Insights of an innovation enthusiast, PhD candidate, efficiency junkie, and technology optimist. Or, things I find interesting.

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2013: The year of uptick in enterpris...

2013: The year of uptick in enterprise crowdsourcing?

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).

Even microsoft is excited about the human cloud. See this video. Meanwhile, lionbridge has a great explanatory video.

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.

Internet Trends 2012

Internet Trends 2012

This morning Mary Meeker presented this insightful and encompassing slide deck at All Things Digital:
KPCB Internet Trends 2012

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.

VBA in the cloud = google apps script

appsscript_initial_screen

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:

Teaching Business Process Management ...

Teaching Business Process Management with RunMyProcess
During my studies at Georgia State, I have had the privilege of developing and teaching courses on Business Process Management. When this comes up in conversation followed by blank stares. I typically explain it as model driven execution:
  1. Model your business process.  (like the one to right, created by one of “my” students)
  2. Press a button — code is generated –you have just created an application (and automated a process).

Sounds too good to be true right? Well, you do also have to create forms and route the data around. But, this is all fairly straight forward. It is important to note what is doing all the heavy lifting — what makes this all possible: the Business Process Management System (BPMS).

There are many BPMS systems available see: Gartner’s magic quadrant. We started using TIBCO, which is a fantastic product, but proved too taxing on student (budget) laptops. Then we used a lightweight product called BizAgi, which has a fantastic modeler and a great backend BPMS system which we deployed on AWS. Recently, I have been fascinated by RunMyProcess a BPMS which runs entirely in the cloud. Here are some of its advantages from my perspective:

  • No install necessary (a huge plus for students)
  • Integrates with any webservice. Want to send text messages, send invoices, read or store information into a database of google spreadsheet, call someone with a pre-recorded statement, check exchange rates, the weather, or micro-outsource some work to mechanical turk as part of your process? No problem, there are thousands of connectors to fabulous RESTful webservices waiting for you(e.g. Twilio, Zoho, Google Spreadsheets, Freshbooks, mTurk).
  • Email just works. Setting up email notifications can be a hassle on other BPMS systems when you have them hosted yourself. RMP also has email receptors (i.e. start a process by sending an email to a specific email address… nifty).
  • No hosting required.

I was showing this system at a recent conference and a chief scientist at Google described it as Mash-ups (or MashApps) for the enterprise. Like other BPMS systems you also get the Business Intelligence insight through process monitoring and measuring tools. There are similar platforms-as-a-service out there, but it has been very rewarding to see many light bulbs turn on as students catch the vision that BPM purports. This usually starts to happen when they design a process which sends themselves a text (SMS) message with stock exchange rates, or a customized haiku poem written by turkers.

Focus of Academia: a set of problems

Focus of Academia: a set of problems

Recently I was in New York for the BPM 2010, and Human Potential conferences and I took the opportunity to visit from friends at Columbia University.

While there, in Hamilton Hall, I saw a well written paragraph on the importance of problems and question in academia. Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.

It reads:

The focus of Academia can be defined as not so much a set of topics but as a set of problems. Physicists, economists, historians, and so on have problems that are specific to their fields, and are collectively working on points of intersection in order to solve these problems. Consequently, in every peice of academic writing ther is some problem, some issue, some motivating question that is being explored.. at the heart of every piece of academic writing is academic inquiry.

I was surprised to find this randomly, in the only room at Columbia which I visited. I like it, and though it worth sharing.  I think it highlights the importance of publication as a conversation as Anne Huff’s book points out. Also, the importance of asking great and exciting questions. While at BPM 2010, I met Vasant Dhar from NYU who talked about what issues or questions are at the heart of education and research in the information systems field. They serve as a useful guide for those wondering what IS is, and a starting point for further questions. From Vasant’s paper:

Business Centric Questions

  • How does IT transform industries and change the boundaries between them?
  • How do platforms alter existing business models and create new ones?
  • What determines success with a firm’s IT investments?
  • How do firms effectively get value from and govern data?
  • Why do incumbent companies frequently miss large, new IT-based opportunities?

Technology-Centric Questions

  • How do unique characteristics of digital goods impact business models?
  • Why do network effects pervade IT-based businesses and how do they alter strategy?
  • How does human behavior/interaction differ in spaces mediated by Information Technology?

Dhar, V., & Sundararajan, A. (2007). Issues and Opinions–Information Technologies in Business: A Blueprint for Education and Research. Information Systems Research, 18(2), 125.

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