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IS Business Case: “Water-flow Framework”

22 Feb

“Water-flow Framework”

Group 6 members
Edward Quinn, Christopher Corcoran, Timothy Halpin, Paul Haughney & Jerry Peleke

Water flow 1

Introduction

This blog aims to provide a conceptual framework to support management teams in creating business cases for IS investments.  It is important to note that this blog will draw directly from the individual blogs previously created by the group members based on academic research, original opinions and collaboration between the group. The conceptual framework created will assist in supporting management teams when trying to accomplish investment plans, in particular for IS business cases. The framework is designed to aid in all steps, from the original thought process through to the implementation.

Capture

*The above framework is an original creation*

(Click on image for a clearer view.)

Water-flow framework explained

The above framework draws from the idea of a water-flow feature, whereby until such time as the water fills each compartment, then and only then can the over spill flow into the next compartment. This flow process is repeated until the end, when usually the last compartment over spill is pumped back to the start, thus restarting the process from the beginning.

Applying this “water-flow” concept to the above framework, each of the four stages (compartments) has a number of steps that must be completed in order to move onto the next stage.

Stage 1 – “Logical Rational”

Steps include:

Assuming at management level a decision to create a business case for IS Investment has occurred,  at a theoretical level, a logical rational needs to be clear and transparent to all involved at the creative and planning  level. This logical rational should be based on accurate and up to date research, where the basic yet essential questions are answered such as:

– “Why do we need an IS investment?”

– “What are the tangible and intangible benefits we might envision for the firm?”

– “How much will it cost?”

– “Will the change be accepted within the organisation?”

Once these essential yet fundamental questions are examined in depth, and more importantly answered, the planning step can then begin.The planning step builds on the previous step, whereby a logical rational provides a clear justification for the need to apply for and create a business case for a particular IS investment. Also, it is important to note at this stage that the planning step needs to ensure that the future IS investment is aligned with the organisation’s core capabilities.

Stage 2 – “Financial Justification”

Steps include:

Once the logical rational stage has been completed, the next stage moves on to the financial justification. This section is concerned with assisting management in deciding whether or not, based on financial grounds, to go forward with a proposed IS investment. Financial justification entails answering questions such as:

– “Can this proposed investment pay for itself?”

– “Will investing in this technology constitute optimal use of our funds?”

– “Will our financial position be improved in the long-run by this investment?”

It is imperative that the business case focuses on the cost analysis of the investment in question, which includes consideration for both the cost and the payback of it. Depending on management priorities, financial justification may be decided on by one or more cost-benefit analyses including Net Present Value (NPV), Payback Period (PBP), Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Return or Investment (ROI), etc.

Cost-benefit analyses assess the impact and net benefits of the chosen option in achieving the desired outcomes, in comparison with other feasible approaches. This will include the evaluation of both tangible and intangible factors, as well as quantitative and qualitative factors, which will accurately assess the value of specific technologies (i.e stated monetary values for specific software / hardware, hidden costs, calculated depreciation costs). It will apply for the lifetime of the proposal as opposed to just the implementation period.

Stage 3 – “The Human Element”

Steps include:

Having completed the financial justification stage, the next stage is concerned with the human element attached to creating the business case for securing investment within the organisation. In many organisations, more often than not, human involvement can be the most critical component which may in fact determine the overall success or failure of a project – regardless of how logically or financially sound the IS business case may be. This issue can often go overlooked in academia and in industry, thus the human element stage can assist in highlighting areas for management which can improve the chances of a positive reaction. Mistrust and fears are often the basis for resistance to change within firms, where employees particularly against IS or IT changes, may have many uncertainties such as:

– “Will this affect my current employment and pay?”

– “Why are they changing the system if it works fine as-is?”

– “Will we receive sufficient training?”

– “Will I be made redundant?”

Creating an honest, transparent and inclusive process to all affected parties can overcome this obstacle. If the uncertainties in question are addressed adequately, an IS business case not only gathers crucial support, but it also minimises potential objectors. Subsequently, the process is made smoother whilst improving the organisation’s culture to change. Finally, this stage is quite significant as it combines all three stages (Logical Rational, Financial Justification and The Human Element) and, provided each stage(s) are correctly completed, one can assume that the signing-off / granting of the IS investment will be approved (for the purpose of this framework).

Stage 4 – “Implementation Stage”

Steps include:

The implementation stage is the final part to the “Water-flow” framework.  Within this stage, a number of steps should be followed to ensure greater security and monitoring. Within the monitoring step, clear agreed timelines, delegation of workload, resource allocation and budgetary expectation should be clearly outlined (as forecasted in the Financial Justification stage). As alluded to before (in the Human Element stage), people are greatly affected in the implementation process. Therefore, the introduction of an Organisation Change Management (OCM) plan can help inhibit unforeseen negative and potentially harmful consequences that may arise.

Lastly, this stage should constantly filter back to the logical rational step at crucial and planned incremental periods, thus mapping progress. This ensures that the IS business case plan is on the correct path, the financial constraints are within budget, and also the people affected within the organisation due to the change are satisfied with the new transition.

Conclusion

In summary, we believe that the Water-flow framework can help management teams overcome many of the challenges faced in organisations today, especially when trying to create and implement a successful IS business case with an attempt to secure investment. The conceptual framework represents certain procedures and steps that must be completed before progressing onto the next stage. One could argue that the Water-flow framework highlights key and fundamental areas for creating a“watertight” IS business case, which in essence provide direction and clarity for all parties involved. However, it is important to note that, although each stage is quite clear in definition, the internal steps can be altered depending on the specific needs of an organisation. The Water-flow framework is targeted at IS business cases, although one could argue that with a few adjustments, the same concepts can be applied when trying to secure investments in other areas such as IT and Human Resources.

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Cost-Benefit Analyses continued, Risk Assessment + Recommendations of an IS Business Case

7 Feb

Driving on from the tail-end of my previous blog where I detailed cost-analyses methods NPV, PBP and IRR respectively, here I will be highlighting other such methods – namely ROI, ARR, MIRR, Cost-Benefit ratio and Profitability Index. Subsequently, in the second half of this blog I will be discussing the risk assessment and recommendation factors which should be included in a business case.

– Return on Investment (ROI): I noticed that this method was touched upon recently in another topic by @anon100, where in essence they defined it as “a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of a number of different investments”. They also described the 4 factors –  financial, effectiveness, efficiency, and impact –  that drive ROI analysis. Although it isn’t quite suited to capturing soft benefits (e.g. customer satisfaction and employee productivity gains), results from a relatively recent survey of 200 IT professionals found that 80% of respondents felt that it is a method which is of increasing importance. Cited as one of the more basic methods of analysis, it is caluclated as (total benefits – total costs) / original investment. (1)(2)

– Average Rate of Return (ARR): The average rate of return expresses the profits arising from a project as a percentage of the initial capital cost. However, the definition of profits and capital cost vary. For instance, the profits may be taken to include depreciation or else they may not. Although being simplistic in nature, a drawback of this method is that it doesn’t take into account the project duration nor the timing of cash flows over the course of it.

– Modified Internal Rate of Return (MIRR): Usually used to rank various choices. As the name would suggest, MIRR is a modification of the already discussed IRR. It i) adds up the negative cash flows after discounting them to time zero, ii)) adds up the positive cash flows after factoring in the proceeds of reinvestment at the final time period, then iii) works out what rate of return would equate the discounted negative cash flows at time zero to the future value of the positive cash flows at the final time period. This rate is the MIRR. (1)

– Cost-Benefit ratio: Total benefits / total costs.

– Profitability Index: Present value of cash inflows / investments. (2)

It is important to emphasise the fact that a successful cost-benefit analysis should comprise all costs involved in the project, and demonstrate that it is more cost-effective for an organisation to undertake the preferred option as recommended by the business case. (3)

Moving on… Risk Assessment. Briefly touched on in my opening blog, this is another crucial element to an IS business case; it identifies the risks associated with the circumstances of it, including all options considered, and then recommends methods to mitigate these risks. This assessment may include a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and thus by including this in the business case it then enables you to describe how the initiative fits into the organisation’s overall environment. Two types of risk that the business case will need to cover are risks associated with going ahead with the initiative and also the risks that the initiative will mitigate.

Another element I wish to detail is recommendations. The business case should lead the reader towards accepting a particular recommendation. Factors such as the issue at hand, options, costs and risks should lead the reader towards understanding that the recommendation is the best means to addressing a given situation. The business case for IS investment should entail a solid argument as to why a certain recommendation is the best option to go with. Lastly, providing an implementation plan for the recommended option can be quite a useful tool in order to obtain decision-maker support. It should comprise a timeline with key milestones so that the decision maker can see what is anticipated as being achieved and also a series of KPI’s (key performance indicators), so that progress can be tracked. Measures should be both tangible and obviously of relevance to the initiative. (3)

With all this in mind, is there anything else that people feel should be included in a business case for IS investment that we haven’t delved upon yet?

(Sources:

(1) http://www.mmu.ac.uk/bit/docs/Cost-Benefit-analysis-toolkit-v2.pdf

(2) Lecture notes via Blackboard / Computerworld, 2003 / IW 2001-VIII-08, survey

(3) http://prov.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/1010g4.pdf )

IS Business Cases: Cost-Benefit Analyses

4 Feb

A key aspect of any business case is cost analysis of an initiative which includes consideration for both the cost and the payback, be it in monetary or non-monetary terms. For inititiaves of a smaller nature, a cost-benefit analysis can be quite basic and can include projected benefits of an investment by way of:

(a) return on investment (ROI), (b) improved performance – e.g. decreased operating costs, improved quality, etc., or (c) better customer service.

However, for medium and larger-scale initiatives there should be a more extensive amount of detail on costs and financial analysis. One such way of doing this would be to present income and costs under headings: income, production cost, labour cost and capital cost.

Another factor that needs to be distinguished in a business case are the various sources of information. For instance, primary information is researched (e.g. employee feedback) where as secondary information would normally exist within an organisation already (e.g. internal reports). It is necessary for one to think about the balance between the quality of the information (primary = usually better) versus the cost of getting it (secondary = usually cheaper). (1)

Fundamentally, cost-benefit analyses assess the impact and net benefits of the chosen option in achieving the desired outcomes, in comparison with other feasible approaches.  The evaluation should include both tangible and intangible factors as well as quantitative and qualitative factors. The costs and benefits must apply for the lifetime of the proposal as opposed to just the implementation period. The main steps in the process are as follows:

1. List alternative options.

2. Identify costs (including economic, social and environmental) of each option.

3. Identify benefits (including economic, social and environmental) of each option.

4. Assign Euro values to as many costs as possible.

5. Assign Euro values to as many benefits as possible.

6. Determine the cost-benefit ratio for each alternative.

7. Rank acceptable proposals on the basis of their cost-benefit ratio.

8. Consider the ranking as a guide for your recommendation. (3)

A few examples of cost-benefit analysis methods include:

Payback Period (PBP): the amount of time it will take to recoup the total euros invested in a project. Payback occurs when the cumulative discounted benefits and costs are greater than zero. PBP is the most widely used measure for evaluating potential investments and, due to it highlighting the risks inherent in lengthy IT projects, is a crucial metric for evaluating projects in the IT field.

Net Present Value (NPV): aka ‘Discounted Cash Flow’. This converts future values of benefits to their present value equivalent by discounting them at the organisation’s cost of funds. It then relates the present value of the future benefits to the cost required to achieve said benefits. Essentially it is the value today of a future payment discounted at an assumed rate. If the rate is positive a profit will ensue. The higher the NPV the more attractive the investment. (2) Suited to longer-term investments, NPV’s stengths include the fact it takes into account all cash flows, both present and future, as well as the time value of money. (4)

Internal Rate of Return (IRR): Rate of return or profit that an investment is expected to earn taking into account the time value of money. It is the discount / interest rate that will equate the present value of the project’s future cash flows to the project’s initial cost. IRR is referred to as the flip-side of NPV, with it being based on the same principles / math. (2)

As alluded to in my previous blog, a comfortable understanding of these measures along with their benefits and drawbacks are crucial when one is composing a business case for IS investments. My next blog will thus be a continuation in this area, with it comprising analysis of alternative approaches to those detailed above, including ROI, MIRR and ARR. I will also be delving into what other elements need to be included when one is constructing a business case for IS investment. Until then…

(Sources:

(1) http://www.mmu.ac.uk/bit/docs/Cost-Benefit-analysis-toolkit-v2.pdf

(2) Lecture notes via Blackboard / Computerworld, 2003

(3) http://www.lpma.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf…/1-Business_Case_Info.pdf

(4) http://educ.jmu.edu/~drakepp/principles/module6/advdistable.pdf

IS Business Cases: Avoiding the Pitfalls

29 Jan

The purpose of this blog is to identify common pitfalls that need to be avoided when one is creating a business case for IS investment. @eddyjquinn briefly broached upon this subject recently where he mentioned “failing to gather sufficient organisational support or adequate funding due to poor business case creation” as problems when creating business cases for IT investments, and I will be delving into this area in finer detail by analysing mistakes / problems that should be averted wherever possible.

B Case

In their paper “Building Better Business Cases for IT Investments”, Ward, Daniel and Peppard (2008) state that the main purpose of building a business case for an IT project is to obtain funding approval for the financial investment. A survey conducted by these individuals, done with a view to understanding current practices in developing business cases, conjured up some very interesting results. E.g.

-96% of respondents reported they are required to produce some form of business case when justifying IT investments.

-68% believed that developing such a case was an important part of delivering value from IT investments. [1]

The above figures essentially illustrate how crucial it is to avoid bad practices when creating and implementing business cases. Examples of said bad practices include the following:

a)       Using financial metrics blindly: Examples of financial metrics include Return on Investment (ROI), Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Net Present Value (NPV), and Payback Period (PBP). A comfortable understanding of these measures along with their benefits and drawbacks are required; naively using tools or templates without sufficient understanding is a recipe for disaster. [2]

b)       Building on shaky foundations: writing a business case on assumptions or shaky foundations will get exposed before a case is approved, not to mention being an overall waste of time as well as being damaging to a reputation. It is therefore imperative to ensure that the absolute fundamentals are properly understood.

c)       Losing the overall picture: although the detail is ultimately important, it won’t get read if the proposition is not compelling enough. Concisely articulate the value of the proposition and be clear why an organisation should undertake in a given financial outlay.

d)       Risk mismanagement: writing a business case for IS investment is should display the cost, the revenue and also the risk. However business cases can often have no recommendations on what to do about the latter (“the mitigation”). It is simply not enough just to state the risks; highlighting what mitigation you recommend is also required. [3]

e)       Getting too attached – despite one’s best efforts, a business case will sometimes not align with an organisation’s strategic drivers. However, it may be still possible to combine with another initiative or else change focus to align better with the organisation’s strategic direction.

f)        Glossing over the numbers: not having realistic revenue and other key figures will undermine credibility. It is of considerable significance to adequately address the financials and project the numbers over the right time period, ensuring they support an organisation’s financial objectives. [4]

Other interesting figures of note from the survey I initially referenced comprise:

–  65% of respondents indicated their organisations were not satisfied with their ability to identify all available benefits

– 69% reported that they do not adequately quantify and place a “value” on the benefits for inclusion in a business case.

–  38% of respondents believed their current approach led them to frequently overstate the benefits in order to obtain funding [1]

Again, the above statistics do not exactly demonstrate ideal procedures. To summarise, what I have highlighted in this blog are aspects of business cases for IS investments that need to be improved upon / avoided in organisations going forward.

[Sources:

[1] Ward, J., Daniel, E. and Peppard, J. 2008. Building Better Business Cases for IT Investments. MIS Quarterly Executive 7

[2] http://www.productfocus.com/business_case_bad_practice.php

[3] http://media.emm.adhost.com/adhost_5377/Pivot%20Point%20Content/03-09PivotPointFeature.html

[4] http://smartlemming.com/blog/2009/04/the-top-5-business-case-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them-by-marty-schmidt/]

Composing a Business Case for IS Investment

22 Jan

As we begin to blog on the topic of IS business cases, I feel it is necessary to first of all clarify some issues with regards their composition.  In this opening blog, I will also discuss the characteristics of what makes a particularly strong business case.

Why write one?

The most obvious reason for composing a business case is  to justify the resources and capital investment necessary to bring a change initiative to fruition. This can imply that the business case is simply a financial document. However it is important to note that, whilst all business cases should include financial justification, this should not be the sole purpose of the document.

Who should write it?

Every team member should contribute to its development but this doesn’t mean that everyone will actually write a section of the business case. All of the information used in it should come from team members themselves. However, only one or two individuals should in fact compose the final document.

When should you write it?

A project lifecycle typically provides some break-points where a business case should be completed. The diagram below displays the steps leading up to the writing of the business case. Every milestone in the activity of a team should result in a contribution to it. For instance, at the conclusion of the project planning phase, all of the key project information should be documented in the business case. [1]

BCASE

When composing an IS business case it should also follow a certain format. Firstly, it can be brief or lengthy depending upon the size of the process or product / the interest you want to gain, e.g. from the client, stakeholder, entrepreneur, etc. Furthermore, a business case must also be careful when considering who the case will be presented to. For example, it should be unique but at the same time be able to quickly be modified for the need at hand. [2]

Finally, I read an informative article by Ruben Melendez (2008) where he outlines 5 elements that should be included so as to make a compelling business case. @ismisetusa touched upon the core components of a business case in their blog, whereas this article identifies what elements can make it, as Melendez says, from being ‘good’ to ‘great’:

1. Scenario Analysis: being aware of not only the most likely results, but also the best-case and worst-case scenarios, is absolutely crucial.

2. Define and Link Each Benefit Cause to an Effect: a top-class business case can potentially be ruined by failure to clearly link and explain how each feature or characteristic of the project contributes to a specific operational effect.

3. Clearly Identify the KPI for Each Forecasted Benefit: without this, decision-making executives will not be able to determine the validity of a specific benefit nor be able to measure the progress of an implemented initiative.

4. Assess the Economic Risk of No Investment: a strong business case must not only include the possible risks of moving forward, but must also consider the economic risks of not investing.

5. Alignment with the Organisation’s Strategic Goals: necessary in order for a potential initiatve to be deemed viable by a decision-making executive. [3]

(Sources:

[1] http://www.prosci.com/tutorial-business-case-mod1.htm

[2] http://www.brighthubpm.com/project-planning/103223-examples-of-a-business-case/

[3] http://www.industryweek.com/articles/five_elements_to_include_in_a_compelling_business_case_15594.aspx?page=1)

Augmented Reality II (continued… Benefits / Drawbacks / Educational Uses)

26 Nov

In a previous blog, I described the concept of Augmented Reality – link can be found here:

https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/augmented-reality-reality-with-style/#comments

To re-cap in a nutshell, AR is a “type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world’s environment in a computer and is found primarily in smart phone applications today”.

Above you can see a good illustration of an AR smartphone application in action, and how it can be used to discover what amenities are around you, the proximity of said amenities as well as a quality rating. In my initial blog, I talked about things such as what AR actually is, its uses in the business world and also how it will affect society. As AR is a prime example of an IS trend (evidenced by the fact it was recently cited as one of the main technology trends to watch out for), for my penultimate blog, I feel it is worth delving a little further into said concept. More specifically, I wish to identify some benefits and drawbacks as well as how it can be used for educational purposes too.

Advantages:

– Will revolutionise the mobile industry, following in the footsteps of  the touch-screen. User search efforts for one are set to reduce significantly.

– Mobile usability will be improved due to little interaction being required – “Imagine turning on your phone or pressing a button where the space, people, objects around you are ‘sensed’ by your mobile device, giving you location based or context sensitive information on the fly.”

–  AR has substantial experience in the areas of usability research, analysis and experimentation therefore has a solid history as an interface technique.

Disadvantages:

–  Privacy control could potentially be a huge issue; walking up to a person might reveal their current Facebook status, latest Tweets or other information that might cause unwarranted breaches of privacy.

–  A users’ tastes content may become obscured or narrowed – “knowing where McDonald’s or Starbucks is in Paris or Rome might not interest users as much as ‘off the beaten track information’ that you might seek out in travel experiences.”

–  Re: accessibility of AR to the general public: taking the performance level of recent IPhones as a standard, it potentially could take a few generations before AR  is feasible as a general interface technique.

Uses Within Education:

If you read my previous blog you will have seen examples of how AR can potentially be used within the business world / gaming, etc. It is a flexible concept and can be used within many walks of life,  further emphasised when you consider how it can be used within the educational field. AR can be used by researchers and teachers for instance in order to promote more interactive learning environments. Examples  include:

i): field trips  – “AR museums could guide students of all ages through interactive digital media based around a specific theme – maybe even challenge them to play games along the way”.

ii): AR Development Labs – aim to conjure up projects that entertain as well as educate. Affiliated with high profile companies such as Google and Microsoft, they involve the creation of interactive and 3D objects for studying purposes.

iii) school in the park – in the US, school children can engage with AR via their smart phones by exploring local zoos, history centres, etc. They not only receive exposure to numerous educational digital media resources but also can be trained to create their very own AR experiences.

(Sources:

http://bwone.com/nokia-city-lens-an-augmented-reality-windows-phone-app/

http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/technology/advantages-and-drawbacks-of-using-augmented-reality-augmentedreality/

http://edudemic.com/2012/09/20-ways-augmented-reality-is-being-used-in-education-right-now/)

IS Trends: Nanotechnology

23 Nov

When discussing future IS trends, an important concept that has yet to be discussed is the idea of nanotechnology. Let me start off first of all by defining what nanotechnology actually is. There has been a lot of confusion about its definition, with several varied opinions amongst experts but a comprehensive and formal definition of it is as follows:

The design, characterisation, production, and application of structures, devices, and systems by controlled manipulation of size and shape at the nanometer scale (atomic, molecular, and macromolecular scale) that produces structures, devices, and systems with at least one novel / superior characteristic or property.”

What is it actually used for?

The above explanation is of a complex nature therefore in order to understand the concept of nanotechnology easier it’s best to provide you with real examples of where it is actually used. The universality of it means that it is being applied to almost every facet of modern life and thus its uses (both current and potential) are numerous, examples of which include:

Self-cleaning products: In the near future, we’ll apparently be able to spray a nano-chemical onto the grime in our kitchen and watch it disappear and practically never return.

Golf: a characteristic of ‘nanomaterial’ is its ability to simultaneously be lightweight and extremely strong. For example, Wilson Sports were aware that strong and light was the perfect recipe for a good golf club and now offers a line of three drivers, a fairway wood, types of golf balls and also a golf bag made entirely from nano-engineered materials.

Sun-screen: you may be surprised to hear that we are actually putting nanoparticles on or next to our bodies every day. Certain sunscreen brands have incorporated nanotechnology into their products… The use of ‘molecularly-engineered materials’ ensures that these sunscreens are significantly more effective at absorbing light than alternative brands. Nanoparticles also have a use when it comes to UV rays. Their minute particle size enables them to cover more skin with less cream base and since they spread more easily, you use less of the sunscreen and (theoretically) save money.

Medical: it is said that nanotechnology will revolutionise the medical field and has even already began to do so. For instance, medical personnel have anticipated that it will be widely used for treating fractures and soft tissue injuries. Furthermore, ‘nano-medicine’ will give us new hope and assistance in overcoming unpleasant diseases such as Alzheimers.

The below diagram illustrates in relative terms how miniscule a nano is:

(click for a more clear view)

Nanotechnology is essentially the engineering of functional systems at the molecular (a group of atoms) scale, which covers both current work and also more advanced concepts.  It controls matter on an atomic level, modifying its effects to achieve desired results.

Advantages / Disadvantages?

A core advantage of the technology is that it has the ability to revolutionise a lot of electronic products, procedures, and applications, e.g. plasma displays, quantum computers, etc. Another advantage is that nanotechnology can substantially benefit the energy sector; items like batteries, solar cells and fuel cells can be built smaller and can be made to be more effective using this technology. On the other hand, a prime disadvantage cited is that its development could lead to the possible loss of jobs in the traditional farming and manufacturing industries.

To conclude, huge resources are actively being directed towards nanotechnology, particularly in China. The information technology that drives our laptops and smart phones are others examples of things that are already operating at the nanoscale, and with continued developments in areas such as these all the time, it is fair to say that advancements in nanotechnology are most certainly worth keeping an eye out for.

(Sources:

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/02/25-predictions-25-years

http://nanogloss.com/nanotechnology/what-is-nanotechnology-used-for-today/#axzz2D3F9Qkch

http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology/introduction/introduction_to_nanotechnology_1.php

http://crnano.org/whatis.htm

http://nanogloss.com/nanotechnology/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-nanotechnology/#axzz2D3F9Qkch)

IS ~20 Years From Now: Quantum Computing, Gaming, E-Reading

17 Nov

Thus far when discussing IS trends we have described topics such as Cloud Computing,  BYOD, Big Data, Augmented Reality, etc. However, I will be taking a more long-term view again and describe some characteristics of  what IS could entail approximately 20 or so years from now.

‘Quantum Computing’ Is The Future:

By the mid 2030’s, it is predicted that the web, as a single space largely made up of web pages accessed on computers, will be history. People will be sharing videos, simulations and experiences on a variety of devices and and by 2035 we will be talking about the coming of ‘quantum computing’. Having researched a little on quantum computing it became apparent that it isn’t the most straight-forward concept to grasp, particularly for those not of a technical background, however a basic definition of it is as follows:

“An as-of-yet theoretical computing model that uses a very different form of data handling to perform calculations. The emergence of quantum computing is based on a new kind of data unit that could be called non-binary, as it has more than two possible values.”

It is expected to take us beyond the world of binary, digital computing, on and off, black and white, 0s and 1s, etc. The way a traditional computer works on bits of data that are binary, or Boolean, with only two possible values: 0 or 1… A quantum bit, or “qubit,” in contrast, has possible values of 1, 0 or a superposition of 1 and 0, in the case of an unknown value.

Advantages of quantum computing over ‘classical computing’: more powerful, faster, smaller, improvements to science and can improve on practical personal electronics.  Disadvantages: difficult to control quantum particles, excessive heat, cost, hard to build, not enough is known about quantum mechanics.

Gaming:

Over the course of the next 25 years, games and virtual worlds will be created whereby the action is influenced by what happens in reality and there will be games which we can play out in the real world through the use of sensors. Rather than playing with a virtual character you play with your cat or dog to advance the narrative – for example, a game in which your avatar is your dog, which wears a game collar that measures how fast its running and whether or not it’s wagging its tail. Secondly, people will start using gaming for problem-solving more than ever before and thirdly, gaming will become increasingly integrated into society by using it to treat depression, anxiety and attention-deficit disorder i.e. combining gaming to be fun but also to serve a social purpose.

Storytelling: The ‘Twitter Classic’

People will be enjoying stories and tales via augmented reality (see my previous blog) for example on their daily commute and eventually it’s said that there will even be a “Twitter-based classic”. Fewer and fewer people are reading books for pleasure nowadays and in 20 years time the number of readers is expected to have dwindled again, with the ‘E-reader’ becoming more and more prevalent. This isn’t because stories are becoming less popular but because people are only beginning to explore the exciting possibilities of web-native literature – stories that really exploit the way we use the internet.
The above are just 3 aspects of how technology and IS are possibly going to develop over the next 20 odd years. Due to the timeframe involved it is of course speculative but any comments, thoughts, etc. are welcome.

(Sources:

http://www.techopedia.com/definition/679/quantum-computing

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/02/25-predictions-25-years

http://mkaciban.blogspot.ie/2009/05/quantum-computing-advantages-and.html)

Augmented Reality: “Reality with Style”

13 Nov

Cited as one of the biggest technology trends to watch out for in 2012, augmented reality (AR) is a type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world’s environment in a computer and is found primarily in smart phone applications today. An augmented reality system generates a composite view for the user that is the combination of the real scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene generated by the computer, that essentially augments the scene with additional information. The virtual scene generated  is designed to enhance the user’s sensory perception of the virtual world they are seeing or interacting with.

The below video (light-hearted and just over 1 min long!) is an example of it in action,  just so you get a visual idea of the concept:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tird66YQbZA&feature=player_embedded

This year has marked the beginning of exponential growth for Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR). According to a report from ‘Visiongain’, 25% of all app downloads will soon feature some sort of augmented reality. Instead of looking up a restaurant in your area for example, people are using AR to see its location and reviews for it along with other restaurants right on top of their on-screen view of the street.

There is a lot of potential business use for this technology in the future too that has yet to be fully explored, for instance within infrastructure and healthcare fields.  E.g. It is envisaged that doctors could superimpose information onto a patient’s body so that surgeons can see both the body and digital information at once.

Another example cited of its enormous potential is in the architecture field, where AR could be used to show what building locations will look like should changes be made to the land, or even to the building itself. Changes of which could be made in real time.

*5 Reasons How Augmented Reality Will Impact Society*

1. The advertisement and marketing field will explode with AR devices coupled with facial recognition.

2. AR mobile apps and facial recognition will take root and mainstream  quickly.

3. Navigation devices will be built into cars and mobile devices.

4. Google-type AR searches and powerful information distribution will be visual through eye-wear and transcend a collective consciousness before your eyes.

5. Cybercrime & malware infection will rear its ugly head across many AR platforms.

With regards the immediate future, experts agree that after the first wave of augmented reality mobile apps, the gaming industry will be the first to harness the full power of it. The reason being that AR works best in controlled environments, meaning it would be localised to a person’s living room and used strictly for gaming.
So can people see any potential issues with this latest technology trend? E.g. cybercrime and malware infection as highlighted above. If yes, or if you wish to make any comment in general then feel free…

(Sources:

http://www.ardirt.com/general-news/top-5-reasons-augmented-reality-may-impact-society.html

http://blog.laptopmag.com/augmented-reality-what-it-is-how-we-use-it-what-it-will-become

http://mashable.com/2011/12/27/5-tech-trends-to-watch-in-2012/)

IS Trends: (the future of) Cloud Computing

8 Nov

@PaulH91 recently explored the subject of Cloud Computing, making some good points in the process and I wish to continue with this topic, but focusing more so on its future. Briefly, however, for anyone who is still unsure with regards the concept, it is worthwhile viewing the following short video clip as it provides a simple yet informative and visual description:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJncFirhjPg

Essentially what Cloud entails is outsourcing your I.T. infrastructure; paying someone else to look after / manage your system. A good analogy that has been used to help understand Cloud Computing is a taxi fare; you pay for the fare (depending on the distance) as opposed to buying the actual taxi itself! A key aspect of Cloud is that it can be divided into 3 layers (infrastructure, platform, application) and basically companies can use these differently based on what they offer. Along with Enterprise Mobile Technology and Big Data, Cloud Computing is a major current trend in IS. It’s used by many companies including Apple and Microsoft and its popularity stems from the following:

Scalability: easy to grow or shrink to match your demand (e.g. whether you need 1, 2 or 20 servers)

Instant: computing power is there whenever you need it and when you’re done you can release it back to “The Cloud” (touched on by @steepletoes)

Save money: you only pay for what you use (see taxi fare analogy)

So moving on, what does the future hold for Cloud? Well at the beginning of 2012, Cloud forecasts released by Deloitte, Forrester and others made for some eye-opening reading. For example,the latter forecasts that the global market for cloud computing will grow from $40.7 billion in 2011 to more than $241 billion in 2020.They also predict the total size of the public cloud market will grow from $25.5 billion in 2011, to $159.3 billion in 2020 which is a monumental mark-up. The former (Deloitte) predict that cloud-based applications will replace 2.34% of enterprise IT spending in 2014 rising to 14.49% by 2020.

Another stand-out point is Cisco’s prediction that, by 2014 > 50% of all workloads will be processed in the Cloud (see diagram below). They also predict that Global cloud IP traffic will increase substantially, accounting for more than 34% of total data centre traffic by 2015…

Image

Like pretty much anything however, there are drawbacks too for example one being the lack of control that companies have associated with the Cloud. Another flaw cited in the Cloud is security. In reality though this could be treated as either an advantage or a disadvantage; it’s about finding the right balance. However in the grand scheme of things, looking at the above figures it is plain to see in my opinion that Cloud while already an enormous concept, is only going to further rise in prominence in the future…

 

(Link: http://softwarestrategiesblog.com/2012/01/17/roundup-of-cloud-computing-forecasts-and-market-estimates-2012/ )

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