theme of convenience in entertainment on demand from a device that is always with you. How much of this is a good thing? A reporter at The Verge is documenting a year of his life without the internet. He is a month into it.
Perhaps the most technical thing that all MBA students learn, or should learn is using VBA to automate excel and word. Gove Allen at BYU teaches a fantastic class which does just that, take a look at the creative projects his students have recently completed: Custom ‘mail merge’ for sending SMS messages, importing data into excel from craigslist, or automating the creation of a work schedule to cover multiple shifts.
Until recently, the cloud-based solutions like Google Docs and spreadsheets have not allowed such automation. About a year ago, Google announced Appsscript. Now, a new code editor has appeared with a few interesting features.
First, you can publish your code as a service, allowing anyone in the world to invoke it. The service-oriented-architecture fans should get excited about this. See the image:
Second, it ties in nicely with useful google APIs, and hopefully more APIs in the future.
Things just got interesting! It will be fun to see what this enables in the future. It looks like they have recently included a user-interface builder. If anything it is one more reason to move to the cloud. Here is a screenshot of the script editor:
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. -REM (lyrics)
One in seven people in the world feel that the end of the world is near, according to this Reuters poll. While I don’t know about the end of days, I’ll postulate that it is the end of the tech world as we know it. Consider this:
“There’s an app for that. That’s the iPhone. Solving life’s dilemma one app at a time.” –iPhone 3g marketing, 2008
Less than 4 years later there were over a million apps in both Google Play and the App Store combined. On top of mobile, lets add the cloud. Harvard Business Review argues that cloud computing is a “sea change—a deep and permanent shift in how computing power is generated and consumed.”
There are many technologies and factors enabling the shift to the cloud and to mobile. One of them is the RESTful webservices. I won’t go into technical detail here, but I’ll recommend this Wikipedia page and this excellent book chapter for further reading. Just as there is “an app for that” for consumers, there is a “RESTful webservice for that” for developers. Does your app need to send an email, text message, save files to the cloud, keep track of customer account balances, or start a business process in your office? If so, you can easily tie to Sendgrid, Twilio, Dropbox, Accumulus, or RunMyProcess for that functionality. The number of these services is exploding, according to programmable web here is the number of services in each year: 180 in ’07, 1,627 in ’10, and 3,898 today. See a crowd-curated list of 400 of these tools here.
So, what does this mean? Apps are becoming faster, easier and cheaper to develop. This has two implications:
First, developers can now focus on their core service while utilizing webservices for peripheral functionality. This enables creating a minimum viable product for a market quickly, leading to faster profitability. After launch many will choose to replace 3rd party webservices, improving their margins.
Second, managers and others with little knowledge of programming can piece together these services to make ad-hoc cloud-based applications to automate internal or customer facing business processes. I refer to this idea, as the composable web, and we can already see this with the visual programming like environments of tarpipe.com, ifttt.com, and runmyprocess.com.
I teach a class where students learn how to automate a business process using several webservices and even cloud labor. One of them wrote this on their final exam:
With the continued innovation of technology I’m a 100% certain the need for human/manual work will become obsolete. Sadly, I estimate that 80% of tasks performed manually can be performed automatically by various programs and software, leaving only 20% that must be performed manually, to me this poses a tremendous threat to future employment. -Student, (shared with permission)
It is the end of the world as we have known it, and I feel fine.
P.S. The cloud-based (of course!) software that we use in class is RunMyProcess. Here is a great video that explains their product, along with other concepts I have tried to convey:
If you have not seen – ifttt.com (IFTTT = If This Then That)… check it out! It allows you to trigger tasks based events that happen all around the internet. Some of the nifty uses that my students came up with: (see more here).
Pitch a tent before dark. Notify via SMS fifteen minutes before sunset, to know when to pitch a tent while hiking the Appalachians.
Find a job. Notify via Email when jobs postings matching a certain criteria are posted on indeed.com
Save your face. Upload images to dropbox of photos i’m tagged in on facebook.
Avoid allergies. Notify via SMS if the pollen count forecast is above 9000.
Stay Aware. Automatically add severe weather warnings from NOAA to google calendar.
This is a useful introduction to the concept of a Complex Event Processing System. IFTTT could be considered a CEP system if a combination of events could trigger a task. For example, if its between 3-6pm, AND there is an accident on the interstate, then send SMS alert. I just saw wappwolf.com which is like IFTTT for dropbox, and also exemplifies the positive externalities associated with cloudcomputing.