Translating Technology into Innovation

Shawn Shell, VP of Consulting, Hitachi Consulting
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Shawn Shell, VP of Consulting, Hitachi Consulting

Shawn Shell, VP of Consulting, Hitachi Consulting

1. How has your IT operating model changed during the last five years?

As a consultant, I can speak to what I’ve seen at my clients. Over the last five years, more and more IT control has shifted to non-IT functions. This doesn’t mean that business functions are taking over IT. For example, with the proliferation of easy-to-use cloud tools, business users can introduce critical IT technology without the IT group’s involvement. This has required IT groups to work more closely with business clients. This often involves new roles that serve as a liaison between the IT and the business. This also means that IT is required to become more broadly educated across potential solutions. As a result, IT groups have had to invest more in technologies not explicitly on their road maps. Further, CIOs have also inserted themselves into the procurement workflow as a proactive measure–instead of assuming all IT purchase flow through the IT team.

  Business teams are often unaware how specific technologies may apply to improve their operations  

2. What do you think are the biggest obstacles that technologists face in working in a more agile and outcomes based model?

The biggest obstacles technologist face in an agile development and outcomes based IT model are time, budget, and success criteria. Agile development, in particular, does not prescribe a timeline, nor a specific budget. The expectation is that business and IT teams will work together, over some undefined time, to iteratively develop a solution. However, since there’s no fixed timeline or budget, managing both project management dimensions are challenging as business users refine their needs. This condition leads to the final obstacle, clear and unambiguous success criteria. Outcome achievement depends on the solution’s ability to meet the stated criteria

3. Even though you do not measure your team on project deadlines, fast delivery must still be important to you.  How are you delivering faster?

Many clients are choosing to model new solutions on cloud platforms first. Clients can reduce the cycle time for new hardware and software acquisition by using Azure or Amazon. Further, many more clients are using SaaS-based solutions and configuring those solutions to meet their needs. This reduces both complexity and speed to market. It also reduces, slightly, the required support.

4. What set of skills do you think is required for the technology leaders to be successful in the new enterprise landscape?

Technical leaders continue to need a broad technological landscape view. This means technology beyond their own data center. This also means consumer technology and emerging trends. This has generally been true historically. However, what’s now more critical than ever is how to translate key technology innovation to relevance for their organization–the business broadly and not just IT. Business teams are often unaware how specific technologies may apply to improve their operations. It’s incumbent on IT leaders to help translate technology innovations into business value.

5. Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?

There are two specific innovations that are personally interesting: augmented reality and IoT for healthcare.

Virtual reality makes the headlines frequently. However, augmented reality–the application of virtual object shown over top of the physical world–has more short term applicability. Most of what we need to improve will combine existing physical objects while envisioning improvements through virtual augmentation. Whether the application is product engineering or healthcare, augmented reality will have a much greater short term impact than fully virtual reality.

Beyond augmented reality, IoT for healthcare is a critical innovation. Sensors that provide telemetry for human health are universally applicable. The data collected from those sensors will have a dramatic, positive impact on patient-physician interaction, as well as driving cost reductions for self-insured firms. Integrating these sensors into a larger ecosystem that ties into your home will lead to greater improvements in home healthcare, as well as general wellness. The real excitement is that there are so many opportunities and we’re just starting realize the possibilities.

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