I listened in to a very interesting webinar from Gartner on the “modern web” describing emerging standards, tools and ideas. (See the Storify below.) This webinar covered a wide range of use cases. This adds some more evidence to a number of trends that I’m seeing in enterprise software.
Large vendors are struggling to adapt software to meet user expectations from consumer applications. But, legacy code and legacy methods of software development are hampering these efforts. It’s very much a “2 steps forward and 1 step backward” dynamic
Social and mobile applications from major software vendors are very much “hit and miss” with a lot of misses. There still seems to be an excepted notion that social is outside core processes – and that just isn’t correct
Legacy monolithic software infrastructures are starting to crumble as the age of cloud and API services assembly takes charge>
Big ERP vendors can through as much data into memory for big data processing, but it’s just noise without semantic information
Lectures and discussions at think tanks range from bafflegab to insight. One of the interesting themes that was tantalizingly discussed in Pascal Lamy’s “Does Globalization need Global Governance” lecture at the Brookings Institution was the impact of technology. (storified below)
Technology is responsible for globalization: first transportation and now digital communications. Global governance institutions formed in the post ware period were pre-digital, pre-emerging economies and designed during the cold war. My view is that digital communications is disrupting the role of the nation state by introducing governance efficiencies:
Broad collaboration within and across political boundaries
Increased awareness of context and what works in what context
Pictures and video that exposes good and bad governance
Recognition of transnational similarities
Globalization provides global opportunities and problems. Reducing poverty on one hand, increasing inequality on the other. Increasing sustainable strategies on one hand, increasing climate change on the other. Technology, of course, cannot solve these problems while optimizing benefits. The trend of mobile digital devices, cloud computing, big data analytics, lower communications costs and higher bandwidth has promise as global governance enablers.
There has been a lot of talk about “social enterprises” and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Some observers are against the whole idea of introducing social responsibility into business or business into what has been the non-profit sector. After all, didn’t capitalism win the cold war?
You know that things are a’changin’ when there’s a mad scramble to define a new category like “social enterprise”. (Is it a non-profit that takes innovation risk or is it a for-profit that has a social mission? Is it a desert topping or a floor wax?)
My view is that we are at an intersection of change that is technology-enabled. So, we’re having a bit of a problem understanding where this is going. In much the same way as we described “horseless carriages” or “wireless” or “moving pictures.”
In other words, what we think of today as CSR or “social enterprise” is really the early days of experimentation. My sense is that we have yet to reach the “Model T” stage of developing this new hybrid model of commerce.
How is this change empowered through digital technology? Digital technology gives organizations economies of scale through the use of open source software, social media, cloud computing and reduced communications costs. This is the lesson of the Arab Spring: inexpensive technology can be leveraged for social change. Organizations can grow from nothing.
Ideas can scale globally. Technology constraints to scale are becoming minimal. There is an explosion of on-line data that some view as “information overload”, but this democratizes information and enables innovation.
Digital provides these economies of scale whether the products or services are digital or not. (For example, we’re seeing how the new sharing economy or collaborative economy is enabled via digital.)
Outcomes and Transparency Lessons from Government Performance Management and Aid Effectiveness
I know – the stereotype is that governments and the aid “industry” know little about performance.
Yet, there has been significant innovation in determining the evidence for outcomes. This is something that is not in the business performance calculus – the private sector has an objective bottom line – profit. Business outcomes like customer retention, return on equity or net days outstanding align with profitability.
Public sector organizations need to answer the question of whether educational, health or business development outcomes were achieved in a complex environment. So, transparency and performance management techniques are emerging.
Social media and mobile are enabling feedback looks that never existed before. And, big data is enabling new forms of analysis (driven by open source innovation).
This means that any private or public sector organization can have more visibility into outcomes beyond traditional measures. To improve outcomes.
Towards a New Idea of Sustainability
Many organizations are embracing the notion of environmental sustainability. Many are supporting communities where they do business. The visibility of the business supply chain has created a new era of transparency – you force textile prices down and the connection to sweat shops and poor working conditions are exposed. The ethics of outsourcing, tax treaties, fair trade and “foreign corrupt practices” have become widely discussed.
This means that any organization that extracts an unfair amount of value at the expense of others will get exposed. This will have consequences to these organizations.
There is a recognition today, in some business circles that CSR, as it has been practiced as public relations, is obsolete. Partly for ethical reasons. But, as much about business financial sustainability. A business cannot continue to be profitable if suppliers are put out of business, if required materials cannot be renewed and if customers cannot afford to own and maintain the company’s products.
We are on the cusp of understanding the financial and environmental sustainability of entire supply chains.
Challenge in Not Digital
The emerging “Model T” of social enterprises is faced with a governance challenge:
How to achieve innovation in a non-profit model? Or: how to achieve desired social outcomes with the temptation of the profit motive?
My view is that digital technology supports design thinking, governance & compliance, agile methodologies and social feedback necessary to resolve the governance challenge.
Traditional businesses with legacy supply chains will need to adapt to this changing world. And, some of them will not change fast enough and won’t survive. (That’s a type of Darwinism that I can support).
Many of us in the technology business have a visceral belief that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can help drive country growth. [Sometimes called ICT for Development ICT4D with the major subset of M4D, Mobile for Development.] There are many outside the tech world who look at this believe as naive at best, misguided at worst. The skeptic can demand evidence and suggest that evidence provided is non-scientific, anecdotal, misleading, or doesn’t prove cause and effect.
Meanwhile, the evidence and lessons learned continue to mount.
And, practitioners continue to experiment and build good practices.
And, overcome challenges.
A case in point is the webinar hosted in Washington on this subject. Although there may have been some overly enthusiastic speakers with a touch of hyperbole, it was clear that speakers were far from naive.
That practitioners understand, accept, embrace and overcome ICT4D challenges.
There was general agreement that mobile technology and social media has had governance effects. The ability for rapid
organization around an issue is disruptive because it circumvents traditional organizations.
One ICGFM member wondered whether the digital divide means that social media becomes another mechanism for elites at the expense of the poor. Another wondered whether social media is just another mechanism for groups to influence political discourse. My sense is that inexpensive mobile technology is broadening political efficacy and interaction. Social media has become a tool for the rising middle class in developing countries and accessible to the working poor. One ICGFM participant told me that SIM cards cost as low as 30 cents in one African country. And, we can’t forget that social media is leveraged by civil society as representatives of the poor. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than the pre-mobile alternative.
Marshall McLuhan pointed out that the previous medium becomes content for the next. A poll at the conference found that many participants believe that social media is just another communication medium. Social media is used by companies, NGOs and pressure groups to broadcast messages. Advertising has become social. It’s still early days. It’s very much like the first years of television that borrowed from radio, vaudeville and cowboy movies. TV became TV much later – the medium became the message. Television producers learned what the medium can do. We shouldn’t look at the noise about social media advertising and viral videos to make conclusions about the resulting effects on society. After all, TV has changed.
The long-term change to public financial management will come through government interaction with citizens. One participant thought that my idea of ‘citizen auditors’ was fascinating. He thinks that open government and social media will provide more effective outcome feedback loops – much faster and inclusive with more participation than surveys or focus groups. The key change, in my opinion, is that citizens have the tools to report on government outcomes. It’s very difficult to determine effective outcome measurements. And, it’s difficult to get comprehensive reporting even when outcome metrics are good. Why not crowdsource? Citizens can suggest metrics and provide content related to whether objectives are being achieved – narrative, pictures, audio, video etc.
The conference theme is “PFM in the 21st Century”. There is discussion of innovation, standards (COSO, IPSAS, MTEF) and diagnostics (PEFA). We look forward to sharing some of the lessons learned from countries like Namibia, Cambodia, India, Jordan, Peru, Nepal and Korea as the conference progresses.
My view is that the next generation of Public Financial Management will see more emphasis on transparency and open government (procurement, budgets, civil service spending, audit etc.) There will be increasing collaboration with citizens and civil society – technology-enabled participatory budgeting will become the norm. And, this engagement will become increasingly mobile through supporting tablets, smartphones and SMS.
Open Source software continues to gain acceptance in government, especially for middleware. Large vendors have acquired open source companies and more companies are placing code in open source. There have been significant moves to acquire open source software as an alternative to commercial software in governments like France and Russia. Many large COTS vendors try to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about open source security and reliability. Yet, leading open source middleware software has been found to be more secure and reliable. That’s why the largest users of open source software in the US government are DoD, CIA etc.
Software stack commoditization continues with less and less value for software infrastructure, nevertheless big companies continue the approach of trying to “own the customer”. Database and business intelligence vendors have been acquired.And, there is an attempt to put proprietary middleware in hardware boxes to give customers less choice.
Business process management (BPM) has become an integral part of larger enterprise software suites. There has been some consolidation in the market although many best of breed vendros remain. It seems like every year is to be the year of BPM but generally isn’t. My sense is that business process management is often a solution to a problem, it’s just that BPM products are not necessarily the right tool to use.
Software as a Service has exploded. Huge growth. It’s even woken the ERP giants who struggle with the “cloud” business model. As predicted in 2007, the uptake in government has been limited, especially for financial management despite well-publicized usage for e-mail and other services. Governments are now re-branding shared data centres as “private clouds” – which doesn’t really give governments cloud benefits.
Wireless government has picked up especially in developing countries. What’s new here is the impact of civil society and innovation outside of government. Governments can use crowdsourcing or be crowdsourced – as we saw with the Arab Spring. Tools like Usahidi have proven highly effective for election and crisis mapping. Arab Spring. The explosion in mobile technology usage in Africa, Asia and Latin America is slicing through the digital divide.
SOA adoption is also slower than I expected. Many vendors try to hoodwink us into thinking they have Service-Oriented Architectures. It is difficult to fully support SOA, particularly with granular objects with legacy ERP code. It’s got to the point where SOA is just a noise word that vendors use rather than something customers can use.
Government Financial Management System of the Future: Prediction and Reality
I predicted that the GRP of the future would be modular, de-centralized, integrated, non-monolithic, multiple vendors products, mobile, commodity and innovative. How does this compare with the 2012 reality?
Not so good predictions: yes, major vendors have put barriers to modular and non-monolithic software architectures. There’s some hope as vendors seem forced to, at least, support integration. This has created some space for multiple products to work together for customers. Large vendors are creating “ecosystems” for partner products. That increases choice – but not optimal choice because it relies on monolithic products.
Scorecard for 2007 Predictions
Better predictions: Mobile technology – now with the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) with tablets and smart phones is disrupting the market and giving users better tools. This is one of the innovations that we are seeing that provides governments with IT-enabled innovation. Others: social media, crowdsourcing, big data, visualization.
Open source operates on a community model with more decentalized governance much like Web 2.0 and social networking
Open source and open data have network effects: the more there is the more valuable it is
Open source is fueling a lot of open government (there was a lot of talk about uses of Drupal and the OpenAtrium distribution)
Open source generally enables more effective security and provides higher quality middleware making the US Department of Defence as the largest user within the American government
Open source provides the flexibility needed to adapt social media for government usage
Open source provides the cost flexibility for governments to do more with less (with interesting case studies from California and New York)
Data visualization was another consistent topic. Geographic information, in particular, has become effective in assisting disaster recovery. The Ushahidi platform for disaster recovery was also a consistent topic.
The unconference (second picture) is more of a flexible networking event than the typical conference (first picture). Here are some of my tweets from the conference:
jamiey Great CA success story of meeting a state-wide redesign mandate w/gov webmasters by connecting & training. Community empowers. #techATstate 2:16 PM Feb 11th via TweetDeck Retweeted by freebalance and 1 other
shervin On this day, Feb 11 1990, Mandela was released from jail after 27 years. Now, Egyptian people are free after 30 years of dictatorship. 2/11 12:02 PM Feb 11th via Twitter for iPhone Retweeted by freebalance and 30 others
techATstate Every single federal agency now has congressional authority to pursue prizes, challenges, and competitions – Aneesh Chopra #techatstate 9:41 AM Feb 11th via web Retweeted by freebalance and 3 others
It’s an era of seemingly different and overhyped stories about government. So many technologies over such long periods that we fail to notice the transformation. Or the pattern of technology-induced transformation.
(For those of you unfamiliar with this notion of technology changing the nature of government, consult the work of Harold Innis, who described how the medium used for writing determined the nature of ancient empires, and Marshall McLuhan, who described the effects of technology on society.)
2010 exposed three interrelated government transformation trends:
Change of the government to citizen power relationship though increasing mobile, Internet and social networking usage
Global re-alignment, known as the “new normal” enabled through improved automated governance tools and ICT for Development (ICT4D)
Devolution of the nation state partly as a consequence of social networking and DIY content
As the Las Vegas Sun reported, 2010 was a very digital year: “Ecuador’s president announced a state of emergency because of civil unrest via a tweet… People were engaged through social media, connecting to politicians, charities and causes. The American Red Cross raised nearly $33 million for the earthquake relief effort in Haiti via text messaging.”
Will Social Networking Transform Government?
What this means
Citizens can band together for social change or monitoring governments using untethered mobile technology leveraging existing civil society networks or self-organizing through social networking. Citizens can track even opaque governments meaning that transparency becomes the only way to present the government view: the emperor has no clothes.
Surveillance technology has become affordable and is starting to bridge a different digital divide. The gap between government and citizen surveillance capabilities will continue to narrow especially as citizens gain asymmetrical advantages. This will create more focus on performance in government. Long-term prediction: the debate over government size and cost will transition to the value of government. Dogma and opinion will be replaced by data and facts.
Technology generates more concerns over balancing privacy, surveillance, security and transparency. Should anonymity be promoted to encourage freedom of expression or should radical transparency, following the Facebook ethos, be used to encourage thoughtful debate? Is Julian Assange a hero for transparency or a criminal?
Slow migration from the “command and control” efficiencies from the analog world to improved efficiencies and effectiveness of the network model. Government organizations will continue to adopt Government 2.0 technology to improve internal processes and engage external citizens.
International organizations will be further re-aligned to reflect the growth in developing countries. (And, the ability for business to rapidly support the global market will be a competitive advantage.)
Governments will continue to focus on technology incubation to improve economies. At the same time, governments will increasingly release government information to encourage economic activity as described by Tim O’Reilly as “government as platform”. The impact of releasing government collected data to economic development cannot be understated. O’Reilly has pointed out the impact of GPS as an incubator for private sector innovation. There will be a gradual move away from traditional manufacturing incubation in developed countries.
Governments will become more transparent. There will be a higher adoption of budget plans, budget execution, civil service spending, civil service recruitment and procurement portals. Governments will leverage more transparency and accountability to become more efficient and effective. This will improve stability.
Technology will begin to bridge the information gap between producer and speculator. The farmer in the field will have the same commodity price information that the trader has.
There will be increased use of using country systems by donors in order to improve aid effectiveness. The pressure for transparency will increase on donors and citizens demand better results.
Government performance management will become a competitive advantage. The ability to achieve desired results, not just spend money on programs, will become a key element in political debate. This will transcend the dogmatic cleavages we see in many countries.
Marshall McLuhan predicted a global village created through an always present electronic age.
The printing press enabled mass production of books and newspapers in national languages. Languages were standardized. This technology led to the creation of the nation state. Radio, a “hot media”, enabled radical nationalism. Digital technology enables self-organizing. It enables political devolution and decentralization. It also provides the ability to manage at the supranational level. This supports the economies of scale for freer trade and regional organizations. Despite the current Eurozone crisis, countries continue to move towards EU accession and adoption of the Euro.
This global village with DIY organization will change the nature of government and the nation state. It’s still early days. Perhaps government become a competitive provider of services in the physical and virtual worlds as envisioned in the science fiction classic Snow Crash.
2. More rapid impact on business and non-profit
The impact on the for-profit and non-profit world is more apparent. Non-profit NGOs with hierarchical structures are getting dis-intermediated. Networked non-profits and methods for direct donation from individuals to recipients are rises. Meanwhile, the concept that “the business of business is business” has been wildly refuted. Business has come to recognize the need to have sustainable customers to have a sustainable business. Business also has become to understand the impact of practices on society. (Kind of a corollary to the impact that government has on business.) New business models that focus on sustainability and real value, rather than what Umair Haque calls the “zombieconomy”.
These represent a few elements of discourse that can distract us from what is really going on.
Outsourcing. Outsourcing could be a seen as an expression of the centre-periphery model in operation. Yet, effective use of outsourcing has been shown to have economic advantages in the short term to developed countries. In the long run, outsourcing increases stability in developing countries, raises living standards and, ultimately, will provide a more equitable environment. Salaries will increase in developing countries.
Globalization radicals. There is some validity that developed countries have exploited trade negotiations. Technology and transportation has created a global environment. The cat is out of the bag.
Tablets. Tablet, eReader, netbook and smart phone wars are unimportant in the big picture. These technologies reduce costs, reduce the digital divide and make citizens more agile. (In some ways, the real takeaway is that usability can dramatically improve adoption.)
Cable News. The increasing sensationalism of cable news is indicative of the loss of television impact on citizens. It’s the last desperate moves of an industry in decline.
Cloud Computing. Cloud computing is about deployment, agility and does not appear to have any material impact except as an enabler of citizen surveillance and Government 2.0.
CSR Backlash. This backlash to CSR with the notion that it reduces profit or a scam are criticisms of the early days of a broad trend.
Donors and Country Systems. Donors will transition from thinking country systems are, as Richard Allen calls “courageous”, to realizing that this will reduce high transaction costs and encourage capacity building and anti-corruption. Also, many of the country systems have better use of public financial management good practices than donor systems.
According to the FCW article, “a core group of government workers have been walking the walk of Government 2.0 for several years but now they are receiving important support and official sanction.” This observation has been confirmed in conversations, presentations and articles. Government 2.0 has entered the “technology adoption cycle”. Experimentation is exposing good Government 2.0 practices. What is the next stage?
From Figure to Ground
Marshall McLuhan identified the problem decades ago: humans often fail to see what is important about new technology. We often identify things that are not important as important. “Figure” is what is important – the characteristics that represent change. “Ground” is everything else. He pointed out that everything moves from figure to ground, whether it is print, radio or word processing.
Government 2.0 is clearly “figure” because it represents change. 10 years from now, Government 2.0 will be common place. Public servants won’t be talking about the security or cultural issues about Government 2.0. There will be no discussion of the ROI of Government 2.0 – just like there is little discussion of the ROI of mobile telephones. Government 2.0 will be. Government 2.0 will “go to ground.” Participation and collaboration will be pervasive. Public servants will wonder how jobs could be done any other way – similar to today when we wonder how we survived without fax machines and the Internet.