Cloud Expertise Report with Rackspace and Intel

For a number of months I’ve been working with Rackspace and colleague Carsten Sorensen to undertake a study of the impact of skills and expertise on cloud computing. The report “the cost of cloud expertise” has just been published here. The headline figure is that $258m is lost a year through lack of cloud expertise.

Cost of cloud expertise report

In the press release I am quoted as saying; “Put simply, cloud technology is a victim of its own success. As the technology has become ubiquitous among large organizations – and helped them to wrestle back control of sprawling physical IT estates – it has also opened up a huge number of development and innovation opportunities. However, to fully realize these opportunities, organizations need to not only have the right expertise in place now, but also have a cloud skills development strategy to ensure they are constantly evolving their IT workforce and training procedures in parallel with the constantly evolving demands of cloud. Failure to do so will severely impede the future aspirations of businesses in an increasingly competitive digital market.”

The report also explores the requirements for cloud skills, and discusses the strategy businesses can adopt to mitigate the risks of the cloud skills shortages:

  • Split the IT function into separate streams – business focused and operation focused.
  • Develop a cloud-skills strategy.
  • Assess the cloud ecosystem and ensuring a balanced pool of skills.

Take a look!

https://blog.rackspace.com/258-million-year-cost-enterprises-lack-cloud-computing-expertise-says-rackspace

Some early press coverage below…

Only 29% of IT leaders have the skills needed to fully embrace the cloud TechRepublic Sep 21, 2017
Rackspace asked organization execs around the world about cloud IT — here’s what they found San Antonio Business Journal Sep 21, 2017
Cloud Skill Shortage Costs Large Enterprises $258 Million Each Year: Report Windows IT Pro Sep 21, 2017
Cloud skills shortage holding back some Aussie businesses CIO Australia
Is cloud computing a victim of its own success? Computer Business Review Sep 21, 2017
Two-thirds of businesses losing money over poor cloud skills Cloud Pro
Here’s what’s costing businesses a lot of money London Loves Business
UK organisations lose millions a year due to lack of cloud technology skills Bdaily
Lack of cloud expertise costing companies $258mn per year The Stack
UK businesses losing revenue due to lack of cloud expertise ITProPortal

The real cost of using the cloud – your help needed for research supported by Rackspace and Intel.

It’s almost a given that cloud technology has the power to change the way organisations operate. Cost efficiency, increased business agility and time-saving are just some of the key associated benefits[1]. As cloud technology has matured, it’s likely not enough for businesses to simply have cloud platforms in place as part of their operations. The  optimisation and continual upgrading of the technology may be just as important over the long term. With that in mind, a central research question remains: how can global businesses maximise their use of the cloud? What are the key ingredients they need to maintain, manage and maximise their usage of cloud?

For instance, do enterprises have the technical expertise to roll out the major cloud projects that will reap the significant efficiencies and savings for their business? How can large enterprises ensure they have the right cloud expertise in place to capitalise on innovations in cloud technology and remain competitive? Finally, what are the cost implications of nurturing in-house cloud expertise vs harnessing those of a managed cloud service provider?

A colleague (Carsten Sorensen) and I are working with Rackspace® on a project (which is also sponsored by Intel®) to find out. But we would need some help from IT leaders like you?

How you can help

We’re looking to interview IT decision makers/leaders in some of the UK’s largest enterprises (those with more than 1,000 employees and with a minimum annual turnover of £500m) which use cloud technology in some form, to help guide the insights developed as part of this project.

The interviews will be no more than 30 mins long via telephone. Your participation in the project will also give you early access to the resulting report covering the initial key findings. We would also share subsequent academic articles with you. We follow research ethics guidelines and can ensure anonymity to yourself and your company (feel free to email confidentially to discuss this issue).

If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in then please email me w.venters@lse.ac.uk

Best wishes,

Dr Will Venters,

Dr Carsten Sorensen,

and Dr Florian Allwein.

  1. Venters, W. and E. Whitley, A Critical Review of Cloud Computing: Researching Desires and Realities. Journal of Information Technology, 2012. 27(3): p. 179-197.

(Photo (cc) Damien Pollet with thanks!)

Artificial Intelligence and human work.

The best computer is a man, and it’s the only one that can be mass-produced by unskilled labour.” (Wernher von Braun)

Last night I began to think further about the role of AI and humans in society while attending Future Advocacy’s launch of a report on “Maximising the opportunities and minimising the risks of artificial intelligence in the UK”. While a very useful contribution which I recommend, my friend Rose Luckin[1] (Prof in Education Technology @ UCL) rightly criticised the lack of specific focus on improving education and pointed out that our current education strategy centres around teaching children things computers do really well (basic maths, repetition, remembering things) rather than those AI will struggle with – creativity, critical thinking etc. This left me wondering what work humans are going to provide, and whether we really understand the skills requirement of a world with AI?

In thinking about this I recalled the quote from Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist that “The best computer is a man, and it’s the only one that can be mass-produced by unskilled labour.”  Since the onset of the industrial revolution mechanisation has replaced human skill and as Prof Murray Shanahan[2] said last night, already replaced many jobs. After all, only around 5% of us work on agriculture today. It is therefore not a question of whether, but the degree to which new AI technology will replace jobs – and the economic efficiency of that replacement.

There are well-rehearsed arguments about the loss of jobs and plenty of books written on the subject[3]. Some jobs are clearly at risk such as professional driving in the face of self-driving technology[4]. Other jobs are safer as they involve complex unusual actions – plumbing, for example, is messy, contingent and complex (and Prof Shanahan argued this might be the last to go).

What is however lacking is a discussion of the new jobs that AI will create. Throughout history, we have underestimated the jobs created by digital technology. In 1943 IBM’s Thomas Watson predicted a worldwide-market of 5 computers, and in the 1980s people laughed at Bill Gates vision of a computer in every home.  Today we have spending forecasts for IT in the trillions[5]. With Bank of America anticipating that the “robots and AI solutions market will grow to US$153Bn by 2020” [6] it clear that disruptive innovation (Christensen, 1997) through these advanced algorithms will have a strong impact in creating new unimagined opportunity.

Since the rise of the industrial revolution we have created new jobs to replace those lost as people stopped working on farms and in factories: our grandparents would hardly imagine so many baristas, chefs, landscape gardeners, software engineering, financiers and marketers within modern society. What is interesting then is how AI might enhance and expand existing jobs, and create new ones. For instance, an AI supported lawyer might handle more cases so reducing the lawyer’s fees while maintaining their wages. This reduction may well mean more people can access the law rather than reducing the work for lawyers[7]. Similarly, we might imagine interior decorators “virtually” visiting our homes and recommending tasteful designs using AI and online stores. While I, like many others, are not currently prepared to pay designers fees for my small London home, if a store offered the service for a low fee I might well jump at the chance so creating new jobs in this area.

In this way, AI can offer huge efficiency savings which we should not necessarily be scared about. This is not however to downplay the risks to society – particularly as the distribution of this value may be inequitable with low-paid/low-skilled employees most at risk. If, however, we can ensure that those unable to capitalise on this opportunity aren’t left behind then I am cautiously optimistic.  We should also be aware that AI will likely create low-paid, low-skilled jobs as well. Someone will need to hold the 3d camera in my house for the AI designer to work. Someone will need to deliver parcels to my house for Amazon. Someone is needed to service the computers or clean up the data needed by the AI algorithm. And someone will need to make us all great coffee.

I am not trying to present a Utopian vision here – clearly there will be problems. But it is not the end of work either. After all, society has been very good at creating new work that involves sitting in front of computers shuffling files, writing text, and editing spreadsheets and PowerPoints – for people like me. Further, as Wernher von Braun’s quote reminds us – we humans are extremely good value in providing some extremely important intellegent activities: dealing with emotion and having empathy,  thinking creatively, interacting with other humans, understanding our human society and traditions. It will be a very long time, if even, before any AI can provide such intelligence. The problem is often that we underestimate the importance of these in modern work downplaying their significance in modern economic enterprise and thus overplaying the value technocratic automated AI might provide.

(This blog is an opinion piece based on personal musings rather than report on research)

CHRISTENSEN, C. M. 1997. The innovator’s dilemma: when new technologies cause great firms to fail, Harvard Business Press.

[1] https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/browse/profile?upi=RLUCK37

[2] Prof Shanahan has a new book out which looks interesting:https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/technological-singularity

[3] E.g. The Rise of the Robots (Martin Ford)

[4] This is particularly pertinent for industrial driving such as farming and mining where self-driving technology is arriving already http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/self-driving-tractors/

[5] http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/it-spending-forecast/

[6]https://www.bofaml.com/content/dam/boamlimages/documents/PDFs/robotics_and_ai_condensed_primer.pdf

[7] For a full analysis of this debate read https://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Professions-Technology-Transform-Experts/dp/0198713398  or listen to the podcast of their talk at the LSE

Image (cc) Rolf obermaier – thanks!

(cc) Kevin Dooley

Evolving your business alongside cloud services – V3 writeup of my talk at Cloud Expo Yesterday

I gave a talk at Cloud Expo at the London Excel centre yesterday on the need for a much more dynamic perspective towards cloud computing. V3.co.uk have written an article providing an excellent summary of the talk if you are interested:
http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2454551/enterprises-must-be-ready-to-evolve-alongside-cloud-services

Dr Will Venters, assistant professor of information systems at the London School of Economics, explained that companies integrating cloud services into their IT infrastructure need to establish fluid partnerships with multiple vendors, as opposed to purchasing a static product….

Aleksi Aaltonen – a friend involved in the “Moves App” recently sold to Facebook gives tips for entrepreneurs

A friend and colleague of mine, Aleksi Aaltonen, talks about how he and his friends created the “Moves” app recently acquired by Facebook…

Tips for LSE entrepreneurs – 2014 – Around LSE archives – Around LSE – News and media – Home.

The 7 deadly sins of cloud computing – ComputerworldUK.com

A thoughtful article which addresses a road less travelled than the usual hysteria type articles on cloud security…

The 7 deadly sins of cloud computing – ComputerworldUK.com.

Latest Article | Interventionist grid development projects: a research framework based on three frames

My latest research article has just been published. This one focuses on Grid computing within large project:

Will Venters, Avgousta Kyriakidou-Zacharoudiou, (2012) “Interventionist grid development projects: a research framework based on three frames“, Information Technology & People, Vol. 25 Iss: 3, pp.300 – 326

Abstract:

Purpose – This paper seeks to consider the collaborative efforts of developing a grid computing infrastructure within problem-focused, distributed and multi-disciplinary projects – which the authors term interventionist grid development projects – involving commercial, academic and public collaborators. Such projects present distinctive challenges which have been neglected by existing escience research and information systems (IS) literature. The paper aims to define a research framework for understanding and evaluating the social, political and collaborative challenges of such projects.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper develops a research framework which extends Orlikowski and Gash’s concept of technological frames to consider two additional frames specific to such grid projects; bureaucratic frames and collaborator frames. These are used to analyse a case study of a grid development project within Healthcare which aimed to deploy a European data-grid of medical images to facilitate collaboration and communication between clinicians across the European Union.

Findings – That grids are shaped to a significant degree by the collaborative practices involved in their construction, and that for projects involving commercial and public partners such collaboration is inhibited by the differing interpretive frames adopted by the different relevant groups.

Research limitations/implications – The paper is limited by the nature of the grid development project studied, and the subsequent availability of research subjects.

Practical implications – The paper provides those involved in such projects, or in policy around such grid developments, with a practical framework by which to evaluate collaborations and their impact on the emergent grid. Further, the paper presents lessons for future such Interventionist grid projects.

Originality/value – This is a new area for research but one which is becoming increasingly important as data-intensive computing begins to emerge as foundational to many collaborative sciences and enterprises. The work builds on significant literature in escience and IS drawing into this new domain. The research framework developed here, drawn from the IS literature, begins a new stream of systems development research with a distinct focus on bureaucracy, collaboration and technology within such interventionist grid development projects.